Train for SPEED Development
Face it, on any given day there are a multiplitude of factors that can adversely affect your game. The biggest dynamic I see in the game is SPEED – pure running speed. It seems that no matter what else may be going on on the field, it shows up every day, on every play. In our on-going efforts of trying to dispel the training myths of baseball, so that you can perform better and more safely, adjust your running program to include speed development.
Speed changes the face of most any game. Look at this graphical representation of how 40 yard dash times play out on the football field:
[NOTE: You'll need to go to
http://www.baseballfit.com/baseball-speed-training.htm to see this chart]
Note that there is 2-3 FEET separating each of the times; ie, when the guy running a 4.3 time finishes, he's about 3 feet ahead of the 4.4 guy, and so on down the line. Times that are only 1. Apart are not that significant, but look at the difference between times that are 2 or more seconds apart (approximately 6 feet of distance). If the defensive lineman with 4.8 speed does not grab the 4.3 or 4.4 running back as he scoots through the line, he has no chance of catching up to him.
So let's translate this to baseball and softball.
What happens when a hitter with lightning speed steps into the batter's box? Depending on the game situation, the coach may have the IF defense play "in," giving them a better chance to throw out the batter on a bunt or slow roller. However, this makes it tougher for the IF to react to hard hit balls, increasing the chances of the ball getting through for a hit.
Remember, baseball is one big race. A runner's speed down the baseline against a fielder's quickness and throwing speed in catching the ball and firing it across the IF before the runner reaches the desired base. There's the "race" between the base runner and the "battery" (pitcher / catcher). And this leads us to another key way speed affects baseball: when a pitcher has to deal with a base stealing "threat" on base.
As this runner takes his lead, do you think the batter has the pitcher's full attention? No way! That runner's speed is a distraction – if even a small one – that increases the batter's chances of seeing a more hittable pitch.
Using our figures from the football example above, we know that 1. of a second translates to about 3 feet of distance. Three feet of distance can easily be the difference between a stub base and an out, or beating out a slow roller for an IF single.
And all of this means more base runners, which usually means more runs, which usually means more wins. And the really great thing about speed is this:
SPEED SHOWS UP EVERY DAY
Pitchers do not always have their best stuff, hitters go through slumps, and fielding errors are made all the time. But I have yet to hear a speedy ball player tell me, "Coach, I feel SLOW today."
I could go on with this, but I think you get my point. SPEED, pure running speed combined with intelligent base-running, can be a devastating "weapon" to unleash on your opponents. It is used offensively and defensively and is essential for ALL players, other than pitchers.
How To Train For Speed Development
Running speed has two main components: Stride Length and Stride Frequency. Both of these refer to running mechanisms, which is beyond the scope of this report. A good way for ball players to improve their running mechanics is to talk to their school's track coach to see if they can get some help with their sprinting technique.
From a positioning standpoint, a key factor in speed development is an intensity of effort. When you sprint at speeds below 90% of maximum effort, you are training for something other than speed. Data suggests that you have to train at or near 100% of maximum effort to maintain or improve speed. 
The best way to increase your speed and train the alactic-anaerobic energy system is through interval training, otherwise known as running sprints. A distance of from 30 – 100 yards is sufficient; vary the distance each workout. Use a work: rest ratio of 1: 5, with 8-10 sprints per workout, 2 days / week. The longer the sprint distance, the fewer the reps.
Also consider speed enhancement techniques such as Assisted Acceleration (like running downhill on a slight 7-10 degree slope). This is also known as "OverSpeed Training" which trains a runner to move the legs more quickly through the range of motion. Resisted Acceleration (OverLoad Training) employs weighted vests, dragging a sled, and parachutes. This trains a runner to move more quickly under a heavier than normal load.
These techniques can help even the slowest player improve their speed by a tenth of a second or two. Remember, that tenth of a second can be the difference between a base hit and an out!
Make yourself more valuable to your team – Train For Speed!