ST. LOUIS -- Always one to seek an edge in his training and preparation, Tommy Pham opened his offseason with a homework assignment.Pham tapped into the resources available within the Cardinals' analytics department and asked them to do some digging. He was interested in speed -- and in particular, how
ST. LOUIS -- Always one to seek an edge in his training and preparation, Tommy Pham opened his offseason with a homework assignment.
Pham tapped into the resources available within the Cardinals' analytics department and asked them to do some digging. He was interested in speed -- and in particular, how he matched up against some of the fastest players in the game.
The front office delivered the data, which Pham quickly consumed. He saw names like Trea Turner, Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton ahead of him, and it was with those (and others) in his sights that Pham started tailoring his offseason workouts.
"When I've done my research on these certain players in the game, they're still ahead of me," Pham said. "I need to catch them. I need to keep training."
Overspeed training -- defined as a method that stimulates new muscle tissue so that an athlete can accelerate his or her body at speeds greater than regular competitive speeds -- has been a particular focus. Pham has provided a glimpse of these workouts on Instagram, where he's posted videos of himself running on a treadmill at 21.5 mph and doing 400-pound sled sprints.
"If I'm faster, I'm going to catch more balls," Pham said, matter-of-factly. "If I catch more balls, I save more runs for the team. That's the name of the game: preventing runs and scoring runs."
Statcast™ data -- specifically as it relates to sprint speeds, which Statcast™ defines as a player's fastest one-second window during a particular run -- indicate that Pham has improved his speed before. His sprint speed improved from 28.1 feet per second in 2016 to 28.7 feet per second in '17.
Of course, health could have been a factor in that, too. Pham's 2016 season began with an oblique injury, which kept him sidelined for a month and a half.
The sprint-speed measurements of Statcast™ also provide additional context to Pham's current standing. His sprint speed last season ranked in the top 10 percent of all 451 players with at least 10 max-effort runs tracked and was tops on his own team. Among outfielders, Pham ranked 27th. Only two -- Buxton and Hamilton -- eclipsed the 30-feet-per-second threshold.
"I can tell I feel faster right now," said Pham, who also wants to use his speed to become the first 30-30 player in franchise history. "I would still like to get faster. I know what these guys are from the stat department [information] the Cardinals gave me. They gave me all this information defensively, what these guys run, where I'm at. I need to catch up."
In many ways, Buxton is the gold standard at which Pham can continue to aim. Buxton tracked down 64.6 percent of balls with a catch probability of 75 percent or lower last season. Pham converted on 43.6 percent of such opportunities, according to Statcast™. That ranked 35th among the 148 outfielders with at least 15 attempts.
These are numbers Pham likely already knows, too. In addition to using the Cardinals as a resource for information, he regularly consumes data via Fangraphs and Baseball Savant.
"I'm different," Pham laughed, when asked about his deep interest in sabermetrics. "I'm different, man. I'm just trying to be the best player that I can be."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.