Jump to content

Quickness vs. Speed, Acceleration vs. Velocity, Torque vs. Horsepower, Lateral vs. Vertical, Mike Trout vs. Usain Bolt


DonRocks
 Share

Recommended Posts

For some reason (probably because the Angels are a west-coast, American League team), I had heard about the wonder-boy Mike Trout for a long time before actually getting to see him, but now that I've been seeing him play more, I'm wondering if there's anything this near-superhuman specimen can't do.

Trout is a true five-skill player: 1) hits for average 2) hits for power 3) baserunning skills and speed 4) fielding abilities and 5) throwing abilities. He really can do it all, but I didn't realize he was as fast as he is until he scored from second base on Prince Fielder's single to left field during this year's All-Star Game, shown in a video here:

Bryce Harper on Mike Trout

I also ran across this article:

"Mike Trout Thinks He Can Beat Mike Vick in a 50-Yard Sprint" on csnphilly.com

Trout has explosive quickness - the same type that Mickey Mantle and Jack Ham had (Ham was said to be able to run from 0 to 10 yards faster than any other Steeler). There's a *huge* difference between someone who can hit their top speed on their fifth stride, and someone who can run a fast 100-meters: Invariably, the explosive runner bursts out ahead, and then the 100-meter sprinter will pass them. For example, take the suicide race in basketball where you begin at the baseline and run four intervals as fast as you can:

1. Run to the foul line, and back to the baseline (15 feet each way)

2. Run to mid-court, and back to the baseline (47 feet each way)

3. Run to the other foul line, and back to the baseline (79 feet each way)

4. Run to the other baseline, and back to the original starting point (94 feet each way)

Total: 8 accelerations, 7 turns, 470 feet of running. Note that 3 of the 8 accelerations, and 2 of the 7 turns, come in the first 30 feet.

If Mike Trout ran a suicide against Usain Bolt (*), what would happen is that Trout would burst ahead, and would go baseline-foul line-baseline and then head towards mid-court, accelerating three times in a matter of just a couple seconds and changing directions twice in that short duration. By the time Trout passed the foul line the second time (on his way to mid-court), Bolt would probably still be back at the baseline, just getting ready to make his turn. And as the intervals get longer-and-longer, at some point, Bolt would blow by Trout like he was driving a motorcycle and win easily. But for those first few turns, and first few seconds, Trout would be way ahead of Bolt, and that's because he's so explosive that he hits his top speed very, very quickly, and I'm certain that he also has the ability to stop and turn around on a dime as well; it's just that his top speed isn't nearly as fast as Bolt's.

I'm very familiar with this type of explosive quickness, and I'd bet money the paragraph I just typed above would be true. Trout's body type (invariably huge thighs and incredibly strong adductors) is conducive to stopping and starting and turning around, running 10-yard intervals like a cat, and being able to do this type of thing as well as anyone in the world. Trout has the ability to reach his top speed very, very quickly, but his top speed isn't as fast as a sprinter's - it's the difference between torque and horsepower, between acceleration and velocity. Trout accelerates incredibly; he just isn't able to *keep* accelerating like Bolt is, and so Bolt has a much greater velocity.

(*) I purposely picked Usain Bolt because he's the *fastest* person to ever live; but he's not the *quickest* person to ever live. If Trout ran the 100 meter sprint against Bolt, it would be like a housecat running it against a cheetah: The housecat would burst out in front for the first "x" yards, and then at some point early on in the race, the cheetah would look like a blur passing the housecat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not sure if Usain Bolt is the best choice of comparison here :).  Maybe a 400M specialist that reaches maximum speed a little later down the track.  Look at his world record setting run of a few years back (the 9.58 one).  He led the thing wire-to-wire.  I don't think even Mike Trout could out-start an Olympic caliber sprinter for 10 meters, they work *just* as hard on reaching maximum velocity quickly as they do on sustaining that velocity..  Somewhere there may be a non-sprinter professional athlete that could, and I'm sure somebody has done the measurements (my bet is that this has been done extensively for NFL wide receivers).  i found this for Bolt:

His acceleration out of the the starting blocks clocked in at 9.5 meters per second squared, (31.2 ft/s2, which is almost 0.97 g (the acceleration due to Earth's gravity), and he generated an incredible 2.6 kilowatts of power (3.5 horsepower) less than a second later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not sure if Usain Bolt is the best choice of comparison here :).  Maybe a 400M specialist that reaches maximum speed a little later down the track.  Look at his world record setting run of a few years back (the 9.58 one).  He led the thing wire-to-wire.  I don't think even Mike Trout could out-start an Olympic caliber sprinter for 10 meters, they work *just* as hard on reaching maximum velocity quickly as they do on sustaining that velocity..  Somewhere there may be a non-sprinter professional athlete that could, and I'm sure somebody has done the measurements (my bet is that this has been done extensively for NFL wide receivers).  i found this for Bolt:

Ted, after having read your response, my first thought was that Michael Johnson might be a better example. In fact, I specifically chose Bolt because I thought he was a relatively slow out-of-the-blocks accelerator compared to his ridiculous top speed (which is why he's able to set the world record in the 200 meters). I'm going to do some more research (after all, this is quite a claim I made), but one graph I found (the supporting article is here) showed that in Bolt's 9.58 100-meter race, it took him 6 seconds to reach his top speed - I suspect that at the 6-second point, Trout has already begun to decelerate:

speedpng.jpg

This picture is from Bolt's 9.58 100-meter world record. It would be just about at the distance from the baseline to the foul line in basketball (15 feet), where people running the suicide-race stop and make their first turn. This one-step distance would only be amplified as you turn twice and accelerate three times. Plus, do you see how low to the ground the guys in lanes 1-3 are, relative to Bolt (in lane 4)? That makes it easier to stop and turn.

post-2-0-11862600-1437162573_thumb.png

Something occurred to me while looking at this photo: Bolt is higher up than all the other runners, and the three leaders (in lanes 1-3) are possibly the lowest of the bunch. My hypothesis is that Bolt is willing to sacrifice the first few yards of this race to get himself into position for an extended sprint. In other words, raising your body vertically costs you precious yardage laterally - all the runners must do it, and Bolt has chosen to do it early in the race. I suspect his rationale is, "This is a 100-meter race, not a 10-meter race." Raising your body in the 100-meter dash is a necessarily evil, just like making a pit stop in an auto race.

And if you're looking for another example at the other extreme, I'll bet Tyrone Bogues (*) would be even more explosive than Trout - in fact, I can't think of any human being that I would bet money on being quicker (I'm talking 5-10 yards) than Muggsy in his prime, although I'm sure they're out there, somewhere.

Sportscasters (who are often vacuous robots in suits) place an enormous amount of emphasis on the 40-yard dash (think about how often you hear sportscasters saying that such-and-such ran a 4.6 40 at the NFL Combine), but I think that the "10-yard run," or even "the 5-yard run" - maybe back-and-forth a few times - is of enormous importance (disclosure: I know very little about the NFL Combine, and would love to learn something from this discussion (**)). Think about how many times in a football game players of all positions need to run 5 yards as quickly as possible - to recover a fumble, or to rush a quarterback, or to cut sideways to swat away a pass. In the world of explosive quickness, 40 yards - as short as it may seem - is a long race (***). One other thing I believe to be true is that truly explosive runners (and again, I'm talking 5-10 yards) have tremendous lateral burst, but not necessarily a good vertical jump; in fact, sometimes they have a laughably *bad* vertical jump.

(*) One thing that has always made me laugh is an article (I believe it may have been in The Washington Post) about when Muggsy Bogues and Manute Bol played together on the Washington Bullets. They're the shortest and tallest men to ever play in the NBA, and whoever wrote the column said that if Bol held Bogues over his head, it would look like a lowercase "i" :lol:  (****)

(**) Here's the link to your quote: "The Physics of Usain Bolt's World Record 100-Meter Dash" by George Dvorsky on io9.com

(***) This is amazing: according to the article quoted just above, Bolt's top velocity was 40 feet per second - if he could maintain that for 3 seconds - in other words, having a running start - he would run a *3-second 40* !!! The distance between the back door and the fence in our back yard when I was growing up was just about 30 yards. Imagining someone running *that* distance in *3 seconds*, and even going an extra 10 yards, is ... unimaginable - it simply doesn't seem humanly possible; it's something only a cheetah or a motorcycle could accomplish.

(****) acid_picdump_102.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(First reaction is, where does Don Rockwell get time to write these essays when he works full time and eats six meals a day at restaurants.)

I would give Mike Trout credit for six skills. In addition to the traditional five that Don points out, Trout has an uncanny baseball sense, on a par with Jeter, Ripken, Brooks Robinson and only a handful of others in recent eras....he is shaping up to be a truly special ballplayer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good analysis, Don, but I'll point out again: until there is data on an athlete like Trout to measure "explosiveness" I think comparisons to the fastest human being ever recorded are a bit premature. Were any of the mentioned athletes to go head-to-head with Bolt at 100M what are the odds that any of them would lead at any point in the race?  His first one, two steps are "slow" compared to what?  Other world class athletes at the peak of their discipline with thousands of hours under their belts.  Athletes in other sports just don't have the specificity in training necessary to match that performance.  Not that they couldn't, but they don't.

Name a sport; the best player in its history is out there (or has already passed), but we'll never find out because due to geographic or socio-economic circumstances he or she was playing some other sport sub-optimally :)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the best data available on Trout and Bolt they seem to have nearly identical acceleration rates up to about 6m/s (the graph Don posted for Bolt, ASG baserunning Statcast for Trout). After that Bolt just crushes. The comparison is a bit unfair since these stats are from Trout running on a curved path and watching a ball in play, but the acceleration rate up the first base line for the first couple seconds should be pretty true to maximum (I shifted Trout's start time to line up their acceleration curves to account for Bolt going from blocks and Trout from a swing, but there's no data for Bolt's first second anyway). The chart's a bit messy from the overlay but Trout is in red, Bolt in blue. The chart also probably underrates Bolt's early acceleration on account of the few data points. Unless Bolt is unimaginably bad at stopping he'd obliterate Trout in a suicide race.

post-52-0-59616100-1437435328_thumb.jpg

(In terms of active baseball players, Billy Hamilton would almost certainly beat Trout too. One tool player.)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing that most people don't realize is how much ground elite runners at all lengths (but especially the sprinters) cover with each stride.

One memory from my career as a HS cross country runner - one summer we were at camp at Edinboro (PA) Univ. On the track they had taped out footfalls for what was then the 800 meter world record. Af far as I could stride at full speed, my strides were almost 2 feet shorter than the ones on the track. The only way I could match the marked footfalls was basically leaping from mark to mark. I think that I made 4 or 5 before quitting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing that most people don't realize is how much ground elite runners at all lengths (but especially the sprinters) cover with each stride.

One memory from my career as a HS cross country runner - one summer we were at camp at Edinboro (PA) Univ. On the track they had taped out footfalls for what was then the 800 meter world record. Af far as I could stride at full speed, my strides were almost 2 feet shorter than the ones on the track. The only way I could match the marked footfalls was basically leaping from mark to mark. I think that I made 4 or 5 before quitting.

Joe is correct, for all distances except super-short and super-long. For the "explosive quickness" people (and I'm talking 10-20 yards), it's more important to get the legs pumping quickly, and take more strides per second, than it is to take long, bounding strides (I have a feeling I still haven't convinced people of this, but think about a black iguana, which can run 22 mph, and most likely gets there very quickly with its short, stubby legs); world-class marathoners tend to be flyweights, with men weighing about 125 pounds and being under 5'7".

There are two ways to increase speed: stride length, and stride frequency (or a combination of both). In junior high school, we had a runner named Ray Brown (*) who went on to get a scholarship to the University of Virginia. In college, he ran the 440 and 880, and his stride length was ridiculously long when he was flying around the track - he looked like a gazelle. (As an aside, he was so talented that he also just happened to be the fastest cross country runner in our class, by far.)

(*) Good Lord, I guess Ray was the real deal. I had no idea until just now that he was a collegiate All-American; only that he was one hell of a runner in Junior High School. I only knew him from watching him win most every Cross Country meet; the one time I saw him flying around the track, I did a double-take - it looked like he was a hovercraft. I wonder if his stride length was in the seven-foot range (I was going to say "ten," but I don't think that's possible). God he was awesome. Ray, if you ever see this, get in touch, huh? I know you transferred to St. Albans, and I haven't talked with you since you left White Oak - forty years is too long, my friend.

By the way, I would *love it* if people here would start threads about stars at their high schools, regardless of sport. What a cool way to acknowledge them - they'll find the thread on Google within a year, I promise you. They don't need to be famous - this forum will be indexed one day, so it won't be like searching through a library without the Dewey Decimal System. Go ahead! Brag about your hometown sports heroes! Why not?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...