Even Usain Bolt couldn't catch Adam Lind

Tom Szczerbowski

I get bored a lot while watching baseball games, and strange thoughts enter my mind. Could Emilio Bonifacio catch up to Adam Lind, if Bonifacio were on first and Lind on second?

I have always been interested in the quirky side of baseball. For example, whenever I hop on MLB.com to watch highlights, I'll search for ‘oddities' before anything else. Things like Justin Masterson getting covered in seeds while trying to do an interview, or cameramen catching foul balls help remind me that baseball as a whole can be fun, despite the great disappointment that 2013 has been so far for the Blue Jays.

I also happen to spend a lot of time at Blue Jays games, and my mind tends to wander at times. For example, this past home stand, with the Blue Jays in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, down 10-8 to the Dodgers, Adam Lind stood on second with Emilio Bonifacio on first. J.P. Arencibia was up to bat, and with the possibility of him driving one in to the gap, I wondered: could Bonifacio catch Lind before crossing the plate?

I'm not sure that Emilio Bonifacio is the fastest Blue Jay, or that Adam Lind is the slowest Blue Jay, but they are fast and slow Blue Jays respectively so let's just do this anyway.

How Fast Are They?

The first step - and maybe the last step - is determining how fast Lind ran second to home, and how fast Bonifacio ran first to home, and seeing plain and simple if Boni runs his three bases faster than Lind runs his two. I found as much video of each instance from this year, and timed each player running his respective distance, then averaged out the times. I threw out examples where Lind or Bonifacio had to hold up or where either player started towards the next base before the ball was hit (ie a stolen base attempt).

Unfortunately Emilio Bonifacio doesn't get on base all too often, and goes first-to-home even less frequently. There were five instances of Lind running second-to-home, and only two of Bonifacio running first-to-home.

Here is video of Lind's fastest time (7.2 seconds), from July 23against the Dodgers (hey look who's on first!)

Here is video of Bonifacio's fastest time (9.7 seconds), from July 10 against the Indians. Kawasaki! Defense!

Lind went second to home in an average time of 7.50 seconds, and Bonifacio ran first to home in an average time of 9.75 seconds.

Clearly we can see that Bonifacio wouldn't catch Lind. (I can honestly say that I am so bad at this whole ‘thinking' thing that it took me hours to realize that the two videos above are all we need. Holy crap. What is wrong with me?)

Anyway, let's figure out where they might meet.

Math. Why.

All we have to do is determine at what distance they will meet if they continue running at their respective speeds, while Lind has a 90 feet head start. It's your standard "If a train leaves Toronto at x speed, and another much slower train who should only be hitting against righties leaves Ottawa at x speed, where will they meet?" Except here, both trains are players, and they are also travelling in the same direction.

There are 90 feet between bases in major league baseball. Adam Lind ran two bases, or 180 feet, in 7.50 seconds. That's a running speed of 24.00 feet/second. Emilio Bonifacio runs 270 feet in 9.75 seconds, for an average of 27.69 feet/second.

From this we can see that Bonifacio is gaining 3.69 feet per second on Lind. The original difference separating the two is 90 feet, therefore 90 feet divided by 3.69 feet/second = 24.39, which is your time until they meet. 24.39 * 24 (which is Lind's speed) gives us a distance of 585.36 feet.

So, if both players are running at full speed, Bonifacio would catch Lind at 585.36 feet, dashing my hopes and dreams.

Here it is in formulaic form, courtesy of @james_in_to (thanks!):

585.36 feet away from second base would mean that Boni and Lind run past home once, and then again, and then meet each other halfway up the line to first base. I'm not sure what would happen in a real game, besides everyone staring at Lind and Bonifacio as they run twice around the bases. That would be strange.

You'll have to excuse me for thinking that Emilio Bonifacio may have caught Adam Lind in this scenario; I mean, just look at Adam Lind run! Wee!

Lind_running_medium

Just for fun, Usain Bolt's 2009 world record time for 100 meters was 9.69 seconds. Using the same formula, it would take 9.13 seconds for Bolt to catch Adam Lind, still not fast enough to get to him before he crosses the plate. You see? Even Usain Bolt can't catch Adam Lind.

I'm trying to think of two players in all of baseball for whom this might actually happen, but am drawing a blank. Any ideas?

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