If you head over to Baseball Savant, you will find a new leaderboard called Catcher Pop Time.
In case you missed it yesterday, Daren Willman shared the newest leaderboard featured on Baseball Savant, Catcher Pop Time. The leaderboard ranks the fastest arm strength, exchange speed, and pop times on stolen base attempts at second and third base. Fans of the San Diego Padres shouldn’t be shocked by the quickest catcher in baseball.
For those unfamiliar, here is the explanation of Catcher Pop Time, taken directly from the Statcast leaderboard,
"Pop Time measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base. Pop Time is a combination of exchange time (how quickly the catcher releases the ball, measured in seconds) and arm strength (velocity of throw, in MPH). Arm strength is measured on “max effort” throws, or the average above a player’s 90th percentile performance."
The fastest pop time on stolen base attempts at second base belongs to San Diego’s own, Austin Hedges. His 1.89 seconds is 0.12 seconds faster than the league average. Miami Marlin’s catcher J.T. Realmuto ranks second at 1.90 seconds, followed by Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Martin Maldonado (Angels), and Manny Pina (Brewers) at 1.93 seconds.
Hedges finished sixth in the league in average arm strength. His 2017 throws clocked in at an average of 85.7 mph, 2.1 mph off the league leader, Gary Sanchez.
His league-leading pop time resulted in 26 runners getting caught stealing. Only Maldonado (29) and Tucker Barnhart (32) had more in 2017.
Austin Hedges wants to be a complete catcher for the San Diego Padres.
Our own Tim Ryder recently discussed the success Hedges had at the plate in his first spring training report card.
After hitting .326 with a .353 on-base percentage with AAA El Paso in 2016, Hedges became the full-time starting catcher for the San Diego Padres in 2017. From an offensive statistical standpoint, his debut campaign left much to be desired.
Hedges struck out in nearly 30% of his at-bats. He drew a walk in just 5.5% of at-bats. He posted a wRC+ of 71 with a .214 batting average and .262 OBP.
Because of the adjustments made to his swing, those numbers shouldn’t continue. He has to show that those new swing adjustments will work in the regular season, but most fans are optimistic.
If you missed this piece on Hedges by Padres’ beat reporter Kevin Acee, I highly urge you to read it.
With so many young pitchers closing in on a major league promotion, Hedges will be counted on to help mold them into the pitching staff we are all expecting. If he can evolve into a .250-.260 hitter, lower his strikeout rate, and hit 20 home runs a season, the Padres will have one of the more elite catchers in all of baseball.
If you want to see what leadership looks like, it’s sort of like this,
Down by six runs in a game during the month of May. Take note, young Friars, and follow Austin Hedges.