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Friday, April 9, 2010
Friday's 1st pitch: Fun with early numbers

By Jeremy Lundblad, ESPN Stats & Info

Today’s Trivia: When Tim Wakefield takes the hill on Friday, he will become the fifth-oldest player in Red Sox history. He will also be the oldest pitcher to start a game for Boston. Who was the oldest Red Sox starting pitcher prior to today?

Quick Hits: It’s incredibly early to find much meaning in numbers, but there are some interesting trends out there when it comes to plate discipline:

* In 18 plate appearances, Ichiro Suzuki has yet to swing at the first pitch. Entering this year, he traditionally swung at the first pitch about one out of every five times at the plate.

* Ryan Ludwick has swung at the first pitch in seven of 10 plate appearances, the highest rate in the majors thus far. Last season, he swung at 34.9 percent of first pitches.

* Alex Cora has taken 21 swings this season and has yet to swing and miss. Others yet to swing and miss: Marco Scutaro, Brett Gardner, Russell Martin. Victor Martinez has taken 30 cuts and missed only once.

* On the other end is Aramis Ramirez. He has a 52.4 swing and miss percentage this season. Typically, only about 15-20 percent of his swings are swings and misses.

* Replacing the immensely patient Chone Figgins in the leadoff spot, Erick Aybar is averaging 5.06 pitches per plate appearance. Last season, Aybar averaged 3.47 pitches per plate appearance, and was the Angels' least-patient regular aside from Vladimir Guerrero

Today’s Leaderboard: On the subject of plate discipline, you have to at least mention Nick Johnson. Early on in his return to the Bronx, Johnson is hitless, but has drawn a league-leading five walks. The biggest reason? An almost comical take percentage. Johnson has left the bat on his shoulder for 77.3 percent of the pitches thrown his way. To put it another way, he has swung 15 times and taken the pitch 51 times. Of course, this is nothing new for the notoriously selective Johnson. But something to keep an eye on: The highest take percentage over the past 35 years belongs to Barry Bonds, who watched 71.9 percent of the pitches thrown his way in 2004 when he was intentionally walked 120 times.

Key Matchups: Michael Cuddyer has five career home runs off of John Danks, his most against any pitcher. But what’s even more amazing is the fact all five came last season. In fact, four of his past seven plate appearances against Danks have been homers. In his career, Cuddyer has hit .533 (16-30) with a 1.729 OPS against Danks. Interestingly, while Danks gave up 28 home runs last season, no one else had more than one.

Carlos Pena would prefer Javier Vazquez return to the National League. Pena is a career .118 (2-for-17) against Vazquez with 10 strikeouts. If you include their last meeting in the 2008 ALDS, Pena has whiffed in seven of his past nine plate appearances against the new Yankees starter.

Trivia Answer: David Wells was 43 years and 98 days old when he made his final start for Boston in August 2006. Wakefield has him beat by 152 days as of today.