MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Safe at home? Soler had no chance to turn triple into homer

Cleveland needed projected 14.1 seconds to get ball home

Safe at home? Soler had no chance to turn triple into homer

CHICAGO -- Game 3 of the World Series was an eventful one for Jorge Soler in either the right or the wrong way, depending on your perspective.

On the positive note, Soler recorded two of Chicago's five hits and fired a 93.4-mph laser to third base to nail Rajai Davis in the seventh inning. On the other hand, he wasn't able to get to the Coco Crisp hit that scored Michael Martinez and tempted Davis to run to third in the Cubs' 1-0 loss to the Indians. Many openly criticized Soler for seemingly failing to hustle out of the box on his seventh-inning triple, potentially robbing himself of the chance to try for home.

We already used Statcast™ to show that neither Soler, Jason Heyward nor most anyone else had a chance to actually catch that Crisp hit, which had a 1.000 expected batting average. But what about the triple? Could Soler have potentially tried for home?

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 25 CLE 6, CHC 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 26 CHC 5, CLE 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 28 CLE 1, CHC 0 video
Gm 4 Oct. 29 CLE 7, CHC 2 video
Gm 5 Oct. 30 CHC 3, CLE 2 video
Gm 6 Nov. 1 CHC 9, CLE 3 video
Gm 7 Nov. 2 CHC 8 CLE, 7 (10) video

That should be pretty easy to test, so let's do that. First, we need to ask the following question: What's the absolute fastest time that anyone has rounded the bases this year? If the fastest players in the Majors couldn't have made it, then surely Soler, who missed considerable time this year with a left hamstring injury, couldn't.

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Looking at the 2016 season, the fastest home-to-home times this year were just over 14 seconds, by Byron Buxton (14.05 second on Oct. 2) and  Melvin Upton Jr. (14.85 seconds on Aug. 27).

Knowing that, how quickly did Cleveland get the ball back in? From the time the ball left the bat until Lonnie Chisenhall collected it in the corner, it took 9.1 seconds. Add in his release and throw to the cutoff man, and Jason Kipnis was in possession of the ball 12.4 seconds after it hit the bat, and he was 166 feet from the plate. As luck would have it, we do have another Kipnis throw of exactly 166 feet in our database, and it took him 1.7 seconds to throw home from short right against the Tigers on Sept. 17. If we add that to this, the projected total is 14.1 seconds.

Any sort of accurate throw would have reached the plate before the 15-second mark, which is the time the fastest runners get there. Soler is fast, but he's not that fast.

If you prefer to see it visually, here's where Soler was at the time the second baseman received the ball, barely more than two-thirds of the way to third base. Kipnis would have had him out at home easily.

Jorge Soler was still between second and third when Jason Kipnis received the cutoff throw in Game 3.

So there's no question that Soler should not have attempted to run home. But would it have been different if he'd gone full speed out of the box? It's easy to see why he didn't, based on how Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway described the play.

"That was a tough play in right," Callaway said. "Everybody thought it was foul. [Bryan] Shaw was reaching for another ball from the umpire, and the wind just kind of blew it back right in that tough spot. That's the toughest spot in all of baseball to make a play in."

But let's say that Soler did go full speed. His home-to-first time was 6.13 seconds, which is unquestionably slow (as the video shows, he did not run right away, thinking it was foul). Soler's fastest home-to-first times this season were in the 4.2-4.3 range. In addition, Soler's home-to-third time was 14 seconds, and his only home-to-third time on record was 12.2 seconds.

Both of those measurements say the same thing, which is that we can assume that Soler cost himself about two extra seconds with his delayed reaction. With two extra seconds, he would have been just rounding third when Kipnis had the ball, and maybe then he'd have been waved in. Maybe Soler would have forced Kipnis into a bad throw, and then maybe he'd have been safe.

But based on what we know, Soler would have been out. By a lot. The Indians could have gone from batted-ball contact to the catcher receiving the throw in just over 14 seconds. The best runners in the Majors require about 15 seconds to get home-to-home, and Soler isn't Byron Buxton or Billy Hamilton. Soler didn't make it look good, but looks don't change the outcome. He had no shot, no matter what he did. Credit Cleveland for getting the ball back in quickly.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.