With the Blue Jays struggling to stay competitive, no one would fault even the most die-hard baseball fan for tuning into the World Cup instead of one of last weekend’s Blue Jays-Tigers games. But as a die-hard baseball fan, baseball is never far from the mind. Even if you are watching Japan and Belgium play soccer. This got me thinking: how fast are some of the current Blue Jays relative to soccer players?
With baseball, Statcast makes these numbers easy to determine. The data is publicly available in feet per second. They take the player’s top speed in a one second windows based on running attempts that Statcast deems as competitive – meaning they don’t include a batter jogging to first after hitting a lazy fly ball. That would unfairly drag down a hitter’s sprint speed. You can read more about their methodology here. According to the data, the average Major League baseball player runs at 29.6 kilometers per hour (27 feet per second).
It’s a little harder to track down data in soccer given the many different leagues and studies. Two of the more prominent are a study of the fastest players in the English Premier League, based on data from Opta and Chryon Hego and another by the Mexican league team C.F. Pachuca.
These studies aren’t as ideal as the Statcast data. They use different samples (Premier League players vs. all players), and they don’t disclose their methodologies – methodologies which must be slightly different given that some of the faster players from the Premier League study don’t appear on in the Pachuca list. But despite the problems, both studies (among several other sources) indicate that the best footballers are running at somewhere between 32 and 37 kilometers per hour.
According to the C.F. Pachuca study, Gareth Bale is the fastest active player, running at a top speed of 36.9 kilometers per hour (km/h). According to the Opta and Hego study, Leroy Sane is the fastest player in the EPL at 35.48 km/h. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been clocked at 33.6 and 32.5 kilometers per hour respectively.
How do the Blue Jays stack up against some of soccer’s fastest and most famous athletes?
|Blue Jays||Sprint Speed||Soccer Players||Sprint Speed|
|Teoscar Hernandez||31.3 km/h||Gareth Bale||36.9 km/h|
|Randal Grichuk||31.2 km/h||Leroy Sane||35.48 km/h|
|Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||31.05 km/h||Cristiano Ronaldo||33.6 km/h|
|Kevin Pillar/Aledmys Diaz||30.6 km/h||Leo Messi||32.5 km/h|
|Kendrys Morales||26.1 km/h||Wayne Rooney||31.2 km/h|
There is no current Blue Jay that can outrun soccer’s fastest. But some of them aren’t as far behind as you may think. Teoscar Hernandez, the fastest player on the Jays, clocks in at 31.3 km/h, ahead of Wayne Rooney and only 1.2 km/h slower than Lionel Messi’s purported top speed.
Randal Grichuk is just behind Hernandez at 31.2 km/h – the exact same listed speed for Wayne Rooney. Kevin Pillar and Aledmys Diaz (yes, you did read that second name correctly) are tied for fourth speediest Blue Jay at 30.6 km/h. Kendrys Morales, the slowest Blue Jay, would need to take a cab to keep up with Leroy Sane or Gareth Bale, as he is a full 10 km/h slower with a foot speed of 26.1 km/h.
Just for fun, if these players were to run an entire hundred metre dash at top speed, Teoscar Hernandez would run it in 11.5 seconds and Messi would run it in 11.08 seconds, a difference of less than half a second. If Hernandez squared off against Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldo would beat him by less than a second (0.79). But keep in mind that neither the soccer or baseball players would actually be able to run a hundred metre dash at their top speed – as it takes a while to reach peak acceleration.
If Morales raced Gareth Bale in top-speed 100 metre dash, Bale would finish in 9.76 seconds while Morales would take 13.79 seconds – a difference of 4.03 seconds. Again, if Bale’s time seems suspiciously close to Usain Bolt’s world record, keep in mind that my calculation is looking just at these athletes’ top speeds measured in a small intervals of time, and sport science has determined that it typically takes 40 to 50 metres of running before you can reach top speed. In this example, athletes reach top velocity instantly – and maintain it for 100 metres. That’s why you’re seeing times that are contending with the actual world’s fastest man.
And this is important when considering the sprint speed times of baseball players, who may be at a disadvantage to soccer players when it comes to measuring an athlete’s top speed. Because most runs in baseball are shorter (think home to first, chasing down an outfield fly ball) soccer players may be more likely to get closer to their top speed than a baseball player. But I’ll reserve a deep dive in this topic for someone who’s taken more than grade 11 science.
When it comes to non-Blue Jay players, there are several that can hang with the soccer stars. Byron Buxton (33.5 km/h) and Trea Turner (33 km/h), two of baseball’s fastest players, are in the same ballpark as Ronaldo and faster than Messi. Both still fall well short of Bale and Sane.
In terms of all-time fastest players, baseball is lagging behind soccer once again. Arjen Robben, then with the Dutch national team, recorded the fastest sprint speed by a soccer player at 37 km/h during the 2014 World Cup. According to data compiled by the Score before the Statcast era, the fastest baseball players of all-time are Vince Coleman (34.6 km/h), Deion Saunders (35.1 km/h), and sprinter-turned-pinch-runner Herb Washington (35.8 km/h). All of whom fall well short of Robben’s 37 km/h sprint speed.
So to the surprise of very few, soccer players are in many cases faster than baseball players. But the Jays are closer than you think – and in some instances, as is the case with Randal Grichuk and Wayne Rooney, the exact same speed. People like Byron Buxton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Trea Turner and Gareth Bale possess elite speed despite playing different sports. Without modern evaluation methods it would almost be impossible to tell the difference between these athletes. And even Blue Jays like Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez can hold their own in the foot speed department.
These are all very fast and supremely talented people.
Lead Photo © Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports