Stats & Info: MLB Teams

Peavy leaves zone to spur to recent success

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesJake Peavy lost a no-hitter in the eighth but won for the third time in four starts.

Jake Peavy took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Saturday night as he continues a turnaround that might see him become a big part of the Giants' stretch run to the playoffs. Peavy is 3-1 with a 1.26 ERA over his past four starts after getting one win in his first 23 starts of the season.

How he won Saturday
Peavy recorded 18 swings-and-misses Saturday against the Brewers, the most he has had in a start since Aug. 13, 2011. Eight of those misses came with two strikes, his most in a start since May 26, 2012. Peavy also had eight strikeouts against right-handed batters, his most in a start since April 17, 2008.

Peavy was not afraid to try to make hitters chase, and he threw 72 pitches out of the strike zone. He got 26 swings on those pitches, and hitters were 0-for-11 with six strikeouts on at-bats ending with a pitch out of the zone.

Fastball improvement or luck?
Peavy’s fastball in his past four starts has been more effective in getting outs than early in the season, but what’s causing that is hard to say. Hitters hit .321 against Peavy’s fastball when they hit ground balls in his first 23 starts, more than 60 points higher than the league average on grounders off fastballs. Peavy is not inducing grounders with his fastball in his past four starts, as hitters have put four grounders into play off Peavy’s fastball and are 0-for-4.

Out of the zone
Peavy has gotten batters to chase pitches more in the past four starts. Hitters are chasing Peavy’s pitches out of the zone on nearly 35 percent of their at-bats, compared with 29 percent in the first 23 starts. More importantly for Peavy, when batters do chase, his miss percentage on these pitches is 41 percent, up from 34 percent in his first 23 starts.

Balls in play becoming outs
Hitters are hitting .260 on balls in play against Peavy over the past four starts, which is nearly 40 points lower than the number they put up in his first 23 starts. Peavy is not only seeing more batted balls turn into outs, but he’s also seeing fewer balls put into play. Hitters put 40 percent of Peavy’s balls in play in the first 23 starts, but that number is down to 34 percent over his past four.

MLB Teams

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27

AP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly has his team playing .610 ball since June 9, tied for the best mark in the NL.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), first place in the National League West is on the line as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers go into the game with a half-game advantage in the division. Through June 8, Los Angeles trailed San Francisco by 9½ games. Since then, the Dodgers have gone 25-16, while the Giants are 15-26.

Still, it’s easy to wonder if the Dodgers have underachieved, given their MLB-leading payroll. Similar questions could be asked of the Giants, who rank sixth in payroll. Part of the reason is that several of their star players haven’t played up to their star billing this season.

Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez started the season on a tear. At the end of April, he was hitting .317 with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.021. But since May, he is batting .245, with just seven home runs in 282 at-bats. His OPS over the last three months is down to .685.

Matt Kemp
In 2011 and 2012, Kemp was one of the top outfielders in baseball, finishing second in MVP voting in 2011 and making the NL All-Star team both seasons. Since then, however, Kemp has struggled.

Over the last two seasons, Kemp’s wins above replacement is a minus-0.6, meaning he’s worth less than a minor league call-up in the same position.

This season, his WAR is minus-1.1, which ties him for the third-worst among NL position players, behind only Domonic Brown and Jedd Gyorko.

Andre Ethier
Ethier’s decline has been going longer than Kemp’s. Ethier batted .292 in 2011, but his batting average has declined each year since, down to .248 this season. His home run total has also declined, from 20 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 to just four so far this season.

Hanley Ramirez
Although Ramirez is producing much more than the previous trio, he is still well off his mark from 2013, when he had a 1.040 OPS. This season, it’s .840. Last year, Ramirez had 20 home runs in 336 plate appearances. At this year’s All-Star break, he had 11 homers in the same number of plate appearances.

Buster Posey
One of the Giants’ stars, Posey has failed to live up to his 2012 NL MVP season, when he batted .336 with a .957 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Posey is batting .288 with a .801 OPS.

The key to Posey’s success might be a positional change. In his MLB career, Posey has a .361 BA and .996 OPS when playing first base. Those numbers drop to a .292 BA and .822 OPS when he’s in the lineup as a catcher.

Pablo Sandoval
After a rough start, Sandoval has turned his season around.

Through May 10, Sandoval was hitting .173 and striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. Since then, his batting average is .332, and his strikeout rate is down to 11 percent.

His free-swinging style has worked for him. This season, no batter has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than Sandoval’s 43 percent; he ranked second in that statistic last season. But he is hitting .255 on pitches out of the zone, the third-best mark in the NL and well above the MLB average of .163.

Greinke rolls through April again

May, 1, 2014
May 1
The Dodgers’ 10,000th win was another in a long run of very good days for Zack Greinke.

Greinke improved to 5-0 for the second time in his career (he started 6-0 in 2009) and extended his modern-era record streak of consecutive starts allowing two runs or fewer to 18 straight.

It would be hard to make the case that any pitcher in the National League was better than Jose Fernandez this month, but Greinke is at least in the discussion. He finished with a 2.04 ERA and a 46-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio.

The last Dodgers pitcher to go 5-0 or better and strike out that many hitters in a calendar month was Hideo Nomo, who was 6-0 with an 0.89 ERA and 60 strikeouts in June 1995.

Greinke had a similar month to this one not too long ago, going 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA, with 30 strikeouts and eight walks last August.

Over the life of this 18-start streak, which started on July 30, Greinke is 12-1 with a 1.72 ERA.

The only pitcher with a better ERA during that run is Fernandez, at 1.26.

How he’s done it
Greinke won in a way that was unusual for him. He got eight batters out with his changeup, the second-most he’s had in any start in the last six seasons.

Deception has been a key part of Greinke’s game. He got 45 percent of his batters out this month with pitches that were out of the strike zone. Last season, that rate was only 35 percent for him..

Greinke has been at his best when situations have been toughest. The Twins went 1 for 12 with runners on base against him and 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. This month, he’s held opponents to a batting average of .149 with men on and .130 with runners in scoring position.

Looking ahead
Historically, Greinke has had a hard time matching what he’s done in March and April in May. He’s only had one May in which he made at least three starts and had an ERA below 3.00.

Over the last four seasons, Greinke’s May ERA is 4.43.

But it's also worth noting -- the last time Greinke started 5-0 (2009), his May ERA was 1.57.

And he won the Cy Young Award.

Fernandez brings his best to the table

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22

Baseball Tonight picked a good day to debate who the best pitcher in baseball is.

Jose Fernandez left little reason to vote for anyone other than him.

Fernandez finished with 14 strikeouts and no walks in a 1-0 win, the second pitcher ever to have such a line against the Atlanta Braves. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the other was Nap Rucker in a no-hitter for the Brooklyn Dodgers (then known as Superbas) in 1908.

Fernandez became the fifth pitcher in the Divisional Era (since 1969) with a pair of 14-strikeout games before turning 22. The others are Dwight Gooden (5), Jose Rijo (2), Frank Tanana (2) and Kerry Wood (2).

How he dominated
Fernandez had a devastating breaking ball, one that netted him 11 strikeouts, nine of which were swinging.

Fernandez’s fastball averaged 96.1 mph, the third fastest average in a game in his career.

He finished with 26 swings-and-misses, four more than any other game he’s pitched in his career.

Making his case
Fernandez has a 2.16 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 33 starts since the start of last season. The only pitcher to rate better in those stats is Clayton Kershaw, who is currently on the disabled list.

However Fernandez's opponents' batting average in that span is .184, 11 points better than Kershaw's, and his opponents' OPS against (.522) trails Kershaw's by only three points.

On the other side
Alex Wood threw 8 innings for the Braves, gave up 1 run and got the loss. It was his second straight loss allowing one run in eight innings or more.

He’s the first pitcher to have two straight such starts in a row since Mike Norris of the 1980 Athletics and the first in the National League since Tom Seaver for the 1973 Mets.

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Night
Fernandez (age 21) and Wood (age 23) both had at least 11 strikeouts.

This is the second time since 1900 that two pitchers age 23 or younger both had at least 11 strikeouts in the same game.

The other game was on July 31, 1901, when the Reds' Noodles Hahn (age 22) had 11 and the Cubs' Long Tom Hughes (age 22) had 15.

Fernandez is the fifth-youngest pitcher to have a 14-strikeout, no-walk game in the Modern Era (since 1900), the youngest since Kerry Wood had his 20-strikeout, no-walk game against the Houston Astros in 1998.

The teams combined for 28 strikeouts and no walks. This is the first time in the modern era that two teams combined for at least 28 strikeouts and no walks in a game.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NL aces channel their 2013 best

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
For a number of National League Opening Day starters, the first day of the baseball season was about picking up right where they left off.

That was true for 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who dominated the Colorado Rockies for six innings in a Miami Marlins rout. Fernandez tied Josh Beckett’s club record for most strikeouts in an Opening Day start with nine.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Fernandez was only the second starting pitcher to have a nine-strikeout, no-walk game on Opening Day in the last 16 seasons.

The full list of pitchers to have that sort of game puts Fernandez in elite company. It is noted in the chart on the right.

Fernandez starred because he had a pitch mix that kept hitters guessing once he got two strikes on them. He threw 35 two-strike pitches, but didn’t throw more than 12 of any pitch type. Fernandez set a tone for how difficult he would be to hit when he struck out Troy Tulowitzki on an 84-mph slider in the top of the first.

Wainwright’s curve still pretty good
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright hasn’t lost anything from the curveball that made him among the top pitchers in the league last season. Wainwright (with help from a homer by catcher Yadier Molina) beat the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0, marking the first time in Reds history that they lost a season opener, 1-0.

Wainwright threw 22 curveballs and they netted him six outs, yielding no hits and one walk.

Liriano sharp
Some of the Pirates’ magic from 2013 carried over into their season opener with the Cubs, a game they won 1-0 on Neil Walker’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning. It was the second walk-off homer on Opening Day in Pirates history. Bob Bailey had the other against Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal in 1965.

Elias notes that those mark the only two instances of a player hitting a walk-off homer in a 1-0 Opening Day win.

The Pirates got another great effort from Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 in six scoreless innings. Liriano got misses on 45 percent of the swings against him. Ten of them came against his slider, resulting in seven strikeouts.

Top stats to know: Dodgers vs D-backs

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
Paul Goldschmidt was a very tough hitter to get out in 2013.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will open the 2014 baseball season at 4 a.m. eastern in the first major league baseball game played in Australia. This weekend's game dates of March 22 and 23 are the earliest in MLB history, beating the 2008 Tokyo series

There are plenty of intriguing statistical storylines for this contest. Let’s run down a few of them.

For openers
The Diamondbacks have won seven straight Opening Day Games, tied with the Seattle Mariners for baseball’s longest current Opening Day winning streak.

The Dodgers have won three straight season openers, winning last year in memorable fashion when Clayton Kershaw pitched a shutout and hit a go-ahead home run in eighth inning to snap a scoreless tie against the San Francisco Giants.

Kershaw will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start for the Dodgers. The only pitcher in franchise history with a longer streak is Don Sutton, who started on Opening Day seven years in a row for the Dodgers from 1972-78.

Kershaw is 2-0 in three Opening Day starts, with 19 innings pitched and no runs allowed. He is coming off a rough spring training, however, going 0-3 with a 9.20 ERA in 14⅔ innings pitched.

Kershaw has pitched well against the Diamondbacks the last two seasons, but with little to show for it. He’s made seven starts against them in that span, but is 1-4, albeit with a 2.31 ERA.

Wade Miley will get the start for the Diamondbacks in place of injured lefty Patrick Corbin. Miley will be only the second lefty to start a season opener for the Diamondbacks, joining Randy Johnson, who started six.

Miley is 3-1 with a 3.59 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Dodgers.

Matchup to Watch: Goldschmidt versus Kershaw
Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt emerged as a star last season, ranking among the National League’s best hitters.

But Kershaw has given Goldschmidt a lot of trouble.

Goldschmidt is 2 for 20 with nine strikeouts against Kershaw, though he did homer against the Dodgers ace last season. The pitch that gives Goldschmidt trouble is Kershaw’s slider. Seven of his nine strikeouts have come against that pitch.

Kershaw will try to keep the ball down against Goldschmidt, whose hot spot is the upper-third of the strike zone and above.

Goldschmidt hit 17 home runs against pitches to that area. No one else in the majors had more than 11.

What can Puig do for an encore?
Dodgers rightfielder Yasiel Puig made a huge impact in his rookie season, hitting .319 with 19 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 104 games.

The Dodgers fortunes turned with the recall of Puig from the minor leagues last season. They went 64-32 in his 96 starts, 28-38 in all other games.

Whether Puig goes through a sophomore slump may depend on if he cuts down on his swings and misses. His 35 percent miss rate ranked sixth-highest among those with at least 300 plate appearances last season.

Did You Know?
Australia has produced 28 major league players. Among the most notable are current Tampa Bay Rays closer Grant Balfour and former Milwaukee Brewers infielder Dave Nilsson, who hit 105 home runs in eight seasons from 1992 to 1999.

Four native Australians played in the majors last season: Peter Moylan, Liam Hendricks, Travis Blackley and Balfour.

Top stats to know: NL MVP candidates

November, 14, 2013
The National League MVP will be announced Thursday night, with Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, Arizona Diamonadbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina as the three finalists.

Regardless of who wins, it will be his first MVP award. It figures to be a tight competition, with each of the three having a legitimate argument.

Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen would be the seventh different Pirates player to win MVP and the first since Barry Bonds in 1992.

McCutchen had arguably the best season by a Pirates player since Bonds, ranking second among National League position players in Wins Above Replacement.

He rated in the top seven in the NL in all three slashline stats (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage), as well as doubles and stolen bases. He also had a career-high seven Defensive Runs Saved and was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award in center field.

Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt is trying to become the first Diamondbacks player to win the MVP Award. The highest finish by a Diamondbacks player in the MVP race is third, by Matt Williams in 1999 and Luis Gonzalez in 2001. Goldschmidt finished third among position players in Wins Above Replacement. He had the best offensive numbers of the three finalists, leading the NL in OPS, home runs and RBIs. He also won a Gold Glove for his defense at first base, ranking second in the NL in Defensive Runs Saved.

Goldschmidt also became known for his penchant for big hits. He had a major league high eight go-ahead or game-tying homers in the seventh inning or later.

Yadier Molina
Cardinals players have previously won 20 MVP Awards. Albert Pujols has won the last three of those, in 2005, 2008 and 2009.

The last Cardinals player other than Pujols to win was Willie McGee in 1985. The last Cardinals catcher to win an MVP was Bob O’Farrell in 1926 (who was best known for throwing out Babe Ruth on a steal attempt to end that year’s World Series).

Molina had his third straight solid offensive season, with a .319/.359/.477 slashline, 12 home runs and 44 doubles. He was his usually stellar self behind the plate, winning his sixth straight Gold Glove Award.

Game 1 a familiar story for Red Sox

October, 23, 2013

Jon Lester dominated the Cardinals with pitches on the outer half of the plate.
A lefty pitching a gem, a big first inning and a David Ortiz homer.

The Boston Red Sox have seen it all before. And it all added up to a World Series-opening rout.

Lester mows Cardinals down
Jon Lester became the third Red Sox southpaw to start Game 1 of a World Series.

The other two: Babe Ruth (1918 against the Cubs) and Bruce Hurst (1986 against the Mets) set a precedent, each with a scoreless effort.

Lester matched that, giving the trio a combined 24 2/3 scoreless innings pitched.

He became the first pitcher with seven or more scoreless innings in a World Series opener since Jose Rijo for the 1990 Reds against the Athletics.

Lester became the third pitcher to not allow a run in each of his first two career World Series starts (allowed no runs in 5 2/3 IP in 2007).

The others are Christy Mathewson (first three) and Madison Bumgarner (first two).

Lester made quick work of the Cardinals in the first inning, thanks to a very effective cutter, which netted him three strikeouts in the first two frames.

Lester finished with eight strikeouts, five with his cutter. The latter matched his season high for strikeouts with that pitch.

In real time, the Cardinals' at-bats in the first two innings lasted only 8 minutes, 41 seconds.

First things first
The Red Sox made Adam Wainwright work in the first two innings. They batted for a combined 38 minutes, 13 seconds.

Boston's big first inning was nothing new.

They scored four runs in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2004 World Series and three runs in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series.

Ortiz goes deep again
Ortiz hit his 16th career postseason home run, tying Carlos Beltran for eighth-most all time.

The three runs batted in gave Ortiz has 11 RBIs in his World Series career. Only Dwight Evans (14) has more with the Red Sox.

The Red Sox are 9-1 at Fenway Park in postseason games in which Ortiz homers.

Turning points
The game hinged on two early bases-loaded at-bats. One resulted in a three-run double for Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. The other resulted in a 1-2-3 double play by Cardinals third baseman David Freese.

Napoli is the first player to have a three-run double in a World Series game since Garret Anderson had one for the 2002 Angels against the Giants in Game 7.

He’s also is the first player with a bases-loaded double in the first inning of a World Series game since Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson for the Orioles against the Reds in 1970 and the first player ever with a bases-loaded double in the first inning of Game 1 of a World Series.

The Freese double play was the first 1-2-3 double play in the World Series in 40 years. The last was by John Milner for the Mets against the Athletics in 1973.

The Beltran impact
Beltran left Game 1 with a rib injury after robbing Ortiz of a grand slam.

Beltran has averaged a home run every 10.3 postseason at-bats, the third-lowest rate in history trailing Babe Ruth (a homer every 8.6 at-bats) and Nelson Cruz (every 9.0 at-bats).

Beltran hasn’t robbed a player of a homer in a regular-season game since he snagged one from Ryan Ludwick against the Cardinals in 2008.

Did you know?
This was the ninth straight World Series win for the Red Sox, tied with the Reds for the longest current World Series winning streak and the fourth-longest winning streak in World Series history.

The Red Sox have now won five straight World Series Game 1s and five straight World Series games against the Cardinals. The only team against whom they have had a longer postseason winning streak is the Angels (11 games, 1986-2008).

A continued omen for Thursday?

The Red Sox are now 5-0 all time on Oct. 23 and 24. The Cardinals are 2-7 on those dates.

Top stats to know: Cardinals vs. Red Sox

October, 23, 2013
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will meet in the World Series for the fourth time, starting with Game 1 tonight at Fenway Park. It's a matchup of the teams that shared the best record in baseball.

Each has 104 wins, including postseason. The team that gets to 108 will be crowned champion.

Here are some of the notes and numbers you'll see and hear discussed on Baseball Tonight and on the ESPN Radio game broadcast with Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser.

Game 1 pitching matchup
Adam Wainwright is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in three starts this postseason. He has 20 strikeouts and one walk in 23 innings.

Wainwright won't be fazed by the big stage. He's allowed exactly one run in five of his seven postseason starts and is one of two pitchers who pitched in 2013 to have at least four postseason wins and four postseason saves in his career (the other being Mariano Rivera).

Jon Lester is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA this postseason. He'll be the third Red Sox lefty to start Game 1 of the World Series. The other two -- Babe Ruth (1918 against the Cubs) and Bruce Hurst (1986 against the Mets) pitched a combined 17 scoreless innings.

Key returnee: Allen Craig
The Cardinals get Allen Craig back after he missed the first two rounds of the postseason due to a foot injury.

As the heat map above shows, a good chunk of Craig’s value is how he fared in prime RBI opportunities, as he hit .454 with runners in scoring position during the regular season.

Only two players fared better in that situation in the last 40 seasons- George Brett (.469 in 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.459 in 1997).

The Cardinals as a team hit .330 with runners in scoring position during the regular season (the best mark ever recorded for a team since 1961, the first year for which full play-by-play data is available). In the NLCS win over the Dodgers, they bumped that to .349.

Endgame: The unhittable Uehara
American League Championship Series MVP Koji Uehara will try to finish off what has been an amazing run to the end of the 2013 season.

Since he became the closer on June 26, Uehara has posted a 0.51 ERA (three earned runs in 53 1/3 IP) and 0.39 WHIP (19 hits, two walks) in 49 appearances.

None of the Cardinals have seen Uehara before in the regular season or postseason, save for Carlos Beltran, who is 1-for-3 in his career against him.

The heat maps below show that Uehara has had success with pitches thrown almost anywhere.

Did You Know?
• This is the third time in the Wild Card era that the team with the best record in the American League has faced the team with the best record in the National League in the World Series. The other instances were 1995 (Braves defeated Indians) and 1999 (Yankees defeated Braves).

• There are three World Series matchups that have taken place more often than the Red Sox and Cardinals-- Dodgers versus Yankees (11 times), Giants versus Yankees (seven times) and Cardinals versus Yankees (five times).

• The Red Sox have reached the World Series a season after finishing in last place in the AL East.

They are the third team in the last seven seasons to go from last place to the World Series, joining the 2007 Rockies and 2008 Rays. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the most recent team to go from last place to winning the World Series is the 1991 Twins.

• The Cardinals have 18 homegrown players on their roster (acquired either via the amateur draft or signed as an amateur free agent). That's the most on any team's World Series roster since 1995, the year of the first World Series in the Wild Card era.

Red Sox win is both amazing and unlikely

October, 15, 2013
For a team to beat Justin Verlander when he’s pitching as he has in this season-ending stretch is a major challenge.

But the Boston Red Sox are familiar with such tasks, given their comeback from five runs down in Game 2 of the ALCS.

In their 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3, they managed to do just enough to win.

Napoli comes through
Mike Napoli was 2-for-19 in the postseason and 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the ALCS before before his seventh-inning homer put the Red Sox ahead.

The home run came on a 96-mph fastball. In the last two seasons, Napoli homered only once against the more than 200 pitches he saw that were thrown at least 96 mph-- against Evan Reed of the Tigers on Sept. 4.

Verlander could not have been much better
Verlander finally allowed a run, ending his scoreless streak at 34 innings and his postseason scoreless streak at 21 innings.

He has an 0.39 ERA and 0.57 WHIP with 31 strikeouts and three walks in his three starts this postseason. The Tigers are 1-2 in those games.

Verlander struck out 10 in defeat. His six double-digit strikeout games are a postseason record. He’s also the first pitcher in postseason history with 10 or more strikeouts and four or fewer hits allowed in three straight games.

Turning Point: Cabrera and Fielder strike out
The Tigers had a great opportunity to score in the eighth inning, but relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to escape the jam.

Cabrera had nine swinging strikes in the game. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is a single-game career-high for Cabrera in either the regular season or postseason.

A brief history of 1-0 postseason games
This was the 46th 1-0 game in postseason history. It was the fourth 1-0 game this postseason, matching the most in a single postseason (there were also four in 1991).

There were only three 1-0 postseason games in the last 11 years.

This was the third 1-0 postseason win for the Red Sox in their history, with the other two being in Game 1 of the 1918 and 1986 World Series.

The Tigers had never lost a 1-0 postseason game until this year and now they’ve become the first AL team to lose two in the same postseason (the 1991 Pirates and Braves are the most recent teams to lose two). Both losses came in games started by Verlander.

This was the first 1-0 postseason game decided by a home run since Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, when Jorge Posada homered to give the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Athletics (better known as the Derek Jeter “flip” game). It’s the first time the Red Sox won a postseason game in such a fashion and the first time the Tigers lost a postseason game in such a fashion.

Game 3 of the ALCS was very similar to Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when the visiting Yankees beat the Braves, 1-0.

Parallels include:

• The Yankees rallied from six runs down to win the previous game. The Red Sox rallied from five down to win their previous game.

• The Yankees beat a pitcher who would win the Cy Young that season in John Smoltz. The Red Sox beat a pitcher who has previously won the Cy Young in Verlander. Verlander is the first pitcher to lose a game in which he allowed one run and struck out at least 10 since Smoltz that day.

• The Yankees survived a situation in which the Braves had a man on third with one out in the ninth inning. The Red Sox escaped a situation in which the Tigers had a man on third with one out in the eighth inning.

The Yankees went on to win that series without losing again.

The Red Sox have a little ways to go to match that.

Alvarez finishes with (unusual) flourish

September, 29, 2013
The Miami Marlins saved their best day for the final day of the 2013 season, winning in both historic and unusual fashion.

Henderson Alvarez pitched the third no-hitter in the major leagues this season, a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.

But this was hardly a typical no-hitter.

It is the first in the modern era (since 1900) to end on a wild pitch. It was also the first no-hitter to end in walk-off fashion since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a 10-inning no-hitter against the Houston Astros in 1997.

Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined on the no-no, and Mark Smith hit a walk-off three-run homer to win the game.

It was the first no-hitter in a team’s final game of the season since Mike Witt pitched a perfect game for the Angels against the Rangers in 1984.

It was also the Marlins first no-hitter since Anibal Sanchez threw one against the Diamondbacks in 2006.

Alvarez had never taken a no-hit bid beyond three innings in any of his previous 57 starts.

How he won
Alvarez, who’s known best for his hard sinker, recorded 19 outs on fastballs, tied for the second most outs with the pitch in a no-hitter in the last five seasons. The only pitcher with more was Matt Garza in his no-hitter against the Tigers in 2010.

The pitch averaged 94.1 mph, his second highest fastball velocity this season.

Along with his fastballs, Alvarez mixed in 21 percent sliders, his third-highest percentage this season. He got a season-high six outs on the pitch.

Twenty-two of Alvarez outs came on pitches in the strike zone. The heat map below shows the location of each out. Alvarez succeeded against lefties by getting them on pitches on the outside corner, and got righties out with pitches on the inside corner.

MLB Teams, MLB

Wacha has a nice bounceback, near no-no

September, 24, 2013
St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha came within one out (and a few inches) of pitching the third no-hitter in the major leagues this season. He had to settle for a nice turnaround from his last start, and a needed victory over the Washington Nationals in the NL Central race.

The Cardinals are one step closer to winning the division again.

So close, so many times
Wacha’s was the third no-hit bid lost with two outs in the ninth. The others were both perfect-game bids, by Yu Darvish against the Astros and Yusmeiro Petit against the Diamondbacks. This marked the first time since the 1990 season that three pitchers lost no-hit bids when they were one out from completing a victory.

Had Wacha gotten the no-hitter, it would have been the first by a Cardinals pitcher since Bud Smith threw one against the Padres in 2001 and the first against the Nationals franchise since David Cone pitched a perfect game against the then-Expos in 1999.

When he’s good, he’s really good
This was the third time this season that Wacha pitched at least seven innings and allowed two hits or fewer. He’s one of four active pitchers to have three such starts within the first 15 appearances of his major-league career, joining Travis Wood, Anibal Sanchez and Matt Harvey.

How he won
Wacha averaged 95 mph with his fastball, the fastest average speed he’s posted in any of his nine career major-league starts. He mixed that with a changeup that averaged 88 mph. The latter generated nine outs, five via strikeout.

Both of those pitches got pounded in his last start against the Rockies, yielding five hits apiece.

But more often than not, those pitches have been a good combination for him.

Wacha’s fastball has netted him 118 outs and yielded only 42 hits and walks (a well above-average success rate) and he’s gotten misses on about one of every five swings taken against the pitch (also well above average).

His changeup was the pitch that retired Bryce Harper in all three matchups they had in this game. He twice got Harper to fly to centerfielder Jon Jay, then struck him out on a changeup that was basically thrown to the right-handed batter's box.

Looking ahead
Wacha could find his way into big spots for the Cardinals this postseason. He has some appeal in that he’s a right-handed pitcher who can get out hitters from both the left and right side. Lefties are hitting .197 with a .493 OPS and one home run in 127 plate appearances against him.

Those numbers are the best among the nine Cardinals righties who have faced at least 60 left-handed hitters this season.

Stats to know: Braves, Athletics are champs

September, 22, 2013
The Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics each clinched division titles on Sunday, with the Braves winning the NL East for the first time since 2005 and the Athletics winning the AL West in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003.

Each clinched a division title when another team in their division lost and each has an 8 1/2 game lead in the standings. The two have almost identical records. But those aren't their only common bonds.

How they Won
The Braves won on the strength of a pitching staff that ranks first in the majors in ERA (3.19). As good as Atlanta’s bullpen was last season, it was even better this season, with a major-league best 2.46 ERA. The names of the pitchers who come in before closer Craig Kimbrel are different than in previous seasons, but Kimbrel has been his usual lights-out self. He can be the first pitcher to lead the NL in saves in three straight seasons since Hall-of-Famer Bruce Sutter (1979 to 1982).

Similarly, the Athletics got great pitching all year as well. Their 3.59 ERA ranks second best in the American League, trailing only the Kansas City Royals. Oakland's pitchers also rank in the top five in both WHIP and opponents' OPS.

Spotlight performer: Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson
The Braves got the breakthrough season they’d been hoping for from Freddie Freeman, who has been the team’s top run producer (after Justin Upton’s red-hot April).
Freddie Freeman
With the retirement of Chipper Jones, the Braves were in need of a player who could be a slashline superstar. Freeman has been one, hitting .314 with a .392 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage, a combination of numbers that Jones reached six times during his career.

Freeman has been clutch all season. He’s hitting .435 and has an OPS of 1.231 with runners in scoring position, both of which ranked second-best in the majors’ (the former to Allen Craig, the latter to Miguel Cabrera).

The Athletics got a surprising breakthrough season from third baseman Josh Donaldson, whose slashline numbers are coincidentally almost identical to Freeman’s (.306/.388/.511). Donaldson currently ranks second in the major leagues in wins above replacement (8.1), trailing only Mike Trout.

As we noted recently, Donaldson’s strength is that he does everything well. He ranks third among American League third basemen with 12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Unsung Heroes
Brandon Moss
Evan Gattis has had an amazing run of big home runs for the Braves in his first year in the majors. He has seven home runs that have either tied the game or given his team the lead in the seventh inning or later, one shy of Paul Goldschmidt for the major-league lead.

Brandon Moss hasn’t been quite that good, but he’s had a penchant for notable home runs. He has four homers to tie or put the Athletics ahead in the seventh inning or later, the most on the team and two shy of the AL lead.

Circle These Games
The Braves established very early in the season that this would be a special year. They developed an identity for being a team that would win games late (as we noted with Gattis). The best of those was on April 6 when B.J. Upton hit a game-tying homer against Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol and Justin Upton hit a walk-off homer two batters later.

The best wins for the Athletics have been the games that took the longest. They rallied from 6-1 down to beat the Angels in 19 innings on April 29 on Moss’ walk-off home run and beat the Yankees on June 13 on Nate Freiman’s 18th-inning walk-off hit against Mariano Rivera.

Stats of the Day
The Braves have won 12 division titles in the Wild Card era. The only team with more is the Yankees (13). No other team has more than seven.

The Athletics have won 187 games since the start of last season. That is the most wins in the majors in that span.