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Every Day He’s Hustling

Kevin Keirmaier doesn’t know how to give less than 100%

Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

For my money, there are few plays in baseball more fun than the hustle double. I’m talking about a groundball or liner that looks like a routine single until an aggressive and hustling base runner takes an outfielder by surprise by busting for second base. It’s almost always a close play, and it’s almost always the product of a runner out hustling an outfielder on the opposing team. It might look something like this.

Rays fans have had the privilege of watching one of the game’s best hustle doublers over the past four seasons. It’s no surprise that it’s Kevin Kiermaier, whose wall-crashing and leaping defensive exploits are routine fodder for highlights but whose willingness to push the envelope on the basepaths doesn’t always get its due.

Trying to search for those hustle doubles is trickier than you might think. I settled on searching Baseball Savant for doubles on (1) ground balls hit with a spray angle between -30 degrees and 30 degrees and (2) flyballs or line drives hit with a spray angle between -15 degrees and 15 degrees and an exit velocity less than 85 mph (abbreviated in the table as “Hustle Fliner Doubles). As far as I could tell in a quick check of half a dozen or so videos returned using these criteria, all of the results looked like the plays I tend to associate with a hustle double. These are essentially doubles on grounders that aren’t hit down the line or soft flyballs and liners hit to the middle of the field in front of outfielders. Grounders and fliners down the lines are excluded by narrowing the spray angle. Though they may sometimes result in doubles that are the product of a hustling basebrunner, Jose Molina probably had a double on a grounder down the line at some point, and I feel safe saying he was never part of the sort of exciting race for second base that comes to mind when I envision a hustle double. Pop-ups were also excluded, as doubles on those can often be more the product of a well-placed doink or defensive miscommunication than the speed or hustle of a base runner.

Here’s the leaderboard of hustle doubles from 2016-2019. Kiermaier lands in a tie for second with seven, behind only speed merchant Billy Hamilton.

Hustle Doubles, 2016-2019

Name Hustle Grounder Doubles Hustle Fliner Doubles Total Hustle Doubles
Name Hustle Grounder Doubles Hustle Fliner Doubles Total Hustle Doubles
Billy Hamilton 5 4 9
Ozzie Albies 5 2 7
Carlos Gonzalez 4 3 7
Eddie Rosario 4 3 7
Kevin Kiermaier 4 3 7
Carlos Correa 5 0 5
Anthony Rizzo 4 1 5
Jose Altuve 4 1 5
Eric Hosmer 4 1 5
Tommy Pham 4 1 5
Ketel Marte 4 1 5
Yasiel Puig 3 2 5
Eduardo Escobar 3 2 5
Eduardo Nunez 2 3 5
Brett Gardner 2 3 5

Enough with the numbers, let’s watch some of these glorious plays!

Here’s Kiermaier stretching a soft liner to center into a double against the Marlins last year.

Here he is in April legging one out on what appeared to be a routine groundball single through the shift.

Finally, here he is victimizing Brandon Nimmo and his nonchalance on a liner to centerfield.

Notably, the 2015 thumb injury Kiermaier suffered as he attempted to take second after a single and throw to third does not find its way into the plays I counted as hustle doubles. That was scored a single with Kiermaier taking second on the throw.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that at times Kiermaier’s baserunning has crossed the line from aggressive to reckless to the dismay of Rays fans. Even so, it never hurts to relive the excitement his style of play can create and take a moment to enjoy Kiermaier’s part in gifting Rays fans one of the most underappreciated plays in baseball, the hustle double.

Hat Tip to Sam Miller for suggesting the idea and method of using Statcast to find hustle doubles during a recently aired Effectively Wild episode.