Roman Quinn’s parents come from athletic backgrounds, so a family gathering often becomes a debate.
“We have a history of track stars, basketball players, football players. We have a variety of athletes,” Quinn says. “It’s always guys sharing their stories of who was the best athlete. We always go back and forth with them.”
At the next family party, Quinn could own a title good enough to finish any argument: fastest man in baseball.
He entered Wednesday as the major-league leader in sprint speed, a statistic by StatCast to measure a player’s speed on the basepaths. His 30.4-feet-per-second is the fastest in baseball, slightly faster than his 30.1-feet-per-second last year.
“That means a lot,” Quinn said before Wednesday night’s game in Washington. “That’s one thing that you always care about being a speedster, where you rank among the fastest in the league. That’s a pretty cool stat.”
Quinn credits his improved speed to being roughly 5 pounds lighter than he was ast year.
“I honestly do feel like I’m a little faster,” said Quinn, who weighs between 170 and 173 pounds.
Quinn’s career has been slowed by injuries. He has yet to play a full season since the Phillies drafted him in 2011. He’s had a strained groin, torn quadriceps, torn Achilles tendon, strained elbow, torn ligament in his middle finger, concussion, and a broken toe.
But now he’s healthy, and through the season’s first 25 games Quinn has provided the Phillies with a glimpse at what his speed can bring.
He’s five-for-five on stolen bases, has two bunt singles, and has a 75% extra-base-taken percentage, meaning Quinn has moved an extra base as a runner on a single or double on 75 percent of the times he had the chance.
“It’s as good as I’ve seen,” Joe Girardi said of Quinn’s speed. “I’ve seen some very fast players. One of the guys that comes to mind is when I was playing in Colorado. Deion Sanders hit an inside-the-park home run, and I think he could’ve gotten back to second base. And he was tiptoeing as he was going around third base. I’ve seen some guys with great speeds, but his measures up against everyone.”
Girardi added: “He offers a dimension that creates a lot of havoc and creates problems for defense. I love having that.”
Quinn scored on Tuesday night by reaching on a bunt, stealing second, and charging home on a grounder with the infield in. Earlier this month, Quinn scored the winning run with a perfectly executed slide. Not only does Quinn have speed, but he knows how to use it. FanGraphs’ baserunning metric lists him as the sixth-most-valuable baserunner in baseball.
“I feel like the whole nine years I’ve been with the Phillies, I’ve been learning and growing to know when to use my speed in different situations, whether that’s a bunt or a stolen base,” Quinn said. “I put in a lot of work. I’m always reading scouting reports. [First base coach Paco Figueroa] will always send me, especially starting pitchers, their times to the plate and their pick-off move before the game. He also lets me know that when I’m on first base. I’m always aware and trying to utilize stuff like that during the game.”
The Phillies knew they would likely need more runs Tuesday night when they entered the seventh inning with a two-run lead. So Quinn bunted the second pitch from Wander Suero, knowing the right-hander mostly throws cutters.
Quinn beat the throw to first and then waited for Suero’s high leg kick, thinking back to the scouting report he read that afternoon. Quinn took off for his second steal of the night. He moved to third on a passed ball, and the infielders shifted in. Third-base coach Dusty Wathan told him he was running on contact.
“So I was trying to get the best jump possible,” Quinn said. “Usually in those types of plays, I’m always moving my feet. I’m flinching on the swing. I’m making my momentum go toward home plate. Everything played out perfectly. We got the job done.”
Quinn got a perfect jump on Andrew McCutchen’s grounder to shortstop, sprinted home, and slid to beat the strong throw by Trea Turner. He used his legs to create a run.
The sequence was a peek at what a healthy Quinn looks like. And it gave Quinn one more thing to brag about to his family.
“I’m just out there playing and reacting,” Quinn said. “Then, once I get in the dugout, my teammates will look at me like, ‘Did you really just do that?’ Then it kind of hits me. It’s a blessing to have speed, and I’m thankful for it. Thankful to my parents for it, too.”