Stats & Info: MLB Next Level

Trout and Abreu hit long homers

June, 28, 2014
Jun 28
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels hit a first-inning homer against the Kansas City Royals. His 489-foot homer is the longest hit in Kauffman Stadium since ESPN began tracking homers in 2006, and it is the longest hit there since Travis Hafner hit one 481 feet on April 15, 2012.

It is the longest by an American League player since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006. The second-longest is 488 by Edwin Encarnacion on Sept. 1, 2012.

Trout's homer is also the longest by an Angel since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006. The second-longest was Vladimir Guerrero, who hit one 484 feet on July 30, 2006.

Trout's home run is the longest of his career by 26 feet, is his fifth career home run of 450 feet or more and is the longest home run in MLB since Giancarlo Stanton hit one 494 feet on Aug. 17, 2012.

Abreu goes deep (twice)
Trout wasn't the only star hitting long homers on Friday. Jose Abreu hit two home runs for the Chicago White Sox in their win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.

It was Abreu's fourth multihomer game this season, his first since April 27.

Abreu now has 25 home runs in 67 games. He's the fastest player to reach 25 homers in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Only one other player in MLB history -- Mark McGwire in 1987 -- has had more home runs as a rookie before July 1.

Abreu's fifth-inning home run traveled 428 feet. It is the seventh home run this year that he has hit 425 feet or more, which is tied for second-most in MLB and leads the American League.

Abreu's two homers were two of four allowed by R.A. Dickey, the first time he has allowed that many homers in a game since 2006.

Top stats to know: Blue Jays win on error

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJose Reyes scored the winning run after Yankees 3B Yangervis Solarte
The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays played one of the more exciting games of the night at Rogers Centre. Here are the top three stats to know about the game.

Buehrle settles for no decision
Early in the game, it looked like Mark Buehrle would coast to his 11th win of the season, which would tie Masahiro Tanaka for most in the majors. Through five innings Buehrle gave up four hits and no runs, but things fell apart in seventh inning as the Yankees would eventually tie things up at 6-6.

The no decision leaves Buehrle's lifetime record against the Yankees at 1-11. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his .083 win percentage against the Yankees is the second-worst by any pitcher all-time (minimum 15 starts). The only pitcher who had less luck against the Bronx Bombers was Red Ruffing (1-16).

The Captain goes yard
Derek Jeter homered for the second time this season to get the Yankees on the board in the sixth inning.

Jeter’s two home runs have come on nearly identical pitches. Both were on the inside part of the plate, both were against left-handers (Buehrle and Hector Santiago) and both were on cutters.

Both of Jeter's home runs have also come on the road. He hasn't hit a home run at Yankee Stadium since July 28, 2013, his only homer last season.

Blue Jays walk-off win via error
Toronto walked off in the ninth inning when Yangervis Solarte fielded Melky Cabrera’s sacrifice bunt and threw wildly, allowing Jose Reyes to score. It marked the second time this season the Blue Jays won a game on a walk-off due to the opposition committing an error after fielding a bunt.

The other occurrence came on May 28 when the Tampa Bay Rays Juan Carlos Oviedo fielded an Anthony Gose bunt and threw wildly, allowing Kevin Pillar to score.

Royals win 10th straight

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19

ESPN Stats & InformationCatcher Salvador Perez has crushed pitches on the outer third since June 1.
The Kansas City Royals are as hot as they’ve ever been in the last two decades. For the first time since 1994 and just the fifth time in franchise history, the Royals have won 10 straight games. With the exception of the strike-shortened 1994 season, Kansas City has reached the ALCS in each of the previous three seasons when it won at least 10 straight.

The streak
During the 10-game win streak, the Royals have an OPS of .878, which would easily lead MLB this season (Rockies currently top baseball with a .798 OPS).

Over the course of the streak, the Royals have four players batting better than .350: Billy Butler (.389), Salvador Perez (.385), Jarrod Dyson (.381) and Alcides Escobar (.378).

Perez has been an especially difficult out. Perez extended his hit streak to 12 games Wednesday, naturally on a pitch away.

He’s hitting .435 on pitches on the outer third of the plate since the calendar turned to June. In the first two months of the season, Perez batted a respectable .258 on pitches on the outer third or further -- but just slightly above league average.

But over the past two-plus weeks, he's hit .435 on those same pitches.

How Guthrie won
Meanwhile, the Royals got yet another strong performance from a member of their rotation.

Jeremy Guthrie logged nine strikeouts for the second consecutive start, marking the first time he’s accomplished that in his career. Here’s how Guthrie beat the Tigers on Wednesday:

• Guthrie got the Tigers to chase 32 percent of his pitches out of the strike zone, his second-highest rate this season.

• He did so by keeping hitters off balance, using both his fastball and changeup to finish off hitters. The Tigers were 1-13 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending in a fastball, and 1-6 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending in a changeup.

• Guthrie got ahead of hitters and put them away. The Tigers went 0-14 in at-bats that reached two strikes, his only start without allowing a hit in a two-strike count this season.

Great Royals SP during streak
Guthrie’s performance reflects a larger trend among Royals starting pitching during this win streak.

No starter has allowed more than three earned runs in the last 10 games, and the only home run they have allowed was a solo homer that Guthrie gave up in the seventh inning on Wednesday. Royals starters have 58 strikeouts compared to just 16 walks during the streak.

It’s pretty safe to call that a winning formula.

Vogelsong bouncing back in 2014

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
Ryan Vogelsong struck out a career-high nine batters in the Giants' 3-2 win over the Reds Wednesday.

Vogelsong now has a 2.05 ERA over his last eight starts, and the Giants improved to 9-3 this season in his starts (they were 9-10 last season).

How has Vogelsong righted the ship in 2014?

Improved off-speed pitches
Vogelsong had been getting into trouble earlier this season –- and all of last season –- with his off-speed pitches. He primarily throws a changeup and curveball to offset his fastball and cutter, but those pitches had been failing him.

Opponents have hit only .182 against his curveball in his last eight starts and .240 against his changeup. In his first four starts this season and in 2013, opponents combined to hit .348 against his curve and .366 against his change.

The improved curve has been the biggest factor, however. Vogelsong is generating a swing-and-miss 32 percent of the time with his curve in his last eight starts, a 39 percent increase from his 23 starts prior.

Improvement in tough spots
Vogelsong’s ability to get out of jams has been a key factor for the turnaround as well.

Vogelsong has limited opponents to a .186 batting average with runners in scoring position his last eight starts with no home runs. That’s a big improvement from his .361 batting average and five home runs allowed the previous 23 starts.

By generating more misses (26 percent to 15 percent) while throwing the same number of strikes in these situations, he's allowed fewer balls in play and fewer hits.

Again, one of the biggest factors behind this improvement is the pitch selection. Vogelsong has limited his changeup usage to just 7 percent the past eight games (down from 20 percent), with his curveball making up the difference. Opponents have hit .167 with a 38 percent swing-and-miss rate against his curve with runners in scoring his past eight starts.

Cruz, Springer hitting hard during hot streak

May, 30, 2014
May 30
ESPN Stats & Information
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz and Houston Astros rookie outfielder George Springer are two of the hottest hitters in Major League Baseball.

Cruz is hitting .472 with seven home runs and 12 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak.

Springer is hitting .390 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak. The homers all have come in his past seven games.

Springer is the second rookie in modern MLB history (since 1900) to hit seven homers in a seven-game span (Rudy York did so in 1937).

Springer has 10 home runs this month. In the past 100 years, Mark McGwire (15 in 1987) and Wally Berger (11 in 1930) are the only rookies with more homers in May.

Cruz and Springer are both hitting the ball hard lately.

Since May 17, Cruz (.348) and Springer (.341) lead the American League in hard-hit average (hard-hit balls per at-bat).

Springer ranks second (.610) and Cruz third (.578) in the majors in isolated slugging percentage (total bases minus hits divided by at-bats) since May 17.

Five of Cruz's seven homers during his streak have come on fastballs. He's hitting .714 with a 1.929 slugging percentage on at-bats that end in fastballs during his streak, both of which lead the majors since May 20.

Springer is doing his damage on the outer half of the plate. During his streak, he's hitting .444 with four home runs against pitches on the outer half. Prior to May 17, he was hitting .203 with just one homer against pitches on the outer half this season.

Springer and Cruz look to continue their hot streaks when the Astros host the Orioles at 8:10 p.m. ET Friday.

Fielder injury might explain power outage

May, 22, 2014
May 22
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiPrince Fielder was struggling to produce even before his recent injury.
If Prince Fielder’s herniated disk in his neck costs him the rest of the season, it would be a surprise turn for a player who had been among the most durable in baseball.

Since his first full season in 2006, Fielder has missed a total of 13 games over a span of eight seasons. His 1,283 games played during that stretch were more than any other player in baseball.

The slugging first baseman has already missed five games this season, matching the most he’s missed in a single season in 2006 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Fielder’s absence is just the latest in a long line of maladies that have afflicted the Texas Rangers. They have used the disabled list 17 times already this season, four more than the next closest team, the Cincinnati Reds.

Signs of decline
Even before his injury, Fielder had been struggling to replicate the power numbers that he had in the past. After posting a .981 OPS in his last season with the Brewers in 2011, his OPS has decreased in each of the last 3 seasons, bottoming out at .720 so far this season.

Due to the fact that Fielder doesn’t contribute much on defense or the basepaths, his diminished hitting has resulted in -0.3 wins above replacement this season, making him one of the least productive first basemen in baseball.

Power outage
Back in 2011, 22 percent of Fielder’s fly balls ended up as home runs. That number dropped to 16 percent in 2012, then 13 percent last season. Through 42 games this season, only eight percent of his fly balls are turning into home runs. This season his average fly ball distance is just 272 feet – that ranks outside the top 100 in baseball.

Opposing teams have taken notice. Fielder is seeing more pitches in the strike zone and more fastballs than he had previously in his career. Although he seems to be seeing no shortage of hittable pitches, he’s no longer doing anywhere near the damage with pitches in the strike zone that he used to, slugging just .402 against pitches in the strike zone on the season.

Justin Havens and Lee Singer contributed to this post

The month of April in home runs

May, 1, 2014
May 1

ESPN Stats & Info
Giancarlo Stanton crushed the ball in April, earning him our Home Run Hitter of the Month award.

ESPN Stats & Info's Home Run Tracker Team tracks every home run hit in the majors. Here are a few standout performances from the month of April.

Home Run Hitter of the Month: Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton dominated the home run headlines in April, hitting three of the nine longest homers of the month. On April 4, he launched an Eric Stults pitch 484 feet to left center field for the longest home run in the history of Marlins Park and the longest home run of the 2014 season.

Stanton wasn’t done there, as he added a 469-footer on April 12 and a 457-footer on April 15. There have been 13 home runs hit of 450+ feet in all of MLB this season, and Stanton has hit three of those. In fact, since his rookie season in 2010 no hitter has hit more 450+ foot home runs.

Performance of the Month: Michael Morse
At Coors Field on April 23, Michael Morse hit a 458-foot homer off Tyler Chatwood in the second inning and a 450-foot homer off him in the third inning, the two longest home runs of the season at Coors Field. Morse became just the third player since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006 to hit two 450+ foot home runs in the same game.

It was quite an April for Morse as he added 449 and 442 foot home runs as well and finished the month with a major league leading 440 foot average home run distance, 42.5 feet further than the MLB average (397.5).

Other notable performances

ESPN Stats & Info
Ortiz hit the longest home run by a Red Sox hitter since ESPN Stats & Info began tracking home runs.

• On April 22 David Ortiz hit a ball 482 feet off Masahiro Tanaka at Fenway Park, the second longest homer of the season. Not only was it the longest homer for Ortiz since ESPN began tracking homers in 2006, but it was also the longest home run by any Red Sox hitter. It was the second longest home run hit by anyone at Fenway Park in that period, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero's 484-foot shot against Curt Schilling on July 30, 2006.

The ball left Ortiz's bat at 119.9 mph, the fastest off-bat speed for any home run hit this season. It is the third fastest speed for any home run in the last four seasons.

• White Sox slugger Jose Abreu set an all-time rookie-record with ten home runs before May. Abreu is the only hitter in the American League to hit three home runs of at least 430 feet. On top of that, Abreu hit the two longest homers at Comerica Park this season despite only playing four games in Detroit.

• Earlier this month Albert Pujols became the 26th member of the 500 home run club with a 430-foot homer at Nationals Park. Since ESPN began tracking home runs, six players have reached the 500 homer mark and Pujols’ traveled the furthest (430 feet).

Top stats to know: Jeter to retire after 2014

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13

AP Photo/Ed BetzDerek Jeter will call it a career after 2014. How does he rank among the all-time greats?

Derek Jeter said he will retire after this season. Jeter posted a long letter on his Facebook account Wednesday saying that 2014 will be his last year of playing professional baseball.

Hit machine

Jeter has 3,316 career hits, ninth-most all time. He's only three behind Paul Molitor for the eighth spot.

Even more impressive, all of those hits have come for one team. Jeter currently has the sixth-most hits for one franchise in MLB history.

With 104 more hits with the Yankees, Jeter would surpass Carl Yastrzemski for fourth-most on that list. Only Ty Cobb (Tigers), Stan Musial (Cardinals) and Hank Aaron (Braves) would have more with one franchise.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter needs only 115 more hits to surpass Honus Wagner for most hits by a shortstop.

Since becoming a full-time player in 1996, Jeter has averaged about 184 hits per year (including an injury-shortened 2013 in which he played in only 17 games). If Jeter maintains that pace this season, he will finish his career with exactly 3,500 hits. Only five players would have more.

But Jeter's greatest accomplishments might have come when it mattered most.

Jeter has hit .308 in his postseason career. No one has more games played (158), hits (200), runs (111) and total bases (302) in the postseason.

Yankees legend

Jeter has played more games in pinstripes than anyone else. He ranks first in Yankees franchise history in games (2,602), hits (3,316), at-bats (10,614) and stolen bases (348).

Only four players have more wins above replacement in Yankees history than the Captain's 71.6: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. To catch DiMaggio, Jeter would have to put up a 6.7 WAR season this year, something he has accomplished only twice and most recently in 1999, when Jeter posted an 8.0 WAR.

Jeter's final season as a player will be his 20th with the club, another franchise record.


There's little doubt that Jeter will be headed to Cooperstown when he is eligible in 2020.

He could become the sixth player elected in his first year of eligibility who predominantly played shortstop, joining an illustrious list.

Cal Ripken received 98.53 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote in 2007, the third-highest percentage all time. Tom Seaver has the highest percentage with 98.84 percent.

Jeter could make a run at that record, adding another to his collection.

--Katie Sharp contributed to this article

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsShin-Soo Choo will bring a much-needed skill to the Rangers: on-base ability from the left side.
It’s being reported that the Texas Rangers and OF Shin-Soo Choo have agreed to a seven-year, $130 million contract.

Are they worth it? To find out, let’s take a look at the 28 unique contracts for non-pitchers worth at least $100 million handed out that have been in effect since at least the 2013 season (including both of Alex Rodriguez’s huge deals).

Of those 28, players averaged 5.7 Wins Above Replacement in the season prior to the contract starting, and 4.2 WAR in the first season of the new deal.

From the second year on, that sample of 28 never again averaged 4 WAR a season as a group, though their collective decline is much less dramatic than it's been for pitchers.

Nine of those contracts have played out to completion with a wide range of production. Albert Pujols (8.2 WAR per season over eight seasons) and Alex Rodriguez (8.1 WAR over seven seasons) remained remarkably productive, but Ken Griffey Jr. (1.5 WAR over nine seasons) and Carlos Lee (1.5 WAR over six seasons) failed to return value.

More specifically to Choo’s situation, there have been 15 free-agent contracts handed out to position players worth at least $100M. Their return-on-investment has been similarly unimpressive. The players saw their WAR drop from 5.9 in the year prior to signing the deal, to 4.3 in year one, declining steadily to a paltry 1.8 WAR in year six.

Combining position players and pitchers, there have been 10 free-agent contracts of at least $100 million issued to players 30 years or older at the time the contract began (Choo is 31). The results are startling.

This crop of players produced an average of 6 WAR in the season before signing their new massive contract. In the first year of the deal, that dropped to 4.9, and the group's average permanently dips below 3 WAR per season by year three.

In the sixth and seventh years combined, none of the eight players posted at least 3 WAR. (As a point of reference, some players who had a 3 WAR this past season were Mark Ellis, Francisco Liriano and Norichika Aoki).

Choo’s calling card is his ability to get on base. His .423 OBP in 2013 was fourth in the majors, and was the fifth-best by any lefty outfielder in the past 10 seasons (Barry Bonds, J.D. Drew, and Bobby Abreu twice).

The Pirates and Marlins were the only teams with a lower OBP from their left-handed batters than the Rangers last season.

After an injury and off-the-field-trouble plagued him in 2011 (tied for 60th in WAR among MLB OF), Choo has quickly bounced back to re-establish himself as a borderline All-Star (T-17th last season).

One of the concerns with Choo has been his struggles against left-handers -- his slugging percentage has dropped nearly 90 points since 2011, and he’s hitting line drives at a much lower rate.

Over the past two seasons, righties have taken 66 percent of the Rangers’ plate appearances, 3rd-most in MLB in that span.

Choo will likely be a corner outfielder for the Rangers. He played 1,333 innings in centerfield for the Reds and had -17 Defensive Runs Saved, by far the fewest in the league among qualified center fielders.

From 2009-12, Choo played right field for Cleveland and had 0 DRS, which is average.

-- Contract information provided by Justin Havens

Big Papi's incredible World Series career

October, 30, 2013

US Presswire
David Ortiz has carried the Red Sox this World Series. Can he help them clinch it tonight?

David Ortiz has the highest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in World Series history, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of his World Series dominance.

David Ortiz has played 13 World Series games in his career

• In six of them, he's either scored or driven in a run on the play with the largest Win Probability Added in the game. In other words, he's scored a run or had an RBI on the most important play of the game in almost half of his World Series games.

•  He gets better depending on how many outs there are, hitting .538 with a 1.623 OPS with two outs.

• He's hitting more than 100 points higher and slugging more than 150 points higher against lefties than righties.

• He's reached base safely in all 13 games, tied for the 10th-longest streak to begin a World Series career (Hank Greenberg - 18).

• He's had a hit in 11 of the 13 games, scored a run in nine of them, and had an RBI in more than half of them (seven).

How do you stop Big Papi?

David Ortiz is on fire in the World Series, but after examining every pitch thrown to him, here is what pitchers have to do to get him out:

• On one of the first two pitches, the pitcher has to throw an offspeed pitch on the outer third for a strike.

Ortiz is 5-for-5 on the first two pitches of an AB in this World Series, and all five hits are against fastballs.

And he’s ignoring any other pitch, with just two swings against 13 offspeed pitches.

• After that, pitchers can’t throw him a fastball (unless it is 97 mph with movement), and they have to keep the ball down in the zone.

Ortiz is 9-for-9 with just two whiffs on 19 swings against fastballs in the World Series (one of them was a check swing).

The only out he’s made against a fastball was inches from being a grand slam before Carlos Beltran snagged it out of the bullpen.

Wacha has the stuff

Ortiz has been crushing fastballs, but that’s also how Michael Wacha has been limiting hitters. Batters are just 7-for-51 (.137) in at-bats ending in Wacha’s fastball this postseason.

But all three of Wacha’s at-bats against Ortiz in the Fall Classic have ended in changeups. The lone pitch Wacha left up and in the strike zone against Ortiz was one of those changeups in Game 2, that Ortiz launched 375-feet into the Monster seats.

For Wacha to contain Ortiz, he’ll have to rely on his offspeed pitches and work down in the zone. That, or hope first base is open.

Top stats to know: World Series Game 5

October, 28, 2013
After exciting finishes to each of the last two games, The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals faceoff one more time at Busch Stadium in Game 5 Monday night.

With the series tied 2-2, Game 5 will be crucial for both teams. According to Elias, teams to win Game 5 in a best-of-seven World Series tied 2-2 have won 26 of 40 series.

Although AL teams are 4-12 away from home in the last six World Series, the Red Sox have won five of their last six road World Series games and are 14-4 all-time in postseason Game Fives, winning the last four.

As for the Cardinals, they lost at home Sunday, but have won seven of their last nine home games in the World Series and haven’t lost back-to-back home World Series games since 2004.

Wainwright’s Curve

The Cardinals’ Game 5 starter, Adam Wainwright, struggled in his Game 1 outing. What does Wainwright typically do well that he failed to do in Game 1?

Effectively use his normal out-pitch, the curveball, to put batters away.
Adam Wainwright

Batters hit .357 off him in Game 1 in two-strike counts, compared to .160 in the regular season and first two rounds of the postseason. Prior to the World Series, Wainwright got ground balls 53 percent of the time he threw the curve, compared to 27 percent in Game 1.

Opponents hit .500 against his curve with two strikes in Game 1, compared to .118 against the pitch prior.

As you can see in the heat map below, he left too many two-strike pitches in the center/upper part of the zone.

ESPN Stats & Information

Jon Lester stats to know

Jon Lester
Lester is looking to join Babe Ruth as the only other Red Sox lefty with three World Series wins. He is 2-0 in 13 1/3 IP with no runs allowed in two World Series starts.

If he continues his shutout streak he would be the second pitcher in MLB history to allow zero runs in each of his first three World Series starts (Christy Mathewson). If he wins, he would be the first pitcher to win his first three World Series starts since Jack Morris and the first lefty since Ron Guidry.

In game 1, Jon Lester dominated the Cardinals with his cutter, finishing the game with eight strikeouts, five of which came off the cutter. But can Lester have the same kind of success with that pitch in game 5?

This postseason the Cardinals are batting .348 with an OPS of .957 and two home runs against the cutter, compared to a .211 BA with an OPS of .586 and seven homers on all other pitches.

Cardinals Postseason RBI

Yadier Molina has 12 career RBI in the World Series, the second-most in Cardinals franchise history behind Lou Brock’s 13.

Over the years, Cardinals batters have racked up a lot of postseason RBI and Carlos Beltran is climbing the charts. His 40 postseason RBI with the Houston Astros, New York Mets and Cardinals are the fourth-most in NL history. He also has 16 career postseason homeruns, the ninth-most in MLB history.

Red Sox spread hot bats throughout lineup

October, 5, 2013
AP Photo/Charles KrupaThe Red Sox scored 12 runs in Game 1, the most the Rays have ever allowed in a postseason game.
The Boston Red Sox started the 2013 postseason on the right note, with a convincing victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Spreading it around
Every single Red Sox starter had at least one hit and at least one run scored. The Sox are the third team in postseason history to accomplish that feat, joining the 1936 New York Yankees (World Series Game 2 versus Giants) and 1934 St. Louis Cardinals (World Series Game 7 versus Tigers).

The Red Sox made the most of their hits. For the first time in franchise history, they scored 12 runs in a postseason game without hitting a home run. Boston is the first team to score 12 runs without a homer in a postseason game since the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees. The last American League team to do so was the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Bad night for the Rays
The 12 runs the Rays allowed are the most they’ve surrendered in a postseason game in franchise history.

The Rays continue the trend of the “wild-card hangover.” Since the wild-card game was implemented last postseason, all four winners of the wild-card game lost in Game 1 of the Division Series.

Moore was ineffective
Matt Moore struggled for the Rays, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 4 ⅓ innings.

Moore abandoned his curveball, as 75 percent of his pitches were fastballs -- his highest percentage in any start this season. Only six percent of his pitches were curveballs, which marked his lowest percentage in any start this season. Only one of the six curveballs he threw was a strike.

It was even worse in the fourth inning. Moore didn’t throw a single curveball and 82 percent of his pitches were fastballs. In that inning, 55 percent of his overall pitches and 67 percent of his fastballs were up in the zone. The Red Sox went 3-for-5 and missed just one of their 13 swings against pitches up in the zone in the fourth inning.

Martin's power leads Pirates to NLDS

October, 2, 2013
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarRussell Martin (right) homered twice for the Pirates in their win against the Reds.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have won a postseason game for the first time since October 13, 1992.

Marlon Byrd, Francisco Liriano and Andrew McCutchen all played significant roles in the victory, but it was Russell Martin who especially shined for the Pirates.

Key to the game: Russell's muscle
Martin had only one multihomer game in the regular season, but he put two pitches into the bleachers in Tuesday's win.

Martin became the second Pirates player to hit two homers in a postseason game, joining Bob Robertson, who hit three against the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS.

Martin's nine total bases are tied with Willie Stargell for the second-most in a postseason game in team history. Stargell had nine in one of the most famous postseason wins in team history, Game 7 of the 1979 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Martin is the second player to hit multiple home runs in a postseason game in Pittsburgh. The other? Mickey Mantle in Game 2 of the 1960 World Series for the New York Yankees.

Martin is the seventh player (first since Johnny Damon for the 2004 Boston Red Sox) and second catcher (first since Yogi Berra in the 1956 World Series) with two homers in a winner-take-all postseason game.

He is also the first catcher to homer in postseason play for three different teams, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He'd previously done so for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yankees.

Martin's first homer came on a 95 mph fastball. During the regular season, he tied Starling Marte for the team lead in home runs on pitches thrown at least that fast. The Reds knew firsthand that Martin could turn around that kind of pitch. He'd done so 10 days ago, hitting a 95 mph fastball from Homer Bailey for a game-tying homer in an eventual 4-2 Pirates win.

Matchup of the game: Liriano versus Joey Votto
The first two hitters in the Reds lineup -- Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Ludwick -- were 4-for-7 combined. The rest of the Reds went a combined 2-for-25.

Liriano took advantage of Votto's late-season struggles hitting left-handed pitching, striking him out twice. Votto was 4-for-31 against lefties to close the season (though he did draw 11 walks).

The strikeouts both came on sliders down and away that Votto flailed at and missed.

Liriano threw 45 sliders among his 90 pitches, the highest rate of use for that pitch that he's had in any start this season. The pitch netted him 14 outs and yielded only one baserunner.

What's next?
The Pirates will meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. It will be the first time the Pirates and Cardinals meet in the postseason.

Pittsburgh will be looking to win a postseason series for the first time since 1979, when it won the World Series by defeating the Orioles in seven games.

Did you know?
This is the second time the Pirates have hit at least three homers in a postseason home game.

The other was in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, when they won on Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

September, 25, 2013
The final night of "Wednesday Night Baseball" this season features the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants (10 p.m. ET, ESPN). Here are five stats our broadcast crew will be talking about today.

1. The Dodgers have clinched the NL West and are still in the hunt for the best record in the National League. With five games yet to play, the Braves have the best record in the NL and the Cardinals the second-best. The Dodgers are two games behind the Braves and 1.5 games behind the Cardinals (one in the loss column).

2. The Dodgers are the third team in MLB history to be in last place on July 1 or later and win the division, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. After falling a season-high 12 games below .500 at 30-42 through their first 72 games, the Dodgers have gone 61-24, playing at a 116-win pace (over 162 games) in their last 85 games. The 116 is notable because 116 is the MLB record for wins in a season, shared by the 1906 Cubs (in the 154-game schedule) and the 2001 Mariners (in the 162-game schedule).

3. The Dodgers have decisions to make regarding their postseason rotation. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are the obvious one-two punch, but Don Mattingly & Co. must pick between Ricky Nolasco and Hyun-Jin Ryu as a Game 3 starter. Nolasco has struggled in his last two starts, allowing 13 runs (11 ER) in 6 1/3 IP.

4. Tonight could be the final chapter of Barry Zito's career with the Giants. He has an $18 million club option for next season with a $7 million buyout. The Giants will likely buy him out, closing the book on his seven-year, $126 million contract, which at the time was the largest ever for a pitcher. It’s safe to say the contract did not pan out for San Francisco; over the life of the deal, he’s been worth a total of 3.0 WAR (wins above replacement), or less than 0.5 WAR per season.

Chris Davis joins Ruth & Belle in 50-40 club

September, 14, 2013
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagestChris Davis is only the second Orioles player to hit 50 homers in a season.
Chris Davis isn't just having an MVP-caliber season. He's having the type of season we've only seen twice previously in major league history.

Davis hit his 50th home run of the season Friday, joining Babe Ruth (1921) and Albert Belle (1995) as the only players in MLB history with 50 home runs and 40 doubles in a season.

Davis is the first player with 50 homers in a season since Jose Bautista in 2010, and the first left-handed batter to do so since Prince Fielder in 2007.

Only six other lefties have posted 50 homers in a season for an AL team –- Ruth, Ken Griffey Jr., David Ortiz, Jim Thome, Brady Anderson and Roger Maris.

Davis tied Anderson for the Orioles franchise record for homers in a season.

Home runs by Davis have usually led to wins for the Orioles. The Orioles are 30-17 in games in which Davis has a homer this season, including 3-0 when he has multiple home runs. They are 47-52 in all other games.

Similarly, the Orioles are 48-26 when Davis has an RBI, including 21-10 when he has multiple RBIs, but only 29-43 when he fails to drive in a run.

Davis has had a spectacular season, but does he deserve the AL MVP award?

His power numbers suggest he does, but consider this: Davis doesn't even have the most Wins Above Replacement on his own team. Entering Friday, Manny Machado (6.6) had a slight edge over Davis (6.5) in WAR. Davis ranked sixth in the AL among hitters, also trailing Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera.