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Thursday, April 22, 2010
1st pitch: The great DH slump

By Jeremy Lundblad, ESPN Stats & Info

Today’s Trivia: Who is the highest player selected out of the University of Oklahoma in the June MLB draft?

Quick Hits: The Elias Sports Bureau notes an interesting early season trend: NL teams are outscoring AL teams. The 14 teams in the AL are averaging 4.3 runs, while their counterparts in the NL are averaging 4.8. According to Elias, the NL has averaged more runs than the AL just once since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973. That was in 1974. With that in mind, let’s look at some early numbers involving the DH:

* Diamondbacks pitchers have more hits (10) than the designated hitters for the Yankees (8) or Twins (9).

* Eliminate the DH and pitchers for a moment. AL position players are hitting .251. NL position players are hitting .265.

* Designated hitters have combined to hit just .239. Only catcher (.233) and third base (.238) have produced lower averages in the AL.

* AL East teams are hitting just .204 at DH. Meanwhile, NL West pitchers are hitting .203.

* The Red Sox have scored three runs from the DH spot. The Rockies and Diamondbacks have five runs scored at pitcher, and the Brewers have three.

* The Royals and Jose Guillen are hitting .377 at DH, while the Rangers and Vladimir Guerrero are next at .327. The rest of the AL is hitting just .219 at DH.

* Dan Haren (5) has one fewer hit than Nick Johnson (6) despite 33 fewer at-bats. However, Johnson does lead the AL with 18 walks.

* Only centerfield (178) has struck out more than DH (173) in the AL.

* However, the DH spot has more home runs (29) than any other AL position.

Today’s Leaderboard: There are five teams hitting under .200 from the DH spot, with the Red Sox in the basement at .169. The Yankees are the next worst at .170.

Key Matchups: Most eyes will be on the pitching matchup in Washington today, as Ubaldo Jimenez squares off against Livan Hernandez. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is just the second time in the last 90 years that a pitcher coming off a no-hitter will face one who is coming off a shutout. The other time? 1996 when Jim Bullinger met Al Leiter, who had just pitched a no-hitter. Although this one might be about pitching, there is still a very intriguing pitcher-hitter situation. Todd Helton is 33-69 (.478) in his career against Hernandez. That is the most hits Livan has allowed to a batter, and the most Helton has off of a pitcher.

An Bay Area native, CC Sabathia is just 5-7 in his career against the A's, and sports a 5.80 ERA, his highest against any AL team other than the Yankees. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean much for today’s start. He was 2-0 against the A’s last season and current A’s hitters are just 14-75 against the lefty, a .187 average.

Trivia Answer: In 1985, Oklahoma’s Bobby Witt was the third overall pick by the Rangers, selected after B.J. Surhoff and Will Clark.