Stats & Info: Gordon Beckham
Barely a month into the season, Dunn has been nearly a non-factor on offense. He’s hitting .150, striking out once every three plate appearances (25 strikeouts in 74 appearances) and hasn’t gotten a hit off a left-handed pitcher yet. (It should be noted that Dunn was sidelined with an emergency appendectomy in the second week of the season and missed six games.)
Dunn’s miss percentage on pitches in the strike zone from left-handed pitching is way up, one reason he’s 0-for-7 against lefties this season. His miss percentage against left-handed pitching this season is 40 percent, well above his average of 21.6 percent from 2007-10. Against right-handed pitching, his miss percentage is 27.8 percent this season. (It was 18.0 percent over the last four seasons.)
Last season, Dunn hit .314 with 24 home runs on at-bats ending in a fastball. This season he has six hits and one home run in 37 at-bats (.162). His miss percentage against fastballs has also spiked. From 2007-10 it was 20.8 percent, but this season it’s almost doubled to 39.2 percent.
Making matters worse for the White Sox, the rest of the team seems to be following Dunn’s lead. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their past 12 games. After scoring 72 runs in the first 12 games, they’ve been held to 26 runs in their past 12 -- and nine of those came in one game.
Chicago, which will try to push its modest win streak to a season-high three tonight against the New York Yankees, has suffered slow starts by Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios as well. They have combined for two home runs and 13 RBI.
The problem for Rios and Beckham is the same as it is for Dunn: inability to hit fastballs. Entering play on Wednesday, the major-league average against fastballs this season is .277. Beckham is hitting .205 and Rios .179 against fastballs. Rios’ average against fastballs is the seventh-lowest this season among hitters with at least 90 plate appearances.
Beckham has also seen his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) dip to .227 this season after posting a .294 mark over the past two seasons. This, despite the fact that he’s putting balls in play at roughly the same rate (73 percent this season compared to 70 percent in 2009-10 combined). The same can be said for Rios, who has a .203 BABIP, far below his career number of .314.
He is just the fourth Yankee over the last 40 seasons to hit a Home Run in each of the teams first two games of the season. Teixiera is finding the beginning of this season much more comfortable than 2010. Last year he had two home runs all of April.
• New season, same story as the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the eighth inning up 3-0, before surrendering five runs as the Chicago Cubs went on to win 5-3.
Pittsburgh allowed a team to score at least five runs in the eighth inning of a game four times last season, which was tied with the Diamondbacks for most in the National League.
Of his 101 pitches, 83 were heaters (82 percent), and the Twins went 1-for-16 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with fastballs. He also closed batters out, retiring 11 of 12 batters when the count got to two strikes.
• Today marked just the fifth time the San Francisco Giants have scored at least 10 runs in a shutout victory over their rival the Los Angeles Dodgers. The last time it happened was back in October of 2004.
• If you thought 10 runs from the Giants was surprising how about an 11-run outburst by the San Diego Padres in a win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Padres did so in a very efficient fashion with just nine hits. It's the first time since May 1, 2001 that they scored 10 runs without getting 10 hits.
• Gordon Beckham continued his scorching start to 2011 picking up two hits and two RBI in the Chicago White Sox victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Beckham kicked off his 2010 campaign in a sophomore slump, hitting just .209 in the first three months of the season. Since that time though he has batted .320 with an on base percentage of .382.
If Beckham were to keep it up he could move into the elite among second basemen. Last season only two second basemen who qualified for the batting title had an on base percentage over .380 for the season. They were Robinson Cano and Chase Utley.
They owned the league’s lowest WAR from designated hitters (-0.8) last season. If Adam Dunn’s WAR this season is somewhere around 3.4 (approximately what it would have been over the last six seasons if he didn’t have to play any defense), then he should greatly impact an offense that ranked seventh in runs in the American League in 2010.
Has Gordon Beckham turned the corner? Last season he entered the All-Star break with a .216 batting average and .581 OPS. But in the second half, he hit .310 with an .877 OPS.
Their bullpen rated among the best in the American League in the second half of the 2010 season. Among the standouts was Chris Perez, who was amazing after the All-Star break (16 saves in 17 chances, 0.63 ERA, 28 ⅔ IP, 0 HR allowed, 32 K). Among pitchers with at least 60 innings, Perez's 1.71 ERA was the sixth lowest by an Indians pitcher in the expansion era (since 1961).
Shin-Soo Choo ranked second in the American League in Wins Above Replacement at 7.3, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Their starting rotation may have an emerging star in Max Scherzer, whose 2010 season did a 180 after a brief demotion to the minor leagues. He was 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA when he was sent down, but returned to go 11-7 with a 2.46 ERA in his final 23 starts.
Justin Verlander averaged a Game Score of 61 over his last 17 starts in 2010. To put that into perspective, Roy Halladay, the NL Cy Young Award winner last season, averaged a Game Score of 63 for the entire season. In other words, Verlander pitched at a near-Cy Young-level over the second half of his season.
Kansas City Royals
The quintent of Kyle Davies, Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro appear to be the Royals' rotation to start the season. Those five pitchers combined to have a 7.2 WAR last season. As starting pitchers, their respective MLB ranks in that category were 85th, 91st, 93rd, 110th and 133rd last season.
In four seasons, Joakim Soria has 132 saves and a WHIP of 0.99. Mariano Rivera is the only other pitcher with 130 saves and a WHIP under 1.00 since 2007.
Justin Morneau was an MVP contender last season before suffering a season-ending concussion. Despite missing the final 78 games of the season, Morneau finished as the team's leader in Wins Above Replacement (5.3). However, the Twins offense actually averaged more runs per game after his injury (5.0) than it did before (4.7).
Closer Joe Nathan is back after missing a season because of Tommy John surgery. He saved at least 35 games each season from 2004 to 2009. The only players with more consecutive seasons with 35 saves are Trevor Hoffman and Robb Nen (seven each).
-- Justin Havens, Paul Carr and Derek Czenczelewski contributed to this report
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.
The fact that Greinke allowed back-to-back home runs is actually nothing new, he’s done that four times previously including a back-to-back-to-back occurrence in 2004 against the Mariners (Miguel Olivo/Jose Lopez/Hiram Bocachica). But there are some interesting notes about tonight’s dingers allowed by Greinke.
It was the 17th time that Greinke allowed multiple home runs in a game, but just the 4th time he’s done so in his 73 starts at Kauffman Stadium. In fact, Greinke had gone 36 straight starts in Kauffman since he last allowed more than one in a game. It was the longest such streak by a Royals starter since Mark Gubicza went 48 straight starts from 1990 to 1995.
Perhaps the most interesting nugget off the back-to-back shots, however, comes from Stats and Info’s Doug Kern who points out that both home runs came off Greinke’s curveball. Last season, only three players had homered off Greinke’s curve – Gordon Beckham, Marlon Byrd and Adam Jones.
While the low home run total off the curve is impressive, perhaps it's nothing more than dumb luck. Over the past three seasons opponents are hitting .276 off Greinke’s curve with an OPS of .714. Both those numbers are well above the league average of .222 and .601.