Stats & Info: Corky Miller

The Closer: Baserunning fundamentals

June, 27, 2010
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.

The Closer: Utley caught stealing

May, 7, 2010
In the Phillies' 7-2 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday, Chase Utley was caught stealing for the first time since September 2, 2008. Utley had put together a streak of 26 consecutive successful stolen base attempts, which was the longest active streak in the majors.

Utley’s “run” was put to an end when he broke a little too early from first, just as left-handed reliever Trever Miller started his delivery. Miller was able to throw over to first and a quick throw to second by Albert Pujols put Utley’s streak to bed. Here are a few other quick notes on Utley’s streak.

- When Utley was caught Thursday, he was running on the first pitch of the at-bat. During his streak, Utley didn’t record one steal on the first pitch. As covered in an earlier TMI post, Utley generally is a big proponent of running later in at-bats.

- The last time Utley was caught stealing it was actually while trying to steal home and it was with left-hander John Lannan on the mound. You have to go back to July 27, 2008 to find Utley’s last caught stealing of second base. The battery in that game was lefty Will Ohman and catcher Corky Miller. Utley would not record an attempt against either player during his streak.

- Even though Utley’s last three caught stealing were against left-handed pitchers, he did have success against them during his streak. 12 of his 26 steals were against southpaws, including two “revenge” steals against John Lannan.

Mr. Walk-off

Few hitters have been better in the clutch in recent years than Andre Ethier. The Dodger outfielder hit a walk-off grand slam Thursday to beat the Brewers. It was the 11th walk-off hit of Ethier's career, 6 of which have been home runs. Ethier is now hitting .371 with 30 RBI - both lead the NL. His 10 home runs are tied with Kelly Johnson for the NL lead. Since last season, Ethier has hit 5 walk-off home runs. That is the most in baseball.

Why Dan Haren won:
- Fastballs galore as 99 of 111 total pitches were the heater. 74.7 percent of those fastballs were strikes
(averaged 58.8 percent in his previous 6 starts)
- Some fastballs became strikes because Astros hitters chased 51 percent and missed 28 percent, which are
well above the MLB average of 20 and 14 percent
- Struck out 7 of 9 hitters with the fastball, which is Haren's most on that pitch since April 7, 2009
- 2 of 34 at-bats went to a 3-ball count. On the season, Haren has only thrown 35 pitches with a 3-ball count
- 15 ground ball outs is the second highest in his last 3 seasons (16 on Sep 15, 2009)
- Haren was efficient, averaging 3.3 pitches per plate appearance. 28 of 34 plate appearances ended in 4 pitches or less

Why Matt Cain won:
- Threw his fastball for a strike 70.8 percent of the time. In his last two starts, Cain's strike percentage on fastballs is 72.8 compared with 63.6 percent strikes in first 4 starts
- Complemented fastball with a good slider, throwing 13 of 23 pitches for strikes. Marlins hitters were 1-7 against the slider
- Targeted the inside of the plate on 34 pitches, getting 7 Marlins out. First start this season where no hits came on the inner part of the plate
- Threw a first pitch ball to 11 Florida hitters, but came back with a strike to 8 of them

Why Roy Halladay won:
- Made hitters chase his pitches. 48 percent of his pitches that were thrown outside of the strike zone were swung at compared to the MLB average of 31 percent
- He made people miss. 22 percent of his strikes were from swings and misses compared to the MLB average of 14 percent
- Threw strikes. 74 percent of his first pitches were strikes and 97 percent of one of his first two pitches were strikes compared to MLB averages of 58 and 85 percent respectively