If you’ve been around baseball enough, you’ve probably heard someone talk about the 5 skills (or the 5 tools) of baseball, but have you ever wondered what those 5 skills are or what they mean? I found this topic very intriguing and I wanted to take a deeper dive into the 5 skills needed for baseball.
What are the 5 skills in baseball? These 5 skills, also referred to as the 5 tools of baseball, are fielding, speed, arm strength, hitting for average, and hitting for power. These are the skills all athletes need in order to compete for a spot on a team.
These 5 skills in baseball are what all scouts are looking for as a general guideline toward evaluating prospects. But why do scouts place such a high emphasis on evaluating players based on these 5 skills? Let’s take a deeper look into what makes each one of these skills unique to each baseball player.
The 5 Skills in Baseball
Fielding is a crucial aspect of baseball. The better at fielding a player is, the less likely they are to have errors occur during a play. Not only can an excellent fielder make the routine plays, but they can also make outstanding plays on a consistent basis.
The formula for this skill is fairly straightforward: better fielding means fewer errors which equals fewer runs allowed.
When you think of speed you typically think of stolen bases, but speed is also attributed to how quick a player is in the outfield. A defensive player who has the skills for both speed and fielding makes for a highly effective outfielder.
Speed in baseball is most noticeable on the base paths. Players who are fast can steal more bases and get themselves into scoring position a lot easier than slower players. In the major leagues, runs can be hard to come by so every 90 feet matters while on the bases.
Arm strength is another crucial aspect of baseball. Stronger arms means better throws and this applies to both infielders and outfielders. Outfielders with strong arms are able to enjoy more of those coveted thrown-out-at-the-plate plays. On that same note, infielders with strong arms are able to enjoy more of those coveted throw-from-the-hole plays that showcase their arm strength.
If you’re a pitcher, arm strength is the most important skill you can have out of these five skills. Better arm strength means increased speed of your fastball as well as a better spin on your off-speed pitches. The better your arm strength is as a pitcher the more likely it is you will get those batters to strikeout.
Hitting for Average
What’s the first stat you see for any player? Any casual fan of baseball will tell you that the batting average is always the first thing that pops up when announcers are discussing a player. This is because hitting for average is such an essential part of the game.
Scoring runs is what wins games and the best way to score runs is to get on base. So the more a player can hit for average, the more likely they will get on base. If you combine this skill with speed then you’ll have yourself one dangerous batter.
Hitting for Power
Everyone’s favorite skill is power. When you think of hitting for power you’re probably thinking of home runs, but hitting for power also covers those players who can get extra-base hits like doubles and triples. The more power in your swing the further the ball will travel.
Players who hit for power are also rewarded with a spot towards the top to the middle of the batting order. This is because players who hit for power can drive in those RBIs by either hitting a home run, getting an extra-base hit, or even by hitting a deep fly ball for a sacrifice fly.
It also goes without saying that hitting for power means players are more likely to hit home runs. And who doesn’t like hitting home runs? Home runs are arguably one of the most fun and exciting parts of the game. And what’s better than hitting a game-ending, walk-off home run?
What is the Most Important Skill in Baseball?
Depending on who you ask, any one of these skills could be considered the most important skill in baseball. So this really comes down to what coaches are looking for when they need a player on their team.
If the coach’s team already has a lot of great fielders and great players who hit for average, then a coach may be looking for a player who can hit for power.
If you’re asking coaches what is the most important skill in baseball, most coaches will tell you that hitting for average is the most important skill in baseball. The more players on the team who can hit for average means more runners on base, which means more chances of scoring.
One way to think about this question is to ask yourself “If I had a team where every player was skilled at only one of these tools, which skill would I prefer my players to have?”
If all players on your team were only skilled at fielding or arm strength then there is a good chance your team would lose due to your batters being unable to hit and get on base.
On the other hand, if you had a team full of players who excelled at hitting for average then you would have a better chance of winning due to players being able to get on base and score.
Obviously, teams have a mix of players who have a varying degree of skills so this scenario varies greatly from team to team. If you’re a coach or if you’re a scout for a team then you’ll be looking for players with certain skills depending on where your team currently stands.
Is Mike Trout a 5 Tool Player?
If you have a pretty good understanding of the 5 fundamental skills of baseball players then you may be wondering about some examples of players who are those rare 5 tool players.
Mike Trout is a great example of a player who has all 5 tools. As someone who plays center field, he needs to have the speed to cover the outfield as well as have the fielding abilities to make outstanding plays. If you look at his career stats you’ll see that he is also able to hit for both power and average.
According to mlb.com, Mike Trout is one of rare players to have all five tools. MLB.com dove into the stats to look for five tool players that met the following criteria:
- Hitting: Batting exit velocity of ≥ 110 mph
- Hitting for power: Home run distance of ≥ 425 feet
- Fielding: Route efficiency of ≥ 98 percent
- Throwing: Throws of ≥ 85 mph
- Running: Top baserunning speed of ≥ 21 mph
Mike Trout was one of the eight players mentioned in this article who can successfully say they were able to meet the requirements for of these stats at least three times within a six month period. Quite impressive!
6 Tool Baseball Player
Is there a 6th tool of baseball not mentioned here?
In short, there is no official sixth tool of baseball. The five tools of baseball are fielding, speed, arm strength, hitting for average, and hitting for power. Although, there are some websites that are promoting one more additional baseball skill and it depends on who you ask.
According to Six Tool Baseball School, the sixth tool of baseball players is “aggressive play”. They believe that this mindset will lead to runners being able to advance an additional 90 feet when most other players would not.
Metsmerized Online promotes the sixth baseball tool as “having an in-depth knowledge of the game.” Although one can argue the importance of fully understanding the game of baseball, this is not one of the skills that a scout will be able to easily pick up on during their analysis.
Sabr.org even lists seven tools of baseball. For sabr.org, the sixth tool is “durability” and the seventh tool is “character”. These are also very important factors to consider when look for quality players, but these would be very difficult for scouts to pick up on when evaluating players.