Stats & Info: Edinson Volquez

Tuesday saw several notable historic achievements around Major League Baseball. Below is a series of notes and tidbits from Tuesday's slate of action.

1. Throwback night for the New York Yankees

In the Yankees' 9-2 win over the Cleveland Indians, both Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia joined the ranks of history. Granderson hit two home runs, giving him 25 on the season. Not only does that already exceed his total from all of 2010, but it gives both he and Mark Teixeira 25 HR on the season.

The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that the only other time in which the Yankees had two players with at least 25 HR before the All-Star break came in 1961. That season, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle did so en route to Maris' then-record-setting 61 home run season.

On the pitching side of the ledger, Sabathia became the fifth pitcher in the last 20 seasons to win at least 12 games before the All-Star break in consecutive seasons. Sabathia also firmly established himself in Yankees history, as he and Ron Guidry in 1978 are now the only Yankees pitchers with 2 straight starts of 10 or more strikeouts and zero runs allowed. Some additional details on how Sabathia won on Tuesday:

• Once again, Sabathia had his slider working. He had nine strikeouts with the pitch, his most since July 13, 2008. The Indians swung at 16 Sabathia sliders, missing on 13, the most misses by a team against Sabathia's starter since that start in 2008. The Indians missed on 81.5 percent of their swings against Sabathia's slider, highest by a team against Sabathia since 2006 in a start in which he threw at least 12 sliders.

• Sabathia went to his slider with two strikes more than in any of his starts in the last three seasons. Sixteen of his 27 two-strike pitches were sliders (59.3 percent), his highest percentage of two-strike sliders in the last three seasons. Indians hitters were 0 for 12 in at-bats ending with a slider; all of those at-bats ended in two-strike counts. The 12 outs with his slider are the most in a start by Sabathia since July 13, 2008.

• He had even more success with his slider when he kept it down. Twenty of Sabathia's 28 sliders were down in the zone or below it, and Sabathia got eight of his nine slider strikeouts on those low pitches. Indians hitters missed on 11 of 12 swings against Sabathia's slider when it was low.

• Sabathia had more velocity on his fastball than in any start this season. His fastball Tuesday averaged 95.6 MPH, almost a full mile per hour more than in any previous start this season. Sabathia's fastball has averaged more than 94.1 MPH three times this season, all in the last three starts.

2. The Good and the Bad in Reds-Cardinals

With his 23rd home run of the season, Lance Berkman now has 350 career home runs. That ties him with Chili Davis for fourth all-time among switch hitters. On the flip side, the starter for the Cincinnati Reds -- Edinson Volquez -- once again struggled in the first inning.

He entered Tuesday with a 12.00 first-inning ERA and six first-inning home runs allowed. On Tuesday, Volquez yielded two more first-inning home runs. His road ERA now stands at 6.35 for the season.

3. Pirates Up, Brewers Down in NL Central

The Pittsburgh Pirates won their 45th game this season and, consequently, moved four games above .500. Last season, Pittsburgh did not get win No. 45 until September 3. It's the first time since April 26, 2009 that the Pirates are four games above .500.

The Milwaukee Brewers' loss Tuesday was their second straight home loss. They hadn't lost two straight home games all season. They had been the only team this season not to lose consecutive home games.

4. Another night, more struggles for Adam Dunn

In a season that has seen his OPS drop 282 points from 2010, Adam Dunn once again struggled on Tuesday. Dunn went 0-5 with three strikeouts in the Chicago White Sox loss to the Kansas City Royals. That marks Dunn's 75th game over the last 10 seasons where he went hitless with three or more strikeouts. That is easily the most such games during that span, a full 25 games ahead of second-place Jack Cust. It was Dunn's 12th such game this season.
The NL Central race couldn't be much tighter with four teams separated by only three games heading into Tuesday, when the Cincinnati Reds visit the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.

Jaime Garcia is on the hill for the Cardinals, which could not be much worse news for the Reds. Garcia has been lights out at home this season, going 4-1 with an 0.88 ERA in seven starts.

We're just halfway through the season, but it's worth noting that no pitcher has finished with a sub-1.00 ERA at home for an entire season since Sandy Koufax (0.85) in the 1964 campaign.

Opponents are batting only .173 against Garcia at Busch Stadium while compiling a paltry .218 slugging percentage. On the road those numbers balloon up to a .326 batting average and a .470 slugging percentage.

Garcia's key to success at home has been his fastball. Opponents are batting .225 in at-bats ending in a fastball when Garcia pitches in St. Louis and hitting .419 elsewhere. At home he has not allowed a single home run in 71 at-bats ending in fastballs, but has given up four long balls in 86 such at-bats on the road.

The lefty faces one of his toughest tests this season in a Reds lineup that has killed left-handed pitching.

Cincinnati ranks first in the National League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging against southpaws.

Last year's NL MVP, Joey Votto is among the Reds players to tear apart lefties this season, compiling a .372 batting average and .616 slugging percentage, second on the team in both categories behind Jonny Gomes.

It will be interesting to see how Garcia attacks Votto, who has been devastating against fastballs versus left-handed pitchers. He's hitting .512 in at-bats ending with that pitch, second highest in the majors among players with a minimum of 50 such plate appearances.

Reds slugger Jay Bruce was 12-for-24, with four home runs against lefties in May, but faltered in June. He was just 5-for-34 (.147) and did not homer.

Bruce is just one home run shy of matching Johnny Bench (87) for the fourth most all-time by a Reds player in his first four MLB seasons. With 14 more home runs he would join Frank Robinson (134) and Adam Dunn (118) as the only Reds players with 100 home runs in their first four MLB seasons.

News came out on Monday that the Cardinals may enjoy the return of their MVP Albert Pujols ahead of schedule. Along with Lance Berkman that would give the Cardinals a duo that has tormented the Reds. Pujols has more hits (219) and runs scored (142) against the Reds than any active player.

Berkman has more hits (175), home runs (50), RBIs (139) and runs scored (127) against Cincinnati than any other team he has faced. Berkman ranks in the top three among all active players versus the Reds in each of those categories.

He has also fared well against Reds starter Edinson Volquez, reaching base eight times in 13 plate appearances, reaching on a walk five times.

Edinson Volquez is at his worst in the first

June, 12, 2011
The 10-2 win by the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday was the second-biggest win that a Dusty Baker managed team has had against the San Francisco Giants since he left the franchise following the 2002 season.
Edison Volquez

His biggest win against them was a 10-1 win in April of 2008. The winning pitcher that day was Edinson Volquez, Sunday night’s starter.

Volquez did not have as much luck in his last start against the Giants. Last August, he went just ⅔ of an inning allowing five earned runs, the most he's allowed in the first inning in any start of his career. That also was the shortest start of Volquez’s career.

This will be particularly interesting to watch on Sunday night as Volquez’s biggest struggles this season have been early in games.

He has a 16.36 ERA in the first inning. Once he gets though the first, his ERA drops to 3.26. He’s allowed six home runs in the first inning (tied for most in MLB), and just three the rest of the game.

Twice this season, Volquez has allowed back-to-back homers to a team’s first two batters of a game. Only two other active pitchers have had two such games in their careers: Chad Durbin (both in 2000) and Ted Lilly (2001 and 2005).

The struggles led to a demotion on May 23 for Volquez, who was the Reds' opening day starter. In his first start following the demotion, he improved upon his early struggles, striking out two in a scoreless first inning.

Volquez will be happy to see one familiar face on the Giants. That’s Cody Ross, who is 0-for-8 in his career against Volquez with two strikeouts.

The only hitters with more at-bats without a hit against Volquez are Geoff Blum and Carlos Lee (0-for-12). Ross only has one pitcher against whom he has more at-bats without a single hit. He’s 0-for-10 against Tommy Hanson.

Opposing Volquez will be Jonathan Sanchez, who has posted the lowest opponent batting average by any pitcher since 2010. So why isn’t he among the elite pitchers in the game? He has also walked 141 batters during that span, by far the most in the majors.

More bad news for Sanchez, no National League team has handled lefties better this season than the Reds. In fact Cincinnati’s batting average against left-handed pitchers is best in all of the majors.

This hasn’t translated to victories though as even with this hot hitting, the Reds are just 7-6 against lefty starters.
Tuesday was a day and night full of statistical oddities across the major leagues, especially in the National League Central.

• The Cincinnati Reds beat the Chicago Cubs 7-5, but did it in unusual fashion. The Reds scored their first five runs without recording an RBI, the result of three Cubs errors. The Reds ended the game with just two RBI, the first time a team has scored seven or more runs with two or fewer RBI in the past 25 seasons, and just the third time in the past 50 years.

• In defeat, the Cubs allowed seven runs, all of which were unearned runs.

They're just the fifth team since 2000 to allow seven runs or more, with none of them earned. Oddly enough, the Reds have been involved in the past three such instances -- winning two of those games.

• Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena hit another home run, his fifth of the season, and all five have come in the last 12 games.

During his rough 2010 season, Pena hit just .120 in the month of May, more than 100 points lower than he hit in April. This season, Pena has reversed that trend.

• Pena’s home run came in the first inning off Reds starter Edinson Volquez, who allowed three runs in the first frame. Of the 31 runs he’s allowed this season, 17 have come in the first inning. That's tied with Javier Vazquez for the most in the major leagues.

Volquez's ERA is 17.00 in the first inning and just 2.97 the rest of the game.

• Brian McCann came off the bench and provided all the offense for the Atlanta Braves in their win over the Houston Astros.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McCann became the second player in major league history to hit a game-tying pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off home run in extra innings.

It was first done by Jeff Heath of the Boston Braves on August 27, 1949 against the Reds.

• Mark Melancon blew a save for the Astros, the team’s 11th of the season, the most in the National League. The Houston bullpen is last in the NL in ERA and saves.

According to Elias, the Astros have the worst save percentage through a team's first 16 opportunities in a season in the divisional era.

• Albert Pujols went 3-for-5 in the St. Louis Cardinals win over the Philadelphia Phillies, but has not hit a home run in his past 84 at-bats, the longest such streak of his career.

The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals have split the first two games of a three-game series. On Sunday they’ll settle the score as Edinson Volquez takes the hill for the Reds against Jake Westbrook of the Cardinals.

Volquez has allowed two earned runs in two road starts this season, so if the Cardinals are going to get to him, they better do it early. Volquez has allowed 13 first-inning runs in his first four starts, the most in the majors. He has allowed just four earned runs in his other 18⅔ innings pitched. Opponents are 13-for-23 (.565) the first time facing Volquez in a game compared to 7-for-55 (.127) in all other plate appearances.

If the Cardinals don’t get to him early in the count, they’ll face a lethal pitcher with two strikes. Opponents are 4-for-40 (.100) with two strikes versus Volquez this season; his opponent batting average of .100 is fifth-lowest among NL pitchers (minimum 35 batters faced).

Keeping the ball in the yard could be an issue for Volquez. He is allowing the same percentage of fly balls (not including line drives) this season (27.6 percent) compared to last season (27.1). But this season, 37.5 percent (6-of-16) of his fly balls have been home runs. Last season, 13 percent (6-of-46) of his fly balls were home runs. The league average is 10 percent.

In case you were wondering, Albert Pujols is 3-for-7 with two home runs and four walks career versus Volquez; he is 3-for-5 (two HR) in his last seven plate appearances versus Volquez.

Here are a few more things we’re looking for on Sunday night.

Westbrook is 7-18 career in March and April. His .280 win percentage is the WORST among current major leaguers with at least 20 March/April decisions. Westbrook made his MLB debut in 2000. He’s never had a winning record in ANY season at the end of April.

Sunday will mark Albert Pujols’ 162nd career game against the Reds -- the equivalent of a full MLB season. His career numbers against them: .355 BA, 44 HR, 136 RBIs.

According to Elias, only three players who debuted in the last 80 years have gone
.350/40/130 against a team -- Ted Williams (versus Washington Senators, Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles), Joe DiMaggio (versus Browns), and Pujols (versus Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates).

Other Pujols highlights:
• Four multi-HR games, including a three-HR game on April 16, 2006, a game he won with a walk-off HR
• Two walk-off HR
• He’s never hit below .300 in any season against them

No active player has more home runs against the Reds than Lance Berkman’s 49. Pujols is second with 44. Derrek Lee’s 33 are a distant third. But Berkman’s 49 don’t even crack the top 10 for most HR against the Reds all time. Hank Aaron leads with 97.

Matchup to watch -- Gomes versus Westbrook
Jonny Gomes
is 1-for-his-last-9 against Westbrook, but the one was a home run in his last at-bat against him (May 21, 2010).

Also of note on Westbrook matchups:
• The leadoff man has reached against Westbrook 11 times in 20 innings this season.
• The third inning has been Westbrook’s issue this season. Opponents are 10-for-21 with eight runs scored in the third inning against him (4-for-26, three runs scored in first two innings).

-- Mark Simon and Katie Sharp contributed to this post
Today’s Trivia: Miguel Cabrera turns 28 today. Even though he is two years away from 30, he has the most career home runs (252) among active players under 30. Who has the second-most?

Edinson Volquez
Quick Hits – A look at some players and teams that can’t seem to solve a certain inning.

• After allowing 4 ER in the first inning Sunday, Edinson Volquez now has a first-inning ERA of 29.25. It’s just 1.93 in all other innings.

• Twice this season Volquez has allowed back-to-back homers to a team’s first two batters of the game. Only two other active pitchers have had two such games in their careers: Chad Durbin (both in 2000) and Ted Lilly (2001 and 2005).

• The Tampa Bay Rays are just 6-for-49 (.122) in the first inning this season, worst in the majors.

• B.J. Upton is hitting .118 in the first six innings, but is 9-for-18 in the final three innings.

• The Texas Rangers have only eight hits in the first inning, but four are home runs.

• The Philadelphia Phillies are the antithesis of first-inning struggles. They’ve outscored opponents 15-0 in the first. The Phillies have a .393 average in the first compared to just .100 for their opponents.

• The Atlanta Braves are 5-for-39 (.128) in the ninth inning, but that’s not the only area of concern. Out of the ninth spot in the order, the Braves are 0-for-50 this season. Pitchers are 0-for-27, pinch-hitters are 0-for-23.

• Brandon Belt is 1-for-20 in the seventh inning or later and 9-for-30 otherwise.

This Date in Baseball History
1923 - Babe Ruth homers in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium.

1987 - Mike Schmidt hit his 500th career home run off Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Don Robinson.

2007 - Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox faced the minimum 27 batters in a 6-0 no-hit victory over the Rangers.

Trivia Answer: Prince Fielder (195) has the second-most home runs for an active player below 30. Still just 26, he turns 27 in May.

Opening Day's First Pitch

March, 31, 2011
Today’s Trivia: Former top picks Luke Hochevar and David Price will start on Opening Day for the first time in their respective careers. Who was the last No. 1 overall draft pick to start on Opening Day?

Quick Hits: A quick look at some Opening Day longevity.

* Jorge Posada will start his 12th straight opener in pinstripes. That’s the most by a New York Yankee since Willie Randolph suited up for 14 in a row.

* Derek Jeter will make his 10th straight Opening Day start at shortstop for the Yankees, passing Phil Rizzuto's nine-game streak from 1947 to 1955.

Chipper Jones
* Chipper Jones is making his 15th straight Opening Day start for the Atlanta Braves, the longest current stretch with one team. That’s the longest streak by a Brave since Eddie Mathews also started 15 in a row. Hank Aaron started 20 of 21 openers while with the Braves, but that was divided into streaks of nine and 11.

* Make it 11 straight openers where Albert Pujols will be penciled into the St. Louis Cardinals lineup, the longest streak for the franchise since Lou Brock started 15 in a row.

* Alex Gordon will be the Kansas City Royals 12th consecutive different Opening Day starter in left field. Johnny Damon is the most recent Royal to start back-to-back Opening Days there, in 1999 and 2000.

* The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Howard Kendrick will start on Opening Day for the fifth straight year. The only Angels second baseman with a longer streak of Opening Day starts is Bobby Knoop, who was in seven straight opening lineups from 1964 to 1969.

* Aaron Harang signed with the San Diego Padres in the offseason, meaning that he will not be the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day starter for the first time since 2005. Edinson Volquez will get the nod, ending Harang's five-season streak, which matches Mario Soto and Pete Donohue for the longest Reds stretch since 1920.

* Ryan Ludwick will be the Padres’ 20th different starter in left in the past 24 years. The last player to start three straight openers in left was Gene Richards (1980-83). Meanwhile, Cameron Maybin will make it nine straight years with a different Opening Day centerfielder.

* For the second straight year, there’s a complete overhaul to the Washington Nationals outfield. The last time the franchise repeated an Opening Day outfield was 1993-94: Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker.

Trivia Answer: Paul Wilson started the opener for the Reds in 2005, though he lasted only eight more games in the big leagues. Before that, Kris Benson got the Opening Day start for the Pirates in 2003.
A quick look at Game 1 of the NLDS between the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies:

FROM ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: The Phillies have won Game 1 in each of their last six playoff series. While they are only halfway to the major league record (the Browns/Orioles franchise won 12 consecutive postseason series openers from 1944 through 1979), they could tie the National League record with a victory over the Reds today. The N.L. record is held by the Atlanta Braves, who won the first game of seven consecutive playoff series from 1995 to 1997.

HalladayFROM ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: Roy Halladay, who led the N.L. with 21 wins this season, will start Game One for the Phillies against Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez, who won only four games this year after spending most of the season on the disabled list. The last time that a league leader in wins made a postseason start opposing a pitcher who had won fewer than five games that season was in 2001, when Arizona's Curt Schilling (22-6) faced the Yankees' Orlando Hernandez (4-7).

More starting pitcher notes:

• In the Divisional Era (1969), Halladay has the second most career wins (169) at the time of his postseason debut. He trails Mark Langston, who had 178 when he appeared in 1998 for the San Diego Padres.

Volquez• On the other hand, only two pitchers in history have started Game 1 of a postseason series with less regular season wins than the four that Volquez has this season. Bob Wolcott won three games for the Seattle Mariners in 1995 and Yovani Gallardo had ZERO wins when he started for the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.

• Lastly, veteran umpire John Hirschbeck will be behind the plate for Game 1. Amazingly, Halladay has NEVER started a game with Hirschbeck as the home plate ump. Volquez has done so once, going six innings, allowing one earned run, striking out six batters and walking one.

1st pitch: The most without…

April, 23, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Justin Smoak, a South Carolina native, is expected to make his MLB debut on Friday. Who has the most career home runs for a player born in South Carolina?

Quick Hits: Reggie Willits appeared in his 300th game on Thursday, and a career-long trend continued. He went 0-for-3, and still does not have a home run in his career. The active position player with the next most career games without a homer is Jose Morales with 55. In fact, Willits has more career plate appearances without a home run (819) than any pitcher. Ryan Dempster is next at 518. So with that in mind, and the help of STATS, here are some notable “most withouts” among active players:

* Angel Pagan has the most plate appearances (881) without being hit by a pitch.

* Chase Utley has 83 stolen bases, but has never even tried to steal third.

* Alex Rios has the most stolen bases (120) for a player that has never been picked off.

* Ryan Garko has been on base more times (602) than any other player without a stolen base.

* John McDonald has nearly twice as many plate appearances (1,889) as the next player who has never been intentionally walked.

* Ramon Castro has the most plate appearances (1,400) without a triple.

* Edinson Volquez has the most plate appearances (77) without a walk. Tommy Manzella (45) has the most for a position player.

* Ryan Perry has the most appearances (60) and innings (69 2/3) without a win.

* Cla Meredith has the most relief appearances (270) without a save.

* Scott Olsen and Claudio Vargas have the most starts (114) without a complete game.

* Andrew Bailey has pitched the most innings (88 1/3) without hitting a batter.

* Jon Garland has pitched the most innings (1,851 1/3) without a balk.

* Carlos Silva has the most innings (1,147 2/3) without a pickoff. Interestingly, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are next.

* George Sherrill has the most innings (256) without allowing a triple.

* Brad Ziegler has the most innings (142) without a wild pitch.

Today’s Leaderboard: In the spirit of today’s theme, CC Sabathia’s 292 starts are the most for an active pitcher without a relief appearance. He’s followed by Ben Sheets (225) and Jake Peavy (219). Carlos Zambrano has 21 relief appearances to his name, but none since 2002. His streak of 241 straight appearances as a starter is likely to be broken this weekend. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Zambrano’s streak is the fifth longest among active pitchers. Livan Hernandez’s last 415 appearances have been as a starter.

Key Matchups: The top five hitters that the Royals used yesterday are 41-94 lifetime against Carl Pavano. That’s a .436 batting average. It’s no wonder that Pavano is just 4-5 with a 7.84 ERA in his career against Kansas City.

Adrian Beltre is just 1-for-18 in his career against Jeremy Guthrie. That .056 batting average is his worst against any pitcher he has at least 20 plate appearances against.

Whenever Albert Pujols meets Tim Lincecum, it warrants mentioning. Pujols is 3-for-8 in his career against Lincecum, but has just one hit in their last seven meetings at the plate.

Trivia Answer: Jim Rice’s 382 home runs are the most for a player born in South Carolina. He’s followed by Reggie Sanders (305). The active leader? Orlando Hudson with 78.