Stats & Info: MLB

Stats to know: Red Sox add Hanley Ramirez

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Hanley Ramirez has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with the Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are wasting no time revamping their lineup, reportedly agreeing Monday to a four-year, $88 million deal with Hanley Ramirez. There is a fifth-year vesting option worth an additional $22 million.

The Red Sox also have an agreement in place with third baseman Pablo Sandoval, according to ESPN sources and a report.

Ramirez, who was traded by the Red Sox to the Miami Marlins nine years ago Monday, has ranked among the game’s top players, but his future success will likely be determined by how he holds up health-wise.

What he brings: Impressive bat, injury-prone
Ramirez has been effective, but oft-injured of late. He averaged a .277/.351/.464 the past four seasons with the Marlins and Dodgers, but in only an average of 116 games per season. He hit .283 with 71 RBIs in 128 games in 2014 with the Dodgers.

Defense is not Ramirez’s strong suit. He contributed minus-37 Defensive Runs Saved in the past four seasons, though a position change could be in order, given the composition of the Red Sox roster and some future moves.

Even with the struggles in the field, Ramirez has been worth 8.9 Wins Above Replacement the past two seasons, and that’s despite playing in only 66 percent of his team’s games.

Where does he play?
Ramirez could see time at shortstop, third base, or even in left field with a potential trade of Yoenis Cespedes.

The Red Sox have had four players serve as their primary shortstop the past four seasons: Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles, Stephen Drew and Xander Bogaerts. The highest OPS among them was Scutaro’s .785 in 2011. Bogaerts finished 2014 on a high note with an OPS of .806 and four home runs in September.

Stats to know: Sandoval signs with Red Sox

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
The Boston Red Sox and third baseman Pablo Sandoval have an agreement in place, according to ESPN sources and a report. Here are the top stats to know on the signing.

Capable at the corner
Sandoval played a steady third base last season, finishing with four defensive runs saved. His performance at the position has fluctuated, having shown the potential to be both very good (15 runs saved in 2011 ranked second among third baseman) and not so great (minus-10 in 2012 and 2013 combined).

He's done enough to rank among the upper-end third basemen. Sandoval ranks sixth among third basemen in wins above replacement over the last four seasons, with 14.3.

Postseason greatness
Sandoval owns three World Series rings and has been an integral part of two title-winning teams.

Sandoval’s .344 postseason batting average is the third highest among active players with at least 75 postseason plate appearances, trailing only James Loney’s .354 and Ichiro Suzuki’s .346.

He is a .426 career hitter in the World Series and went 8 for 16 in the last four games of the 2014 series against the Royals.

Strength: Plate Coverage
Sandoval has been one of baseball's best bad-ball hitters. He's led the majors in hits against pitches out of the strike zone in each of the last two seasons, netting 58 in 2013 and 70 in 2014. His .265 batting average against those pitches this season was fourth highest in the majors.

Sandoval had 35 batted balls that registered as "hard-hit" by our video-review system on pitches out of the strike zone, tied with Victor Martinez for the most in the majors.

Weakness: Hitting left-handed pitching
Sandoval hit .281, .299 and .270 against left-handed pitching from 2011 to 2013, but plummeted to .199 last season.

A big deal
Sandoval received the second-largest free-agent contract for a third baseman in terms of total value. The only one that’s bigger is Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million deal with the Yankees. Adrian Beltre’s five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers previously ranked second.

LaRoche gives White Sox a power boost

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
What are the statistical storylines tied to the Chicago White Sox agreeing to a two-year, $25 million deal with first baseman Adam LaRoche?

LaRoche is the team's second notable addition this offseason along with left-handed reliever Zach Duke.

The lefty power bat they needed
The White Sox were in need of a left-handed hitter to pair up with right-handed slugger Jose Abreu. White Sox lefties ranked 24th in MLB in slugging percentage (.373), 26th in home runs (38) and struck out the second-most often of any team (23.4 percent).

LaRoche has hit 79 home runs over the last three seasons, with at least 20 in each season. Seventy eight of those came as a first baseman, the most of anyone specifically while playing that position.

LaRoche has hit at least 20 home runs nine times since becoming a major leaguer in 2004. He’s one of 10 major leaguers with at least nine 20-homer seasons in that 11-season span. He's a discerning hitter, ranking 15th in the majors in walk rate over the last two seasons.

He’ll also be moving away from a home ballpark that isn’t hitter friendly to one that is much more conducive to power. Nationals Park ranked 22nd for “Park Factor” for left-handed hitters for home runs last season. U.S. Cellular Field ranked 10th.

He can field reasonably well too
LaRoche would be a better defender at first base than Abreu would, which would allow the latter to move to designated hitter.

Over the last five seasons, LaRoche has 20 Defensive Runs Saved at first base, with a Gold Glove to his credit in 2012 (a year he finished sixth in the NL MVP voting). Last season, Abreu had -11 Defensive Runs Saved, worst for anyone at that position.

Weakness: Doesn’t hit lefties well
LaRoche is a bit feeble when it comes to facing left-handed pitching. He’s hitting .201 with eight home runs in 268 at-bats against them the last two seasons.

He misses on 27 percent of his swings against lefties compared to 20 percent of his swings against righties.

Windy City rivalry suits him well
LaRoche will fit in fine to the Windy City rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. He is a .273 career hitter with 22 home runs in 79 games against them. That’s his second-most home runs against any team.


Stanton signs record-breaking deal

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17

Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesMarlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has agreed to a record-breaking 13-year, $325 million deal.
Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins have agreed to 13-year, $325 million deal, the largest in major league history. Stanton's deal eclipses the former mark set by Miguel Cabrera prior to the 2014 season, when he agreed to a 10-year, $292 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. While Stanton's deal has a no-trade clause, the Marlins' slugger may opt out after five seasons.

Stanton, who turned 25 earlier this month, led the NL this season in home runs (37), slugging percentage (.555), and tied Andrew McCutchen for the most extra-base hits (69) in the league.

A two-time All-Star selection, Stanton finished second (298 points) in the NL MVP vote, behind Clayton Kershaw (355).

How good is he?
Stanton was the only player in the NL with 100 RBIs and 30 home runs this season, and posted a career-best 6.5 Wins Above Replacement, good for eighth among all position players in 2014.

Since making his major league debut in 2010, Stanton ranks in the top-10 in MLB in home runs (third), slugging percentage (seventh), and OPS (ninth), and is batting .277 over the last three seasons.

Long Ball Leader
Stanton was king of the long ball this year, hitting three of the longest home runs this season, including seven that traveled at least 450 feet. Stanton hit more such home runs than any other team in baseball.

Through his first five seasons with the Marlins, Stanton has hit a total of 154 home runs, the third most in MLB and more than any other two players on the Marlins roster combined.

Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Albert Pujols are the only players in the Expansion Era – which began in 1961 – to have more home runs through their age 24 season.

Record Deal for Marlins
Stanton’s deal is far and away the largest ever handed out by the Marlins.

Nearly three years ago, they signed free agent Jose Reyes to a $106 million deal but traded him away just a year later. In the last ten seasons, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Buehrle, and Carlos Delgado all signed deals with the Marlins in excess of $50 million but were traded not long after.

Some more perspective on just how much money Stanton is getting? For a 10-season stretch from 1999-2008, the Marlins combined Opening Day payroll was approximately $328 million.


Stats to know: Heyward/Miller trade

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves made the first blockbuster trade of the offseason, with the Braves sending outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to St. Louis for pitcher Shelby Miller and a minor league prospect.

What Heyward brings
Heyward, who has one year left prior to free agency, gives the Cardinals a superstar defender in the outfield and a hitter who hasn’t quite fulfilled the expectations set when he was a top prospect.
Heyward led the majors with 32 Defensive Runs Saved last season, winning a second Gold Glove in right field for his efforts. He excels at turning balls hit to the deepest parts of the park into outs. But Heyward has underperformed a bit on the offensive end, though he had to recover from getting hit in the face by a Jonathon Niese pitch in 2013. In 2012, Heyward had an .814 OPS with 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Since then, he’s posted a .752 OPS, with 25 home runs and 22 steals. Heyward's slugging percentage has declined in each of the last three seasons, from .479 to .427 to .384 last season. His primary issue is hitting left-handed pitching. His career slash line is .281/.374/.466 against righties, .221/.301/.349 against lefties.

Walden adds bullpen depth
Walden is another flamethrower for the Cardinals to add to their bullpen. He averaged 94.9 mph with his fastball, which ranked in the top 4 percent of pitchers who threw at least 40 innings last season. Walden brings closing experience. He had 32 saves for the Angels in 2011, but concerns about his control moved him to a middle relief role. Those were thought to be allayed in 2013, when he struck out 54 and walked 14 in 47 innings. But the doubts returned in 2014, when he totaled 27 walks in 50 innings.

Miller brings uncertainty
The acquisition of Miller gives the Braves another young arm with a lot of potential. Miller has a 3.41 ERA over the last two seasons, during which he’s made 62 starts.
The concern for Miller would be his odd dip in his strikeout rate last season. He went from striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings in 2013 to 6.2 in 2014.

With that, his walk rate jumped from 3.0 per 9 to 3.6. Miller had a 3.74 ERA last season, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (which estimates ERA based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed) was 4.54. The difference between his ERA and his FIP was the seventh largest among those who qualified for the ERA title.

The Braves now have significant team control over a good portion of their starting rotation, including their new "three-headed beast" of 24-year-old arms: Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Miller, as noted in the chart on the right.


Martin brings value at a big cost

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
The Toronto Blue Jays made a big splash in the free-agent market, agreeing to terms with free agent catcher Russell Martin on a five-year, $82 million contract.

The Blue Jays were one of several teams in need of a catcher. Martin was the best one on the market. He ranked second among catchers with 5.5 Wins Above Replacement in 2014, trailing only Jonathan Lucroy’s 6.7.

Martin brings value on both the offensive and defensive sides.

Filling a significant need
Blue Jays catchers ranked 22nd, 27th and 22nd in OPS over the last three seasons.

Martin posted an .832 OPS last season, fourth-best among those whose primary position was catcher (minimum 300 plate appearances).

Martin had a .402 on-base percentage last season, highest among catchers. He’s the second NL catcher to have an on-base percentage of .400 or higher in the last three seasons. No NL catchers did so from 2001 to 2011.

Martin’s other value: Defensive excellence
Martin has been widely praised for his defensive work the last couple of seasons. He led major-league catchers with 12 Defensive Runs Saved, half of which came from his ability to prevent stolen bases.

Opposing basestealers were safe on 68 percent of their attempts against Martin, the fifth-best rate (in other words, fifth-lowest) for a catcher. His 28 caught stealings ranked second in the majors to Rene Rivera of the Padres (29).

Martin is also highly-regarded for his pitch-framing abilities. In 2014, his primary skill in that regard was in making sure pitches in the strike zone were called strikes.

He got strikes on 85.5 percent of taken pitches in the zone, 12th-highest among the 42 catchers who caught the most pitches last season. That’s about 2.5 extra strikes for every 100 of those pitches above what an average catcher would get.

New trend: 5-year deals for top free-agent catchers
Martin is the second catcher to sign a free-agent contract for at least five years in as many seasons (Brian McCann with the Yankees last season).

From the 2000-01 offseason to the 2012-13 offseason, only one free-agent catcher signed a five-year contract: Charles Johnson re-signed with the Marlins in the 2000-2001 offseason.

The Blue Jays have shown a willingness to raise their payroll to bring in name talent. Their opening-day payroll in 2012 was $84 million, which ranked in the bottom 10 among teams. In 2014, it was $137 million, which pushed them into the top 10.


Trout, Kershaw sweep MVP awards for LA

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13

Matt Brown/Angels Baseball LP/Getty ImagesMike Trout and Clayton Kershaw each captured the MVP award for the first time.

The MVP awards were a clean sweep for Los Angeles, as the Angels’ Mike Trout and Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw each took home the award for the first time.

Mike Trout
Trout finished runner-up to Miguel Cabrera in each of the last two seasons before winning this year.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Trout is the second player in MLB history to finish second in consecutive seasons and then win the award in the third season, joining Mickey Mantle, who finished runner-up in 1960 and 1961 and then won in 1962.

At 23 years and 52 days old at season’s end, Trout is the fifth-youngest winner of the MVP award. He’s the youngest to win it in over 30 years, since Cal Ripken won it at 23 years and 39 days old in 1983.

Trout led all position players in Wins Above Replacement this year at 7.9, though that was a lower total than in each of his previous two seasons.

Trout led the AL in RBI, runs, and total bases this season. He's the sixth player to do that over the last 50 seasons. Of the previous five, four were also named MVP that season.

Trout also led the AL in strikeouts with 184 this season. According to Elias, that’s the most ever for an MVP.

Trout had most of his success on pitches down in the zone this season. He hit .346 on pitches in the lower third, second-best in baseball, and had 22 home runs on those pitches, seven more than anyone else in the majors.

Clayton Kershaw
A night after winning his third Cy Young award in four seasons, Clayton Kershaw captured his first career MVP.

With a sweep of the Cy Young and MVP awards, Kershaw becomes the 11th pitcher to win both in the same season. He’s the first to do it in the National League since Bob Gibson in 1968.

Kershaw led all of baseball in Wins Above Replacement despite making only 27 starts this season. He is the first pitcher since Gibson to win the MVP as a pitcher AND lead all of baseball in WAR.

Kershaw went 21-3 this season en route to becoming the 18th pitcher all time to win the MVP award. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the previous 17 winners, only Spud Chandler in 1943 had fewer wins (20) than Kershaw this season.

Kershaw is the first Dodgers player to win the MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988. Since moving to Los Angeles, the Dodgers have produced five MVP winners: Kershaw, Gibson, Steve Garvey (1974), Sandy Koufax (1963) and Maury Wills (1962).

Kershaw held opponents to a slash line of .196/.231/.289 this season. His opponents’ OPS of .521 was the lowest in the majors. His breaking pitches were especially tough to hit; opponents had an OPS of .371 against his curveball and slider combined and struck out 178 times, 50 more than against any other NL pitcher.


Top stats to know: MVP preview

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
MLB awards season concludes Thursday with the announcements of the Most Valuable Player awards in each league.

In the American League, Mike Trout is looking for his first MVP award after finishing runner-up in each of the past two seasons. He faces competition from the AL Central in Victor Martinez of the Tigers and Michael Brantley of the Indians.

In the National League, Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw looks to add to his impressive array of awards in what should be a close race against the reigning MVP, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, and the Marlins’ young slugger, Giancarlo Stanton.

AL: Trout's first would be Angels' third
If Trout wins, he would join Vladimir Guerrero (2004) and Don Baylor (1979) as Angels players to win the MVP.

Despite producing a lower total than in 2012 or 2013, Trout’s 7.9 WAR led all position players.

If Martinez were to win, it would represent the fourth consecutive MVP award for the Detroit Tigers franchise. They would be the third franchise to win four in a row, marking the fourth occurrence of one team winning four straight MVPs.

Martinez is the third AL player since 1990 to produce 30 home runs in a season with fewer than 50 strikeouts, joining Guerrero in 2005 and Cal Ripken in 1991. Martinez batted .406 with two outs and two strikes this season, 69 points higher than the next-closest player (J.J. Hardy, .337).

Brantley would be the first Cleveland player to win the MVP since Al Rosen in 1953. Lou Boudreau (1948) and George Burns (1926) are the only others in franchise history to win.

Brantley is the first hitter in franchise history to produce 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 HR and 20 SB in one season.

NL: Can Kershaw dethrone McCutchen?
If Kershaw wins, he would be the first pitcher to win the NL MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968.

He would be the fourth NL pitcher to win the MVP since the Cy Young Award was first issued in 1956. He would also become the 11th pitcher to win the MVP and Cy Young Award in the same season, the first since Justin Verlander in 2011.

Kershaw led MLB in WAR this season despite being limited to 27 starts. He is looking to become the fourth pitcher to win the MVP and lead the majors in WAR in the same season.

McCutchen would be the first Pirates player to win back-to-back MVPs. He would be the first back-to-back winner in the National League since Albert Pujols in 2008-09.

Stanton would be the first Marlins player to win the MVP. Hanley Ramirez was the closest, finishing runner-up to Pujols in 2009.

Despite missing the last few weeks of the season after being hit with a pitch, Stanton became the second Marlins player with 35 home runs and 100 RBIs in a season, joining Gary Sheffield in 1996.


Stats to know: Kershaw, Kluber win

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
Clayton Kershaw was almost impossible to hit in 2014 .
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber shared baseball's stage on Wednesday by winning the Cy Young Award in their respective leagues.

Kershaw's selection was not a surprise, but Kluber's emergence was. He edged out two pitchers who had terrific seasons, Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale, to take the honor.

Kershaw does it again
Kershaw won his third Cy Young Award, all coming in the past four seasons.

What made Kershaw so good?

Kershaw held opposing hitters to a .196/.231/.289 slash line. His .521 opponents’ OPS was the lowest in the majors. He struck out 239, walked only 31 and allowed only nine home runs in 198 1/3 innings pitched.

Kershaw threw 69 percent strikes, the second-highest rate in the National League, trailing only Jordan Zimmermann.

His 178 strikeouts with his curve and slider ranked second in the majors, trailing only Corey Kluber’s 188. He had 50 more than the National League pitchers with the next most (Tyson Ross and Adam Wainwright).

The key for Kershaw was that he could beat you in the strike zone or out of the strike zone. Opponents missed on 20 percent of their swings against Kershaw's pitches in the zone, fifth best in the majors.

They missed on 48 percent of swings against his pitches thrown out of the strike zone, also fifth best.

He was the only pitcher to be in the top five on both lists.

Kershaw excelled at getting out of jams. Opponents hit only .190 against him with runners in scoring position, fourth best in the majors and second best in the National League behind Cy Young runner-up Johnny Cueto.

Kershaw also helped his own cause on the defensive side. He led National League pitchers with seven defensive runs saved.

Kluber edges Hernandez
A dominant second half helped propel Kluber past Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, making him the first Indians pitcher to win the award since Cliff Lee in 2008. Other Indians to win the honor are Gaylord Perry in 1972 and CC Sabathia in 2007.

Kluber was 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA with 127 strikeouts, 19 walks and only four home runs allowed in 104 innings after the All-Star break. After getting routed by the Tigers on Sept. 1, Kluber was 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 54 strikeouts in his final five starts of the season.

Kluber became the first American League pitcher with a sub-2.50 ERA and at least 260 strikeouts since Pedro Martinez in 2000. He’s the first Indians pitcher to hit those benchmarks since Luis Tiant and Sam McDowell in 1968.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Kluber is one of only five different pitchers who had seasons in which they posted a sub-2.50 ERA, struck out at least 250 batters and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least 5-to-1, and is the first since Randy Johnson in 2001.

Kluber’s out pitch was a curveball that netted 126 strikeouts, the most of any pitcher in baseball. He had the highest strike rate with the pitch of anyone who qualified for the ERA title (72 percent). And got hitters to miss it at a higher rate than anyone else (54 percent of swings).

Did You Know
Stetson University has produced six major league pitchers -- Bill Swaggerty, George Tsamis, Eric Knott, Lenny DiNardo, Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom. The only two active guys -- deGrom and Kluber -- have won two major awards this season, the NL Rookie of the Year award and AL Cy Young respectively.


Top stats to know: Cy Young preview

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
There is little suspense as to who will win the NL Cy Young Award, but the AL Cy Young race is one of the most intriguing ones of major league baseball's awards season. Both will be announced Wednesday night.

National League: Kershaw and everyone else
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw led the National League in wins, ERA, winning percentage, complete games, WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings.

Kershaw became the first pitcher to lead the major leagues in ERA in four consecutive seasons and was three strikeouts shy of winning the NL pitching triple crown (wins, ERA and strikeouts).

Kershaw's 1.77 ERA is the lowest by any pitcher since Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 ERA in 2000.

Kershaw can become the ninth pitcher to win at least three Cy Young Awards and the fourth left-handed pitcher to do so, joining Randy Johnson (five), Steve Carlton (four) and Sandy Koufax (three). He would join Koufax (1965 and 1966) as the only Dodgers pitchers to win the award in consecutive years (Koufax did so when only one award was presented between the leagues).

The performance of the other finalists for the award may get lost in the shadow of Kershaw's outstanding season.

Johnny Cueto won 20 games and tied for the NL lead with 242 strikeouts. The only other Cincinnati Reds pitcher to hit those benchmarks in baseball's modern era is Jim Maloney, who did so in 1963 and 1965.

The last pitcher to hit both of those benchmarks with an ERA as low as Cueto's was Martinez for the Red Sox in 1999 (the last National Leaguer was Dwight Gooden in 1985).

Adam Wainwright was 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals. The last Cardinals pitcher with that many wins and an ERA that low was John Tudor (21 and 1.93) in 1985.

Wainwright has four seasons with at least 19 wins, tied with Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean for second in Cardinals history. Another Hall of Famer, Bob Gibson, leads with seven.

American League: Hernandez, Kluber, Sale in tight race
All three candidates in the American League have the credentials to win the award.

Felix Hernandez has won one Cy Young Award (2010). Another would make him the first Seattle Mariners pitcher with multiple Cy Youngs.

Hernandez led the American League with a career-best 2.14 ERA and led the league in WHIP for the first time (0.92). His 248 strikeouts were also a career high.

Corey Kluber would be the fourth Cleveland Indians pitcher to win the Cy Young, joining Gaylord Perry (1972), CC Sabathia (2007) and Cliff Lee (2008).

Kluber tied for the AL lead with 18 wins, had a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269. The 269 strikeouts were the most by an Indians pitcher since Sam McDowell had 304 in 1970. Kluber improved significantly in the second half, posting a 1.73 ERA, which ranked second in the majors.

Chris Sale would be the fourth Chicago White Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young, joining Early Wynn (1959), LaMarr Hoyt (1983) and Jack McDowell (1993).

Sale logged about 60 fewer innings than either Kluber or Hernandez, but on a rate basis, he was as good as it gets. He finished first in the AL in strikeout rate, second in ERA and third in opponents' batting average.

Stats to know: Abreu, DeGrom top rookies

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
Jose Abreu was extremely tough to pitch to in 2014.
The common bonds between Rookie of the Year winners Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox) and Jacob deGrom (New York Mets) might be few, but their 2014 performances share a similarity.

Both had seasons that weren’t so much about how they started, but how they finished.

Jose Abreu wins AL Rookie of the Year
Abreu is the first White Sox player to win Rookie of the Year since Ozzie Guillen in 1985. He is the second player to win the award by unanimous vote in the last three seasons, joining Mike Trout in 2012.

He led all rookies in home runs (36), RBIs (107), hits (176), doubles (35), runs scored (80), OBP (.383), slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.964). His 36 home runs are the most by an AL rookie since Mark McGwire hit 49 for the Athletics in 1987.

Abreu showed big-time power early in the season, but didn’t start getting on base at a high rate until he returned from an injury in June. His power took a bit of a dip when he returned, but he found other ways to make up for it.

After hitting .260 in the season’s first two months, Abreu hit .342 with a .413 on-base percentage and .574 slugging percentage the rest of the way.

How he hit
What made Abreu so good?

Take a look at the heat map above. Abreu was able to cover the entire plate at a success rate that few could match.

Abreu had the best numbers in baseball in at-bats that ended with a pitch in the upper half of the strike zone—a .389/.487/.741 slashline (all three of those were major-league bests).

Abreu could also reach outside the strike zone and do damage. He ranked tied for fifth in the majors with 50 hits against pitches out of the zone. His 12 doubles against those pitches were one shy of Victor Martinez for the major-league lead.
Jacob deGrom was very tough on both left- and right-handed hitters.

Jacob deGrom wins NL Rookie of the Year
DeGrom is the first Mets player to win Rookie of the Year honors since Dwight Gooden in 1984.

After going 0-4 with a 4.39 ERA in his first seven starts of the season, deGrom was one of the best pitchers in baseball for the rest of the year, going 9-2 with a 1.99 ERA, with 110 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings pitched. That ERA was third-best in the National League from June 21 on, trailing only Clayton Kershaw (1.41) and Edinson Volquez (1.85).

That included a start against the Marlins in which deGrom struck out the first eight hitters of the game, tying a major-league record.

How he pitched
The differences between the deGrom who struggled and the one who excelled were plentiful.

Among the most notable were that his strikeout-to-walk rate, which wasn't even 2-to-1 in his first seven starts (34 to 18), was better than 4-to-1 the rest of the way (110 to 25).

DeGrom also limited hard contact. He yielded only two home runs on the last 1,538 pitches he threw, after giving up five on his first 698.

DeGrom had success fooling hitters more often as the year went along. Opponents had 12 hits and made 34 outs against pitches out of the strike zone in his first seven starts.

In his last 15, the ratio of outs to hits was nearly 7 to 1 (97 outs, 14 hits).


Top stats to know: Rookie of year preview

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThis swing produced 36 home runs in 2014.
Awards season kicks off on Monday with the announcement of the AL and NL Rookie of the Year awards.

In the American League, the choice is clear-cut, with Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu heavily favored over New York Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances and Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker.

In the National League, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong are the three finalists in what should be a close race.

AL: Abreu’s award to lose
Abreu is trying to become the first White Sox player to win the AL Rookie of the Year award since Ozzie Guillen in 1985 and the sixth White Sox player overall, joining Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio (1956), Gary Peters (1963), Tommie Agee (1966) and Ron Kittle (1983).

Abreu led all rookies in home runs (36), RBIs (107), hits (176), doubles (35), runs scored (80), OBP (.383), slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.964). He's the first rookie in major league history to finish in the top five of all three Triple Crown categories.

Abreu became the first player in MLB history to win both the player of the month and the rookie of the month awards twice in the same season.

Abreu would be the first first baseman to win the award since Ryan Howard of the Phillies won in 2005.

That’s not to say that Betances and Shoemaker didn’t have good seasons.

Betances had a 1.40 ERA and averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, both the lowest totals for anyone who threw at least 80 innings this season. Betances also ranked best among those pitchers in opponents’ batting average (.149) and OPS (.442).

At age 28, Shoemaker had one of the best rookie seasons for an Angels pitcher. He finished 16-4 and was 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last eight appearances of the season.

NL: deGrom vs. Hamilton
DeGrom is trying to become the first Mets player to win rookie of the year honors since Dwight Gooden in 1984. The other Mets to win the honor are Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972) and Darryl Strawberry (1983).

DeGrom didn’t figure to be in the rookie of the year running after starting the season 0-4, but he was dominant the rest of the year, going 9-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his last 15 starts. DeGrom allowed 20 runs in his first seven starts and only 24 in those last 15.

Included in that was a start against the Marlins in which he tied a major league record by striking out the first eight batters of the game.

Hamilton is trying to become the first Reds player to win the award since pitcher Scott Williamson won in 1999. The last Reds position player to win was third baseman Chris Sabo of the Reds in 1988. Other Reds to take the honors: Pete Rose (1963), Tommy Helms (1966), Johnny Bench (1968) and Pat Zachry (1976).

Hamilton excelled in two areas: baserunning, as he finished second in the NL with 56 stolen bases, and defense. He led NL center fielders with 10 assists and ranked third among them with 14 defensive runs saved.

Hamilton’s 56 steals are tied for the second most by a rookie in the wild-card era, behind only Tony Womack’s 60 for the Diamondbacks in 1997.

Wong is an unlikely candidate to win, but he did close the season very strong. He would be the first Cardinals player to win rookie of the year since Albert Pujols in 2001.

Top stats to know: Gold Glove winners

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
This year’s Gold Glove Awards, much like last year's, featured both prominent repeat winners and a list of promising newcomers.

For the second straight year, a statistical component factored into the voting -- the SABR Defensive Index accounted for 25 percent of the vote. The remaining votes came from major league managers and coaches.

The best get rewarded
Six of the winners led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved: Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and outfielders Alex Gordon of the Royals, Juan Lagares of the Mets and Jason Heyward of the Braves.

The competition for the Platinum Glove, given to the best defender in each league, should be tight, particularly in the National League. Heyward led the majors with 32 Defensive Runs Saved. His chief competition may be last year’s NL winner, Simmons, who tied with Lagares for second-most with 28.

Royals, Orioles again have three winners
The two teams that met in the ALCS had the most Gold Glove Award winners, with three apiece.

Three of the four Royals who were finalists won: catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer and leftfielder Alex Gordon. Perez and Hosmer each won for the second time. Gordon won his fourth straight.

Gordon’s four Gold Glove Awards (won the last four years) are the most by a Royals outfielder, surpassing the three won by Amos Otis. Gordon was the AL leader in Defensive Runs Saved for an outfielder. Perez became the only Royals catcher to win multiple Gold Gloves. Hosmer, the only Royals first baseman to win one, joined Perez in taking his second straight.

That trio still has a ways to go to chase down the Royals all-time Gold Glove leader, second baseman Frank White, who won eight.

The Orioles had repeat winners in centerfielder Adam Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy and a player who’d won previously taking another one, rightfielder Nick Markakis.

Jones became the seventh Orioles player and second Orioles outfielder to win at least four Gold Gloves, joining fellow centerfielder Paul Blair, who won eight, in the latter department.

Hardy, the AL leader in Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop, passed Cal Ripken Jr. for second-most Gold Gloves won by an Orioles shortstop with three, trailing Mark Belanger’s eight.

Markakis won for the second time in four years, having previously won in 2011.

Molina, Pedroia, Gonzalez win again
Even in a season shortened by injury, Yadier Molina won another Gold Glove Award.

This was his seventh straight such honor. Only Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez had longer streaks with 10 each.

Dodgers first baseman Gonzalez won his fourth straight award. He was one of two Dodgers to win on this night, along with first-time winner, pitcher Zack Greinke. Gonzalez is the first Dodgers first baseman to win the award since Steve Garvey in 1977.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia won in consecutive years for the first time. He’s now won four Gold Glove Awards. Only two Red Sox have won more: Dwight Evans with eight and Carl Yastrzemski with seven.

Biggest surprise: Kyle Seager
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager pulled off the most surprising victory of the night, beating out a division rivals Josh Donaldson of the Athletics and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers to win his first Gold Glove Award.

Donaldson led third basemen with 20 Defensive Runs Saved, twice as many as Seager.

But Seager was cited for his overall defensive improvement. He went from minus-7 and minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved at the position the previous two seasons to 10 Defensive Runs Saved there in 2014.

He’s the first Mariners third baseman to win one since Beltre did in 2008.


Top stats to know: Gold Glove preview

November, 3, 2014
Nov 3
Getty ImagesAndrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward are among those hoping to take home Gold Gloves tonight.
The Gold Glove Awards will be announced on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Here are some of the statistical storylines Karl Ravech, Barry Larkin and Doug Glanville will likely be talking about during the announcement.

Another one for Molina?
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina faces stiff competition in trying to win his seventh straight Gold Glove Award.

Molina finished behind both of the other NL finalists in Defensive Runs Saved. He was hindered by playing only 110 games, his fewest since 2004, due to injury. Even so, he still led NL catchers by throwing out 47 percent of would-be basestealers.

Only two catchers have won at least seven consecutive Gold Glove Awards, Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench, who won 10 each.

A win by Molina would tie him with Bob Boone for the third-most Gold Glove Awards for a catcher (7). Rodriguez won 13 in his career, three more than Bench.

Other regular winners hoping for more
Molina isn’t the only usual winner hoping for another trophy for his mantle.

Blue Jays pitcher Mark Buehrle and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips are each going for their fifth Gold Glove Award.

Each is facing a newcomer who had an excellent defensive season.

Buehrle is up against Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez and Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel, the latter of whom led the majors with 10 Defensive Runs Saved.

Phillips faces fellow finalists Chase Utley of the Phillies and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies. LeMahieu led NL second basemen with 16 Defensive Runs Saved.

Four other players are going for their fourth career Gold Gloves: Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones and Royals leftfielder Alex Gordon.

Royals had great outfield, but rest of defense impressive too
The Royals showed off their defense throughout the 2014 postseason and they have a chance to capture some awards for their work, with four players nominated for Gold Gloves.

Gordon has a good chance of taking home his fourth straight Gold Glove. His 27 Defensive Runs Saved were the most among AL outfielders.

First baseman Eric Hosmer is trying to win his second straight, as is catcher Salvador Perez.

Perez led AL catchers with eight Defensive Runs Saved.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar is trying for his first Gold Glove. He tied Adeiny Hechavarria of the Marlins for the major-league lead with 14 Web Gems.

Two notable Royals were not finalists for the award, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson, likely because they split time between two outfield positions. Cain did win The Fielding Bible’s award Defensive Excellence under their “multi-position player” category.

More hardware for Kershaw?
Clayton Kershaw likely has another Cy Young Award and possibly an MVP in his future, when those awards are announced next week. He could also add another Gold Glove.

Kershaw led NL pitchers with seven Defensive Runs Saved. He’ll be going up against his teammate, Zack Greinke, and two-time Gold Glove Award winner Adam Wainwright.

How much influence will the metrics have?
This will be the second season in which there will be a statistical component involved in the awards voting. The metrics count for approximately 25 percent of the vote. Coaches and managers account for the other votes, with those voting not allowed to select players on their own team.

Last season, only one player with a negative Defensive Runs Saved total for the season won a Gold Glove Award. That’s the fewest since Baseball Info Solutions began tallying the stat in 2003.


2014: The year in HR

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
The 2014 major league season is over and power was on the decline again, with home runs down about 10 percent from 2013, to their lowest rate since 1992 (0.86).

That just made really impressive and interesting home run performances stand out a little bit more. Here's a look back at some of the favorites compiled by our home run tracking team.

Long Ball Leader: Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton hit three of the eight longest home runs this season. Seven of those eight went at least 450 feet, and Stanton hit more such home runs than any team in baseball.

Average Distance Champion: Matt Holliday

Giancarlo Stanton’s average home run distance was 415.3 feet, but despite hitting 24 home runs farther than 400 feet, he did not lead the league in average home run distance.

Among the players who hit at least 20 home runs, Matt Holliday had an average home run distance 3 feet longer than Stanton’s.

Best Month of the Season: Edwin Encarnacion (May)

Edwin Encarnacion hit 16 home runs in May, joining Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Mark McGwire as the only players in major league history to hit at least 16 homers in that month. After going deep just twice in March/April, Encarnacion had five multihomer games in May, tied for most in a calendar month in major league history.

Encarnacion pulled all but one of his home runs in May and has pulled 88 home runs over the last three seasons, the most in baseball.

Long Blast of the Year: Mike Trout at Kauffman Stadium

Mike Trout hit a career-long 489-foot home run off Jason Vargas on June 27, the longest home run of the year.

The 489-foot blast is the longest by an AL player since the beginning of ESPN Home Run Tracker in 2006, and the sixth-longest overall.

Piling Up Home Runs at a Record Rate: Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu set a record by reaching 25 career home runs faster than anyone in MLB history.

Abreu finished the season with 36, the most by a rookie since 2001, when Albert Pujols hit 37 for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Home Run Oddities and Anomalies:

Highest Apex
Corey Dickerson of the Rockies hit a home run on Sept. 16 that reached 171 feet at its highest point, the third-highest apex since the beginning of ESPN HR Tracker in 2006.

Shortest Home Run

David Ortiz hit the third-longest home run of the season, but he also hit the shortest (excluding inside-the-park home runs). On Aug. 16, Ortiz hit a fly ball 318 feet down the right-field line at Fenway Park, barely wrapping around Pesky’s Pole. The 318-foot homer is the second shortest Ortiz has hit since ESPN began tracking homers in 2006 (312 feet on June 6, 2009).

All Chris Carter Does: Hit Short Home Runs

Chris Carter hit 37 home runs this season, 15 of which were longer than 400 feet. Carter’s average home run distance was 384.1 feet, the lowest among players with at least 25 home runs. In addition, Carter’s home run park percentage was 67 percent (meaning each of his homers would have been home runs in an average of 20 parks), second lowest of anyone with at least 20 homers (Anthony Rendon, 57 percent)

Carter hit 21 home runs at Minute Maid Park in Houston and benefited greatly from the short porch in left field.

No Doubt of Encarnacion’s Power

Encarnacion hit 17 home runs classified by as “no doubt” home runs, five more than anyone else in MLB.

A “no doubt” home run means the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.

Decline of Power since 2012

In 2014, there were 4,186 home runs, 748 fewer than in 2012. In 2012, there were nearly twice as many 450-foot home runs (96) as there were this year (49).

2014 Postseason

Harper leads the way

Bryce Harper hit the longest home run of the postseason, a 445-foot blast off Hunter Strickland of the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. The home run, which went into the third deck in right field of Nationals Park, was Harper’s career long.

Harper’s was also tied for fifth-longest postseason home run in the past five years.

Postseason Anomaly

Nelson Cruz hit the shortest home run of the postseason, a 342-footer off David Price that barely sneaked inside the right-field pole.

The Cardinals hit 105 home runs during the regular season, second to last in MLB (Royals, 95).

However, their power came alive in the postseason, hitting 15 home runs in nine games.

The Royals were second in the postseason with 11 home runs, but they played six more games than St. Louis.