Billy bolt: Grab merits gold-medal glove

Reds' speedy center fielder robs Beltran of extra-base hit

August 24th, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Usain Bolt, you've met your match.

The 2016 Summer Olympics are over, but Reds center fielder made a breathtaking catch on Tuesday worthy of Olympic gold. 

Statcast™ covered Hamilton's jaw-dropping grab on the warning track to rob the Rangers' in the Reds' 3-0 win, and the numbers show how Hamilton compares to Bolt, the Fastest Man on Earth who captured three gold medals in the Rio Olympics and his ninth track-and-field gold medal overall.

Hamilton reached a top speed of 22 mph, had a first-step reaction of minus-0.03 seconds -- which means he was moving just before the ball was hit -- and covered 123 feet with a route efficiency of 97.2 percent.

How fast is 22 mph? Well, Bolt averages roughly 23 mph while running the 100-meter dash, topping out above 27 mph. Of course, Bolt doesn't have to carry a glove or run on grass. And because sprinters don't reach their top speed until the 60- to 80-meter window, we don't really get to see Hamilton's peak speed on a baseball field.

Bolt is actually known as a relatively slow starter, completing the first 40 meters in 4.63 seconds when he set the 100-meter world record (9.58 seconds) in 2009. In a neat coincidence, Hamilton traveled roughly 38 meters on his catch, and the ball that he caught had a hangtime of 5.46 seconds.

As Andrew Simon wrote last week, Hamilton is far and away the fastest man in MLB, responsible for the fastest home-to-first (3.61 seconds), home-to-second (7.3), home-to-third (10.5), first-to-third (5.2) and first-to-home (8.2) times this season.

Via Statcast™, here is some context on what made the catch so impressive.

• The ball Beltran hit had an exit velocity of 98.8 mph and a launch angle of 25.3 degrees. Batted balls with that combination have a .612 batting average and a .950 slugging.

• This was the longest distance covered (123 feet) to make a catch on a batted ball that had a hang time below 5.5 seconds and a launch angle of less than 35 degrees this season.

• It was also the longest distance Hamilton has traveled for a catch this year. The previous high was 117.8 feet to catch a fly ball against the Dodgers on Friday.

"That was the first one all year I thought there was no shot he was getting to it," Reds starter said. "I was in front of the mound and I started to move to go back up third. It was just amazing. I really did not think he was going to get to that ball. Sure enough, he found a way."

To Hamilton, it was just another night at the office.

"A bunch of guys make plays like that and jump up and do some celebration and stuff like that," Hamilton said. "For me, I just feel like it's another play, me doing my job. As I said, my job is to catch the ball and don't let anything fall."

But that didn't mean Hamilton wasn't impressed.

"That's one that I look back and was like, 'OK, that was a pretty good one.' Especially in the position that I was playing in," he said.

• Cut4: Hamilton can't help laughing after latest crazy catch

There was added importance to the play because Straily was locked in a scoreless game at the time against Rangers lefty . Every play was big and Beltran would have easily had extra bases had the ball dropped in.

"It seems a lot of it does come when I'm in the game, and I'm very grateful for it, to say the least," Straily said.

"I thought I got a good jump on it," Hamilton said. "At that time of night, something I usually don't do is put my head down and run. That's one I had to do. I hate losing the ball in the sky, especially when it's that time of night. You can't really tell."

Hamilton entered leading all National League center fielders this season with an 11.6 ultimate zone rating and 12 defensive runs saved. Sometimes, Reds manager Bryan Price even has to wince when he sees a drive to the wall. Hamilton was just injured on Aug. 15 against the Marlins on a collision during an unsuccessful catch attempt. He missed two games.

"If he lays out or leaves his feet, he has a really good chance of catching the ball," Price said. "What a difference maker in center field. If this guy doesn't win a Gold Glove, there's just no justice in the world; there really isn't. And it's not just the highlight-reel plays. It's the difficult plays he makes look relatively standard."