Advanced Stat Friday: Need for Speed

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With baseball executives taking new steps to understand the game, and baseball writers and analysts developing new methods to analyze play on the field, the baseball sabermetric revolution is in full swing.

Although the process really started with Bill James and his Baseball Abstracts in the 1980s, the baseball stat revolution didn’t start to take off until the Moneyball days of the Oakland Athletics, where on-base percentage took the crown from batting average as the crown jewel of baseball stats.

Now 15 years later, all new stats abound, from wRC+ and wOBA, to FIP and SIERA, and all the way to the Statcast system, which has brought us exit velocity, launch angle, catch probability, and on and on.

Given the state of advanced stats in the game today, there has never been a better time to find new ways to understand the game we all love.

With that spirit in mind, this will be a new series from East Village Times in which a plethora of stats will be discussed as they pertain to the San Diego Padres.

Each week we will list five to 10 interesting stats about the current Padres team or specific players.

Then we will focus in on one specific stat and do a deep dive in order to better understand how it works, how it is used, and what purpose it can serve in evaluating players both in the present and in the future.

Without further ado, happy Stat-ing.

With the introduction of Statcast’s new sprint speed metric, and accompanying leaderboards, for this week’s advanced stat Friday we will talk about not just sprint speed, but baserunning in general, and how the San Diego Padres have fared so far this season.

  • Padres’ right fielder Hunter Renfroe is most known for his light tower power and insane throwing arm. However, a third skill of his has been his most valuable one so far this season. Very quietly, Hunter Renfroe is one of the better baserunners in all of baseball. By Fangraphs, BsR, which is a baserunning statistic that takes into account stolen bases, caught stealing, and other baserunning plays, such as taking an extra base or getting thrown out on the bases, Renfroe is the 27th best baserunner in baseball. At a BsR of 2.4, Renfroe shares that spot with names such as Cameron Maybin, Cody Bellinger, Dexter Fowler, and Jason Kipnis, a group of really solid baserunners. By Fangraphs UBR, which is a similar measure to BsR but does not include stolen bases in the calculation, Renfroe is similarly good, at 37th in all of baseball with an UBR of 1.3.
  • Trailing just behind Renfroe are Cory Spangenberg and Erick Aybar, who both currently sit at a BsR of 1.9.
  • Despite having missed nearly a month of the season, Manuel Margot also rates as one of the best baserunners in baseball by BsR at 1.6.
  • As a team, the Padres still have been one of the better baserunning teams in all of baseball, as they sport a 9.0 BsR, good for sixth in all of baseball and fourth in the National League. The Padres rank similarly well by UBR, also sixth in baseball at 6.7. The interesting thing is that the Padres have been not nearly as good at stealing bases, as they have stolen only 45 bases, which puts them at just 10th in all of baseball.

As mentioned above, today’s Advanced Stat Friday is centered around baserunning because of the introduction of Statcast’s newest metric, sprint speed. For the uninitiated, sprint speed is a new stat hosted on Baseball Savant that attempts to measure a player’s feet per second in the fastest one-second window. So think of it as analogous to measuring a car’s fastest speed in a one-second window. This is called max effort, because the stat attempts to strip out plays where players are jogging to first, such as on home runs or pop outs.

Based on the data, the major league average sprint speed sits at about 27 ft/sec while the range of values falls anywhere between 23 ft/sec and 30 ft/sec, with 23 being considered poor and 30 being considered elite. Based on this metric, the San Diego Padres rate very well.

At the top of the sprint speed leaderboard, you find Franchy Cordero, who ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 29.6 ft/sec sprint speed, which trails the leader, who other than Billy Hamilton, by just half a foot per second. Also high on that list is Manuel Margot, who sits in the 14th spot in all of baseball with a sprint speed of 29.2 ft/sec. Looking a few spots further down the list, you find Allen Cordoba, who ranks 19th in baseball at 28.8 ft/sec. Two spots below him is Jose Pirela, who also comes in at 28.8 ft/sec. You get the picture.

Looking elsewhere around the diamond, Wil Myers comes in at 28.5, which puts him not only in the top 30 or so in all of baseball, but also puts him all by himself as the fastest first baseman by a whole foot per second. In fact, just about every Padres player is above the 27 ft/sec MLB average, including Ryan Schimpf (27.5 ft/sec) and Cory Spangenberg (27.8 ft/sec), Erick Aybar (27.2 ft/sec), and the aforementioned Hunter Renfroe (27.1 ft/sec). In fact, the only two players who fail to reach the league average are Yangervis Solarte (26.6 ft/sec), who has earned himself the nickname “Slowarte” and Austin Hedges (26.5 ft/sec) who is still one of the fastest catchers in baseball despite falling below that league average.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

Even more interesting, according to Mike Petriello, who works for and has access to other Statcast data, Luis Perdomo is the fastest pitcher in all of baseball by this new sprint speed metric. In total, the Padres are not only the youngest team in all of baseball, but also the fastest team in all of baseball by sprint speed, which makes sense given the correlation between speed and age. The Padres may not be the best pitching team or hitting team, but we can’t argue with their need for speed.

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