Stats & Info: Colby Rasmus

Arencibia's long blast powers Blue Jays

April, 4, 2013
In the first two games of the Blue Jays-Indians series, the two teams combined to score a total of 10 runs. On Thursday night, they reached that total before the sixth inning was over.

Toronto avoided its fourth 0-3 start in franchise history with a wild 10-8 win over Cleveland. The game saw two ties and three lead changes before the Blue Jays pulled away in the final innings.

Six different players went deep, combining for seven total homers among the two teams, the most combined homers in a game in this short season. Eight of the first nine runs scored came via the longball, and a homer was hit in five of the nine innings played.

The Blue Jays hit five of those homers – it is just the second time in franchise history they hit five longballs in one of their first three games of the season. The only other time it happened was in 2001.

Who Went Deep
J.P. Arencibia was the star for Toronto with his seventh career multi-homer game. That breaks a tie with Ernie Whitt for the most games with at least two home runs by a Blue Jays catcher.

Arencibia’s second-inning homer traveled a career-long 460 feet, matching Justin Upton (on April 1) for the longest home run hit this season. His second home run in the sixth inning came off an 88-mph sinker. Arencibia had only one homer in 49 career at-bats ending in sinkers before launching that pitch over the fence.

Arencibia, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI, had only one hit in seven at-bats prior to Thursday night. He had whiffed on nearly half of his swings in the first two games (6 of 13), striking out three times.

Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus also hit homers for Toronto. Bautista has now gone deep in consecutive games for the first time since last June.

Encarnacion turned on a high fastball in the fifth inning for his first homer of the season. Last year Encarnacion struggled against pitches in the upper third of the zone or above, with only six hits in 44 at-bats (.136) and just one home run.

Rasmus’ home run off righty Cody Allen was his first hit of the season, after 10 straight hitless at-bats. It came on a 95-mph fastball over the plate. Rasmus last year slugged .621 on fastballs of at least 95 mph vs right-handed pitchers, the eighth-best rate among AL hitters.

Best Little Leaguers to become big leaguers

August, 17, 2011

Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Sean Burroughs led Long Beach, CA to consecutive LLWS titles in 1992 and 1993, the first -and only - U.S. team to accomplish the feat.

For two weeks in August the kids become the stars in Williamsport at the Little League World Series (coverage begins Thursday, August 18 on ESPN and ESPN2). For some it’s the beginning of bigger things to come. We give you the best Little Leaguers to become big leaguers.

LHP - Wilson Alvarez, 1982 Maracaibo, Venezuela
•  In his second LLWS start Alvarez struck out 15 batters while allowing only two hits in a win over Madrid, Spain. Second starts were good to Alvarez who pitched a no-hitter in his second career start in the Majors.

RHP - Jason Marquis, 1991 Staten Island, NY
•  Marquis pitched a three-hit shutout while striking out 11 hitters against Ohio in the U.S. Semifinals. He also added three hits and drove in three runs in the game which came on his 13th birthday.

Catcher - Jason Varitek, 1984 Altamonte Springs, FL
•  Varitek’s Little League team lost in the LLWS final. He was also on the Georgia Tech team that lost the College World Series final in 1994 and two Boston Red Sox World Series winning teams. Varitek is one of only two players (Ed Vosberg the other) to have played in all three World Series (LLWS, College, MLB).

1B - John "Boog" Powell, 1954 Lakeland, FL
•  Powell faced Jim Barbieri in two World Series: The first at the 1954 Little League World Series when Powell lost to Barbieri's team from Schenectady, NY. The second was in 1966, when Powell's Baltimore Orioles swept Barbieri's Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

2B - Todd Frazier, 1998 Toms River, NJ
•  Frazier went 4-4, with a HR in the LLWS Championship Game win over Japan. He pitched as well, striking out a batter to end the game. Frazier finished the LLWS batting .600 with four HR. He made his MLB debut this season with the Cincinnati Reds.

3B - Carney Lansford, 1969 Santa Clara, CA
•  Lansford started in right field and went 1-3 in a LLWS championship game loss against Chinese Taipei. Lansford went on to be the fourth MLB player to play in the LLWS and MLB World Series.

SS - Gary Sheffield, 1980 Tampa, FL
•  Sheffield hit a HR and drove in five runs in a U.S. Championship game win before falling short in the LLWS champion game against Taiwan. Sheffield is the only player in the 500-HR club who played in the LLWS.

LF - Jason Bay, 1990 British Columbia, Canada
•  Bay scored Canada's only run against eventual LLWS Champion Chinese Taipei. He became the first Canadian Little Leaguer to play in the Little League World Series and play Major League Baseball.

RF - Derek Bell, 1980-81 Tampa, FL
•  In 1981, Bell drove in three runs as Tampa earned a spot in the LLWS final. Bell pitched in the final vs Chinese Taipei, striking out five batters in the first two innings before eventually taking the loss.

CF - Colby Rasmus, 1999 Phenix City, AL
•  Rasmus struck out 13 batters picking up a win to clinch a spot for Phenix City in the LLWS. Phenix City went on to win the U.S. Championship before falling to Japan in the LLWS final. His brother Cory, also a first round pick, played on that Phenix City team as well.
DH - Sean Burroughs, 1992-93 Long Beach, CA
•  Burroughs led Long Beach to consecutive LLWS titles, the first U.S. team to accomplish the feat. He pitched two no-hitters at the Little League World Series.

Manager - Lloyd McClendon, 1971 Gary, Indiana
•  McClendon hit five home runs on the first pitch in his only five official at bats, leading Gary to the LLWS title. McClendon is the manager of our team as he managed some other notable LLWS participants -- Bay and Bell -- on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001.

They don't make CFs like they used to

April, 13, 2011
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). 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

Marlins part with keys to Cabrera trade

November, 13, 2010
In the span of two days, the Florida Marlins parted ways with the two primary pieces they received in the 2007 trade for Miguel Cabrera.
Cameron Maybin


Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin were considered elite prospects at the time of the trade, but neither developed into legitimate contributors.

Miller has failed to blossom since being selected with the sixth pick in the 2006 MLB Draft -- ahead of pitchers Clayton Kershaw (seventh) and Tim Lincecum (10th). On Friday, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for minor league reliever Dustin Richardson.

On Saturday, Maybin was dealt to the San Diego Padres, for pitchers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Both will help with the Marlins stated desire to improve the bullpen, but this is a disappointing end to Maybin’s tenure in South Florida. The Detroit Tigers drafted Maybin in 2005, ahead of notable outfielders Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury and Colby Rasmus.

With Miller and Maybin gone, two questions remain: How did the Cabrera trade end up working for the Marlins, and, what can the Red Sox and Padres expect out of their acquisitions?

According to’s Wins Above Replacement, the Marlins experienced a “loss” of 8.5 WAR on this trade. Cabrera has accounted for all of the positive contributions among the players the Marlins traded, but he’s been an MVP-caliber player during his tenure with the Tigers.

So what can be expected from Miller and Maybin? Neither player has produced at the Major League level, with Miller’s erratic command and Maybin’s strikeout issues and contact ability. Miller has faltered, even after return trips to the minors. Maybin has shown the ability to dominate at the minor-league level, but has seen his holes exploited in the big leagues.

Maybin did not accumulate enough plate appearances to qualify, but if he had his swing-and-miss percentage at balls inside the strike zone (82.1 pct) would have ranked 11th worst in the majors last season. A majority of the players with worse marks in that category are power hitters like Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds.

Maybin’s issues with making contact is what holds him back from developing into the star many people projected him to be. He has a career .306/.393/.478 line in 1,793 career minor-league plate appearances, including a .340/.415/.525 mark in 2010. He struck out in just 18.5 percent of his minor-league plate appearances last season.

Maybin will be just 24 years old next April, giving him plenty of time to carve out a productive career. But the difference between him being a Quadruple-A specimen and a legitimate Major Leaguer will likely come down to his ability to reduce his strikeouts and improve his contact rate with his new club.
The Washington Nationals' Adam Dunn hit a 479-foot home run Tuesday at Atlanta -- the third longest HR this season behind Josh Hamilton (485 feet on June 27) and Colby Rasmus (483 feet, also on June 27). Dunn owns the third- and fifth-longest home runs of the season. Interestingly enough, the five longest home runs this season have all been hit by left-handed batters.

More significant is the fact that it's the seventh straight season Dunn has hit at least 35 home runs, which is tied for the fifth longest streak in baseball history. Only one left-handed hitter has a longer streak than Dunn: Rafael Palmeiro hit at least 35 HR in nine straight seasons from 1995-2003.

Also in the Nationals' 6-0 over the Atlanta Braves, pitcher Livan Hernandez hit his 10th career HR and drove in two runs. He now has 77 career RBI, two shy of the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mike Hampton for the most among active pitchers.

• The Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels struck out a season-high 13 batters in 6⅔ innings against the Florida Marlins. From the Elias Sports Bureau: Hamels is the first Phillies pitcher since 1900 to strike out 13 batters in fewer than seven innings.
• The New York Yankees' Jorge Posada hit his first career pinch-hit, go-ahead home run in the 10th inning or later to give the Yankees an 8-7 win against the Tampa Bay Rays. From the Elias Sports Bureau: The last Yankee to hit a go-ahead, pinch-hit HR in extra innings was Matt Nokes on May 8, 1993 at Detroit. Posada had been 0-for-10 this season as a pinch-hitter prior to hitting the home run.

• From 2005 to 2008, there were three left-handed pitchers who won at least 45 games and an ERA under 3.60: Johan Santana, CC Sabathia and Scott Kazmir. That seems like a distant memory for Kazmir, who is now 0-5 in his last seven starts and 1-9 in his last 12.
Some notes from Thursday's early baseball games:

Cardinals 11, Braves 4
• The St. Louis Cardinals win for just fourth time in their last 16 games. The Atlanta Braves have lost six of their last eight.

Adam Wainwright snapped his four-game losing streak and improved to 6-0 in his career vs the Braves (best W-L vs them of any active pitcher). He's the first pitcher to start his career 6-0 against the Braves since Ron Robinson (1984-89).

Albert Pujols, who entered with one HR in his last 11 games, hit his first HR vs the Braves since August 24, 2008. He now has 99 RBI, one shy of his 10th straight 30 HR/100 RBI season.

Colby Rasmus tied a career-high with four hits and had his second career multi-homer game. The last Cardinal with a four-hit, two-homer game against the Braves was George Hendrick in 1978.

Jair Jurrjens lost at home for the first time this season (now 6-1).

Rockies 6, Reds 5
• The Colorado Rockies win their 12th straight September game against the Cincinnati Reds, as they sweep their four-game series.

• The Reds have now been swept in a four-game series on the road by both the Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chris Nelson, in his seventh MLB game, won the game with his first career steal of home. It was a straight steal in bottom of the eighth inning. He's the third rookie to steal home this season.

• Nelson was inserted as a pinch runner after Jason Giambi drew a walk. Nelson was then replaced at 1B by Todd Helton to start the ninth. Thus Nelson's ONLY appearance in the boxscore is as a pinch runner who stole home.

• According to Elias, the last time this happened was June 11, 1985. Gary Pettis ran for Bob Boone in a California Angels loss to the Texas Rangers. He stole home and then was replaced by Jerry Narron in the field.

Aroldis Chapman got his first career hold, getting Carlos Gonzalez to ground into a double play with the bases loaded in the seventh-inning. His 12 fastballs averaged 100.3 MPH and maxed out at 103.0 MPH.

• The Rockies get their 19th last at-bat win, tying the Reds for 4th-most in MLB.

• The Reds blew a five-run lead. It's their 21st blown lead resulting in a loss this season, which is tied for second fewest in MLB.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau it was the fourth time this season that the Rockies won a game after trailing by at least five runs, tying the Tigers for the most such wins in the majors. It was the third time this season that the Reds lost a game after leading by at least five runs, tying the Red Sox, Rangers and Nationals for the most such losses in the majors.

Rangers 4, Blue Jays 2
• Texas Rangers' starter Colby Lewis snapped his seven-game losing streak and four-game road losing streak.

Mitch Moreland had a career-high 3 RBI.

Neftali Feliz became the fourth rookie in MLB history with a 35-save season and is two shy of the MLB rookie record set by Kaz Sasaki in 2000.

• Jose Bautista hit his 44th HR, which is tied for third most in a season in Blue Jays history. His 28 HR at home are the 2nd most in Blue Jays history.

Tigers 6, White Sox 3
• The Detroit Tigers win their third straight and have won six of their last eight games.

• The Tigers had 13 hits, all singles. That is the most hits in a game without an extra-base hit by the Tigers since May 11, 2004 when they 14 singles in a loss vs the Oakland Athletics - their last win in such a game was June 12, 1993 vs Toronto (15 singles).

Johnny Damon had a team-high four hits, his 36th career four-hit game and first as a Tiger.

• Rick Porcello improves to 4-0 in his last four starts (5-11 in first 20 starts). He now sports a 4.09 ERA since returning from his minor league demotion. He and teammate Max Scherzer have both been much improved since returning to the club after being sent down following early struggles.

• The Chicago White Sox have lost three straight after winning seven in a row.

Trevor's the Hoff-MAN

September, 8, 2010
LAST NAMETrevor Hoffman has played in 1,032 career games in his 18-year career. On Tuesday, he became the first pitcher in major-league history to reach 600 career saves. Here’s an inside look at how he closed out number 600 and some perspective on what the historic feat actually means.

From The Elias Sports Bureau: Hoffman’s 600th save was his 25th against the Cardinals. Excluding Hoffman’s longtime team, the Padres, it’s his fewest saves against any team that has been in the National League throughout his major-league career.

How Trevor Hoffman saved his 600th game against the Cardinals
1. Against Colby Rasmus, Hoffman threw an 85 MPH fastball that Rasmus swung and missed at. After a 78 MPH fastball on 0-1, Rasmus hit a 72 MPH change up to center field. The change up was right down the middle of the plate.

2. Randy Winn pinch hit and saw all fastballs ranging from 83 to 85 MPH. Hoffman was down 2-0 in the count, but went down and away on Winn to get two called strikes. On 2-2, Winn swung at a fastball middle/down and grounded into a six-four-three double play.

3. With two down, Aaron Miles worked a full count before grounding out to the shortstop on an 85 MPH fastball over the middle of the plate for the final out of the game.

Historical Perspective
Taking history one step deeper
On the day Trevor Hoffman earned his first career save (April 29, 1993), Lee Smith was the all-time saves leader. A lot has changed in those 17 years including the all-time saves list. Compare the list on the day Hoffman got his first save to the day he recorded 600 and you’ll see that Hoffman and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera have climbed to the top.

Taking history even further
Joining the 600-club in any category is not a common feat. This chart illustrates that throughout MLB history only 39 players have ever joined a 600 club (Hoffman is the only pitcher).

Rangers Lee In Need of Some Support

August, 11, 2010
Recapping Wednesday's early games:
Cardinals 6, Reds 1
The Cardinals get their first three-game sweep in Cincinnati since 2005. Colby Rasmus hit his first career grand slam (he had been 2-13 in his career with the bases loaded). St. Louis hit two slams in the series and has hit this season at Great American Ballpark. Adam Wainwright wins his 17th game, allowing only four base runners (two reached on errors) while improving to 9-0 in day games. Cincinnati has lost three straight for the first time since the All-Star Break and is swept at home for the first time this season.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Rasmus turned 24 on Wednesday, becoming the sixth player in the last five seasons to hit a grand slam on his birthday.

• The Reds were 0-9 against Wainwright's curveball with four strikeouts, and 0-5 against his slider. In Wainwright's 17 wins this season, opponents are hitting .133 (19-143) with 59 strikeouts (3.5/game) against his curve and .143 (10-70) with 16 K (0.94/game) against his slider.

• Wainwright retired all 13 hitters in at-bats ending when he was ahead in the count -- the fourth start this season he hasn't allowed a hit when ahead in the count.

Braves 8, Astros 2
Atlanta scored six runs in the top of the 10th inning, the most runs scored in an extra inning this season. In the 10th, Brian McCann hit the Braves major-league leading third pinch-hit grand slam this season (Brooks Conrad has the other two). The last team to hit three pinch-hit grand slams in a season was the 1982 Orioles (Benny Ayala, Dan Ford, Terry Crowley).

Looking ahead to tonight's games:
• Cliff Lee starts tonight for the Rangers against the Yankees. Lee -- who was 2-0 against the Yankees in last year's World Series -- has pitched at least 8 innings in all six of his starts with Texas, although he has not received much in the way of run support. The Rangers are just 3-3 in Lee's six starts and have scored three runs or fewer in five of his six outings.

• Brad Bergesen is on the mound tonight for the O's. Although he's winless in his last 12 starts (hasn't won since May 12), Bergesen has pitched well in his last two outings. The righty has thrown 14 innings (7 in each start), allowed 10 hits, 3 earned runs and walked just two batters.

• Clay Buchholz goes for a team-leading 13th win tonight in Toronto. After a rough outing in his first start off the DL on July 21, Buchholz is 2-0, 2.02 ERA in his last three starts. What's more, he's gone at least 7 innings in each of those starts. The Red Sox will face Shaun Marcum, who leads the team in wins (10) and ERA (3.44). He's fared well in his career against Boston (5-2, 2.91 ERA).

• The Dodgers Chad Billingsley has not allowed a home run in more than two months. Since allowing 3 HR to the Diamondbacks on May 31, Billingsley has gone 68.1 innings since allowing a HR -- the second longest active streak in MLB behind the Twins Francisco Liriano (89.2 IP since allowing a HR).

• Phillie fans will get their first look at Roy Oswalt. (Both of his starts in a Phillies uniform came on the road.) They can only hope he has as much success at Citizens Bank Park with the Phillies as he did with the Astros. In four career starts at Citizens Bank, Oswalt is 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA and has allowed just one home run in 27.2 innings.

• The Cubs Tom Gorzelanny is 3-0 in his career against the Giants, and 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA (14 IP, ER) in two starts at AT&T Park.

1st Pitch: Who are the real contenders?

August, 3, 2010
Today’s Trivia: After pitching 1,198 innings in the American League (all with the Indians and Yankees), Jake Westbrook made his National League debut on Monday for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Can you name the active AL pitcher who has thrown the most career innings but never pitched for the NL? What about the active NL pitcher who has thrown the most innings but never pitched for the AL? We’ll give you the top 3 in each league at the bottom of this document.

Quick Hits on non-contenders who have owned contenders this season, on the heels of the Houston Astros improving to 5-2 in St. Louis this season (they’re 15-28 on the road against all other teams).

• The jury is still out on whether the Detroit Tigers are a contender, but they’re 3-1 against the Yankees this season. All other AL Central teams are 6-15 against the New York Yankees.

• The Tampa Bay Rays only have a losing record against one AL team this season (the Texas Rangers), but they have losing records against four different NL teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks (1-2) and Florida Marlins (2-4).

• The Cleveland Indians can claim dominance over the Chicago White Sox this season, going 8-4 against Ozzie Guillen’s club. Cleveland is 12-14 against the rest of the division.

• The Rangers need to stay away from AL East bottom-feeders. Texas is 3-9 against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles this season.

• If the Philadelphia Phillies could beat the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, they’d be a lot closer to the Atlanta Braves in the standings. Philly is 4-8 against the Cubs and Pirates this season, but 6-0 against the other two NL Central non-contenders (Milwaukee Brewers and Astros).

Today’s Leaderboard: Today is Sid Bream’s 50th birthday, so let’s celebrate the player who memorably scored from 2nd base with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS to send the Braves to the World Series. Who, in Bream’s footsteps (pun not intended), has scored from 2nd base on a single most often this season?

It would be Martin Prado, who recently was placed on the disabled list.

And, since you’re wondering, which MLBers have a 100 percent success rate? It’s a tie among two guys who are 6-for-6: Asdrubal Cabrera and Kyle Blanks.

Key Matchups:
• Here’s the daily A-Rod vs Opposing Starter update: Rodriguez is 4-13 (.308 BA) in his career against Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero. But he has never homered off Romero and has only one extra-base hit (a double). And Romero really has Rodriguez’s number this season – A-Rod is 0-5 with 2 strikeouts and a double play in his last 5 AB’s against Romero.

Bud Norris has gained a reputation as a Cardinals-killer in his career (4-1 with a 1.60 ERA vs STL, 5-9 with a 6.35 ERA vs all other teams) despite getting knocked around by the Cardinals in his most recent start against them. But Norris still owns plenty of Cardinals individually. Felipe Lopez is 0-8, Matt Holliday is 4-16, Colby Rasmus is 2-13 and Skip Schumaker is 2-14. What about the Great Pujols? Not great either, just 3-14 and no home runs.

• In a battle of the newly-acquired players for NL West teams, give a strong edge to Ted Lilly when he pitches against Ryan Ludwick tonight. Ludwick is batting just .192 (5-28) with twice as many strikeouts (10) as hits (5) in his career against Lilly.

Pat Burrell hasn’t been an everyday player this season, but he should find himself starting tonight against the Rockies’ Aaron Cook. Pat the Bat is batting .591 (13-22) and slugging .773 against Cook. Of all the pitchers Burrell has faced at least 20 times, Cook is the pitcher Burrell has hit the best.

Trivia Answer: Your top AL guys who have never pitched for the NL: Mark Buehrle (2,193.1 IP), John Lackey (1,641.2) and Kelvim Escobar (1,507).

As for the other way around, it’s the recently-traded Roy Oswalt (1,938.1 IP), Randy Wolf (1,823.1) and Ryan Dempster (1,769.2).

BIS: Ranking the worst outfielders

June, 24, 2010
Rewind to the first week of the season, when the San Diego Padres visited their NL West rivals the Colorado Rockies. With nobody out and Padres shortstop David Eckstein on first in the top of the 14th inning, Adrian Gonzalez hit a fly ball to deep right field.

Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe, who is not known for his defense, couldn't get to the ball in time and failed to cut it off before it trickled to the wall. Knowing that Eckstein represented the potential winning run, Hawpe came up gunning for home but overthrew the first cutoff man (Melvin Mora). The ball bounced twice before reaching Todd Helton, but it was too late to nab Eckstein, whose run made the difference in the game.

Doug Glanville writes Thursday about outfield defensive fundamentals, drawing on his own experiences from high school through his nine-year big league career. The University of Pennsylvania alumnus emphasized hitting the cutoff man and getting the ball in quickly to prevent runners from advancing extra bases. These fundamental defensive plays go unnoticed by most fans but are often just as important as the offensive highlights, Glanville says.

Unnoticed no longer. Baseball Info Solutions tracks these sorts of unheralded defensive plays as part of our defensive misplays (DM) and good fielding plays (GFP) records. We track 54 types of defensive misplays, and 28 different good fielding plays. For example, BIS marks missing the cutoff man as “DM 47” or taking a bad route to a fly ball as “DM 26,” both examples that Glanville cites.

On the flip side, there are things a fielder does that we don’t always expect, and we record those, too. For example, when an outfielder cuts a ball off in the gap and thus prevents runners from advancing extra bases, he gets a “GFP 22.” Using this data, we can accurately determine the best fielders in baseball.

Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer is the 2010 leader in GFPs that prevent extra bases. He has cut the ball off or gotten it back in quickly to hold the runners at their bases seven times this season. Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu is the anti-Cuddyer, with a league-leading five defensive misplays on extra-base attempts.

As you might expect, youngsters are particularly prone to mental errors. Sophomore Colby Rasmus leads all outfielders with seven defensive misplays on throws. In fact, every outfielder with at least six throwing DMs is under age 30. We’ll expect each of these players to make fewer mistakes with more experience and coaching, as Glanville did as his career progressed.

We don’t have to rely solely on GFPs and DMs to tell us who’s doing all the little things right. Adam Jones, whom Glanville mentions as an example of a fielder who takes good angles to cut balls off in the gap, has thrown out three runners in extra-base situations already this season. Additionally, runners have taken the extra base just 41 percent of the time off Jones (21-for-51), tying him with B.J. Upton as the lowest rate among regular center fielders this season.

Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan has thrown out six extra-base seekers, tops in the league so far. BIS estimates that he’s saved five runs defensively with his throwing arm so far this season, also the best in baseball. Although he’s having a hard time reproducing his rookie of the year season offensively, Coghlan is finding a way, albeit with less fanfare, to help his team on the other side of the ball.

Ben Jedlovec is a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions.

FanGraphs: Why patience means power

June, 2, 2010
Perhaps the tortoise had something on the hare –- he knew how to walk. A select group of players this year are taking the tortoise’s path to success by increasing their walk rates significantly. In particular, improved plate selectivity is working well for Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Franklin Gutierrez, and is the reason why their fast starts should be believed.

Morneau’s big season is similar to another player who recently rode an increase in walks into a huge season. Between 2008 and 2009, Adrian Gonzalez saw his walk rate increase 6.9 percent, which compares favorably with Morneau’s 6.7 percent increase in the same category this year. Gonzalez's corresponding career-best OPS was not all driven by the walks alone -– Gonzalez also put up a career-best slugging percentage last year, just as Morneau is doing this season.

A quick glance at the table above shows that improving your walk alone is not the magic key to success. For every Morneau on this list, there is a struggling Jason Kubel to serve as anecdotal evidence in that regard, although even he has shown signs of coming around lately.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice the success stories. As measured by ISO (isolated power, or slugging percentage minus batting average), Colby Rasmus, Willingham, Morneau, Aaron Hill and Kevin Youkilis are all enjoying years more powerful than their career rates. In fact, the average 2010 ISOs of the 10 men on this list are 6.2 percent better than their career ISOs.

The theory is pretty simple: By being more patient, these guys are getting into good hitters' counts and getting better pitches to swing at. When they don't get the pitch they're looking for, they simply wander on down to first base, helping their team by avoiding outs. Increasing walk rate isn't the only way to improve, but as we're seeing from these notable spikes in patience, it is certainly one way to make yourself a better player.

Eno Sarris is a writer for FanGraphs.

FanGraphs: Three fast starts to be believed

May, 4, 2010
Not long ago, Denard Span looked like nothing more than a grade C prospect who failed to make good on his tremendous athletic ability. Then, something changed, and quickly. Span developed a more patient approach at the plate, which led to him drawing more walks and getting better pitches to hit. Fast-forwarding to today, Span is an extremely valuable regular on a winning team. Breakouts can seemingly come from out of nowhere, but there are statistical indicators that tell us which are more real than others.

Naturally, at this time of the year we view players with a certain air of suspicion, and rightly so; Small sample sizes make trusting early season statistics difficult. However, there is a point in time when certain stats can become more trustworthy than others. A study done by Russell Carlton showed that after 50 plate appearances, a player's swing habits can be a reliable guide to what's going on. In the case of Colby Rasmus, his swing habits give us a substantial reason to believe he's a changed man. According to O-Swing percentage (which is a stat we use at FanGraphs that measures the percentage of swings a batter takes at pitches outside of the strike zone), undisciplined batters greatly decrease their odds of reaching base by mercilessly hacking at everything thrown their direction. (This shouldn't surprise anyone.) Rasmus did not really show great plate discipline last season, evidenced by a paltry .307 on-base percentage. He swung at 25.9 percent of pitches thrown out of the zone last year, but this season, he's decreased that number to just 17.8 percent. As a result, Rasmus has drawn more walks (17) than teammate Albert Pujols (15) and he's taking more advantage of pitches he's finding to his liking. The result? A line of .316/.436/.658. People have projected stardom for Rasmus since he was a first-round pick in 2005, and it appears the 23-year-old is figuring things out.

Like Rasmus, Oakland's Daric Barton is also demonstrating a tremendous amount of selectivity at the plate, with an O-Swing percentage of just 13 percent. Barton's been known for this for a while, but he is also making a lot more contact when he does swing. He's getting the bat on the ball 89.7 percent of the time when he swings, a 4.8 percent increase over his career rates. When you're not swinging at a lot of bad pitches, and making that much contact with the pitches you do swing at, good things are bound to happen, and they are so far for Barton. He's never going to hit for a ton of power, but he has a .407 OBP and should be an on-base machine for years to come.

Chicago Cubs left-handed reliever Sean Marshall is another breakout to believe in. In the early goings of the season, we see that his curve has about 2 more inches of downward movement according to Pitch f/x data, and he's throwing his curve 41.5 percent of the time. Batters against Marshall have an O-Swing percentage of 33.0 this season, and his career rate is 23.0. Translation: He's getting a lot more guys to chase out of the zone, because he's throwing a curve with more movement. While he's not going to be confused with a flamethrower anytime soon, his average fastball velocity is up from 87 mph to 89.3 mph, a considerable increase. A better fastball helps set up the off-speed, and it helps when that off-speed pitch is a filthy, knee-buckling curveball like Marshall's. He's fanned 18 and walked just two batters in 14 innings, and his dominance could give the Cubs the flexibility to move Carlos Zambrano back into the rotation.

Erik Manning is a writer for FanGraphs.

TMI Power Poll: top 10 centerfielders

May, 3, 2010
This week on the TMI Power Poll we look at the top all-around centerfielders.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti publicly criticized Matt Kemp last week, suggesting that the centerfielder's new contract has him too comfortable and that his baserunning and defense were "below average." There might be something to that as Kemp was caught stealing Sunday for the sixth time this season, which leads the majors.

Those early season baserunning blunders weren't enough to sway our voters from ranking Kemp the game's best centerfielder as the Dodger picked up 7 of 9 first-place votes. Here's the rest of the top 10:

Others receiving votes: Vernon Wells, Michael Bourn, Marlon Byrd, Nyjer Morgan, Adam Jones, Mike Cameron, Chris Young, Carlos Beltran, Nate McLouth, Alex Rios

1st pitch: A no-hitter kind of day

April, 27, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Derek Lowe and Kevin Millwood are both scheduled to start on Tuesday, but that’s not the only thing they have in common. Both pitchers have thrown a no-hitter on April 27 before; Lowe in 2002 and Millwood the following year. In fact, there have been six no-hitters on April 27, tied with September 20 for the most on a particular date.

On the subject of no-hitters: Who are the three active pitchers with multiple one-hit shutouts to their credit, but no no-hitters?

Quick Hits: With some data to work with after three weeks of action, some interesting lefty-righty split trends have emerged:

* In 2008, Andruw Jones hit .178 against lefties. Last season, it trickled up to .218. So far in 2010, Jones is hitting .400 against southpaws and already has four home runs, most in the majors and equaling last season’s total.

* A career .308 hitter against lefties, Xavier Nady was brought in to provide some punch to a Cubs offense that hit only 25 home runs against lefties all last season, which was seven fewer than any other team. So far, Nady is 3-for-20 (.150) against lefties.

* Meanwhile, Marlon Byrd is 17-for-28 (.607) with a league-leading seven doubles against lefties.

* Matt LaPorta is 0-for-18 against southpaws, and hitting .294 against righties.

* In 2008, Garrett Atkins had a 1.014 OPS against lefties. This season, he’s 0-17 against lefties and hitting .310 against right-handed pitchers.

* After a 5-for-25 start, Ryan Howard is now hitting .206 against lefties since the start of 2009.

* Chone Figgins is a mere 3-for-39 against righties, a year after he hit .323 against them. Yet, only four players have more walks against righties.

* The Padres are hitting an MLB-worst .185 against lefties, and have only managed six extra-base hits.

* The Royals are hitting an MLB-best .333 against lefties, yet have done so with only seven extra-base hits.

* The Dodgers and Mariners have only managed one home run against a lefty. The Dodgers, who have 19 homers off of righties, have gone 87 at-bats without taking a southpaw deep.

* The Blue Jays’ 26 home runs against righties are the most in baseball, but they only have a pair against lefties.

Today’s Leaderboard: Colby Rasmus has the league’s highest OPS against righties (1.480), but is 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts against lefties.

Key Matchups: Jamie Moyer is just 1-3 all-time when pitching in San Francisco. That one win came on July 16, 1987 –- almost 23 years ago – in Moyer’s first full season in the big leagues. Pitching for the Cubs, Moyer had a pair of Hall of Famers behind him in Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg. Bruce Bochy, Moyer’s opposing manager tonight, was still an active player. But the most startling note comes from Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon: Pablo Sandoval was just 11 months old on that date. This will be the first time Sandoval and Moyer face one another.

If Derek Lowe wants to celebrate the eighth anniversary of his no-hitter in style, he’ll have to do something about Matt Holliday first. Holliday has a .563 career average against Lowe. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the highest average in any batter-pitcher matchup among active National League players (minimum 30 AB). However, that includes a .650 batting average when playing in Colorado. Away from Coors, Holliday is a mere .417 hitter against Lowe.

Trivia Answer: Tim Hudson, Kerry Wood and Chris Carpenter all have pitched two one-hit shutouts, but never a no-hitter. (Pedro Martinez and Jason Schmidt would also qualify if on a roster). Interestingly, Carpenter gets the start tonight against Derek Lowe.

Rasmus showing better discipline

April, 14, 2010
Colby Rasmus got off to a flying start this season – literally – with a home run-saving catch on Opening Day that invoked memories of a similar over-the-wall grab by Jim Edmonds in July 2004 vs the Cincinnati Reds.

It is one of many highlights that Cardinal Nation is hoping for from Rasmus in his sophomore season. While he had a productive rookie year in 2009, leading all first-year players in games played and tied for second in home runs with 16, there were definitely some holes in his game.

Rasmus finished 2009 with a woeful .307 on-base percentage, which ranked 89th out of 103 NL players with at least 400 PA. While his batting average of .251 was not stellar, his lack of walks really hurt him.

Rasmus took a walk in only 6.9% of his plate appearances last year, which ranked 80th out of 103 NL players with at least 400 PA. Amazingly, he went 116 PA without a walk from May 25 to July 5, and didn't walk the entire month of June!

He struggled to lay off pitches outside of the zone, with an overall chase percentage of 25.7% that was ranked 200th out of 288 qualified hitters, according to Inside Edge. Looking deeper into the numbers, we can see where Rasmus was doing most of his fishing.
In a nutshell, Ramsus was trying to be Tiger Woods at the plate. He couldn’t resist the low pitches out of the zone. He chased 53% of those pitches below his knees and over the plate, compared to the league average of 33.1% there.

Here’s a look at Rasmus’ chase percentages, from the perspective of the pitcher vs the left-handed Rasmus:

>>league average: 33.1%

Has Rasmus learned his lesson this season? It’s early, and obviously a small sample size, but Cardinals fans should be encouraged by the fact that he already has 9 walks in 27 PA – that’s 33% of his plate appearances – and his overall chase percentage is a miniscule 7.7%!

You can watch Rasmus and the Cardinals at 8 ET against the Houston Astros on ESPN2.