Statcast: Bryant is a stealth speedster
Cubs rookie tops 20 mph in running out first career triple
Kris Bryant hit 43 home runs in the Minors last year and is listed as being 6-foot-5, so right away, you think you know something about him. You think that he's a big, hulking slugger, an assertion supported by spring rumblings that the Cubs weren't sure if he could stick at third base and that he might need to end up in an outfield corner.
You're partially right, of course. Bryant is a big, hulking slugger. But he also moves surprisingly well for a man of his size, to the point that he stole 15 bases in the Minors in 2014 and even earned a start in center field earlier this season. In Tuesday night's game against the Mets, better known to most as Noah Syndergaard's big league debut, Bryant made two important plays happen with his feet, and we can use Statcast™ to show how.
In a scoreless game in the bottom of the third, Syndergaard easily retired the first two Cubs, then got Bryant to ground out to third baseman Daniel Murphy. Unfortunately for the Mets, Murphy's throw wasn't strong, and Bryant reached a top speed of 19.93 mph (and getting to that top speed in just under four seconds after making contact) to beat the throw out for a single. Rather than the inning being over, the Cubs had new life, and although they didn't end up scoring after loading the bases, Bryant's hustle cost Syndergaard 18 additional pitches.
In the bottom of the fifth, still scoreless, Bryant took a 96.6 mph Syndergaard fastball the other way, missing a home run by just a few feet. As the ball bounced off the wall, Bryant kept accelerating, eventually rolling into third base with his first career triple. We have numbers, so let's look at numbers, because the comparisons to other recent triples by two players considered to be much faster might surprise you:
Bryant, May 12
- Top speed: 20.89 mph
- Home to second: 8.34 seconds
- Home to third: 13.77 seconds
- Acceleration: 11.1 seconds
Dee Gordon, May 5
- Top speed: 20.76 mph
- Home to second: 7.85 seconds
- Home to third: 11.64 seconds
- Acceleration: 5.8 seconds
Lorenzo Cain, May 6
- Top speed: 19.04 mph
- Home to second: 8.47 seconds
- Home to third: 12.67 seconds
- Acceleration: 6.1 seconds
Bryant actually reached a slightly higher top speed than Gordon, among the game's foremost speedsters, or Cain, who stole 28 bases and covered acres of ground in the outfield last year. Of course, since it took him nearly twice as long to actually reach that top speed -- that's what "acceleration" measures -- above, it still took him longer to get around the bases. We're trying to show that Bryant is faster than you think, not that we've lost our minds and actually consider him to be speedier than Gordon.
Still, the fact that we're even able to have this conversation about a man of Bryant's size says something interesting about what he's able to do. Sure, he'll crush homers deep into the Wrigley night. But Bryant can also make things happen with his feet, as we saw twice on Tuesday, and suddenly the idea of seeing him in center field now and then doesn't seem so absurd.