Vernon Wells: from lead feet to golden sneakers

Image courtesy of Batter’s Box

Is it just me, or does Vernon Wells have quite the range in the outfield these days?

V-Dub really hasn’t been the same in the field since he originally injured his hamstring back in July 2008, and aggravated it once again in Spring Training last year.

Once could argue that he played through the nagging injury for the better part of last season, and the only one who truly knows that is Vernon Wells himself. If his statistics are an indication, there must have been something wrong that we didn’t know about.


Now all that’s in the past and it appears Wells is back in fine form, both at the plate and in the field. He’s been routinely been making great catches and getting great jumps on fly balls that would’ve otherwise flown over his head last year.

Vernon had a career low UZR last year at -16.6. Already, he’s bumped it up by 17 points and has broken pretty much even with a 1.1 UZR through 44 games in centre field this year.

Typically, analysts prefer to have three year sample sizes to work from since Ultimate Zone Ratings fluctuate as much as Justin Bieber’s hormones, but the 44 game sample size from Vernon Wells looks very promising so far.

Vernon’s Range Runs Above Average (RngR) are also way up this season, currently sitting at 1.2, up from a dreadful -18.1 range runs just one year ago.

The thing I’ve noticed that’s improved most about Vernon’s presence in the field has been the ability to reach baseballs that are hit over his head. If you’ve seen the highlights lately, you’ve probably witnessed Wells uncanny ability to track down fly balls near the warning track and haul them in.

It was something that was noticeably absent from his game last season, and it could very well have been due to his hamstring injury which may have hampered his ability to catch up and time those fly balls correctly.

Oddly enough, the best centre fielder in the American League according to UZR and RngR right now is Alex Rios. The White Sox centre fielder is in good company with his former teammate Vernon Wells, who ranks third in the league in UZR and fourth in RngR.

There’s no doubt that Vernon Wells’ skills in the outfield have declined slightly over the years, but it’s nice to see that last year was in fact rock bottom for him statistically. Because prior to the start of this season, I was almost convinced 2010 would have been worse.

It’s been four years since Vernon Wells was bestowed the honour of being one of the best fielders in the game. While he may not be one of the elite centre fielders in the game, he’s certainly rising up and becoming part of the cream of the crop once again.


Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

4 thoughts on “Vernon Wells: from lead feet to golden sneakers

  • May 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Ah yes, I remember that TV spot. Good times.

    It's hard to believe that was just a few years ago!

  • May 26, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Nothing odd about Rios being an awesome fielder. He has been for years. I miss him 🙁

  • May 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    SP, at least in Chicago he doesn't seem as distracted as he was in Toronto. Rios is better off in CF anyway, too talented to be stuck in one of those corner outfield positions.

    I miss him too.

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