Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Need For Speed

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Until recently, speed was a hard to quantify when it came to scouting players. Timers can be used to see how fast a player gets down the first baseline or how fast a player moves around the bases on a hit into the gap. Some scouting of speed was based on the eye-test because most scouts can look at a player and be able to tell if they are fast.

Earlier this season, I delved into some of MLB's new StatCast data. Thing like launch angle and exit velocity are becoming common place in the baseball lexicon. With increases in technology, StatCast continues to evolve and they have added a baserunning sprint speed component.

Fans know Byron Buxton is fast but how well does he rank compared to the rest of baseball. What other players run well for the Twins? Who is below the league average? 

Sprint speed is Statcast's foot speed metric, defined as "feet per second in a player's fastest one-second window." The Major League average on a "max effort" play is 27 ft/sec, and the max effort range is roughly 23 ft/sec (poor) to 30 ft/sec (elite). A player must have at least 10 max effort runs to qualify for the leaderboard. 

Byron Buxton is the lone Twins player who is elite. In fact, only Billy Hamilton ranks faster than him at the big league level. Buxton's average speed on a max effort play is 29.9 ft/sec while Hamilton clocks in at 31.1 ft/sec. Bradley Zimmer is only 0.1 ft/sec behind Buxton while the average for all center fielders is 28.2 ft/sec, the highest mark for any position. Earlier this season, Buxton made it to third in 10.73 seconds. Buxton also had an inside-the-park home run last season that clocked in at just over 14 seconds.

Above Average
Besides Buxton, three other Twins rank highly at their positions. Max Kepler ranks fifth among qualified right fielders with a 28.1 ft/sec sprint speed. He is only 0.2 ft/sec behind the right field leaders, Daniel Robertson and Ben Gamel. While Eduardo Escobar hasn't been the Twins regular third baseman, he ranks as the second fastest runner (28.0 ft/sec) behind Kris Bryant (28.2 ft/sec). Only two regular designated hitters rank above average, the Twins' Robbie Grossman and the Rays' Corey Dickerson. Grossman's 27.5 ft/sec mark is currently 0.3 ft/sec behind Dickerson.

Jorge Polanco is in the top-10 for shortstops but his 28.1 sprint speed is almost a full foot per second behind leader Trea Turner. Among left fielders, Rosario ranks in the top-20 with a 28.0 sprint speed but he ranks behind former Twins Ben Revere and Danny Santana at his position. Brian Dozier sits on the edge of the top-10 among second basemen but he is over 1.5 ft/sec behind the Marlins' Dee Gordon.

Below Average
Five Twins regulars sit below average on the sprint speed scale. Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer are the closest to reaching leave average speed. There are only five first basemen who are above average and Mauer is 0.4 ft/sec from joining that group. Sano has been faster than Mauer this season (26.8 ft/sec) and he is sandwiched in the rankings between former Twin Trevor Plouffe and the Rockies' Noaln Arenado.

Only six designated hitters rank lower than Kennys Vargas. His 25.9 ft/sec is tied for the slowest on the Twins. While Jason Castro ties Vargas in this category, he actually sits in the middle of the pack when compared to the other catchers in the league. Ehire Adrianza ranks as the fourth slowest shortstop with only JJ Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Troy Tulowitzki being slower.

Who's ranking surprised you? Did anyone not meet your expectations? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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