Stats & Info: MLB

Is this the end for Ryan Howard?

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
2:20
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AP Photo/Alex BrandonRyan Howard has struggled to find a consistent role in the Phillies' starting lineup.
Last week Ryan Howard sat four games in a six-game stretch, including three in a row. Two of those three straight were against left-handed starting pitchers, but Thursday he sat against Tim Hudson, the pitcher he’s faced the most in his career. Howard holds a .328 career BA (22-67) with 7 HR and a 1.112 OPS against Hudson.

Howard is having the worst full season of his career including a career-low .380 slugging percentage. He turns 36-years-old in November, he’s still owed $60 million after this season and he can block trades to 21 teams.

Could this be the end of the line for the former National League MVP?

Howard Can't Hit Righties
The biggest reason behind Howard’s disappointing season is his performance against right-handed pitchers, which has always been better than his performance against lefties.

In 2009, Howard hit .320 and slugged .693 against righties. This season he's hitting .221 and slugging .356 against them.

In 2011, his last full season, he hit 30 HR in 387 AB against righties. In the past 3 seasons combined, he's hit 26 HR in 656 AB against righties.

He Can't Handle Fastballs
The book on Howard used to be a steady diet of offspeed pitches that he would chase, especially if he was behind in the count.

In 2011, Howard saw 41% fastballs, the lowest figure of any qualified hitter in baseball. But after he tore his Achilles in that year’s playoffs, pitchers haven’t been afraid to throw him heaters or pitches in the strike zone anymore.


From 2009-2011 Howard ranked 11th in MLB in slugging percentage against fastballs and 10th against pitches in the strike zone. From 2012 on he ranks 130th in slugging percentage against fastballs and 110th against pitches in the strike zone.

He’s not even punishing the slower fastballs that he used to crush. In 2010, he slugged .851 and only missed 16% of his swings against fastballs from righties that were 91 MPH or slower. This season, he’s slugging .405 and missing 22% of his swings against those fastballs.

No Power at a Power Position
Howard is giving the Phillies almost nothing at a power position. The list of first basemen with similar slugging percentages this season have never been in Howard’s class as a slugger. He currently ranks 22nd in slugging percentage among 25 players with 100 plate appearances at first base.

He’s had plenty of opportunities to produce, tied with Albert Pujols and Casey McGehee for the MLB lead at 234 plate appearances with runners on base, but his .255 batting average with runners on has him in a tie for 107th in MLB this season.

Top stats to know: Rangers beat Yankees

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
1:07
AM ET

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsYu Darvish was able to hold the Yankees offense to 2 solo homers by Brett Gardner in a win Monday.
The Texas Rangers were able to overcome a two-run deficit by scoring four runs in the fifth inning to beat the New York Yankees. Here are the top stats you need to know about Monday’s game.

Gardner owns Darvish
Rangers’ starter Yu Darvish was able to withstand a big game from Brett Gardner, who launched two home runs off of him. After picking up three hits in four plate appearances Monday, Gardner is now 5-11 in his career against Darvish in 12 plate appearances. Four of those five hits are home runs.

Gardner’s four home runs are tied for the most that Darvish has given up to any player in his career. The others to take the Rangers ace deep that many times are Mike Trout and Brandon Moss.

Darvish limits the damage
Darvish improved to 3-1 in his career against the Bronx Bombers. In 31 1/3 innings against Darvish, the Yankees have lived up to that nickname by hitting six home runs. Unfortunately for New York, all six of those home runs have been solo shots.

Monday, Darvish threw a strike on 74 percent of his pitches, the highest strike rate of his career. He also locked in when there were men on. With the bases empty, the Yankees were 7-17 (.412 BA) against him. With men on, Darvish held the Yankees to two singles in 12 plate appearances.

Jeter passes Yaz
Derek Jeter also had a big game, going 3-4 to give himself 3,420 career hits. That allowed him to pass Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski for seventh-most all-time in MLB history. Next up, and likely the only other player Jeter will pass on the list, is Honus Wagner who currently has 10 more hits than Jeter.

Did you know?
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Dennis Martinez and Mike Morgan are the only two pitchers to allow a hit to both Derek Jeter and Carl Yastrzemski in their careers.

Martinez is the only one to allow a homer to both.

Top stats to know: Blue Jays at Red Sox

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
12:35
PM ET

Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesKnuckleballer R.A. Dickey looks to improve to 3-0 this year vs. the Red Sox.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox open a three-game series tonight at Fenway Park (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). The Blue Jays have won seven of the 10 matchups so far this season, including three of four last week in Toronto.

After beating the St. Louis Cardinals on June 6, the Blue Jays led the AL East by six games over the second-place New York Yankees and by 6½ games over the third-place Baltimore Orioles.

However, since June 7, the Blue Jays are 18-26 -- the third-worst record in the American League in that span -- and are now three games behind the Orioles for first place in the division.

Toronto hasn’t been to the playoffs since it won the World Series in 1993. Only the Kansas City Royals have gone longer without a postseason appearance.

One player who can help the Blue Jays break their postseason drought is José Bautista. In 2010, Bautista had a breakout year, hitting a major league-best 54 home runs.

Since the start of that year, Bautista’s 172 home runs are tied with Miguel Cabrera for the most in baseball.

Another player who has been a key cog in the Blue Jays' success is José Reyes, who has been aggressive this season, swinging at 47 percent of the pitches he sees. That’s his highest swing rate in the past six seasons.

Reyes is a tough batter to put away, even in an 0-2 count. From the start of the 2012 season on his .302 batting average in such a count over that time span is the highest in MLB.

As for the defending world champion Red Sox, they are in last place in the AL East. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1998 Florida Marlins are the only team to finish last in the division or the league the year after winning the World Series.

Boston also finished last in the AL East in 2012. No team has ever finished in last place one year, won the World Series the next year, and then finished last the next year.

Dustin Pedroia has been struggling for the Red Sox; his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage are all at career-worst levels.

Meanwhile, teams have used an infield shift on more than 8,800 balls in play this season, already more than all of last season (8,134), and David Ortiz has seen his fair share of shifts. The shift has certainly had an effect on him this season.

•  He’s hitting .157 on ground balls and soft line drives against the shift this season.
•  He’s hitting .333 on similar batted balls when there is no shift.
•  Only three hitters (minimum 125 PAs against the shift) have a larger difference in batting average on grounders and soft liners without the shift vs. against the shift.
•  His BABIP is .241 this season (his BABIP was .318 overall the previous four seasons).

Pitching Notes
• R.A. Dickey went 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA against the Red Sox last season. This year, he’s 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA.

•  Dustin Pedroia is hitting .167 (3-for-18) in his career against Dickey, including 1-for-his-past-12.

•  Clay Buchholz has allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his past 10 starts. Of course, in the middle of that, he threw a three-hit shutout against the Houston Astros with 12 strikeouts and no walks.

Santana continues home-run tear

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
10:28
PM ET
video Carlos Santana capped off a huge series against the Kansas City Royals with his biggest game yet. He reached base all five times he came to the plate Sunday, hitting two home runs and driving in four in the Cleveland Indians’ 10-3 victory.

Huge series
In the four-game series in Kansas City, Santana was 9-for-14 (.643) with five home runs and eight RBI. He reached base safely 15 times over the four games.

Santana is the first player in baseball this season to homer five times in a series and only the sixth player in Indians history to do it. He also homered on Tuesday, giving him six homers in his pyyast six games. That’s more home runs than 20 teams over that span.

Four of Santana’s five homers in the series came against fastballs, including two on Sunday from Yordano Ventura at 97 and 100 mph.

Santana has four home runs this season on fastballs of 95 mph or faster, tied with Josh Donaldson for most in MLB. He has eight such homers over the last two seasons, two more than anyone else.

Turning his season around
After hitting only .159 with a .628 OPS over the first two months this season, Santana has turned his season around. His performance against fastballs has been a big reason why.

Santana is hitting a MLB-best .422 against fastballs (2/4-seam) since the start of June. He hit only .189 against those pitches over the first two months of the season.

Looking ahead
Despite Santana’s performance against the Royals, the Indians took just one of four games against Kansas City and have lost six of their past eight games overall.

Cleveland is 6.5 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central and 3.5 games back in the wild-card race. According to numberFire.com, the Indians have a 17-percent chance to make the playoffs this season.

But is Cleveland’s best baseball ahead? Last season, the Indians were 4.5 games back in the wild-card entering September and finished the season 21-6 to grab the first of two AL wild-card spots.

Kernels: A call to arms

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
3:48
PM ET
To celebrate the induction of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux into baseball's Hall of Fame, our look at the interesting and unusual focuses on some quirky stats by pitchers this week. (Hint: Not all of them involve pitching.)

• The Toronto Blue Jays surrendered 14 runs to the Boston Red Sox on Monday. Starter Drew Hutchison gave up six before leaving in the third inning. Brad Mills didn't fare any better, allowing eight more. He's the first Jays reliever to allow eight runs since Lance Painter took one for the team in a 23-1 beatdown by the Baltimore Orioles in 2000.

Together Hutchison and Mills are the first pair of Toronto pitchers to each allow six runs in three innings or less since Luke Prokopec and Felix Heredia did it in a 16-3 loss to the New York Yankees on April 8, 2002.

• Speaking of the Yankees, Shane Greene had a forgettable outing on Monday as well, but not so much because of his pitching. The Yankees committed five errors (their most since July 2007), with Greene being three of those. Jacob Turner of the Marlins (2013) is the only other pitcher in the last nine seasons with three errors, and Greene is the first Yankee to do it since Tommy John made three on one play, 26 years ago today. On July 27, 1988, John bobbled a tapper back to the mound, threw into right field trying to recover for the out at first, and then airmailed the relay to the plate when the throw from right came back in.

• Atlanta Braves starter Julio Teheran pitched seven innings Monday, allowing one run and striking out 11. He got a no-decision because his offense only scored one run as well. He's the fourth Braves pitcher this season to strike out 11+, allow one run, and not win. Three of those performances have been against the Marlins. Prior to this year, the Braves had just four such starts in the last 18 seasons combined. The only other team in the live-ball era with four of those in a season was last year's Detroit Tigers.

• Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, never one to adhere to tradition, batted pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb eighth in their interleague series in St. Louis this week. Since interleague play began in 1997, only seven times has an AL starting pitcher batted somewhere other than ninth, and five of those are Rays.

Cobb then got hit by a pitch in Wednesday's game. If you assumed that the last AL pitcher to get plunked while not in the 9-hole goes back to before the DH, you'd be right. But it's a lot further back. It last happened on July 16, 1920, when Sad Sam Jones of the Red Sox pinch-ran in the 9th against Detroit (scoring the tying run), then pitched the top of
the 10th before coming up again in B10 and getting hit by George "Hooks" Dauss.

• Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish technically gets credit for a complete game in Wednesday's rain-shortened affair despite recording only 13 outs. It's the shortest CG for any team since Steve Trachsel pitched four innings in the New York Mets' 4˝-inning loss to the Phillies on May 11, 2006. Overall Darvish recorded just the 10th CG of 13 outs or less in the past 70 years.

• Zack Greinke struck out four San Francisco Giants in the third inning Friday, thanks to a wild pitch which allowed Hunter Pence to reach. He's the first pitcher this year with the unusual 4-K inning, and the first Dodger since Brad Penny did it against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 23, 2006.

• Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians had another impressive outing when he threw nine innings against the Kansas City Royals. He allowed two hits, no walks, struck out 10, and the one run that scored was unearned. He didn't win. He was even on the hook for the loss until the top of the 9th when Greg Holland blew the save and forced B9 (which Kluber also threw). The Royals eventually walked off in the 14th (more at right).
Corey Kluber
Kluber


The last Cleveland pitcher to work 9+ innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts, without winning, was Bert Blyleven, who gave up five runs in a complete-game loss on July 13, 1985. That game was also against Kansas City (who won their only World Series that year).

Double and Nothing

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
1:34
AM ET

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
David Price beat the Red Sox with his MLB-leading fourth 10-strikeout, no-walk game of the season, collectively pushing 2014 one step closer to history


One throws from the left, one from the right and just a few days ago it appeared that there was a chance that they could be teammates in Seattle. On Friday night David Price and Félix Hernández showed why they’re the hottest pitchers in the American League.

Pitching at home against the Red Sox, Price allowed three earned runs in eight innings to earn his 11th victory of the season, extending the Rays season-high winning streak to 8 games. He also struck out 10 batters while walking none. That gave Price four double-digit-strikeout, 0-walk games this season, breaking a tie with Chicago’s Chris Sale for the most in the majors.

Just a couple of hours later, Sale would find himself tied again, this time by Felix Hernandez who went seven innings against the Orioles, striking out 10 while walking none in a no-decision against the Orioles. Hernández did emerge with a share of an all-time record, tying Tom Seaver for the major league mark for most consecutive starts of at least seven innings pitched and two earned runs allowed or fewer.)

Price, Hernández and Sale are three of the seven pitchers (with Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Zach Greinke and Corey Kluber) who have multiple games with 10 strikeouts and no walks this season. They’re all part of the 29 individuals who have done it a total of 40 times in 2014. If that seems like a lot, it is.

Looking back to 1900, there have only been two years in which there were more individual outings with double-digit strikeouts and no walks than we’ve had with six full days remaining in July. That’s ENTIRE seasons. And those came the past two years.

The standard was set way back in 2013 when 31 individuals went to the hill 45 times to rack up 10-K’s and no walks. Cliff Lee and Matt Harvey led the way with four apiece (Harvey’s came in just 26 games due to his season being cut short by Tommy John surgery) while Yu Darvish had three. That broke the old mark of 43 such games set in 2012 when nobody had as many as four.

Now we stand at 40 and there's a lot of baseball yet to be played. History will be made. By how much the old record will be shattered is the only question.

Kluber dominant in no-decision

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
1:25
AM ET

Ed Zurga/Getty Images Corey Kluber took a perfect game into the seventh against the Royals but left with a no-decision.

Corey Kluber had a perfect game bid of 6 ⅓ innings Thursday, the longest of his career, eclipsing his previous career-long of 4 ⅓ innings which he set on May 14 of this season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Indians player to take a perfect game into the seventh inning since Charles Nagy in 1991, and the first Indian to take one 6 ⅓ innings since Len Barker threw a perfect game on May 15, 1981.

The Barker perfect game is the last no-hitter thrown by the Indians, a drought of over 33 years. The only team with a longer active drought is the Padres, who have yet to throw a no-hitter in their 45-year history.

Kluber has enjoyed facing Kansas City this season, he has a 2-1 record with a 1.15 ERA and 0.57 WHIP in four starts against the Royals. In three of those games, including Thursday,
Kluber struck out 10 or more batters. He is the only pitcher this season with a double-digit strikeout game against the Royals, who entered the day with a 15.6 strikeout rate, by far the lowest in the major leagues.

All of Kluber’s pitches were working on Thursday, but he had the most success with his breaking pitches. Royals hitters were 0 for 16 in at-bats ending with his breaking balls, including eight of his 10 strikeouts.

He also kept the ball away from Royals hitters, throwing 57 of his 107 pitches to the outer third or farther away. The Royals were 0 for 14 in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.

Kluber’s night ended after nine innings, allowing no earned runs, striking out 10 and walking none, making him just the fourth pitcher in the last 20 seasons to reach all of those marks in a no-decision. He is the first Indians pitcher since Pedro Ramos in 1963 to get a no-decision while pitching nine innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

The unearned run allowed by Kluber came on a defensive misplay by left fielder Ryan Raburn in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Indians entered Thursday with -58 Defensive Runs Saved, 16 fewer than any other team in baseball.

Pence gets exactly the pitch he needed

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
12:41
AM ET
Wednesday on ESPN.com, writers discussed the importance of Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval to the San Francisco Giants’ playoff chances. But let’s not forget their wins above replacement leader, Hunter Pence.


Pence’s bloop three-run double against Jonathan Papelbon gave the Giants a lead and an eventual 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Papelbon has now pitched twice against the Giants in the past two days and allowed four earned runs. He has allowed only five runs in 38 1/3 innings against every other team in the majors combined.

Pence’s hit made him 3-for-4 in his career against the Phillies closer and gave him an NL-best 125 hits this season. He’s also now 10-for-25 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Inside the at-bat
Pence survived a close call on a 2-2 slider that was just below the bottom of the strike zone, than fouled off another pitch before hitting a 93-mph tailing fastball near the inside corner into a vacant spot down the right-field line.

That was probably the last place in which Papelbon wanted to attack Pence with two strikes.

Pence has 16 hits, second-most in the majors, and made only 17 outs on pitches that fit the following criteria:
    - 93 mph or faster
    - on the inner third of the plate
    - from a right-handed pitcher


Both Pence’s double and Posey’s game-tying home run on Tuesday came against that type of pitch from Papelbon.

Pence’s 2014
Pence has lived up to the big contract he signed with the Giants last season (five years, $90 million), hitting .304 with 13 home runs and an .840 OPS in 2014. He leads the NL in runs scored and is someone who is thriving at a time when offensive numbers are declining.

Pence’s basic skills (strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate) are almost identical to what they were last season, but the results have actually been a little bit better, thanks to a .300 batting average when he hits a ground ball (last season, he hit .263).

Pence currently ranks fifth among those whose primary position is right field with 3.3 wins above replacement (his defense rates a hair below average). Last season, he ranked as the ninth-best right fielder, with 3.9 WAR.

Stat of the night (amazing but true)
The last time a Giants player got a hit to break a scoreless tie in the ninth inning or later in Philadelphia was May 15, 1989, when Will Clark hit a go-ahead home run against Steve Bedrosian in the 12th inning.

Amazingly, the Giants lost that game on a three-run, inside-the-park home run by Bob Dernier in the bottom half of that inning.

However, they would go on to win the National League pennant.

Top stats to know: Giants at Phillies

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
12:25
PM ET

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Madison Bumgarner will take his sparkling road record to the hill tonight against the Phillies.
Tonight, Wednesday Night Baseball features the San Francisco Giants hitting the road to take on the Philadelphia Phillies (7 PM, ESPN and WatchESPN).

The Giants enter tonight’s game with a one-game lead in the NL West over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the lead stood at nine-and-a-half after games on June 8. Since then, the Giants have been nine games under .500, while the Dodgers have put up a 23-15 mark.

Part of the Giants recent struggles have come at the plate, as they’ve been shut out in six of their last 25 games, and held to two runs or fewer in 13 of those contests.

It’s part of an offensive decline that’s been in effect for the Giants since winning the 2012 World Series. Their batting average and on-base percentage have each dropped in each season since, leaving them ranked 22nd in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage this season entering Wednesday’s games.

Luckily for the Giants, they’ll send Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight to face the lefty-heavy Phillies lineup. This season, no left-handed starter has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Bumgarner, who has 40 strikeouts against just three walks. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown are among the Phillies regulars who are left-handed.

Bumgarner has also been much better at home than on the road, going 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA on the road, compared to just a 4-5 mark with an ERA of 5.22 in his home park.

He’ll also be facing a Phillies lineup that is having one of the worst seasons in recent franchise history. A team that once leaned on its offense is now batting .238 with a .300 on-base percentage, which would be the worst marks for a Phillies team since the early 1970s. And this season, only the San Diego Padres have a lower slugging percentage.

Who has struggled for the Phillies? Nearly all of their sluggers have tailed off:

• Ryan Howard: .377 slugging percentage would be the lowest mark of his career (previous lowest is .423).
• Domonic Brown: .606 OPS is sixth-worst in the majors among qualified players. -1.6 Wins Above Replacement is second-worst in majors among qualifiers.
• Chase Utley: 47.25 at-bats per home run is more than double his career average of 23.5.

The Phillies find themselves in last place, four games back of the Miami Marlins for fourth in the NL East. The Phillies haven’t finished last place in their division since 2000. That 13-year streak since finishing in last place in the division is the eighth-longest in all of the majors.

Yankees look to Headley at the hot corner

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
8:03
PM ET

Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesChase Headley looks to provide some help for the Yankees at third base.
The Yankees acquired Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula.

Headley, who missed 14 games with a calf injury earlier this season, is having a down year offensively. Among 163 qualified hitters, his .229 batting average ranks 147th and his .651 OPS ranks 145th. These are a far cry from his career year in 2012, when he hit .286 with an .875 OPS and an NL-leading 115 RBIs.

However, his power numbers could see some improvement as he transitions from a pitcher-friendly Petco Park to a hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. At Petco, 9 percent of fly balls turn into home runs, whereas at Yankee Stadium that figure is 13.2 percent (major league average is 10.3 percent).

Yankees third basemen have been serviceable for the season, matching the major league average with a .260 batting average and a .723 OPS. However, this might be misleading, as the majority of the Yankees’ contributions at the hot corner came at the beginning of the season, particularly from Solarte.

Solarte hit .303 with a .404 on-base percentage in April, and as late as May 14 led the AL in batting average at .336. However he hit .164 in June and is 2-for-17 (.118 batting average) so far in July. Since June 1, Solarte has just three extra-base hits, with no homers and five RBIs.

Overall since June 1, Yankees third basemen are last in MLB with seven extra-base hits and 12 RBIs and second-to-last with a .302 slugging percentage. Headley is hitting .259 over that span with three home runs and 14 RBIs, including .323 in July.

Headley can also help the Yankees improve on the defensive side of the ball. Headley's seven defensive runs saved are tied for third in the majors at his position. Yankees third basemen have combined for minus-1 defensive runs saved, which ranks in the bottom half of the league at the hot corner.

Gonzalez a winner the past two nights

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
12:13
AM ET
The Los Angeles Dodgers need to be careful over the next couple of weeks, because the schedule favors their division rivals.

If the San Francisco Giants are going to make a move in the NL West, it may come in the next month. Over the next 30 days, only nine of their 27 games are against teams currently over .500. In that same span, the Dodgers play 22 games against teams with winning records. The Dodgers managed a road win against the Pittsburgh Pirates Monday, while the Giants defeated Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Winning teams had been flummoxing Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez this season. But he’s now had two notable days in a row against contending teams, with the go-ahead RBI in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3-for-3 showing with a pair of runs scored against the Pirates.

Gonzalez entered Monday hitting a meager .222 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 135 at-bats against teams with winning records this season. It would seem to be a priority for the Dodgers to get his bat going.

Perhaps Sunday’s hit will go down as the at-bat that turns Gonzalez’s season for the better. He singled in the winning run on a 98 mph fastball from Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal with two outs in the ninth inning.

Gonzalez entered that at-bat with only one other hit (and 26 outs made) against pitches of 98 mph or faster dating back to August 15, 2010, and that hit came a little less than a month ago against Rosenthal’s Cardinals teammate, Carlos Martinez.

Monday the pitches came in a little slower and Gonzalez delivered three hits and two walks against them, including another that came with two outs and runners in scoring position (he'd been 9-for-48 in such situations entering that last at-bat on Sunday).

There’s something about seeing that Pirates uniform on the other side that Gonzalez likes. He’s 20-for-50 against them over the past three seasons and his .341 career batting average against Pittsburgh is his best versus any National League team.

What’s the biggest key for Gonzalez the rest of the way? Something he didn’t have to deal with Monday: hitting against left-handed pitching.

Gonzalez’s numbers against right-handers this season aren’t that different from when he was in his prime -- a .286 batting average and .508 slugging percentage with 13 home runs.

But against lefties, he’s hitting .178 (18-for-101) with a .478 OPS. That’s a far cry from two seasons ago when he hit .322 and slugged .491 against left-handed pitching.

Top stats to know: Rangers at Yankees

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
12:32
PM ET

Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
Jacoby Ellsbury and the New York Yankees face the Texas Rangers on "Monday Night Baseball."
The Texas Rangers (39-59, last in AL West) and New York Yankees (50-47, second in AL East) face off on ESPN’s "Monday Night Baseball" at 7 p.m. ET.

Here are the top stats to know about tonight’s young starters, the Rangers’ injury woes, and contributions from a speedy Yankees outfield and a dominant setup man.

Probable Pitchers

Miles Mikolas will make the fourth start of his career Monday night.

The 25-year-old Rangers righty is off to a rough start this season with a record of 0-2 and a 10.05 ERA. Mikolas is the first Rangers pitcher to allow at least 17 runs in his first three career starts since Tommy Hunter in 2008. He is also one of four Rangers pitchers to allow at least nine runs in a game this season. No other team has had more than two pitchers do that.

Shane Greene, another 25-year-old righty, is off to a much better start for the Yankees. Greene enters his third career start with a 2-0 record and 1.32 ERA.

Greene has been dominant against right-handed batters in limited action this season. Righties have a .105 batting average (2-for-19) and a strikeout percentage of 36.4 percent against Greene. Lefties are hitting .207 and are striking out far less frequently (12.5 percent).

Rangers Injuries

The Rangers are 11-33 in their last 44 games, going from four games behind the Oakland Athletics to 22 games back and in last place in the AL West.

Injuries have played a major role.

The Rangers have used 51 players so far this season, most in the majors and the most they have used since 2008 (55 players). They have already tied the most pitchers they have ever used in a single season with 30.

Speedy Outfielders Lead Yankees

Jacoby Ellsbury is off to a strong start with the Yankees after signing a seven-year, $153 million deal in the offseason. Ellsbury leads the Yankees in hits (106), doubles (21), steals (27) and on-base percentage (.352) while batting primarily third in the order.

Ellsbury has become more of a line-drive hitter with the Yankees. After hitting line drives on 20 percent of balls in play during his last four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Ellsbury has hit line drives more than 29 percent of the time in 2014 (first in AL).

Meanwhile, Brett Gardner continues to be one of the most valuable Yankees players while batting primarily leadoff. Gardner has the second-highest WAR (wins above replacement) among Yankees position players over the last five seasons at 18.7. Only Robinson Cano's 29.8 wins above replacement ranks better since the start of 2010.

Dominant Setup Man

Yankees reliever Dellin Betances has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season and already has 88 strikeouts, 23 more than any other relief pitcher.

Among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in 2014, Betances ranks first in ERA (1.46), WHIP (0.71), opponent batting average (.124), opponent OPS (.410), strikeouts per 9 (13.7) and strikeout percentage (41 percent).

Kernels: First half leftovers

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
9:55
PM ET
To bring you our weekly looks at baseball's interesting and unusual stats, we comb through every boxscore and usually research much more than can fit in this space. With four days off this week, we decided to give a second chance to some previous Kernels that didn't quite make the cut when they first happened.

April 2: Gio Gonzalez hit his third career homer, giving him one in each of the past three seasons. His homers remain the last three by Washington Nationals pitchers, and he's halfway to the franchise record of Steve Renko (1969-75).

Livan Hernandez homered in three straight seasons, but two were when the team was in Montreal. Similarly, Pedro Ramos homered in 1959 and 1960 for the Senators, but their move meant his homer in 1961 was for Minnesota. The last pitcher to homer in three straight seasons, all in a "Washington" uniform, is Walter Johnson from 1925-27.

April 24: Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Carp pitched the ninth inning of a blowout against the New York Yankees. He didn't allow a hit, mainly because less than one-third of his pitches were in the strike zone. Instead he walked five batters, but thanks to a double play, escaped the inning with only one run.

He became the first Sox "reliever" to issue five walks in the same inning since Dean Stone did it on July 14, 1957. He's the first pitcher for any team to work only one inning, start-to-finish, walk five, and give up just one run, since at least 1921.

May 4: Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians threw another gem, working eight innings with one run, 13 strikeouts... and a no-decision. John Axford allowed three runs in the ninth and the Indians lost.

That made Kluber the first Cleveland pitcher to go eight-plus, strike out 13, allow no more than one run, and not get a win since Sam McDowell hurled an 11-inning complete game against Oakland on June 13, 1968. He lost 1-0 on a Sal Bando RBI double.

May 5: Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley walked four batters, scoring a run, before getting ejected arguing balls and strikes. Matt Thornton came in, faced one batter, and issued a bases-loaded walk. Preston Claiborne issued another before ending the inning. With all the runs charged to Kelley, he became the first Yankee reliever to allow three earned runs on zero hits since Ryne Duren did it in August 1960.

Yankee pitchers hadn't issued six walks in an inning since 1990. Only once before had the Angels drawn six walks in an inning: July 4, 1979, in a 10-run frame against the Oakland Athletics.

May 26: Clay Buchholz issued eight walks and recorded just nine outs against the Atlanta Braves. The Red Sox later got him off the hook, making Buchholz the team's first pitcher in 90 years to walk eight-plus in three innings and not lose the game.

"Lefty" O'Doul did it against Cleveland on July 7, 1923. After starter Curt Fullerton allowed eight runs, Lefty was summoned to pitch innings 4-6. He allowed (really!) 11 hits and eight walks... and sixteen of those runners scored. The Indians won 27-3, and thanks to several errors, 13 of Lefty's runs were unearned! His line of 16 R (3 ER) is still the most lopsided earned/unearned tally ever.

June 10: The Baltimore Orioles managed just two hits, with them coming from number-nine hitter Ryan Flaherty and a pinch hitter. Their first eight starters all went 0-for-the-game. Excluding the obvious situation of completely getting no-hit, it's the first time that's happened to the Orioles since September 30, 1988, against Toronto, when pinch hitter Jim Traber recorded their only hit with two outs in the ninth. Yes, that's the second of Dave Stieb's famous back-to-back lost no-hitters.

July 4: Christian Colon, Brian Roberts, and Andrew McCutchen all collected a triple and two doubles (Roberts had three) in their respective games. We touched on two of them here. But the last time three players did it on the same day? September 14, 1935! Rookie Ival Goodman of the Reds-- who led the NL in triples that season-- joined future Hall of Famers Earl Averill (Indians) and Freddie Lindstrom (Cubs) with that line.

July 11: Dan Johnson's line for the Toronto Blue Jays: 0-for-0, four walks, three runs scored. Four players this year have played an entire game with no at-bats, but Johnson was the first Jay ever to score three times in a game where he had zero at-bats.

For extra fun, it was Johnson's first game of the year; he had spent the season in triple-A until Edwin Encarnacion went on the disabled list.

Several dozen players have left their first game of a year due to injuries or substitutions, but Johnson is the first non-pitcher whose season debut was a complete-game 0-for-0 since April 17, 1934. Catcher Paul Richards drew three walks and hit one sacrifice for the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds.

Lester looks like he's locked in

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
8:23
PM ET
If Jon Lester had appeal to a team contending before postseason, he's done nothing but increase that over the last few weeks. Lester is 5-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his last nine starts (and has an 0.85 ERA in his last seven) after throwing eight scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. In his last six starts at Fenway Park, he has allowed three earned runs in 44 innings, with 49 strikeouts and five walks.

Lester is now 7-3 with a 1.43 ERA in 11 career starts against the Royals. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that his ERA is the lowest for any active pitcher with at least 10 starts against an opponent (Clayton Kershaw ranks second with a 1.48 ERA in 22 starts against the San Francisco Giants).

Lester now has four starts against the Royals in which he held them scoreless and pitched at least eight innings, including his no-hitter in 2008. All of those starts have been at Fenway Park, where Lester is 6-0 with a 0.86 ERA in seven starts lifetime against the Royals.

What’s going well
One of the pitches that has been money for Lester has been his fastball, particularly when it has been located in the middle or upper-third of the strike zone (or above it).

The Royals were 0 for 7 with four strikeouts (with a walk and hit by pitch) in their plate appearances against it on Sunday.

In this nine-start run, opponents have made 80 outs and reached 18 times via hit, walk, error or hit by pitch against that pitch in that area.

Prior to that, they had made 76 outs and reached base 31 times.

Lester has also gotten great mileage out of his curveball. He has 22 strikeouts on the last 66 two-strike curveballs he’s thrown (a 33 percent “putaway rate” after striking out 12 with his first 60 two-strike curves (20 percent “putaway rate”).

Lester had not allowed a hit with his curveball in his last five starts, but did give up two on Sunday (he also got seven outs with the pitch).

The other big difference for Lester is in how he’s fared with runners in scoring position. Opposing hitters started the season 20 for 60 against him in those situations. They are since 6 for their last 48 and 3 for their last 34.

Stat of the Day
Lester has also matched a career best by allowing two earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts.

Lester now has a pair of streaks of seven straight starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer. This is his first one since 2006.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Lester is one of three Red Sox lefties to have multiple such streaks of at least seven straight starts. The other two are Dutch Leonard and Babe Ruth.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Cardinals

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
9:27
PM ET
Clayton Kershaw might not have a scoreless streak going any more, but he figures to be tough to beat when the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball.

Here are some of the stories our broadcast crew will be focusing on tonight.

The greatness of Kershaw
Since the start of June, Kershaw is 8–0 with 80 strikeouts and an 0.74 ERA in eight starts. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Kershaw is the only pitcher in major league history to win eight consecutive starts within a single season with at least 80 strikeouts and an ERA under 1.00 over that span.

Kershaw pitched against the Cardinals on June 29 and struck out 13 in seven scoreless innings. He had a particularly wicked slider that night and whiffed eight hitters with it.

That pitch ranks among the best in the sport and nets misses on 54 percent of swings. Opponents have made 90 outs while getting 13 hits and two walks against that pitch this season.

Over the four-start stretch from June 18 to July 4, Kershaw got 38 outs with the pitch and yielded only one hit and one walk with it.

It was a slider on which Kershaw’s scoreless streak ended, however, with Chase Headley hitting a home run against a rare hanger in his latest start.

Carlos Martinez Stat to Watch
St. Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez has the highest average fastball velocity of any pitcher to throw at least 50 innings this season (96.8 mph). He’s a smidge ahead of Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura (96.7). An optimal maneuver for the Dodgers would be to start Carl Crawford somewhere in their outfield. Crawford is 11-for-18 with a double and a home run against pitches of 95 mph or faster this season.

Dee Gordon has also fared well against those pitches. He’s 10-for-31 with eight walks in at-bats ending with pitches that speed. Seven of the 10 hits have come from either hitting the ball up the middle or hitting it to the left side.

Some notable Dodgers have been beaten by the heat a bit this season. Matt Kemp (.182), Yasiel Puig (.167) and Adrian Gonzalez (.154) all have hit sub-.200 against pitches of that speed in 2014.

The Cardinals secret weapon
Pat Neshek showed that which made him an All-Star in Saturday’s win, as he struck out Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez to preserve a two-run lead with the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning.

Neshek has arguably been tougher to hit than Kershaw this season (take a look at Neshek's heat map below). He's faced 145 batters and held them to a .132/.179/.162 slash line, with only two extra-base hits. Lefties and righties have nearly identical numbers against him, with lefties hitting .130 and righties hitting .133.

Neshek lost the All-Star Game, but that appears to have been a minor blip. Opponents have only one hit in 30 at-bats against him in his past 16 appearances.

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