MINNEAPOLIS –Byron Buxton is a really fast runner. And now, we have scientific evidence!
MLB’s Statcast is doing some cool things this year, and work from people like Tom Tango, Mike Petriello and Daren Willman is fun to follow, as they dig deeper into tracking metrics and try to refine our understanding of the game.
The latest article, published on MLB.com, examines top-end outfielder speed.
As you might expect, Buxton ranks near the top of the list. Right behind Reds outfielder, Billy Hamilton.
Petriello explains the rational in the column. In short, they’re using feet per second instead of miles per hour because baseball plays only take a few seconds on average, so things get wonky when we use the more traditional mph label.
According to the column, Buxton averaged the second-fastest top speed in the outfield last year (measured by a fielder’s fastest one-second interval), at 29.7 feet per second.
Twins right fielder Max Kepler marks surprisingly high on the list, as he’s not necessarily known as a burner in the same way that Buxton is. But Kepler’s got wheels. His speed tied for sixth-fastest among outfielders last year, at 28.6 feet per second. That’s ahead of speedy guys like Christian Yelich and Kevin Kiermaier, per Statcast.
I talked with Kepler the other day about his speed, because he’s caught my eye a few times this season busting it down to first base.
He said he doesn’t know if he’s actually faster, but he’s made a concerted effort to get started quickly this year. Better jumps and the same speed should, in theory, lead to faster times to first base. We’ll see how that plays out when the Statcast guys come out with base running metrics.
I wrote this spring about how Max Kepler might be underrated as an outfielder.
Right on cue during Tuesday’s game, the right fielder showed that speed, when he legged out an infield single by blazing down the line.
But then again, he dropped a routine pop fly in the outfield, leading to two more Indians runs in the 1st inning. (That doesn’t really change the premise of the ‘underrated’ column, but as it’s worth pointing out as a counter-argument.)