Byron Buxton flew around the bases on Friday night for an inside the park home run and broke a Statcast record – of his own making.
The Minnesota Twins have enjoyed the revival of Byron Buxton after a difficult opening to the season. From the first of July (including missed time from July 14-August 1 due to injury), Buxton has played in 27 games, coming to plate 99 times, with a .360/.417/.558 slash line, including 4 home runs and a perfect 8 stolen bases in 8 attempts. Best of all, Buxton is walking just short of 10% of plate appearances and striking out just over 20% of the time, knocking off over 10% of his strikeout rate from early in the season.
Friday night, Buxton showed that incredible facet of his game that separates him from basically all other right-handed hitters – his game-breaking speed.
The original record
To appreciate what happened Friday night, you first must look back to the record that Buxton broke.
It was the last game of the season. The Minnesota Twins had already lost 103 games and had been locked into the #1 overall pick for almost an entire month, finishing with 9 more losses than any other team in baseball in 2016. The Twins were facing their division rivals, the Chicago White Sox, whose sub-.500 season was about to trigger one of the most massive sell-offs in recent baseball memory.
Chicago’s ace Chris Sale was on the mound in what would be his last appearance for the White Sox. His first pitch to Buxton was driven over the head of center fielder Leury Garcia, and Buxton was off to the races. In a minute 14.05 seconds later, Buxton was around the bases and standing at home plate with what was a Statcast record for home-to-home time, a feat that left all of baseball marveling all offseason as much or more than Buxton’s 9 home runs in that final month.
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Friday’s record breaker
Circumstances were completely different on Friday’s game. The Twins are now in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, facing the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of the teams leading the National League Wild Card race, so this was a match up of two excellent teams. Buxton wasn’t facing an ace, he was facing Diamondbacks rookie Zack Godley, who had held the Twins to 2 runs through 3 innings to that point as the Diamondbacks had scored 3 on Twins ace Ervin Santana, though after two rough innings to open the game, he’d righted himself by striking out the five straight Diamondbacks hitters and pitching 1-2-3 3rd and 4th innings.
Buxton led off the bottom of the 4th inning and worked a full count on Godley. He then took the 6th pitch of the at bat and drove it to the deepest part of the ball park, a sure home run on the fly basically anywhere else in Target Field. Buxton was not going to be denied his home run, however.
He raced around the bases in an incredible 13.85 seconds, smashing his previous record by 0.20 seconds. For perspective, when Usain Bolt first took the world record in the 100-meter dash, he broke the previous world record by just 0.02 seconds. He’s broken his own record twice since, but moved the record forward 0.16 seconds in those three new times in total. To jump forward a sprint record by .20 seconds is a monumental leap forward!
Buxton has been a tremendous player since July, and his defense has always shown off his incredible speed. I would wager that when the 2017 Statcast leaders come out, they will look similar to the 2016 leader board, which had Buxton’s name all over it.