Stats & Info: Daric Barton

Today’s Trivia: On Monday, the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver looks to become the first American League pitcher since Zack Greinke in 2009 to win each of his first six starts. Who was the last American League pitcher to lose each of his first six starts in a season?

Jered Weaver
Weaver is off to one of the hottest starts in the American League, but there are several others who are not:

• The New York Yankees' Brett Gardner is hitting .140, which ranks last among 187 qualifying hitters. He’s 0-for-21 with 10 strikeouts on at-bats ending in an off-speed pitch.

• Gardner’s teammate Nick Swisher is 4-for-43 (.093) against right-handed pitches, a year after hitting a career-best .285 with 25 home runs against them.

• As a member of the Washington Nationals last season, Adam Dunn hit .314 with 24 home runs on at-bats ending in a fastball. In his first season in the American League, Dunn’s hitting .067 with two hits in 30 at-bats.

• The Chicago White Sox's Alex Rios is hitless in his last 20 at-bats, and has seen his batting average drop to .160. Last season, on pitches down the middle, Rios hit .392. This season? 1-for-12 (.083).

• The Angels Vernon Wells is 1-for-29 (.034) with two strikes in the count.

• Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury already has struck out looking 11 times this season, tied for the most in the majors.

• The Oakland Athletics' Daric Barton is 0-for-19 this season on pitches located up in the strike zone or above the strike zone. Last season, he hit .315 (34-108) on those pitches.

• With a 29.4 swing percent, Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana has been swinging at fewer pitches than anyone else in the league. (He was at 38.7 last season.) But the bigger discrepancy is his swing percent at pitches in the strike zone. Last season it was 61.9. In 2011, it’s just 47.2, fifth lowest in the majors.

Sunday was Derek Jeter’s first four-hit game before the month of May since April 9, 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jeter now has 36 four-hit games in his career, tied for third among Yankees in the Live Ball era (since 1920). Lou Gehrig has the most with 53 followed by Earle Combs’ 37.

Staying with the Yankees, A.J. Burnett is 8-0 in the month of April as a member of the Yankees, and 18-24 after April. The Yankees will be facing Phil Humber tonight at Yankee Stadium. Opponents are hitting just .061 (2-33) against Humber’s off-speed pitches this season.

Trivia Answer: In 2007, Jered’s brother Jeff Weaver was 0-6 after six starts for the Seattle Mariners.

Chasing history in the AL West

September, 15, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Paul Maholm takes the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday holding the team-lead in strikeouts with 90 (Side note: 34 pitchers had more than that before the All-Star break). Not having a 100-K pitcher is a bit more common than you might think. In fact, it happened five times last decade, including last season to the Washington Nationals. Which brings us today’s trivia question: Which pitcher led the Nationals in strikeouts last season?

The standings might say otherwise, but there’s always something to play for – in this case, history. In the first of a series of divisional breakdowns, here’s some statistical minutiae to keep an eye on in the closing weeks. First the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels
    Bobby Abreu
  • Bobby Abreu needs one stolen base for 20 on the season. That would give him 12 straight seasons of 15 HR and 20 SB, extending his own record streak. Barry Bonds (10 straight) has the next longest such stretch.
  • Brandon Wood’s .397 OPS would be the lowest for a player with 200 plate appearances since Frank O’Rourke posted a .325 OPS for the 1912 Boston Braves. Wood is just below Tony Pena Jr.’s .398 for the Kansas City Royals in 2008. Wood’s .185 on-base percentage would be the seventh lowest since 1900 for players with 200 PA.
  • With 56 strikeouts and only four walks, Wood would have the most strikeouts for a player with fewer than five walks since Rob Picciolo (63 K, 2 BB) of the 1980 Oakland A’s.
Oakland A’s
  • Both the Seattle Mariners and A’s do not have a player with 15 home runs. The difference is that the A’s leader Kevin Kouzmanoff (14 HR) has been missing time with a back injury. The last AL team without a 15-HR player was the 1992 Angels, who were led by Gary Gaetti’s 12.
  • If Daric Barton (100 BB, 88 K) stays below 100 strikeouts, he’d be the first American League player since Rafael Palmeiro to do that in a season with over 100 walks. Since Palmeiro’s 2002 campaign, 16 players have done this, but all were in the National League. With only eight HR, Barton would be the first to do this with fewer than 10 HR since Rickey Henderson in 1996.
  • How does a pitcher with only 98 strikeouts have the lowest opponent OPS in the AL since Tim Hudson in 2003? There just might be some luck involved for Trevor Cahill. The .224 BABIP against Cahill is the lowest against a qualifying AL pitcher since opponents had a .212 BABIP against the Detroit Tigers Jeff Robinson in 1988. Not only was that Robinson’s only season with a sub-3.00 ERA, but his next best was 4.73.
Seattle Mariners
    Franklin Gutierrez
  • With Franklin Gutierrez currently leading the team with 56 RBI, the Mariners could become the first team since the 1983 Cincinnati Reds without a 60 RBI player in a non-strike shortened season. That Reds squad was led by Ron Oester’s 58 RBI.
  • Russell Branyan only has 56 RBI to go with the 24 home runs he’s hit between the Cleveland Indians and Mariners. He’s safe though. The fewest RBI for a player with 25+ HR is 54 by Ron Gant when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels in 2000. The AL “record” is shared by Fred Lynn (1988 Orioles/Tigers) and Marcus Thames (2008 Tigers) with 56.
  • Mariners designated hitters are batting just .190 at the plate this season. Over the last 35 years, the only AL team to hit below the Mendoza Line at DH was the Texas Rangers (.197) in 1988. Larry Parrish was the most frequent DH on that squad.
Texas Rangers
  • Left-handed hitters are batting just .136 against C.J. Wilson. That’s the second lowest for a qualifying AL starter over the last 35 years. In 1995, lefties hit just .129 against Randy Johnson. The difference is that Johnson only faced 92 lefties that season, while Wilson has done battle with 156.
  • If he doesn’t suit up again in the regular season, Josh Hamilton will finish with 21 home runs and .395 batting average at home. Over the last 50 years, the only other AL player to hit .390 with 20 HR at home was Albert Belle for the 1994 Indians.
  • Elvis Andrus has 145 hits, but only 17 have gone for extra bases. The last player with over 150 hits in a season with 17 of fewer extra base hits was Kirby Puckett in 1984. Only 17 of his 165 hits were no singles.
James Shields
Key Matchups: Alex Rodriguez (.208) and Mark Teixeira (.143) have been baffled by James Shields in the past. However, no one compares to Curtis Granderson. His .077 average is lowest for anyone that Shields has faced at least 20 times. Granderson’s struggles are notable for the fact that he usually struggles against right-handed pitchers. In fact, against righties not named James Shields, he has a .289 career average compared to .216 against southpaws.

Chad Billingsley has an 0.61 in 29 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, good enough for a 2-0 record in four starts. In fact, Billingsley has tossed 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against San Francisco. Both Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval are 0-for-10 against him in 2010. Uribe was 5-for-10 entering the season.

Trivia Answer: With 92 strikeouts, Jordan Zimmermann led the 2009 Nationals, despite making only one appearance after the break. Washington’s Tyler Clippard (97) had already eclipsed that total while pitching solely in relief.
Today’s Trivia: With all the talk of Triple Crown races, Rodrigo Lopez’s chase is flying under the radar. He’s allowed the most home runs (32) and runs (111) of any pitcher in the majors, while opponents are hitting .287 against him (ninth worst). Who was the last pitcher to achieve the MLB Triple Frown - being worst in the majors all three categories?

GONZALEZQuick Hits: Over his last nine games, Carlos Gonzalez is hitting .515 with five home runs, 13 runs batted in and 12 extra-base hits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that nine-game stretch has only been equaled by three players over the last 40 years. Gonzalez is so hot he can just step up to the plate and get a hit. Consider this great note from Kenny Kendrena of Inside Edge: Gonzalez went 3-for-4 Wednesday night while seeing only five pitches. Elvis Andrus is the only other player in 2010 to pick up three hits on a night where he saw only five pitches. Here are some other fun notes on pitches seen via STATS LLC and Inside Edge:
• If Gonzalez and Andrus represent the successful end of the one-pitch spectrum, Alex Avila stands on the opposite side. On August 4, he went 0-for-3 on three pitches including a GIDP.

Vernon Wells leads the majors with 111 at-bats lasting only one pitch. He won’t reach Lance Johnson status though. In 1995 and 1996, Johnson had 168 AB ending on the first pitch, most of any player over the last 20 years.

• On the flip side is Daric Barton, who has seen 125 full counts this season. He has 50 walks compared to 20 strikeouts.

Rickie Weeks has been hit by the first pitch six times. That’s the most in the majors, but still just half of Craig Biggio’s total of 12.

Austin Jackson has seen 10 of his plate appearances last 10 pitches or more. That’s one more than Ichiro Suzuki for most in the majors. Amazingly for a player with 139 K, only one of those plate appearances ended in a strikeout.

• The league batting average is .259. But on a 0-0 count it jumps to .334 thanks in part to the impossibility of striking out. Just don’t tell that to Tigers rookies Scott Sizemore and Will Rhymes. They are a combined 0-for-31 in one-pitch at-bats.

• How about Chris Snyder? He’s hitting .722 (13-for-18) on the first pitch, and just .181 on at-bats that go beyond a 0-0 count.

Mike Pelfrey has suffered through the most 10-pitch plate appearances with 10.

Jose Mijares has held opponents hitless in 17 full-count at-bats, issuing only two walks. Contrast that with Dustin Nippert, against whom hitters are 14-for-23 (.609) in full counts. They are hitting just .267 in all other counts.

Today’s Leaderboard: Skip Schumaker has 19 home runs, but enters September having never homered in that month. His 297 plate appearances without a homer in September are the most of any active player. Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa can probably sympathize. He never hit a home run in 1,566 September plate appearances.

Key Matchups: There are 102 players who have faced Johan Santana at least 20 times. With a .533 batting average against the Mets ace, no one can top Matt Diaz’s success. He has a hit in all 10 games in which he’s faced Santana, and is 16-for-30 overall. But is it possible Johan finally figured him out? He fanned Diaz in each of their last two meetings, after having done so just once in the first 29.

On the other side of that Braves-Mets matchup, we have David Wright and Tim Hudson. Wright has struck out about once every five at-bats over the course of his career. This season, it’s a career-worst one per 3.5 AB. The strikeouts haven’t been a problem against Hudson though. In 49 at-bats, he has just three strikeouts – or one per 16.3 AB. Hudson last struck him out in 2007. That’s not to say Wright’s had success against Hudson. He’s just a .204 hitter with only one extra-base hit against Hudson.

Trivia Answer: In 2000, Jose Lima allowed 48 home runs and 152 runs, while opponents hit .313. All three were worst in the majors, giving him the most recent Triple Frown.

The Closer: Inside (the park) edition

May, 20, 2010
Hit Tracker
- Mets outfielder Angel Pagan's 4th-inning inside-the-park home run against the Washington Nationals traveled 396 feet and hit the center-field wall. Despite being a solid shot, only Coors Field's friendly confines (and atmosphere) would have yielded an out-of-the-park home run.

- The longest home run of the night came off the bat of Arizona's Adam LaRoche, whose second shot of the game traveled 435 feet to center field. Surprisingly, the blast wouldn't have been a home run in every MLB park. The cavernous center field of Minute Maid Park in Houston would have gobbled it up.

Why Tigers Starter Justin Verlander Won:
- Controlled the count. Verlander only went to a 2-0 count once in Wednesday's game against Oakland. It was to Daric Barton in the bottom of the seventh inning who then flied out to center on a 2-2 pitch.
- Finished off Athletics hitters efficiently. Verlander retired 15 of 19 A's hitters with two strikes (78.9%), including five strikeouts.
- Used his fastball early and often. Verlander threw 25 first pitch fastballs to the 30 batters he faced, and 21 of them were strikes. Oakland hitters only swung at one first pitch fastball all night, a third-inning pitch Adam Rosales flied out on.

Why Red Sox Starter Clay Buchholz Won:
- Deadly with two strikes. Buchholz held the Twins to 1-13 (.077) in two-strike counts, and seven of the Twins 14 plate appearances that reached two strikes ended in a strikeout (50.0 K pct). Buchholz especially controlled Minnesota hitters with the slider in two-strike counts, holding Twins hitters to 0-5 and four strikeouts on the pitch.
- Started innings strong and maintained efficiency. Buchholz retired seven of the nine leadoff men he faced, and ended 15 of 28 (53.6%) plate appearances against him in three pitches or less (MLB avg - 47%). Buchholz also went to a three-ball count only four times all game, holding the Twins to 0-3 and one walk.
- Grounded the Twins. Buchholz recorded 11 of his outs on groundouts, tied for his second-highest total this season. Buchholz also recorded seven outs on groundballs from the fifth to the seventh inning, with only a Justin Morneau single preventing them from being consecutive. The batter after Morneau (Michael Cuddyer) grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

Why Marlins Starter Anibal Sanchez Won:
- Retired the first batter of the inning in all seven innings pitched.
- Hitters were 1-10 against the slider (opp BA against slider is now .098).
- 76 percent of sliders went for strikes (MLB average: 63 percent).

Looking Ahead
- Clayton Kershaw has held the Padres to a .186 batting average since the start of the 2009 season, but has been especially good against San Diego lefties, who are just 1-17 against him. Lefties do not have a single well-hit ball against Kershaw (0-for-17). Also, he's allowed just six hits in 39 at-bats when he is ahead in the count.

- Alfonso Soriano is scheduled to face Joe Blanton on Thursday, a pitcher he’s had success against in his career (5-14, 2 extra-base hits). Soriano has been hot in May, batting .357 with four home runs while Blanton has struggled in three starts since coming off the DL (1-2, 5.49 ERA). Opponents have jumped on Blanton’s first pitch (6-14, 2 HRs), a count Soriano has feasted on this season (6-11, HR, 2 doubles).

1st Pitch: Red Sox, Mariners struggle on D

May, 13, 2010
Quick Hits: Many teams have placed an increased emphasis on defense in recent years. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still plenty of bad defense out there. Here’s a look at a few teams and player who are struggling defensively:

* The Red Sox have allowed 44 stolen bases this season, more than anyone in baseball, and have thrown out just five would-be base stealers.

* The Mariners have allowed eight passed balls this year, double the amount of the next worst teams (D’Backs and Rockies).

* Daric Barton leads all first basemen with seven errors. He made just one error in 51 games last season.

* Adrian Beltre, who was supposed to be an upgrade over Mike Lowell, is tied for the major league lead with seven errors at third base. Lowell made just nine in 107 games at third last season.

* The Rockies lead the majors with seven errors at second base. Clint Barmes had three, Melvin Mora has two and Eric Young has two.

* Mariners shortstops lead the majors with 11 errors. Jack Wilson has six, Josh Wilson has three and Matt Tuiasosopo chipped in with two.

Today’s Trivia: In honor of his 60th birthday here’s today’s Bobby Valentine-themed trivia question... Who hit the most home runs under Valentine during his time with the Mets and during his time with the Rangers?
Today’s Leaderboard: Miguel Olivo had an impressive day at the plate on Wednesday, but the real highlight of his season has been his defense. Olivo has gunned down 10 of 19 would-be base stealers this year.

Key Matchups: Carlos Lee’s struggles will likely continue tonight against the Cardinals. In his career against Chris Carpenter, Lee is batting just .206 and has struck out 11 times in 36 plate appearances.

Shin-Soo Choo is a career .318 hitter against Zack Greinke, but lately Greinke has stymied Choo. In his last three games against Greinke, Choo is just one for nine, including a stretch in which he struck out in six consecutive plate appearances.

Trivia Answer:
Mike Piazza hit 170 home runs with Valentine as his manager in New York. Ruben Sierra his 149 under Valentine in Texas.

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.