Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dee Gordon and the Feet First Slide - Part Two

Dee prepares to take off
Dee Gordon attempted to steal second going in feet first during the first inning of yesterday’s game.  In a close play he was called out.  Just as I feared, he has stated that he will put an end to attempting steals by going in feet first.  “Im not doing that again,” he told Ken Gurnick yesterday. 

I can’t help but be disappointed.  First, because he abandons the idea after one failed steal attempt. Second, because he was safe.  It was close, but a bad call.  Third, because a minor league umpire by the name of Mitch Muchlinski who made a bad call, has impacted the thinking of Dee and convinced him that going in feet first when stealing is a bad idea.  

Bang-bang play, but we can see that Gordon's foot is touching second base just before the tag is applied.  Why care about this play?  Well, based on it - Dee is stating that he will not attempt feet first slides on steal attempts any more.

This is the time for Davey Lopes and Maury Wills to take Gordon to the side and tell him that the feet first slide is in his best interest if he wants to stay injury free.  Apparently they have been working with him on that sliding technique all spring.  It isn’t time to give it up after one failed stealing attempt.  Just my two cents.

Called out


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  2. I was going to comment on your post yesterday, Evan, but decided to just let it go. But since you brought it up again, I now feel compelled to comment. I respectfully disagree with you on the head first vs. feet first sliding thing. I agree with you 100% that the risk of injury is far greater with a head first slide - unless, of course, your name is Tommy Davis, Jim Lefebvre, Ivan De Jesus Jr., Juan Rivera, or one of the many others who broke an ankle while sliding feet first.

    In my opinion, the absolute biggest advantage to sliding head first is that the runner can sometimes avoid the tag if they see it coming by reaching around it (or switching hands); not always, mind you, but occasionally.

    Although he was only with the Dodgers for a relatively short time, I really liked the composite glove (or mitten, actually) that Scott Podsednik wore when on base. This undoubtedly is designed to protect the fingers from bending back (or breaking). I am really surprised that more guys don't use these things - especially guys who steal a lot of bases.

    Just my $.02.

  3. Ron, There's no doubt that Dee Gordon gets there faster going head first. Additionally, he's more comfortable that way too. That alone makes him less injury prone probably...the confidence level. You make a good point about those that have broken ankles with the feet first slide. Let me add Bill Buckner and Pedro Guerrero to your list (though I'd hardly call what Pedro did a slide...more like a crash).

    Back in 1979 I took this class at Cal State L.A., taught by their baseball coach at the time. It was called "The Theory of Baseball." I swear to you it was the best class I ever took. The coach who taught it was Jack Deutsch, who must not be alive now, since he'd probably be over 100 years old if he were around today. He had scouted and coached for years and he swore up and down that the head first slide was the biggest cause of baseball injuries in the game.

    Now that you bring up all those injuries, I must say that you got me thinking. So I did some searching and came across a study done by the American Journal of Sports Medicine that determined that in baseball you're more likely to be injured sliding feet first than going in head first by almost a 2 to 1 margin, (that is not factoring in dive-backs to first base). This study collected injury statistics from 637 games and 3,889 slides. So I stand corrected. You're right. It is actually safer to slide headfirst than it is fee first. I must say, I'm surprised.

    source: http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/28/3/360.abstract

    1. I certainly wasn't trying to prove you wrong, my friend, merely offering an opposing point of view.

      At Spring Training last year, I had the pleasure of spending some time with two-time NL Batting Champ Tommy Davis. At some point during our conversation I mentioned to him that I was at the game when he broke his ankle sliding into second base. Man, it was as if I told him that his wife had just left him; he became very somber and said to me “May 1, 1965. My entire life changed that day.” (Ok, I felt like an idiot). I quickly changed the subject and asked him if he thought that his all-time Dodger record of 153 RBIs would ever be broken, to which he said “Probably, but I hope not.” You gotta love Tommy Davis.

      I, too, am quite surprised that there have been more injuries from feet first slides than head first slides, but I guess I really shouldn’t be. When you think about it, you’ve got all of your momentum going in one direction and your feet (foot) is suddenly stopped by an anchored base with your full body weight still moving in the same direction, something has to give, and the weakest point would be the ankle (makes my eyes water just thinking about it).

      Man, I would have loved to have taken a class like The Theory of Baseball; after all, I LIVE for this!

    2. This is amazing and very interesting how you've both came to this conclusion and I'm not saying you guys are wrong but from my experience most radio and T.V. analists (former players)and commentators, favor the feet first slide, at least from what I have heard. But let me say that both sides have interesting points.

  4. I could be wrong here, but perhaps you meant analysts, not analists - that would really hurt. I'll stick with Evan and the scientific evidence on this one rather than the word of "analists."

  5. Was the study done on a ratio basis? That is, the percent of injuries per type of slide. More leg injuries as a number of injuries only would make sense as many more players slide feet first, but would be a flawed study. It is very difficult to control the variables in such a study. Ideally it would be how many injuries per "x" number of slides each way. 637 games is a small sample, only about 42/45 days with 15 games a day.I would expect the sample to be much larger.

    I am surprised by the results, very surprised. I always thought the player ploughed more dirt creating more friction in the head first slide, as more body surface makes contact with the ground and the belt seems to collect dirt. Running straight through is the fastest way to get to the base but the tag can't be avoided.

    In any event, I expect if that is the way Dee prefers to slide, that is what he should do, play within his comfort zone. I also expect the key to a steal is the jump off first base more so than the slide at second. Davy will continue to help Dee and Matt with that.

    Good article Evan.

  6. Bluenose, The following is how the American Journal of Sports Medicine conducted their study.

    "We prospectively observed seven softball and three baseball Division I collegiate teams to study the incidence of sliding injuries, the types of injuries resulting from the sliding technique, and the amount of time lost from participation. Slides were categorized as either feet- or head-first on the basis of the leading part of the body during the slide. Slides were further stratified depending on whether a diveback technique was performed. We recorded 37 injuries in 3889 slides in 637 games and 7596 athlete game exposures. The overall incidence of sliding injuries was 9.51 per 1000 slides and 4.87 per 1000 game exposures. Softball players had a significantly higher incidence of sliding injuries (12.13 per 1000 slides) than did baseball players (6.01 per 1000 slides). In baseball, the injury rate was higher for feet-first slides (7.31 per 1000 slides) than for head-first slides (3.53 per 1000 slides) or divebacks (5.75 per 1000 divebacks). In softball, injury rates were higher for head-first slides (19.46 per 1000 slides) than for feet-first slides (10.04 per 1000 slides) or divebacks (7.49 per 1000 divebacks). The majority of injuries sustained were minor, with only four (11%) injuries causing the athlete to miss more than 7 days of participation."

    It should be noted that the study was conducted at the baseball collegiante level and not in MLB or Minor leagues.

  7. Thanks. Amazing. Twice as many injuries per 1000 slides feet first than head first. I would have bet against that.

    I expect 53's observation with feet jamming into the bag taking the full force of the body weight in that direction is an accurate one. The hands and arms usually go over the bag.