Statcast Podcast: Analyzing Jones' catch

March 22nd, 2017

This week on the Statcast™ podcast, columnist Mike Petriello and national editor Matt Meyers dissect the biggest play of the week through the lens of Statcast™'s newest feature: catch probability.

Using data to drive the conversation, the hosts break down ' amazing World Baseball Classic catch, talk to two former MLB outfielders about what it takes to make a catch like that, and whether or not it was as difficult as it looked.

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:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Petriello: Our big thing we've been talking about for the last couple of weeks is catch probability, along with hit probability. And we've been really excited about the Classic because we've wanted to see this theoretical thing we've come up with live. And one thing we said when catch probability came out was it measures how far the outfielder has to go to get the ball, and opportunity time, which is the time from the ball leaving the pitcher's hand to where its projected landing point was.

Right now, it doesn't account for the direction the fielder has to run, or for potential wall balls or home run robberies. And of course, what's the enduring image of this Classic so far? Adam Jones making a fantastic catch, taking a ball away from his teammate, Manny Machado.

I thought it would be really interesting to dig into some of the numbers there and talk about why the catch probability was actually really high on that. Higher, I think, than people would be happy about. We are going to talk about the numbers, but hopefully we're also smart enough to know what we don't know. And what neither Matt or I know is what it's like to actually be on the field and try to catch one of these balls.

We actually have two MLB outfielders who will join us on the show today. They both have World Series experience and have been in the biggest moments. So we're really excited about that. We're going to have Ryan Spilborghs on and on. But first, Matt, let's just talk about this play. This is Adam Jones the other night.

Meyers: Let's set the scene a bit.

Petriello: Let's set the stage. United States vs. Dominican Republic. Bottom of the 7th. Nobody out. USA is up, 4-2. It's a very big spot in the game. Manny Machado comes up. Manny Machado destroys a baseball, 106 mph, 26 degrees, that's a 97 percent hit probability. This ball is projected to go 407 feet. He crushes it to just right of dead center at Petco Park.

Now, you've seen the play, most likely. Adam Jones needs to go 98 feet, and he covered 100 feet. So it was a very efficient route. And he had six seconds of hang time to do it. And he makes an amazing catch. Some of the still photos that came out of this have been just phenomenal, because it's like right in front of the Classic logo and all the USA fans are behind him. It's an enduring moment for a ton of different reasons.

But the catch probability here, we had it at 93 percent. Again, a little unfair. We are not accounting for the wall yet. So that's too high. But that's not going to come down to like, five percent, and I think that's what people think it should be given just the game situation, right?

Meyers: To get where that 93 percent comes from, I'll use an analogy I used last week. Imagine a Little League field or softball field where there is no fence and no fans. If they weren't there, Adam Jones could just keep going, and it's a pretty easy catch. The other aspect of the play is, essentially what catch probability is measuring is feet per second. How fast were you going? It's distance traveled (in feet), opportunity time (in seconds) -- the combination of those two things. And on the play, he was going about 23-24 feet per second?

Petriello: 's top speed is like 30-31 feet per second. So this isn't an insanely fast run, but Jones did what he needed to do to get to the ball. When you look at it, he's not going at top speed, it's more about the timing. It's more about the jump.