Stats & Info: Jaime Garcia

Kernels: A week of perfect fives

May, 19, 2013
Our weekly review of interesting and notable stats you might have missed.

Give Me Five
Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals went 5-for-5, with 5 RBI, in Monday's 11-4 victory against the Los Angeles Angels. And he had that big game without going deep. Butler's RBI came on two doubles and a single.

Butler was the first player to have five hits and five driven in since Josh Hamilton's four-homer game last season. And in franchise history, only one other Royal had reached five-and-five in the same game: Kevin Seitzer (6-for-6, 2 HR, 7 RBI) against the Red Sox on August 2, 1987.

On Tuesday, Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies also went 5-for-5 in a 9-4 win against the Chicago Cubs.

That was the first five-hit game by a Colorado batter in three years, and two of those hits left the yard. That made CarGo just the third player in franchise history to have five hits, including two homers, in a single game. Andres Galarraga had a six-hit, two-homer game in 1995, and Vinny Castilla did it in a 12-inning contest in July 1997.

And the week wasn't over. Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers went 5-for-5 in Saturday's 7-2 victory against the Tigers. He's the first leadoff hitter to go a perfect 5-for-5 (or better) since Derek Jeter on July 9, 2011. That's the game where Jeter homered for his 3,000th hit.

Prior to this week there had been just one other five-hit game this season, by Carlos Santana of the Cleveland Indians on April 7.

Slugfest of the Week: Rays 12, Orioles 10
The Rays scored seven runs off starter Jason Hammel, added three more off Sean Burnett (who needed 28 pitches to get one out), and were up 12-4 before Jeremy Hellickson got in trouble in the 8th. A Nate McLouth triple started the inning, and the Orioles strung together five straight two-out hits en route to a six-run frame.

The teams combined for 30 hits (only nine games this season have gotten there; the high is 33 by the Diamondbacks and Cardinals on April 3), and each team had six extra-base hits.

Both starters gave up 10 hits and at least seven runs. That hadn't happened in any game since July 20, 2009, when the Minnesota Twins' Nick Blackburn and Gio Gonzalez "dueled" in a 14-13 Oakland Athletics win.

On the other hand, Hellickson walked just one hitter and Hammel two, and that combination (10-plus hits, seven-plus runs, max of two walks) hadn't been achieved by a pair of starters in more than a decade. John Patterson of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Mets' Al Leiter each posted that line on August 4, 2002.

The Orioles also had two triples (Yamaico Navarro had the other), the first time they've done that in almost three years (July 7, 2010, at Detroit). That had been the longest drought without a multi-triple game by any team.

Winning Ugly
Hellickson got the win in that game on Friday despite being charged with eight runs. But he wasn't the only one this week.

Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants worked into the seventh inning against the Rockies on Thursday, allowing six runs and three homers. He got the win only because Jhoulys Chacin gave up eight runs.

On Friday, Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals pitched 5 1/3 innings with six runs allowed, but won because Wily Peralta of the Brewers allowed seven.

There have been five instances this season of a pitcher allowing six or more runs and getting a win, all in the last 10 days. And the last time three pitchers did it in two days was on April 13, 2009, when Edinson Volquez, Gavin Floyd, and Koji Uehara all barely made it through the required five innings.

The last two-day span where all three pitchers went beyond the five-inning minimum was May 25-26, 1992. Those lucky winners were Butch Henry of the Astros, Charles Nagy of the Indians, and the Orioles' (and ESPN's) Rick Sutcliffe.

Rangers on cusp of first World Series title

October, 26, 2011

Getty Images
The Rangers hope to celebrate a win in Game 6 and their first World Series title tonight in St. Louis.

The Year of The Napoli and 51,000 screaming fans lifted the Texas Rangers to a pivotal win in Game 5. Now as the series shifts to St. Louis for Game 6, the Rangers are one victory away from their first-ever World Series title.

The Rangers are one of eight current major-league franchises that have never won a World Series. Among those teams, the Rangers have been in existence the longest, playing their inaugural season in 1961. In fact, the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Rangers and Minnesota Vikings are tied for the most seasons played (51) by any franchise - in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB - that has never won a championship.

They do have one streak in their favor: the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since being swept by the Red Sox August 23-25, a span of 45 games during which they have gone 32-13.

The St. Louis Cardinals head home needing a win to extend their season one more day. The Cardinals have been in this situation before. It is the sixth time the team has trailed 3-2 in a World Series in franchise history. In four of the previous five instances, they rallied to win the title.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, their four wins when trailing 3-2 in the Fall Classic are the most of any franchise in major-league history. The Twins are second on that list, with three such wins.

Key Matchups
Mike Napoli has crushed Cardinals pitching in these five games, with a 1.235 OPS and nine RBI in 13 at-bats. He has feasted on high heat, with both of his home runs in this series coming on fastballs in the upper-third of the zone or above. Overall this postseason, he is slugging .941 on high fastballs.

Jaime Garcia held Napoli hitless in two at-bats in Game 2 , but just one of the seven pitches he threw was a fastball. Napoli did manage to hit two line drives against Garcia (one on a changeup, one on a slider), though both were caught for outs.

Albert Pujols is hitless in four of the five games in this series and came up small in a key spot in the ninth inning of Game 5, striking out on a 99-mph outside fastball.

Pujols is 0-for-4 in at-bats ending in a heater away in this series, continuing a trend of poor performance from the regular season. He hit just .213 in 89 at-bats ending on outside fastballs, which ranked 299th out of 368 major-league players with at least 100 PA ending in those pitches.

Colby Lewis held Pujols without a hit in three at-bats in Game 2. Four of the nine pitches Lewis threw to Pujols were on the outer part of the plate (all fastballs), and Pujols put just one ball in play, which was caught for an out by centerfielder Craig Gentry in the first inning.

Stat to Remember
Lewis is one of five pitchers in major-league history to allow two runs or fewer in six of his first seven career postseason starts (Curt Schilling, Sandy Koufax, Orlando Hernandez, Chief Bender are the others). The only one of that group to allow two runs or fewer in seven of their first eight starts was Schilling.

Cardinals approach to Cruz a Game 2 key

October, 20, 2011

Where lefties have gotten Nelson Cruz out this postseason. He's 0-for-7 against them.
Click here to create your own Cruz heat maps

The improbable run by the St. Louis Cardinals, largely due to the remarkable work of their relief corps, has sparked them to a 1-0 lead over the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series.

Here's a closer look at the matchup for tonight's Game 2.

The History
The Cardinals have won Game 1 of a World Series six previous times. In 1934, 1964, 1967, and 2006, they won Game 1 and went on to win the World Series (three of the four went seven games). In 1968 and 1985, they lost the World Series (blowing a 3-games-to-1 lead in each instance).

The Rangers have won Game 2 of a postseason series in four of the last five postseason series in which they’ve played. The lone loss came in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. But the pitcher starting for the Rangers, Colby Lewis, has the team’s only World Series win to date.

Matchup of the Game: Jaime Garcia vs. Nelson Cruz
The Cardinals pitched Nelson Cruz to perfection in Game 1 of the World Series. Of the 20 pitches Cruz saw in the series opener, none were thrown inside (defined as on the inner-third of the plate or closer to him).

Remember that Cruz hammered inside pitches for five of his six home runs in the ALCS win against the Tigers (the Rays avoided pitching him inside in the ALDS, a series in which Cruz went 1-for-15).

Garcia is a rare left-hander with better regular-season splits against right-handed hitters than left-handed batters. That’s due partly to the success of his changeup, which he uses against right-handers at a rate of about once every five pitches.

The pitch hasn’t been as effective in the postseason as it was in the regular season. He’s gotten nine outs and allowed four hits with it in October. His typical rate is to get about five outs for every hit he allows with the pitch.

Cruz is 0-for-7 against left-handed pitchers this postseason.

The other thing to watch will be Cruz against the Cardinals' late-game relievers. Closer Jason Motte threw Cruz five sliders in their meeting in the ninth inning of Game 1. It was a change of approach for Motte, who hadn’t thrown more than three sliders to any hitter in any plate appearance all season.

The Bullpens
Rangers and Cardinals relievers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the World Series, though Alexi Ogando allowed an inherited runner to score on Allen Craig’s go-ahead pinch-hit in the sixth inning.

Dating back to Game 6 of the NLCS, opponents are now 1-for-their-last 25 against Cardinals relief pitchers.

Quirky Stat of the Day
Albert Pujols has a heck of a history in Game 2s of postseason series. Pujols was 4-for-5 with four extra-base hits in the 12-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. That upped Pujols’ Game 2 batting average to .463 (25-for-54) with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 14 games.
The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-1 in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the NLCS, thanks to a strong effort from the Cardinals bullpen and four costly errors by the Brewers defense.

Jaime Garcia allowed four hits and no runs in his first four innings, but couldn’t make it through the fifth when he gave up three singles and a run scored with two outs.

For that near-winning effort, Garcia became the first starting pitcher in postseason history to pitch 4⅔ innings, allow one run or fewer and be in position for a win, but be pulled from the game.

With the early hook of Garcia by Tony LaRussa, no Cardinals starter has gotten an out in the sixth inning in the NLCS. If the Cardinals are able to win the series, it would be a historic event given the failure of their starting rotation to go deep into games.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team has won a postseason series in which its starters did not pitch more than five innings in any of the first five games.

The Brewers, who had not committed four errors in any game since May 2008, became the third team to have four errors in a NLCS game. The other teams were the 1974 Dodgers vs Pirates (5 errors) and the 2001 Braves vs Diamondbacks (4 errors).

Zack Greinke was the on the mound for three of the four errors, which led to three unearned runs and five runs total in 5⅔ innings. During the regular season, he allowed just nine unearned runs, but seven of them came in his 13 road starts.

Greinke’s ERA rose to 6.48 in this postseason following the game. If he doesn’t pitch again, he’ll own the second-highest ERA in a single postseason (min. 15 IP) by a pitcher that had previously won the Cy Young Award, according to Elias.

The series now shifts to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Sunday. Brewers fans, however, have a reason to be optimistic despite their team being down 3-2 in the series.

Milwaukee is 5-1 in postseason elimination games at home, which is tied for the second-best record in such games in the Divisional Era (min. 3 games), according to Elias.

Cardinals fans can’t stock the refrigerator with celebratory beverages yet, although they need one win to reach the World Series. The Redbirds have lost their last four Game 6’s on the road dating back to the 1985 World Series. The only team to match that streak is the Giants franchise from 1929 to 2002.
The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals try to take control of the NLCS Friday in St. Louis with the series tied at two apiece. Four previous times the Cardinals have been tied 2-2 in the NLCS (1985, 1987, 2004, 2006). All four times they won the series and advanced to the World Series. The Brewers have only been in one previous best-of-seven series that was tied at two games, the 1982 World Series, which they lost in seven games to the Cardinals despite winning Game 5.

On the Mound
This is a rematch of the starting pitchers for Game 1 of this series – Zack Greinke and Jaime Garcia.

Greinke is making his third career postseason start. In the Game 1 start of this series, he went six innings while allowing six earned runs, but still earned the win. In fact, Greinke probably wishes this start was at home since he’s 12-0 in Miller Park this season (regular and postseason combined).

Greinke is 5-3 with a 4.41 ERA in eight career starts against the Cardinals (including postseason).

Garcia is also making his third career postseason start. He enters 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA, which includes allowing six earned runs in four innings in Game 1 against Milwaukee.

Garcia - who’s 3-3 with a 3.64 ERA in eight career starts against the Brewers - has struggled after a promising start to the season. Garcia began the year 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first 10 starts, but since then, he’s only 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA.

Players to Watch
Albert Pujols is 8-for-15 (.533) with six RBI in this series and David Freese is 8-for-16 (.500) with six runs batted in. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they are the first pair of teammates in major-league history to each bat at least .500 with six or more RBIs through their team's first four games of a postseason series.

Ryan Braun
Can the Cardinals slow down Ryan Braun? He has nine RBI this postseason. Only Cecil Cooper had more in a single postseason for the Brewers, with 10 in 1982. Braun also has reached base safely in the first inning in each of his last eight postseason games. That's the longest streak in MLB history, surpassing the mark he shared with Gary Sheffield for the 1997 Marlins. With 21 hits in his first 50 postseason at-bats, he is the first player since Mike Stanley (1995-1999) to accomplish that feat. Six other players did it prior to Stanley.

Stat of the Game
This is the third best-of-seven postseason series of Tony La Russa's managerial career that was tied 2-2 through four games. According to Elias, his team won each of the previous two such series in seven games: the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros and the 2006 NLCS vs. the New York Mets.
The National League Division Series shifts to St. Louis for a pivotal Game 3 between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals tonight.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in a five-game Division Series that is tied after the first two games, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 19 of the 23 times since 1995, including 11 of the 12 series in the National League.

However, by winning Game 1, the Phillies have history on their side. In the Wild Card Era (since 1995), the Game 1 winner in the Division Series has won 73 percent of the time, including wins in 29 of the 32 NL series.

Inside the Series
Sunday night’s loss snapped a six-game winning streak in the Division Series for the Phillies. That was tied for the third-longest all-time and second-longest among NL teams. Since their World Series run in 2008, the Phillies are 10-3 in Division Series.

Despite their victory on Sunday, the Cardinals are still just 2-5 in their last seven Division Series games. However, the Redbirds have won six of their last eight postseason games at Busch Stadium and are an impressive 11-3 all-time in Division Series games in St. Louis.

On the Mound
Cole Hamels, the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, makes his 13th career postseason start. Hamels has had success in this situation before, when he threw a five-hit, nine-strikeout shutout in Game 3 of the NLDS last year against the Reds.

Hamels struggled down the stretch this year, with a 3.79 ERA in September that was his highest in any month. He allowed four runs in two of his final five starts, after doing so in just three of his first 26 starts.

Hamels had trouble with the longball last month, during which he allowed nine of his 19 homers. Luck may not have been on his side, though, as one of every five flyballs hit against him went over the fence in September; in the first five months, he gave up a homer on just one of every 15 flyballs he allowed.

Jaime Garcia gets the nod for the Cardinals, making his first career postseason start. Garcia was much more effective at home this season, with an ERA in St. Louis that was more than two runs better than on the road.

Garcia shut down the Phillies in his two starts against them this season, allowing just one earned run in 15 innings while holding the Phillies batters to a sub-.200 average. Garcia owns a 1.20 ERA in six career games against Philly, the lowest ERA among active pitchers versus the team (min. four starts).

Matchups to Watch
Albert Pujols hasn’t been able to solve Hamels during his career. He is 4-for-23 (.174) in their matchups, although two of his four hits are homers. That’s his lowest batting average vs. any active pitcher (min. 20 at-bats).

Garcia has been able to neutralize the current Phillies hitters, holding them to a .186 batting average and .547 OPS in his career. Of note, lefties Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are a combined 2-18 (.111) while switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are a combined 3-20 (.150).
What seemed so unlikely just a few weeks ago has now become a reality –- the Tampa Bay Rays have tied the Boston Red Sox for the AL Wild Card lead with just two games remaining in the regular season.

The Rays have risen to the top of the Wild Card standings for the first time since May 23, when they had a half-game lead over the Red Sox (and were tied for first with the New York Yankees).

Tampa Bay beat the Yankees 5-2 as James Shields fell one out short of his 12th complete game. He went at least eight innings for the 15th time this season, which is the most in MLB and one more than Justin Verlander.

B.J. Upton continued his hot hitting, with two doubles and two game-tying RBI. Upton has been a sparkplug for the Rays offense during their September run, batting .381 with 19 RBI in his last 22 games.

The Rays, who were nine games out of a playoff spot on September 2, are trying to become the first team in major-league history to overcome a deficit of nine games-or-more in September and make the postseason.

Boston’s September collapse continued with a 6-3 loss to the Orioles. The Red Sox are now 6-19 in September, which is tied for their second-most losses in the month in franchise history.

The Red Sox still have not won back-to-back games since August 27. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this stretch of 27 games is Boston’s longest since a 28-game run in 1994.

Josh Beckett allowed six earned runs in six innings for the second straight start, as the Red Sox starting pitching woes deepened. The rotation now has a 7.26 ERA in September, which would be the worst in any month by a Red Sox team (min. 20 games).

The St. Louis Cardinals remain one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL Wild Card race, following their 5-4 walk-off loss to the Astros in the 10th inning. It was the 13th walk-off loss for the Cardinals this season, the most in the NL and tied with the Angels and Mariners for the most in the majors.

Jaime Garcia struggled on the mound for the Redbirds, allowing four runs in four innings. The Cardinals had won his previous four starts and Garcia had a 1.74 ERA since September 6 before Monday night’s poor outing.

The Braves couldn’t widen their lead in the NL Wild Card race despite the Cardinals' loss, as they also lost 4-2 to the Phillies. The Braves are now 9-16 overall in September, the worst record among NL teams.

The Braves offense continued to flounder, as they scored three runs or fewer for the 13th time this month. They went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and are 1-for-16 in their last three games, all losses. They entered the month hitting .261 with RISP through August.
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.
On a night full of walk-offs, the Minnesota Twins stood out from the pack as they defeated the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 1-0 in 10 innings.

The Twins won the game on a walk-off hit by Danny Valencia, Minnesota's second walk-off victory this season. Both of the Twins walk-off victories have come courtesy of a Danny Valencia single.

Minnesota's pitching staff limited Los Angeles to just one hit in 10 innings. In the live-ball era, the Twins are just the fifth team to win an extra-inning shutout in which they allowed one hit or fewer via a walk-off.

The last to team do so was the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997, when Francicsco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined on a no-hitter through 10 innings before Mark Smith hit a pinch-hit three-run home run to give the Pirates the walk-off win.

Up and Down on the Mound

Jered Weaver
Anthony Swarzak
While Valencia's walk-off hit stole some of the thunder, the stars of the game on Saturday were starting pitchers Anthony Swarzak (8 innings, one hit) and Jered Weaver (9 innings, two hits).

Swarzak, filling in for Francisco Liriano, carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning before it was broken up by Peter Bourjos. In his 13 career starts entering Saturday, Swarzak had never gone more than 3 1/3 innings into a start without allowing a hit.

While Swarzak's performance was a shock, Weaver continued his strong pitching performance this season, lowering his ERA to 2.10, fourth-best in the American League.

Saturday night featured other notable pitching performances, but not for the right reasons.

After allowing 14 earned runs in his first 10 starts combined, Jaime Garcia allowed 11 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings pitched in the St. Louis Cardinals loss to the Colorado Rockies.

Garcia saw his ERA jump from 1.93 to 3.28 from this one game alone. According to Elias, in the last 90 seasons only one other pitcher having made at least 10 starts in a season saw his ERA jump 1.35 points after one game.

That was Charlie Morton in 2009 who saw his ERA jump 1.70 points -- from 3.81 to 5.51 -- after giving up 10 earned runs while recording only three outs.

While Garcia's start was horrendous, it may not have been the worst on Saturday. Kansas City Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan gave up 10 runs on 15 hits, five of which were home runs against the Texas Rangers.

O'Sullivan was the first pitcher in 71 years to do so, and just the fourth pitcher in the live ball era to sport such a stat line.

So whose start was worse? We use Game Score, a metric developed by Bill James which "grades" a starting pitching line, based on the number of hits, strikeouts, innings pitched, walks and runs allowed, to be the judge. A score of 50 is average in this system, with the higher the number, the better the start.

O'Sullivan registered a -2 Game Score, one of two negative Game Scores this season. The other now belongs to Jaime Garcia who finished with a Game Score of -6, the worst in the majors.
Buster Posey
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, fresh off a World Series championship, was named National League Rookie of the Year Tuesday, beating Atlanta Braves rightfielder Jason Heyward.

Posey was tied with Heyward for fifth among NL rookies with 18 home runs, and was fourth with 67 RBI in just 108 games. He finished first with a .305 batting average and a .505 slugging percentage and ran the best pitching staff in the major leagues.

Posey is the sixth Giant to win the NL Rookie of the Year, a list that includes three Hall of Famers. He is also the fifth San Francisco Giants rookie to finish the season with a .300 batting average and double-digit home runs.

Three of the other four also won the award, and the other lost out to his teammate who accomplished the same feat in the same season.

Heyward had one of the best seasons for a player as young as he is (he turned 21 during the season) in a long time. While Posey has a significant edge on Jason Heyward in both batting average and slugging percentage, there is one next-level metric in which Heyward has a decisive edge.

Win Probability Added measures the value of every plate appearance during a given season, and how much it contributes to a team’s chances to win. For example, in a tie game, with no one on base and one out in the top of the ninth inning, a player hits a go-ahead home run.

He took his team’s chance of winning (based on historical data) from 43 percent to 80 percent, so he gets a credit of 37 percent. Win Probability Added sums a player’s credits (and debits) over a season to get their total value.

Heyward had a LOT of big hits for the Braves this season, so many that he ended the season ranked sixth-best in the NL with a WPA of 4.82 wins (his offensive contributions were worth 4.82 wins). That dwarfs Posey’s 1.09 WPA, which admittedly is hurt by his only playing 108 games, but is unlikely to have been anywhere near Heyward’s had he played the full season.

Jaime Garcia finished third after going 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals. His 13 wins led NL rookies (only one other pitcher had 10) and his 2.70 ERA was second among rookies with a minimum of 81 innings pitched.

And Gaby Sanchez of the Florida Marlins finished fourth, after leading all NL rookies with 85 RBI and hitting 19 home runs, which was tied for third.

With Neftali Feliz winning in the American League, the Rookies of the Year faced each other in the World Series for just the third time in baseball history. In 1981, the New York Yankees and Dave Righetti faced Fernando Valenzuela and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And in 1951, Gil McDougald and the Yankees faced the New York Giants and Willie Mays.

An injury that helped Freese the Cardinals

October, 1, 2010

Someday, it might be one year or 12 years from now, St. Louis Cardinals fans will look back at this season and try to pinpoint where it all went wrong.

They had the rare trifecta of an MVP contender (Albert Pujols), a Cy Young contender (Adam Wainwright) and a Rookie of the Year contender (Jaime Garcia). The payroll was competitive, there was young and cheap talent blossoming and the headlining offseason move (Matt Holliday) had one of the best seasons of his career.

But David Freese -- or more appropriately, David Freese’s injury -- is one big reason why the Cardinals won't be in the postseason.

Freese didn’t play after June 27 because of various foot injuries (mostly ankle-related), and was hobbled for a few weeks before then. All told, Freese will miss 92 games.

The Cardinals were 10 games above .500 in games Freese started (37-27) and four games under .500 when he didn’t (entering Thursday, as are all the below numbers).

How much can losing a rookie third baseman really hurt? Take a look at the ramifications:

FreeseFreese was having a high-end offensive season at his position.

His OPS of .765 wasn't elite (think Evan Longoria) but solid (think Casey McGehee). And before the injury started hobbling him, Freese’s OPS was .832. That’s between a Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez level of production.

Freese’s absence forced Yadier Molina to bat one spot higher.

The No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the order, of course, go to Pujols and Holliday. The No. 5 spot went mostly to Colby Rasmus, though Freese batted there as well. But it’s the No. 6 spot that’s crucial. That’s where Yadier Molina took the majority of his plate appearances -- especially after Freese went out. With Freese in the lineup, Molina’s bat was free to be moved lower in the lineup. While Molina had a typical year by his standards at the plate, downgrading from Freese to Molina is a drop in OPS from .765 to .671. When you have Pujols, Holliday and Rasmus hitting in front of you, that difference can mean a lot of runners left on base.

The other third basemen fielded below Freese’s level.

From Fangraphs, Freese provided a 0.1 UZR at third base. Lopez was a -0.4 and Pedro Feliz was a -0.2. Freese was 0.2 runs above replacement, Lopez was -6.6 and Feliz -0.2.

Freese’s absence forced lesser offensive players into more plate appearances.

Lopez covering for Freese meant he couldn’t take the spot of Brendan Ryan at shortstop. Ryan, while a fine defender, was no match for Lopez’s production at the plate, even in a down year for Lopez. Ryan was one of the worst batters in MLB (.567 OPS), while Feliz, a midseason acquisition who received plenty of playing time, was even worse (.492 OPS with the Cardinals). Neither of those players figured to see nearly as much playing time with a healthy Freese in the lineup.

Freese’s injury raises questions about the future at the position for the Cardinals.

Freese hasn’t been injured just once. He now has an injury history that brings his durability into question. And, as a young and cost-controlled player this season, Freese was one of the team’s most valuable assets. After the injury, he’s now one year older and one year closer to not being cost-controlled. The Cardinals will head into next spring with Freese as the incumbent starter, while trying to develop third base replacements behind him. But if another injury strikes and the replacements aren’t ready, they could find themselves in the same predicament.

Lou Piniella by the numbers

August, 22, 2010
The Chicago Cubs' Lou Piniella managed the 3,548th and final game of his career Sunday, a 16-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Piniella finishes with 1,835 wins as a manager, 14th on the all-time list. The only eligible manager with more wins who is not in the Hall of Fame is Gene Mauch (12th with 1,902 wins).
As a manager, Piniella is one of:
• Two men (Dick Williams being the other) to win at least 90 games in a season with four different teams. Piniella did it with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Cubs.

• Three Cubs managers to make consecutive playoff appearances (2007-08).

• Four to win Manager of the Year honors in both the American and National leagues (La Russa, Cox and Leyland are the others).

• Five to be named Manager of the Year at least three times, along with Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox (4 each), and Dusty Baker and Jim Leyland (3 each).

• In Piniella’s final game in the dugout, the Braves' Mike Minor became the second pitcher this season with at least 12 strikeouts within the first three games of his career (the Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg being the other). Minor's 12 K’s ties the franchise record for the most in a start by a rookie.

• FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: Atlanta's lead-off hitter Omar Infante and No. 2 hitter Jason Heyward each hit two home runs against the Cubs. It's the first time in since 1900 that the top two hitters in the Braves' lineup each had a multi-HR game in the same game.
• With his win at home over the Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies Roy Oswalt remains perfect in seven starts at Citizens Bank Park (7-0, 2.03 ERA). Oswalt is now 31-7 in 48 career starts in the month of August. That’s a win percentage of .816, the best among active pitchers who have made at least 45 starts.

• The St. Louis Cardinals' Jaime Garcia shut out the San Francisco Giants, 9-0. He's the first left-handed Cardinals rookie to throw a shutout since Bud Smith's no-hitter against the Padres in September of 2001.

• The San Diego Padres' Adrian Gonzalez has now hit at least 25 home runs in each of the last four seasons. The only other player with such a streak in team history is the late Ken Caminiti. Gonzalez is on the verge of also becoming the Padres’ all-time leader in home runs. He now has 155, one shy of Phil Nevin for second in franchise history and is eight shy of Nate Colbert’s team record of 163.

• In the Chicago White Sox's 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Royals, Bobby Jenks pitched the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. It’s the third time in Jenks’ career that he pitched three innings of relief and the first since Sept. 9, 2005.

• Dallas Braden allowed three earned runs in six innings in the Oakland Athletics' 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the 15th straight quality start by an A’s pitcher, extending the longest streak in Oakland history.

1st Pitch: Grounds for Discussion

August, 16, 2010
Today’s Trivia: We’ve got a tremendous lefty showdown tonight in Tampa – Cliff Lee against David Price. Both will likely find their names on some Cy Young ballots at the end of the season. When was the last time that two left-handed pitchers finished 1st and 2nd in Cy voting in a season? When was the last time it happened in the AL?

Quick Hits: Pitchers love getting ground ball outs and pitching coaches love preaching to play to your defense. Let’s take a look at which hitters and pitchers have ratios at either end of the spectrum:

Derek Jeter has been beating the ball into the turf more than any other AL hitter. He has a 3.30 groundout-to-flyout ratio, which blows away second place on the list (Juan Pierre, at 2.28).

Meanwhile, the man who frequently bats behind Jeter in the order is a polar opposite. Nick Swisher’s 0.66 ratio is second-lowest on the list, narrowly behind Jhonny Peralta’s 0.65

Chalk up the Cleveland Indians as a team that pitches to the ground ball. Justin Masterson is the leader in groundout-to-flyout ratio among pitchers, and two other Indians (or former Indians) ranked in the top eight in that category – Fausto Carmona and the departed Jake Westbrook.

In the NL, a pair of Central division batters – Michael Bourn and Skip Schumaker – are the groundout-to-flyout frequenters. Maybe the biggest surprise comes at third on the list – Jason Heyward, with a 1.92 ratio.

Roger McDowell and Dave Duncan seem to be kindred spirits, with their pitching staffs following in tow. Of the top four groundout-to-flyout pitchers in the NL, two are Braves (Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe) and the other two are Cardinals (Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright).

On the other end of things, the San Francisco Giants have three starters in the top five of pitchers who get flyouts most frequently. Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito are all among the league leaders in that category.

Today’s Leaderboard: How would you like to be Jon Rauch on Sunday – entering the game trying to continue the dominance after Kevin Slowey pitches seven no-hit innings? It didn’t end well for Rauch, who allowed a double to the second batter he faced, ending the no-hitter and eventually the shutout.

Lucky for Rauch, it was a relatively low-leverage situation, at least numbers-wise: his team was up 4-0 with only nine outs needed to polish off the A’s. But which guys have entered games in high-leverage situations the most this season? Interesting to see two Boston Red Sox pitchers on this list:

High leverage is defined here as the first PA of a pitcher’s appearance having a leverage index of 1.5 or higher. A leverage index of 1.0 is considered average, with the greater index indicating the higher pressure. By the way, Rauch has 21 high leverage appearances this season.

Key Matchups: Max Scherzer has only faced four active New York Yankees batters in his career, but he’s made them look silly. Lance Berkman, Curtis Granderson, Austin Kearns and Mark Teixeira are a combined 3-16 (.188 BA) against Scherzer. Those batters have eight strikeouts in 18 AB.

You could see why Kevin Correia might not be thrilled about taking the mound at Wrigley Field tonight – Correia has a 17.47 ERA in five games there, including one start. That’s his worst ERA of any ballpark where he’s made a start. In his last outing, a start with the Giants, Correia didn’t make it out of the fourth inning and allowed seven earned runs.

More on the potentially epic lefty matchup tonight in Tampa. Let’s breakdown their Opp BA numbers, tale-of-the-tape style:

Moral of the story? It’s better to go lefty-lefty against Lee rather than Price. And while Lee excels in keeping runners off base in the first place, Price thrives once they do get on.

Trivia Answer: Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine finished 1-2 in 2000. The NL hasn’t seen a lefty Cy winner since the Big Unit won his last in 2002. To find two leftys that finished 1-2 in the AL, you have to go all the way back to 1979, when Mike Flanagan won and Tommy John took second.

1st Pitch: Chasing history before the break

June, 25, 2010
Quick Hits: With less than a week before All-Star voting closes, let’s take a look at some players having historic first halves to the season. Can they keep up the pace going into the break?
  • Arthur Rhodes’ 0.24 ERA would be the second lowest going into the break (min. 30 IP) over the last 50 years. In 1989, Bill Landrum took a 0.23 ERA into the break for the Pirates (but was not an NL All-Star), before finishing the season at 1.69.
  • Likely to make three more starts before the break, Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1) has a shot at being the first pitcher with 16 wins before the break since Wilbur Wood (16-11) in 1974 for the White Sox. However, Wood did it in 27 starts, whereas Jimenez will have only made 18. The last pitcher to win 15 before the break was David Wells in 2000.
  • Jaime Garcia’s 1.79 ERA would be the lowest at the break for a qualifying rookie since Mark Fidrych’s 1.78 in 1976. He started the All-Star Game for the AL that season.
  • If he gets enough plate appearances to qualify, Brennan Boesch’s .346 batting average would be the highest for a rookie at the break in the last 50 years. In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki found himself at .345 going into the All-Star Game.
  • Cliff Lee has issued just four walks in 86.2 innings, a rate of 0.42 per nine innings. Only one starter has had a lower rate going into the break over the last 50 years. In 2005, Carlos Silva walked only five in 114.2 innings, a rate of 0.39 per nine.
  • Kenshin Kawakami (0-9) draws another start on Saturday. In 2007, Anthony Reyes went into the break at 0-10. The worst winless pre-break start over the last 50 years belongs to Anthony Young, who was 0-12 in 1993 for the Mets.
  • The Orioles’ .278 winning percentage would be the fourth lowest at the break over the last 50 years, and the lowest since the 2003 Tigers (.272). The 1979 A’s hold the low-water mark over that span, having entered the break at 25-69 (.266).
Today’s Trivia: Over the last three seasons combined, who has the most home runs before the All-Star break?

Today’s Leaderboard: Roy Halladay takes the hill against the Blue Jays for the first time in his career today. Among players that started their career in the last 50 years, Halladay has the second best winning percentage before the All-Star break. Only Pedro Martinez has been more dominant. Halladay is 101-44 (.697) before the break, and just 55-38 (.591) after.

Key Matchups: Aaron Rowand has only started four of the Giants’ last 11 games, but you can bet that he will be penciled in on Friday. Quite simply, no one mashes Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball like Rowand, who is 11-for-17 with four home runs and eight RBI in his career against the veteran. That’s the highest average for anyone who has faced Wakefield at least 15 times. This would be their first regular season meeting since 2006.

In four of the first five games that he faced CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez hit a home run. He’s homerless in two meetings since, but has a .571 career average against the big lefty. Only Jermaine Dye and Alfonso Soriano have more career homers against Sabathia, but among those with 15 plate appearances, no one tops Manny’s 1.894 OPS.

Trivia Answer: Since 2008, Adam Dunn’s 66 home runs before the All-Star break are the most in the majors. He has one more than Albert Pujols and two more than Ryan Howard.

Garcia following in Valenzuela's footsteps?

June, 6, 2010
Nearly 30 years ago, a rookie southpaw from Mexico dazzled fans in Los Angeles, allowing one run or fewer in seven of his first 10 starts, while posting a 1.24 ERA. This year, a similar story is being played out in St. Louis, as another rookie southpaw from Mexico has amazed Cardinals fans by allowing one run or fewer in seven of his first 10 starts, while posting a 1.32 ERA.

Jaime Garcia’s stunning performance this season is surely bringing back memories of Fernando Valenzuela and his brilliant Cy Young Award-winning rookie year in 1981. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Garcia’s 1.32 ERA is the lowest by an NL pitcher in the first 10 starts of his rookie season since Valenzuela’s 1.24 ERA in 1981.

But perhaps the most amazing stat of Garcia’s season so far is his ability to strand baserunners. Garcia has allowed 74 baserunners in 61 1/3 innings, but only 12 have touched home plate. He’s stranded an amazing 83.8 percent of runners on base, the second-highest rate in the majors behind only Ubaldo Jimenez!

What’s been the secret to Garcia’s amazing ability to leave so many “ducks on the pond” and what are the chances he’ll be able to sustain this performance the rest of the season?

One key to his success with runners on base appears to be his ability to induce weak contact. Consider that just two of his 20 hits allowed with runners on base have gone for extra bases and 70 percent of his balls allowed in play have been grounders.

In fact, according to Inside Edge, only 17 percent of his at-bats ending with runners on base resulted in a well-hit ball, much better than the MLB average of 21.5 percent in that situation.

Another key for Garcia is the timing of his hits allowed with baserunners. He has given up a hit with runners on base in eight of his 10 starts.

But only four times has he allowed two hits with runners on base in the SAME inning. Also, of the 20 hits he’s given up while pitching from the stretch, just 10 came with runners in scoring position, and only four with a runner on third base.

Many sabermetricians may contend that it will be nearly impossible for Garcia to maintain this super-high strand rate, given that historically pitchers have shown little ability to post rates well above the league average (70 percent). However, Garcia does appear have two things in his favor:

First, he has struck out 22.5 percent of the batters faced with runners on base (MLB average is 17 percent), and pitchers that record high strikeout numbers can pitch their way out of jams more easily than a pitcher that relies upon their team’s defense.

Second, Garcia’s batting average on balls in play with runners on base is .279, which is below the league average of .303, but is not absurdly low enough that he is entirely relying on luck and his fielders behind him to get out of jams.

Garcia will try to extend his dominating run this season tonight when he takes the hill against the Brewers on Sunday Night Baseball at 8 ET on ESPN. He faces a Brewers team that is struggling to plate runners, hitting a combined 3-28 (.107) with runners in scoring position during their three-game losing streak, including 1-15 (.067) in the first two games of the series.