Home Baseball Content Better Footwork for a Faster 60 and More Stolen Bases

Better Footwork for a Faster 60 and More Stolen Bases

Written on December 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm, by Eric Cressey

Back in August, while I was out at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, I filmed several coaching videos for New Balance Baseball. One of those videos covered a controversial topic in the baseball world: base-stealing technique.  This discussion also has implications for players running timed 60-yd dashes in recruiting scenarios.  Give it a watch/listen:

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  • steve morgan

    Great video. My son loves his NB JP camo cleats. Look great. Feel even better. Time for new pair. For me, the directional step coupled with triple extension off the left leg puts the base stealer closer to the next base. In other words, a quick push from left leg can create great angles on front leg and create body fwd lean from ankles not hips(ie,Ricky Henderson).

  • Jonathan Hudak

    Hi Eric,
    Obviously I love your stuff. Here it seems you used the directional step in both examples, just to a lesser degree in the 2nd than the 1st. You hit one major point, with the foot coming back a bit to get under the center of mass and create a better angle for push off on the front leg. The second (maybe most important) reason for the movement is the external rotation at the hip that allows for better use of glutes and hamstrings in hip extension for that first step = more power and more ground gained. That subtle lift of the lead foot allows the back leg to generate the force while clearing the hip and not forcing the body to fight rotation at the hip and wasting energy (as is seen with what a lot of coaches teach with a crossover step when they don’t allow the foot to turn out).

    All in all, I have still yet to see a full-speed example of a base-stealer not using the full directional step in a game situation when they are relying on fight-or-flight. It only seems to be demonstrated in controlled settings. If I saw a video in full speed I would definitely put my foot in my mouth!
    Jon

  • M. Richards

    I like that you said each technique is a personal choice. I have been in some heated debates over “cross over” vs. “jab step”. I have never seen or used the jab step that you demonstrated where your foot moves back under your body. I like to unweigh that foot and push with the trailing leg then step toward the direction I am running in. I see this as an advantage over stepping away from the direction that you run in. I get that it shifts the weight in the right direction but it can be done without the back step as well.

  • Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for the note. I had a great email exchange with Jerry Weinstein (Rockies catching coach) this morning, and I thought I’d post it here.

    I’m aware that a lot of the best basestealers in the big leagues use it, but I think that it’s another example of how we can’t necessarily look at big leaguers (many of whom are genetic freaks) to find a technique that works for everyone. As a little frame of reference, these are two of my guys who both use crossover step (both run sub 6.5):

    http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=571757 (all-time Red Sox MiLB stolen base record)
    http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=607430 (led FL State League in Steals this year)

    Jeremy coached John up on it last off-season and it made a world of difference for him.

    The primary problem with the crossover step argument is that it is based on the assumption that the toes are straight ahead – and that’s what you’re seeing in the video demonstrations of the big leaguers who have had success with it; of course it is going to be better in that instance! FYI, check out the footwork of Rajai Davis and Juan Pierre; you’ll see that they are slightly more open, which I really like, as it essentially blends the two and is likely the best fit for guys who do prefer to go directional step. If you teach players to cheat the toes toward 3B/SS (especially on pitchers who can’t hold runners and catchers with no arms), you eliminate the need for the directional step – because the foot is almost already “there.”

    I was emailing with Dan Huff (baseballstrength.com) about this a few months ago when he ripped on the crossover step. When I made some of the points I outline below, this was his response:

    “I’ve never thought about cheating the toes to eliminate the need for the directional step. I’ll have to look into that. My rationale for the directional step comes from watching guys like Reyes, Gardner, & Juan Pierre who all use it on stolen bases. In talking with Lee Taft I’ve found that my younger guys who are lacking in strength get better acceleration with the directional step, but my older guys with better strength levels are able to effectively use the crossover step. I think that your client base falls into the 2nd category while my client base (even my college guys) are so lacking in strength when I get them that their crossover step looks like they are running in mud.”

    My response to Dan was that the pre-stretch argument doesn’t really hold water because you’re only creating slightly more dorsiflexion and a very small amount of knee flexion, not actually flexing the hip to pre-stretch the hip extensors. Moreover, you’re externally rotating the hip, which actually shortens (not a pre-stretch) the glutes you’re counting to help extend the hip; this actually puts adductor magnus on a mechanical advantage (just like turning the toes out on a squat).

    Additionally, in my eyes, you’re making the movement more rotational in nature by rapidly changing the base of support (two legs to one leg). You can get the same effect with an out-toe and weight shift to create the positive shin angle. Then cue the athlete should give himself is to “toss a rock and go get it.”

    Daily, I see guys drop two tenths off a 30 time in two minutes by going from directional step to this approach, particularly in younger populations. As an aside, here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote a while back:

    “Research from Reed et al, showed over two steps, the directional step resulted in significantly greater distance traveled, however it took significantly more total time than the cross over step, which covered less distance but quicker in two steps. This shows nearly identical velocities and there is no advantage over the other. On the other hand, a study by Ostarello et al tested three start methods and at all six timing stations; set at different distances, the cross over step was quicker.”

    Food for thought. I think that looking at guys like Reyes, Billy Hamilton, Juan Pierre, and Rajai Davis is tricky because all of them are extremely “spring” dominant; they’ll do whatever they can to take advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle. The directional step plays into this (interestingly, Ichiro doesn’t use it; maybe he’s stronger than we think?). If we have an athlete who has more force to put into the ground (stronger than he is fast), crossover step seems to work best.

    That said, I’d never nix a directional step in a guy who’s had success with it.

    Thanks for the notes!

    EC

  • Jonathan Hudak

    Great stuff!

    Here’s 2 videos of Ichiro. The first one is a grainy, faraway shot of him stealing second but it’s clear there is a directional step, with the lead foot lifting, externally rotating & moving backwards. In the 2nd, he doesn’t steal but you see the same action when he has to get back to first on the pick-off move (at about the 12 second mark). I think this is a great example of an amazing athlete doing what is innate and not fully understanding (or even needing to understand) the why & what behind it.

    Ichiro video #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2omFoyo9_Nw&NR=1&feature=fvwp

    Ichiro video #2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTzN4-2-kNE

  • M. Richards

    OK, I just watched the video links that “prove” that elite base stealers use the “directional step” and I also watched another related video from a coach that teaches it. My determination is that these guys are not stepping back. In fact, they are using my personal technique of just un-weighing the front foot and turning it toward second. There is an illusion of stepping back because the foot is rotating around the toes and not the heel. What these examples show me is that Ichiro and others I watched are more closely representing the crossover step than what I call the jab step in which the front foot moves toward second. You know what? It is time I did a demonstration video…stay tuned.


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