Stats & Info: Grady Sizemore
• The Kansas City Royals accumulated 16 hits in Friday's 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. None of them went for extra bases. It's the first time any team has had 16 or more hits in a game, all singles, since April 2011 (by the Pittsburgh Pirates). The last American League team to do it... was the Royals, on August 31, 2004, against Detroit (they had 17 singles in a 9-8 walk-off victory).
Fourteen of Friday's hits came off Mariners starter Brandon Maurer; he's the first pitcher this year to allow 14 hits (of any value), and just the third in Mariners history (joning Doug Fister in 2011 and Greg Hibbard in 1994). But no pitcher, for any team, had allowed 14 hits in a game, with all of them being singles, since the Cardinals' Tom Poholsky did it against the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 3, 1956. Jackie Robinson had three and Duke Snider hit two.
• David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox had only one hit on Friday night, a single against Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. That otherwise-unremarkable single came with two outs in the ninth and was the only hit allowed by Darvish in the game. For the second straight year, Darvish took a no-hit bid through 8 2/3 innings (last year Marwin Gonzalez of the Houston Astros did the honors).
Darvish is just the third known pitcher in history to have two potential no-hitters broken up with two outs in the ninth. Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays is remembered for having it happen three times in two seasons (1988-89) before finally completing one in 1990. The other was "Sleepy Bill" Burns who pitched such a game for the Washington Senators on May 25, 1908, and then pitched one against the Senators on July 31, 1909 (as a member of the Chicago White Sox).
Darvish was already at 126 pitches and was replaced right after Ortiz' single. He's the only pitcher in the live-ball era to have two outings of 8 2/3 innings with only one hit allowed.
• The Red Sox beat the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday when Ortiz, Mike Napoli, and Grady Sizemore started the 12th with three singles. It was the first time the Red Sox had walked off on three straight singles to start an inning (no other baserunners in between) since July 3, 1984, when Mike Easler, Bill Buckner, and Gary Allenson delivered against the Oakland Athletics.
For Sizemore, it was his first walk-off anything since August 11, 2006, when he had a three-run triple off the Royals' Ambiorix Burgos.
• The Baltimore Orioles specialized in singles on Saturday, but those were runs, not hits. The O's scored once per inning in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth to tie the Houston Astros, and then walked off in the 10th on a Steve Clevenger double. According to Elias, they are the fourth team in major-league history to score exactly one run in each of those five frames (6 through 10), the last being the Oakland Athletics on July 21, 1987. Baltimore did it once before, against the Mariners in 1979; and the first team to do it was the 1961 White Sox.
• Seth Smith of the San Diego Padres had trouble with singles on Saturday, failing to get one in his five plate appearances against the Miami Marlins. He did, however, get a double, a triple, and a home run to complete the rarest three-fourths of the cycle. Of the 294 near-cycles last season, only four players were missing the single. (Triples, at 235, are the overwhelming majority.) Smith is the 63rd player this year (through Saturday) with a near-cycle, but the first to miss the single. Only 10 players have done it in Padres history; the most recent had been Adrian Gonzalez in April 2008.
• Although they mixed in three doubles, the San Francisco Giants collected 17 singles in Monday's 13-inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the team's first game with 17 or more singles since June 8, 1990, a 27-hit outburst against the Braves which they won 23-8. The Pirates had 16 total hits of their own Monday, their first loss in a 16-hit game since August 2008.
The first thing to know about the market for backstops is that there are no catchers on this year’s free agent market who played in 100 games last season. The only available player who even caught 700 innings was Rod Barajas.
The top-rated catcher available statistically is Ramon Hernandez, who finished last season with 2.0 Wins Above Replacement. His WAR over the past three seasons is 4.4, the best among free-agent catchers.
Aside from his below-average production, another potential reason against signing Hernandez is that he is a Type A free agent. If the Cincinnati Reds offer him arbitration, the compensation for another team signing him could be a first-round pick.
There are plenty of second baseman in this year’s free agent pool, but the market lacks a star player. It does have a large group of players who played a lot of innings, but produced in a limited fashion.
The highest-rated second baseman in Wins Above Replacement are Kelly Johnson, who hit .222 with 21 homers for the Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks, and Jamey Carroll, who had a .359 on-base percentage but no home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both players finished with 2.2 WAR last season.
How thin is the second base market? There are four free agents who played at least 100 games last season and finished with a WAR below 1.0: Aaron Hill, Aaron Miles, Adam Kennedy, and Orlando Cabrera.
The highest-rated centerfielder by Wins Above Replacement is Coco Crisp, who finished with 2.2 WAR in 2011, followed by Rick Ankiel at 1.4.
What’s interesting about center field is that there are two players who were formerly great centerfielders, who would be highly coveted and could be put in centerfield if a team is willing to take a risk.
Carlos Beltran showed himself to be an adequate defensive player in right field for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, with two Defensive Runs Saved last season. However, a factor that would work against him moving back to center field is his age, as he turns 35 in April.
Beltran also showed that he is still capable of handling himself at the plate. His .910 OPS was third-best among major-league right fielders last year, and his 39 doubles were surpassed only by Joey Votto among all NL players.
When healthy, Grady Sizemore was one of the top centerfielders in the game, averaging 27 homers and 29 stolen bases from 2005-08. However, he’s played an average of just 70 games in the last three seasons and has hit .234 over that span.
Their starting pitching has been troublesome lately; the rotation’s ERA has nearly doubled and they’ve allowed opponents to hit more than 80 points higher over the past 18 games than they did in the first 45 games of the season.
Monday’s starter, Carlos Carrasco, will pitch on five days rest; he’s 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in four starts on exactly five days rest this season. In his other seven starts he’s 2-3 with a 5.16 ERA.
Keep an eye on Carrasco once he’s thrown 50 pitches; opponents are hitting .221 against him on pitches 1-50 and .319 after his 50th pitch.
The New York Yankees counter with A.J. Burnett, who allowed one earned run in 14 1/3 innings against the Indians in two starts last season. Grady Sizemore, who’s been hitting third recently, has had success against Burnett (5-for-12, 3 2B, HR). Shin-Soo Choo, who Sizemore replaced in the three-hole, has not (2-for-11 but both hits are XBH).
Burnett has made two starts in June this season, one good and one bad. He had a June to forget in 2010, when he was 0-5 with an 11.35 ERA in five June starts. That's the worst ERA in any month for a Yankees pitcher since earned runs became official in the AL in 1913 (min. five starts).
The Indians’ issues over the past 18 games are not all with starting pitching. The offense is also to blame, most notably with a .143 BA with runners in scoring position in the past 18 games -- a stark contrast from its .321 BA with men in scoring position during the 30-15 start.
Cabrera ranks first or second among AL shortstops in batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS, and has the fourth-highest batting average with runners in scoring position in all of baseball.
The Yankees are near the top of the league in most offensive stats, except for batting average. They’ve made up for the lack of consistent hitting with the highest walk rate, the highest slugging percentage and the most home runs in the American League.
They’ve relied heavily on home runs to score this season; 47 percent of their runs have been scored by home runs, by far the highest percentage in the league (Orioles are second-highest at 40.3).
What does this mean for the Yankees? Of the past 10 teams to lead the league in this statistic, only two have made the playoffs (Phillies in 2009 and White Sox in 2008) and none have won the World Series.
Derek Jeter, who is seven hits shy of 3,000 for his career, has a .342 career batting average against the Indians. That's third-best among active players, trailing Mark Kotsay (.349) and teammate Mark Teixeira (.349).
From 2003-10, Jeter’s batting average against the Indians was .366. He’s 1-for-9 so far in 2011.
-- Jeremy Lundblad and Mark Simon contributed
But whenever Penny faces New York Mets third baseman David Wright, he looks like a pitcher who would have a hard time getting Milano out. Wright has gone 11-for-19 against Penny in his career for a .579 batting average. Seven of those hits have been doubles and four have been home runs. Throw in five walks and Wright has an otherworldly 1.851 OPS when facing Penny. Wright "owns" Penny in a way few hitters own any pitcher. But is it the most impressive "ownership" in baseball? Let's find out.
Seattle Mariners shortstop Jack Wilson is noted much more for his defense than offense. Yet he is not a complete cipher at the plate with a .268 career batting average.
However, when the Mariners visit St. Louis for an interleague series next month, you can bet that Wilson hopes his team misses Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in those three games. Wilson may as well concede whenever he steps into the batter's box against Carpenter as he is 1-for-26 (.038) with no extra-base hits or walks and six strikeouts, giving him a microscopic .076 OPS.
Managers have relied on batter-pitcher match-ups to make lineup decisions dating back to when Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver was leading the Orioles in their glory days. Weaver kept all the matchups by hand on index cards. Today, computers spit out the same information at rapid speed. Regardless of how the information is compiled and disseminated, batter-pitcher matchups are fun to look at to see exactly who owns whom around the major leagues.
Baseball Prospectus database wiz Eric Seidman has compiled the best and worst of batter-pitcher matchups. The criteria for the matchups are that the pitcher and hitter must have faced each other at least 25 times, they must be currently active, and they must be playing either in the same league on or teams that will face each other in interleague play this season.
What follows are two lists: the five batters who have the highest OPS in their matchups against pitchers, and the five who have the lowest:
John Perrotto is editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus.
* Opponents have swung and missed on Jason Hammel’s fastball just 5.4 percent of the time (league average: 14.3) and are batting a league-high .426 against his heater.
* Kevin Millwood has allowed eight home runs off his fastball this season, two more than anyone else.
* Wandy Rodriguez has thrown his fastball for a strike just 57.6 percent of the time this season, the league average is 63.7.
* Opponents are batting .392 against Carlos Zambrano’s fastball this season, well above the league average of .280.
* Ryan Rowland-Smith has yet to record a strikeout via the fastball this season. Opponents are hitting .324 with a 1.074 OPS against his heater.
* When Justin Verlander’s fastball has topped 95 mph, opponents have swung and missed just 15.0 pct of the time (lg avg: 19.4). They’re hitting .275 (lg avg: .243) against his 95 mph fastball and have hit a league-leading three home runs off it.
Today’s Trivia: With his 0.93 ERA through seven starts, it’s a good bet that Ubaldo Jimenez will set the Rockies record for the lowest ERA prior to the All-Star Break. Which pitcher holds the current record, set in their inaugural season in 1993?
Today’s Leaderboard: The red-hot Padres remain in first place in the NL West, but they have shown a weakness this season. Three Padres are tied for the worst batting average against fastballs 94 miles per hour or faster. As a team the Padres are batting .216.
Key Matchups: Alex Rios, who is batting .429 in May, has a chance to stay hot tonight. He’s batting .583 (14-24) in his career against Royals’ starter Gil Meche.
It will be tough for Dallas Braden to duplicate his perfect game tonight if Erick Aybar is in the lineup for the Angels. Aybar is a career .412 hitter (7-17) against Braden.
Trivia Answer: Armando Reynoso entered the All-Star Break with a 3.03 ERA in his rookie year in 1993. The only other Rockies starter with an ERA under 3.50 entering the All-Star Break was Marvin Freeman (3.18) in 1994. Since Coors Field opened in 1995 the top pre-All-Star Break ERAs belong to Kevin Ritz (3.50 in 1995) and Roger Bailey (3.50 in 1997).
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti publicly criticized Matt Kemp last week, suggesting that the centerfielder's new contract has him too comfortable and that his baserunning and defense were "below average." There might be something to that as Kemp was caught stealing Sunday for the sixth time this season, which leads the majors.
Those early season baserunning blunders weren't enough to sway our voters from ranking Kemp the game's best centerfielder as the Dodger picked up 7 of 9 first-place votes. Here's the rest of the top 10:
Others receiving votes: Vernon Wells, Michael Bourn, Marlon Byrd, Nyjer Morgan, Adam Jones, Mike Cameron, Chris Young, Carlos Beltran, Nate McLouth, Alex Rios
Since it is Opening Day (for most teams anyway), we lead off with the top 10 leadoff hitters. Corny? Absolutely, but it is an interesting topic for sure.
What makes a good leadoff hitter? It used to be that most would say a nice batting average and a lot of stolen bases would do the trick. Those numbers are definitely still relevant, but there are so many ways to look at things nowadays. Runs created, pitches seen, extra bases taken… Imagine the possibilities.
The majority of our panel was aboard the Ichiro bandwagon. Not much to dislike when it comes to the Mariners leadoff hitter – Ichiro has been a model of consistency. In each of his nine MLB seasons, he has at least 200 hits, 25 steals, a .300 BA and a .350 OBP. Last season Ichiro slugged a career high .465 and grounded into just 1 double play.
All that and much more were considered… You know our number one, so here's the rest of our best leadoff hitters (first-place votes in parentheses): Others receiving votes: Julio Borbon, Juan Pierre, Grady Sizemore, Alfonso Soriano, Ian Kinsler, Skip Schumaker, Stephen Drew, Kosuke Fukudome, David DeJesus, Marco Scutaro, Andrew McCutchen and Dexter Fowler.
Billy Butler was one of only two players (with Brian Roberts) to top the half-century mark in doubles last season. Butler’s total (51) was 2nd-best in Royals history, behind only Hal McRae’s 54 two-baggers in 1977. Rapping 50 doubles in a season is a solid feat, accomplished only 29 times last decade. Butler also hit 21 home runs, making him one of only 20 players to hit 50 doubles and 20 homers in one season since 2000.
However Butler’s most impressive achievement is to reach both plateaus at such a young age. He was a 1st-round pick in 2004, and he’s been in the majors since 2007, so it’s easy to forget that Butler is still only 23 years old (he turns 24 on April 18). The list of players who have hit 50 doubles by age 23 (defined as age on June 30 of season) is short and impressive, featuring Hall-of-Famers Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter and Hank Greenberg; two future enshrines in Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez; and young stars Miguel Cabrera and Grady Sizemore. Adding in the 20 homers shortens the list even more, knocking Musial and Slaughter off the chart:
Of the quintet that Butler joined on this list, only Pujols ever topped his doubles total over the rest of his career. However, all five of them proceeded to increase their home run totals, which indicates that Butler’s ceiling may be extremely high. To borrow a phrase from Royals broadcaster Fred White, If you want to dream a little, check out Butler’s stats in 2009, his third season in the majors, which are better than the third season of the best Royal ever:
Odds are that Billy Butler won’t make the Hall of Fame, but his early numbers have him inching that direction.
.303 BA, .395 OBP, .549 slug pct
Those are the stat lines from the past two seasons for two 27-year-olds roaming the outfield for the Cleveland Indians. The former belongs to Grady Sizemore, the later to Shin-Soo Choo. That is why he is the One2Watch4.
While the man with the with large female following known as Grady’s Ladies gets all the attention, Choo has quietly stepped up as the Tribe’s offensive leader.
Its easy to go unnoticed when you lead your 97-loss team in homers with just 20, as Choo did in ’09, but he deserves legitimate consideration as one of the best young hitters in baseball. Over the past two seasons Choo has posted an OPS+ (also known as adjusted OPS) of 142. Among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances he ranks 12th overall and 2nd among outfielders during that span. It’s an impressive list for Choo to be on, as all 11 of the players ranked ahead of him have appeared in two or more All-Star Games.
To put that number into some historical perspective, consider this, via Baseball-Reference.com PI: only four players who accumulated at least 1,2oo plate appearances with the Tribe through their first five seasons had a higher OPS+: Larry Doby, Rocky Colavito and Manny Ramirez.
Choo may never put up the power numbers of Colavito, Doby or Ramirez – each of whom led the league in homers at least once – but he finds ways to produce runs.
Perhaps the most impressive stats from Choo’s 2009 campaign are his numbers in the clutch. In close and late situations (defined as: 7th inning or later when leading by one run, tied, or with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck) Choo batted .405 with a .542 OBP – far and away the league leader in both categories.
Just how impressive are those numbers? Over the past decade just three players with at least 75 plate appearances – Barry Bonds (2001, 2004), Albert Pujols (2007) and Aramis Ramirez (2008) – posted an OBP higher than Choo’s .542 in close and late situations. If you extend the list to include the two players just behind Choo, Jason Giambi in 2000 and Bonds in 2002, four of the top seven numbers belong to that year’s league MVP (Bonds all three times and Giambi).
With numbers like these it’s hard not to wonder if Choo ranks among the game’s most underappreciated players. But if he keeps producing at this rate, it’s safe to say that fans and opposing pitchers will take notice.
Perhaps the lovely ladies of Cleveland should start a new club this season: Choo’s Boos.