Stats & Info: Aramis Ramirez

Roy Oswalt spent the first few months at home before signing with the Texas Rangers at the end of May. He won his first two starts, but Tuesday night was a different story.

The Chicago White Sox greeted Oswalt with three home runs in the first inning and never looked back, winning the game 19-2. Oswalt allowed 11 runs, nine of them earned -- both career highs -- and tied his career high allowing 13 hits. By all accounts, it was his worst start in his major league career.

The Rangers allowed at least 19 runs for the second time this season. The two-time defending AL champs don’t have history on their side -- the last team to allow 19 runs at least twice in the same season and win the World Series was the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics.

Chris Sale
Sale
White Sox starter Chris Sale, one of the front-runners to start the All-Star game, was staked to a 7-0 lead after two innings. From the third inning on, he threw more than two-thirds of his pitches in the strike zone. In the first two innings, fewer than half of his pitches were in the zone.

Rangers hitters went 2-for-15 in at-bats ending with his fastball. Ten of the 15 balls in play (67 percent) against Sale's fastballs were grounders, well above his season average (below 50 percent).

Elsewhere around the majors:
• Chipper Jones went 5-for-5 with four RBIs in the Atlanta Braves win over the Chicago Cubs, his third career five-hit game and first in almost 10 years. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s just the fifth player in the past 25 years with a five-hit game in his forties.

Jones had a five-hit day despite taking only six swings. He's the 11th player this season with a five-hit game but the second to do it on only six swings (no one has done it with five). Jones hit three balls classified as line drives, a season high for him.

• The Philadelphia Phillies lost their sixth straight game -- their second six-game losing streak this season -- to fall to 10 games below .500 for the first time since July 22, 2002.

• On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Pirates got a walk-off home run from Drew Sutton to improve to 44-36. It’s the first time they’ve been eight games over .500 since the last day of the 1992 season. That’s the last time the Pirates made the playoffs and the last season in a Pirates uniform for Barry Bonds.

• Aramis Ramirez hit his sixth career walk-off home run to give the Milwaukee Brewers their sixth walk-off win of the season, tied for the most in the major leagues (with the Pirates, among others). It’s the third straight walk-off home run for Ramirez that has come in extra innings.

• Finally, there were 183 runs scored across MLB on Tuesday, the highest-scoring day in the majors this season.
The plotted locations for Aramis Ramirez's six home runs at Wrigley Field last season that would not have been home runs at Miller Park.
The Milwaukee Brewers are hoping that Aramis Ramirez can find Milwaukee as much to his liking as he did Chicago.

The three-year contract to which he and the Brewers agreed is the biggest in Brewers history for a free agent in terms of average annual value. He’ll replace Casey McGehee as the team’s everyday third baseman.

Historically Wrigley Field lived up to its “friendly confines” billing for Ramirez during his eight-season stint there.

In 2011, Ramirez hit .332 at home, with 14 home runs, 49 RBI, and a .557 slugging percentage, one nearly 100 points better than his road slugging numbers.

Over the past four seasons, Ramirez had a .972 OPS at Wrigley, the ninth-best of any player in his home ballpark in that span.

Though Miller Park is more statistically friendly to right-handed power hitters than Wrigley Field, video review by ESPN HR Tracker showed that, six of Ramirez’ 14 home runs hit at Wrigley Field in 2011 would not have been home runs at Miller Park.

That’s because Milwaukee’s home ballpark is a bit deeper in left center field than Wrigley Field is (the difference appears to range from three to 16 feet), and that’s the area to which Ramirez tends to homer most frequently.

The image at the top of this article shows the ballpark dimensions for Wrigley (in red) and Miller Park (in black) and the landing spots of those six home runs. Four of the six would have been very close to leaving the ballpark, but video review judges them to be just short.

Ramirez did not homer to right field at home in any of the last three seasons, so Miller Park’s dimensions being shorter to that side, don’t figure to benefit him.

The best skill that Ramirez brings to the Brewers lineup is the ability to hit breaking pitches. Over the last two seasons, Ramirez is among the best hitters both at those that are the most hittable.

Ramirez had an .885 OPS in at-bats that ended with breaking pitches over the last two seasons, fifth-best of anyone in the major leagues. His performance was comparable with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Robinson Cano, those considered among the best hitters in baseball.

Ramirez’s biggest issues are on defense at the hot corner. The Brewers made a statistical upgrade on the defensive side by signing Alex Gonzalez to play shortstop. But the stats show that playing Ramirez to Gonzalez’s right could be costly.

In each of the last four seasons, Ramirez has posted a negative Defensive Runs Saved, with that metric showing that he has cost his team 35 runs in that span. That’s third-worst among major league third basemen. Ramirez’s plus-minus rating on ground balls showed him to be 54 bases below the average third baseman since 2008.

For more on Ramirez’s defensive struggles last season, check out our previous piece on the subject.

Mark Simon, Jacob Nitzberg, and Tom McKean contributed to this post

Ramirez, Madson primed to be overpaid

November, 10, 2011
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While this offseason’s free agency class is headlined by the likes of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, there are a number of secondary options who stand to receive lucrative contracts in their own right. Two of them – third baseman Aramis Ramirez and reliever Ryan Madson – are likely to be a bit overvalued by suitors, but for entirely different reasons.

Aramis Ramirez
Aramis Ramirez
Ramirez
While Ramirez rebounded from a replacement level 2010 campaign to post a .306/.361/.510 line with 26 home runs and 93 RBI, there were indicators across-the-board that point towards a potentially quick decline for Ramirez, a concern relevant to any team interested in signing him.

Ramirez is becoming increasingly less patient as the years go by, both in the form of chasing pitches outside of the strike zone and in generating walks. In 2010 and 2011, Ramirez has posted walk rates of 6.7 and 6.9 percent, respectively, representing a clear decline from his 11.2 percent mark in 2008 and 8.2 in 2009. Perhaps more telling, the rate at which Ramirez is swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone is rapidly increasing since 2008.

In addition to the steady increase, Ramirez’s 2011 mark was the 5th-worst in the NL in 2011, behind only Alfonso Soriano, Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Michael Morse. Coupled with the decline in his plate discipline is the idea that he is not long for third base defensively. After posting a +11 mark at the hot corner according to Defensive Runs Saved in 2008, Ramirez has been below-average in each season since – and there’s a pattern; Ramirez graded out at -4 in 2009, -10 in 2010 and -12 in 2011. The 2011 mark ranked 2nd-to-last among NL third basemen.

Ryan Madson
Madson
Madson
This offseason, Madson is one of the most coveted free agent relievers in baseball. That was to be expected, fresh off his first full season as the Philadelphia Phillies closer, complete with 32 saves and a 2.37 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. Whether or not the reported lucrative deal with the Phillies materializes, someone will pay Madson. The reason he stands to make $40 million or more this offseason has little to do with a significant jump in his skills, however, and more to do with the fact he now has the official ‘closer’ label.

In 2010, Madson posted five saves. In 2011, he registered 32. That would seem to indicate a noticeable jump in value or performance from Madson. In reality, he was nearly identical, with some actual decline in key spots.

The difference was largely in an unsustainable home run rate – Madson allowed home runs on 0.9 percent of plate appearances, which was the 16th-best mark out of the 339 pitchers who registered at least 200 plate appearances this season. Had Madson entered the market after 2010 – when he demonstrated much the same skill set he did in 2011 – he would likely not have been offered anything approaching $40 million.

Whether or not offering a reliever that sort of money is a wise proposition is a different question entirely. In the history of the game, six relievers have received contracts of three or more years at an average annual value of at least $9 million – B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner, Francisco Cordero, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. It would be fair to say that only Rivera returned the sort of performance expected.

Rafael Soriano: signed after 2010 season; posted highest ERA (min 30 IP) since 2002 and missed much of the season due to injury.

Francisco Rodriguez: signed after 2008; 62 saves in final year with Los Angeles Angels, never saved more than 35 with New York Mets. Suspended in 2010, traded in 2011 to avoid vesting option.

Mariano Rivera: signed after 2007; posted ERA below 2.00 in each season of contract.

Francisco Cordero: signed after 2007; strikeout rate dropped from 10.0 to 7.8 to 7.3 to 5.4 over life of deal. Posted an Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) below 4.00 once during contract (2008).

Billy Wagner: signed after 2005; innings pitched and saves both declined each season he was with Mets.

B.J. Ryan: signed after 2005; Just 155 1/3 innings pitched in 5 seasons; missed majority of three different seasons (2007, 2009, 2010).

Clearly, the Phillies, or any other team, may give pause to signing Madson, or any other reliever, to such a lucrative contract given the history of performance for those who have received such a contract in the past.

Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez share flaws

November, 7, 2011
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US Presswire/Mark Baer, Scott Rovak
Jose Reyes (left) and Aramis Ramirez (right) both rate poorly by advanced defensive metrics.

One of the interesting trends in this year’s free agent market is that other than first baseman Albert Pujols, the players who are among the top performers offensively have defensive flaws statistically.

Case in point are the top-rated free agents on the left side of the infield, shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Jose Reyes
Though Reyes is coming off the best offensive season of his career and one in which he became the first New York Mets player to lead the league in batting average, he had some defensive shortcomings in 2011.

Baseball Info Solutions uses a metric, Defensive Runs Saved to evaluate performance in the field, factoring in a players ability to turn batted balls into outs and other skills related to his position (in Reyes’ case, turning double plays).

Reyes had -11 Defensive Runs Saved last year, the fifth-worst mark among all MLB shortstops and third-worst in NL. In the previous three years combined, he cost the Mets just three runs with his glove over nearly 3,000 innings.

There was a time when Reyes was a statistical standout defensively, but he hasn’t had a positive Runs Saved rating since 2007.

Last year, what hurt Reyes was that he struggled on balls hit to the shortstop-third base hole. He made 18 fewer plays than the average shortstop on balls hit in that area. On all other balls hit to him, Reyes rated well above average in getting outs.

Reyes had eight throwing errors, surpassed only by Yuniesky Betancourt (16) and Starlin Castro (11) among NL shortstops. He also had four bad throws which were charted as Defensive Misplays by Baseball Info Solutions, which tied for third-most among NL shortstops.
-- Katie Sharp

Aramis Ramirez
While Ramirez is comparable to Adrian Beltre offensively, there is no comparison on the defensive end.
Beltre, who turned 32 in April, got a five-year $80 million contract from the Rangers last offseason.

Will Ramirez, who turns 34 in June and opted out from big money in his final season with the Cubs, get anything close to that the same neighborhood?

If so, it will be from a team willing to overlook his statistics-based defensive issues.

In each of the last four seasons, Ramirez has posted a negative Defensive Runs Saved, with that metric showing that he has cost his team 35 runs in that span. That’s third-worst among major league third basemen. Ramirez’s plus-minus rating on ground balls showed him to be 54 bases below the average third baseman since 2008.

In addition to calculating Baseball Info Solutions does video review of every play, categorizing misplays by type. Ramirez doesn’t fare well by that measurement either.

Ramirez had 48 Defensive Misplays and Errors, second in the majors among third basemen to Mark Reynolds.

That included nine throwing errors (tied for third-most among third basemen) and 18 balls that went through him or off his body, on which he was not charged an error, but a hitter reached base (most among third basemen).
--Mark Simon

Getty Images
Doug Fister (left) and Ivan Nova (right) make their 1st career postseason starts in Game 5.

The 2011 playoffs have not lost any momentum to the exciting finish to the regular season. For only the third year, three Divisional Series will last five games (also in 1981 and 2001), with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees playing the first of the elimination games.

Divisional Series History
In the Wild Card Era (since 1994), only two teams have won Game 5 of an LDS and gone on to win the World Series: the 2000 Yankees and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. This will be the Tigers first Division Series Game 5 in franchise history, while the Yankees are 3-3 all-time in Division Series Game 5’s.

Detroit is 2-1 in winner-take-all games on the road, with their last win coming over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. The Yankees are 5-4 in winner-take-all games at home. The last time they played in such a game, they lost of the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

On the Mound
Doug Fister and Ivan Nova will both take the mound for their first career postseason STARTS (both began Game 1’s suspension on Saturday in relief roles). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in MLB postseason history that both starting pitchers in a winner-take-all game (Game 5 of 5-game series or Game 7 of 7-game series) will be making their first career postseason starts.

Fister went 4⅔ innings while allowing six earned runs in his Game 1 appearances, the most earned runs he’s allowed since Aug. 14. In his career, Fister is 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in four career appearances against New York and has not recorded a win against the Yankees since August 16, 2009.

Nova went 6⅓ innings while allowing two earned runs in his Game 1 appearance. Nova is 13-0 with a 3.22 ERA in his last 17 appearances going back to regular season (he has not lost since June 3).

Elias says, Nova will be the third Yankees rookie to start a postseason winner-take-all game. Spec Shea got a no-decision in Game 7 of the 1947 World Series against the Dodgers, and Mel Stottlemyre lost Game 7 of the 1964 World Series against the Cardinals.

Players to Watch
Detroit catcher Alex Avila (.295 batting average in the regular season) is 0-for-12 thus far in the series. According to Elias, since 2005, three players with a regular season batting average of .290 or higher (among batting qualifiers) went hitless in an entire postseason series (minimum 10 at-bats): Bill Mueller in the 2005 ALDS against the Chicago White Sox (0-for-11); Aramis Ramirez in the 2007 NLDS against the Diamondbacks (0-for-12); and Chone Figgins in the 2009 ALDS against the Red Sox (0-for-12).
Derek Jeter
Jeter

New York’s Derek Jeter is 10-for-29 (.345) in winner-take-all postseason games. The Elias Sports Bureau says his 10 hits are tied with Jason Giambi (10-for-18, .556) for the most hits in such games in major league history. Next on the list with nine are Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Lonnie Smith, and Gil McDougald.
One of the sport’s fiercest rivalries takes center stage as the Chicago Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals in this week’s Sunday Night Baseball tilt (ESPN, 8 ET).

The Cubs probably would prefer the game take place on a different day of the week -- Chicago is 3-13 (.188) on Sundays and 39-52 (.429) during the rest of the week.

No matter the day, the Cubs’ starting pitchers have been awful. They rank last in the majors with a 5.13 ERA. Over the last 60 years, the highest ERA for Cubs starters was 5.33 in 1999.

Things weren’t helped by Rodrigo Lopez’s outing on Saturday (4⅓ IP, 6 ER) as the Cardinals turned a 5-0 deficit into a 13-5 win. Ryan Theriot’s sixth career four-hit game and Albert Pujols’ 24th home run paced the attack.

The Cardinals’ offensive explosion was fairly typical since they lead the National League in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS and Runs per game.
Albert Pujols
Pujols

Pujols, who recorded his 2,000th hit on Friday, is hitting .327 with 7 HR and 14 RBI against Ryan Dempster, Chicago’s starter Sunday. In addition, in 61 plate appearances against Dempster, Pujols has struck out only once.

Pujols’ seven homers against Dempster are tied for the most he has against any pitcher.

Another player who has had a lot of success against Dempster is Skip Schumaker. He's a .419 career hitter against Dempster (18-for-43), including 18-for-36 when putting the ball in play. This season, however, Schumaker is 0-3 with two strikeouts against Dempster.

Schumaker’s .419 mark is third-best among players with at least 20 at-bats against Dempster, behind Placido Polanco (.450 BA) and Jeff Keppinger (.448).

One bit of good news for the Cubs is that they're facing Jake Westbrook. On May 11, Westbrook lost to the Cubs 11-4, allowing five runs in 2⅓ innings. Westbrook allowed five straight baserunners, all of whom scored.

Westbrook is unbeaten in his last seven starts (3-0, 4.32 ERA); however, the Cardinals are just 4-3 in those games.

First half defensive All-Stars

July, 13, 2011
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Getty Images/Gregory ShamusAsdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Gomez show off the skills that made them Defensive All-Stars.

With the All-Star break almost over, and as we await the resumption of baseball on Thursday, let’s take a break from the typical chatter of second-half storylines, and shift our focus to the players on the field and the defensive All-Stars of the first half.

Baseball Info Solutions is a company specializing in determining the best (and worst) defensive players in more than 100 different metrics, from barehanded plays to home run robberies.

Using their data, here’s our take on the players in the first half that have been good enough to be called a Defensive All-Star. (Note: ranks are for the player at his position, unless otherwise noted)

Pitcher: Anibal Sanchez, Marlins
Most Barehanded Plays For Outs (5)
Sanchez is averaging more than a strikeout per inning, but he gets on this list because of his defense while on the mound.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Most Catcher Blocks (401)
Yadier is known for a strong arm, having thrown out over 40 percent of baserunners during his career. This season he also leads everyone in catcher blocks, defined as plays when runners are on base or if the pitch was the third strike.

First Base: Carlos Pena, Cubs
Most Difficult Throws Handled (32)
Pena can likely thank Starlin Castro for this award, as the shortstop already has 18 errors this season. Handling difficult throws applies to throws in the dirt or throws wide of the bag.


Second Base: Brandon Phillips, Reds
Most Double Plays Turned Despite An Aggressive Slide (6)
Brandon Phillips has wowed many fans with his defensive Web gems, he’s also one of the best at turning double plays.

Third Base: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Most Barehanded Plays For Outs (10)
Ramirez has not only been one of the Cubs best offensive players, hitting .298 with 15 home runs and a team leading 51 RBI, but he’s also been a star on the diamond, converting 10 barehanded plays into outs.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Most Web Gems (11) and Web Gems Points in MLB (41)
Asdrubal Cabrera has been a familiar face on Baseball Tonight, as a four-time Web Gem champ. Between two behind the back flips, a bare-hander on a short hop, and a diving stop and throw in a defensive shift, Cabrera has done it all defensively this season.

Left Field: Sam Fuld, Rays
Most Web Gems Either 1st or 2nd in MLB (9)
Despite being second in both Web Gems and Web Gem points, Fuld has more Web Gems rated as first- or second-best than any other player.

Center Field: Carlos Gomez, Brewers
Tied for Most Home Run Robberies in MLB (2)
Taking away a home run might be the most exciting play in baseball, and Gomez has done it twice, once with the bases empty and once with Carlos Beltran on first base, saving three potential runs.

Right Field: Nick Swisher, Yankees

Most Times Holding Players to a Single Among OF (6)
Swisher has recently begun to heat up at the plate, with seven homers and a .986 OPS since June 1, but his strong arm in the outfield has been an asset for the Yankees all season.

For more defensive stars, check out Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems Mid-Year Special (11:30 ET, ESPN2).
Oswalt
Roy Oswalt didn’t allow a run in seven innings, yet he got a no-decision in the Philadelphia Phillies' 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies have wons each of the last 10 starts made by Oswalt. From the Elias Sports Bureau: The last time Philadelphia won 10 consecutive games started by one pitcher was in 1993, when it was victorious in 11 straight starts by Tommy Greene.

More from the Elias Sports Bureau: The Phillies are the second National League team this season with a 10-game winning streak in September, along with the Colorado Rockies. The last year in which two National League teams had winning streaks of at least 10 games in September was 1969, when the Braves and New York Mets each won 10 straight en route to winning their respective divisions.

From ESPN.com Senior Baseball Writer Jayson Stark: From 2004 to 2009, there were five 1-0 games at Citizens Bank Park. However, since July 10, there have now been six 1-0 games at there, and the Phillies have won five.

Jose Lopez became the first Seattle Mariner to hit three home runs in a game since Mike Cameron hit four against the White Sox on May 2, 2002. He’s the second Mariners third baseman with a 3-HR game, joining Jim Presley in 1986.

Lopez is the third different third basemen to hit three home runs in a game this season (Aramis Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion are the other two). The only season with more three-HR games by third basemen in the modern era (since 1900) is 1987 with four (Tim Wallach, Mike Schmidt, Brook Jacoby and Darnell Coles). Note: Alex Rodriguez also had a three-HR game this season, but he did it as a designated hitter.

The Oakland Athletics had a 3-2 ninth-inning lead before the Chicago White Sox came back with two in the top of the ninth to win 4-3. It was Oakland’s first loss of the season when leading after eight innings (68-1). The only remaining team without a loss when leading after eight innings is the Kansas City Royals, 48-0.

1st pitch: the oddities of August

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Today’s Trivia: Since September 1, 2009, Jose Bautista has 53 home runs. In the last decade, only three AL players hit 53 HR from one September through the following August. Can you name them?

Quick Hits: With August in the books, let’s take a look back at the statistical oddities of the month.

Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked 13 times in August. Only the Philadelphia Phillies (17) and San Francisco Giants (14) had more intentional walks as a team. In fact, over the last 50 years, only Barry Bonds’ 15 IBB in August 2004 exceeded Cabrera’s total in that month. Over the previous 50 years, no Detroit Tigers player had more IBB than Bill Freehan’s six in August 1967.

• The Los Angeles Dodgers did not have a triple in August. Their last triple-less month was June 1985.

Eric Young Jr. had 66 at-bats in August and did not record an RBI. That’s the most in a calendar month without an RBI since Willy Taveras had 72 in September 2006.

• Overall, only 808 HR were hit in August, 170 fewer than 2009. In fact, it was the fewest home runs hit over a full August of MLB action since 1993.

• In his first full month in the majors, Houston Astros first baseman Brett Wallace was hit by more pitches (six) than anyone else. Over the last 50 years, Craig Biggio’s 10 HBP in August 1997 are the only greater total by an Astros player.

Felix Hernandez had a 0.82 ERA and 51 strikeouts last month. Over the last 50 years, only Tom Seaver (1973 Mets), J.R. Richard (1979 Astros) and Roger Clemens (1998 Blue Jays) have had 50+ K and an ERA below 1.00 in August. Would you believe King Felix’s two losses were not unprecedented in such a month? Seaver was 3-3 despite a 0.99 ERA.

Fausto Carmona allowed five sacrifice flies in August. Prior to 2010, he’d never allowed more than four over the course of an entire season.

• With 12 HR and 24 RBI, Jose Bautista led the AL in both categories in August. The last AL player to do that in August (without being tied in either category) was Rafael Palmeiro in 1999 (15 HR, 39 RBI).

Aramis Ramirez hit .579 (11-19) with runners in scoring position. He had entered the month hitting just .220 with RISP.

Today’s Leaderboard: From the perspective of opponents’ batting average, August’s top four pitchers come from two teams and one state. Oakland’s duo of Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez were tops in baseball, while the Padres’ Mat Latos and Jon Garland were the best in the NL.

Key Matchups: It’s good to be Brian McCann right now. For one, he is 7-for-10 with a pair of HR in his last three games. That figures to continue Wednesday against Mike Pelfrey, the pitcher he has faced the most in his career. McCann is 18-for-37 (.486 BA) against Pelfrey, including a single, two doubles and a home run in his last four at-bats against him. McCann’s eight doubles are twice as many as any other batter against Pelfrey.

Among those glad to see August in the rearview mirror, Tim Lincecum ranks among the happiest. Entering the month at 11-4 with a 3.10 ERA, he went 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA. Will September be kinder? Standing in the way on Thursday is Colorado, a team he’s 0-2 against this season. With a .455 BA, Todd Helton has been a tough out for Lincecum. However, it’s Chris Iannetta who has been the toughest out. In 22 plate appearances, the Rockies catcher has six hits and eight walks against Lincecum. That’s good enough for a .727 on-base percentage.

Trivia Answer: From September 2001 to August 2002, Alex Rodriguez had 60 HR. Through those same months in 2005-06, David Ortiz had 58 HR and Travis Hafner had 53.
With three home runs in Saturday night's win over the Kansas City Royals, Alex Rodriguez continues to climb the leaderboard in several categories.

•  Alex Rodriguez has now hit at least 20 HR for 15 consecutive seasons. That ties him with Willie Mays and Barry Bonds for the third longest streak all-time. He trails only Hank Aaron (20 seasons, 1955-74) and Babe Ruth (16 seasons, 1919-1934).

•  Rodriguez has feasted off Kansas City pitching throughout his career, and now has 44 homers all-time against the Royals. That total is one short of Jim Thome, whose 45 longballs are the most by any hitter against the Royals.

•  A-Rod became the fifth player to record multiple 3+ HR regular-season games in a Yankee uniform. Previously, he hit 3 HR against the Angels on April 26, 2005. Lou Gehrig (4) and Joe DiMaggio (3) are the only two Yankees with more than two such games.

•  Rodriguez joins Albert Pujols and Aramis Ramirez with four career 3-HR games. The only non-retired player with more is Carlos Delgado (5), who is currently toiling in the minor leagues for the Red Sox.

•  If three home runs wasn't enough, Rodriguez also stole third base in the 2nd inning. It was the 63rd time in his career that he recorded a HR and SB in the same game. Only Barry Bonds (102 times) and Rickey Henderson (87) have done it more frequently since 1920.

•  This might seem like it's been a down year for the Yankee third baseman, but he's warmed up with the weather. Since summer officially began on June 21, Rodriguez has led the majors with 53 RBI.
Forget about Shark Week, it's blowout week in baseball. We've now had an MLB game decided by 10+ runs for 6 straight days. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the last time this happened was from August 22-27, 2007.

Friday: Rockies 17, Cubs 2
Saturday: Cardinals 11, Pirates 1
Sunday: Diamondbacks 14, Mets 1
Monday: Brewers 18, Cubs 1
Tuesday: Astros 18, Cardinals 4; Giants 10, Rockies 0; White Sox 12, Tigers 2
Wednesday: Cubs 15, Brewers 3

Here are some more recaps from today's afternoon action on the diamond.

NL
Rockies 6, Giants 1

Ubaldo Jimenez tied a Rockies' franchise record with his major-league leading 17th win. He improves to 8-0 at home, and is 13-1 this season following a Colorado loss. Carlos Gonzalez (22, 23) had hit first career multi-HR game, and has six HR in his last seven games. Troy Tulowitzki added his 10th HR of the season, and first since coming off the DL. The Rockies have won 5 of 6 following their 8-game losing streak. The loss snaps a 4-game win streak for the Giants, who allowed as many runs as they had in the previous 4 games combined. Madison Bumgarner lasted only 4 innings, the shortest outing of his career.

Andres Torres (SF): 0-for-4, 4 K
•  First Giants player this season to record a game of 4+ strikeouts and no hits.
•  First since Fred Lewis on April 15, 2009.
•  Only one Giant has done it twice since 2000 - Aaron Rowand.
•  There are now only three teams in the MLB who have not had a player with 4+ strikeouts and no hits in a game this season: White Sox, Indians, Tigers.

Cubs 15, Brewers 3
Cubs score a season-high 15 runs and snap their season-worst 7-game losing streak. It is the most runs they have scored since August 14 of last season. Aramis Ramirez hits his second career pinch-hit HR (1st since 2002 with PIT). Starlin Castro has first career four-hit game while Geovany Soto gets his 3rd career 5-RBI game. Ryan Dempster improves to 14-3 career vs the Brewers.

Reds 9, Pirates 4
The Reds break game open with 6-run 7th inning including RBI doubles by Joey Votto and Jonny Gomes, an RBI triple by Laynce Nix and a 3-run HR by Paul Janish. It is the 15th time Cincinnati scores at least 9 runs this season. All four Pittsburgh runs were scored on home runs. Johnny Cueto allows 1 run and 3 hits in 6 innings to improve to 9-2 career vs the Pirates and 5-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his last 8 starts. Jeff Karstens falls to 0-4 career vs Reds and is 0-5 in his last 8 starts.

AL
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1

Alex Rodriguez becomes the 7th player to hit 600 career HR when he hit a 2-0 fastball off Shaun Marcum in the first inning to center field. Rodriguez is the youngest to reach 600 HR (35 years, 8 days). Rodriguez snapped a streak of 46 at-bats since his last homer, the longest homerless streak ever between home run numbers 599 and 600. The homer came on the 3-year anniversary of his 500th HR, which was also in the first inning and also at Yankee Stadium and also in a game started by Phil Hughes. Derek Jeter (4-4, two doubles) has his 35th career 4-hit game, passing Joe DiMaggio and Bernie Williams for 4th-most 4-hit games by a Yankee in the live-ball era (since 1920). The Yankees snap their 3-game losing streak, which matched their longest of the season.

A's 4, Royals 3
Brett Anderson picks up his first win since May 29 and goes 7 innings, his longest outing of the season. After giving up 2 runs in the first, A's pitchers held the Royals to 1 run on 3 hits the rest of the way. Michael Wuertz struck out the side in the 9th to notch his 4th save, tying a career-high. The A's have won 11 of their last 14 against the Royals. The Royals have lost 8 of their last 10 on the road. Jose Guillen (0-4) falls to 3-41 (.073) in his last 11 games. Wuertz struck out the side in the 9th to notch his 4th save, tying a career-high.

1st Pitch: Coming back for more

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
3:30
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season. Piniella made his managerial debut on April 8, 1986 when his Yankees hosted Kansas City. Who was the opposing starting pitcher?

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

There were four games on Tuesday in which a team won after trailing by at least four runs. It’s the first time four teams came from behind to win in that fashion on the same day since April 19, 2006:

TUESDAY’S MLB COMEBACKS

Red Sox at Athletics: Oakland trailed Boston 4-0 after two innings, but shut down the Red Sox the rest of the way. The A’s won the game with 2 outs in the 10th inning for their fifth walk-off win of the season.

Giants at Dodgers: Down the coast in LA, the Dodgers jumped all over Tim Lincecum and led 5-1 after five innings before the Giants came back, capped by a bizarre 3-run 9th inning for a 7-5 win.

Rays at Orioles: In Baltimore, the Orioles trailed 8-4 AND overcame ninth-inning and extra-inning deficits in their 11-10 win over the Rays. Baltimore’s the only team that’s won a game this season when trailing in both the ninth inning and in extra innings.

Astros at Cubs: At Wrigley, it looked as if it was going to be another long night for the Cubs. Houston led 6-0 and 7-1 before Aramis Ramirez exploded for three home runs in the Cubs' 14-7 win.

There were seven ejections (player/manager/coach) on Tuesday, the most in a single day this season: NYY Joe Girardi, PIT John Russell, LAD Bob Schaefer, LAD Clayton Kershaw, LAD Joe Torre, OAK Coco Crisp, BOS John Farrell

Aramis Ramirez hit three home runs and drove in seven in the Cubs' 14-7 win over Houston. It was the fourth three-HR game of his career, the most by a third baseman in the live ball era (1920). He's the first Cub to hit three HR in a game since Alfonso Soriano on Sept. 6, 2008, and the first Cub with three HR and at least RBI in a game since Sammy Sosa (3 HR, 9 RBI) on Aug. 10, 2002. Aramis Ramirez, who had six HR and 23 RBI through the month of June (53 games), has nine HR and 24 RBI in 15 games this month.

From the Baltimore Sun: In Tuesday's second inning against Tampa Bay's Matt Garza, the Orioles hit three consecutive homers for the first time since doing it against the California Angels on Sept. 5, 1995 — the same day Cal Ripken Jr. tied Lou Gehrig's record of consecutive games played at 2,130. In that game, it was Jeff Manto, Mark Smith and Brady Anderson who went deep consecutively. On Tuesday, it was Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton and Adam Jones who homered to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead.

FROM ELIAS: Chris Carpenter got the win and Andrew Carpenter the loss in the Cardinals’ 7-1 win over the Phillies. The last game in which the winning and losing pitchers each had the same surname was when Jeff Weaver bested his brother Jered on June 20 of last season.

From Chicago Tribune: White Sox reliever J.J. Putz, returning to his first major league city, set a franchise record by making his 25th consecutive scoreless outing.

From the Miami Herald: A victory by Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday would give him 50 as a Marlin and move him into second on the team's all-time list behind Dontrelle Willis, who recorded 68. But Nolasco has done his best pitching on the road, not at home. Nolasco has gone 30-18 with a 4.23 ERA on the road but only 19-19 with a 4.78 ERA at Sun Life Stadium, and all four of his career complete games have been on the road.

From the Philadelphia Daily News: The Phillies have scored 3 or fewer runs in 45 of their 93 games this season, 48.4 percent.

Today’s Leaderboard: The Baltimore Orioles (four) and Tampa Bay Rays (three) combined to hit seven solo HR in the O’s 11-10 extra-inning win Tuesday night. Tampa Bay and Baltimore are now fifth and tied for sixth, respectively, in the AL in team solo HR. With his 2 solo HR, Baltimore’s Luke Scott moved into a tie for 4th in the AL in most solo HR this season.

Key Matchup: The Cubs’ Derrek Lee is hitting .469 (15-for-32, 3 HR) in his career against Houston’s Brett Myers. His average against Myers is the second-highest of his career against any of the 33 pitchers he’s had at least 30 plate appearances against. Only his .486 average (17-for-35) against Jason Marquis is better. Lee is 0-for-3 against Myers this season.

Trivia Answer: Current San Diego manager Bud Black. Black, who spent 15 years in the majors with five teams, went seven innings, allowing six hits and four earned runs as he took the loss. As a side note, Black’s former pitching coach in San Francisco, Dave Righetti, earned the save in New York’s 4-2 win.

Ramirez can't shoulder the load

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
12:34
AM ET
When looking at the struggles of the Chicago Cubs so far this season, an obvious place to start is with 3B Aramis Ramirez. After an 0-for-4 performance Friday night, Ramirez is hitting just.158 through 44 games this year, with only 4 HR and 20 RBI. In addition, Ramirez has already struck out 43 times, matching his total from last season. Ramirez has been battling injuries throughout the year, but perhaps his struggles stem from a more serious injury suffered last season.

When Ramirez was traded to the Cubs in 2003, it appeared that the Cubs had their first legitimate player at the hot corner since Ron Santo. In his first five full seasons with the Cubs, Ramirez hit .303, averaging 161 hits, 32 HR and 105 RBI per season. After starting out the 2009 season in similar form, hitting .364 in 18 games, Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder while diving for a ball in the field, causing him to miss 50 straight games and only play a total of 82 for the season.

In the 104 games played since the injury, Ramirez is hitting just .243, and his strikeouts have noticeably increased. Ramirez’s K pct has jumped to 17.0%, a vast increase from his 12.1% average between the start of the 2006 season and the injury. When looking at the numbers in more detail, Ramirez is seeing almost the exact same percentage of strikes and pitches in the zone before and after the injury, and is swinging only slightly more often; he just isn’t making contact and putting the ball in play as often. Ramirez’s miss pct has gone from 17.6% before the injury to 21.8% after, while logically, his percent of swings put in play has dropped from 42.2% to 38.4%.

While Ramirez has seen his stats decline across the board, one of the most notable decreases in production has come against the fastball. From the start of 2006 until his injury last season, Ramirez hit .300 against the heater, striking out in just 9.5% of his plate appearances. Since coming back from the injury, Ramirez is hitting just .263 against the fastball (including 0-for-3 on Friday) while striking out 14.3% of the time. The increase in his miss percentage and decrease in percent of swings put in play against the fastball mirror his overall numbers as well, as his 38.4% of fastball swings put in play is far below the MLB average of 45.0% over that time period.


Interestingly, a good portion of Ramirez’s stats both overall against the fastball, such as BB pct, chase pct, and swing pct have remained very similar before and after the injury, so it does not appear as if he is taking a different approach to the plate. In addition, the percentage of fastballs he is seeing both for strikes and in the zone have also remained nearly the same since the injury. So perhaps the shoulder injury from last season is simply preventing him from catching up to the heat, which would explain the increase in strikeouts and misses, but only Ramirez knows for sure.

FanGraphs: The truth about Aramis Ramirez

May, 20, 2010
5/20/10
11:12
AM ET
One of the big reasons the Chicago Cubs have had success in recent years is third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez has put up some great seasons ever since he joined the Cubbies in 2003, and has become a key part of their offensive game plan. But this year, he's hitting .167 with a .234 OBP while slugging .280. For six straight seasons, Aramis has posted a weighted on-base average of .380 or greater (.330 is about league average). This season, he’s posting a meager wOBA of just .237. So what's wrong with the Cubs slugger?

To begin with, Ramirez’s strikeouts are way up. Last season, he struck out in 14.1 percent of his at-bats (league average is usually around 19 percent), slightly better than the 15.4 percent mark he’s posted over his entire career. This season, Ramirez is taking the walk of shame a whopping 23.1 percent of the time, the highest since his rookie season back in 1998. It is very unusual for a hitter to see such a large increase in strikeout rate from one year to the next.

Delving further into his rising strikeout rate, we can see that Ramirez is actually swinging at fewer pitches this year and making contact less often when he does get the bat off his shoulder. To compound the problem, Ramirez is making less contact on balls inside the strike zone, while getting his bat on the ball more often on pitches outside the strike zone. Last year, he made contact on 88.8 percent of balls in the zone. This year it's 83.3 percent. And on balls outside the zone, he's gone from making contact 65.6 percent of the time, to 68.7. Missing hittable pitches, while making contact on pitches off the plate that are not easy to square up, is not a recipe for success.

In essence, the numbers bear out the phenomenon generally known as “pressing.” As a reaction to his slow start, Ramirez is chasing more balls and overswinging at those he thinks he can hit. It’s not working, though, and the Cubs need to do what they can to get their slugger back to his old ways. He knows how to hit -- he's just lost right now.

Zach Sanders is a writer for FanGraphs.

Friday's 1st pitch: Fun with early numbers

April, 9, 2010
4/09/10
1:19
PM ET
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.

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