Leonys Martin and Throwing
It became very clear, very quickly, that Leonys has an incredible knack for throwing out runners. It’s not just the arm strength. It perhaps is especially not just the arm strength. Martin’s arm strength alone wouldn’t put him in the conversation for best outfield throwers in the game. More than the power on the throw, it’s the speed at which the ball makes the transition from glove to arm to in the air to glove. The speed of Martin’s release kicks his above-average arm up to elite. The third cog is his accuracy. Judging accuracy, I’m prone to make a selective memory bias error in judgment, but I have a hard time remembering throws from Leonys that missed the mark.
I found video highlights of eight of Martin’s fourteen outfield assists from this year, and put them into GIF form for us all to watch on loop over and over until pitchers and catchers report.
April 28th – Texas at Minnesota – Victim: Jamey Carroll
When I say he wasted no time, I mean it. I timed (imperfectly) Leonys’s release time (from glove to release) at 0.80 seconds. The pop time (from glove to glove) was 2.40 seconds. To set a baseline, the league’s fastest baserunners get from home to first in about 3.80 seconds. Runners going from first to third are faster than that in the 90 feet between second and third due to the running start, but let’s just say Jamey Carroll isn’t going to make it very far in 2.40 seconds, no matter how big of a running start he has.
May 8th – Texas at Milwaukee – Victim: Jean Segura
Segura is not a burner, but he is definitely fast. It’s not a perfect measure of speed, but Segura stole 44 bases this year. There were two outs before the play, which means Segura was moving on contact. The ball wasn’t roped into center, so Leonys had to come in a fair distance to get to it. Once he got to it, he loaded up and unleashed his howitzer to drill a waiting AJ Pierzynski in the chest right on top of the plate. This ended a two-out rally for the Brewers, and preserved a shutdown inning for Derek Holland.
May 17th – Texas vs. Detroit – Victim: Andy Dirks
After this throw, this was the reaction of the Rangers coaches in the dugout:
[Moore doesn’t know what he’s laughing at]
Washington to Maddux: “wrestle a pig backwards you know what I got?”
Maddux: “I don’t speak jive.”
August 7th – Texas at Los Angeles – Victim: Erick Aybar
I love how Adrian Beltre fields incoming throws to third. When possible, he sets up one to two steps in front of the base to receive the ball and tag the runner before his feet ever have a chance of reaching the base. No monkey business with trying to tag sliding feet in the six inches before the bag. In this case, he tagged Aybar in the neck, which Aybar was none too pleased about.
August 10th – Texas at Houston – Victim: Jose Altuve
This is where Altuve was when Leonys picked up the ball:
For comparison’s sake, I’ll pause here to show this Nelson Cruz GIF from an outfield assist he had in 2012 (he only had one in 2013, and I didn’t find the video). Cruz has been the standard bearer for Texas outfield arms in recent history, so I think it is a worthy comparison to determine if Leonys is the top gun in town.
As far as comparisons are concerned, I think Leonys beats Cruz by about 0.30 seconds on release time on average and has fairly comparable arm strength, which is approximately the difference between being able to throw out Jose Altuve and Jean Segura.
August 14th – Texas vs. Milwaukee – Victims: Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez
This is where Segura was when Leonys picked up the ball, which he then double-clutched and still had time to throw out Segura:
September 16th – Texas at Tampa Bay – Victim: Yunel Escobar
The consistency that Leonys displayed in throwing out runners this season was so pristine that it is unlikely that he has a repeat performance in 2014. Baserunners get smarter, and will test him less, as we have seen happen to Nelson Cruz over the last two years. Once word gets around, third base coaches send runners home less often, and baserunners are less prone to attempt moving from first to third. That fear is a weapon too, though.
The 14 assists that Martin racked up this year were the most by a Texas Rangers outfielder since Ruben Sierra had 15 in 1991. With what he showed in 2013, Leonys is in the discussion for best outfield arm in Rangers history. Special tools make for special moments.
I can’t wait until the next time a line drive goes back through the box out to Leonys and the runner on second is sent home.