April 14, 2017
Cheese in the Kitchen
On Bat Speed and the Prospects Who Have It
Last week I kicked off this series with a primer, to which I will refer you with questions on the nature of this beast. For our first foray into the weeds this week, I was piqued by a question in my chat queue last week about the difference between bat speed and power. The latter is a topic I’ll surely spend a bunch of time dissecting in this space over the weeks to come, because who plays in a dynasty league and isn’t willing to trip a sibling in order to read about power-hitting prospects? For today’s run, though, we’re going to talk about bat speed.
It’s a skill that can be on the more difficult side to identify for the untrained eye—most swings taken by professional baseball players are, after all, objectively quite fast. And it’s one of those terms that even mainstream prospect reports written by not scouts will utilize frequently without much context about why it’s important. Intuitively it makes sense: if you swing faster, you have a better chance of hitting a ball that has been pitched fast. But understanding how and why certain players have better bat speed than others is useful when trying to map out valuation and a long-term dynasty league strategy.
So let’s take a shallow dive into what bat speed is, why it’s important, and why some prospects are better targets in your league than others because of it.
The relationship between bat speed and strength
Of course there’s a relationship between bat speed and strength. There is a direct connection between pitch speed, bat speed, and the velocity of ensuing contact. And, more broadly, being physically strong usually is advantageous when attempting physically rigorous exercises.
There have been studies reaching conclusions about a very strong correlation between upper body strength and bat speed, and it matches the intuition test. The more physical strength you have, the greater the muscle mass within which you impart energy, and the quicker you can generate greater force. You need strength in the shoulders to build the initial rotational momentum. You need wrist and forearm strength to start the barrel and whip it through the hitting zone once underway. You also need those arms and wrists to keep that barrel in place, coasting along the most-efficient plane while you do it. You need strength through your biceps, and obliques, and pectorals to maximize power and extension through the point of contact.