J-Rod's big night: OF assist, speed and power

July 9th, 2022

Julio Rodríguez is one of the brightest young stars in the game right now, and the full breadth of his impact was on display Friday night. He’s so electric that he doesn’t even need stats to define him, but that same electricity also makes him particularly prone to epic Statcast feats. Here’s a look at where the Julio Effect was visible in Friday’s 5-2 walk-off win over the Blue Jays.

At the plate

Rodríguez led off the game with what looked like a triple ... before he tripped short of third base and was tagged out. It ended up being a jovial highlight throughout the game – with mic'd up audio on the Apple TV+ broadcast revealing the reactions to the moment.

The ball, by the way, was hit 105.3 mph and had a projected distance of 403 feet. It would’ve been a homer in four ballparks – where Rodríguez’s tumble wouldn’t have led to a double and an out.

"You have to laugh," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "It's all you can do with it. He's running so hard trying to get to third base. I don't know, he just lost his balance, slipped, I don't know what happened. But that will show up in some blooper reels for many, many years to come."

Rodríguez singled his next time up and made sure to confirm he was indeed safe at the bag. His two hits brought him to an even 50 batted balls this season at 105+ mph, by far the most among rookies. It's been a growing trend as the season has pressed on: Rodríguez's hard-hit rate has skyrocketed in July.

On the basepaths

Power is a key component of Rodríguez’s game. So is speed. Entering Friday, he was one of two players this season in the 90th percentile in both hard-hit rate and sprint speed, along with Mike Trout. Talk about good company.

Let’s return to that second at-bat. Rodríguez singled in the third, then Ty France flew out. In a 2-2 count to J.P. Crawford, Rodríguez took off to steal second as Crawford made contact and hit a double. Rodríguez flew around the bases, scoring from first to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead.

It took him 9.03 seconds to go first-to-home, the second-fastest tracked first-to-home time in MLB this season. And it was just barely second on that list, behind a 9.02-second run from Eli White on a similar play, against the Mariners and Robbie Ray, also at T-Mobile Park.

"He's got all five tools," Servais said. "We see them on a pretty regular basis."

In the field

It was a close game the entire night, and given that the Mariners won on a walk-off homer, it isn’t hyperbole to say that every run that Seattle prevented mattered. With none out and runners on first and second in the top of the fourth, Santiago Espinal hit a line drive towards Rodríguez.

It bounced in front of him and the center fielder picked it up, immediately firing to third baseman Eugenio Suarez to get the lead runner. The throw was 99.6 mph, the Mariners' fastest-tracked throw on an outfield assist tracked by Statcast (since 2015). It was also the fourth-fastest on an outfield assist in MLB this season.

"That was perfect," Suarez said. "I just, I don't know how to catch that ball. That was a short hop. I just was ready. I knew that we got a play at third base, a big play. And that was unbelievable. He dropped he dropped like 100 [mph] from the outfielder. Everything he's doing is special."

Added Servais: "What a throw. The line drive into center gets behind him. He's got a great arm. [Suarez] kind of gets plowed into it at third, I go out there. I said, 'Geno, how'd you catch that ball?' He goes, 'I have no idea. It just wanted my glove.' And if you know [Suarez], you believe him. So, a great play by Julio."

Seattle starter George Kirby got the next two outs unscathed and escaped a potentially tenuous situation without allowing a run that inning.

Friday was just a microcosm of what Rodríguez does on a nightly basis – impacting the game from all facets. And the stats don’t even show the joy he brings, too, which is evident on every play he makes.