As we continue to roll out Sprint Speed, our Statcast™ metric for sharing a player's max speed, we've introduced how it works, pointed out the fastest players at each position, praised the athleticism of J.T. Realmuto, and looked at just how hard it is to maintain speed as players age.It's
As we continue to roll out Sprint Speed, our Statcast™ metric for sharing a player's max speed, we've introduced how it works, pointed out the fastest players at each position, praised the athleticism of J.T. Realmuto, and looked at just how hard it is to maintain speed as players age.
It's that last one, that speed peaks early and declines quickly afterward, that's going to be extremely important to keep in mind here as we finish off the week by looking at baseball's speediest teams. The fastest team is also the youngest. The slowest team is also the oldest. In no way are these facts unrelated, so say hello to the San Diego Padres, the fastest team in baseball -- if only by a small amount over Miami.
Sprint Speed, as we defined it, is a player's feet per second in his fastest one-second window, and the Major League average is 27 ft/sec. The elite players, like Billy Hamilton or Byron Buxton, touch 30 ft/sec; the slowest players, mostly catchers and first basemen, can be as low as 23 ft/sec. With an average Sprint Speed of 27.9 ft/sec, the entire Padres lineup is basically running like Carlos Correa or A.J. Pollock -- and the Marlins are close on their tails.
Are you surprised that the Padres have the most team speed? Perhaps you shouldn't be. In the midst of a complete rebuild, they've accumulated baseball's youngest roster, with an average of 26.2 years, as compared to the Major League average of 28.5 years. (These age numbers, from Baseball-Reference, have been weighted for playing time.) Of the 15 Padres to accumulate at least 50 plate appearances this year, just one (shortstop Erick Aybar, 33) is older than 29. Seven are 25 or younger.
Age, as we said, correlates pretty strongly to speed, and while it's not always this stark, it does hold true year to year. In 2015, the fastest team (Marlins, 27.8 ft/sec) was fifth-youngest, and the slowest team (the Reds, somehow, despite Hamilton, were at just 26.6 ft/sec) were third-oldest, thanks to Brandon Phillips (34), Marlon Byrd (37), and so on. In 2016, the fastest team (Twins, 27.7 ft/sec) was fourth-youngest, though the slowest team (Orioles, 26.5 ft/sec) was right about league-average in terms of age.
But it's not entirely about age, and only one of this year's fastest three teams are actually very young. So how did they get there? Let's find out.
1. PADRES (27.9 ft/sec)
Well, OK, this one is about age, as we've outlined, because only two qualified Padres are below average, and even Yangervis Solarte (26.6 ft/sec) and Austin Hedges (26.5 ft/sec) are barely below. If you look at the top speedsters across the game on our leaderboard, you'll see that four of the top 21 are Padres, led, perhaps unexpectedly, by Franchy Cordero. At 22 years old and with a 29.5 ft/sec speed, he's basically been as fast as Dee Gordon so far.
But wait, there's more. The Padres are full of guys you've never heard of who have outstanding speed. Here's center fielder Manuel Margot, also 22, a prize of the Craig Kimbrel trade who averages 29.2 ft/sec.
And while we could point out Allen Cordoba (21 with a 28.8 ft/sec average max speed) or Jose Pirela (27 with a 28.8 ft/sec), let's instead credit Hedges. Instead of being the foot speed anchor that most catchers are, he's very nearly a league average runner.
For as much speed as the Padres have, it could have been more. This doesn't count the injured Travis Jankowski, who had top 10 speed in 2016; it certainly doesn't count Trea Turner, baseball's fastest shortstop, whom they traded to Washington; it doesn't count Luis Perdomo, baseball's fastest pitcher. San Diego has more speed than it knows what to do with.
2. MARLINS (27.8 ft/sec)
There really isn't much of a difference in 0.1 ft/sec -- 0.5 ft/sec seems meaningful, and 1.0 ft/sec definitely is -- so while we have the Marlins second here for purposes of ranking, they're essentially tied for first. Like everyone else in the top here, the Marlins have someone elite. They have Gordon (29.3 ft/sec, seventh-best overall).
They have Realmuto, too, who stands out above all catchers on both sides of the ball.
Like the Padres, just about every Marlin is above average, excepting mainly slugging first baseman Justin Bour (25.2 ft/sec). In this case, speed is a team effort.
3. RAYS (27.6 ft/sec)
The Rays have two truly elite speedsters, outfielders Kevin Kiermaier and Mallex Smith, each at an outstanding 29.2 ft/sec max speed average, and fellow outfielders Peter Bourjos (28.4 ft/sec) and Steven Souza Jr. (28.2 ft/sec) are well above average, too. But don't forget that Corey Dickerson (27.9 ft/sec) is baseball's fastest designated hitter, also.
Brad Miller, Timothy Beckham, and Colby Rasmus are solidly above average as well.
Now, does speed correlate exactly to baserunning success? Of course not; you'll notice that Paul Goldschmidt and the D-backs, dangerous runners, aren't here. But what this does do is give us a building block toward greater things. Speed is the first step, and now we have a good way to measure it. The leaderboards are all public. Go have fun.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs.