For a long time, it has been easy to see a difficult play made in the field, and with the establishment of Catch Probability, we can even find out just how hard those catches are to make. Now, Statcast is attempting to put a number on the moment between the hit and the catch, and determining exactly how that frame of time is used differently between average outfielders, and truly great ones. What kind of number determines the quality of a player who makes hard catches look commonplace?
Jump, at its most basic, measures how many feet in the right direction an outfielder moves in the first three seconds after a pitch is released. What it really aims to do, though, is find the aspect of play that help make some outfielders better at making a catch look effortless, as if they were just waiting for it to drop into their glove.
There are three main components to Jump:
- Reaction: the number of feet covered in the first 1.5 seconds
- Burst: the number of feet covered in the second 1.5 seconds
- Router: compares feet covered overall, to fee covered in the correct direction, over the full three seconds.
Jump, then, looks a bit like this:
If you want to read more about the precise way Jump is calculated or how it looks at individual plays, read Mike Petriello’s article at MLB.com.
We obviously wanted to know how this new stat applied to the Tigers outfield, and the results were underwhelming, but also showed signs where improvement could be seen for future seasons.
Nicholas Castellanos (78th)
You have to go quite deep into the 2019 Jump leaderboard to get to the first Tiger on the list, but it is surprisingly not JaCoby Jones, who seems like a more likely candidate to make those impressive running catches. Rather, the 78th place spot belongs to right fielder Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos has a -1.8 Jump.
When we look at the three components of Jump (Reaction, Burst, Route) it would appear that Castellanos suffers the most in the Burst category. Burst, again, is the level of acceleration a player is able to achieve after responding to a play. Castellanos has -1.7 feet below average.
In terms of Reaction, he’s slightly above average at 0.3, and his Route is only a -0.5, so barely below average. What it means, at the end of the day, is if Castellanos could improve his directional acceleration, he would probably be able to climb up the Jump charts and make more lower probability catches while he was at it. Castellanos is in the 75th percentile for players as far as his sprint speed goes, so this actually isn’t an unheard of improvement for him to make.
In fact, if we look at his previous seasons, he was 92nd overall in 2018, with a -2.4 Jump. In 2018 it was his Reaction timing dragging his average down — it was -0.8 — and his Burst was similar to 2019, at -1.6. In 2017 he only played 21 games in the outfield, not enough to qualify him for the stat.
Two years is not enough time to really establish if Castellanos is improving, but he does seem to be making strides as far as becoming a better every day outfielder.
JaCoby Jones (93rd)
Where Castellanos appears to be trending upwards in his fielding, it might be surprising to learn that JaCoby Jones has dropped steeped in his Jump ranking between 2018 and 2019. Jones ranked 93rd in 2019, with a -3.4 Jump. Like Castellanos, his Burst is his most lacking area at -1.7, but Jones also lags in Reaction, with a -1.3, meaning he’s slow to get started, and slow to get there. His Route is slightly below average at -0.4, but his troubles seem to be more specifically when it comes to how quickly he gets there, rather than the path he takes.
In 2018, Jones ranked 72nd, with a -1.1 Jump. His Route and Burst were both only -0.5 and his Route was at 0, the average. Meaning since last season, Jones has regressed in all standards that make up Jump. The story gets even more troubling when you look at his 2017, where he played enough games to qualify, and had a -0.2 Jump, ranking 55th. His Reaction was -0.1, as was his Route, and his Burst was exactly league average.
So what has caused Jones to so starkly drop in his Reaction and Burst? When he first came up to the Tigers as an outfielder he had all the makings of being average or above average at making those difficult catches, but it seems something has slowed him down. Jones has a 82nd percentile sprint speed, so it’s hard to know where the disconnect is.
Christin Stewart (98th)
Nearly at the bottom of the leaderboard, we find Christin Stewart, whose Jump comes in at -4.2. By far his worst issue is his Burst, which comes in at -3.1, whereas his Reaction (-0.8) and Route (-0.3) are barely below average.
Stewart didn’t rank in 2018 or earlier, so it’s hard to know which, if any, of these skills are buildable, but in his very short period of time with the team last season his burst was actually -0.5 and his Route was 1.1, meaning he actually had a 1.1 overall Jump. Again, we need to be aware that those numbers are based on a very small sample size, so it’s hard to use them as a comparison against 2019. He’s got average speed, so he’s unlikely to maintain a substantial Burst, and his Route seems to be fine, but his Reaction will definitely need some work if he’s to build himself up as a serviceable outfielder.
Ultimately, the skills that make a tremendous outfielder are not on display with the current crop of Tigers outfielders. Route seems to hardly matter when it comes to greatness. Kevin Kiermaier, a Platinum Glove winning centerfielder, has a -0.2 Route, but a +2.9 Jump. For him, it’s the Burst (2.0) that really makes the difference.
If you want to see how the rest of MLB’s outfielders fared, you can find the Statcast leaderboard for Jump here.