Statcast covers all angles of Jay's defensive gems
Before preserving tie, outfielder reaches 17 mph to rob Zimmerman of a hit
By Doug Miller
Statcast was off and running during Tuesday night's 2-1, 10-inning Nationals win over the Cardinals, and so was Jon Jay.
The revolutionary technology that tracks just about everything and everyone on a baseball field made its televised debut on the MLB Network showcase game between the Cardinals and Nationals in Washington, D.C., and Jay, the fleet-footed St. Louis center fielder, made the most of the statistical spotlight with a defensive game to remember.
Jay made the play of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, the score tied at 1 and the bases loaded. Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth hit a hard line drive that was sinking to the outfield turf and surely would have won the game if not caught. But Jay, playing shallow in center field, sprinted to his left and dove to catch the ball and save the game, at least temporarily, by sending it to extra innings.
Statcast showed that Jay's first step, from contact to making his first move to the ball, was 0.3 seconds, and his top speed was 14.8 mph as he covered the ground to lay out for the highlight-reel grab.
"I put myself there," Jay said. "Just in that situation, I want to make him beat us over the head. In that situation, I didn't want a line drive [to drop]. I was going to make him beat us to the biggest part of the field. It worked out right there."
Jay's "D" worked out earlier, too, and Statcast was all over it.
With one out in the bottom of the third inning and St. Louis starter Lance Lynn already trailing, 1-0, and dealing with runners on first and second, Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit a ball hard to the right-center-field gap.
Jay got a good jump on the ball and was able to run it down by the wall while basically in cruise control. The play helped Lynn eventually escape that inning unscathed, and Statcast helped determine how Jay got the job done.
Jay averaged 10.7 mph while running his route, reaching a maximum speed of 17 mph. For comparison, Cincinnati speedster Billy Hamilton was tracked on Statcast at 21.2 mph while recently stealing a base.
But MLB Network analyst and Hall of Famer John Smoltz astutely pointed out that Jay slowed down with caution while approaching the wall, knowing it was coming up quickly and that he might get injured if he slammed into it.
"He had two terrific plays," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Just a real nice job. He saved the game there, gave us an extra chance. Good defensive day for him, for sure. Jon's just got great instincts, good jumps and does a nice job out there."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.