Not long ago, Boston Red Sox center fielder Enrique (Kiké) Hernández was a defensive nomad. After being acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a six-player deal in December 2014, he spent six seasons in Dodger blue, and he played at no fewer than six different positions in any one of those years. Hernández garnered the coveted title of “super utility infielder” thanks to his defensive versatility and a hit tool that allowed him to stay in the starting lineup night after night.
After the 2020 season ended, so did Hernández’s time in L.A., and he signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Red Sox. His signing was announced just a day after one of Boston’s all-time greats, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, retired from baseball; given that Hernández had played most at second base to that point, it looked like he was the heir apparent to Pedroia.
Once the season started, however, Hernández found himself a new home in center field. But he wasn’t just good at the position; he was elite. Despite playing only 93 games in center, Hernández was third in baseball at the position over the season by Defensive Runs Saved and fourth in Ultimate Zone Rating, two of the most well known and widely used advanced defensive metrics available. For Hernández, the reactions that made him a great infielder translated to center, as he was the best outfielder in baseball in the Outfield Jump metric.
Per Statcast, Outfield Jump has three components. First, the reaction, or distance (in feet) covered in the first 1.5 seconds. Second, the burst, or distance covered in the next 1.5 seconds. Finally, the route, which measures the distance covered in the three seconds against the direct route to the ball. When it came specifically to the first component, Hernández dusted the competition, covering 4.3 more feet in the first 1.5 seconds above average, and 2 feet more than the next best outfielder.
It’s that type of skill that affords Hernández the ability to make catches like this with regularity: