Like an ecosystem, baseball is supposed to be a delicate balance between offense and defense. Twins center fielder Byron Buxton seems determined to throw that system out of whack by chasing down literally every ball hit in the vicinity of the outfield.
After Saturday's 4-1 victory against Cleveland, Buxton was a perfect 8-for-8 on batted balls rated as four-star catches by Statcast -- leading the league in the number of balls that are caught between 26 and 50 percent of the time. "The balls he ran down in the gaps, off the bat, they don't look like they're going to get caught, to be honest with you," Twins manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com's William Kosileski. "Too much space, too much velocity on the exit speed. He just finds a way to get there."
He was proven prophetic on Sunday in the Twins' 8-3 loss. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Carlos Santana blasted a ball to center field. Buxton raced after it before leaping from his feet and slamming into the wall. Somehow, even with his eyeglasses flying off, he held onto it:
That's how you leap into a particularly fluffy bed -- not how you catch a baseball. "His defense is good. He's making good [plays]," Santana said after the game. "In the moment, I was a little mad, but this happens in the game. And he's making good [plays]."
Just look at how far Buxton had to run. And remember, this screenshot is after Santana hit the ball, so at least a few feet into Buxton's route:
There's shades of Junior's wall-slamming catch in this one, with Buxton wisely not flying in wrist-first.
It may only be May, but we've already got a catch of the year contender. Molitor certainly agrees it was a special play. "In live action, I don't know how it gets much better than that," the skipper said. "You see a lot of tremendous athletes make great plays between distance, speed and collision, but you just don't see catches like that too often no matter how many highlight reels you are watching."
Indians manager Terry Francona agrees. "We had pretty good at-bats. We probably could have scored more," Francona said. "That kid in center field is probably still catching something now. He's unbelievable. He's everywhere."