Stats & Info: Alex Rios

Rios brings some power, speed, a few flaws

August, 9, 2013

The Texas Rangers were able to find someone to fill in for suspended slugger Nelson Cruz, making a trade with the Chicago White Sox on Friday for outfielder Alex Rios.

How does Rios fit in with his new team? Let's take a look at the numbers.

The basics
Rios gives the Rangers a combination of modest power and speed.

Only two other players have as many homers (12) and as many stolen bases (26) as Rios does this season-- Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura

Rios is not quite the player that Cruz was.

His 0.9 Wins Above Replacement are less than Cruz’s 2.1 in 2013. However, Rios was worth 4.6 Wins Above Replacement last season, 15th-best among major-league outfielders.

A closer look
Rios enters with a nine-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .324, but he only has one extra-base hit during this stretch.

Rios has a .263/.304/.330 batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage slashline in his last 49 games, with one home run in 194 at-bats. He’s compensated by running, with 17 steals in 19 attempts.

Rios is hitting the ball on the ground much more in this stretch (48 percent of the balls he’s hit, compared to 42 percent previously).

His fly balls have also lacked any sort of oomph. Our video-tracking service charted 36 percent of the balls he hit in the air through June 9 to be “hard-hit.”

But only 22 percent of them have been so since then. Our distance estimators note the average depth on his balls hit in the air has plummeted from 280 feet to 254 feet.

For those who think that Rios might find his power stroke in Rangers Ballpark, keep this in mind: In 161 at-bats there, he has only one home run.

His biggest strength
Rios thrives against hard stuff. His .327 batting average against fastballs, sinkers and cutters ranks in the top 15 percent of major league hitters. He misses on only eight percent of his swings against those pitches, which rates 13th-best among the 153 players currently qualified for the batting title.

Rios has no fear of the game’s hardest throwers. His 16 hits against pitches thrown 95 mph or faster is only two shy of the major league lead, shared by Allen Craig and Rios’ new teammate, Adrian Beltre.

On the decline: His Defense
Rios has rated positively in right field by Defensive Runs Saved every season from 2004 to 2012, his tallies ranging from four to 18 Defensive Runs Saved during that span.

But this season has been considerably different. His -6 Defensive Runs Saved rates seventh-worst among the 35 players with the most innings in right field this season.

Rangers fans won’t want to hear this but Rios’ biggest issue is one he shares with Cruz.

His rating at catching balls hit to the deepest parts of the ballpark is by far the worst of his career.

Rios attacks early, ends perfect

July, 10, 2013
ESPN Stats & InformationAlex Rios was 4-for-4 against Justin Verlander on Tuesday.
Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios did something on Tuesday that hadn’t been done in 20 years.

Rios became the first Major League Baseball player with at least six hits and two stolen bases in a game since 1993, when Sammy Sosa did it for the cross-town Chicago Cubs.

Rios is the fourth player in history with six hits and two stolen bases in a game, joining Sosa, Gene Richards and Max Carey. He’s the third player to go 6-for-6 with two stolen bases, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Rios is the first MLB player to go 6-for-6 since Adrian Gonzalez in 2009. He’s the first White Sox player to accomplish the feat since Lance Johnson in 1995.

As a team, the White Sox had 23 hits, the most by any team since the Colorado Rockies had 25 against the Houston Astros on September 25, 2011.

Rios’s first four hits came off Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander. According to Elias, Rios is the first player with four hits in a game off Verlander.

Rios saw a total of just six pitches in his four at-bats against Verlander, as he attacked early in the count.

Three of Rios’s four hits off Verlander came on fastballs down the middle early in the count. Two of them came on 0-1 pitches and one of them on the first pitch of the at-bat. His other hit off Verlander also came on the first pitch of the at-bat, on a slider down the middle in the lower half of the zone.

Verlander’s fastball did not have its usual life on Tuesday. He didn’t throw a pitch faster than 92 MPH to Rios and his average fastball velocity was 91.3 MPH, down considerably from the 93.9 MPH in his previous start on July 4.

Since June 1, Rios is hitting .423 with no strikes in the count. Before June 1, he was hitting .323 with no strikes this season. He has been more aggressive with no strikes over the last five-and-a-half weeks, as his swing percentage and miss percentage have both gone up. Rios’s aggressiveness has paid off in those situations.

Rios has success where he usually doesn't

September, 11, 2012
AP Photo/Rex ArbogastAlex Rios came through against the Tigers approach on Monday.

Chicago White Sox rightfielder Alex Rios made up for a season’s worth of struggles against the Detroit Tigers with one swing of the bat on Monday night.

Rios’ home run was the key blow in a win that pushed the White Sox lead in the AL Central to three games. It was another step in what has been a remarkable turnaround season for Rios.

How Rios won Monday’s matchup
Rios entered the day 7-for-48 with one home run, three RBI, and 12 strikeouts in 13 games against the Tigers this season.

Detroit’s means of getting him out was to attack him in the lower part of the strike zone. He was 0-for-13 in at-bats against Tigers pitching that ended with a pitch to the lower-third of the zone, or below the knees prior to Monday.

Yesterday, both of his hits were in that lower-thirdarea. He had a double on a pitch that was down and out of the strike zone early in the game, then homered on a pitch a little above the knees on the inner-third of the plate.

Inside Man
The fact that the pitch that Rios homered against was on the inner-third is key.

Rios has covered both the inner-third and middle-third of the plate particularly well this season. All but one of his 23 home runs have come against pitches to those areas.

Rios was ready for what was coming
The one thing that played right into Rios’ hands was how Tigers starter Rick Porcello pitched him.

Rios hit both his double and his home run on fastballs in situations in which Porcello doubled up on his fastball/sinker.
When we say "doubled up," we're referring to the idea of a pitcher throwing two pitches in a row of the same type. In this case, Porcello threw a fastball immediately after throwing a fastball, rather than following it with a breaking ball or changeup.

Rios hit only .235 last season against fastballs that came immediately a pitcher had already thrown a fastball/sinker.

This season he’s hitting .371, the fourth-highest batting average of any of the batting title qualifiers. The chart on the right shows how Rios has dominated any time a pitcher has attempted to "double up" this season.

The turnaround
Rios bounced back from a rough 2011 to post his second 20 homer/20 steal season in the last three years. He’s the first player in White Sox history to have multiple 20-20 seasons.

The only others to have one such season are Tommie Agee (1966), Maggio Ordonez (2001) and Ray Durham (2001).

Rios’ batting average has jumped from .227 to .294. He’s been much more of a spray hitter this season than the pull hitter he had been.

In 2011, 54 percent of the balls he hit were hit to left field or left center. That’s dipped to 47 percent this season.

With becoming less of a pull hitter, he’s also become a better pull hitter. His batting average when he pulls the ball to those areas is .377, a 74-point jump from 2011. And his rate of pulled fly balls that have become home runs has soared from 19 percent to 35 percent in a year's time.
With the All-Star break upon us, we take a look at some of the game’s best players who are having anything but their best years. We present to you, Major League Baseball’s “All-Struggling Team – Hitter’s Edition.”

Kurt Suzuki
C: Kurt Suzuki, Oakland Athletics (.225 BA, .284 OBP, 7 HR, 22 RBI)

A .264 career hitter who averages 10 HR and 60 RBI per season.

1B: Derrek Lee, Baltimore Orioles (.235 BA, .294 OBP, 9 HR, 28 RBI)

Still stellar in the field, but Lee is far off his career pace of .282, 22 HR, 73 RBI.

2B: Dan Uggla, Atlanta Braves (.185 BA, .257 OBP, 15 HR, 34 RBI)

After career highs in average (.287), HR (33) and RBI (105) in 2010, Uggla has fallen hard.

SS: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins (.242 BA, 8 HR, 37 RBI)

Ramirez has hit .310 with 4 HR and 20 RBI in 25 games since coming off the DL, so he might approach career averages of 21 HR, 65 RBI, .313.

3B: Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners (.183 BA, .231 OBP, 6 CS)

His numbers continue to plummet in the two years since coming to Seattle. He had been a .291 career hitter (.363 OBP) who averages 35 steals a season.

OF: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox (.213 BA, .262 OBP, 6 HR, 21 RBI)

He appears poised to have his lowest RBI total and batting average of his career this season.

OF: Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians (.244 BA, 5 HR, 28 RBI)

According to, Choo was worth 11 wins over a replacement-level player in 2009 and 2010. Battling injuries in 2011, Choo has a 1.5 WAR rating.

Jayson Werth
OF: Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals (.215 BA, 10 HR, 31 RBI)

What does seven years and $126 million buy you? Not as much as you’d expect.

DH: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox (.160 BA, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 104 K)

Dunn has been injured and ineffective. In fact, in the first year of a four-year, $56 million contract, he’s on pace to have the worst offensive season in the history of baseball.
The Chicago White Sox aren’t hitting and because of that they aren’t winning and that puts some of the focus on their big offseason acquisition, Adam Dunn.

Barely a month into the season, Dunn has been nearly a non-factor on offense. He’s hitting .150, striking out once every three plate appearances (25 strikeouts in 74 appearances) and hasn’t gotten a hit off a left-handed pitcher yet. (It should be noted that Dunn was sidelined with an emergency appendectomy in the second week of the season and missed six games.)
Adam Dunn

Dunn’s miss percentage on pitches in the strike zone from left-handed pitching is way up, one reason he’s 0-for-7 against lefties this season. His miss percentage against left-handed pitching this season is 40 percent, well above his average of 21.6 percent from 2007-10. Against right-handed pitching, his miss percentage is 27.8 percent this season. (It was 18.0 percent over the last four seasons.)

Last season, Dunn hit .314 with 24 home runs on at-bats ending in a fastball. This season he has six hits and one home run in 37 at-bats (.162). His miss percentage against fastballs has also spiked. From 2007-10 it was 20.8 percent, but this season it’s almost doubled to 39.2 percent.

Making matters worse for the White Sox, the rest of the team seems to be following Dunn’s lead. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their past 12 games. After scoring 72 runs in the first 12 games, they’ve been held to 26 runs in their past 12 -- and nine of those came in one game.

Chicago, which will try to push its modest win streak to a season-high three tonight against the New York Yankees, has suffered slow starts by Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios as well. They have combined for two home runs and 13 RBI.

The problem for Rios and Beckham is the same as it is for Dunn: inability to hit fastballs. Entering play on Wednesday, the major-league average against fastballs this season is .277. Beckham is hitting .205 and Rios .179 against fastballs. Rios’ average against fastballs is the seventh-lowest this season among hitters with at least 90 plate appearances.

Beckham has also seen his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) dip to .227 this season after posting a .294 mark over the past two seasons. This, despite the fact that he’s putting balls in play at roughly the same rate (73 percent this season compared to 70 percent in 2009-10 combined). The same can be said for Rios, who has a .203 BABIP, far below his career number of .314.
Today’s Trivia: On Monday, the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver looks to become the first American League pitcher since Zack Greinke in 2009 to win each of his first six starts. Who was the last American League pitcher to lose each of his first six starts in a season?

Jered Weaver
Weaver is off to one of the hottest starts in the American League, but there are several others who are not:

• The New York Yankees' Brett Gardner is hitting .140, which ranks last among 187 qualifying hitters. He’s 0-for-21 with 10 strikeouts on at-bats ending in an off-speed pitch.

• Gardner’s teammate Nick Swisher is 4-for-43 (.093) against right-handed pitches, a year after hitting a career-best .285 with 25 home runs against them.

• As a member of the Washington Nationals last season, Adam Dunn hit .314 with 24 home runs on at-bats ending in a fastball. In his first season in the American League, Dunn’s hitting .067 with two hits in 30 at-bats.

• The Chicago White Sox's Alex Rios is hitless in his last 20 at-bats, and has seen his batting average drop to .160. Last season, on pitches down the middle, Rios hit .392. This season? 1-for-12 (.083).

• The Angels Vernon Wells is 1-for-29 (.034) with two strikes in the count.

• Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury already has struck out looking 11 times this season, tied for the most in the majors.

• The Oakland Athletics' Daric Barton is 0-for-19 this season on pitches located up in the strike zone or above the strike zone. Last season, he hit .315 (34-108) on those pitches.

• With a 29.4 swing percent, Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana has been swinging at fewer pitches than anyone else in the league. (He was at 38.7 last season.) But the bigger discrepancy is his swing percent at pitches in the strike zone. Last season it was 61.9. In 2011, it’s just 47.2, fifth lowest in the majors.

Sunday was Derek Jeter’s first four-hit game before the month of May since April 9, 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jeter now has 36 four-hit games in his career, tied for third among Yankees in the Live Ball era (since 1920). Lou Gehrig has the most with 53 followed by Earle Combs’ 37.

Staying with the Yankees, A.J. Burnett is 8-0 in the month of April as a member of the Yankees, and 18-24 after April. The Yankees will be facing Phil Humber tonight at Yankee Stadium. Opponents are hitting just .061 (2-33) against Humber’s off-speed pitches this season.

Trivia Answer: In 2007, Jered’s brother Jeff Weaver was 0-6 after six starts for the Seattle Mariners.

1st Pitch: Who are the real contenders?

August, 3, 2010
Today’s Trivia: After pitching 1,198 innings in the American League (all with the Indians and Yankees), Jake Westbrook made his National League debut on Monday for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Can you name the active AL pitcher who has thrown the most career innings but never pitched for the NL? What about the active NL pitcher who has thrown the most innings but never pitched for the AL? We’ll give you the top 3 in each league at the bottom of this document.

Quick Hits on non-contenders who have owned contenders this season, on the heels of the Houston Astros improving to 5-2 in St. Louis this season (they’re 15-28 on the road against all other teams).

• The jury is still out on whether the Detroit Tigers are a contender, but they’re 3-1 against the Yankees this season. All other AL Central teams are 6-15 against the New York Yankees.

• The Tampa Bay Rays only have a losing record against one AL team this season (the Texas Rangers), but they have losing records against four different NL teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks (1-2) and Florida Marlins (2-4).

• The Cleveland Indians can claim dominance over the Chicago White Sox this season, going 8-4 against Ozzie Guillen’s club. Cleveland is 12-14 against the rest of the division.

• The Rangers need to stay away from AL East bottom-feeders. Texas is 3-9 against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles this season.

• If the Philadelphia Phillies could beat the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, they’d be a lot closer to the Atlanta Braves in the standings. Philly is 4-8 against the Cubs and Pirates this season, but 6-0 against the other two NL Central non-contenders (Milwaukee Brewers and Astros).

Today’s Leaderboard: Today is Sid Bream’s 50th birthday, so let’s celebrate the player who memorably scored from 2nd base with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS to send the Braves to the World Series. Who, in Bream’s footsteps (pun not intended), has scored from 2nd base on a single most often this season?

It would be Martin Prado, who recently was placed on the disabled list.

And, since you’re wondering, which MLBers have a 100 percent success rate? It’s a tie among two guys who are 6-for-6: Asdrubal Cabrera and Kyle Blanks.

Key Matchups:
• Here’s the daily A-Rod vs Opposing Starter update: Rodriguez is 4-13 (.308 BA) in his career against Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero. But he has never homered off Romero and has only one extra-base hit (a double). And Romero really has Rodriguez’s number this season – A-Rod is 0-5 with 2 strikeouts and a double play in his last 5 AB’s against Romero.

Bud Norris has gained a reputation as a Cardinals-killer in his career (4-1 with a 1.60 ERA vs STL, 5-9 with a 6.35 ERA vs all other teams) despite getting knocked around by the Cardinals in his most recent start against them. But Norris still owns plenty of Cardinals individually. Felipe Lopez is 0-8, Matt Holliday is 4-16, Colby Rasmus is 2-13 and Skip Schumaker is 2-14. What about the Great Pujols? Not great either, just 3-14 and no home runs.

• In a battle of the newly-acquired players for NL West teams, give a strong edge to Ted Lilly when he pitches against Ryan Ludwick tonight. Ludwick is batting just .192 (5-28) with twice as many strikeouts (10) as hits (5) in his career against Lilly.

Pat Burrell hasn’t been an everyday player this season, but he should find himself starting tonight against the Rockies’ Aaron Cook. Pat the Bat is batting .591 (13-22) and slugging .773 against Cook. Of all the pitchers Burrell has faced at least 20 times, Cook is the pitcher Burrell has hit the best.

Trivia Answer: Your top AL guys who have never pitched for the NL: Mark Buehrle (2,193.1 IP), John Lackey (1,641.2) and Kelvim Escobar (1,507).

As for the other way around, it’s the recently-traded Roy Oswalt (1,938.1 IP), Randy Wolf (1,823.1) and Ryan Dempster (1,769.2).

1st Pitch: Quick hits from around the majors

July, 20, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Alex Rodriguez is two home runs shy of becoming the seventh player in baseball history with 600 career HR. Who has the second-most HR among players with the first name Alex?

Quick Hits: A quick look at some newsworthy hits from around baseball:

From the Houston Chronicle: Jason Castro's three-run blast in the third inning was the first home run of three or more runs by a catcher since Brad Ausmus hit a grand slam Aug. 5, 2006 at Arizona.

From the Boston Herald: Since he blew back-to-back saves June 23-24 in Colorado, Jonathan Papelbon has pitched 7 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings and gone five-for-five in save opportunities. Dating to last season, he has converted 34-of-37 save chances.

From Alex Rios hit his 100th career home run Monday, a two-run shot in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners. After just five games it has already been a milestone second half for Rios. He connected on his 1,000th career hit Thursday at Minnesota.

From the Detroit News: Armando Galarraga is 1-1 with a 5.61 ERA in six starts since the Jim Joyce game, but the Tigers are 5-1 in those starts. Just back from Toledo, this will be just his second start for the Tigers since June 29.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Albert Pujols had his 100th double at Busch Stadium III, which now gives him more doubles at two of the ballparks the Cardinals have called home than Hall of Famer Stan Musial.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Ronny Cedeno has been torrid the past five games since the Pirates ended his platoon at shortstop with Bobby Crosby. In that span, Cedeno is 11 for 18 with six extra-base hits, five runs scored and two RBI.

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Hanley Ramirez's bunt single during the Marlins' three-run third off Ubaldo Jimenez produced his first RBI since July 5, only his second this month. At his current pace, Ramirez would finish with 95, 11 fewer than last year.

From the Philadelphia Daily News: On May 21, against the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, Jayson Werth went 2-for-4 with a homer, a couple of runs scored and a pair of RBI in a win over the Red Sox. The Phillies' rightfielder was hitting .329 with nine home runs and 33 runs batted in. The Phils were 11 games over .500 at 26-15. Since then, Werth is .236-4-17 in his 48 games with 55 strikeouts. And the Phillies are 22-29 in that span.

Today’s Leaderboard: Brandon Inge broke his hand in Monday's loss to the Rangers and he's expected to miss four to six weeks. Inge has been one of the most durable players at his position over the last two seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he has started 241 games at third base since 2009, tying Evan Longoria for the highest total in the major leagues.

Key Matchup: Something has to give tonight in Los Angeles when the Giants and Dodgers face off. Giants ace Tim Lincecum is holding righthanded batters to a .202 batting average, tied for fourth-lowest in the majors. On the other hand, the Dodgers are hitting .271 against righthanded hurlers, sixth-best average in baseball.

Trivia Answer: Former major leaguer Alex Gonzalez (who played with Toronto, the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Philadelphia) hit 137 career HR in 13 seasons. As a side note, Jackie Robinson finished his career with 137 home runs.

1st Pitch: Pitches are piling up

June, 24, 2010
Quick Hits: With the epic Nicolas Mahut-John Isner tennis match shattering all sorts of records at Wimbledon, let’s take a look at which MLB players are working hard this season (numbers via STATS LLC).
  • Mahut and Isner combined for 1,894 strokes in Wednesday’s portion of the fifth set. That’s more than the total number of pitches thrown by a pitcher this season. Dan Haren leads the majors with 1,761 pitches thrown this season, 81 more than the next pitcher (Chris Carpenter).
  • Ubaldo Jimenez leads the majors with 110.5 pitches per outing. Since 2006, the only pitcher that has topped that number is Justin Verlander, who averaged 112.5 last season.
  • Wade Davis is averaging 18.2 pitches per inning, which would be the highest for a qualifying pitcher since Ian Snell’s 18.3 in 2008.
  • Jered Weaver is averaging 4.3 pitches per batter faced, which is just shy of Clayton Kershaw’s average from last season and the third highest rate over the last 10 years for a qualifying starter.
  • No one has seen more pitches than Dustin Pedroia, in part because only Martin Prado and Rickie Weeks have more plate appearances. Pedroia has faced 1,449 pitches. That puts him on pace to see 3,215 pitches this season. Since 1988, no batter has faced more than Bobby Abreu’s 3,159 in 2005.
  • Even though he swings less often than the average player, Pedroia also leads the majors in swings with 616. He’s on pace for 1,367 swings, just shy of Ryan Howard’s 2009 league-leading total of 1,385.
  • Brett Gardner leads the majors with 4.53 pitches per plate appearance. That would be the highest average since Rickey Henderson’s 4.55 in 1997.
Today’s Trivia: When was the last time two starting pitchers threw at least 13 innings in the same game? Who were the pitchers?

Today’s Leaderboard: Having issued more walks than any other team, it’s no surprise that the Brewers are throwing a lot of pitches. They average more pitches per game (158.0) and per inning (17.7) than any other team. The Rangers throw more pitches per plate appearance (4.0) than any other team. Contrast that with the Twins, who throw the fewest in all three categories.

Key Matchups: Manny Ramirez has traditionally fared better against lefty pitchers, but that has not been the case against Scott Kazmir. Ramirez is just 7-for-44 (.159) with 14 strikeouts against the Angels’ southpaw. That’s Manny’s lowest batting average against any of the 54 pitchers that he’s faced at least 30 times.

Alex Rios is 0-for-10 in his career against Derek Lowe. The only pitcher he has faced more without a hit is Mariano Rivera (0-for-13). Meanwhile, Lowe has actually faced three hitters more times without allowing a hit. It’s a pretty impressive group: Barry Bonds (0-for-11), Mark Teixeira (0-for-12) and Jason Bay (0-for-15).

Trivia Answer: On August 27, 1976, both Catfish Hunter and Frank Tanana tossed 13 scoreless innings before finally giving way to the bullpens. The Yankees wound up scoring five runs in the 15th to beat the Angels. No one has had an outing of 12 innings or more since Charlie Hough in 1986.

1st Pitch: Fastballs that aren't working

May, 14, 2010
Quick Hits: Not all fastballs are created equal. Let’s take a look at some pitchers whose fastballs just aren’t getting the job done this season.

* Opponents have swung and missed on Jason Hammel’s fastball just 5.4 percent of the time (league average: 14.3) and are batting a league-high .426 against his heater.

* Kevin Millwood has allowed eight home runs off his fastball this season, two more than anyone else.

* Wandy Rodriguez has thrown his fastball for a strike just 57.6 percent of the time this season, the league average is 63.7.

* Opponents are batting .392 against Carlos Zambrano’s fastball this season, well above the league average of .280.

* Ryan Rowland-Smith has yet to record a strikeout via the fastball this season. Opponents are hitting .324 with a 1.074 OPS against his heater.

* When Justin Verlander’s fastball has topped 95 mph, opponents have swung and missed just 15.0 pct of the time (lg avg: 19.4). They’re hitting .275 (lg avg: .243) against his 95 mph fastball and have hit a league-leading three home runs off it.

Today’s Trivia: With his 0.93 ERA through seven starts, it’s a good bet that Ubaldo Jimenez will set the Rockies record for the lowest ERA prior to the All-Star Break. Which pitcher holds the current record, set in their inaugural season in 1993?

Today’s Leaderboard: The red-hot Padres remain in first place in the NL West, but they have shown a weakness this season. Three Padres are tied for the worst batting average against fastballs 94 miles per hour or faster. As a team the Padres are batting .216.

Key Matchups: Alex Rios, who is batting .429 in May, has a chance to stay hot tonight. He’s batting .583 (14-24) in his career against Royals’ starter Gil Meche.

It will be tough for Dallas Braden to duplicate his perfect game tonight if Erick Aybar is in the lineup for the Angels. Aybar is a career .412 hitter (7-17) against Braden.

Trivia Answer: Armando Reynoso entered the All-Star Break with a 3.03 ERA in his rookie year in 1993. The only other Rockies starter with an ERA under 3.50 entering the All-Star Break was Marvin Freeman (3.18) in 1994. Since Coors Field opened in 1995 the top pre-All-Star Break ERAs belong to Kevin Ritz (3.50 in 1995) and Roger Bailey (3.50 in 1997).

1st pitch: A good start for young arms

May, 3, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Since 1990 there have been just eight rookies to win at least 15 games in a season. Only one team has produced more than one of those eight. Can you name the team and the pitchers? [hint: the years were 1992 and 1999]

Quick Hits: It’s been a good year so far for rookie pitchers, and three of the best are on the mound tonight – Jaime Garcia, Mitch Talbot and Mike Leake. Here’s a look at some fun facts on rookie pitchers this season:

* Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia’s 1.04 ERA is the lowest ERA in April by a rookie starter since Tom Browning in 1985.
* Garcia has gotten ahead in the count 0-2 13 times this season and has yet to allow a base runner in any of those 13 situations. That’s tied with Carlos Marmol for the major-league lead in 0-2 counts without allowing a base runner.
* Indians rookie Mitch Talbot finished April with a 2.05 ERA. Over the past 50 seasons, the only Indians rookie with a lower ERA in the month of April (min. 20 IP) was Charles Nagy in 1991.
* Talbot has induced a double play in 31.6 of double-play situations this season (6 of 19). That percentage trails only Brad Penny among pitchers with at least 15 double-play situations.
* Opponents are batting just .245 against Mike Leake this season – on pace to be the lowest by a Reds rookie since Tom Browning (.245 in 1985).
* Brian Matusz has a 2.90 K/BB ratio this season - on pace for the second-best ratio by an Orioles rookie in the last 50 seasons (Josh Towers, 3.63 in 2001).

Today’s Leaderboard: Kevin Correia is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA this season, but Bud Black may want to consider pulling him earlier than usual tonight against the Rockies. Opponents are batting .409 against Correia the third time through the lineup – tied for the fourth-worst average in the majors this season.
Key Matchups: Adrian Gonzalez is batting just .190 in 21 career at bats against Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez. That’s Gonzalez’s 4th lowest average against a pitcher which he’s faced at least 20 times. The numbers are even worse when he faces Jimenez in Petco Park. Gonzales is just 1-10 against Jimenez in San Diego. The one hit was a home run in 2008.

Alex Rios has a .571 career batting average (12-21) against Gil Meche. That’s his highest batting average against a pitcher which he’s faced at least 20 times. Kenny Rogers and Jamie Moyer are the only others against whom he’s batting over .400.

Trivia Answer: Mariners. Dave Fleming (17-10 in 1992) and Freddy Garcia (17-8 in 1999) were the pitchers. The others on the list are CC Sabathia, Jason Jennings, Rodrigo Lopez, Jeriome Robertson, Justin Verlander and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

1st pitch: The most without…

April, 23, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Justin Smoak, a South Carolina native, is expected to make his MLB debut on Friday. Who has the most career home runs for a player born in South Carolina?

Quick Hits: Reggie Willits appeared in his 300th game on Thursday, and a career-long trend continued. He went 0-for-3, and still does not have a home run in his career. The active position player with the next most career games without a homer is Jose Morales with 55. In fact, Willits has more career plate appearances without a home run (819) than any pitcher. Ryan Dempster is next at 518. So with that in mind, and the help of STATS, here are some notable “most withouts” among active players:

* Angel Pagan has the most plate appearances (881) without being hit by a pitch.

* Chase Utley has 83 stolen bases, but has never even tried to steal third.

* Alex Rios has the most stolen bases (120) for a player that has never been picked off.

* Ryan Garko has been on base more times (602) than any other player without a stolen base.

* John McDonald has nearly twice as many plate appearances (1,889) as the next player who has never been intentionally walked.

* Ramon Castro has the most plate appearances (1,400) without a triple.

* Edinson Volquez has the most plate appearances (77) without a walk. Tommy Manzella (45) has the most for a position player.

* Ryan Perry has the most appearances (60) and innings (69 2/3) without a win.

* Cla Meredith has the most relief appearances (270) without a save.

* Scott Olsen and Claudio Vargas have the most starts (114) without a complete game.

* Andrew Bailey has pitched the most innings (88 1/3) without hitting a batter.

* Jon Garland has pitched the most innings (1,851 1/3) without a balk.

* Carlos Silva has the most innings (1,147 2/3) without a pickoff. Interestingly, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are next.

* George Sherrill has the most innings (256) without allowing a triple.

* Brad Ziegler has the most innings (142) without a wild pitch.

Today’s Leaderboard: In the spirit of today’s theme, CC Sabathia’s 292 starts are the most for an active pitcher without a relief appearance. He’s followed by Ben Sheets (225) and Jake Peavy (219). Carlos Zambrano has 21 relief appearances to his name, but none since 2002. His streak of 241 straight appearances as a starter is likely to be broken this weekend. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Zambrano’s streak is the fifth longest among active pitchers. Livan Hernandez’s last 415 appearances have been as a starter.

Key Matchups: The top five hitters that the Royals used yesterday are 41-94 lifetime against Carl Pavano. That’s a .436 batting average. It’s no wonder that Pavano is just 4-5 with a 7.84 ERA in his career against Kansas City.

Adrian Beltre is just 1-for-18 in his career against Jeremy Guthrie. That .056 batting average is his worst against any pitcher he has at least 20 plate appearances against.

Whenever Albert Pujols meets Tim Lincecum, it warrants mentioning. Pujols is 3-for-8 in his career against Lincecum, but has just one hit in their last seven meetings at the plate.

Trivia Answer: Jim Rice’s 382 home runs are the most for a player born in South Carolina. He’s followed by Reggie Sanders (305). The active leader? Orlando Hudson with 78.

Putting a bow on Romero's effort

April, 14, 2010
Ricky Romero would probably love to have back the pitch that Alex Rios knocked out of the park to end his no-hit bid on Tuesday, but it will still go down as the best start of the promising pitcher's young career.

The last time that a Toronto Blue Jays starter had a one-hitter, it was when Roy Halladay went the distance on September 4 of last season against the New York Yankees. Romero is now 3-0 with a 1.75 ERA in five career April starts.

Romero needed just 101 pitches to get through eight innings, which matched the longest start of his short career. The only Chicago White Sox starter that didn't strike out in the game was Rios.

Ten of Romero's career-high 12 strikeouts came via a swinging strike. After Chicago players whiffed at 21 of his offerings on Tuesday, no other pitcher in baseball has induced more swing-and-misses this season than Romero.

What are the odds that Romero's former teammate Alex Rios would be the one to break up the best start of his career? Well, it's happened before fairly recently.

The Elias Sports Bureau found that the last time that a player broke up a no-hitter in the 8th inning or later against a team he played for earlier that season, or in the prior season, was September 22, 2006 when Joe Randa of the Pittsburgh Pirates broke up Chris Young's no-hit bid for the San Diego Padres with a one-out, pinch-hit, two-run HR in the 9th inning in San Diego.

Why Romero Dominated:

- Finished off White Sox hitters: Went to a two-strike count 14 times with 12 of those ending in a strikeout. Only one hitter reached base with two strikes and it was via a walk.
- Threw the most effective changeup of his career: Romero threw his change 23 times compared to eight his last start and man was it effective:

* Percent of pitches swung at that are out of the zone
** Percent of pitches swung at
*** Percent of pitches swung at which are missed

Alex Rios spoils Romero's no-hit bid

April, 13, 2010
Alex Rios' long HR ended Ricky Romero's no-hit bid tonight at Rogers Centre.

That was Alex Rios' 52nd career HR at Rogers Centre -- but his first AGAINST the Toronto Blue Jays.

Romero now has 12 strikeouts and two walks, but the 25-year old is still is one inning away from securing his first win of the season. Romero had 101 pitches through eight innings but manager Cito Gaston is going to his bullpen for the 9th inning. Romero had thrown 100+ pitches in 21 of his previous 30 career starts.