Statcast Released a Speed Stat...and the Cardinals Are Bad

From a defensive standpoint is there a way to improve this club? And what does that look like? Also, we’ve always talked about trying to be a little bit more aggressive on the basepaths. Trying to get a little smaller on the basepaths. Trying to add a little speed to this team. And we just haven’t done that. -John Mozeliak, circa October 2016

Welp. At least Mo is used to going 0-for-2. Just ask David Price and Jason Heyward. (Sorry, that was uncalled for.)

As the title suggests, Statcast made it's sprint speed statistic publicly available today. If you want to learn more about the stat itself you can click here. All you need to know is that sprint speed measures how many feet a player can run in a one second window of time. The list of fastest players in Major League Baseball goes as following:

Name Team Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec)
Hamilton, Billy CIN CF 30.1
Buxton, Byron MIN CF 29.9
Zimmer, Bradley CLE CF 29.8
Cordero, Franchy SD CF 29.6
Broxton, Keon MIL CF 29.4
Gordon, Dee MIA 2B 29.3
DeShields, Delino TEX LF 29.3
Smith, Mallex TB CF 29.2
Margot, Manuel SD CF 29.2
Kiermaier, Kevin TB CF 29.2
Dyson, Jarrod SEA CF 29.2
Cain, Lorenzo KC CF 29.2

And the slowest players:

Name Team Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec)
Pujols, Albert LAA DH 23.3
McCann, Brian HOU C 23.4
Montero, Miguel CHC C 23.6
Bandy, Jett MIL C 24.2
Martinez, Victor DET DH 24.2
Grandal, Yasmani LAD C 24.3
Smoak, Justin TOR 1B 24.6
Wieters, Matt WSH C 24.7
Leon, Sandy BOS C 24.7
Morales, Kendrys TOR DH 24.7
Beltre, Adrian TEX 3B 24.7

To qualify for either leaderboard a player needed at least 10 tracked "maximum effort runs". (The stat is called sprint speed, after all.) Magneuris Sierra has only totaled six such runs in his eight Major League games, which is a shame because his average of 29.9 feet per second would be good for a tie with Byron Buxton at second.

These numbers are meaningless without any context, which prompted me to create a metric called Sprint+. As much as the name may sound like a cell service plan, the formula for Sprint+ is pretty simple: (Player sprint speed/league average sprint speed)*100

The sabermetrically astute reader will recognize this type of formula, namely from a metric like wRC+. And just like wRC+, Sprint+ is calculated so 100 will always be league average in any given season. The breakdown of Sprint+ is much more narrow than wRC+, however.

Percentile Average Sprint+
81-99 105.68
61-80 102.50
41-60 100.24
21-40 97.81
1-20 93.86

Without further ado, here are the highest and lowest Sprint+ scores:

Name Team Position Sprint+
Hamilton, Billy CIN CF 111.28
Buxton, Byron MIN CF 110.54
Zimmer, Bradley CLE CF 110.17
Cordero, Franchy SD CF 109.43
Broxton, Keon MIL CF 108.69
DeShields, Delino TEX LF 108.32
Gordon, Dee MIA 2B 108.32
Smith, Mallex TB CF 107.95
Kiermaier, Kevin TB CF 107.95
Dyson, Jarrod SEA CF 107.95
Margot, Manuel SD CF 107.95
Cain, Lorenzo KC CF 107.95

Name Team Position Sprint+
Pujols, Albert LAA DH 86.14
McCann, Brian HOU C 86.51
Montero, Miguel CHC C 87.25
Bandy, Jett MIL C 89.46
Martinez, Victor DET DH 89.46
Grandal, Yasmani LAD C 89.83
Smoak, Justin TOR 1B 90.94
Wieters, Matt WSH C 91.31
Morales, Kendrys TOR DH 91.31
Beltre, Adrian TEX 3B 91.31
Leon, Sandy BOS C 91.31

I don't know why, but seeing Pujols as the slowest player in baseball makes a part of me sad. The Cardinals had no [qualified] players on either list, though Yadier Molina was literally a tenth of a second from cracking the bottom ten. Dexter Fowler was the closest Cardinal to the top ten, but even he was a whole 0.8 seconds away.

This all just proves that professional athletes are not normal humans like you and I. Even Albert Pujols, dare I say a snail by MLB standards, could run from the line of scrimmage to the seven yard line in less than a second. On the other end of the scale is Billy Hamilton, who on average picks up a theoretical first down before a second ticks off the clock.

Take note of one more thing, the fastest sprinters are almost all centerfielders while the slowest are mainly catchers and designated hitters. That's by no means a surprise. Here's a look at the average numbers at each position.

Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec) Sprint+
CF 28.26 104.47
LF 27.48 101.59
SS 27.47 101.55
2B 27.38 101.22
RF 27.29 100.89
3B 26.81 99.11
1B 26.17 96.75
DH 25.94 95.90
C 25.89 95.71

This inspired me to create–wait for it–another stat. Introducing pSprint+, or position-adjusted Sprint+. The formula for pSprint+ is identical to that of Sprint+, except the league average sprint speed is swapped out for the position average. pSprint+ is formatted so 100 will always represent the average runner at that position.

Name Team Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec) pSprint+
Realmuto, J.T. MIA C 28.7 110.85
Myers, Wil SD 1B 28.5 108.90
Dickerson, Corey TB DH 27.8 107.17
Gordon, Dee MIA 2B 29.3 107.01
DeShields, Delino TEX LF 29.3 106.62
Hamilton, Billy CIN CF 30.1 106.51
Contreras, Willson CHC C 27.5 106.22
Grossman, Robbie MIN DH 27.5 106.01
Buxton, Byron MIN CF 29.9 105.80
Turner, Trea WSH SS 29 105.57

Name Team Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec) pSprint+
Pujols, Albert LAA DH 23.3 89.82
McCann, Brian HOU C 23.4 90.38
Montero, Miguel CHC C 23.6 91.15
Beltre, Adrian TEX 3B 24.7 92.13
Tulowitzki, Troy TOR SS 25.4 92.46
Bautista, Jose TOR RF 25.3 92.71
Martinez, Victor DET DH 24.2 93.29
Bandy, Jett MIL C 24.2 93.47
Kemp, Matt ATL LF 25.7 93.52
Grandal, Yasmani LAD C 24.3 93.86

Most of the same names appear as with the sprint speed lists without positional adjustment, though some new faces emerge, particularly at the top of the ten best list.

And now for the Cardinals.

Name Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec) Sprint+ pSprint+
Fowler, Dexter CF 28.4 104.99 100.50
Pham, Tommy LF 28 103.51 101.89
Diaz, Aledmys SS 27.9 103.14 101.57
Grichuk, Randal LF 27.7 102.40 100.80
Martinez, Jose LF 27.6 102.03 100.44
Wong, Kolten 2B 27.5 101.66 100.44
Piscotty, Stephen RF 26.5 97.97 97.11
Carpenter, Matt 1B 26.1 96.49 99.73
Gyorko, Jedd 3B 25.2 93.16 93.99
Molina, Yadier C 24.8 91.68 95.79

Maybe I need to take that 0-for-2 joke back, because the Cardinals' top runner was the man they signed this offseason. Where do the Cardinals rank as a team? 19th going by Sprint+ and 25th by pSprint+.

Team Sprint Speed (ft / sec) Sprint+ pSprint+
SD 27.98 103.44 102.86
MIA 27.69 102.36 102.07
TB 27.61 102.06 102.11
MIN 27.43 101.39 101.91
KC 27.40 101.29 101.49
PIT 27.26 100.78 100.47
CLE 27.26 100.77 100.20
NYY 27.22 100.62 100.71
ARI 27.15 100.38 100.37
SF 27.13 100.29 100.24
WSH 27.13 100.28 99.78
TEX 27.09 100.15 100.36
SEA 27.06 100.05 100.08
CWS 27.05 100.00 100.37
CIN 27.05 100.00 100.15
CHC 27.04 99.97 99.38
COL 27.02 99.88 99.88
LAD 27.02 99.87 99.61
STL 26.97 99.70 99.23
BOS 26.95 99.62 100.18
ATL 26.93 99.56 99.65
PHI 26.93 99.55 99.54
LAA 26.88 99.36 99.43
HOU 26.88 99.35 99.43
DET 26.82 99.16 99.54
MIL 26.73 98.83 99.08
OAK 26.69 98.67 99.03
NYM 26.68 98.61 98.39
BAL 26.57 98.21 98.54
TOR 26.24 96.99 96.96

The good news for the Cardinals is that we aren't entirely sure how to read this data yet. Keep in mind, Statcast is measuring raw speed, not the value of a player's baserunning. The 2017 Diamondbacks are on pace to surpass the 2010 Rays for the highest ever single-season BsR (FanGraphs' all-inclusive baserunning metric), yet they only rank ninth in both Sprint+ and pSprint+.

I was chatting with Zach Gifford of The Intrepid STL about how decision making among other factors plays a big part in determining value on the base paths. (He is going to have some amazing work coming out about this new Statcast data so be sure to give him a read.)

My next step was to find out just how much of a difference various baserunning measurements make on a team's performance. I have discussed r^2 values in previous articles, but just know that a higher value means there is a greater correlation between the two variables.

Sprint+ r^2 pSprint+ r^2 BsR r^2
Win% 0.002 0.003 0.048
Runs/game 0.022 0.021 0.627

Remember, correlation and causation are two completely things. (See: BsR's relationship with runs per game)

Is this new speed data incredibly significant to winning and losing ballgames? Most definitely no. Am I super excited about this new speed data? Most definitely yes.

As always thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Tyler_Opinion and check out my YouTube page for Cardinals highlight videos.

Go Cards!