Stats & Info: Don Kelly

Don Kelly's RBI a long time coming

October, 7, 2012

Getty Images/Leon HalipDon Kelly's game-winning RBI warranted a celebratory hug from Prince Fielder.
Don Kelly isn’t the person you’d expect to come through in a big spot in the Detroit Tigers biggest game of the season. That’s not his usual role.

Kelly’s primary function in 2012 was to serve as what amounted to a defensive closer or mop-up man. The Tigers were 53-22 in the regular season when he played, 38-8 when he came in as a substitute (he was often called upon with the Tigers ahead).

Kelly scored the tying run on Ryan Cook’s wild pitch, then drove in the winning run with a game-ending sacrifice fly. That capped an unlikely statistical success story, one that might not have happened had another team claimed him when he was designated for assignment in August.

The sacrifice fly was Kelly’s first go-ahead RBI all season, his first since a go-ahead home run in Game 5 of the 2011 ALDS against the New York Yankees.

It’s the first time he’s EVER had a go-ahead RBI in the seventh inning or later.

How unlikely an RBI was this? Kelly had been unsuccessful in his previous eight tries at getting a runner in from third base with less than two outs. That included a turn against the same pitcher he faced Sunday-- Grant Balfour-- on May 10.

But on this occasion, he was able to get enough of a 93-mile-per-hour fastball to muscle it deep enough to plate the winning run.

That too was unusual. Kelly had taken 55 swings against pitches of that speed or faster, but had only put 13 into play. His 24 percent “in-play rate” was 14 percentage points below the major-league average against those pitches.

Stat of the Day: An odd way to score runs
The Tigers scored five runs on Sunday with only two RBI. That's tied for the most runs scored in a postseason game with two or fewer RBI.

The Cardinals scored five runs with two RBI in Game 3 of the 2006 World Series against none other than the Tigers.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes it's the most runs scored by one team in a postseason game without an RBI hit.
The Detroit Tigers were outscored 28-17 in five games, but won the series with two one-run wins and one two-run win. Eleven runs is the biggest run differential for a team that won a League Division Series.

The New York Yankees struggled with runners in scoring position throughout the series. In Game 5, the Yankees were 2-for-9 but did not score on either hit. In the three losses, the Yankees were 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position and left 26 runners on base.

Before leaving the game in the seventh game with a mild oblique strain, Delmon Young became the first Tigers player to hit three home runs in a postseason series. When Don Kelly and Young hit consecutive first-inning pitches out of the park, they became the first Tigers to hit back-to-back postseason home runs.

A tight forearm forced Ivan Nova from the game after two innings. In those two innings, he had recorded six swings-and-misses, a personal record for the first two innings. The Yankees ended up using seven pitchers, tied for the most ever in a winner-take-all postseason game. All four teams to use seven pitchers have lost the game.

Robinson Cano hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to get the Yankees on the board. It was Cano’s eighth career postseason home run. Both of Cano’s home runs in the ALDS came off sliders. Including the postseason, 10 of his 30 home runs came against the slider, the most of any pitch type.

Max Scherzer recorded four outs while serving as the bridge from starter Doug Fister to the Tigers bullpen. Scherzer was able to keep the Yankee hitters off-balance with his changeup. Including the regular season, New York hitters missed on 16 of 36 swings (44 percent) against Scherzer’s changeup. In the ALDS, the Yankees were 0-for-8 with four strikeouts.

Mariano Rivera barely had the opportunity to pitch in the series. He threw five pitches in the ninth inning of Game 5 and just eight for the entire series. That’s the fewest pitches that Rivera has thrown in 32 career postseason series. The Yankees have lost all four series where Rivera threw 28 pitches or less.

Jose Valverde, meet Grover Cleveland Alexander. They are the only two pitchers to finish a road win in a winner-take-all one-run game at Yankee Stadium. Pitching for the Cardinals, Alexander was on the mound when Babe Ruth was caught stealing to end the 1926 World Series.

Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the game and finished the ALDS going 2-for-18 with six strikeouts. It was the second straight year that Rodriguez struck out for the final out of the Yankees season. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that he is the first player to strike out for his team’s final out in consecutive postseasons and the sixth player to make the final out (regardless of type) in two straight postseasons.

May's top plus/minus plays

June, 1, 2010
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.