Back at 2B, Semien awes with this play

April 2nd, 2021

In his first game with the Blue Jays on Thursday, Marcus Semien wasted no time making a splash at his new position.

Second base isn’t exactly “new” to Semien. But entering Opening Day, the ninth-year infielder hadn’t played there since Sept. 26, 2014, as a member of the White Sox.

Semien reintroduced himself to the position with a diving stop on a DJ LeMahieu grounder at a critical moment in the fifth inning of the Blue Jays' 3-2 win over the Yankees in 10 innings.

And check this out. We can look at Semien's play in a whole new way in 2021, thanks to MLB FieldVision -- a new technology that gives fans access to impossible camera angles of the play.

With FieldVision, we can see everything about Semien's highlight-reel play unfold in 3D, from his path to the ball to his sprawling play to his throw to nab LeMahieu to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s fist pump when the Blue Jays got the out.

Here's how it went down. Semien had to cover 27 feet in 2.3 seconds to make the play, according to Statcast. Then, he had to make the 81-foot throw from his knees to get LeMahieu, who was hustling down the line.

LeMahieu, whose average sprint speed was 26.1 feet/second last season, reached 28 feet/second to try to beat the throw. MLB's average speed is 27 feet/second.

The reigning American League batting champ dug in vs. Hyun Jin Ryu with two on, two out and the Yankees leading by one. He smacked a changeup into the hole on the right side, and the ball found its way through the infield dirt -- but, as Ryu expected, not past Semien’s glove. Semien collected the grounder, rose to his knees and fired to first in time for the out.

“I didn’t think it was going to go past the infield,” Ryu said through a translator, showing his confidence in Semien. “And I speak for all the pitchers -- in that situation, an important time in the game -- when a defense can make a play like that for us, I’ve got to thank them. I feel like they’ve got my back.”

Semien's play (and Toronto's defense as a whole) earned the praise of his manager.

“Our defense was outstanding today,” Montoyo said. “It was good to see that all the things we worked on in Spring Training carried over into the first game of the season. [Cavan] Biggio was great at third base, Semien with that huge play in the hole, Bo [Bichette] made nice plays at short and [Guerrero] looked really good at first base, picking the balls in the dirt and all that stuff.

“Everything is high leverage, so you got to play good defense against a good team like the Yankees.”

Strong defensive efforts were evident across the infield, highlighted by Semien’s clutch stab and Biggio’s charge-and-throw effort in the ninth to get Mike Tauchman at the plate. Interestingly enough, Biggio was also in a bit of unfamiliar territory at third on Thursday -- he played there just 10 times last season, compared to 37 appearances at second.

Part of the reason behind switching Semien to a new position might be that he was tied for last among 40 qualified shortstops in outs above average (minus-7) in 2020. The other part is that the Blue Jays believe they have their shortstop of the present and future in Bichette.

However the combination of fielders shakes out on a given day, Montoyo knows how important it’ll be for his defense to continue to show up in big moments.

“The talk in the offseason was of our offense, and rightly so, because we have a good lineup,” he said. “But I told our team, 'For us to win and get to the playoffs and do well, it’s going to be pitching and defense.'"