Statcast delves into the week's top three plays

Gordon's catch, Craig's homer and A-Rod's historic shot get a look

Statcast delves into the week's top three plays

One will go down as a serious contender for plays of the year. One was a home run for the history books.

The latest "Best of Statcast™" brings us three plays -- one on defense -- that illustrate how the new technology we've been enjoying this year in Major League Baseball can be broken down and analyzed to explain the great feats on the field that take place every day of the 162-game slate.

The first came on April 26, when left fielder Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals proved once again why he's won four Gold Gloves. In the sixth inning of a game against the White Sox in U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago infielder Micah Johnson hit a foul fly ball down the left field line. Gordon sprinted after it, jumped over the short fence and backhanded the ball before falling into the stands and landing in the middle of a group of fans.

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Statcast™ tracked Gordon's top speed at 18.6 mph, but the more impressive number was the 87 feet that he covered in racing to the ball before making his daredevil plunge. Overall, Statcast™ gave him a route efficiency score of 98.9. Not too shabby.

"I knew it was going to be close to the fence," Gordon said. "I actually judged it pretty good and knew where the fence was and where the ball was going. I just said, '[Oh, well],' and jumped in the stands."

The other two featured plays where balls that jumped into the stands -- both in fair territory, both absolutely crushed by hitters, and both occurring in the same game, last Friday in Fenway Park.

Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig provided the first one with a towering long ball off Yankees starter CC Sabathia to give Boston a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. Craig's was the traditional kind of home run, a moon shot with Statcast™ numbers to back up its majestic look as it soared high over the Green Monster.

Craig's homer left the bat with an exit velocity of 99.8 mph, but the 40.6-degree launch angle led directly to the maximum height of 76.6 feet.

By contrast, Alex Rodriguez's first career pinch-hit homer later in the game, the one that gave the Yankees a 3-2 victory, was a different kind of big fly entirely. Rodriguez's, which came against Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa on a 94-mph fastball, was a searing line drive that probably would have given the Monster another dent if it didn't clear it.

Rodriguez's ball had a turbo-powered exit velocity of 116.3 mph, according to Statcast™, but a 19-degree launch angle that made it more like a long-iron shot in golf. The Yankees were glad that when the ball landed in a fan's hands in the third row of the Monster seats, it had at least achieved the maximum height of 59.1 feet that let it get over the high wall.

Then again, the most important number for A-Rod's homer was an old-school one. It was the 660th of his career, tying Hall of Famer Willie Mays on the all-time list.

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.