New MLB sprint speed metric highlights how slow Blue Jays are

Stephen Brunt joins Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup to discuss whether the Blue Jays could withstand years of losing and a complete teardown, or if they could manage a build on the fly approach?

The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t known as a particularly fast team.

Speed’s rarely the best attribute of rosters that skew older, and seven of the nine players in the Blue Jays’ current starting lineup are over 30. There are no illusions about the foot speed of a club that ranks 22nd in baseball in stolen bases.

Still, until now, team speed has only been discussed in general terms. But thanks to sprint speed data released by Statcast and MLB Tuesday, we can now assess the Blue Jays’ position players’ speed with more precision than ever before.

The results confirm what the eye test suggests: the Blue Jays have an especially slow team, relative to the rest of the league. While Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar bring above-average speed to the outfield, the rest of the club’s regulars are average or worse.

In fact, there are three positions at which the Blue Jays feature the slowest runner in the major-leagues: right field (Jose Bautista), shortstop (Troy Tulowitzki) and first base (Justin Smoak). Kendrys Morales, meanwhile, ranks third-last among designated hitters, ahead of Albert Pujols and Victor Martinez.

That said, the goal is to win baseball games, not footraces, and the Blue Jays reached the ALCS in each of the last two years even while relying on older players. A bigger reason for the Blue Jays’ slow start: an offence that ranks 25th among the 30 teams in runs scored.

Player Position Sprint Speed (ft / sec) 
Ezequiel Carrera LF 28.1
Kevin Pillar CF 27.8
Devon Travis 2B 27.2
Ryan Goins SS 26.7
Steve Pearce LF 26.6
Russell Martin C 26.2
Josh Donaldson 3B 26.0
Troy Tulowitzki SS 25.4
Jose Bautista RF 25.3
Kendrys Morales DH 24.7
Justin Smoak 1B 24.6

Statcast’s description of the new foot speed metric: “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window.” The Major League average on a “max effort” play is 27 ft/sec, and the max effort range is roughly from 23 ft/sec (poor) to 30 ft/sec (elite). A player must have at least 10 max effort runs to qualify for this leaderboard.

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