Stats & Info: Bruce Chen

Price, Rays keep rolling at Tropicana Field

May, 5, 2012
Kim Klement/US PresswireDavid Price helped the Rays win their 10th straight game at Tropicana Field.
The Tampa Bay Rays scored seven runs in the first four innings to roll past the Oakland Athletics for their 10th straight win at Tropicana Field. That’s the second-longest single-season home winning streak in franchise history, trailing only an 11-game run in 2008.

The Rays are the first American League team to start 13-1 at home since the Minnesota Twins won 14 of their first 15 home games in 2002. In 2009, the Los Angeles Dodgers were the last MLB team to start 13-1.

David Price was able to shut down the Athletics with the combination of his fastball and slider.

Sixty-three percent of Price’s pitches were fastballs, and the A’s went 0-for-11 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with the heater.

With two strikes, Price went with his slider to end the at-bat. He threw 11 of his 15 sliders with two strikes and recorded six strikeouts. That’s his most whiffs with the slider since 2009.

He didn’t even need to stay in the zone to retire the opposing hitters. Over half of his pitches (56 of 106) were outside the strike zone. The Athletics swung and missed on 58 percent of pitches outside the zone, including six strikeouts. Price hadn’t induced as many chases on pitches outside the zone in a start since his rookie season.

With the win, Price improves to 30-3 at home in his career when getting at least three runs of support.

Around the Diamond
• Albert Pujols went four at-bats without a home run on Friday. His 108 at-bats without a home run this season are his longest single-season streak in his career, passing a 105 at-bat streak last season. Two long homer droughts were snapped Friday, as Shin-Soo Choo (67 at-bats) and Mark Reynolds (66 at-bats) hit their first of the season.

• Also in Anaheim, the Los Angeles Angels were shut out with Ervin Santana on the hill for the fifth straight time. Thanks to our friends at Elias, we know that this is the first time in major-league history that a starting pitcher has received no run support over five straight starts (11 pitchers had gone four straight starts without a run scored on their behalf).

• Wilson Ramos hit a bases-loaded single in the 10th inning as the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies to pick up their MLB-leading fifth walk-off win of the season.

• Mark Teixeira went 2-for-3 with a home run against Bruce Chen, improving to 11-for-22 with seven homers in his career against Chen. That is the most home runs he has hit against any pitcher in the majors.

• Stephen Strasburg allowed two home runs to right-handed hitters; entering the game, he had only allowed one homer to a righty in his career.

• Jerry Hairston Jr. went deep for the Dodgers, and has now hit a home run for six different teams since 2009. No other player has hit homers for as many teams in the same span.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Mets 5-4, snapping a nine-game losing streak in one-run games. According to Elias, that was the second longest streak in franchise history; the Diamondbacks lost 13 consecutive one-run games in 2004.

• Jamey Carroll singled in the first inning to snap a streak of 47 hitless at-bats for the Twins. Elias reports that it was the longest hitless at-bat streak by a team in a season since the San Diego Padres also went 47 at-bats between hits in June 1995.

Andrew Davis contributed to this post.

AP Photo/Jeff LewisAlbert Pujols represents a significant upgrade for the Angels at the No. 3 spot in the order.
Albert Pujols makes his Los Angeles Angels debut tonight against the Kansas City Royals (ESPN2, 10 ET). Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million free agent deal with the Angels in the offseason after spending 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pujols is one of six players to hit 400 career home runs and bat at least .325. The others are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Pujols’ 445 home runs through his first 11 seasons are the most all-time through a player’s initial 11 years in the majors.

Pujols represents a significant upgrade for the Angels at the No. 3 spot in the order. His .906 OPS last season was a career low, but stands as a huge improvement over the Angels’ .745 OPS out of the three hole last year.

Starting Pitchers
Bruce Chen – who will turn 35 in June - is making his first career opening day start. According to Elias, only one major-league pitcher in the last 10 years was older than Chen when he was making his first opening day start. That was Jose Contreras, who was 35 when he started the first game of the 2007 season for the Chicago White Sox.

Bruce Chen
Quick Hits on Chen
• Chen threw 2,518 pitches last season. Only nine of those reached 90 mph
• Last season, his fastball averaged 85.7 mph. In the AL, the only starters with a slower fastball were Mark Buehrle, Jeff Francis and Tim Wakefield.
• Held opposing No. 3 hitters to .224 BA and .674 OPS

Jered Weaver makes his fourth opening day start (and third straight) for the Angels. Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA in three career opening day starts. Last year, Weaver became the first pitcher in MLB history with six wins by April 25, and just the sixth with six wins by the end of April.

Jered Weaver
Quick Hits on Weaver
• No starting pitcher had a higher fly ball percentage in 2011 (50 percent)
• In his seven no decisions last season, he allowed a total of seven earned runs
• Opposing 3-6 hitters combined for a .196 BA and .570 OPS
• There are three active pitchers who had double-digit wins in each of their first six seasons: Weaver, CC Sabathia and Tim Hudson. Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte would also qualify if active.

Stat of the Game
Pujols is a .379 lifetime hitter against the Royals, giving him the highest batting average against the Royals for any player – past or present – with at least 150 at-bats against them, according to our friends from the Elias Sports Bureau.

Opening Day Note
This is the first time in 37 years that the Angels and Royals have met on Opening Day. According to Elias, it last happened in 1975, as California’s Nolan Ryan threw a three-hitter and won, 3-2. Besides Ryan, two other Hall-of-Famers played in that game: George Brett and Harmon Killebrew of the Royals.

Mets host Cubs on Sept. 11 Anniversary

September, 10, 2011

Courtesy of Marc Levine/New York Mets
Former New York Mets teammates Mike Piazza (2nd-left) and John Franco (4th-left) will take part in pregame ceremonies honoring the 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11 prior to the Mets-Cubs game.

The New York Mets host the Chicago Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball at 8 ET on ESPN in the rubber game of a three-game series. Prior to the game, the Mets will hold a Sept. 11 Remembrance Ceremony.

Former closer John Franco will throw the first pitch to Mike Piazza, who hit a dramatic home run in the Mets 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 21, 2001 – the first major league game in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks. In addition, a 300-foot-by-100 foot American flag will be unveiled; Marc Anthony – who sang the national anthem on Sept. 21, 2001 – will repeat the performance; and Queens native (and American Idol finalist) Pia Toscano will sing “God Bless America.”

On the mound
Matt Garza takes the mound for the Cubs, his first career start against the Mets. Garza is having the best season of his career, according to ERA. He has lowered his ERA nearly half a run from 3.91 last year to 3.52 this year.

However, the road hasn’t been kind to Garza this season. In 12 road starts, he’s 3-5 with a 4.84 ERA, more than double his home ERA (2.64). In addition, the opposition is hitting .279 against him on the road, compared to .230 in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.

For the Mets, 40-year-old Miguel Batista takes the mound. Batista - playing for his 10th MLB team (tied with Bruce Chen for the second-most teams played for among active pitchers, behind Octavio Dotel, 12) - earned his 100th career win in his first start with New York (Sept. 1).

Batista is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts this season (including one start with the St. Louis Cardinals on April 22). Batista’s last loss as a starter was July 19, 2008. He is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in eight starts since then.

Matchup to watch
Jason Bay is hitting just .218 (19-87) since August 13, despite hitting .452 (14-31) during his current nine-game hitting streak. Bay is 5-20 (including postseason) in his career against Garza, but hasn’t faced him since 2009, when he went 3-15. However, those three hits were all for extra bases (double and two triples).

Stat of the game
Starlin Castro leads the NL with 186 hits and is projected to finish with more than 200 this season. He would be the first Cubs player to have a 200-hit season before turning age 22.
Chicago White Sox
They owned the league’s lowest WAR from designated hitters (-0.8) last season. If Adam Dunn’s WAR this season is somewhere around 3.4 (approximately what it would have been over the last six seasons if he didn’t have to play any defense), then he should greatly impact an offense that ranked seventh in runs in the American League in 2010.

Has Gordon Beckham turned the corner? Last season he entered the All-Star break with a .216 batting average and .581 OPS. But in the second half, he hit .310 with an .877 OPS.

Cleveland Indians
Their bullpen rated among the best in the American League in the second half of the 2010 season. Among the standouts was Chris Perez, who was amazing after the All-Star break (16 saves in 17 chances, 0.63 ERA, 28 ⅔ IP, 0 HR allowed, 32 K). Among pitchers with at least 60 innings, Perez's 1.71 ERA was the sixth lowest by an Indians pitcher in the expansion era (since 1961).

Shin-Soo Choo ranked second in the American League in Wins Above Replacement at 7.3, according to

Detroit Tigers
Their starting rotation may have an emerging star in Max Scherzer, whose 2010 season did a 180 after a brief demotion to the minor leagues. He was 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA when he was sent down, but returned to go 11-7 with a 2.46 ERA in his final 23 starts.

Justin Verlander averaged a Game Score of 61 over his last 17 starts in 2010. To put that into perspective, Roy Halladay, the NL Cy Young Award winner last season, averaged a Game Score of 63 for the entire season. In other words, Verlander pitched at a near-Cy Young-level over the second half of his season.

Kansas City Royals
The quintent of Kyle Davies, Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro appear to be the Royals' rotation to start the season. Those five pitchers combined to have a 7.2 WAR last season. As starting pitchers, their respective MLB ranks in that category were 85th, 91st, 93rd, 110th and 133rd last season.

In four seasons, Joakim Soria has 132 saves and a WHIP of 0.99. Mariano Rivera is the only other pitcher with 130 saves and a WHIP under 1.00 since 2007.

Minnesota Twins
Justin Morneau was an MVP contender last season before suffering a season-ending concussion. Despite missing the final 78 games of the season, Morneau finished as the team's leader in Wins Above Replacement (5.3). However, the Twins offense actually averaged more runs per game after his injury (5.0) than it did before (4.7).

Closer Joe Nathan is back after missing a season because of Tommy John surgery. He saved at least 35 games each season from 2004 to 2009. The only players with more consecutive seasons with 35 saves are Trevor Hoffman and Robb Nen (seven each).

-- Justin Havens, Paul Carr and Derek Czenczelewski contributed to this report
The Kansas City Royals' Bruce Chen pitched a two-hit shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays, who were tied for first place in the American League East at the start of the day.
It was Chen's team-leading 12th win of the season, one shy of his career high. (He went 13-10 in 2005 with the Baltimore Orioles). Twenty-five percent of his career wins (12 of 48) have now come in 2010.

More impressive is the fact that this was the first shutout of Chen's 12-year career.

Rays hitters went:
• 1-for-21 against Chen's fastball with six strikeouts.
• 0-for-14 when Chen was ahead in the count.
• 0-for-18 in plate appearances that went three pitches or more.

Both hits allowed by Chen came when he was behind in the count.

Some other facts about Chen's performance, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:

Chen had made 143 career starts prior to Friday's gem. The last pitcher whose first career shutout came after start No. 143 was Dan Haren on Sept. 16, 2008 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was the 152nd start of Haren's career.

Chen has now thrown 1,009⅔ innings in his career. The last pitcher whose first career shutout came after throwing at least 1,000 innings was Brett Tomko of the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 26, 2004.

The last time a pitcher threw a shutout in October against a first-place team was exactly six years ago on Oct. 1, 2004 when Dave Bush of the Toronto Blue Jays blanked the New York Yankees, 7-0. Like the 2010 Royals, the 2004 Blue Jays were a last-place team.

Next-Level Awards: Part 2

July, 15, 2010
Yesterday, we unveiled some of our midseason 2010 Next-Level Awards. Here are the rest of the honors:

The "Let's Go Home" award

For exemplary performance in the 7th inning and later.

Despite Baltimore's lowly place in the standings, Nick Markakis has been trying his best to keep them in the game. Among players with 100 plate appearances from the 7th inning onward, he has the best batting average (.384), and is among the league leaders in doubles (10).

Unfortunately, by the 7th inning, the Orioles are already trailing 58% of the time, and they're a ridiculous 1-51 when behind entering the 9th. That one win was the extra-inning, rain-delayed affair in Texas last Friday. Markakis can only do so much.

Runners-up: Joey Votto (.380), Angel Pagan (.379), Jose Guillen (.353).

And now (drum roll) on to the pitching side. For pitching awards, we used a minimum of 200 batters faced (as opposed to a certain number of innings), giving us 164 eligible recipients.

The "Tie 'Em Up" award

Some of the silliest-looking swings are when hitters chase balls way in on their hands. It's hard to get around quickly on an inside pitch, so even if you do hit it, it's generally not for power.

The best at tying 'em up? The Braves' Tim Hudson, who surrenders just a .116 batting average on pitches that are on the inner third or too far inside.

Hudson is doubly qualified for this award; his overall opponents' average is .219. That 103-point difference between the two is also the best among our qualifying pitchers.

Runners-up: Francisco Rodriguez (.143), David Price (.155), Mat Latos (.158)

The "Finish Him" award

If the best pitch in baseball is strike one, then strike three must be right behind it. For some reason, though, some pitchers can't get over that two-strike hump. Sometimes they get cute and try to trick a hitter into swinging at bad pitches. Sometimes they know a hitter is sitting on a pitch in the zone and will try to nibble.

The pitcher who gives up the least once he gets to two strikes is the Mariners' Felix Hernandez. You'd better get to King Felix early, because opponents only hit .117 off of him in two-strike counts. (And that's ALL two-strike counts; when it's 0-2 it drops to .089.) Before two strikes, though, his average against is a whopping .331.

A close second is Giants ace Tim Lincecum, at .121. With all those strikeouts, you'd expect he'd be good at closing the door. But his average allowed with zero and one strikes -- .367 -- is even worse than Felix's. In fact, the 246-point difference in Lincecum's averages is third-highest in the majors.

Other runners-up: Trevor Cahill (.131), Mat Latos (.132), Ervin Santana (.138).

And the worst? The Nationals' John Lannan, who allows a .293 average and has surrendered 11 of his 26 extra-base hits after he's got two strikes.

The "Souvenir Hunter" award

Tiger fans are going to show up to watch Justin Verlander pitch anyway. But bring your glove. Verlander is currently inducing the highest number of foul balls off the bats of opposing hitters (414). He barely lost this category (by three) to Cliff Lee last season. Obviously not all of those reach the seats. But it's an indication of how much trouble batters have catching up to Verlander's fastball which averages in the 96-mph range.

Runners-up: Phil Hughes (407), Johan Santana (402), Matt Cain (392).

The "Making Him Work" award

In this blog and others, we reference the "patience index" -- the average number of pitches that a batter sees during a plate appearance. We can do that for pitchers also. Because, again, it's not always innings that matter.

Jered Weaver of the Angels gets the nod for having the most pitches thrown per batter this season. He's faced 490 hitters and launched 2,088 balls toward them. That's 4.26 each. Only 33 of those batters bothered to put Weaver's first pitch in play, and a third of them got hits.

Runners-up: Rich Harden (4.25), Tyler Clippard (4.20), Bruce Chen (4.18).

Honorable mention: Appropriately, we'll close with the guy who's occasionally labeled the "greatest closer ever", Mariano Rivera. He actually comes in higher than Weaver, at 4.42 pitches for every batter faced. Alas, he doesn't face enough batters to make our minimum.

The Closer: Pitching not perfect Saturday … but close

July, 4, 2010
How Red Sox starter Jon Lester improved to 12-0 lifetime against the Orioles:
- Lester got 13 groundballs against 5 fly balls. At 72.2 pct, that’s his highest percentage since April 23 (also against Baltimore).
- The Orioles did not put 1 of Lester's 13 two-strike fastballs in play and struck out 4 times against the pitch.
- Lester got 6 of his 7 strikeouts on pitches low in the strike zone. He kept the ball out of the middle of the zone vertically, with 92 of his 100 pitches judged by Inside Edge to be either up in the zone, down in the zone, or out of zone high or low.

How Tigers starter Justin Verlander beat the Mariners:
- He had a miss pct of 27.9 (2nd-best this season).
- His chase pct was 34.0 (2nd-best this season).
- He threw and offspeed pitch on his first pitch 34.5 pct of the time (2nd-most this season).
- His offspeed stuff set up his heater: 8 swings-and-misses (2nd-most this season) and 7 K (most this season) vs fastball.

Ubaldo Jiménez had a rough 3rd Inning. How rough?

- Allowed 1st career grand slam (Travis Ishikawa).
- Allowed as many earned runs (7) as he did in April and May combined.
- Had given up 7 ER in a start just twice in career prior to Saturday
- ERA rose from 1.83 to 2.33<>Through 3rd inning (not after)

Stephen Strasburg struck out 5 in 5 innings. His 53 strikeouts in his first 6 games are 3rd-most all-time.

Saturday’s Longest No-Hit Bids
Saturday was the 2nd day this season that 2 pitchers each took a no-hit bid into the 7th inning. The 1st was June 13, when Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd did it in the same game. Randy Wells and Bruce Chen each made it through 6 full innings before allowing a hit leading off the 7th. Chen had been perfect through 6, which was the first time in 7 starts this season that he took a perfect game bid beyond the 1st inning. In all 6 of his previous starts, he allowed a hit in the 1st inning.

Rolling Rookie
How about the consideration for a rookie, with 3 weeks of major league experience to make the All-Star team? We’re not talking about Stephen Strasburg, but Indians rookie Carlos Santana, who ranked 2nd among the teams’ hitters in WAR. The catcher position for the American League, with injuries to multiple players of significance, is a bit on the depleted side, and there’s a vacancy for an Indian with Shin-Soo Choo headed to the disabled list. Santana was 0-for-3 Saturday, but his 2 walks gave him 17 in 21 games and kept his on-base percentage well above .400

Managing similarity
Saturday was Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson’s 2nd game. In his 2nd game as a player, his team won, 14-1. Today in his 2nd game as manager, his team lost, 14-1.

Mike Leake has allowed a .529 (9-17) opp BA (league average: .314) on 1st pitches during his current 4-game losing streak.

Mark Teixeira has not had a hit against Toronto's right handed-pitchers (0/8). He is batting .111 when behind in the count (1/9), batting .000 when ahead in the count (0/5) and 2 of his 3 hits against Toronto in 2010 came off the 1st pitch of the at-bat.