Here’s some news for you: Bradley Zimmer is really fast. That’s the kind of hard-hitting news you come to Let’s Go Tribe for, I know, but there’s more to this article than that. Thanks to Statcast, instead of just saying “look how fast that long-legged creature on the field is,” we have the numbers to prove it.
A few days ago, Mike Petriello and crew at MLB Advanced Media unveiled something called Sprint Speed, a new metric which measures "feet per second in a player's fastest one-second window.” Essentially, it’s a player’s top speed with a few caveats, such as the fact that it’s measuring peak speed, not necessarily how fast they can run over long distances (or around the bases, in this case). The full write-up on how it works can be found within Petriello’s post, which you should read instead of my own re-wording. Just please come back after you read it; if this tab stays open with the post unread, a part of my soul is locked in your browser forever.
For the loyalists among you, and I thank you, it essentially boils down to measuring how fast someone is running when they are attempting to take two or more bases. The idea being that’s when a base runner would be at his top sprint speed. Obviously, measuring the speed of someone jogging out a home run wouldn’t make much sense, because this isn’t called Leisurely Stroll Speed, nor would someone cautiously approaching second to see if an outfielder drops a ball so they can gun it to third make any sense. Sprint Speed only wants to measure the players who know they want that extra base and are going for it all the way.
As it turns out, Zimmer knows when he’s going for that extra base quite a bit, and he’s really fast.
According to the recently released Sprint Speed leaderboards over on Baseball Savant, Zimmer ranks third among all MLB players this season in feet per second. Not just third among players his age, not just third in the American League, not just third among outfielders (although those are all also true), but third among every single player in the league. With a measured speed of 29.8 feet per second, Zimmer only trails Byron Buxton’s 29.9 feet per second and Billy Hamilton’s 30.1 feet per second.
Zimmer’s speed has always passed the eye test, but he may have actually been underrated in scouting reports, based on his Sprint Speed measurements. MLB Pipeline’s scouting report on Zimmer noted “above-average speed,” and most reports gave his speed somewhere in the 45-55 range on the funky 20-80 scouting scale. A 55 rating isn’t terrible speed, but that’s not “a tenth of a foot per second slower than Byron Buxton” speed.
As for the major-league eye test, Zimmer has impressed with his ability to leg out infield hits. This one, in particular, has always stuck out to me. Just look how far away the pitcher is in the first frame with the ball, and look how close Zimmer is to beating it out in the third.
Now the important thing about all this number crunching: What does it say about Bradley Zimmer’s chances of beating The Freeze in a race?
If you haven’t already heard, Zimmer is all for racing the Atlanta Brave’s between-innings spectacle, even without a head start, apparently. Unfortunately for Zimmer, The Freeze isn’t just some guy in a blue suit, he’s a legitimate sprinter. Nigel Talton, The Freeze’s mild-mannered alter ego, is a former high school track star who sports a 6.77 60-meter dash, which translates to 29.0 feet per second.
Wait a minute, that means Zimmer has a real chance, right? That means Bradley Zimmer can beat The Freeze! It’s all over you costumed freak, Zimmer’s gonna — oh. Wait, hold on. One important note about Sprint Speed that you might have glanced over: This is measuring the speed at Zimmer’s peak moment. It doesn’t mean he runs at a consistent 29.8 feet per second. It means that at his absolute best, in his moment of fleeting triumph, Zimmer can run as fast as Nigel Talton casually does over a full 60 meters.
He might need that head start.
Believe it or not, there is more to Sprint Speed than just another way to oogle at Bradley Zimmer’s impressive rookie campaign. Other Cleveland Indians players (and players on lesser teams) are all sortable on the a nifty, interactive leaderboard.
Zimmer leading the Indians in feet per second is not a surprise, but Daniel Robertson being second made me question my whole existence. In fact, Robertson is the second-fastest right fielder this season, behind only Raimel Tapia. Jose Ramirez, playing a position usually occupied by sluggers, is one of the fastest third basemen out there at 28 feet per second, while Edwin Encarnacion is predictably low on the list of designated hitters. He’s the fourth slowest ahead of Albert “Wheels” Pujols, Victor “Knees of Gold” Martinez, and Kendrys “Speedracer” Morales.
Because the data goes back to 2015, we can also look at 2016 Rajai Davis, who stole a team-high 43 bases for the Tribe. He was a relatively slow 28.4 feet per second, just 0.2 faster than Tyler Naquin, which goes to show how much of a smart base runner he is, more than just a blind speedster.
So just remember the next time you see Zimmer looking like a War of the Worlds alien come to life rounding to bases — respect the 29.8 feet per second. That dude is flying.