After getting swept by the Kansas City Royals last night, Phil Miller over at the Star Tribune heard some interesting quotes from manager Ron Gardenhire. In talking about the pop up Aaron Hicks hit to lead off the 7th inning, Gardy said, “I can’t live with that…we always run.” Apparently he thought the young struggling center fielder should have been on third base instead of pulling up at second.
I went back to that particular at bat to find out exactly how long it took for that play to develop. Now, before I tell you what my stopwatch said, let me do a quick calculation.
Jamaican Usain Bolt currently holds the world record in the 100m dash, recording a time of 9.58 in 2009. From home plate to third base it is 270 feet, but it’s not exactly straight-line distance, obviously. 270 feet calculates out to about 82.3 meters, so let’s just say Hicks would have run about 87 meters to get to third on the play. In 87 meters, Usain Bolt’s time calculates out to about 8.33 seconds. Remember, that’s a world-class sprinter trained specifically for that race, dressed for that race, racing against 8 other olympic-caliber sprinters, in sprinting conditions.
Now, from the time Hicks completed his swing to the time Jeff Francoeur – who has one of the best arms in baseball – picked up the ball maybe 50 feet from the infield, was 8.38 seconds (by my unofficial stopwatch). So, in a straight line, Usain Bolt would have been just sliding into third when Francoeur picked up the dropped fly ball. Apparently Evar Swanson was timed circling the bases back on 09/15/1929 at 13.3 seconds, which means he would have touched third around 9.975. Bo Jackson has been timed from home to first from the right handed box at 3.65, which at that pace would be sliding into third around 10.95.
If we flashback to the situation, now, Hicks was leading off. The Twins were down 1-0, there were no outs, and Mauer, Willingham, and Morneau followed. Judging by the times, at best it would have been a really close play at third had Hicks been on a dead sprint right out of the box. With no one out and your 3 best hitters coming up after you, I don’t think you can say that Hicks should have been risking getting thrown out at third, down just a run in the 7th.
That being said, in Gardy’s mind, the problem maybe wasn’t necessarily that he didn’t get to third, it was that Hicks wasn’t running it out like he should have been, and didn’t even give himself a chance to stand on third after the error. That detail deserved getting thrown under the manager’s bus, like so many younger guys experienced before him. When you’re struggling and striking out 50% of your at bats to start your major league career, the least you can do is run out the balls you do put in play.
Maybe this will be the spark that lights Hicks on fire here, and it’s quite possible that Gardenhire purposely guided that bus down Hicks street last night to do so.
Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.
If you haven’t read last night’s post by my wife, make sure you do so – it’s pretty funny and you won’t regret it!