Stats & Info: Edwin Encarnacion

Jays power way to improbable comeback

June, 21, 2014
Jun 21

AP Photo/Al BehrmanEdwin Encarnacion now has twice as many multi-HR games as any other player this season.
The Toronto Blue Jays have been known for their bats this season, entering the day ranking fourth in MLB in runs per game (4.6). But even they couldn’t have foreseen what happened Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

Trailing 8-0 after two innings, the Blue Jays rallied to beat the Reds 14-9. It was their second-largest comeback in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Toronto was down 10 runs in the seventh inning on June 4, 1989 at Boston before coming back to win.

Friday, Toronto’s win probability (based on teams throughout history in similar situations) dipped as low as 1.1 percent after Jose Reyes grounded out for the second out of the top of the 3rd.

Elias tells us that over the last five seasons, teams with a lead of eight or more runs were 1158-6 (99.5 percent). The Blue Jays’ victory was even more unusual in that they not only came back to win but won by five runs. It was the fourth-largest win by a team that trailed by at least eight runs in the wild-card era (since 1994).

Let’s look closer at the comeback, breaking down Toronto’s win probability at key points.

• Already trailing 6-0 in the second inning, a Jay Bruce home run gave the Reds an 8-0 lead, and the Blue Jays’ win probability sat at 1.6 percent.

• After Todd Redmond and Reyes made the first two outs of the third inning, Toronto’s win probability dipped to its lowest point at 1.1 percent.

• Edwin Encarnacion (more on him below) hit a three-run home run in the third inning to cut the Reds lead to 8-3 and increase Toronto’s win expectancy to 5.7 percent.

• Trailing 9-4 in the sixth inning, the Blue Jays’ win probability sat at 5.3 percent when Jose Bautista came up with the bases loaded. He walked to cut the score to 9-5 and increase Toronto’s win expectancy to 9.2 percent, the highest it had been since the second inning.

• Toronto’s win probability did not get above 10 percent until the seventh inning, when a Juan Francisco two-run pinch-hit homer cut the lead to 9-8. The Blue Jays’ win probability jumped all the way from 6.6 percent to 21.5 percent with the hit.

• Still down a run with two outs in the eighth inning, Toronto’s win probability was 17.5 percent until Dioner Navarro's double tied it. That increased its win expectancy to 47.7 percent, the second-largest jump (30.2 percent) of the game.

• When Erik Kratz followed with the go-ahead double in the ninth to make it 10-9, the Jays’ win probability went up to 86.9 percent, and increased to 99.5 percent after they scored four more runs that inning, including another homer by Encarnacion.

Player of the game:
Encarnacion finished 2-for-5 with two homers and six RBIs. He now has six multi-HR games this season, twice the amount of any other player (Giancarlo Stanton and José Abreu each have three). Four teams this season don’t have any player with a multi-HR game (Twins, Tigers, Nationals, Phillies).

Encarnacion, Stanton powerful in May

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
May was a memorable month when it came to home-run hitting, particularly for a couple of players, one who couldn’t stop hitting home runs and the other, who couldn’t stop hitting long home runs. Here are our honorees for this month.

HR Hitter of the Month: Edwin Encarnacion
Edwin Encarnación hit 16 home runs in May, joining Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Mark McGwire as the only players in major-league history to hit at least 16 May homers.

After only going deep twice in April, Encarnación had five multi-homer games in May, tied for the most in a calendar month in MLB history.

Encarnación’s May homers traveled a total distance of 6,639 feet, over 1,300 feet further than the next closest hitter (Nelson Cruz, 5,321 feet).

Encarnación pulled all but one of his home runs in May and has pulled 72 home runs over the last three seasons – the most in baseball.

Trevor Ebaugh

Road Warrior of the Month: Nelson Cruz
Cruz warranted recognition in May as well and he gets it from us in this regard.

Cruz plays in homer-friendly Camden Yards, but showed he can hit home runs anywhere at any time. He had the most road homers of anyone in May with nine.

He averaged 414.4 feet per road homer, almost 17 feet longer than his average home run at home.

Long Drive Champion of the Month: Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton led the majors in average home run distance in May (minimum five home runs), averaging 437.1 feet per homer. Stanton hit eight home runs in May; the shortest of which was 412 feet (the average home run distance in baseball this season is 396.8 feet).

Stanton leads the majors in 450-foot home runs this year and crushed two in May to up his season total to five.

Stanton has more 450-foot homers than every other team in baseball.

On May 23, Stanton hit two homers calculated at 463 and 444 feet. The 907 total feet is the second-furthest total distance in a game this season, falling short by one foot to Michael Morse, who hit a combined 908 feet of home runs on April 23.

Longest homer of the month: Paul Goldschmidt

On May 28, Paul Goldschmidt drove a Troy Patton fastball 470 feet to center at Chase Field in Arizona for the longest home run of the month. The 470-foot home run is a career long for Goldschmidt.

Shortest Home Run of the Month: Miguel Cabrera
On May 17, Miguel Cabrera wrapped a home run around the Pesky Pole at Fenway Park that was calculated at 329 feet, the shortest home run of the season (not including inside-the-park homers). It is the shortest home run Cabrera has hit since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

Short home runs in Boston are nothing new. Since, 2006, the 10 shortest home runs in the majors have all been hit at Fenway Park (excluding inside-the-park home runs).

Breakout Performance of the Month: George Springer
Astros rookie outfielder George Springer hit 10 home runs in May, including a seven-game stretch in which he hit seven homers. According to Elias, only one other rookie in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) had a stretch to equal that (Rudy York, 1937).

Trevor Ebaugh

Encarnacion continues amazing surge

May, 22, 2014
May 22
Edwin Encarnacion added two more home runs on Wednesday.

On May 5, there might have been some doubters as to whether Edwin Encarnacion could replicate what he’d done the previous two seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays. He had two home runs in 123 at-bats to that point in the season.

Those doubters have been silenced.

Encarnacion on Wednesday had his second straight multihomer game, continuing a barrage in which he has hit 11 home runs in his past 15 games, helping the Blue Jays to another win over the Boston Red Sox.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Encarnacion’s current power output is the most home runs in a 15-game span in Blue Jays history.

It is also his fourth multi-homer performance over his last 13 games, a feat that Hank Aaron, Willie May or Babe Ruth never acheived, according to Elias.

Encarnacion’s seven multi-homer games since the start of last season are tied with Alfonso Soriano for the most in the majors.

How he’s doing it
Encarnacion, who hits almost all of his home runs to left field, has hit 10 to left or left-center in this stretch and one to straightaway center.

He’s shown the ability to hit the ball wherever it has been pitched. He’s hit five home runs in the upper half of the strike zone, six in the lower half, five on the inner half of the plate (or off the inside corner) and six on the outer half.

Eight of the 11 home runs came on fastballs. The other three came on two changeups and a curveball, the latter coming on Wednesday against Clay Buchholz.

Encarnacion's tear has coincided with the Blue Jays' recent success. Toronto is 10-5 in its past 15 games.

Looking ahead
Encarnacion will face the Red Sox and Jon Lester on Thursday. Encarnacion has two home runs against Lester but is hitting only .205 in 39 at-bats against him.

Encarnacion will try to be the first player to hit multiple home runs in three straight games since Jeff DaVanon of the 2003 Angels.

Bautista now getting results on hard-hits

May, 12, 2013
Pitching may have been the story of the day over the weekend, but also notable Sunday was that Jose Bautista's bat showed just the kind of power that the Toronto Blue Jays are looking for.

Bautista had his first multi-homer game of the season (his first since last June 19th) in the Blue Jays win over the Boston Red Sox, for their second straight win at Fenway Park.

Though Bautista is hitting only .246 this season, his other two slashline numbers (a .360 on-base percentage and .544 slugging percentage) are impressive. He only has 28 hits this season, but 16 are for extra bases.

Bautista is starting to heat up. He hit only .200 with an .836 OPS and 23 percent strikeout rate in April, but is hitting .333 with a 1.017 OPS and an 11 percent strikeout rate in May.

For the most part, pitchers have come to realize this and are pitching him more carefully. He’s drawn 10 walks this month after drawing 11 in April.

Bautista has been more selective. In his last 53 plate appearances, he’s only swung at 16 percent of pitches out of the strike zone.

In April, that chase rate was closer to one of every four pitches outside the zone.

What has been consistent for Bautista is that he has been hitting the ball hard. Except now his hard-hit balls are going either over the fence, or finding spots where fielders are unable to make plays.

One of the stats our data providers provide us is “hard-hit average” – in other words: how often is the player making solid contact. The judgment is subjective, but is based on careful video review and follow-up discussion to attempt to unify opinions.

Bautista had a .253 hard-hit average in April and a .262 hard-hit average in May.

But Bautista was only 12-for-19 when getting credited with a hard-hit ball in April. In May, he's 10-for-10.

He ranks eighth in the majors for the season with a .256 hard-hit average, one point behind Edwin Encarnacion, whose batting average has also been a bit low (.231) this season.

But keep this in mind as we watch what Bautista (and Encarnacion) do moving forward. The six hitters currently above them in hard-hit average (as noted in the chart on the right) are all hitting .290 or better.
Dan Braunstein and Justin Havens contributed research to this post

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.

Top stats to know: Blue Jays

February, 25, 2013

USA TODAY SportsThe Blue Jays have plenty of new faces-- among them Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle
With Baseball Tonight visiting Toronto Blue Jays spring training camp today, here’s a look at notable “Stats to Know” about the team that was among baseball’s busiest this offseason.

Postseason Drought
The Blue Jays have not been to the postseason since 1993. The only AL team with a longer playoff drought is the Royals, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985. The Blue Jays also don’t have a 90-win season since that championship year. Every other team in the AL East has at least two since then.

New Starters Mean WAR
The Blue Jays starting rotation will likely feature three new pitchers-- R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle.

The three have combined for 47 Wins Above Replacement over the last four seasons. Each of the three ranks in the top 17 among pitchers. Johnson rates the highest-- seventh-best, with 19.1 Wins Above Replacement.

Reyes Kickstarts Lineup
Likely leadoff hitter Jose Reyes will look to fill a significant hole for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s leadoff hitters had a .294 on-base percentage and .650 OPS last season, each of which ranked fifth-worst in the majors.

Shifty Infield
The Blue Jays were among the most frequent users of defensive shifts in 2012. Baseball Info Solutions credited them with 12 Defensive Runs Saved due to shift usage last season, the highest such total in the majors.

One of the most integral players in their defense is third baseman Brett Lawrie, who led major league third basemen last season with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.

Edwin Loves the Outer-Half
Edwin Encarnacion had a breakout season with 42 home runs in 2012. Encarnacion had 27 home runs against pitches that were on the outer-half of the plate (or off the plate), a rate of one for every 55 pitches seen.

From 2009 to 2011, Encarnacion had 26 homers on outer-half pitches, a rate of one for every 108 pitches seen.

A Lethal Power/Speed Combo
The Blue Jays have a chance to finish in the top of the league in both power and speed. Toronto owns three prolific base stealers in Rajai Davis, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio who rank 3rd, 6th and 13th respectively in stolen bases the last 3 seasons.

The team also features two of the most prominent power hitters in baseball as measured by Isolated Power. Jose Bautista (.286) and Edwin Encarnacion (.277) ranked 4th and 5th in the MLB by that metric last season (min. 350 PA), the only pair of teammates in the top 10.

Morrow's Continued Progress
While his ‘breakout’ season was cut short due to injury, it looked like Brandon Morrow took a significant step forward in 2012. He also seemed to make a key adjustment – pitching down in the zone rather than up in the zone, decreasing his strikeouts but increasing his effectiveness.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe Giants hit just two home runs at home in July, both by Buster Posey.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season and as far back as 2006. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. With the exception of the final day of the month, below are the notable home runs for the month of July.

No Doubter of the Month: Longest true distance HR
June Winner: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (484 feet)
July Winner: Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres (485 feet)
On July 2 at Chase Field, Maybin hit a 485-foot shot to left-center field. Not only was it the longest home run of his career, but the second-longest at Chase Field since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

Wall-Scraper of the Month: Shortest true distance HR
June Winner: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (329 feet)
July Winner: Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox (338 feet)
On July 19 at Fenway Park, Ross hit an Addison Reed pitch into the monster seats for a walk-off home run. The 338-foot HR is the longest “wall-scarper” this season. It was Ross’ shortest home run since he hit one 337 feet off Hiroki Kuroda in 2008.

Moonshot of the Month: Highest apex HR (maximum vertical height ball reaches)
June Winner: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (152 feet)
July Winner: Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians (154 feet)
Hafner’s 363-foot HR off Ricky Romero on July 13 was the third-highest in 2012. The two home runs with higher apexes in 2012: 366-foot home run by Todd Helton on April 14 that had an apex of 162 feet, and a 419-foot bomb by Paul Goldschmidt on April 6 that reached a height of 156 feet.

Liner of the Month: Lowest apex HR
June Winner: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (43 feet)
July Winners: Ryan Ludwick, Cincinnati Reds and Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians (47 feet)
Ludwick’s 361-foot HR on July 14 was his lowest apex since the beginning of the tracker in 2006. Kotchman’s 354-foot shot on July 4 also had an apex of 47 feet, the lowest at Progressive Field since May of 2010.

Mother Nature: Most climate-impacted HR
June Winner: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (+67 feet)
July Winner: Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies (+50 feet)
On July 28, the wind was blowing out at Coors Field when Michael Cuddyer’s 363-foot home run was aided by a 13 mph wind. That carried the ball an extra 50 feet. Only four home runs at Coors Field have been more wind-aided since 2006.

Masher of the Month: Player with greatest average distance (min. 5 HR)
June Winner: Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks (425.8 feet)
July Winner: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (424.9 feet)
Cabrera’s nine home runs in July had an average distance of 424.9 feet, more than five feet more than the next closest player, Edwin Encarnacion. Four of Cabrera’s nine July home runs went at least 440 feet, including his 300th career HR, which went 457 feet.

Team Power Outage of the Month: Team with fewest HR
June Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (6)
July Winner: San Francisco Giants (14)
After relinquishing the June award to their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants once again take the award for fewest home runs. The Giants hit just 14 in July, three more than the 11 the Giants hit in May. Only two of the Giants’ 14 HR in July were hit at home.

Bautista, Trumbo best AL choices for derby

July, 9, 2012
Here is a breakdown of the American League players in the Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 ET) field as well as players not in the field who merit consideration based on analysis from information provided by ESPN Home Run Tracker. Click here to check out our National League breakdown.

Of the 64 home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium this season, 24 have gone to left field (37.5 percent). The average home run distance there is 413.0 feet, second only to Coors Field in Colorado (414.2 feet). The participants likely to have the most success Monday night will have power to left field and have a high average home run distance.

Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista
Bautista is tied for the league lead in home runs with 27, 19 of which have gone to left field. He has two 450-foot home runs, tied for the most in the field with Mark Trumbo.

Prince Fielder
At first glance, Fielder doesn’t look like an ideal candidate. He has only 15 home runs, none of which have gone to left field. However, all but one of his homers would have been out of Kauffman Stadium and he averages 411.7 feet per home run.

Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo
Trumbo averages 419.5 feet per home run, the best in baseball (min. 15 home runs). Ten of his 22 home runs have gone to left field, he has two of more than 450 feet and only four have failed to travel 400 feet. In addition, 17 of his homers would have left Kauffman Stadium.

Robinson Cano
Thirteen of Cano’s 20 home runs would have been out of Kauffman Stadium, but he does not have a homer of more than 450 feet and only one homer went to left field.

Other AL players who are not in the field but warrant consideration:

Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton
Hamilton ruled himself out early on, but he averages 416.2 feet per home run, second to Trumbo, and 19 of his 27 homers would have been out of Kauffman Stadium. His 469-foot blast off Mark Melancon on April 17 is tied for fifth longest this season.

David Ortiz
Fifteen of his 22 home runs would have left Kauffman, but he doesn’t have a 450-foot homer this year, averages slightly more than 400 feet per home run (403.8) and only two of his home runs went to left field. Ortiz declined an invitation.

Adam Dunn
Adam Dunn
Twenty of his 25 home runs would have been out of Kauffman Stadium, the most in the majors. Dunn averages 412.3 feet per home run, which is fifth best in baseball (min. 15 home runs), and has 18 homers of more than 400 feet.

Adam Jones
Although he averages fewer than 400 feet per home run (398.3), 12 of his 20 home runs have gone to left field and 15 would have been homers in Kansas City.

Edwin Encarnacion
Could have been considered had he made the All-Star team. Encarnacion’s average home run distance is 412.5 feet, the third best in baseball (min. 15 home runs). In addition, 16 of his 23 homers would have been out of Kauffman Stadium.

Infield shift against righty hitters: Why not?

June, 25, 2012

CSN CaliforniaThe A's employ a rare shift against the right-handed Edwin Encarnacion.
Almost every Major League team uses a shift against left-handed sluggers with pull tendencies, and it has generally worked. But if the shift has been so effective against lefties, why not do it against right-handed pull hitters?

ESPN Stats & Info and Baseball Info Solutions examined every line drive and groundball hit by two noted pull hitters: left-handed David Ortiz and right-handed Edwin Encarnacion (we omitted fly balls because only line drives and groundballs would be affected by an infield shift).

We determined that Ortiz was shifted on 89 percent of at-bats ending in a groundball or line drive. Encarnacion was shifted on only 17 percent of his at-bats ending in a grounder or liner.

The shift has worked on Ortiz this year. The average major-leaguer has a Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) of .232 on ground balls. Ortiz has hit 81 groundballs, 70 of which were hit into the shift on the right side, and has only eight hits (.114 BABIP).

But Ortiz compensated by going the other way. He has hit 20 opposite field liners and grounders, and 16 have been hits (.800 BABIP), many of which would have been routine outs with a regular defensive alignment.

A good candidate for a right-handed shift is Encarnacion, who leads the league in pulled hits (52) and pull percentage (70.3), i.e. the percent of hits that are pulled.

Encarnacion has hit 100 line drives or groundballs so far this year, 93 of which were to left or center field. Of those 93 liners or grounders, 42 were hits, equating to a .452 BABIP, which is tied for sixth-highest in the league. He has hit only four groundballs to the right side this year.

It’s possible that shifts on righties aren’t more common because they present logistical problems. The shortstop would need a very strong arm to manage a throw from deep in the hole. However, most shortstops can make that throw, according to Baseball Prospectus scout and Insider contributor Kevin Goldstein.

Because the shortstop most likely won’t have to field the ball to his right, the real problem might lie with the second baseman. “The second baseman goes to his right on a play, and suddenly he's the one going the 'wrong way' needing to make a big play and he's already left of the bag,” said Goldstein.

There will also be a lot of open real estate on the right side of the infield, especially when the first baseman is holding on a runner, but when the hitter at the plate has hit only three ground balls to the second baseman, like Encarnacion this year, it might be worth the risk.

We estimate that if the shift had been run on Encarnacion all year, 12 of his hits could have been turned into outs. When we factor the three ground-ball outs he hit at the second baseman this year as hits, Encarnacion would have still lost nine hits, dropping his average from .282 (51st in the league) to .248 (t-121st).

Angels flip script in shutout of Athletics

May, 16, 2012

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesAfter dropping his first six starts of the season, Ervin Santana has turned the corner and won his last two games.
Earlier this season, Ervin Santana couldn’t get any run support. Against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, he took matters into his own hands.

Santana started the season by losing his first six starts. His 5.59 ERA in that span didn’t help, but the Los Angeles Angels offense made picking up wins impossible.

After scoring three runs in Santana’s first start of the season, the Angels were shut out in his next five starts. Thanks to our friends at Elias, we know that this stretch was the first time in major-league history that a team failed to score a run in five straight starts by a pitcher.

Through their first 37 games, the Angels have been shut out eight times. The last American League team to be shut out this frequently early in the season was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who finished 43-119 that season.

Santana turned the corner in a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins last week and was even better against the A’s Tuesday afternoon. He picked up his second straight win by striking out nine in 7⅔ shutout innings.

Santana was especially effective with his slider. He recorded six of his nine strikeouts on the pitch, with Oakland hitters missed on 12 of their 23 swings. Those 12 swinging strikes are the most that he has recorded with his slider in the last two seasons.

In addition to the six strikeouts, the A’s recorded outs all four times they put his slider in play. It was the first time since Santana’s no-hitter last July that he did not allow a hit with the pitch.

Santana was also able to mix in his changeup to keep the seven lefties in the Oakland lineup off balance. He threw 17 changeups, all to left-handed hitters, his most in a start in the last four seasons and didn’t surrender a hit on the pitch.

Mike Trout scored three of the four runs in support of Santana, finishing the game with three hits and his third home run of the season. After struggling against fastballs last season, Trout is hitting over .300 with all three homers against heat this season.

Albert Pujols also recorded one of his best games at the plate so far this season, rapping out three hits and driving in two runs. Three of his six multi-hit games this year have come against the Athletics, including both three-hit games.

Around the Diamond
• Bryce Harper went deep for the second straight game. According to Elias, he’s the fifth number one pick to hit his first two home runs in back-to-back games, joining Josh Hamilton, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr. and Darryl Strawberry.

• Edwin Encarnacion hit his 12th home run of the season, with nine of them at Rogers Centre. In the last two years, 23 of his 29 homers (79 percent) have been at home. That’s the highest percentage in the majors over that span.

• Derek Lowe induced 22 outs on groundballs as he became the first pitcher since Scott Erickson in 2002 to toss a shutout without recording a strikeout.

• After allowing only seven total runs in five April starts, Colby Lewis has allowed six-or-more runs in each of his starts in May.

AL East dominates divisional rankings

May, 4, 2012
After one month of baseball, the American League East sits atop ESPN Stats & Info’s MLB Divisional Power Rankings by a wide margin.

Dating to last season, the AL East has never held a larger lead than its current 25.6-point lead over the National League East. Strong starts by the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays have given the AL East five of the top 12 teams in baseball, according to’s most recent power rankings.

Additionally, the AL East has been close to unstoppable outside of the division, posting a 44-25 (.637 win percentage) record in games against non-divisional opponents. No other division has a win percentage above .515 in non-divisional games.

What may be most surprising about the AL East is that unheralded names are making an impact for their teams. Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson rank fourth and 20th, respectively, in ESPN’s Player Rating system, combining for 15 of Toronto’s 32 home runs through May 2.

The AL West has its share of players off to fast starts with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver all ranking in the top 10 of ESPN’s batter and pitcher ratings. Five players from the AL West is the most from one division.

The Los Angeles Angels play 17 more games in May against teams that currently do not have a winning record. If the Angels can turn things around and live up to preseason expectations, the AL West has a chance to close the gap on the AL East.

The AL Central currently sits at the bottom of the divisional rankings with only one team above .500. Against non-divisional opponents, the AL Central is 29-48 (.377 win percent), by far the worst win percentage of any division.

The Minnesota Twins have been the worst team in baseball outside their division, winning five of 17 games against non-divisional opponents.

The weekend of May 18 presents several opportunities to shake up the rankings.

Divisional leaders clash in the National League, with the St. Louis Cardinals visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers. Interleague highlights include the Philadelphia Phillies hosting the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds visiting the New York Yankees.

For a brief recap of how we rank the divisions, click here.

With each home run, the Toronto Blue Jays seem to tie or break a statistical mark.
In a 5-4 loss on Saturday to the Minnesota Twins, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 20th home run of the season. He's the seventh Blue Jay this season with at least 20 HR: Jose Bautista (54), Vernon Wells (31), Aaron Hill (26), Adam Lind (22), Lyle Overbay and John Buck, each with 20. (Alex Gonzalez hit 17 HR with Toronto before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves, and he has six HR with the Braves.)

Seven players with at least 20 home runs ties the MLB single-season record, set by four other teams - 2009 Yankees, 2005 Rangers, 2000 Blue Jays and 1996 Orioles.

Encarnacion's home run was a two-run shot, giving him 50 RBI this season. If he finishes with 20 HR and 50 RBI, he would be the 18th player since 1900 with at least 20 HR and 50 RBI or fewer in a season with 350 plate appearances. Only two players since 2000 have had 20 HR, 50 RBI or fewer in a season with at least 350 plate appearances: The Pittsburgh Pirates' Garrett Jones in 2009 (21 HR, 44 RBI), and Jeremy Giambi in 2002 with the Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies (20-45).

Also in Saturday's game, Bautista drew his 100th walk of the season. He's the 14th player in history with 50 home runs and 100 walks in a season, and the first since Ryan Howard and David Ortiz in 2006. Bautista is the first right-handed American-League hitter with 50 HR, 100 BB in a season since Mark McGwire in 1996.

The Blue Jays now have 255 HR this season, two shy of the 1996 Baltimore Orioles for third-most HR in a single season.
Roy Oswalt didn’t allow a run in seven innings, yet he got a no-decision in the Philadelphia Phillies' 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies have wons each of the last 10 starts made by Oswalt. From the Elias Sports Bureau: The last time Philadelphia won 10 consecutive games started by one pitcher was in 1993, when it was victorious in 11 straight starts by Tommy Greene.

More from the Elias Sports Bureau: The Phillies are the second National League team this season with a 10-game winning streak in September, along with the Colorado Rockies. The last year in which two National League teams had winning streaks of at least 10 games in September was 1969, when the Braves and New York Mets each won 10 straight en route to winning their respective divisions.

From Senior Baseball Writer Jayson Stark: From 2004 to 2009, there were five 1-0 games at Citizens Bank Park. However, since July 10, there have now been six 1-0 games at there, and the Phillies have won five.

Jose Lopez became the first Seattle Mariner to hit three home runs in a game since Mike Cameron hit four against the White Sox on May 2, 2002. He’s the second Mariners third baseman with a 3-HR game, joining Jim Presley in 1986.

Lopez is the third different third basemen to hit three home runs in a game this season (Aramis Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion are the other two). The only season with more three-HR games by third basemen in the modern era (since 1900) is 1987 with four (Tim Wallach, Mike Schmidt, Brook Jacoby and Darnell Coles). Note: Alex Rodriguez also had a three-HR game this season, but he did it as a designated hitter.

The Oakland Athletics had a 3-2 ninth-inning lead before the Chicago White Sox came back with two in the top of the ninth to win 4-3. It was Oakland’s first loss of the season when leading after eight innings (68-1). The only remaining team without a loss when leading after eight innings is the Kansas City Royals, 48-0.

1st Pitch: The league leaders you never see

June, 30, 2010
Quick Hits: Not all statistical categories are created equal, but they all have a leader. Let’s take a look at some of the more obscure – and in some cases meaningless – league leaders.
  • On Tuesday, David Murphy reached base by catcher’s interference for the third time this season, which leads the majors. The last player with more than 3 in a season? Edwin Encarnacion who had four in 2007.
  • Derek Jeter leads the majors with 181 ground balls, 22 more than the next player, according to STATS LLC. Having led the majors with 316 in 2009, Jeter is on pace for 385 grounders this season.
  • Carlos Lee is tops with 114 fly balls, though Rod Barajas has 108 in 89 fewer at-bats than Lee.
  • Vladimir Guerrero has swung at the first pitch 152 times, which is 14 more than Vernon Wells. Over the last 35 years, the most first pitch swings in a season belongs to Nomar Garciaparra (381 in 2003).
  • Rafael Betancourt and Carlos Villanueva have both had three batters reach on a strikeout. Yet, it hasn’t happened to Tim Wakefield this season. He is the active leader in that category with 46 in his career.
  • Zack Greinke has had the most batters reach on an error (8), but not the most unearned runs. That would be Felipe Paulino with 11.
  • Ross Ohlendorf leads the majors with four pickoff errors, which is more than every other team except the Tigers.
  • The Dodgers have had seven hitters reach on a strikeout, a huge number when you consider that 26 of 30 teams have three or fewer.
  • Dave Bush leads the majors with seven sacrifice flies against with seven. But how about the Diamondbacks’ Carlos Rosa? He’s given up five sac flies in just 13.1 innings of work.
  • Derek Lowe is on pace to issue 18 intentional walks, which would be the most since Roger McDowell’s 20 in 1991.
  • Justin Verlander has had the most pitches fouled off with 370.
Today’s Trivia: Denard Span tied the modern record with three triples in a game on Tuesday, the first player to do that since Rafael Furcal in 2002. Who holds the record for most at-bats in a season without a triple?

Today’s Leaderboard: Dustin Pedroia leads the majors having fouled off 294 pitches, according to Inside Edge. That accounts for 46.7 percent of the swings he’s taken. Ichiro Suzuki (271) is the only other player with more than 260 fouls this season.

Key Matchups: Paul Konerko is the batter that Zack Greinke has faced most in his career. He’s held the White Sox slugger to a .137 batting average in 51 at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the second lowest batting average in a matchup between two current AL players (min. 40 at-bats). Nick Swisher’s .111 in 45 AB against John Lackey is the only one worse.

Of the 27 times that Adrian Gonzalez and Jeff Francis have done battle, the Padres slugger has struck out 11 times, or 40.7 percent of the time. That’s his highest K rate against any pitcher he’s faced at least 20 times. Overall, Gonzalez has hit .154 with a .454 OPS against Francis. The two haven’t faced off since 2008, but Francis has struck out Gonzalez in five of the last six at-bats and retired him nine times in a row.

Trivia Answer: Aaron Hill was without a triple in 682 at-bats last season, which set a record according the Elias Sports Bureau. In fact, he is in the midst of a streak of 1,394 consecutive at-bats without a triple. It’s rather ironic for a player whose first career hit was a triple.