Speedster's sprint speed checks in as Statcast of the Day
By Andrew Simon
Byron Buxton is one of the fastest players in the Major Leagues.
The naked eye can spot that, Statcast™'s new sprint speed metric quantifies that, and Buxton himself provided a shining example of that in the Twins' 9-6 win over the Orioles on Friday night at Target Field.
Sprint speed, defined as feet per second in a player's fastest one-second window, is expressed in feet per second. Players range from roughly 23 ft/sec on the low end to 30 ft/sec on the high end. Buxton averages 30.0 ft/sec on his "max-effort" plays on the bases, putting him just behind Billy Hamilton (30.1 ft/sec) for best in the Majors this season.
On Friday night, that fleetness of foot helped the Twins' center fielder score an insurance run in a way that few MLB players would have dared to even attempt.
Minnesota entered the bottom of the eighth inning leading Baltimore, 7-6, and Buxton increased that lead with a two-out RBI single off Zach Britton. The next batter, Brian Dozier, smacked a hard ground ball past shortstop Ruben Tejada and into left-center field for a single.
It was the type of play in which a runner on first would almost always cruise into third base without a second thought. But Buxton isn't just any runner.
Buxton flew around second base, taking a peek at Orioles center fielder Adam Jones making his way toward the ball, and kept right on going. As Jones tossed the ball into second base, Buxton never hesitated and kept churning toward home. Despite a bit of a stumble around third base, he slid in safely without much threat from Jonathan Schoop's throw to the plate.
So when did Twins manager Paul Molitor know Buxton would score?
"Once [Dozier's hit] got past the shortstop's glove," he said.
Buxton's sprint speed of 30.6 ft/sec on the play was above his impressive season average, and Statcast™ measured his time to home at 9.47 seconds. That's a fast time in its own right, but it's especially fast considering Buxton had a conservative secondary lead -- at the point of the pitcher's release -- of 12.82 feet.
Since Statcast™ was introduced for the 2015 season, no runner at first base with a secondary lead that short had completed the trip from first to home that quickly. Of the 18 players this season who had recorded a faster first-to-home time from first base, each had at least a 17-foot secondary lead, and 12 had at least a 20-foot head start.
In other words, add another speedy accomplishment to the list for Buxton, who set a still-standing Statcast™ record by circling the bases in 14.05 seconds on an inside-the-park homer against the White Sox in Chicago on Oct. 2, 2016.
"We had the right guy running on that play," Molitor said of Buxton's latest feat. "You don't see that very often. … But you look for the opportunity, that's the key."
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.