Stats & Info: Boston Red Sox

Top stats to know: Red Sox vs. Cardinals

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Shelby Miller and the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Boston Red Sox on "Wednesday Night Baseball."
Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, who were teammates one week ago, face off this week as opposing starting pitchers on "Wednesday Night Baseball" (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Here are the top stats to know about Wednesday’s starters.

Joe Kelly (2-2, 4.37 ERA)

Kelly will make his first start for the Boston Red Sox after being dealt by the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline Thursday. Kelly, a 26-year-old righty, posted a 3.03 ERA in 31 starts from 2012-13 but had an ERA north of 4.0 in seven starts with the Cardinals this season.

Kelly’s struggles in 2014 start with the fastball.

In the two previous seasons, Kelly threw 24 percent of his fastballs up in the zone and allowed a .281 batting average. Thirty-two percent of Kelly’s fastballs have been up in the zone this season, and opponents are teeing off at a .349 clip (MLB average is .273 in 2014). His groundball percentage on fastballs dropped 10 percent as a result.

While the heater has been a problem for Kelly, his curveball continues to improve.

Kelly’s curveball usage has increased in each of the past three seasons. His batting average allowed on curveballs has decreased from a generous .346 in 2012 to a stingy .146 in 2014 (MLB average is .222 in 2014).

Shelby Miller (8-8, 4.14 ERA)

Miller’s ERA is up more than a full run this year compared to last, while his strikeout and walk percentages are heading in the wrong direction.

Miller ranked 19th out of 81 qualified starters in strikeout percentage with a below average walk percentage in 2013. Miller’s strikeout percentage ranks 79th out of 95 qualified starters, while his walk percentage is the highest in baseball this season.

Those trends have put Miller in the bottom tier of the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Miller's 1.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the third-worst in Major League Baseball this season. Only Jarred Cosart (Miami Marlins) and Roberto Hernandez (Philadelphia Phillies) have been worse among 95 qualified starters.

Top stats to know: Yankees at Red Sox

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3

Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBrett Gardner is helping the Yankees stay in contention with his career year.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), the Boston Red Sox host the New York Yankees with these teams in positions they’re not used to -- outside the top two in the division.

The Yankees enter the game third in the American League East, with the Red Sox fifth. The last time neither team finished in the top two in the division was 1992. That year, the Toronto Blue Jays won both the AL East and the World Series.

The teams’ relative lack of success hasn’t been due to a lack of spending, as the Yankees (second) and Red Sox (fourth) rank among the highest Opening Day payrolls in baseball, according to The Associated Press.

The Yankees are over .500 despite a negative-29 run differential, thanks in large part to contributions from unexpected players.

Brett Gardner
Gardner has 4.0 wins above replacement this season, a team high. If that number is prorated over 162 team games, he would finish with 5.9.

The last Yankees outfielder other than Gardner to post a season like that was Bernie Williams, who had a WAR of 6.4 in 1995. Gardner has already topped that in his career, with 7.3 in 2010.

The performance shouldn’t be unexpected for Gardner, who has 19.6 WAR since the start of 2010, ninth among all major league outfielders, despite playing just 16 games in 2012. His hard-hit average is up to .177 this season, more than 50 points higher than last year.

Dellin Betances
Dellin Betances
Entering Sunday’s game, no relief pitcher in baseball had more strikeouts this season than Betances’ 96. In fact, the second most is from Braves closer Craig Kimbrel with 75. That 21-strikeout separation is the same as the distance between second and 28th.

One could make an argument that Betances has been the best pitcher in baseball. Among hurlers with at least 50 innings pitched, Betances has the best ERA (1.52), WHIP (0.75), opponents’ batting average (.133), strikeouts per nine innings pitched (13.2) and strikeout percentage (39.2 percent).

The Yankees have used Betances a lot this year. He has 29 relief appearances of more than one inning this season, five more than any other pitcher in the majors.

Clay Buchholz
The Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound tonight. Buchholz had a career year in 2013 (12-1, 1.74 ERA in 16 starts) but is having one of his worst seasons this year. His 16 percent strikeout rate and .299 opponents’ batting average this season are both career worsts.

Strangely, Buchholz has improved in certain areas. His 7.6 percent walk rate is the lowest of his career. He has also thrown more pitches on the outer third or farther outside (53 percent) than in any season the past six years. But he’s throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone (47 percent) than in any season over the past six years. He’s also allowing a .335 BA on balls in play, the second-highest mark of his career and 80 points higher than last season.

CÚspedes brings power, arm to Boston

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31

AP Photo/Ben MargotYoenis CÚspedes has hit 17 HR this season. Red Sox outfielders have combined to hit 14.
The Boston Red Sox added outfielder Yoenis CÚspedes to their lineup as they traded pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics.

Let’s take a look at what CÚspedes will bring to Fenway Park.

Although he has only had 26 plate appearances, CÚspedes has not hit a home run at Fenway Park. However, he should be able to take advantage of the Green Monster as 47 percent of his hits are to left field this season.

Only three players – Brian Dozier (54 percent), Edwin Encarnacion (52 percent) and Albert Pujols (50 percent) - in the American League this season have a higher percentage of hits to the left side of the field than CÚspedes.

He also brings power to a Red Sox outfield that has the worst combined slugging percentage in the majors this season. CÚspedes has three more home runs than all Red Sox outfielders combined (903 fewer PA).

CÚspedes broke onto the scene in 2012 and hit .292 while sporting a .505 slugging percentage. Since that season, his average has gone down (.240 batting average in 2013; 256 so far this season), but the power is still there.

His 66 home runs since his rookie year is tied for 15th among all American League players (among the 167 qualified batters).

CÚspedes brings nearly as many Wins Above Replacement as the top three Red Sox outfielders combined this season.

In fact, only Dustin Pedroia (3.5) has a higher WAR among Red Sox players than the 3.0 that CÚspedes brings to Boston.

CÚspedes also ranks second among left fielders with 10 defensive runs saved in 2014. Alex Gordon leads the majors with 20 defensive runs saved.

Red Sox left fielders have combined for minus five defensive runs saved (12th in the AL).

In addition, in Jackie Bradley Jr. (12) and CÚspedes (12), the Red Sox now have the two players tied for the most outfield assists in baseball this season.

Top stats to know: Red Sox-Yankees

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
Tonight features the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees squaring off on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) in the rubber game of a three-game series.

Here are some things our broadcast crew will be talking about as John Lackey takes the hill for Boston against Chase Whitley.

Life in the fast lane
Lackey's fastball will likely be the key for him tonight, as he has relied on his heater considerably more often since missing the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In 2011, Lackey turned to his fastball 49 percent of the time while using his curve on about 18 percent of pitches. A season ago, after returning from his elbow injury, his fastball usage was up to 57 percent, and this year it's at 66 percent while he turns to his curveball only 11 percent of the time.

No matter what he's using in his arsenal, Lackey has found the zone often this season. Overall, his strike percentage of 69 percent is third highest in the majors, behind only Phil Hughes and David Price.

Which Whitley?
Whitley will look to get back on track for the Yankees. Through his first seven career starts, Whitley was 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA. He had allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven starts, but his eighth start had no resemblance, as he allowed eight earned runs.

The difference was line drives. His ground-ball percentage remained nearly identical (43 percent in his first seven starts compared to 42 percent in his eighth start), but what were fly balls in his first seven starts became line drives in the eighth. He allowed eight of them in his loss to the Blue Jays, seven of which went for base hits.

Fresh face
Tonight will feature the major league debut of Mookie Betts, who will potentially be in right field for Boston. Betts has carved up the minors this season with both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He batted .355 in 54 games with Portland and .322 in 23 games with Pawtucket, and the table to the right shows just how successful he's been at getting on base.

He looks to provide a boost to a Boston team that has been struggling on offense lately. Since the start of June, the Red Sox have managed a .295 on-base percentage, better than only three teams in the majors.

Dustin's decline
While power hitting is not his calling card, Dustin Pedroia's slugging percentage has fallen off for the fourth consecutive year, sitting at just .377 this season (it was .493 in 2010). Pedroia simply hasn't been able to produce fly balls as he once did; only 28 percent of his batted balls have been classified as fly balls this season, down from 38 percent in 2012.

Pitchers have taken notice of Pedroia's diminished power and are challenging him more often. Of all the pitches Pedroia has seen this season, 57 percent have been located inside the strike zone, the highest rate of any hitter in baseball. Pitchers are throwing him fastballs 60 percent of the time, which is more often than all but 13 hitters this season.

Overall, Pedroia has slugged .365 in at-bats ending with fastballs this season, down from a .530 rate from 2010 to 2013.

Pedroia's Power Outage Continues in 2014

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27

The Boston Red Sox second baseman has struggled through one of his worst power-hitting seasons.
As the Boston Red Sox travel to New York to make up ground on its AL East rival, Dustin Pedroia looks to right the ship on what has been one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.

Last season, his power outage could be explained. The gritty infielder battled through a thumb injury for most of the year, and it showed in the power department. His .415 slugging percentage in 2013 was the lowest in any season (minimum 100 plate appearances).

This season, the slide in production has continued. Entering Friday's action, Pedroia’s batting average (.265), on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.377) would all be career-worsts. This continued downturn comes in the first year of his 8-year, $110M extension that keeps him in Boston through 2021.

So, what specifically has been the issue for Pedroia? Let’s take a look.

Slugging It Out

While power is not Pedroia’s calling card, he’s lost nearly 100 points of slugging since 2011.

Additionally, Pedroia is putting fewer balls in the air, while seeing fewer of the balls he does hit in the air turn into home runs. His slugging percentage on fly balls has dropped from .630 from 2011-12 to .477 since the start of last season.

Can't Stay in the Zone

Pitchers are becoming increasingly comfortable pounding the strike zone against Pedroia. In fact, no batter has seen a higher rate of pitches in the strike zone this season than Pedroia (56.6 percent). That percentage is also the highest in Pedroia's last four seasons.

But Pedroia isn’t taking advantage of these pitches. His slugging percentage against pitches in the zone has also decreased each season since 2011, and fewer are turning into home runs.

Can't Catch Up

Not only is Pedroia seeing more pitches in the strike zone, but he’s also seeing more fastballs – and doing less with them.

With more of these fastballs also being thrown in the strike zone, it suggests pitchers are now challenging Pedroia to beat them.

Top stats to know: Red Sox at Braves

May, 27, 2014
May 27
The Boston Red Sox snapped a 10-game losing streak Monday, which was their longest since losing 11 straight in 1994.

Tonight, the defending champions hope to turn that into a win streak (7 ET/ESPN) as they play the second of two games at Turner Field before heading home to host the Atlanta Braves for two more.

Streak snapped
Despite putting that losing streak behind them, the damage to the Sox’s hopes of a championship repeat this season may be already done.

No team in MLB history has ever lost 10 straight games in a season and gone on to win the World Series. The longest losing streak by a team that would go on to win the World Series was nine by the 1953 New York Yankees.

The last team with a double-digit losing streak that even made the playoffs was the 1982 Atlanta Braves, who lost 11 straight in August that season.

Lack of big POPi
David Ortiz hit the game-tying home run Monday, but a lack of production from the slugger over the past dozen games has been a key factor in the Red Sox’s slump.

Over the last 12 games, Ortiz is hitting .286 with a slugging percentage of .429. Over that span he has had just one multihit game.

In the previous dozen games, he hit .360 with a slugging percentage of .680, with five multihit games.

Ortiz is struggling with pitches on the outer half of the plate, which continues a trend. His numbers against such pitches have decreased for three straight seasons.

Braves' hitters lack patience
As a team, the Braves have one of the worst offenses in baseball. They rarely hit the ball hard, and they hit in the air far more than they hit it on a line.

The Braves swing at the first pitch more often than almost every team in baseball (33 percent, a hair behind the Giants) but don’t make the most of that aggressiveness. They are hitting .305 on the first pitch this season, well below the MLB average of .340.

Despite only one team swinging at the first pitch more often, no team has fewer home runs on the first pitch of an AB (tied with Twins -- 2).

Aaron Harang
While the Braves’ offense has been poor this season, Harang has been a bright spot on the pitching staff, which ranks second in MLB with a 2.89 ERA. After five starts, he led the major leagues with a 0.85 ERA. In his past five starts, he’s gone 1-3 with a 6.11 ERA, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

If you take out the first of those past five starts (9 ERs) he has a 3.86 ERA. He has 31 K's and 5 BBs over that span (33 K's, 13 BBs in his first five starts) and he’s allowed two ERs or fewer in eight of his 10 starts this season.

Kernels: No need for an early departure

May, 25, 2014
May 25
As the saying goes, never leave a game early.

That was especially true for fans of the Tampa Bay Rays this week, who were treated to three consecutive walk-off victories for the first time in team history. On Thursday Sean Rodriguez' three-run homer beat the Oakland Athletics, the first walk-off homer in their history to be a three- (or four-) run blast in extra innings. Friday's opener against the Boston Red Sox was scoreless until the bottom of the ninth when Cole Figueroa-- in just his eighth major-league plate appearance-- doubled home Desmond Jennings. It was the Rays' second-ever 1-0 win via walkoff; a Reid Brignac homer (off Sergio Mitre of the New York Yankees) provided the other in 2010.

Boston pitcher Andrew Miller did the honors on Saturday; his throwing error trying to start a double play at second allowed Figueroa to score his first career run for a 6-5 comeback victory. It was the second-longest game in Rays history to end in a walk-off win, topped only by David DeJesus' 18th-inning single against Baltimore last September.

The Sox had not lost back-to-back games via walk-off to the same team since July 2002.

• In their first five games in Chicago this week, the Yankees scored more runs from the ninth inning on (10) than before it (six). They got their first two wins of the year when trailing after eight, beating the Cubs in 13 innings Wednesday, and the White Sox in 10 Saturday. The Cubs game, with NL rules, saw the Yankees use 21 players, their most in a game since August 9, 1970. No AL team has used more in a game, even in September, since 2004. They also collected 13 singles and no extra-base hits in that game, just their second time doing so in the past 15 years.

• The Cincinnati Reds won Monday's game over the Washington Nationals behind Todd Frazier's homer in the top of the 15th. It was not only the latest homer by inning this season, it was the latest for Cincinnati in over 40 years! None other than Johnny Bench clubbed one in the 17th against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 2, 1972. For their part, the Nationals (and Expos) had won their previous six games (dating to 1992) of 15 innings or more, and hadn't allowed a homer so late in a game since Rick Dempsey of the Los Angeles Dodgers homered in 1989 to settle the second-longest 1-0 game in MLB history (22 innings).

• The Cleveland Indians won a game via the rare "balk-off" on Wednesday when Detroit Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque balked home Asdrubal Cabrera. It was the first such ending in the majors since July 4, 2011, when Aaron Crow of the Kansas City Royals committed one. And in the past 100 years, it is the first Indians victory or Tigers loss via game-ending balk.

• The next day the Indians scored twice in the top of the 13th, which they needed because the Baltimore Orioles' Nick Markakis hit a solo homer in the bottom half. It was the fourth homer this year in the bottom of an extra inning that did not at least re-tie the game, but the Orioles' first since April 13, 2010 (Ty Wigginton against the Rays).

The back-to-back 13-inning games were a first for Cleveland since June 20 and 21, 2003, when they played a pair of 15s in Pittsburgh. The first of those two games featured two rain delays (including one after the ninth inning) and ended at 1:37 am.

• And if it feels like "Final in 13" came up a lot this week, it did. The Royals scored three times after an Angels error in the 13th on Saturday to win 7-4. Combined with the Yankees/Cubs on Wednesday, and the two Cleveland games, there were four games in four days that went exactly 13 innings. The last time we rolled that many 13's in four days is probably a lot longer ago than you think. It was August 24-27, 1915, when the White Sox, Red Sox, Senators, and the Federal League's St. Louis Terriers all were 13-inning victors on consecutive days.

Top stats to know: Red Sox at Yankees

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox conclude their four-game series tonight on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN).

The Yankees took two of the first three games and are looking to win a series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the final weekend of the 2012 season.

Here are some key storylines heading into the game:

Panic time, Red Sox Nation?
This is the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Red Sox have had a losing record through 12 games. In each of those previous three years -- 2010, 2011, 2012 -- the Red Sox failed to make the playoffs.

The bad news: The last time the Red Sox made the playoffs after having a losing record through 12 games was 1915.

The good news: The Red Sox won the World Series in 1915.

Boston has had a difficult time replicating Jacoby Ellsbury’s production at the top of the lineup, ranking among the worst teams in both batting average and OPS by leadoff batters this season.

Another problem for the Red Sox this season has been hitting in the clutch. Boston ranks 26th in the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position, including a 2-for-21 performance in the first three games of this series.

Bronx Bombers are back
The Yankees took full advantage of the jet stream in right field at Yankee Stadium during Saturday’s 7-4 win, hitting five home runs, four of which were to either right-center or right field.

Lack of power was an issue for the Yankees to start the season, as they went homerless in their first five games and had only seven homers in their first 11 games combined before Saturday's barrage.

Alfonso Soriano is tied for the team lead with three homers, as he continues to give the Yankees their money’s worth since he rejoined the team last summer. Soriano’s 20 homers since his first game in pinstripes on July 26 lead all major league players, and his 54 RBIs in that span are second to Mark Trumbo.

The shift is on
The Yankees have made a significant change in their defensive philosophy this season, using more infield shifts than ever before.

Only one team is shifting more often than the Yankees this season, and with 79 shifts already, they are on pace to more than double their 475 shifts from last season.

The Red Sox have been more conservative with their shifting in the early going, with only 26 shifts in 12 games, and if they continue at this pace, they would finish with about 25 percent fewer defensive shifts than last season.

Nova, Doubront struggling
Both Ivan Nova and Felix Doubront are looking to bounce back from poor outings their last time out. The two pitchers combined to give up 12 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings in their most recent starts on April 8.

Both pitchers had issues limiting the damage in those games, as the Rangers were 4-for-7 with men on base against Doubront while the Orioles went 7-for-9 in those situations against Nova.

Kernels: Hurry up and wait

December, 29, 2013
If you're like most baseball fans, you have at least one countdown clock in your head. And not the one to Tuesday night's ball drop.

Forty-four days until pitchers and catchers.
Ninety-one days until Opening Day.
(X) days until my trip to (insert exotic baseball locale).

You pass the winter daydreaming of sunshine, the perfectly manicured field and the crack of the bat. So while you're waiting for that, it seemed a good time to talk about how much waiting we do during the season.


Did it feel like there was a lot of "down time" during the World Series?

After the first two innings of Game 1 alternated long and short, Stats & Info set about timing each half-inning, from first pitch to final out. Those times ranged from a five-pitch frame in 1:41 all the way to 24:37.

Overall, the Boston Red Sox spent an extra 48 minutes batting (7 hours, 21 minutes to the St. Louis Cardinals' 6:33), mostly because they saw 76 more pitches. Both teams averaged 30 seconds per pitch when rounded.

Those extended commercial breaks between innings accounted for more than six hours of the Series' 19:57 total. And that doesn't include the waits during mid-inning pitching changes. Game 5, at 2:52, was the shortest World Series game played with National League rules in 12 years. columnist Jerry Crasnick has more on postseason games getting longer.


But if you like waiting around, nothing beats a rain delay. We tracked more than 160 hours of them throughout the season.

Cleveland Indians fans haven't just been waiting a while for a title, they waited more than 26 hours just to see their team play this season -- seven more than any other team (see chart). Nearly five of that came from three separate delays in their May 31 game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The longest single delay came one night earlier when the same weather system hit St. Louis. The Cardinals and Kansas City Royals were six outs away from finishing the game when it rained in the top of the ninth.

Problem: The Royals had just scored to take the lead. If the Cardinals didn't bat, the score would revert back to the prior inning. So they waited. And waited. For 4½ hours.

The game finally resumed at 3:02 a.m. and ended 12 minutes later. It was the latest known finish to a game ever played in St. Louis, 13 minutes later than Jack Clark's walk-off to end a doubleheader on July 7, 1987.

The most rained-on fans were those at Turner Field, who spent 12:50 over 11 games waiting. If you planned your trip to Atlanta around the Braves' homestand from Aug. 9-18, you have our sympathies. Four of those nine games started late and another was delayed after one inning.

The only team to not have a single rain delay this season was the Seattle Mariners -- but they didn't escape entirely. They got "stung" by a 23-minute bee delay in Anaheim. We also had a 70-minute fog delay; two light-failure delays (including one in the American League Championship Series); and five games postponed by snow -- one of them in Kansas City … in May!


And if it felt like games were generally longer this season, you're right. The average game in 2013 lasted more than 3:04, helped by a major-league-record 243 extra-inning games. Just the nine-inning contests still averaged 2:59, up three minutes from 2012. It's also the longest average in history (MLB lists 2000 as a "then-record" 2:58).

Quick, name the two teams who played the longest nine-inning game this season. OK, everybody got that one. But what if we said the Yankees and Red Sox also played the shortest game of the year?

Trick question. It was the "Sunday Night Baseball" affair that was delayed three times and finally called after 5½ innings. Although it didn't "end" until after midnight, the teams played for an only 1 hour, 58 minutes.

The shortest nine-inning game was 2:01, by the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres (May 18). And the longest game? That's 18 innings and a whopping 7:06 from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies in August.

Although the Cardinals game above went until 3:14 a.m., it was the Angels/Athletics game of April 29 that kept us up the latest. Brandon Moss walked off in the 19th inning at 1:41 a.m., 27 minutes later when adjusted for time zones.

If you watched every game of the 2013 season back-to-back (we'll let you fast-forward through the rain delays), it would take more than 316 days. That's the time from today until Nov. 11.

Better get started, pitchers and catchers begin reporting in 44 days.

Top stats to know: World Series Game 2

October, 24, 2013

Michael Wacha has dominated everyone this postseason.

The Boston Red Sox will go for their 10th straight World Series win on Thursday night when they face the St. Louis Cardinals.

Here are some of the notes and numbers our SportsCenter crew and ESPN Radio game broadcasters Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser will be talking about during Game 2.

Michael Wacha stats to know
Wacha is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in three starts this postseason. He’s now made 12 starts in his career, combining the regular season and postseason and has pitched at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer hits in five of those.

The 22-year-old Wacha will be the second-youngest Cardinals starting pitcher in World Series history, trailing only Paul Dean (brother of Dizzy Dean), who won two starts for the Cardinals against the Tigers in the 1934 World Series.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Wacha could become the first rookie starter to win four games in the postseason.

Wacha has been the master of finishing hitters off and is doing so with great variety. Opponents are 4-for-45 against him in two-strike counts this postseason, with 21 outs coming via his fastball and 20 via his offspeed pitches (changeup and curveball).

John Lackey stats to know
Lackey is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 11 innings this postseason.

Fenway Park has been a comfortable place to pitch. He’s 7-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts there this season (including his ALDS Game 2 win over Tampa Bay). Lackey is no stranger to the World Series, making three appearances (two starts) for the Angels in their 2002 World Series victory, in which he won Game 7.

Per Elias, he is the seventh pitcher who won Game 7 of a best-of-seven World Series to pitch for another team in a subsequent World Series.

Carlos Beltran is a game-time decision with a rib injury. Should Beltran be in the lineup, he’ll be challenged to hit Lackey, against whom he is 0-for-9 in his career.

Did you know?
• The Red Sox have won Game 2 in each of their last three World Series appearances. The Cardinals have lost Game 2 in each of their last four World Series appearances. That’s the second-longest Game 2 losing streak in World Series history, one shy of the Cubs, who have lost their last five Game 2s.

• During their nine-game World Series win streak that started with Game 1 of the 2004 Fall Classic, the Boston Red Sox have only trailed after a completion of an inning three times. For greater perspective, that amounts to the Red Sox trailing after 3.7 percent of the World Series innings they’ve played over the last decade.

• Not only do the Red Sox rarely trail, but thanks to fast starts, they’ve led after 74 out of 81 innings played (91.4 percent). Boston has outscored opponents 15-1 in the first inning of its last nine World Series games played.

• The health of Beltran will be an ongoing storyline, but the regular-season numbers say it might not be as big of a factor as suspected.

Elias informs us that the Cardinals has a .547 winning percentage with Beltran playing in his two seasons on the club, while posting an .821 winning percentage (23-5) in his absence.

• In Game 1, Pete Kozma became one of four players in the last 55 years to commit two errors at shortstop in a World Series game. Don't expect that to continue, as Kozma's .984 fielding percentage this season was second-best among National League shortstops (Troy Tulowitzki, .986).

Sanchez, Tigers starters dominate ALCS

October, 17, 2013

Al Bello/Getty Images
Anibal Sanchez gets the ball for Game 6 after holding the Red Sox hitless for six innings in Game 1.

The Detroit Tigers evened the ALCS up at two games apiece with their 7-3 victory Wednesday night.

Now, they get a chance to go up 3-2 on the Boston Red Sox as they send Anibal Sanchez to the mound in Game 5 tonight.

In his Game 1 start, Sanchez threw six no-hit innings before being removed in Detroit’s 1-0 victory. He was the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

He’s also the fourth pitcher in MLB postseason history to go at least six innings without allowing a hit. In two of the others, the pitcher went on to complete the no-hitter (Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay in the 2010 NLDS). The third instance was in the 1999 ALDS, when Pedro Martinez threw six hitless innings in relief.

How was Sanchez able to dominate Red Sox hitters? By getting them to chase pitches with two strikes.

Red Sox hitters chased 41 percent of pitches in two-strike counts in Game 1, compared to just 17 percent before two strikes. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

It wasn’t just Sanchez flustering Boston hitters in Game 1, but the Tigers bullpen did its part as well, allowing one hit in three shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts.

In the game, Tigers pitchers struck out 17 Red Sox batters, tying the record for most strikeouts by a staff in a nine-inning postseason game.

The Detroit pitching dominance has been a continuing theme in the series. The four-man staff of Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister has combined for 42 strikeouts in the first four games of the series.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the most strikeouts for a team’s starters in the first four games of any series in postseason history. In addition, that group's total of one run allowed per nine innings pitched (3 R in 27 IP) is the second-lowest for any starting staff through the first four games of a League Championship Series.

The only staff with a better mark in an LCS was... last year’s Tigers, whose staff allowed two runs in the first 27 1/3 innings pitched.

In the two ALCS, those four Tigers starters have combined for a 5-1 record, with a 0.83 ERA, .146 opponents’ batting average and more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.

Ortiz's grand slam powers improbable win

October, 14, 2013

AP Photo/Charlie RiedelJarrod Saltalamacchia’s walk-off single capped an improbable Red Sox comeback.
Trailing 5-1 and five outs away from facing a 2-0 deficit in the ALCS, the Boston Red Sox win probability stood at 3.8 percent.

Then everything changed with one swing.

David Ortiz hit a first-pitch changeup from Joaquin Benoit for a game-tying grand slam. It was the first game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning or later in postseason history.

It was Ortiz’s fifth career go-ahead or game-tying hit in the eighth inning or later of the postseason, one shy of tying Bernie Williams and Pete Rose for the most all-time.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia would drive in Jonny Gomes in the ninth for his first career postseason walk-off hit and the first by a Red Sox catcher since Carlton Fisk's home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

Just how unlikely was this comeback?
After a four-run top of the sixth, the Detroit Tigers led 5-0. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams with a lead of five or more runs in the postseason were 459-14 (.970).

Max Scherzer had been staked to a 5-run lead 24 times in his career (including postseason). His teams were 24-0 in those games.

The Red Sox became only the sixth team in postseason history to overcome a four-run deficit in the eighth inning or later to win.

Red Sox flip the switch
Making the comeback even more unlikely was the fact that prior to the four-run eighth inning, the Red Sox had only three hits in their last 16 innings.

After being no-hit by Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers for 8 1/3 innings in Game 1, Red Sox hitters were held hitless by Max Scherzer for 5 2/3 innings Sunday in Game 2.

The Red Sox became the first team in postseason history to be held hitless through 5 innings in consecutive games. During the last four regular seasons, the Red Sox played 324 games at Fenway Park. Not once were they no-hit through five innings.

Strikeouts piling up
The Tigers' loss overshadowed another dominant performance by Max Scherzer. Scherzer became the fifth pitcher in postseason history with 13 or more strikeouts and two or fewer hits allowed.

Scherzer’s no-hit bid of 5 2/3 innings tied the longest of his career. It was his third career postseason no-hit bid of at least 5 IP (2011 ALDS and 2012 ALCS). According to Elias, he’s the first pitcher in postseason history with three career no-hit bids of at least five innings.

The Tigers finished Game 2 with 15 strikeouts after striking out 17 Red Sox hitters in Game 1. Their 32 strikeouts are the most by a pitching staff in consecutive games in postseason history.

Day of comebacks in Boston
Just four hours prior to the Red Sox pulling off their comeback, the Patriots had one of their own, stunning the Saints on a Tom Brady TD pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds remaining.

When the Saints punted up four points with 1:20 remaining, the Patriots had a win probability of just 5.3 percent.

Strikeouts power Tigers to near no-no

October, 13, 2013

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJacoby Ellsbury was one of three Red Sox players to strike out three times against the Tigers.
Just two days after Justin Verlander flirted with a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics, the Detroit Tigers came even closer to making history Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

The Tigers pitched 8 1/3 no-hit innings before a Daniel Nava single off Joaquin Benoit spoiled the bid. It was the second longest no-hit bid in postseason history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bill Bevens carried a no-hitter 8 2/3 innings for the Yankees in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series before a Cookie Lavagetto walk-off double not only spoiled the no-hitter but gave the Dodgers the win.

The Tigers would hold on to win 1-0, just over five hours after the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0. Saturday is the first day in postseason history with two 1-0 games.

While the Cardinals won Saturday in a tidy two hours and 40 minutes, the Tigers-Red Sox game lasted more than an hour longer at 3:56. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was more than a half hour longer than the previous longest 9-inning, 1-0 game in postseason history (3:23 – 2013 ALDS Game 2).

Tigers match strikeout mark
The Tigers' staff set a major-league record for strikeouts during the regular season, and the team hasn’t slowed since. Anibal Sanchez (12), Al Alburquerque (2), Jose Veras (2) and Joaquin Benoit (1) combined for 17 strikeouts Saturday, matching the most strikeouts by a team in a nine-inning game in postseason history.

Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher against the Red Sox in postseason history. Thanks to a rising pitch count, he was pulled after just six innings, becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

The Elias Sports Bureau also notes that Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher before he allowed a hit in a postseason game in major-league history. The previous record belonged to Sandy Koufax, who struck out 10 Yankees before allowing a hit in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series.

How Sanchez Won
• Sanchez was able to overcome falling behind in the count. More hitters saw a first-pitch ball (14) than a first-pitch strike (11), but he held Red Sox hitters to 0-for-9 with six strikeouts (and five walks) after falling behind 1-0. The Red Sox had baseball’s best average (.295) and slugging percentage (.502) after getting ahead in the count 1-0 during the regular season.

• Sanchez was able to get the Red Sox to expand their strike zone with two strikes. Hitters chased only 17 percent of his pitches before two strikes but upped that to 41 percent in two-strike counts. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

• Sanchez took 17 of the 25 hitters he faced to a two-strike count, retiring 15 of those. He used three pitches to put Red Sox hitters away, getting six outs on his slider (all strikeouts), five outs on his fastball (four strikeouts) and four outs on his changeup (two strikeouts). The Red Sox swung at 20 pitches with two strikes and put only three in play.

Panda and Big Papi join elite company

September, 5, 2013

AP Photo, Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz (left) and Pablo Sandoval (right) both reached milestones on Wednesday.
Wednesday saw milestones occur in both the National and American Leagues, as Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz each had special performances.

Encore performance for the Panda
Sandoval is the reigning World Series MVP after winning it with the San Francisco Giants last season, largely due to his three home runs in Game 1 of that series. By hitting three home runs on Wednesday, the Kung-Fu Panda joined an exclusive list.

Sandoval is just the sixth player in MLB history to have a three-homer performance in both the regular and postseason in his career. Of the other five players, two are active (Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre) and three are in the Hall of Fame (Babe Ruth, George Brett, Reggie Jackson).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sandoval also is the first reigning World Series MVP to hit three homers in a game (World Series MVP has been awarded since 1955).

Comparing the two performances, the World Series performance remains the better one – both in significance of the game and in distance. Sandoval’s average home run distance was 370 feet Wednesday, much shorter than the 412-foot average distance he posted in last year’s Fall Classic.

Ortiz reaches 2,000 with an exclamation point
David Ortiz became the 18th active player to reach 2,000 career hits, belting home runs before and after his 2,000th hit. Ortiz now has 39 career multi-homer games with the Red Sox, the most in franchise history.

Ortiz now has nine 25-homer seasons for the Red Sox, second-most in franchise history, trailing only the 14 by Ted Williams. No AL player has more 25-homer seasons than Big Papi (nine) dating back to 2003. Alex Rodriguez and Paul Konerko each have eight such seasons, but are not in range to tie Ortiz’s mark this season.

As has become routine for Ortiz in recent years, he’s further included himself in the company of Red Sox lore. Ortiz had 10 total bases on Wednesday. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that this is his 11th game with at least 10 total bases, breaking a tie with Manny Ramirez and Ted Williams for most in franchise history.

Victorino's outburst powers Red Sox

August, 28, 2013

Bob DeChiara/USA Today SportsShane Victorino hit the 100th and 101st home runs of his career Tuesday.

On the night he hit his 100th career home run, Shane Victorino had the most productive night at the plate of his career.

Victorino reached base five times, scoring four runs and driving in another seven to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 13-2 win Tuesday over the Baltimore Orioles.

According to Elias, Victorino is the first player in Red Sox history to go 3-for-3 or better with at least two homers, four runs scored and seven RBI in a game. Only one other player had a game like that over the last ten years: Josh Hamilton at Baltimore on May 8, 2012 (5-for-5, 4 HR, 4 R, 8 RBI).

Switching it up
While all three of Victorino’s hits Tuesday came versus three Orioles left-handers, the handedness of the pitcher hasn’t been as notable as which way Victorino has batted this month.

After spending the first nine-plus seasons of his MLB career as a switch hitter, Victorino began batting almost exclusively right-handed on August 4 due to a left leg injury that prevents him from hitting from the left side. Since the move, Victorino is hitting .302/.388/.523 with four home runs in 21 games; he was hitting .289/.333/.424 with only seven home runs in 78 games prior to the switch.

He’s come to the plate 44 times as a right-handed hitter versus right-handed pitching since August 4 and is hitting .289/.386/.500 with two home runs; he’s hitting only .275/.318/.391 with three home runs as a lefty in 228 PA versus right-handed pitching this season.

Flying under the radar
While Victorino had a breakout game Tuesday, he’s quietly put together a highly productive first season for the Red Sox.

Entering Tuesday, Victorino has been worth 4.8 Wins Above Replacement this year, the second highest total of his career and the third highest this season of any American League outfielder.

While Victorino had a big game Tuesday offensively, most of his value has been on defense, as he’s is tied for 6th in MLB this season with 23 Defensive Runs Saved.