Stats & Info: Bobby Bonds

1st Pitch: Jays mashing for history

September, 8, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Neither the Oakland Athletics nor the Seattle Mariners have a player with at least 15 home runs. Kevin Kouzmanoff’s 14 leads Oakland, while Russell Branyan paces Seattle with 13 (in just 50 games!). If either team ends up without a 15-HR player, it would the first time for an AL team since the 1992 Angels. Who led that team in home runs? (Hint: He has the third-most career HR for a player who homered in his first at-bat.)

Quick Hits: With their third straight game with at least three home runs, the Toronto Blue Jays now have 215 on the season. That’s tied for the third most in franchise history and 33 more than any other team. Let’s dive into Toronto’s torrid pace with help from STATS LLC.

• Toronto has hit at least three homers in each of its last three games. In 138 games this season, the Houston Astros have the same number of three-HR games.

• The Blue Jays now have 33 three-HR games, the mostby a team in a season since the 2005 Texas Rangers. Over the last 90 years, the 1997 Mariners had the most three-HR games with 43.

• Speaking of the Mariners, they’ve only hit a home run in 62 games this season. The Blue Jays have hit multiple home runs in 63 games this season.

• The Blue Jays have hit an incredible 181 home runs against right-handed pitchers, 54 more than any other team. In fact, only the Boston Red Sox (182) have more total HR than the Blue Jays have against righties alone.

• The Blue Jays are hitting just .218 against lefties this season, which would be the lowest season average over the last 35 years. Not surprisingly, only 34 of their homers have come against southpaws (tied for 17th in the majors).

• The Blue Jays are on pace for 150 home runs at home this season. That puts them just off the pace of 2005 Rangers, who hold the record with 153 HR at home.

Jose Bautista has already hit 27 home runs at home this season, the most by an AL player since Mark Teixeira’s 30 in Arlington back in 2005. The MLB record would be a task though. That belongs to Hank Greenberg, who hit 39 of his 58 home runs at home in 1938.

• At home, Bautista is averaging a home run every 7.93 at-bats. That would be the best in the American League over the last 50 years. In 1994, Frank Thomas averaged one per 8.14 at-bats at home. Over that span, Bautista’s rate would be the sixth best in the majors behind two seasons apiece for Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, and Hank Aaron’s 1971 campaign.

Today’s Leaderboard: Of Adam Lind’s 20 home runs, 14 have come in two-strike counts. Compare that to Baustista, who has 8 of his 43 HR coming with two strikes. Lind’s total is the most in the AL and trails only Albert Pujols, who has 15 more total home runs.

Key Matchups: Zack Greinke has not enjoyed facing the Minnesota Twins this season, going 0-3 with a 10.29 ERA. In fact, take out his starts against Minnesota and Greinke’s ERA would drop from 3.87 to 3.36, as noted in the Kansas City Star. Joe Mauer is 4-for-8 against Greinke this season, after entering 2010 just 6-for-27 against him.

After missing two years due to injury, Chris Capuano made it back to the big leagues in 2010. However, that means he will have to face Albert Pujols again for the first time since 2007. If Pujols wants to make a run at the Triple Crown, it will require a massive climb in batting average. Tonight is a good place to start. Albert is 15-for-27 against Capuano, a .556 average that is his third highest against anyone he’s faced 20 times.

Trivia Answer: Gary Gaetti led the 1992 Angels with 12 home runs. That’s the fewest HR to lead an AL team in a non-strike year since Bobby Bonds paced the 1976 Angels with 10.

One2Watch4: Rangers 1B Chris Davis

March, 22, 2010
It didn't take long for Chris Davis to find success at the major league level. The Rangers first baseman burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2008 posting a .285/.330/.549 line with 17 home runs in his first 80 big league games. Expectations were high going into 2009, but Davis failed to live up to his rookie hype, sinking to a .238/.284/.442 line in 113 games while striking out 150 times. Through his first two Major League seasons, Davis is in rare air historically.

The Play Index tool on shows how historically high, or in this case low, Davis' career contact rate is. In the simplest terms, contact rate measures a hitter’s ability to put the ball in play. Davis’ contact rate is the lowest in Major League history for a player 23 or under over the course of his first two seasons played. To put it another way, nobody at Davis’ age and experience level has struck out at the rate he has. Ever. Still, despite his propensity to swing and miss, hope remains for the first baseman, especially when you compare him to some other sluggers with historically low contact rates at his age.

Eight of the nine other players on the list became All-Stars during their careers, with some ranking among the greatest home run hitters of their generation. What Davis lacks, compared to this group, is plate discipline. Davis’ career walk-to-strikeout ratio is .18, the worst of the nine players. For reference, the MLB average in 2009 was .50. Players who struggle to make contact and have well-below-average plate discipline typically don’t last long in the big leagues.

However, many of the players on the previous list made improvements in their third seasons.

Five of the players equaled or bettered their contact rate while four did the same for their walk-to-strikeout ratio. Only Reggie Jackson and Darryl Strawberry improved both. Davis has a long way to go to be compared to Jackson or Strawberry, but there are some positives to go on. After spending 44 games in Triple-A, Davis improved his contact rate by almost 20 percent, raising it from 56 percent in the first half to a respectable 73 percent after returning to the big leagues. His walk-to-strikeout ratio still sat at .19, however. With highly-regarded prospect Justin Smoak pushing for playing time at first base, 2010 may be a make or break season for Davis. Season-long improvements in his contact rate and plate discipline will go a long way in determining whether his career path rivals Pete Incaviglia or Reggie Jackson. This makes him One2Watch4.