Elly-Mania: The Fastest Man in Baseball. Elly De La Cruz (EDLC), baseball’s top prospect, has ignited the baseball world since making his long-awaited debut for the MLB’s Cincinnati Reds. The Reds rookie has completely shattered Statcast norms with his insane raw talent.
In my first four-part op-ed series for URBT News, I will use my personal experience as a lifelong baseball fan and eleven years of recreational baseball to demonstrate how evidence suggests that De La Cruz is a “once in a hundred years type of player.”
Spectacular? Without a shadow of a doubt. The most dominant player on the base path? That is more difficult to assess, but it is worth comparing him to others who have quickly captivated the baseball world.
In this third installment of the series, I will present evidence to put EDLC’s blistering speed into context.
The Oldest Competition
When you think about it, attempts to measure speed date back millennia. The standard race is one of the oldest competitions known to mankind, if not the oldest. Begin here and end there. Whoever arrives first and is unquestionably faster wins.
The 2022 season had the second-highest stolen base success rate of all time, at 75.4%, trailing only the 75.7% achieved in 2021.
When MLB announced the addition of a pitch clock for the 2023 season, stolen base fans began salivating immediately. They had reason to: when the pitch clock and its associated pickoff limit were introduced to the minor leagues, stolen bases skyrocketed. This year, it appears that we will break the MLB efficiency record.
Elly De La Cruz’s insane raw talent has completely shattered statcast norms, proving that the base path is his domain.
Who is the Fastest of the Fast?
Elly-Mania: The Fastest Man in Baseball. In baseball, where other goals frequently get in the way, we try to find other ways to determine who is the fastest. Scouts time batters’ runs from home to first and use that information, along with other hard data and their eyes, to assign a 20-80 grade to their run tools. The fastest of the fast receives an 80. The slowest of the slow receive a score of 20. Those grades, however, can be subjective.
According to one scout, De La Cruz has an almost impossible three-of-five-tool grade of “80” on a 20-80 scale, making him even more talented than Fernando Tatis Jr.
In contrast, interested parties who are not present at the games may look to stolen bases and triples to determine speed. Those figures, of course, are more about performance than pure skill, and they don’t tell the whole story.
Stolen Bases and Triples
Elly De La Cruz has 26 stolen bases in 84 games since his Major League debut on June 6, 2023, averaging 3.23 stolen bases per game. With 26 stolen bases, he ranks among the top 20 in the majors. De La Cruz has achieved this ranking despite playing at least 20 fewer games than all but one of the remaining players ranked higher than him.
He has been caught stealing seven times, for a stolen base success rate of 78.79%, which matches the league base stealer success rate in 2023.
His 26 stolen bases rank ninth in the NL, and his seven times caught stealing rank fourth.
As a general rule of thumb, a base stealer with an SB% of 75 or higher is usually attempting to steal to help his team. Players who lack speed or steals frequently post high stolen-base percentages.
If you like the fast-paced 1980s, this year’s 1.4 successful stolen bases per game would fit right in during that era, when steals averaged between 1.4 and 1.7.
De La Cruz puts pressure on defenses in a way that no one else has since Kenny Lofton, Ricky Henderson, and Carl Crawford changed the landscape of the game with their speed while still drawing free passes.
De La Cruz’s six triples rank sixth in the National League.
There is a stat that shows how fast — or, perhaps, how effectively fast — a player is without using a stopwatch. It is the Speed (Spd) Score. Spd is measured on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero representing the slowest and ten representing the fastest. Spd combines components centered on steals, triples, and runs scored to determine a player’s ability on the basepaths.
The league average hovers around 4.5. De La Cruz has a 9.0 speed rating.
Individual sprint speed is defined as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window” on individual plays. The Major League average for a “competitive” play is 27 feet per second, and the competitive range is roughly 23 feet per second (poor) to 30 feet per second (elite). A bolt is any run in which the runner’s Sprint Speed is greater than 30 feet per second.
According to statcast, De La Cruz has a sprint rate of 30.8 feet per second, which leads the league by.4 feet per second this season.
De La Cruz has 144 competitive runs in 84 games. De La Cruz has 73 bolts, which places him fifth in the league. Only Kansas City Royals SS Bobby Witt, Jr. has a higher run-to-bolt conversion rate than De La Cruz among the four base stealers ranked higher than De La Cruz in bolts. Witt, Jr. has a 56% conversion rate, while De La Cruz has a 51% conversion rate.
De La Cruz recorded a home-to-third time of 10.83 seconds on his triple during his June 23, 2023, cycle at a 30.5 ft/s run sprint speed.
The “fastest man in baseball” then lifted the crowd at Great American Ball Park on August 18, 2023, with an incredible display of speed as he hustled from home to home in 15.30 seconds, the fastest home-to-home time by a Red in the Statcast era (since 2015) and the third-fastest home-to-home time in MLB this season.
De La Cruz is the only baserunner whose sprint rate is faster than Witt, Jr.’s (30.4 ft/sec).
HP to 1B
Another measure of a baseball player’s speed is their Home Plate (HP) to First Base (1B) time, which is the amount of time it takes a player to run from home plate to first base after hitting the ball. This metric measures a player’s speed and ability to get on base quickly.
De La Cruz has a 4.12 HP to 1B time, which ties him for fourth place with, you guessed it, Witt, Jr.
Other Baserunning Statistics
Elly-Mania: The Fastest Man in Baseball. In 373 plate appearances, his blinding speed has earned him 139 total bases, including 31 extra-base hits. Because of his speed, he has only grounded into six double plays (GIDP) in 42 opportunities to ground into six double plays (GIDPO).
De La Cruz has 59 runs scored, for an average of.7 runs scored per game.
What Lies Ahead?
PICTURE: All-time record holder for stolen bases and runs scored, MLB Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. PHOTO: COURTESY OF: New York Yankees via Reddit.
Rickey Henderson holds the “unbreakable” major league record of 1406 stolen bases, an average of 56 stolen bases per season over his 25-year Major League Baseball career.
De La Cruz, on the other hand, is faster than “The Man of Steal” Rickey Henderson, who was impossibly good at stolen bases and is revered as a stolen base deity by many.
Could the “unbreakable” become fathomable if De La Cruz can stay healthy and play as long as Henderson did? Only time will tell!
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