No Statcast data exists to compare his speed with Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, and it's too early to tell if he can maintain his lead over a full season. So let's just call this a plausible guess: Byron Buxton would be the fastest man ever to lead a league in home runs.
"I don't even know what to say about that," Buxton said, shaking his head as if the notion is absurd. But even if he can't believe it, it's true, at least for a day: Buxton woke up on Thursday as the American League leader, his eight homers just ahead of a half-dozen contenders with seven — and everyone in that pack has played at least five more games than him.
"He's been playing out of his mind right now," teammate Mitch Garver said. "He's changing the way that we play other teams."
Maybe he'll change the way they prepare, too, because Buxton has a secret that few people have noticed: He never hits in public before games.
"I haven't taken batting practice on the field in probably two years," Buxton said of that baseball ritual, the daily 45-minute session of crushing 60-mph lobs from coaches into the third deck of a mostly empty stadium. Buxton doesn't thirst for the confidence boost of tape-measure fly balls, and he prefers to focus on the details of his swing, sometimes going over one point over and over until he feels comfortable.
That's not possible in the six-pitch-and-out constant turnover at home plate.
"You've got guys hitting behind you, so you can't really take your time and do what you want to in the box. I do all my work in the [indoor] cage," Buxton said during, yes, batting practice Tuesday in Cleveland, which he spent working on his defense. "I've got time in there, and if I want to take a minute to figure out what I want to feel with certain pitches or whatever, I can do that. It works for me. I do my best work in the cage."
That he has that freedom is an example of Rocco Baldelli's trust in his players to determine what works best for them.
"I don't think a cookie-cutter approach to major league players generally makes sense. Different guys, they need different things when they're getting ready to play," Baldelli said. "The adjustments that Buck has made, figuring out subtle things, which pitches to attack, he's made those adjustments over time."
That's why the Twins believe that his Ruthian .938 slugging percentage or the fact that he's had hits in 15 of the 17 games he's appeared in are not simply evidence of a hot streak. Nobody expects him to go 5-for-5, as he did Wednesday, every day, but it's a reflection of his maturity, at 27, as a hitter.
"I don't think anything that we're seeing from Buck is from some massive shift or big mechanical adjustment," Baldelli said. "It's him figuring things out. Experience has been very good to him, and he's taking advantage of it."
In a sense, Buxton is a self-made hitter, Baldelli agreed. Early in his professional career, and especially during slumps and stretches of strikeouts, he soaked up advice from many sources. Too many, he finally decided, until vowing four years ago to "go back to what got me here and just keep it simple."
He eventually developed a method that works for him, Buxton said, and "my routine stays the same now. I trust it." Hitting coaches Edgar Varela and Rudy Hernandez watch to "let me know if they see something wrong," he said, "but you get to the point where you've got to start figuring out things for yourself, things to help you feel good and get comfortable in the box."
Considering he's enjoying the best April performance in Twins history — his OPS this month is a comically prodigious 1.408 — he seems pretty comfortable.
Well, with everything but his own slugging success. Just ask him, for instance, whether he'd like to be invited to the Home Run Derby at Coors Field this July, and Buxton's self-image as a speedster, not a slugger, resurfaces once more.
"I don't know about any Home Run Derby," said Buxton, laughing at the thought. "You know how big them dudes are in there?"