CLEVELAND – Byron Buxton is the kind of player that can hush a roaring crowd by turning a double in the gap to a routine catch in front of the warning track.
Few outfielders fit the mold of the “Buxton” breed.
While the former second overall pick is not living up to expectations at the plate with a .174/.255/.261 slash line and 34.3% strikeout rate this year, his range in center field is second to none.
Jose Ramirez and Abraham Almonte stood dumbfounded after their at-bats in the fourth and fifth innings. Not only are both hitters trying to dig themselves out of slumps, but they also found themselves staring in awe at the blazing speed of Buxton to rob them of extra-bases, a common theme throughout the first two games of the weekend set between the Indians and Twins…
Jose Berrios vs. Jose Ramirez - Flyout to the warning track in right-center field
Distance: 381 feet
Pitch Velocity: 92.3-mph four-seam fastball
Exit Velocity: 102.9-mph (barreled ball)
Hit Probability: 81%
Jose Berrios vs. Abraham Almonte - Flyout to the gap in right-center field
Distance: 356 feet
Pitch Velocity: 94.1-mph four-seam fastball
Exit Velocity: 100.9-mph
Hit Probability: 54%
Catch Probability: 44% (4 Star Play)
MLB.com’s Statcast technology rates defensive plays by calculating the distance Buxton runs while the ball is hanging in the air. Based on the catch probability, fielders are awarded stars for the degree of difficulty on each of their catches…
0 to 25 percent catch probability: 5 Star Play
26 to 50 percent: 4 Star Play
51 to 75 percent: 3 Star Play
76 to 90 percent: 2 Star Play
91 to 95 percent: 1 Star Play
It’s worth noting that Buxton was a perfect 100% (29-for-29) on 1-4 Star Plays entering play on Friday, including a 7-for-7 mark on balls that the majority of outfielders cannot reach.
What’s even more remarkable is that his total catches for outs were literally off the charts in 2016 in terms of distance vs. hang time.
As shown above, Buxton made a number of 5 star plays last year and even sprinted distances beyond 120 feet on one single play. In addition, only the low-hanging balls tend to drop for base hits within the confines of Buxton.
"He's awesome," Francisco Lindor said. "You hit a ball up in the air, you better hope it's nowhere near him because he's going to get it and if it's somewhat far away from him he's got a chance of catching the ball."
Analytics aside, the eye test alone makes it reasonable to believe Buxton is one of the fastest players this generation of baseball has to offer.
"We better not hit it to center field," said manager Terry Francona. "That kid's impressive and I don't mean we start aiming the ball, but I mean he almost caught Santana's (triple) and Abe looked to me like he should have had a productive day. That kid goes left and right as good as you're going to see."
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.