Stats & Info: MLB

Each win stranger for Rangers

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
11:44
PM ET
The Texas Rangers are living a charmed life in the early part of the 2014 season.

They’re 8-7 this season despite being outscored by nine runs, and they’ve already managed a majors-best four walk-off wins, the latest being a bizarre 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

The game lived up to its billing as a great pitcher’s duel between aces Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners lost on a combination of mishaps, the first being the inability of Brad Miller to convert a potential forceout for the final out of the game. Miller entered the day with solid defensive numbers -- three defensive runs saved for the season.

The next was a wild pitch by closer Fernando Rodney, who has averaged a wild pitch about every 19 innings for his career. His wild pitch Wednesday allowed the tying run to score.

Leonys Martin then won the game with his third walk-off hit in the past eight months, a bloop single to left field that gave reliever Pedro Figueroa his first big league win.

The Rangers went from having two outs and nobody on, a situation in which their win probability was about 4 percent, to an unlikely victory.

The Rangers continue to win despite not hitting home runs. They entered the day with only seven, which ranked 14th in the American League, and did not add to that total on Wednesday.

For the Mariners, it was another in a long line of wasted starts by their starting pitchers.

Last season, they lost 12 games in which a starter went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer (the most in the majors since the 1986 Montreal Expos lost 13). It was their first such defeat in 2014.

Hernandez has now made 17 starts in the last five seasons in which he went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer. That’s the most in the majors in that span. Ex-Mariner Cliff Lee kept pace with his 13th on Wednesday for the Philadelphia Phillies, tying him with Jered Weaver for the second-most such starts.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
The Rangers are the first team with four walk-off wins by April 16 since the 2000 Kansas City Royals.

Masahiro Tanaka missing bats early

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
8:25
AM ET

Masahiro Tanaka kept the ball away from lefty hitters in his first two starts.
Today marks start no. 3 for Masahiro Tanaka, as he’ll face the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka completed seven innings in each of his first two Major League starts with a 1-0 record, a 3.21 ERA and a strikeout per nine rate north of 11.5. Let's take a look at just how good Tanaka has been:

Historical context
Tanaka struck out eight Blue Jays and recorded a win in his MLB debut. He followed that up with 10 strikeouts against the Orioles. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka's 18 strikeouts are the most for any pitcher in his first two starts with the Yankees.

If Tanaka strikes out eight or more Cubs Wednesday, he will join Stephen Strasburg as the only pitchers in the last 100 years to strike out eight or more batters in each of his first three Major League starts.

Tanaka faces the Cubs Wednesday, who rank 25th in strikeout percentage this season at 24.1 percent.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka is also going for the following:
- Most strikeouts in first three appearances as a Yankee (27 by Bob Turley in 1955)
- Most strikeouts in first three career appearances, with all three coming as a Yankee (25 by Al Leiter in 1987)
- Most strikeouts in first three career appearances in AL history (25 by Leiter in 1987 and Chris Archer in 2012)

Pitch type
Of his 198 pitches on the season, Tanaka has thrown 95 fastballs, 43 splitters, 42 sliders, 13 curveballs and five cutters. Hiroki Kuroda is the only qualified starter who has thrown a higher percentage of splitters than Tanaka's 21.7 percent. However, no one has missed more bats with the splitter than Tanaka (15).

Part of why Tanaka's splitter has been so successful early on is the velocity. With an average velocity of 87.1 miles per hour, Tanaka's splitter is 4.6 miles per hour slower than his fastball. That is the smallest difference among 12 starters who have thrown 10 or more splitters in 2014.

The fastball and splitter may look similar coming out of Tanaka's hand, but the difference in vertical drop between the two pitches has been extreme.

Tanaka's fastball is dropping at an average of 11.6 feet per second when it crosses the plate, right around the league average of 12.0 feet per second.

Tanaka's splitter averages a drop of 17.0 feet per second as it crosses the plate. His 5.4 feet per second difference in vertical break between fastball and splitter ranks second behind Tim Hudson.

Pitch location
In the image atop this article, the hot zone on the right comes from Tanaka keeping his splitter down for batters on both sides and his fastball down and away to lefties. The one near the upper left corner of the strike zone (from pitcher's perspective) is partially due to Tanaka leaving a few sliders up in the zone to righties.

Hitters have made Tanaka pay on the few pitches he has left up in the zone. Tanaka has only left two splitters up and Melky Cabrera hit one of those 400 feet for a home run. Tanaka left an 83 mph slider up to the Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop and that one landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium for a 407 foot home run.

The pitch sequence in Adam Jones’ second at-bat on April 9 represents the best we have seen from Tanaka in terms of location. Tanaka kept all seven pitches in the at-bat down or below the zone.

The first three pitches were all fastballs that went away, in and away. The heaters got Tanaka ahead in the count 1-2 and they were followed by a slider low and away, a splitter in the dirt and another slider low and away. Tanaka went back to the splitter in a 2-2 count and recorded the strikeout on a swing and miss from Jones.

Fielder finally gets ahold of one

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
12:45
AM ET
It took until the 14th game of the season for Prince Fielder to hit the kind of home run that Texas Rangers fans had been waiting for.
Prince Fielder
Cabrera
Fielder had not homered in his previous 30 games (including postseason) entering the day, but he had a 446-foot shot Tuesday in the Rangers' win over the Seattle Mariners.

It was the longest home run for Fielder since May 10, when he hit a 460-foot home run against Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians.

There had not been much positive to say about Fielder prior to this game. He entered the day ranked tied for last in the American League in Wins Above Replacement through the season’s first two weeks.

Historically, April has been a good month for Fielder. He hit .300 or better in April in each of the previous three seasons. But he's not headed that way to start 2014.

He hasn’t completely fixed things
Fielder had been in a funk since joining the Rangers. He entered this series with the Mariners with seven hits in 47 at bats. He’s now 3-for-7 in the past two games.

One of the issues attached to Fielder’s struggles were that he has been unable to get hits on pitches outside the strike zone.

In the previous three seasons, Fielder averaged 47 hits per season against pitches that were out of the zone. This season, he has managed only two such hits and the outs are piling up.

His two strikeouts swinging Tuesday gave him 17 outs against out-of-the-zone pitches this season. Typically, Fielder’s ratio of outs to hits on these pitches is 3-to-1. This season, it’s 17-to-2.

Better days to come
One potentially positive indicator for Fielder would be this: He’s 4-for-9 this season when he hits a ball that our hit classification system rates as “hard-hit.”

A typical major leaguer gets hits on 70 percent of his hard-hit balls. Fielder has been at about 65 percent the past couple of seasons, so 4-for-9 is a little below expectation.

Looking ahead
Fielder will face Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night in the day’s premier matchup (Yu Darvish will pitch for the Rangers).

Fielder is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts against Hernandez. But a lot of Rangers have had good days against Hernandez in the past.

Hernandez is 12-20 against the Rangers, by far his most losses versus any team (next-most: 13 versus Angels).

Against all odds: HR for Uggla, W for Avilan

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
11:54
PM ET
The reports of Dan Uggla’s baseball departure were perhaps a tad premature.

One of the kookiest games of the 2014 season had a goofy conclusion, with Uggla hitting a grand slam in the ninth inning against fill-in closer Jake Diekman to give the Atlanta Braves a 9-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Dan Uggla
Uggla
This is the same Uggla whom ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield was suggesting the Braves cut earlier in the afternoon, one who closed the 2013 season by going 13-for-his-last-120 and then opened 2014 with a slight upgrade to 8-for-41, giving him a .130 batting average over a 52-game stretch.

But Uggla has done this sort of thing against the Phillies before. Phillies fans remember well another go-ahead grand slam he hit -- this one a walk-off shot against Tom Gordon on June 11, 2008.

The odds were a little longer for this one against Diekmann. Uggla was 1-for-his-past-45 against left-handed pitching entering that at-bat.

The home run increased the Braves chances of winning by 51 percent (per historical data available at Fangraphs.com), making it the second-most-valuable home run of the season, trailing only Alexei Ramirez's walk-off home run on Sunday (a 71 percent increase).

What else made this such a weird game?

The one thing stranger than Uggla’s homer was the line for winning pitcher Luis Avilan, who allowed five earned runs in one inning, an eighth inning in which the Phillies got a clutch three-run home run from Domonic Brown (who hadn’t hit a homer against a lefty since Aug. 7, 2013).

Avilan was awarded the win. He became the first pitcher to be credited with a win despite allowing at least five earned runs while pitching an inning or fewer since Jack Knott of the 1934 St. Louis Browns against the Philadelphia Athletics.

Knott got the win because the official scorer didn’t have a choice -- Knott allowed five runs to the Athletics in the top of the ninth and was the last man on the mound when the inning ended. The Browns scored six in their half of the ninth to win.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Angels

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:24
PM ET
The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels face off in part two of an ESPN doubleheader Monday night (read about part one here). Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Oakland’s economical pitching
The Athletics are going with a very low-budget starting rotation this season as they’ve spent only $11.3 million on their five starters. Only the Marlins ($3.2 million) have spent less.

Scott Kazmir accounts for $9 million of the starting pitching budget. The next highest paid starter, Jesse Chavez ($775,000), starts Monday night.

Chavez, a 42nd-round pick in 2002, is now pitching for his seventh major league team, and he seems to have found a groove early this season.

In 13 innings pitched, Chavez has posted a 1.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts and only two walks (6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio). He has done most of the damage with his cutter.

Chavez has thrown his cutter on nearly 37 percent of his pitches, second only to Travis Wood (44 percent, min. 2 starts). Opponents have gone 4-for-24 (.174) against the pitch with eight strikeouts and no extra-base hits in 2014. The Angels have struggled against cutters so far this season, batting .160 against those pitches.

A more aggressive Mike Trout
Mike Trout mentioned this past offseason he wanted to be more aggressive early in the count. While the sample is small, so far he’s staying true to his word.

Trout has increased his swing percentage on the first pitch by 47 percent, which has led to him doubling his chase percentage against the first pitch as well.

Trout hasn’t put many of these balls in play (just 1-for-3), but falling behind early hasn’t been a detriment. Trout is batting .346 this season after falling behind in the count 0-1.

Josh Donaldson’s early slump
Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .222 through the first dozen games. The biggest difference for Donaldson is in his strikeout and walk totals. He’s struck out 15 times and walked only once this season, after 110 strikeouts and 76 walks in 2013.

An early issue for Donaldson has been the inside pitch. He’s 3-for-22 (.136) against pitches thrown to the inner third of the plate or off the inside corner this season, after hitting .330 against those pitches last season.

Hector Santiago’s fastball a concern
Hector Santiago pitches tonight for the Angels. He has posted a 7.71 ERA in his first two starts, both losses.

Opponents have posted a .346/.485/.577 slash line against Santiago’s fastball this season, which is compounded by Santiago throwing the pitch 74 percent of the time. Against Santiago’s other pitches opponents have hit .250 with a .500 OPS.
The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies kick off an ESPN doubleheader on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET with Ervin Santana pitching against Roberto Hernandez. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Santana coming off a gem
Santana threw eight scoreless innings against the New York Mets in his first game with the Braves, the third pitcher to do that since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966 (Greg Maddux in 1993 and Derek Lowe in 2009).

Santana was able to beat the Mets by pounding the strike zone. His first 20 pitches all went for strikes, and 74 percent of his pitches overall went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.

Santana may want to bring that rate down against the Phillies though. The Phillies are batting .312 on pitches in the strike zone this season, fifth best in the majors.

Justin Upton is red hot
Justin Upton has four home runs in his last four games after hitting one in his first at-bat on Sunday.

Upton has four straight games with multiple hits and multiple runs scored, matching the Braves modern-era record previously set by Bobby Thomson (1956), Javy Lopez (2003) and Andruw Jones (2003).

There isn’t much you can throw past Upton these days. He has a pair of home runs on fastballs and a pair on changeups in the last four days (one vs Jenrry Mejia and one against Gio Gonzalez). He’s also a combined 9 for 10 against those pitches in that stretch.

Hernandez’s changeup could prove a challenge for Upton. He had eight strikeouts with his changeup in his last start. Only nine other pitchers have eight strikeouts with a changeup on the season.

So is Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman has been as hot for the whole season as Upton has been the last four days. Freeman enters this game hitting .443 with four home runs. He has as many home runs as he does strikeouts and enters with a nine-game hitting streak.

The Phillies have been able to keep Freeman in the ballpark for the most part. He has only five home runs and a .388 slugging percentage for his career against them.

And lest we forget Chase Utley
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is hitting .500 after going 3 for 4 with the go-ahead home run on Sunday afternoon.

Utley’s 15-game hitting streak dating back to last season is the third-longest of his career. He had a 35-gamer in 2006 and a 19-gamer in 2007.

Utley has been hitting the ball hard consistently. Inside Edge, which tracks how often balls are hard-hit, has Utley leading the majors with a .325 hard-hit average (13 of 40 balls classified as hard-hit).

Upton finishes off a crushing weekend

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
8:51
PM ET

Justin Upton is averaging 422 feet on his home runs this season.
Atlanta Braves right fielder Justin Upton homered Sunday in his first at-bat for his fourth home run in his past four games.

Upton has four straight games with multiple hits and multiple runs scored, matching the Braves' modern-era record previously set by Bobby Thomson (1956), Javy Lopez (2003) and Andruw Jones (2003).

Upton’s surge has been reminiscent of how he fared in the opening month of last season, when he led all of baseball with 12 home runs.

His work was the biggest key in why the Braves swept the Nationals three straight games over the weekend. They’ve now won five of six from the Nationals this season.

How he’s hitting
There isn’t much you can throw past Upton these days. He has a pair of home runs on changeups in the last four days (one versus Jenrry Mejia and one against Gio Gonzalez on Sunday). Monday night will be a matchup of strength versus strength, as Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez had eight strikeouts with his changeup in his last start.

Trying to throw one by him may not work either. Upton also has six hits and two walks in his past 10 plate appearances ending with fastballs.


How do you get Upton out?
Upton's strength is hitting the pitch in the lower half of the strike zone. He's 15-for-34 with two homers against pitches in that area this season.

Upton is 2-for-10 with six strikeouts and a 45 percent miss rate (percentage of swings missed) on pitches in the upper half of the strike zone or above, in line with the .200 batting average he posted on those pitches last season.

The one risk in pitching Upton up there is that he does have power against those pitches. Since the start of last season, he's averaged a homer every 37.5 swings against them, compared to one every 47.5 swings against lower-half pitches.

Kernels: Fun times on Friday

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
3:42
PM ET
Several times a season, a day comes along that has so much stuff packed into it, we don't need to look at the rest of the week. Consider that all of the following happened in seven hours on Friday:

Welington Castillo hit a three-run homer in the 11th to lead the Chicago Cubs to victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Cubs' second extra-inning homer this season (Anthony Rizzo, April 2), matching their recent average for an entire year (eight in the previous four seasons). Trevor Rosenthal, who allowed the one on Friday, also gave up a walk-off to Rizzo in 2012, and is the only active pitcher to allow two extra-inning homers to the Cubs.

Madison Bumgarner hit a sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning to put the San Francisco Giants on the board, then a grand slam in the 4th to take the lead for good over the Colorado Rockies. Giants pitchers have hit only two slams since the franchise moved to California (Shawn Estes, 2000), and it was the first home run by any Giants pitcher since Bumgarner hit one at Coors Field in 2012.

It was the first pitcher grand slam to turn a deficit into a lead since Chris Hammond of the Marlins hit one in a 1995 game against the Houston Astros.

Bumgarner's five RBIs were the most for any pitcher since Chris Carpenter had a three-run homer and a double for the Cardinals on October 1, 2009. Other than Estes (who also had five when he hit his slam), the last Giants pitcher to do it was Dave Koslo who homered twice against the Phillies on July 7, 1949.

Yu Darvish retired the first 15 Astros batters before Matt Dominguez singled to start the 6th. That would be the only hit Darvish allowed, but because his Texas Rangers also failed to score, he did not pick up a win. The longest 0-0 tie in the history of the Rangers' stadium was finally broken by Robinson Chirinos' walk-off single in the 12th.

Matt Harvey was the only starter last year to throw eight or more innings of one-hit ball without winning. Only one other pitcher in Rangers history had done it while also recording nine strikeouts: Pete Richert in 1965. Chirinos' hit was the team's first 1-0 walk-off since Rusty Greer singled home Mike Lamb on August 25, 2000.

The Toronto Blue Jays had just three singles, but turned two Baltimore Orioles errors into a pair of fourth-inning runs and won 2-0. It was the first time in franchise history that they'd won a road game on three or fewer total bases (they've done it six times at home). The Orioles were also the first team this year to lose a game allowing zero earned runs, something they've done just three other times in the past 20 seasons.

Grant Balfour relieved Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price. He issued three walks, threw a wild pitch, and still got a save, becoming the first pitcher to do that since... Grant Balfour, last season with Oakland. There have only been 38 saves since 1969 to include that line, and Friday's was the first for the franchise. Balfour is the only pitcher with two of the 38.

Andrew Cashner of the San Diego Padres threw the season's first complete game, a one-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers which featured 11 strikeouts. It was the 20th complete-game one-hitter for the only remaining team to never throw a no-hitter, and their first with double-digit strikeouts since Kevin Brown in 1998.

Naturally the night couldn't end without the season's first "plunk-off"-- a game-ending hit-by-pitch with bases loaded. New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia hit Hank Conger for a 5-4 Los Angeles Angels win. It happens, on average, slightly more than once a year (24 in the last 20 seasons, though none in 2013), but Friday's was just the fifth in the Angels' 54-season history. They hadn't seen one since the Pirates' Brad Havens hit Wally Joyner (scoring Claudell Washington) on July 23, 1989.

Top stats to know: Red Sox at Yankees

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
1:35
PM ET
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox conclude their four-game series tonight on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN).

The Yankees took two of the first three games and are looking to win a series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the final weekend of the 2012 season.

Here are some key storylines heading into the game:

Panic time, Red Sox Nation?
This is the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Red Sox have had a losing record through 12 games. In each of those previous three years -- 2010, 2011, 2012 -- the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs.

The bad news: The last time the Red Sox made the playoffs after having a losing record through 12 games was 1915.

The good news: The Red Sox won the World Series in 1915.

Boston has had a difficult time replicating Jacoby Ellsbury’s production at the top of the lineup, ranking among the worst teams in both batting average and OPS by leadoff batters this season.

Another problem for the Red Sox this season has been hitting in the clutch. Boston ranks 26th in the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position, including a 2-for-21 performance in the first three games of this series.

Bronx Bombers are back
The Yankees took full advantage of the jet stream in right field at Yankee Stadium during Saturday’s 7-4 win, hitting five home runs, four of which were to either right-center or right field.

Lack of power was an issue for the Yankees to start the season, as they went homerless in their first five games and had only seven homers in their first 11 games combined before Saturday's barrage.

Alfonso Soriano is tied for the team lead with three homers, as he continues to give the Yankees their money’s worth since he rejoined the team last summer. Soriano’s 20 homers since his first game in pinstripes on July 26 lead all major league players, and his 54 RBIs in that span are second to Mark Trumbo.

The shift is on
The Yankees have made a significant change in their defensive philosophy this season, using more infield shifts than ever before.

Only one team is shifting more often than the Yankees this season, and with 79 shifts already, they are on pace to more than double their 475 shifts from last season.

The Red Sox have been more conservative with their shifting in the early going, with only 26 shifts in 12 games, and if they continue at this pace, they would finish with about 25 percent fewer defensive shifts than last season.

Nova, Doubront struggling
Both Ivan Nova and Felix Doubront are looking to bounce back from poor outings their last time out. The two pitchers combined to give up 12 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings in their most recent starts on April 8.

Both pitchers had issues limiting the damage in those games, as the Rangers were 4-for-7 with men on base against Doubront while the Orioles went 7-for-9 in those situations against Nova.

Yankees newcomers spark win vs Red Sox

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
11:12
PM ET
What a difference a year makes in the Bronx.

Last year at this time, Michael Pineda was recovering from shoulder surgery, Brian McCann was behind the plate for the Atlanta Braves, Dean Anna was playing shortstop for the Tucson Padres of the Pacific Coast League, and Jacoby Ellsbury was in centerfield for the Boston Red Sox.

On Thursday night those four were wearing pinstripes and contributing to a 4-1 New York Yankees win over the Red Sox.

Pineda threw six innings of one-run ball to earn his first major-league victory since July 30, 2011, and now has given up just two runs over 12 innings in his first two starts with the Yankees.

He is the first pitcher to go at least six innings and allow one run or fewer in each of his first two appearances for the Yankees since Kevin Brown did that in his first three Yankee games in 2004.

Pineda flashed his filthy slider, throwing it 23 times and allowing just one hit off the pitch, a Xander Bogaerts single leading off the fifth inning. Batters are now 2 for 15 in at-bats ending in a slider from Pineda this season, and seven of his 12 strikeouts have come via his slider.

McCann got the Yankees on the scoreboard first with an RBI single in the fourth inning, which snapped a personal 0 for 14 slump that dated back to the series in Toronto. It was a milestone hit for him, his first one at Yankee Stadium in a Yankees uniform.

Anna, playing in just his fourth major-league game, gave the Yankees an insurance run in the fifth inning with his first career big league homer. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Anna is the first Yankee to hit his first career homer against the Red Sox since Andy Phillips on Sept. 26, 2004.

Ellsbury capped off the scoring for the home team with a fifth-inning RBI single, scoring Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead against his former team. Ellsbury is now 13 for 30 (.433) in his last seven games after going hitless in the first three games of the season.

And that four-run lead was enough for the Yankees, who are now 5-0 this season when leading after six innings, tied for the best such record in the majors.

Freeman has a Chipper-esque quality

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
11:31
PM ET
The New York Mets had two issues in their 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday. They could not solve Ervin Santana as Dave Schoenfield notes in the Sweet Spot blog and they could not get either Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman out.

The Heyward thing has not been too bad of an issue in the past (he’s hitting .226 against the Mets over the last three seasons, though he’s made a couple of nifty catches on the defensive side). He snapped an 0 for 22 streak with a 3 for 4 night, including a leadoff home run in an 11-pitch at-bat.

Freddie Freeman
Freeman
Freeman has turned into the Chipper Jones of this millennium. In fact, Freeman has the same batting average against the Mets (.309) that Jones finished his career with.

Freeman’s two RBIs on Wednesday gave him 37 in 38 games against the Mets over the last three seasons. That’s by far the most in the majors over that span. Next-closest is Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche with 25. Freeman’s slashline against the Mets is .324/.384/.614, good for a .999 OPS.

Facing lefties and righties have made no difference to him. He’s hitting .333 (16 for 48) against lefties and .320 (with eight home runs in 100 at-bats) against righties. He’s 15 for 32 (.469 batting average) over that time with runners in scoring position. He’s become an early nemesis to Zack Wheeler, going 5 for 9 with a home run against him.

What’s the best means by which the Mets can get him out?

The problem is, there isn’t really a good answer to that. Freeman is hitting .324 over the last two seasons, .300 against left-handed pitching. The Mets who have had the most success against Freeman of late – Bobby Parnell (against whom Freeman is 0 for 5 with four strikeouts) and Tim Byrdak (1 for 10, four strikeouts) are injured or unsigned.

Freeman is 1 for 8 against current Met Carlos Torres, including 1 for 7 last season. Torres has got Freeman out by working the edges of the plate. Twenty two of his 23 pitches to Freeman over the last two seasons have been on either the inside or outside third of the plate, or off the respective corners.

But that requires a precision that Mets pitchers just did not have on Wednesday night.

Top stats to know: MLB replay

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
1:05
PM ET

AP Photo/Rick ScuteriA.J. Pollock was called safe on this play at the plate, despite replays showing he was out. The Giants were out of challenges.
Major League Baseball expanded its replay system for this season, and it has already had a big impact on games.

One of the more memorable ones so far took place in Arizona. The San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks were tied in the fourth inning when Arizona scored on a passed ball. Replays showed the runner was clearly out.

However, the Giants lost a previous challenge and as a result were unable to ask for another review. Umpires could not initiate the review, as that is not permitted until the seventh inning.

The Giants went on to lose 5-4.

More than a week into the debut of MLB’s new replay system, there have been challenges, replays and calls upheld or overturned. Here is where things stand according to Stats and Information’s numbers:

Where things stand
Through Tuesday, there have been 52 total replays and 20 calls have been overturned.

There have been 41 manager challenges, of which 19 have been won.

Leaders
The Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers have challenged the most. Each team has challenged four times, including one each on Tuesday.

No other team has used more than two. Seven teams have not used any challenges so far.

The umps
Bob Davidson and Dana DeMuth have been reviewed the most (three each).

Umpire Chris Conroy has had a rough first week – he is the only umpire to have two calls overturned. Both of those occurred in the same game.

Types of plays
Of the 52 total replays, half have taken place on force plays, 19 of which were at first base.

Eight of those 19 have been overturned. Twelve have been tag plays, and half of those on a steal attempt at second.

The rates
Through Tuesday there were 115 MLB games played so far this season, resulting in just shy of half a review per game.

Last season umpires could only review homers and that occurred 97 times. Under those rules, there would have only been four replays by now – three would have been upheld and the other would’ve been changed from a catch to a single.
Tags:

MLB, mlb

Braun gets back to hitting HR

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
9:27
PM ET

Ryan Braun's three-homer game was the second of his career.
Ryan Braun was due.

Braun entered Tuesday with only three hits in 20 at-bats all season and three home runs in his last 181 at-bats overall. He had only one hit on a pitch in the strike zone in the season’s first five games.

Braun became the first player to hit three homers in a game this season. He’s the fifth player in Brewers history to hit three home runs in a game more than once, joining Ben Oglivie (three times), Richie Sexson, Geoff Jenkins and Jeromy Burnitz (twice each).

He’s the first player to hit three in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies since Jason Giambi of the Colorado Rockies in 2011. The four players to hit three and drive in seven in a game against the Phillies in Philadelphia are Johnny Bench, Mark McGwire, Giambi and Braun

Braun is the seventh Brewers player to have a seven-RBI game, along with Sexson, Corey Hart, Jose Hernandez, Ted Kubiak, Damian Miller, and Jonathan Lucroy, who has two.

He’s the first player to hit three home runs in a game after serving a suspension for violating baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Belt living up to his name with power

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
9:21
PM ET

Brandon Belt is crushing inside pitches.
In the first week of the season, it looks like Brandon Belt has made the adjustment necessary to be an elite player.

Belt hit his fifth homer in eight games to lift the San Francisco Giants to a win in their home opener on Tuesday. The Giants have now won six straight home openers, tied for their longest streak in franchise history.

Belt became the first player to hit five home runs in the Giants' first eight team games since Jose Cruz Jr. in 2003.
The home runs share a common bond. Four of them have come on inside pitches (pitches on the inner-third of the plate or closer to the hitter). Over the previous two seasons, Belt totaled only four home runs on those pitches.

Belt also showed himself not to be intimidated by AT&T Park, a venue in which he hit only six of his 17 home runs last season.

Belt closed 2013 strong, hitting .326 with seven home runs in 61 games after the All-Star Break.

His 2013 slashline (.289/.360/.481) was a near-mirror for another player in the ballpark on Tuesday-- Paul Goldschmidt’s-- numbers in 2012 (.286/.359/490). Goldschmidt has been someone who has crushed inside pitches over the course of his career. Belt can now say he does as well.

Hamilton back in the groove for now

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
11:16
PM ET

The results look good a week into the season for Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton getting pitched outside has been a fact of baseball life the last couple of seasons. No hitter gets pitched that way quite like Hamilton does.

But at least in the first week of the season, Hamilton is doing something about it.

The sample is really small, but as the image above shows, Hamilton is succeeding where he’s failed in the past. He’s 8 for 16 in at-bats that end with an outside pitch, including 1 for 2 with three walks in the Angels’ win over the Houston Astros last night. That came on the day he was named co-AL Player of the Week.

The last couple of seasons, Hamilton had a propensity to chase the outside pitch. He swung at nearly 40 percent of pitches off the outer third of the plate that were out of the strike zone in 2012 and 2013. He's done so less than one-fourth of the time through seven games in 2014.

Hamilton has also been more willing to hit the ball on the ground rather than lift it. His ground-ball rate the last two seasons was 38 percent. It's 61 percent so far in 2014.

The results have put Hamilton in good company. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the last Angels player prior to Hamilton with a .500 batting average after the team's first seven games of a season (minimum 20 at-bats) was Garret Anderson in 2003 (15-28, .536).

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