Stats & Info: Carl Pavano

Fastballs key to Teixeira breakout

April, 16, 2012
4/16/12
11:58
AM ET

John Munson/US Presswire
Mark Teixeira has continued his trend of starting off slowly at the plate since joining the Yankees. He's hitting only .222 heading into tonight's game.
The Minnesota Twins begin a four-game set in the Bronx tonight (ESPN, 7 ET) against the New York Yankees, a team they have struggled against lately. Since 2002, the Yankees are 51-18 against the Twins in the regular season, and in postseason play, New York has won nine straight and 12 of the 14 games the teams have played since 2002.

Pitching Matchup
Carl Pavano signed a four-year, $39.95 million contract with the Yankees before the 2005 season but his tenure there was marred by injury and ineffectiveness. As a Yankee, Pavano made only 26 starts and missed the entire 2006 season. However, since leaving the Bronx, he has made 100 starts, including being named the Twins Opening Day starter the last two seasons.

This is only Pavano’s second start in New York since leaving the Yankees after the 2008 season. On April 19, 2009 - then with Cleveland – Pavano went six innings, allowing four hits, one run, one walk and four strikeouts as he took a no-decision in New York’s 7-3 win.

For the Yankees, Freddy Garcia will take the mound for his second start of the season. In his first start, Garcia threw five wild pitches against the Baltimore Orioles, but came out with a no-decision as New York rallied for a 5-4 win. Garcia is 10-7 with a 4.04 in 22 career starts against the Twins, but is 1-2 with a 5.24 ERA in four starts since joining the Yankees.

Player to Watch
Mark Teixeira is off to another slow start this season, but that is nothing new for him since joining the Yankees. The bad news is that after rebounding well in 2009, his performance the rest of the season has gotten worse.

His trouble so far this season has been from the left side of the plate, particularly against fastballs. Pitchers work away from Teixeira with fastballs on both sides of the plate, but he only makes them pay while hitting right-handed. He’s 1-for-12 against righties and 3-for-8 against lefties.

Stat of the Game
Alex Rodriguez is tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth all-time with 630 home runs. Let’s take a quick look at some similarities between the two players.

• A-Rod has hit 112 of his 630 HR in the first inning; Griffey has hit 111.

• 330 of A-Rod’s home runs have come with the bases empty, compared to 337 of Junior’s.

• A-Rod has hit the first pitch for a home run 108 times, while Griffey has connected on the first pitch 114 times.

John Fisher contributed to this post

How heat wave may affect some stars

July, 21, 2011
7/21/11
9:46
AM ET
There are 23 games scheduled Thursday and Friday, and 13 are projected to have first-pitch temperatures at 90 degrees or higher. These scorching temperatures surely will affect players as we enter the dog days of summer.

SOME LIKE IT HOT
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander has pitched well in the heat during his career, winning five straight starts when the first-pitch temperature was at or above 90 degrees. In six such starts in his career, batters have hit a combined .197 against Verlander with only 11 extra-base hits.

His counterpart on Thursday, Carl Pavano, has seen mixed results in 90-degree temperatures but has won his last two decisions in such games. The anticipated temperature for the start of Thursday's game is 90.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee and Verlander each struck out nine hitters in games when the first-pitch temperature was at or above 90 degrees.

The nine strikeouts tied the season high for strikeouts in such a game this season, but were well below the single-game record of 16 (set in the wild card era, since 1995) by Roger Clemens in 1997 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

BEATING THE HEAT
New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes has a hit in 28 of his 34 career games when the first-pitch temperature was 90 degrees or warmer. Although it's a small sample, his .302 batting average in those 34 games is 10 points higher than his career average.
Jose Reyes
Reyes

Additionally, Reyes has 13 multihit games when temperatures soar above 90. Reyes has reached base safely in 26 consecutive games played in 90-degree temperatures, a streak that dates to July 11, 2004.

He will try to keep this on-base streak going when the St. Louis Cardinals and Mets continue their series Thursday at 12:10 ET. The temperature at Citi Field is expected to reach a high of 91.

IS SOMETHING 'LACK-ING?'
On Friday, John Lackey will try to win a third straight start, but he’ll be facing a bigger opponent than Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners.

Friday's game-time temperature is projected to be in the 90s at Fenway Park. During Lackey's career, his ERA and batting average against have increased dramatically (see chart) when game-time temperatures are at or above 90 degrees.

IN OTHER HEAT-RELATED NOTES:
• In the wild card era (since 1995), Johnny Damon in 2008 and Damion Easley in 2001 share the mark for most hits in a single game when the first-pitch temperature is 90 degrees or higher with six.

This season, Nick Markakis and Brennan Boesch each have had five-hit games when game-time temperature was in the 90s.
Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner
After going at least six innings and allowing no more than three runs in each of his previous 10 starts, Madison Bumgarner allowed eight runs and didn't even make it out of the first inning Tuesday. The red-hot Minnesota Twins, who have won eight straight games after their 9-2 victory, tagged Bumgarner for nine hits including eight straight to start the game.

The Twins alternated singles and doubles on those first eight hits until Bumgarner recorded his first and only out with a strikeout of pitcher Carl Pavano.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's tied for the most consecutive hits with no outs in the first inning in MLB history. Prior to Tuesday, six other teams accomplished the feat -- the Cubs did it against the Pirates on September 8, 2009, the only other occurence this century. The previous five occurences came during a 17-year span from 1973 to 1990.

Of those previous six teams to accomplish the feat, only the Phillies against the Cubs on August 5, 1975 had as many extra base hits as the Twins did as part of their first eight hits. The Phillies also had four.

Elias also tells us that Bumgarner is the first pitcher since 1900 to allow nine hits AND record less than two outs in a game. Furthermore, he's also the first Giants starting pitcher since 1900 to allow eight or more runs without getting out of the first inning.

The Twins meanwhile improve to an MLB-best 15-3 in June after going a combined 17-36 in April and May. The eight-game win streak is their longest since they won eight from July 24 to August 1 last season.

The Giants loss is their fifth straight and their longest losing streak since they lost seven from June 26 to July 2 last season.

Twins-Yankees matchups to watch

April, 6, 2011
4/06/11
3:41
PM ET
Tonight is the third game of a four-game set between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees (7 ET on ESPN2). Since 2002, the Twins are 17-46 against the Yankees, their worst record against any opponent over that span. Did you know? In the last 20 seasons, the Twins have only won a season series from the Yankees only 3 times — 1991, 1992 and 2001.

Carl Pavano
Pavano
Pavano’s Matchups to Watch
Nick Swisher is 1-for-6 against Carl Pavano in the regular season with 5 strikeouts. Pavano also struck him out twice in two at-bats in the 2009 ALDS (Swisher did go 1-3 against him last year’s ALDS).

Mark Teixeira’s lone HR against Pavano came in his last regular season AB against him - May 31, 2009.

On Carl Pavano’s Yankees tenure (and why wins don’t tell the whole story for a pitcher)
There are a number of pitchers who have been the subject of Yankees fans derision, among them Ed Whitson, Javier Vazquez, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Weaver, and Pavano. Yet those names all share a common thread. All finished with ERA’s of 5 or higher in their Yankees tenure … and they all finished their Yankees career with winning records!!

Freddy Garcia
Garcia
Garcia’s Matchups to Watch
Joe Mauer’s .419 BA vs Freddy Garcia includes a 6-for-10 in 2010. He homered in his last AB against Garcia on August 10, 2010.

Jason Kubel was 6-for-8 against Garcia last season with 3 BB. He’s reached base in 4 straight PA vs Garcia. One other note on Kubel: He went 7-for-15 with 3 HR against the Yankees in the regular season last year.

Jim Thome has walked 9 times against Garcia in 28 regular season plate appearance, and twice more in six postseason PA. His last 2 AB vs Garcia are a HR and a 2B.

Twins hitters hit .337 against Garcia last season (he made 4 starts vs MIN)

Jeter Watch
Derek Jeter is hitting .167 through the Yankees first 5 games of the season. The only season in which he hit worse within the Yankees first 5 games of a season was in 1998 when he was hitting .150 (3-for-20). Jeter rebounded to hit .324 and the Yankees ended up winning 114 games.

Mark Teixeira
Teixeira
Teixeira Watch
Mark Teixeira is hitting .373 in the regular season against the Twins. But if you just go back to 2007, it’s even more ridiculous. Since 2007, he’s hitting .453 against them in the regular season (39-for-86) and has a walk-off HR against them in the postseason.

Teixeira is glad to have Freddy Garcia on his team. Teixeira is 0-for-16 in his career against Garcia!

Twins righty struggles
The Twins are hitting .174 against right-handed pitching this season. Mauer’s game-winning hit last night made him 1-for-7 against right-handers this season.

Lastly, from the Elias Sports Bureau
The Twins came back from 4 down to beat the Yankees last night, the first time they've rallied from 4+ down to beat the Yankees since May 5, 1997 (the Yankees catcher that day was Joe Girardi), when they beat the Yankees, 9-8 at Yankee Stadium.
Our regular statistical survey on some of the notable baseball moves from the past week

What are the biggest areas to watch for new Tampa Bay Rays DH Manny Ramirez in 2011?

Ramirez
Ramirez
Two things to track, based on the data provided to us by Inside Edge (which does video review for every major league pitch) are his performance against breaking pitches, and his production against pitches that are thrown in areas in which he has a history of driving the ball.

The biggest area of decline for Ramirez has been in how he fared when a right-handed pitcher threw him a curveball or slider.

Last season, Ramirez missed on 49 percent of the swings he took against those pitches from right-handers, a significant jump from how frequently he missed in each of the prior three seasons (28 percent in 2007, 34 percent in 2008, 35 percent in 2009).

That led to him hitting .140 in at-bats that ended with a breaking ball from a righty, a figure 86 points below league average and 96 points below what he’d done in 2009.

One particular area of the strike zone Ramirez struggled with was on pitches located in the middle of the plate, and those that came middle-in.

Inside Edge charts a stat, “Well-Hit Average,” a rating based primarily on line drives and deep outfield fly balls. From 2005 to 2009, Ramirez’s Well-Hit Average on pitches charted by Inside Edge was .199 on pitches over the middle of the plate, and .114 against pitches that were middle-in. Both of those are significantly better than league average.

In 2010, those numbers dipped to .127 and .075 respectively, partly explaining the struggles he had last season.
-- Derek Czenczelewski

Damon, Pavano contracts in perspective
At the moment, Johnny Damon’s $5.25 million salary makes the highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay Rays for 2011. He’s the only player on the team slated to earn at least $5 million next season.

A search of Cot’s Baseball Contracts shows that every team has at least one player earning at least $5 million in 2011.

The Royals are the only team without a player whose base salary is $5 million, but newly-signed Billy Butler’s $3 million salary and $2 million signing bonus put that deal at the $5 million mark for this season.

The two-year, $16.5 million contract that Carl Pavano inked with the Minnesota Twins is nearly an unprecedented free agent signing for the franchise.

Not only is it just the third multi-year free agent contract given to a pitcher by the team, but it’s also only the second time that Minnesota has spent at least $10 million on a free agent pitcher over the last 20 offseasons.

In 1995 the team handed Rick Aguilera a three-year $9 million contract , its longest for a pitcher and their only previous multi-year deal.

In 2004 the Twins gave Brad Radke a two-year, $18 million dollar deal, its largest contract given to a free agent pitcher.
-- Katie Sharp

Boyer suited for ROOGY role
Over the last few years, statisticians have referred to left-handed specialists as LOOGYs (left-handed one-out guys). Now, we’ve begun to see the term ROOGY (for right-handers) tossed around a little bit. The pitcher for whom it may be the best fit is recently-signed New York Mets reliever, Blaine Boyer.

Right-handed hitters hit .198 against him last season. Left-handed hitters drilled him for a .352 opponents batting average. Among those who faced at least 100 hitters from each side of the plate, no pitcher last season had a wider gap in opponents batting average between righties and lefties than Boyer did, 154 points.

The pitcher on the opposite end of the spectrum was Angels righty Scot Shields. Right-handed hitters batted .333 against him. Left-handers hit just .172, an unusual 161-point difference for a right-handed pitcher.
-- Mark Simon
A quick look at Game 2 of the ALDS between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins.

• The Twins lost their 10th consecutive postseason game in their ALDS opening game with the Yankees. Seven of the 10 straight losses have been at the hands of the Yankees who swept them in the 2009 ALDS and won the last 3 games of the 2004 ALDS.

• Mariano Rivera extended his major league record with 40th career postseason save, and it's his 31st save that lasted longer than one inning.

• In his three starts since returning from the disabled list, Andy Pettitte allowed 10 ER over 13 1/3 IP (6.75 ERA). However, Pettitte had a .277 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) before hitting the DL and .429 in his three starts since. Pettitte's miss pct before and after the DL trip stayed relatively the same (18.5 pct vs 17.1 pct), an indicator that his stuff has not worsened.

• A key part of Carl Pavano's success this year has been his ability to get groundballs: he increased his groundball percentage from 44.6 pct in 2009 to 51.9 pct in 2010. The difference for Pavano was keeping the ball down in the zone: 39.4 pct of pitches low in 2009, up to 45.9 pct in 2010. Opponents hit the ball on the ground 61.0 pct of the time against Pavano's low pitches this season. Almost two-thirds (66.1 pct) of Pavano's offspeed pitches are low, generating groundballs on 69.0 pct of balls in play.

Pavano• Veteran umpire Hunter Wendelstedt will be behind the plate in Game 2 and both starting pitchers have very similar numbers with Wendelstedt calling balls and strikes. Both pitchers have made four starts with Wendelstedt behind the plate, and they are both 1-2. Pettitte has a 4.38 ERA, 18 K and 14 BB in just over six innings per start, while Pavano has a 3.91 ERA, 15 K and 10 BB in just under six inning per start.

Braden, Beckett and the speed of games

September, 18, 2010
9/18/10
12:05
AM ET
The clock. It controls so much of our everyday lives -- what time to wake up, what time to be at work or school, what time we can leave work or school.

In sports, baseball is one of the few that's not beholden to the clock. There's no 60- or 48- or 40-minute limit. There aren't timeouts to stop the clock. We could care less about tenths of a second. When you start a game, there's no telling when it will end. To some, it's the beauty of the game; to others, it's the biggest frustration.
Braden Beckett
In these days of commercials and warmup pitches and elaborate player routines (both at the plate and on the mound), even a two-hour game is the exception. Although most games come in under three hours, you can't bank on that. Rule changes to speed games up have largely been ignored. Seriously, have you ever seen a pitcher charged with an automatic ball for violating the "12-second rule" with nobody on base? Go ahead, we'll wait.


Here at Stats & Information, we've tracked the game times of every Major League Baseball contest this season. We can recommend some pitchers and teams to see, regardless of which side of the "clock argument" you fall on. For example, it's not a myth that the Chicago White Sox's Mark Buehrle pitches quickly. Or that the Boston Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka takes forever. Or that you will get a marathon out of nearly any New York Yankees game.


While the official game times do adjust for rain delays, power outages and the occasional tornado outside Citi Field, there are obviously a few other factors at play. The speed of the pitcher's opponent isn't taken into account. A starter might get roughed up and turn things over to a slow- (or fast-) moving bullpen, but when you think of fast workers and slow workers, the list is pretty accurate.


Random fact: The total number of minutes consumed by all the games this season (through Thursday) is 383,639. That's more than 266 days. If you watched every game back-to-back, starting on Opening Night (April 4), you'd already have enough baseball to last you until Dec. 27. With no breaks.


Anyhow, this got us to thinking, which teams give you the most baseball for your money? If you want to watch as much baseball as possible in terms of time, which team's season tickets should you buy? Similarly, which teams are "cheating you" by playing really short games all the time?

Adjusting for extra innings, we can get the average length of a nine-inning home game for each team this season. We didn't adjust for home victories where the bottom of the ninth doesn't get played. (We figure you'd sacrifice those extra seven minutes in exchange for seeing the home team win.)

The Cleveland Indians have been involved in both the shortest and longest nine-inning games this season. The Detroit Tigers' Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game against the Indians on June 2 was the fastest nine-inning game played this season -- one hour, 44 minutes. As for the longest? The Indians and Yankees combined to score 24 runs on May 27, a game the Yankees won 13-11. That game lasted four hours and 22 minutes. There have been just four games this season played in less than two hours, compared with six games that have lasted longer than four hours.

1st Pitch: 600 HR and other hits

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
12:25
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: Alex Rodriguez hit his 599th career HR Thursday night, this one off Kansas City’s Robinson Tejeda, the 365th different pitcher he’s homered against. A-Rod also hit his first and 500th career home runs against the Royals. Who were the pitchers that gave up each of the long balls?

Quick Hits: Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that, effective immediately, minor league players will be subject to random blood testing for the detection of human growth hormone under Major League Baseball's Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Major League Baseball is the first United States professional sports league to conduct blood testing. All blood samples will be collected postgame from the non-dominant arms of randomly selected non-40-man roster players at select Minor League affiliates.

Carl Pavano pitched a five-hitter to earn his career-high seventh straight victory as the Twins beat the Orioles 5-0. In 32 starts since coming to Minnesota in a trade with Cleveland during the 2009 season, Pavano is 17-10 with 5 complete games. After signing a 4-year, $39.95 million deal with the Yankees in December of 2004, Pavano made only 26 starts for New York, going 9-8 with one complete game.

Cliff Lee allowed two runs in 8 1/3 IP in the Rangers' 3-2 win over Los Angeles. Lee - who won for the first time in three starts since joining the Rangers - extended his streak of at least eight IP and one or fewer walks to 7 straight starts. In the divisional era (since 1969), only Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 had a longer streak (eight).

The Kansas City Royals traded third baseman Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Angels for two pitchers Thursday: Sean O’Sullivan and minor-league lefty Will Smith. According to the Kansas City Star, plans call for O’Sullivan, 22, to join the big-league rotation — possibly as soon as Sunday’s series finale at Yankee Stadium. O’Sullivan made his season debut Tuesday against the Yankees (despite knowing he was being called up, he did not know until he got to New York that he was starting that night). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four other pitchers since 2000 have started against one team...for two different teams (within a span of seven days or less): In 2000, Andy Ashby started against Baltimore while pitching for the Phillies and Braves; Kris Benson in 2004 started against the Braves as a Pirate and a Met; Cory Lidle threw against the Rockies as a member of the Reds and Phillies in 2004; and Carl Pavano faced Detroit in 2009 as an Indian and a Twin.

From ESPN Stats and Information: Red Sox starter John Lackey threw 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball against the Mariners before allowing a Josh Bard single. That tied the longest no-hit bid for the Red Sox this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka also went 7 2/3 IP with a no-hitter on May 22 at the Phillies. Lackey represents the 13th time a pitcher has taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning this season. So that means 33 percent of the previous 12 instances ended up finishing off the no-hitter.

Additional Notes from ESPN Stats and Information: Jason Bay is being overly aggressive against fastballs compared to previous years. And in this month, he's striking out frequently and unable to get the ball in the air, which obviously doesn't help his chances of hitting more homers.





Before his injury this season, opponents were hitting .500 (10-20) against Josh Beckett’s change-up. Last season, opponents hit just .198 against Beckett's change.

Opponents are hitting .250 (10-40) against Randy Wells' fastball in July after hitting .348 (63-181) against the right-hander's heater in the first 3 months of the season.

Opposing batters are only hitting .200 (9-45) off Mark Buehrle's fastball this month (MLB avg .279) after hitting .377 (29-77) off heater in June.

Joe Saunders is walking just 4 percent of his batters faced in July (3/82) compared to 10 percent during the first three months.

In Vicente Padilla's first five starts (through June 19) opponents hit .325 (25/77) against his fastball. In his last five starts (since June 19) opponents have hit .165 (13/79) against his fastball.

Johan Santana looks to continue his July success. From April through June (5-5, 3.55 ERA in 16 starts), opponents hit .286 (61/213) against his fastball. In July (2-0, 0.58 ERA, 4 starts) opponents have hit .175 (11/63) against his fastball.

C.J. Wilson: On first pitch of the at bat: .333 BA, .854 OPS, PA/EBH 11.5. On all others: .230 BA, .603 OPS, PA/EBH: 18.92

Notable Elias Sports Bureau notes from Thursday night:
As mentioned above, the Twins defeated the Orioles, 5–0. That raised their record against Kevin Millwood to 9–0. That’s the most victories without a loss by any team against an active pitcher, breaking a tie with the Dodgers, who are 8–0 against Matt Cain. The Senators/Twins franchise won its first nine or more decisions against only three other pitchers: Sid Monge (their first 10, 1975–1981), Ted Blankenship (1922–1925), and Gordon Rhodes (1929–1933).

Josh Johnson lowered his ERA to 1.61, allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings in the Marlins’ 3–2 win over the Rockies. But for the fifth time this season, Florida’s bullpen cost Johnson a victory. That tied Johnny Cueto for the highest total in the majors this season, and it matched Johnson’s total of squandered wins in 2009. In fact, he’s the first pitcher in the Marlins’ 17-year history to lose five or more potential wins in consecutive seasons. It was also the fifth time this season that Johnson failed to win a start in which he allowed fewer than two runs. The only other pitchers with at least five such starts are John Santana (six), Gavin Floyd (five), and Randy Wells (five).

Matt Holliday’s fourth-inning single off Cole Hamels was the Cardinals’ only hit in the Phillies’ 2–0, 11-inning win at St. Louis on Thursday. It was only the third game since 1900 that went beyond the 10th inning in which a team allowed only one hit. One was the game in 1959 in which Harvey Haddix of the Pirates was perfect through 12 innings before losing, 1–0, to the Braves, with Joe Adcock’s baserunning blunder turning a potential home run into a game-winning double. The other was a 2–1 Yankees victory over the Angels in 1962 in which Whitey Ford pitched seven hitless innings and Jim Coates allowed a ninth-inning single to Buck Rodgers. That was also the game in which Roger Maris set an AL record that still stands when he was walked intentionally four times.

Derek Jeter hit his first inside-the-park home run since his rookie season in the Yankees’ 10-4 win over the Royals. Jeter’s previous inside-the-parker was also against Kansas City (Aug. 2, 1996). Only two other active players have more than one IPHR against the same team: Randy Winn against the Yankees and Chase Utley against the Reds (2 each). At age 36, Jeter became the oldest Yankees player to hit an inside-the-park home run since Earle Combs did it against the Washington Senators in 1935. Combs was 20 days older at the time than Jeter was on Thursday.

Today’s Leaderboard: As we know, Alex Rodriguez is 1 HR shy of becoming only the 7th player in baseball history to hit 600 career HR. A-Rod would probably prefer to hit the milestone HR in front of adoring Yankee fans rather than on the road (the Yankees start seven-game road trip through Cleveland and Tampa Bay on Monday). Luckily for A-Rod, there are 3 more games this weekend against Kansas City, a team he hit milestone HR No. 1 and 500 against (he also hit HR No. 499 and 599 against KC).

A-Rod’s 41 career HR against the Royals are second-most among active players and tied for 2nd with Rafael Palmeiro among ALL players.





Key Matchup: Brian Bannister takes the hill Friday night for the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Among pitchers he has faced at least 10 times in his career, Alex Rodriguez's best AB per HR rate is against Bannister. Overall, A-Rod is hitting .571 (4-for-7) with 3 HR and 6 RBI while posting a 1.857 slugging percentage against the righty. According to ESPN Stats and Information, on Bannister’s most common pitch, the fastball, Rodriguez is batting .500 with a 2.000 slugging percentage, .600 on-base percentage and two home runs in four at-bats.

Trivia Answer: Alex Rodriguez hit his first career HR on June 12, 1995 against Tom Gordon. His 500th career HR was on August 4, 2007 off Kyle Davies.

1st Pitch: Diving into 1st-pitch trends

July, 6, 2010
7/06/10
1:23
PM ET
Quick Hits: The importance of a first-pitch strike can be summed up rather simply. After a 1-0 count, the league average is .275 with a .827 OPS. But after a count goes to 0-1, those numbers plummet to .229 BA and .619 OPS. Let’s take a look at some notable trends on the first pitch:
  • Among starting pitchers, only Carlos Silva (70.0) throws a higher percentage of first-pitch strikes than Cliff Lee (69.0). So it should be little surprise that batters come out swinging. Opponents swing at 39.2 percent of Lee’s first pitches. The last starter with a higher rate? Johan Santana’s 39.7 in 2005.
  • Somehow Scott Downs has put together a solid season in the Toronto bullpen despite a 45.0 first-pitch strike percentage. After a 1-0 count, opponents are hitting just .217 against Downs.
  • James Shields has given up 34 hits on the first pitch, and is on pace to allow the most for the second straight year. Opponents are hitting .540 against him on the first pitch (league average is .339).
  • Shields has also allowed seven first-pitch home runs. The entire Yankees’ pitching staff has allowed just four.
  • Chris Carpenter has hit four batters with the first pitch. That is more than seven teams have all season.
  • As a team, no one swings at the first pitch more than the Blue Jays (33.2 percent) or less than the Red Sox (19.1). Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays have the fourth-worst batting average on the first pitch (.310), while the Red Sox are fourth-best (.371).
  • Of Geovany Soto’s eight home runs, five came on the first pitch. He has the highest first-pitch OPS (2.115) of any player with at least 20 plate appearances ending on the first pitch.
  • Pablo Sandoval has grounded into nine double plays on the first pitch this season. That’s more than six teams and almost twice as many as the Mets (5).
  • Brett Gardner has only swung at the first pitch 18 times all season and has the second lowest percentage of swings in the majors behind Franklin Gutierrez. Gardner has made those swings count, having gone 5-for-8 on the first pitch.
Today’s Trivia: Orel Hershiser retired 10 years ago today. Who is the winningest Dodgers pitcher since July 6, 2000?

Today’s Leaderboard: Given that no one swings at a higher percentage of first pitches, it should be no surprise that Vladimir Guerrero leads the majors with 22 RBI on the first pitch. Delmon Young is next with 21. In his career, Guerrero has 382 RBI coming on the first pitch. That’s 78 more than the next active player (Manny Ramirez).

Key Matchups: Zack Greinke is a perfect 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his career against the Mariners. Consider that the second, fourth and fifth hitters in the Mariners lineup are a combined 3-for-51 (.059), and it’s easy to see why. Chone Figgins is 0-for-16 against Greinke and hasn’t even walked. Meanwhile, Jose Lopez (1-for-17) and Franklin Gutierrez (2-for-18) have not fared much better.

Vernon Wells’ overall numbers (19 HR, .872 OPS) may have warranted his All-Star selection, but much of that is courtesy of an electric April. Over his last 25 games, Wells is hitting just .191 with a .651 OPS. Could Tuesday be the start of a turnaround? Wells is 8-for-20 with four home runs in his career against Carl Pavano. No other player has more than three long balls against the Twins hurler. Wells is hitting .600 with three home runs in his last 10 at-bats against Pavano.

Trivia Answer: Since the day of Orel Hershiser’s retirement, Derek Lowe’s 54 wins are the most in a Dodger uniform. Chad Billingsley could tie that total in his next start. Only the Pirates have fewer wins from their wins leader over that span. For comparison, Hershiser won 135 games over 13 seasons with the Dodgers.

1st pitch: A good start to a start

April, 29, 2010
4/29/10
2:01
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: With one more hit, Magglio Ordonez will become the sixth Venezuelan with 2,000 career hits. Can you name the other five?

Quick Hits: A lot of attention is paid to how a team’s pitching staff fares in the final innings of a game, and rightly so. Just ask the Tigers. Justin Verlander has a 14.40 ERA in the first inning and opponents are hitting .435. However, the best bullpen ERA in the majors (2.31) is a big reason that team is 5-2 when trailing at the start of the second inning. Other early inning tidbits:

* The Tigers have allowed 20 runs in the first inning, which is four more than the 16 they have allowed in innings seven through nine combined.

* The Red Sox are the only team that hasn’t allowed a home run in the first inning, but they’ve allowed 12 after the sixth inning, which is the most in baseball.

* The Red Sox have allowed 10 stolen bases in the third inning alone, which is more than seven teams have allowed all season.

* Opponents are hitting just .188 against the Rays in the first three innings, compared to .252 after.

* Of the 29 home runs allowed by the Rays, 11 led off the inning. In fact, opponents are hitting .296 against the Rays to lead off an inning and just .211 after.

* The Braves have a 2.29 ERA in the first three innings and a 6.24 ERA in the next three.

* The Indians have issued 28 walks to lead off an inning compared to only 20 strikeouts.

* Opponents are hitting .467 against Mike Leake in the first inning and just .205 after that.

* Similarly, Todd Wellemeyer has allowed four home runs in the first two innings and opponents are hitting .333. After that, he’s only allowed one long ball and opponents are hitting .170.

* On the other side of things is John Lackey. Opponents are hitting .091 in the first inning and .354 after that.

* Opposing hitters are hitless in the first inning against Phil Hughes (0-9) and Brian Matusz (0-11).

Today’s Leaderboard: Opponents are hitting .368 against the Tigers in the first inning and .320 in the first three innings combined, both the highest in the majors. Meanwhile, opponents are hitting just .171 against the Marlins in the first inning.

Key Matchups: One way to tell that 2009 was a down year for Roy Oswalt? He didn’t beat the Reds. He picked up a no-decision in all four starts against Cincinnati, but that was good enough to keep his incredible record intact. In his career, Oswalt is 23-1 against the Reds. At .958, he has the highest winning percentage for a pitcher with at least 20 wins against a particular team. Next on the list is Carl Mays who was 35-3 against the A’s in a career that spanned from 1915 to 1929. Oswalt will again have to deal with Joey Votto. After entering 2009 just 3-for-17 against Oswalt, Votto went 4-for-6 with a home run and triple against him last season.

Every pitcher aims to keep the ball in the park, but for Carl Pavano it is especially important. In his 83 career wins, Pavano has thrown 583 innings and allowed only 37 home runs. But in 79 losses, he has thrown 398 1/3 innings and allowed 69 long balls. Thursday, Pavano faces the Tigers, against whom he is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his career. A big reason for the success? In 42 innings, Pavano has never allowed a home run against the Tigers. In fact, current Tigers are homerless in 108 at-bats against the Twins starter.

Trivia Answer: Omar Vizquel (2,706), Luis Aparicio (2,677), Andres Galarraga (2,333), Dave Concepcion (2,326), and Bobby Abreu (2,136) are the only Venezuelans with more hits than Ordonez. However, Miguel Cabrera (1,250 hits at age 27) may end up passing them all.

1st pitch: Crazy ratios after three weeks

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
2:26
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: On Sunday, Joakim Soria became the all-time saves leader among pitchers born in Mexico? Whose record did Soria break?

Quick Hits: Let’s take a look at some of the more stunning ratios as we hit the three-week point of the young season.

* Brian McCann has 16 walks and only four strikeouts. Rather amazing for a player who has never had more walks than strikeouts, and had only 49 walks compared to 83 strikeouts last season.

* David Eckstein only has fanned once in 63 plate appearances. No qualifying player last decade had a PA per K greater than 30.0. In fact, the last to do so was Tony Gwynn in 1995.

* A ridiculous 79 percent of Kelly Johnson’s hits have been for extra bases. His career high is just 46 percent. Meanwhile, all 16 of Juan Pierre’s hits have been singles.

* According to Baseball-Reference.com, 33 percent of the fly balls hit by Travis Snider have been infield flies.

* With a 4.33 groundout to air out ratio, Derek Jeter is on track to lead the majors in that category for the second straight year.

* Ryan Rowland-Smith has allowed more home runs (six) than he has strikeouts (five), and has the worst strikeout percentage in the majors.

* Of all the fly balls to the outfield against Cole Hamels, 20.6 percent have been home runs, easily the highest percentage in the majors.

* Carlos Silva has a 0.63 WHIP. Last season, he allowed 0.73 extra-base hits per inning pitched.

* Carl Pavano has a 17-to-1 K-BB ratio. Last season, he had three walks in his first recorded inning of work.

* The Astros pitching staff surprisingly leads the majors with a 2.62 K-BB ratio.

* The Giants, Padres, and White Sox have more strikeouts than hits allowed.

* Of the hits allowed by the Pirates, 45 percent have gone for extra bases. Meanwhile, it’s just 25 percent for the Tigers, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Today’s Leaderboard: The Indians have struck out only 90 batters in 18 games, but have walked 77. That is just 1.17 strikeouts for every walk. Over the last 20 years, the worst K-BB ratio belonged to the 1995 Brewers at 1.16. Last decade, only the 2000 Angels (1.27) had a K-BB ratio below 1.3.

Key Matchups: One way to know if Vernon Wells is really back? If he hits Josh Beckett like it is 2006. That was the last year Wells made an All-Star team, and that honor was largely courtesy of Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. In his first 10 games of 2006 against Boston, Wells hit eight home runs. Four of those came off Beckett. However, Wells is just 3-for-18 off of the right-hander since.

Zach Duke is 0-5 with a 7.38 ERA at Miller Park, as the Pirates have lost 21 straight there. That’s the longest road losing streak against a single opponent in Pirates history. Duke’s head-to-head matchups with Corey Hart are the complete opposite of what you’d expect. Hart is a .444 career hitter in Pittsburgh against Duke, but just .150 at home.

Trivia Answer: Aurelio Lopez had 93 saves over an 11-year career that ended in 1987. Considering there have been 68 Mexico-born pitchers in MLB history, Soria’s total is rather small for a “save king.” Countries that can boast a pitcher born there with more saves: Germany (Craig Lefferts, 101), Vietnam (Danny Graves, 182), and Japan (Kazuhiro Sasaki, 129).

1st pitch: The most without…

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
1:36
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: Justin Smoak, a South Carolina native, is expected to make his MLB debut on Friday. Who has the most career home runs for a player born in South Carolina?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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