Stats & Info: Geovany Soto

Let's take a look at some notes from around baseball on Tuesday night:

• The New York Yankees hit five HR for the second time this season in their win at the Toronto Blue Jays. It's the first time the Yanks have hit five HR at Toronto since 2004.

JeterDerek Jeter hit his 10th HR, and now has 10+ HR and 10+ SB in 15 consecutive seasons. In MLB history (according to the Elias Sports Bureau), only Barry Bonds has a longer such streak. Bonds did this in 16 straight seasons from 1986 to 2001.

• The Chicago Cubs improved to 2-0 under Mike Quade with their win over the Washington Nationals. Alfonso Soriano smacked his 20th HR, giving him nine straight 20-HR seasons. That is tied for the third-longest active streak in baseball. Alex Rodriguez (15 straight season) and Albert Pujols (10) have the only two longer streaks.

• Also for the Cubs, Tyler Colvin hit his 19th HR. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is tied for the third-most HR by a rookie in Cubs history. Only Billy Williams (25) and Geovany Soto (23) have ever hit more. Ernie Banks is one of three others to also hit 19.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3. It's the second time in the last week that the Cardinals lost a one-run game, leaving the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning.

• The New York Mets topped the Florida Marlins with Luis Castillo's walk-off single. It's Castillo's seventh career walk-off hit (third with the Mets). It's just the third walk-off loss of the season for the Marlins (only the Yankees have fewer).

• The Oakland Athletics topped the Cleveland Indians, 5-0, as Gio Gonzalez pitched seven shutout innings. Athletics starters have tossed a franchise-record 16 consecutive quality starts. Gonzalez is 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in five career starts vs the Indians.

• The Detroit Tigers knocked off the Kansas City Royals, 9-1. Detroit has now won five straight, outscoring its opponents 40-7 during this streak. Miguel Cabrera drove in his MLB-leading 104th run of the season, surpassing his total from last season.

• The Texas Rangers defeated the Minnesota Twins, 4-3. Josh Hamilton hit his 29th HR and has now driven in a run in five straight games for the fifth time in his career. Neftali Feliz notched his 32nd save, which is the fourth-most by a rookie since saves became an official stat in 1969.

Scott • The Chicago White Sox topped the Baltimore Orioles, but Luke Scott hit his 25th HR for Baltimore, matching the career high he set last season. He's the first Oriole with 25+ HR in back-to-back seasons since Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora in 2004-05. His 13 HR since the All-Star Break are the most by anyone not named Jose Bautista.
Forget about Shark Week, it's blowout week in baseball. We've now had an MLB game decided by 10+ runs for 6 straight days. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the last time this happened was from August 22-27, 2007.

Friday: Rockies 17, Cubs 2
Saturday: Cardinals 11, Pirates 1
Sunday: Diamondbacks 14, Mets 1
Monday: Brewers 18, Cubs 1
Tuesday: Astros 18, Cardinals 4; Giants 10, Rockies 0; White Sox 12, Tigers 2
Wednesday: Cubs 15, Brewers 3

Here are some more recaps from today's afternoon action on the diamond.

Rockies 6, Giants 1

Ubaldo Jimenez tied a Rockies' franchise record with his major-league leading 17th win. He improves to 8-0 at home, and is 13-1 this season following a Colorado loss. Carlos Gonzalez (22, 23) had hit first career multi-HR game, and has six HR in his last seven games. Troy Tulowitzki added his 10th HR of the season, and first since coming off the DL. The Rockies have won 5 of 6 following their 8-game losing streak. The loss snaps a 4-game win streak for the Giants, who allowed as many runs as they had in the previous 4 games combined. Madison Bumgarner lasted only 4 innings, the shortest outing of his career.

Andres Torres (SF): 0-for-4, 4 K
•  First Giants player this season to record a game of 4+ strikeouts and no hits.
•  First since Fred Lewis on April 15, 2009.
•  Only one Giant has done it twice since 2000 - Aaron Rowand.
•  There are now only three teams in the MLB who have not had a player with 4+ strikeouts and no hits in a game this season: White Sox, Indians, Tigers.

Cubs 15, Brewers 3
Cubs score a season-high 15 runs and snap their season-worst 7-game losing streak. It is the most runs they have scored since August 14 of last season. Aramis Ramirez hits his second career pinch-hit HR (1st since 2002 with PIT). Starlin Castro has first career four-hit game while Geovany Soto gets his 3rd career 5-RBI game. Ryan Dempster improves to 14-3 career vs the Brewers.

Reds 9, Pirates 4
The Reds break game open with 6-run 7th inning including RBI doubles by Joey Votto and Jonny Gomes, an RBI triple by Laynce Nix and a 3-run HR by Paul Janish. It is the 15th time Cincinnati scores at least 9 runs this season. All four Pittsburgh runs were scored on home runs. Johnny Cueto allows 1 run and 3 hits in 6 innings to improve to 9-2 career vs the Pirates and 5-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his last 8 starts. Jeff Karstens falls to 0-4 career vs Reds and is 0-5 in his last 8 starts.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1

Alex Rodriguez becomes the 7th player to hit 600 career HR when he hit a 2-0 fastball off Shaun Marcum in the first inning to center field. Rodriguez is the youngest to reach 600 HR (35 years, 8 days). Rodriguez snapped a streak of 46 at-bats since his last homer, the longest homerless streak ever between home run numbers 599 and 600. The homer came on the 3-year anniversary of his 500th HR, which was also in the first inning and also at Yankee Stadium and also in a game started by Phil Hughes. Derek Jeter (4-4, two doubles) has his 35th career 4-hit game, passing Joe DiMaggio and Bernie Williams for 4th-most 4-hit games by a Yankee in the live-ball era (since 1920). The Yankees snap their 3-game losing streak, which matched their longest of the season.

A's 4, Royals 3
Brett Anderson picks up his first win since May 29 and goes 7 innings, his longest outing of the season. After giving up 2 runs in the first, A's pitchers held the Royals to 1 run on 3 hits the rest of the way. Michael Wuertz struck out the side in the 9th to notch his 4th save, tying a career-high. The A's have won 11 of their last 14 against the Royals. The Royals have lost 8 of their last 10 on the road. Jose Guillen (0-4) falls to 3-41 (.073) in his last 11 games. Wuertz struck out the side in the 9th to notch his 4th save, tying a career-high.

Saturday’s previews besides seeking #600

July, 24, 2010
Jon Lester at Seattle Mariners:
- Against his changeup, opponents are missing 35 percent (38/112) of the time.
- The Mariners are batting .198 (84/424) this season against the changeup which is 49 percentage points lower than the league average.

Geovany Soto is having a great rebound year after a dismal 2009. Part of his success comes from his hitting to the opposite field:
2009 - .211 BA (12-for-57), .281 slug pct, 0 HR
2010 - .415 BA (17-for-41), .659 slug pct, 2 HR

Freddy Garcia: .304 opp BA vs offspeed pitches this season. His changeup may be extra effective against the Athletics today, as they're hitting 42 points worse than the rest of the league against that pitch.

Vladimir Guerrero has punished the Los Angeles Angels this season for perhaps giving up on him a bit too soon. Vlad is 11-for-26 this season against his former team, good for a .423 average in seven games. Guerrero is slugging 1.000 against the Halos this season with the Rangers, dwarfing the .425 MLB average.

One of the keys to his success has been his confidence with two strikes. Vlad boasts a .462 OBP with two strikes against the Angels, well above the .266 league average.

Watch out for Mike Pelfrey's splitter vs Arizona today. Since June 25, he's thrown his splitter in the strike zone 46.4 percent of the time, getting hitters to miss 18.5 percent and chase 20.0 percent out of the strike zone. All better numbers than before his June 25th win against the Twins.

- And you knew we couldn't get through a post without mentioning Alex Rodriguez and his quest for his 600th HR today. He's hitting .314 (11-35) and has a .600 slugging percentage (21-35) with two strikes during the month of July (League average is .186 and .283, respectively).

A-Rod is seeking #600 coincidentally against Kyle Davies. Rodriguez hit his 500th career HR off of Davies on a Saturday afternoon back in 2007.

Alex Rodriguez - Career vs Kyle Davies
H-AB: 3-4
HR: 1<<<
RBI: 3
Slug pct: 1.750
<< 500th career HR on Aug. 4, 2007

1st Pitch: Diving into 1st-pitch trends

July, 6, 2010
Quick Hits: The importance of a first-pitch strike can be summed up rather simply. After a 1-0 count, the league average is .275 with a .827 OPS. But after a count goes to 0-1, those numbers plummet to .229 BA and .619 OPS. Let’s take a look at some notable trends on the first pitch:
  • Among starting pitchers, only Carlos Silva (70.0) throws a higher percentage of first-pitch strikes than Cliff Lee (69.0). So it should be little surprise that batters come out swinging. Opponents swing at 39.2 percent of Lee’s first pitches. The last starter with a higher rate? Johan Santana’s 39.7 in 2005.
  • Somehow Scott Downs has put together a solid season in the Toronto bullpen despite a 45.0 first-pitch strike percentage. After a 1-0 count, opponents are hitting just .217 against Downs.
  • James Shields has given up 34 hits on the first pitch, and is on pace to allow the most for the second straight year. Opponents are hitting .540 against him on the first pitch (league average is .339).
  • Shields has also allowed seven first-pitch home runs. The entire Yankees’ pitching staff has allowed just four.
  • Chris Carpenter has hit four batters with the first pitch. That is more than seven teams have all season.
  • As a team, no one swings at the first pitch more than the Blue Jays (33.2 percent) or less than the Red Sox (19.1). Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays have the fourth-worst batting average on the first pitch (.310), while the Red Sox are fourth-best (.371).
  • Of Geovany Soto’s eight home runs, five came on the first pitch. He has the highest first-pitch OPS (2.115) of any player with at least 20 plate appearances ending on the first pitch.
  • Pablo Sandoval has grounded into nine double plays on the first pitch this season. That’s more than six teams and almost twice as many as the Mets (5).
  • Brett Gardner has only swung at the first pitch 18 times all season and has the second lowest percentage of swings in the majors behind Franklin Gutierrez. Gardner has made those swings count, having gone 5-for-8 on the first pitch.
Today’s Trivia: Orel Hershiser retired 10 years ago today. Who is the winningest Dodgers pitcher since July 6, 2000?

Today’s Leaderboard: Given that no one swings at a higher percentage of first pitches, it should be no surprise that Vladimir Guerrero leads the majors with 22 RBI on the first pitch. Delmon Young is next with 21. In his career, Guerrero has 382 RBI coming on the first pitch. That’s 78 more than the next active player (Manny Ramirez).

Key Matchups: Zack Greinke is a perfect 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his career against the Mariners. Consider that the second, fourth and fifth hitters in the Mariners lineup are a combined 3-for-51 (.059), and it’s easy to see why. Chone Figgins is 0-for-16 against Greinke and hasn’t even walked. Meanwhile, Jose Lopez (1-for-17) and Franklin Gutierrez (2-for-18) have not fared much better.

Vernon Wells’ overall numbers (19 HR, .872 OPS) may have warranted his All-Star selection, but much of that is courtesy of an electric April. Over his last 25 games, Wells is hitting just .191 with a .651 OPS. Could Tuesday be the start of a turnaround? Wells is 8-for-20 with four home runs in his career against Carl Pavano. No other player has more than three long balls against the Twins hurler. Wells is hitting .600 with three home runs in his last 10 at-bats against Pavano.

Trivia Answer: Since the day of Orel Hershiser’s retirement, Derek Lowe’s 54 wins are the most in a Dodger uniform. Chad Billingsley could tie that total in his next start. Only the Pirates have fewer wins from their wins leader over that span. For comparison, Hershiser won 135 games over 13 seasons with the Dodgers.

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.

FanGraphs: Why Geo Soto will bounce back

March, 12, 2010
Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto ramped up his workout routine during the winter, shedding serious pounds after a disappointing, injury-plagued sophomore season. During his Rookie of the Year Award-winning 2008 campaign, Soto batted .285/.364/.504 and ranked third in the majors among catchers with 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Last year, he hit just .218/.321/.381, falling to 1.2 WAR.

However, a huge chunk of that slide was due to his minuscule batting average on balls in play, and history suggests that we shouldn’t expect Soto to be nearly as unlucky in 2010.

In 2008, Soto had a .332 BABIP -- league average is usually around .300. That figure plummeted to .246 in 2009, despite few changes in his offensive profile. Soto's walk rate actually rose from 11 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent in 2009, and he cut his strikeout rate from 4.5 percent to 23.3 percent. The 27 year-old swung at fewer junk pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (17.8 percent, compared to 20.1 percent in 2008) and took a cut at more hittable pitches within the zone (65.3 percent in 2009, up from 64.1 percent in 2008). Soto also made more contact, putting the bat on the ball 78.3 percent of the time he swung in 2009, compared to 74.7 percent in 2008.

Soto's Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) did fall, from .219 to .163. But that's still more pop than most backstops display. The average major league catcher posted a .141 Isolated Power in 2009.

For 2010, most projection systems figure that Soto's BABIP will bounce back to a level near his career .305 mark. Chicago's catcher possesses rare patience and power at a position where offensive production is often scarce. With more bloops and seeing-eyes singles evading gloves, Soto should post a much better batting line this season.

David Golebiewski is an author of FanGraphs.