Dodgers: Quickly appreciating the fastest active Dodger

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 02: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at bat against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 02: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at bat against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on April 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

Upon the flurry of transactions that inserted him back onto the Dodgers’ active roster, he became the fastest active Dodger. He then went on to demonstrate that speed in his second game back against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

With a bloop single into very shallow right field that he legged out and a near-miss on an attempt to collect an inside-the-park home run.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’ll help you out. By 2019 Statcast data, the fastest active LA Dodger in terms of average sprint speed? Chris Taylor.

CT3 beat out Cody Bellinger by just over three-tenths of a second on his fastest home-to-first sprint this season, which points out Taylor’s speed and also just how well-rounded Bellinger’s game really is.

But back to the point of the article. Taylor is the fastest Dodger currently on the roster, with Kris Negrón on the IL after his diving catch just a few nights back. So in adding Taylor to the active roster, the Dodgers gave themselves a jolt of adrenaline in the form of speed.

One of the objectively most exciting Dodgers, at least when healthy and hot, Taylor’s addition has been highlighted by back-to-back multi-hit games upon his return to the Dodgers, with a handful of those five hits coming via his winged feet.

But just how does his speed manifest itself into something that helps the ball club. Is he so quick that he can steal a base with ease? Or so fleet of foot that he can rob an extra-base hit?

While the logical answer would be that faster players can steal more bases and play better defense, route efficiency, baseball IQ and a whole blend of tangibles and intangibles make up both stealing and defense, two of the last things in baseball that statistics and sabermetrics have had a tough time conquering.

In this article, I decided to contextualize Taylor’s speed through his more normal statistics and Statcast data.

First off, I went in to see what his feet per second numbers were in comparison to some of the fastest in the game, really to see whether or not he could be likened to pinch-runner types like Billy Hamilton or former-Dodger Tim LoCastro for example.

Here’s what I found out.

Basically, the more you limit the sample, the better Taylor, and any player with a bulky amount of playing time, looks. If you look at his 28.8 ft/sec average sprint speed and compare it to all major leaguers in 2019 with 10 “competitive runs” (competitive runs are what the leaderboard is set up around, and they are either when a player runs to complete a bid at an extra-base hit or when they weakly hit a ball in the infield and attempt to beat it out), he ranks 58th in baseball.

But when you limit the sample to a greater number of competitive runs, you increase the likelihood of boxing out the less-than-everyday players in favor of starters like Taylor (though this also limited the number of players who were often injured in 2019). When limiting the sample to hitters with 100+ competitive runs, Taylor darted up the leaderboard to the no. 23 spot, nestled amongst the likes of Starling Marte and Tim Anderson.

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CT3 looks even better when compared to players who only play SS (though of course, he can play multiple positions which is one of his redeeming qualities outside of speed). Again, looking at average sprint speed, Taylor is the 8th-fastest shortstop in all of baseball in 2019, faster than Javy Baez, Dansby Swanson and consistent 20 steals man Jean Segura.

So why doesn’t Taylor consistently rank amongst the league leaders in steals? Or why, for that matter, doesn’t he even lead the Dodgers in steals?

Part of that may have to do with his lack of attempts, potentially driven by the Dodgers’ aversion to stealing bases in general. This season, despite his 40 singles and 30 walks, Taylor only has 7 steals.

A major caveat though is that Taylor has not been caught this season, making those 7 significantly more valuable than if they had come at the cost of a handful of failed attempts resulting in the disappointing and rally-crushing out.

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So while it would be unwise to bet on Taylor to steal more bases in the coming days and weeks as he recovers from his IL stint, whenever you watch CT3 be ready and try not to blink, because if you do, you might just miss him.