As the Statcast team continues to develop their vast amount of data into publicly available statistics, we the baseball fans benefit more and more, and with the debut of defensive metrics over the past couple seasons has come a metric for Outfielder “Jumps.”
This metric brings together Reaction times, Bursts of speed, and Route rates into a single number, as shown in this illustration:
• Reaction. Feet covered (in any direction) in the first 1.5 seconds (i.e. first step)
• Burst. Feet covered (in any direction) in the second 1.5 seconds (i.e. acceleration)
• Route. Compares feet covered in any direction to feet covered in the correct direction over the full three seconds (i.e. efficiency)
It should come as now surprise that the Rays lead the statistic with their primary and back up center fielders:
2019 Jump leaders (leaderboard)
+3.0 feet above average -- Kevin Kiermaier, Rays
+2.9 feet above average -- Guillermo Heredia, Rays
+2.0 feet above average -- Leury Garcia, White Sox
+1.9 feet above average -- Robbie Grossman, A’s
+1.7 feet above average -- Harrison Bader, Cardinals
+1.7 feet above average -- Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox
+1.5 feet above average -- Ender Inciarte, Braves
+1.4 feet above average -- Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
The leaderboard features an interactive chart where you can hover over graphed players to understand where baseball’s best defenders are reflected in their outfield play, from route to reaction time.
Here you can find that distance toward the top right of the graph is the best place to be, with KK in the middle of the image thanks to his average rating in route efficiency despite his best-in-baseball acceleration:
Heredia is a bit further down and to the right, as his top flight reaction and burts speeds come with a slightly indirect route score. Top left on that graph? Mike Trout!
Also in the top 25 is Avisail Garcia, who ranks positively with a +0.4 on the leaderboard, a couple places ahead of former TB center fielder Mallex Smith. Tommy Pham ranks No. 45 overall, with his score suffering from a negative Reaction (first step) score. Austin Meadows has not yet qualified for the leaderboard after missing time mid-year with a hand injury, but if you remove qualification, Meadows pops in at No. 37 overall, just below Smith. A negative reaction score, like Pham, hampers his overall score.
Here’s more context from Mike Petriello:
In 2018, Inciarte was first, at +2.9 feet above average, ahead of Bader and Corey Dickerson, who won a Gold Glove last year without impressive speed. In 2017, Dickerson was first overall, at +3.0 feet above average, ahead of Kiermaier and Michael A. Taylor. In 2016, it was Kiermaier at +4.3 feet, just ahead of Inciarte and Jason Heyward.
It’s almost as if you can track the years in with KK sustained an injury!
All in all, MLB’s research staff have shown that Kiermaier is able to add 10 extra feet of distance in ground covered thanks to his Jump. This video puts that on display, and funnily enough uses an average jump from Heredia for comparison:
We have said it before, and we will say it again: Kevin Kiermaier is the best defensive center fielder in baseball; long may he reign.