JUPITER, Fla. -- Baserunning has gone high-tech for the Marlins.
On Saturday morning, under the supervision of first-base and infield coach Trey Hillman and Minor League infield and base-running coordinator Gene Glynn, Marlins players participated in base-stealing drills that featured tracking technology to record reaction times and running speeds.
“There’s new technology out there,” center fielder Lewis Brinson said. “Any slight advantage you can get in this game is very important. We’re definitely going to utilize that in Spring Training and all season.”
Spring Training is a time to experiment, and the Marlins intend to run on the bases in 2019. So far, they’re seeing results. Miami entered Saturday with 11 stolen bases, second in the Majors only to the Padres’ 13 in all spring games.
For Saturday’s drills, the WITTY Wireless Training Timer system was used to measure players' reactions, movements and speed times between first and second base on Field 2 of the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. Marlins position players participated in drills designed to not only accumulate data, but also provide coaching tips on base-stealing and reacting to a pitcher’s movements.
“We’re really trying to work on reducing our amount of time from reaction time to movement time,” said Hillman, who also handles base-running duties on the Marlins' staff.
Glynn helped introduce the new technology. The WITTY system uses camera-like devices to record data. On Saturday, one set of cameras was placed 10 feet from first base, and others were spaced 10 yards apart. When the players took their leads 10 feet from first base, the WITTY system counted down from five seconds to one, and then randomly signaled: “Go!”
“It’s not always timed up the same,” Hillman said. “We’re trying to get them mentally able to relax enough and be able to build up that tension into their explosion position, and then focusing on their form, trying to reduce their reaction time.”
The Marlins have made it no secret they plan on running more in 2019. Since they’re not a power-filled team, they’d like to manufacture runs in other ways. One way is to increase their steals, as well as improve their base running.
“I don’t think it’s so much about steals,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s about just being a really good base-running club. That’s what we want to be.”
A year ago, the Marlins were 29th in the Majors in stolen bases, with 45.
Saturday was the third time this spring the Marlins brought out the WITTY system. But unlike the previous two times, they didn’t video the players on Saturday.
“We’ve already studied some video, getting these guys to go in with the strength and conditioning people and actually view their explosion position in relation to which one is their go leg and their power leg,” Hillman said. “We want to put them in the best possible position to reduce that reaction time and the movement time and get to full speed as quickly as they can.”
Distinguishing the “go leg” and “power leg” shows how precise the tracking technology is, because they are not necessarily the same for all players. In general, the objective is to get players up to maximum running speed as quickly as possible. The Marlins also are paying attention to Trackman technology, which powers Statcast.
“All the tools we use are going to help in some way,” said Austin Dean, who has two steals this spring. “Just the fact that they are bringing these in is helpful.”
The Marlins have their share of fast runners in Spring Training. According to Statcast, in 2018, based on a minimum of 10 competitive runs, outfielder Magneuris Sierra ranked third overall moving at 30.2 feet per second. Outfielders Isaac Galloway (29.9 feet per second) was 12th and Brinson (29.4 feet per second) was 28th.
“It helps a lot,” Brinson said of the WITTY system. “You definitely see what we can improve on and get our reaction time a little quicker. However you can get to second base faster, you definitely want to know that information. I think it helps out a lot.”