Stats & Info: Chris Young

MLB theme of the week: Filling needs

November, 22, 2013
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Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler wasn’t the only notable move this week, the busiest of baseball’s offseason so far. Let’s take a snapshot look at some intriguing notes related to other players who switched teams.

Bourjos, Young, find new homes to show off their ‘D’
The St. Louis Cardinals made a major defensive upgrade in centerfield in acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Though Bourjos has been hindered by injuries the last couple of seasons, he’s accumulated 33 Defensive Runs Saved in center field over the last four seasons. That’s tied with Craig Gentry for fifth-most at that position in that span. That’s just behind Chris Young, who agreed to a one-year $7.25 million contract with the Mets. Young is two years removed from his last really good defensive season. Young accumulated 38 Defensive Runs Saved for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011, which ranked second-best among centerfielders in that span, behind only Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.

Bourjos will be worth more to the Cardinals than he will to most other teams. Over the last four seasons, the Cardinals centerfielders have combined for -12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Young’s value to the Mets may depend on what position he plays and what other moves they make. Their centerfielder, Juan Lagares, ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved last season.

Angels fill a need
In obtaining third baseman David Freese from the Cardinals in trade for Bourjos, the Angels secured a player with a better history of offensive production at the hot corner than they’ve had in awhile.

The Angels have ranked 28th and 27th in OPS from their third basemen over the last two seasons.

Freese’s numbers dipped a bit from 2012 to 2013, but definitely represents an upgrade for the Angels.

Freese’s batting average on balls hit in the air was a near match in 2012 and 2013 (.473 and .481), though his homer total dipped from 20 to 9.

His overall batting average drop from .293 to .262 was attributable to hitting more ground balls (a 52 percent ground ball rate in 2012, 56 percent in 2013) and to his ground balls finding fewer holes (he went from hitting .310 on grounders in 2012 to .230 last season).

Under the radar: Bolstering the bullpen
With questions at the back of the bullpen, the Rockies went for experience by signing veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who had formerly pitched for the team with modest success in 2007. Hawkins pitched very well for the Mets last season, particularly filling in at closer in the latter part of the season when Bobby Parnell got hurt. Hawkins held opponents scoreless in 17 of his last 18 appearances (the only blip was a five-run outburst by the Tigers), striking out 16 and walking only one in that stretch.

The strikeout-to-walk rate was a key to Hawkins’ success. He had a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (55 strikeouts, 10 walks) at age 40.

Hawkins was one of five pitchers to throw at least 70 innings of relief last season with a strikeout-to-walk-rate of 5 to 1 or better. The other four are Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Trevor Rosenthal.

Zimmermann looks to 'control' Mets bats

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
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Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesThe Nationals earned their NL-leading eighth walk-off win of the season against the Mets on Tuesday.
Currently mired in a season-long five-game losing streak, the Mets take on the Nationals on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN). The Mets entered the day seven games back of Washington in the National League East and only two games above .500 for the first time since May 21.

The Mets are 0-4 since the All-Star break, again struggling in the second half. In each of the previous three seasons, they have experienced drops in win percentage after the break.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Nationals are an NL-best 52-36, have won seven of their past nine home games, and celebrated their NL-leading eighth walk-off win against the Mets on Tuesday night. They are tied with the Athletics for most walk-off wins in baseball this season.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY FOR ZIMMERMANN

Jordan Zimmermann gets the start for the Nationals on Wednesday, and despite his 6-6 record, has been one of the most effective pitchers in the National League this season. Zimmermann ranks fourth among qualified NL starters in ERA (2.48) and leads all of MLB with 16 quality starts.
Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmermann
One reason for Zimmermann’s success has been his control. He ranks seventh in the league in walks per nine innings (1.8), third in overall strike percentage (68 percent) and second in first-pitch strike percentage (70 percent).

While the Nationals' rotation has gotten much attention, there is no shortage of discussion about rookie outfielder Bryce Harper. Harper ranks among the top five rookies in baseball in batting average (.275), extra-base hits (28) and stolen bases (11). His five triples lead the Nationals.

LACK OF VELOCITY HASN’T SLOWED YOUNG

For the Mets, Chris Young will make his eighth start of the season after making a total of eight starts over the previous two seasons combined. Young spent a total of 329 days on the disabled list with shoulder problems between 2010 and 2011 but has remained healthy thus far in 2012.
Chris Young
Young
Young has pitched well against Washington. He is 3-1 with a 2.74 ERA in seven starts against the Nationals and current members of the Nats are hitting only .165 against him. Should that continue Wednesday night, he’ll need to locate his fastball. Only Barry Zito (83.6 mph) has a slower average fastball velocity than Young (84.2 mph) this season.

David Wright has been the most consistent hitter in the Mets' lineup this season and he’s done it by hitting to the opposite field.

Wright has collected 30.0 percent of his hits to right field in 2012 after only 19.6 percent of his hits went that way the previous three seasons. The approach helped Wright reach the All-Star break with the second highest batting average in Mets history (.351).

Wainwright gets curve straightened out

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
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Getty ImagesMat Latos and Adam Wainwright start tonight when the Reds and Cardinals renew their rivalry.
Baseball is back as the second half of the major-league season kicks off today with a full slate of games. It’s never too early to start predicting division races, and this weekend provides us with several key divisional matchups that could separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Cardinals at Reds
The St. Louis Cardinals start the second half on a roll, with 11 wins in their last 16 games. The Cincinnati Reds, on the other hand, are just 9-11 since gaining a four-game division lead on June 17, and last week fell into second place in the NL Central.

Tonight’s starter, Adam Wainwright, has a 3.62 ERA over his last 10 starts since starting the season with a 6.16 ERA in his first seven starts. Opponents have a .474 OPS in at-bats ending in his curveballl in his last 10 starts, after posting a .643 mark to start the season.

Mat Latos gets the ball tonight for the home team. One of the hottest pitchers going into the break, he’s allowed just two runs over 25 innings (0.72 ERA) in his last three starts. However, he has been awful against the Cardinals in his career. His 11.37 ERA in four starts is easily his worst versus any team.

Mets at Braves
Only a half game separates these two NL East rivals in the wild card race. The New York Mets have won four of six games versus the Atlanta Braves this year, but the Braves took the last two matchups after dropping the first four. The Mets have won season series just once in the last 15 years (2006).

Chris Young hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his first six starts this season and has walked just eight batters in 37 innings. However, his 7.50 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta is his highest against any NL team.

Tim Hudson owns a 3.56 ERA this season but his sinker has not been as sharp this year. Opponents are hitting .260 in at-bats ending in the pitch, his worst mark over the last four seasons.

Location seems to be the problem; just 43 percent of his sinkers have been thrown in the lower third of the zone or below this season, compared to 57 percent from 2009-11.

Red Sox at Rays
The Boston Red Sox enter the second half at 43-43, the first time they failed to win 50 games before the break since 2005.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that streak of six straight seasons (2006-11) of at least 50 pre-break wins was the longest current streak in the majors.


The road doesn’t get any easier for Boston, who has the toughest remaining schedule among all teams. Their post-break opponents have a .530 winning percentage.

The Tampa Bay Rays are only a half-game back in the wild card standings but have not been playing well the past month.

They are just 10-16 since improving to 35-25 on June 10. The only AL team with a worse record during that span is the Seattle Mariners (9-16).

Stat of the Day
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that since 2001, only 54 percent of major-league teams in first place at the All-Star break (alone or tied) went on to win their divisions.
The Tigers lost the first two games of their series with the Indians and their division lead dwindled to two games. Thursday, the Tigers looked to their ace to turn things around – and again Justin Verlander delivered.
Justin Verlander
Verlander

After being given an early 4-0 lead, Verlander gave up three runs and it was a 4-3 game after three innings. Verlander did not let another Indian get into scoring position and struck out 10 batters in his seven innings as the Tigers held on for a crucial 4-3 win with help from relievers Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.

Verlander became the first pitcher in the majors to reach 17 wins and pushed his career mark to 100-57. According to Elias, he is tied with Cliff Lee for the fifth-fewest losses at the time of his 100th win among active pitchers.

A next-level look: Indians hitters missed on eight of their 11 swings against Verlander's change, the second-most misses by a Verlander opponent against his changeup in the last three seasons. The only team to miss more against his change was the Indians on June 14, who missed on 15 of their 20 swings. That gives them an astounding total of 23 misses on 31 swings (74.2 pct) against Verlander's change this season in two starts.

Since 2009, Verlander has 54 wins. Only CC Sabathia (56) has more.
It is also his fifth season with at least 17 wins – all before the age of 29. Elias tells us he is the seventh pitcher to accomplish that feat since 1969 – a list that includes Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Tom Seaver.

Finally, Verlander is the fourth Tigers pitcher in the Live Ball era to win 100 games in his first seven MLB seasons (Denny McLain, Tommy Bridges, Mickey Lolich).

Elsewhere around MLB:

• Down 5-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Diamondbacks rookie Paul Goldschmidt belted a two-run, pinch-hit, 450-foot home run off Houston’s Mark Melancon to tie the game. One inning later, Chris Young hit a game-winning, three-run homer as the D-backs captured a dramatic 8-5 win to up their NL West lead to one game over idle San Francisco. It was Young’s fifth career walk-off hit, all of them home runs.
Chris Young
Young

• Albert Pujols entered Thursday’s game 5-for-42 (.119) against the Brewers this season. He responded with a 4-for-4 night, including a first-inning home run as the Cardinals avoided a sweep and cut the Brewers’ division lead to four games. Even with the loss, Milwaukee has won 13 of its last 15 games.
The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies square off in the final game of a three-game series on Sunday night. The Phillies are on fire having won eight of their last 10 games including winning their 18th game before May 1 (a franchise record).

The Mets, on the other hand, have lost three in a row and are looking to avoid getting swept for the second time this season (the Colorado Rockies swept a four-game series earlier this season).

The Mets will start Chris Young who is 2-1 with a 5.31 ERA in four career starts at Citizens Bank Park. Though he’s only made seven starts in 2010 and 2011, Young is undefeated at 3-0 in those starts. His last loss was June 14, 2009.

Chris Young Matchup to Watch
Raul Ibanez has reached in eight of his last 11 plate appearances against Young, dating to 2008 (2-for-3 against him in the first meeting this season).

The Phillies will counter with lefty Cliff Lee who has the highest strike percentage among starters this season (71.3). It’s also interesting to note that Lee has alternated double-digit strikeout games with single-digit strikeout games since the beginning of the season (had 12 last start).

One situation to keep an eye on Sunday is how Lee does with runners in scoring position. Opponents are hitting .379 with RISP against Lee this season, and dating back to when he was traded to the Texas Rangers, opponents are 36-for-their-last 101 versus Lee in the regular season in such spots.

Cliff Lee Matchup to Watch
Cleanup hitters are 7-for-14 with a home run and four strikeouts against Lee this season.

Now a look at the offensive keys for these two teams.

The problems that the Mets have had hitting home runs at Citi Field were not an issue in the opening month of the season. They hit 16 in 13 games, which put them on pace for 100 in 2011. However, there's a new power issue. In 14 road games, the Mets were out-homered, 17-7.

David Wright has especially struggled to find his swing as his .240 batting average would be a career low should he maintain this production for the rest of the season. It hasn’t helped that he’s hitting just .167 with two strikes, his lowest number over the past three seasons. The silver lining for Wright on Sunday may be that he’s done pretty well against Phillies pitching this season, going 8-for-21 (.381 BA) .

Jose Reyes will have to come up big for the Mets, and it is something he has done in the past. Reyes has 16 career home runs against the Phillies, which is the most versus any team (second-most is 10 versus the Atlanta Braves). He also is 29-for-86 (.337 BA) in his last 20 games versus the Phillies.

Speaking of the Phillies, they are relying heavily on Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard to account for the production loss left by Chase Utley’s absence. Howard has maintained his production, but Rollins has struggled to literally fill the hole.

Rollins is hitting in the three-hole while Utley has been injured, but when comparing Rollins’ performance this year to how National League No. three batters performed as a group, Rollins’ doesn’t match up.

As for Howard, nobody has hit more home runs than the Phillies slugger since 2006 (233) and he especially loves hitting against the Mets. In fact only Pat Burrell and Chipper Jones have more home runs versus the Mets among active players than Howard’s 29 career home runs in 99 games.

Tune in at 8:00 Eastern on ESPN to see a battle between division rivals.

They don't make CFs like they used to

April, 13, 2011
4/13/11
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Where have all the great centerfielders gone?

A cursory look at the basic stats tell us that there are no elite offensive talents currently in the major leagues at that position. No player who spent half his time in center field last season and qualified for the batting title managed to hit .300.

That’s the first time that’s happened in the live-ball era (1920).

Baseball-Reference.com tells us that since 1920, there have been 173 players who spent half their time toiling in center field and had an OPS+ of at least 140. Every decade from the 1920s to the 1990s featured at least 17 individual seasons reaching that number. In the 2000s, there were 11 seasons combined and five of them were by Jim Edmonds alone. The last centerfielder to accomplish it was Carlos Beltran in 2006.

To the right is a chart of the recent annual OPS averages for major-league centerfielders. Notice especially the steady decline in the AL.

We should consider this in context with other positions since offense has depressed overall in that time span. Still, the offensive profile of the centerfielder has changed.

It’s very possible that defense has become more of a priority in front offices across the baseball landscape. Taking a glance at the American League West alone and you’ll see Peter Bourjos in Anaheim (15 Defensive Runs Saved in 2010), Franklin Gutierrez in Seattle (14), Coco Crisp in Oakland (9) and Julio Borbon in Texas (7). These players are light on offense and decidedly heavy on defense.

Looking more broadly with a defensive metric from Baseball Info Solutions, 2010 was a banner year for defense at this glamour position. The combined Defensive Runs Saved by all centerfielders that played at least 700 innings was +109. That's the high-water mark for a position that has become decidedly more defensive-oriented in the last decade.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Currently, there are nine teams that have players in their age-25 season or younger manning centerfield. And that’s not even counting players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Drew Stubbs, Chris Young and B.J. Upton.

Since 2000, the only centerfielder to manage an OPS+ of 160 over the course of an entire season is Edmonds. In the VERY early-goings this season, Baseball-Reference shows us there are four centerfielders doing that now, three of whom are still in their 20s (Matt Kemp, Colby Rasmus and Upton).

They may not be names like Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle or even Kirby Puckett but it does offer some hope for future greatness.

--Contributions made by Mark Simon, Jeff Bennett and Justin Havens

It might be a different year, but it's the same result in the American League Division Series for the Yankees. For the second straight season, the Bronx Bombers swept the Twins to advance to the American League Championship Series. New York has now won nine straight postseason games against Minnesota dating back to 2004. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's tied for the third-longest winning streak vs one opponent in postseason history.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees' sweep of the Twins was their 13th postseason series sweep, most all-time. That's seven more than the Braves and Reds have and eight more than the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox.

HUGHES

Phil Hughes, making the first postseason start of his major-league career, picked up the win by pitching seven innings and allowing no runs. Hughes is the fourth pitcher this year to win his first career postseason start without giving up a run. (Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and C.J. Wilson are the others.) That matches the number of pitchers who did that over the previous four postseasons combined (Chris Young in 2006, Jon Lester in 2007, Hiroki Kuroda in 2008 and Vicente Padilla in 2009).

Also, Hughes (age 24) is the youngest pitcher to start and win a postseason game for the Yankees since Game 3 of the 1981 ALCS, when Dave Righetti, then 22 years old, wrapped up a three-game New York sweep with a victory against the A's.
Today’s Trivia: As Tim Lincecum appears on his way to a third consecutive season leading the NL in strikeouts ... who was the last right-handed pitcher to lead the NL in strikeouts for three straight seasons?

Quick Hits: September has been quite a month on the mound, as eight pitchers are 4-0 or better. There are 15 starting pitchers with an ERA below 2.00, 11 of whom reside in the NL. Let’s dive into some September numbers:

LoweDerek Lowe is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in September, but the rest of the Atlanta Braves rotation is just 4-11 this month. Wednesday against the Florida Marlins, Lowe looks to become the first Braves pitcher to go 5-0 in September since Dave Jolly in 1954. Jolly picked up all five wins in a relief role.

Both Lowe and Carlos Zambrano (4-0, 0.78) have a shot at a 5-0 September with an ERA below 1.00. Over the last 50 years, that’s only been done five times in the NL: Randy Johnson (2002), Orel Hershiser (1988), Joaquin Andujar (1982), Don Sutton (1976) and Tom Seaver (1969).

Madison Bumgarner is just 1-2 this month despite a 1.00 ERA. That’s on pace to be the lowest September ERA for an NL rookie (min. 25 innings) since 1974 when Dale Murray of the Montreal Expos had a 0.26 ERA in 14 relief appearances.

The San Francisco Giants’ 1.85 ERA is on pace to be the lowest in September for any team since the 1967 Giants posted a 1.79 ERA.

With his start on Thursday, Jon Lester has a shot at becoming the first pitcher to go 6-0 in September since Jose Contreras in 2005. The last Boston Red Sox pitcher to do it was Bobby Ojeda in 1983. In his career, Lester is now 15-2 in September.

Carlos Marmol has 12 saves this month and hasn’t allowed an earned run. Since saves became an official stat, the only pitcher with more saves and a perfect ERA in September was Ryan Dempster with 13 in 2005.

RogersMilwaukee Brewers rookie Mark Rogers has faced 18 batters this month (and in his career) without allowing a hit. Over the last 50 years, which rookie faced the most batters in September without allowing a hit? Would you believe that it’s NBA Hall-of-Famer Dave DeBusschere? In September 1962, he faced 24 batters for the Chicago White Sox and did not allow a single hit. Unlike Rogers, DeBusschere had pitched in the big leagues earlier that season.

It’s not all positives. Jason Vargas takes the hill today for the Seattle Mariners trying to avoid an 0-6 September. The last pitcher to do that was Bud Black in 1992 for the Giants. In the AL, you’d have to go back to Jim Clancy for the 1986 Toronto Blue Jays. Clancy, who lost another one in October, was 14-7 going into September.

Today’s Leaderboard: How good has the pitching been in the National League this September? The league as a whole has a 3.85 ERA this month, which would be the lowest over the course of ANY full month since April 1993.

Key Matchups
Not only is Derek Lowe pitching on three days rest, but he faces a team that has hit him hard this season. In a pair of starts, he has a 9.35 ERA thanks in part to eight walks in 8 2/3 innings. But a much bigger problem has been Dan Uggla. A career .429 hitter against Lowe, most of the damage has been done recently. Going back to last season, Uggla has six hits in his last seven at-bats against Lowe, including two doubles and a home run.

LincecumWith Adam Wainwright (213) done for the season and Roy Halladay (219) unlikely to pitch more than the equivalent of a side-session, Tim Lincecum (220) is in the driver’s seat to take home his third straight NL strikeout title. And guess who he gets to face Wednesday: The Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that’s struck out more than any in MLB history. Mark Reynolds (13 K in 21 AB vs Lincecum), Stephen Drew (12 K in 36 AB) and Chris Young (13 K in 36 AB) are the main targets.

Trivia Answer: Dizzy Dean led the NL in strikeouts in four straight years from 1932 to 1935. The three to do it since – Johnny Vander Meer (1941-43), Warren Spahn (1949-52) and Randy Johnson (1999-2002) - were all lefties.

1st Pitch: Gallardo a better hitter than Jeter?

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
3:26
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Today’s Trivia: Maybe the most interesting part about the Triple Crown battle going on between Albert Pujols and Joey Votto is that they’re both in the same division and both fighting for playoff spots. It’s more than just a personal duel. Carlos Gonzalez’s competition and Omar Infante’s potential late addition to the pool of candidates notwithstanding, let’s suppose Votto and Pujols finish one-two in batting average this season.

When was the last time two players from the same division finished one-two in the batting average race with BOTH of their teams making the playoffs?
PujolsVotto

Quick Hits:
Bill James has developed an interesting baseball idea called the Pythagorean win theorem. It’s not as difficult as it sounds – it takes the total runs you score compared to the total runs you allow and gives you an expected win-loss record based on those totals. Sure, every team will have blowouts and close games over the course of a season, so this theory looks at a larger scale – essentially, the team’s winning margin on a full-season basis.

The thing is, your expected win-loss record doesn’t always equal your true win-loss record. Let’s take a look at some teams who are above or below their expected record:

• The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are currently tied for the best record in baseball (78-49), but the Pythagorean win theorem suggests the Yankees should be three games ahead of where they are now (81-46) while the Rays should be one game ahead of where they are now (79-48). That’s because the Yankees have a +164 run margin this season while the Rays are +144.

• In the NL, the St. Louis Cardinals are a whopping six games behind where they should be. They’re at 68-56, but their expected record is 74-50. If they actually WERE 74-50 at this point, they’d be 2 games up on the Cincinnati Reds instead of 3 behind.

• Then throw in this factor – the Reds are actually ahead of their expected record. By one game. They’re 73-54, but their expected record is 72-55. That’s because their run margin is +80 this season, compared to +105 for the Cardinals.

• Not many predicted the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres as leaders of their divisions. But would you guess that both teams are actually below their expected records? The Braves are four wins behind, while the Padres are three wins behind. The Padres (+134) and Braves (+112) have the best run margins in the NL.

• Not true for the Philadelphia Phillies, who are actually one game above their expected record. So the Braves and Phils went by their expected record instead of their true record, the Braves would have a 5-game lead in the division instead of a 2-game lead.

• Finally, not many people would say the Astros are “good” right now, but they’re still better than they’re expected to be. Their 57-69 record is still a whopping seven games better than their expected record (50-76) thanks to a -111 run margin on the season. Same story for the Pirates, with an unfathomable -246 run margin.

To peruse the numbers yourself, check out this link: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/rpi

Today’s Leaderboard:
We featured Hiroki Kuroda and his futility at the plate in yesterday’s edition, so it’s only fair that we check out the other end of the spectrum too. Yovani Gallardo, pitching this afternoon for the Milwaukee Brewers, has a whopping .836 OPS in 50 at-bats this season. Of his 12 hits this season, seven have gone for extra bases. His four home runs are by far the most among pitchers this season too. Essentially, he’s been a slugger in the nine-hole whenever he starts.
Gallardo

To further bolster Gallardo’s ego, let’s take a look at some of the regular position players who Gallardo has been better than this season.



Key Matchups:
Kevin Correia will see plenty of his usual foes tonight on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The four batters Correia has seen most in his career – Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, and Justin Upton – are all Diamondbacks. And they’re all batting under .300 against him, including just .195 by Drew.

• Jordan Zimmerman makes his first start of the season tonight for the Washington Nationals and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that he’s not thrilled to face Albert Pujols. Zimmerman has only faced Pujols and the Cardinals once in his career. But in that game, Pujols went 3-3 off Zimmerman with a solo home run in the first inning.

• There might not be anyone who hates facing Cliff Lee as much as Delmon Young does. Young has just a career .125 BA (3-24) against Lee, with a paltry .125 slugging percentage to match. They’ve met each other once already this season, and Lee got Young to go 0-3 including two foul-out pop flies.

Trivia Answer: If you pulled Ichiro Suzuki and Jason Giambi out of your hat, you win today’s trivia. Ichiro and Giambi finished one-two in 2001, when both Ichiro’s Seattle Mariners and Giambi’s Oakland Athletics made the postseason.

Before Ichiro and Giambi, there was Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra. They finished 1-2 in 1999 with both the Yankees and Boston Red Sox reaching the postseason.

But in the NL, since 1995, also known as the Wild Card era, it has never happened where the players that finished one-two in batting average both played on teams that made the postseason – regardless of division.

1st Pitch: Career All-Star snubs

July, 2, 2010
7/02/10
12:25
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Quick Hits: The All-Star rosters will be unveiled on Sunday. A year ago, Tim Wakefield, then 42, was selected for the first time in his career. With 188 wins at the time, he was the winningest pitcher of the All-Star era never to have made the team. With his selection, that distinction returned to Mike Torrez and his 185 career wins. Let’s look at some other notable active players who have never been selected:
  • With 135 career wins, Jeff Suppan is the winningest active pitcher never to make an All-Star Game.
  • Suppan is followed by Darren Oliver and A.J. Burnett, both of whom have won 106 games. An interesting case can be made for Oliver and his 1.49 ERA, which is third among AL relievers.
  • Of the 74 active pitchers with 1,000 career innings, Burnett has the lowest ERA (3.92) among those never selected.
  • Most notably snubbed in 2002 and 2008, Pat Burrell has the most career home runs (272).
  • Adrian Beltre, who ranks second in the majors in batting average and leads all AL third basemen in OPS, has the second most career home runs (262) among active players without an All-Star bid.
  • A snub in 2009, Huston Street’s 130 saves are the most among active pitchers who have never been.
  • Among those with 3,000 career plate appearances, Nick Markakis (.298) has the highest career batting average. He barely qualifies though. He had his 3,000th career plate appearance last night.
  • Travis Hafner has the highest career OPS (.903) for any player in major league history never selected as an All-Star (among those to play in the All-Star era). With four 100-RBI seasons, he’s the only active player with more than two who has never made it. In 2006, he hit .322 with 25 home runs – including a record 5 grand slams – but didn’t make the team.
Today’s Trivia: Who was the last player to win the Cy Young Award after having not been an All-Star that season?

Today’s Leaderboard: For the first time this season, Tim Wakefield and Jamie Moyer – and their combined 90 years of age - are starting on the same day. On May 7, they both pitched, but Wakefield was in relief. So perhaps it’s fitting that Moyer can make some history (again). First, he could pick up his 10th win of the season. It would be his 16th time reaching that total, but just the second time he’s done it before the break. Moyer is going for his 104th win after turning 40, while Wakefield goes for his 41st. Moyer would tie Jack Quinn for the 2nd-most wins after turning 40.

Key Matchups: The Diamondbacks young trio of Justin Upton, Chris Young and Mark Reynolds have combined to hit .163 against Hiroki Kuroda. In 49 at-bats, they’ve struck out 22 times. Perhaps not the welcome to the ranks of big league managers that Kirk Gibson was hoping for.

Chris Iannetta is 6-for-12 in his career against Tim Lincecum. He’s also walked eight times and twice been hit by a pitch against the two-time Cy Young winner. That gives Iannetta a .727 on-base percentage. He’s managed to reach base in all eight games in which they’ve faced one another.

Trivia Answer: In 2004, Johan Santana was just 7-6 with a 3.78 ERA at the break. He went on to win the Cy Young after going 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA in the second half. Jimmy Rollins in 2007 is the last player to win MVP after not being an All-Star.

The Closer: Baserunning fundamentals

June, 27, 2010
6/27/10
9:16
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You often hear talk about "five-tool players" in baseball. We had plenty of hitting for average on Sunday (Jose Guillen and Josh Hamilton both extended their hit streaks to 21 games). We had some power-- more than 70 extra-base hits and two dozen home runs (including the longest one by distance this season). Fielding and throwing didn't give us too many issues.

Baserunning, on the other hand...

No matter which game you watched, there was bound to be at least one of those "head-scratcher" plays. The ones where you look at your TV and say, "what was he thinking?" At the risk of Monday-morning, er, Sunday-night quarterbacking, we present a sampling of the unnecessary, and sometimes obscure, outs that were run into on the basepaths Sunday.

Tampa: Justin Upton on third. Chris Young grounds back to the pitcher. Upton gets run back and tagged out. Young thinks the defense isn't paying attention and tries to take second, where he's also tagged out.

Tampa: Pinch runner Carl Crawford doubled off first when Sean Rodriguez lines one to third base.

Chicago: Gordon Beckham strikes out, but his backswing gets in the way of Geovany Soto as he tries to nail a stealing Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez gets called out for the interference of his teammate.

Cincinnati: Corky Miller thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Anaheim: Jason Giambi thrown out at third trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt.

New York: Jeff Francoeur thrown out trying to tag and take third on a ball to shallow right.

Oakland: Jose Tabata's ground ball hits runner Pedro Alvarez between first and second. Oh, by the way, it's the final out of a one-run game.

(Bonus question: If you're keeping score, how do you write THAT down?)

Florida: Jorge Cantu is called for interference while trying to break up a double play at second base. The batter, Dan Uggla, is called out as a result.

Milwaukee: Rickie Weeks thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Baltimore: Miguel Tejada thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Baltimore: In the bottom of the eighth in a tie game, Julio Lugo legs out a double and then immediately gets himself picked off second.

(Bonus answer: Infield single for the batter. The putout is awarded to the closest fielder, in this case the first baseman.)

** The trunk with the Mets' bats in it finally arrived back at Citi Field. Six consecutive Mets batters went double, homer, homer, triple, single, single, during the fifth inning on Sunday. That's 15 total bases in a single inning. The Mets hadn't had 15 total bases in a GAME since last Tuesday.

** The aforementioned triple was off the bat of Jason Bay, marking his 1,000th career hit. The last time a player had a triple for his 1,000th career hit was almost exactly three years ago, when then-Oriole Aubrey Huff did it on June 29, 2007.

** The Pirates committed four errors and managed to lose Sunday's game to Oakland without allowing an earned run. Even for them, that's impressive. They haven't done that since June 29, 2002, when the Tigers scored on a missed catch at home plate and a passed ball to beat them 2-1.

** One afterthought on the Oakland/Pittsburgh series: On Saturday, the two teams donned "throwback" uniforms from the 1970s. (They say styles have a 30-year cycle, so watch for neon green to make a comeback soon.) But you have to forgive those two teams for wanting to "turn back the clock". During the '70s they combined for five world championships, including four straight from 1971-74. Since then, they have ONE (Oakland's in '89).

** Jamie Moyer didn't quite pitch IN the '70s, but at the rate he's going, he might well pitch INTO his 70s. Moyer became the all-time leader in home runs allowed on Sunday when Vernon Wells took him deep in the third inning.



Bonus question #2: Those 42 parks include ALL of the current 30 stadiums except two. We'll spot you Target Field because it just opened. What's the other current park where Moyer has yet to surrender a dinger? ** After being no-hit by Edwin Jackson on Friday, the Rays put together a two-hit attack against Arizona on Sunday. They did at least score a run this time. Ironically, the last team that was held to two or fewer hits twice in a series was these same Diamondbacks. That was in late May against the Giants.

** Combined with their amazing five-hit performance on Saturday, the Rays ended up with seven base hits over the entire three-game series. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the last team to finish with seven or fewer hits in a three-game series was the 1965 New York Mets. They were one-hit by the Milwaukee Braves on both September 10 and 11 before "exploding" for five hits (and a 1-0 victory!) in the series finale on the 12th.

Bonus answer #2: Busch Stadium in St Louis. Moyer surrendered three long balls in the PRIOR Busch Stadium (which closed in 2005), but has made only two visits to the current building.

1st Pitch: A different player at home

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
2:09
PM ET
Quick Hits: With Todd Helton and Joe Mauer in opposing dugouts this week, it has highlighted the fact that neither slugger has hit a home run at home this season. Some other intriguing home/road notes:
  • Denard Span is hitting .378 at home and .172 on the road. That .206 discrepancy is the largest in baseball.
  • On the other hand, Ryan Braun is hitting .370 on the road, but just .216 at home, the largest discrepancy in the other direction.
  • Chris Young has hit 10 of his 12 home runs at home. Paul Konerko is next, having hit seven more homers at home.
  • Nine of Justin Morneau’s 11 home runs have come on the road, while David Wright has hit eight more homers on the road than at home. Meanwhile, all seven of Ian Stewart’s homers are away from Coors.
  • Of Ryan Sweeney’s 28 RBI, 23 have come at home.
  • At .391, Martin Prado is on track for the highest home batting average since teammate Chipper Jones hit .399 at home in 2008.
  • Over the last 55 years, only two Yankees have posted a higher home batting average than Brett Gardner’s .385: Paul O’Neill (.409 in 1994) and Mickey Mantle (.387 in 1957).
  • Casey Kotchman’s .175 batting average at home would be the fifth worst among qualifying players over the last 50 years.
  • Jason Heyward has 17 more walks on the road than at home, the biggest difference in the majors.
Today’s Trivia: If Alex Rodriguez returns to the lineup against Jamie Moyer on Wednesday, it will mark the second time that a player with 500 career home runs has faced a pitcher who has allowed 500 long balls. The only other instance occurred in 1966. Who were the players involved?

Today’s Leaderboard: The best hitters at home this season? A pair of players that could find themselves playing elsewhere in a couple months. Who knows if Paul Konerko will still be calling U.S. Cellular Field home after the trade deadline, but for now Konerko is crushing the ball at home. His 1.201 OPS at home is the best in baseball, and is on track to be the best since Barry Bonds in 2004. Second on the list is Kelly Johnson’s 1.133 OPS.

Key Matchups: David Ortiz faced Rodrigo Lopez each year from 2003 to 2006 as AL East foes. In 50 plate appearances, he’s hitting .326 with a .932 OPS. That includes a memorable two triple game in 2004, the only in Ortiz’s career. However, one thing has eluded Ortiz against Lopez: A home run. Ortiz is homerless in 50 plate appearances, the most he’s faced any pitcher without going deep. Even stranger? Despite that .932 OPS, Ortiz only has one RBI against Lopez.

Alex Rodriguez is expected back in the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday, and he’ll face Jamie Moyer in a matchup that dates back to 1996. They’ve faced each other 59 times in total, and A-Rod is a .389 hitter against Moyer with a 1.218 OPS. This will be the first meeting since 2005, but in his last nine at-bats against Moyer, Rodriguez is 7-9 with four home runs.

Trivia Answer: When Willie Mays stepped in against Robin Roberts on August 6, 1966, he had 529 home runs to his credit. In his previous start, Roberts became the first pitcher to allow 500 career home runs when Hank Aaron took him deep. It was Aaron’s 429th career home run.

May's top plus/minus plays

June, 1, 2010
6/01/10
9:00
AM ET
Now that Memorial Day has passed, let’s look back at May's top defensive plays, according to the Plus/Minus system. The top Plus/Minus plays aren’t always the flashiest plays; sometimes, the fielder was positioned perfectly or got a tremendous read on the ball off the bat and was able to make the play with relative ease. We’ll go position by position:

First Base -- Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers, May 26, Bottom 7: Michael Saunders hit a hard ground ball that traveled over the base and into foul territory. Raburn (only 42 career innings at first base) dove, made the play and flipped to Jeremy Bonderman covering first. Not only does it go for a hit 97.5% of the time, but also that ball usually goes for a double.

Second Base -- Mike Aviles, Kansas City Royals, May 25, Top 4: Vladimir Guerrero is enough of a pull hitter that the Rangers employed the rare right-handed shift on him a few times last season. Apparently, Mike Aviles has been doing his homework, since he was ready for him. On a ground ball to the shortstop side of second base, Aviles ranged way beyond what is normal range for a second baseman and threw out the red-hot Guerrero. Aviles received a +0.99 for that play.

Shortstop -- Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks, May 15, Bottom 7: Martin Prado sent a rocket toward the 3B/SS hole that seemed destined for left field; in fact, hard ground balls at that angle go for hits 99.3% of the time. Drew laid out, came up with the ball and threw from his knees to nab Prado at first base. Drew also received +.99 plus/minus points for the play.

Third Base- Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians, May 24, Top 8 and Don Kelly, Tigers, May 12, Top 6: Here’s an example where the flashy play isn’t necessarily the higher-rated play. Kelly’s play definitely looked harder, but Peralta was positioned closer to the line and managed to range deeper into foul territory and stay on his feet. Kelly’s play was made just 6% of the time over the past year, but Peralta’s play was made only 1% of the time and saved a certain double.

Left Field- Conor Jackson, Arizona Diamondbacks, May 25, Bottom 5: At Coors Field, Conor Jackson tracked down a Brad Hawpe fly ball deep in the left-center field gap. Had his momentum not carried him so far away from the infield, Jackson also would have doubled Todd Helton off of first. It wasn’t a flashy play, but Jackson had to cover a lot of group to save a sure RBI and extra-base hit. Similar balls fall for hits 88% of the time.

Center Field- Nate McLouth, Atlanta Braves, May 14, Top 2: After struggling with deep-hit balls near the wall earlier in his career (see the in-depth study in The Fielding Bible – Volume II), McLouth has played noticeably deeper, and it shows. Chris Young sent a deep fliner to left-center which McLouth caught at a dead sprint before crashing into the wall. Similarly-hit balls were caught only 11% of the time over the past year.

Right Field- Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians, May 1, Top 9: With no-pop Drew Butera up in the ninth, Choo cheated in a bit; he should have cheated more. Butera placed a soft fliner in shallow right, but Choo made a diving catch to save the hit, garnering a +.875 plus/minus score on the play.

The secret behind Chris Young's resurgence

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
8:28
PM ET
Chris Young’s 2009 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks was less than memorable, when he hit under .200 until mid-September and spent part of the season in the minors. It seemed to be rock bottom for the youngster who came to Arizona in the Javier Vazquez trade in 2005.

Young enjoyed a 2007 season in which he finished 4th in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Young followed that with nice power numbers in 2008, overcoming a .248 BA. The talent that the Diamondbacks had seen in Young while in the minor leagues with the Chicago White Sox was evident, and his 54 combined HR in 2007 and 2008 was proof.

But 2009 was a completely different story, as he hit just .244 against the fastball after pounding that pitch in each of the previous two seasons (.304 in 2008 and .287 in 2007).

This year has seen Young return to stellar form, however, hitting over .300 while knocking in 24 runs in his first 26 games. To put that in perspective, it took Young 79 games to reach 24 RBI last season. He’s found success against the fastball again, hitting .302 against heaters this season. Through May 4, Young’s .845 OPS is higher than notable sluggers like Matt Holliday.

So what's the reason for the resurgence?Some of Young’s success this season can certainly be attributed to an Arizona offense that leads the majors in runs and is 2nd in home runs, but that in no way should take away from what Young is doing, as he’s a big reason for the Diamondbacks’ potent offense.

Just like last season, Young is batting primarily in the sixth spot of the lineup. Last year, Young hit .211 in 44 games when he was sixth in the batting order. In 2010, he’s played 21 games batting from that spot and is hitting .313.

In actuality, Young may have Adam LaRoche to thank. LaRoche, an offseason acquisition by Arizona, has spent the majority of his time batting 5th this season, and his success in that spot (1.102 OPS) has likely opened the door for Young considerably.

My colleague Dan Braunstein crunched some numbers with Inside Edge and the theory rings true.

In games where he’s hit behind LaRoche (not necessarily all PA’s after LaRoche, but just games where he’s slotted after LaRoche in the order), Young has seen fastballs 59.6 pct of the time, hitting .444 (12-27) on those pitches. Hitting behind anyone else, Young has seen fewer fastballs at 56.3 pct, with Young batting .194 (7-36) against fastballs.

Getting a healthy dosage of fastballs with LaRoche on base ahead of him seems to be feeding Young's hitting frenzy. Last year through 26 games, Young had seen fastballs 56.6 pct of the time, and was hitting .176 (9-51) with 2 HR against them. This season through 26 games, Young has seen fastballs slightly more often at 57.8 pct, but was hitting .302 (19-63) with 3 HR.

Again, the season is still very young but this is a trend that we noticed and we'll continue to monitor as the season moves along.

1st pitch: Players with unfamiliar numbers

April, 16, 2010
4/16/10
1:44
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Indians trading Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. At the time, Colavito was just 26 and the reigning AL home run champ. Kuenn lasted just one season with the Tribe before he too was shipped off. Can you name the only four players with last names beginning in the letter C who have more career home runs than Colavito?

Quick Hits: Some players have already entered uncharted waters this season.

* James Loney has stolen third base three times this season, which leads the majors. Loney had never even attempted to steal third prior to this season.

* In 16 plate appearances, Ryan Raburn has been hit by three pitches. In 669 plate appearances entering the season, he’d only been hit twice.

* Jeff Mathis already has two bunt hits. Last season, Gerald Laird was the only catcher with more than two bunt hits. He had seven.

* Howie Kendrick has grounded into four double plays, tied for the most in the MLB. Last year, Kendrick only had eight GIDPs.

* Chris Young has three game-winning RBI. He had four all of last season.

* In 8 2/3 innings Tyler Clippard has allowed three sacrifice flies, tied for the MLB lead. He had allowed one sacrifice fly in his first 97 2/3 innings.

* David Price has allowed two triples. He had never allowed a triple before this season.

* Trevor Hoffman has already allowed more extra-base hits (8) than he did all of last season (7).

* Chris Carpenter has already been the victim of more unearned runs (2) than he was all of last season (1).

* Ryan Rowland-Smith went all of last season (96 1/3 innings) without allowing a stolen base. He has already allowed two this season.

Today’s Leaderboard: In his debut, opponents swung at 38.7 percent of Mike Leake’s first pitches. That’s the third highest rate among starers this season. Given the seven walks he issued in his debut, that seems destined to change today.

Key Matchups: When Jason Bay opted to return to the National League, he had to know it meant facing Chris Carpenter again. As NL Central rivals, they clashed regularly from 2004 to 2006, with Carpenter often coming out on top. Bay is a career .077 hitter against Carpenter with 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats. He is hitless in his last eight at-bats with six strikeouts. No pitcher has struck him out more (Doug Davis also has 12 K), and the .077 average is Bay’s worst against a pitcher he has faced 20 times.

It’s a similar story for Carlos Pena against Josh Beckett. Last season, Pena struck out in all eight at-bats against Beckett, though he did manage a walk. Overall, Pena is 3-for-25 with 16 strikeouts against Beckett.

Trivia Answer: Jose Canseco (462), Joe Carter (396), Orlando Cepeda (379) and Norm Cash (377) are the only players beginning in C with more homers than Colavito (374), who is the next player Albert Pujols will pass on the all-time list.

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