Stats & Info: Jason Giambi

Kernels: Home runs for the home stretch

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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Given that the regular season isn't officially over, we're going to wait and recap our favorite nuggets of the season a little later on. As for this past week, the home stretch brought us a bunch of notable home runs.

•  Will Middlebrooks of the Boston Red Sox had two hits in Wednesday's 15-5 win at Coors Field. They were a grand slam and a three-run homer, giving him 7 RBI for the game. Teammate Shane Victorino had one of the season's other six 7-RBI games back in August, the first time two Red Sox hitters have done it since 1987 (Ellis Burks, Wade Boggs, and Todd Benzinger). And the last Boston hitter with three- and four-run homers in the same game? Carlton Fisk on September 6, 1977.

•  Brad Miller had a multi-homer game out of the leadoff spot on Saturday, the 15th of the season for the Seattle Mariners who led the majors in that category. It was Miller's third multi-homer game of the year; he's the first Seattle leadoff hitter ever with three in a season.

On Wednesday Mike Zunino had one of their other 14; his was notable because, in the alphabetical rolls of over 18,000 major-leaguers, Zunino is followed by only five other players. Only one of them-- perennial trivia answer Dutch Zwilling-- ever had a multi-homer game, and that was in the short-lived Federal League. That makes Zunino the last player (alphabetically) with a multi-homer game in either American or National League history.

• On Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays' James Loney hit a pinch-hit walk-off against the Baltimore Orioles. It was the Rays' only pinch-hit homer (walk-off or not) of the entire season; meanwhile, the Orioles ended up as the only team to not have one. It was the first pinch-hit walk-off surrendered by the Orioles since May 9, 1995, when Wes Chamberlain of the Red Sox hit one off Armando Benitez.

•  On Tuesday it was Jason Giambi's turn to hit one for the Cleveland Indians as they downed the White Sox 5-4. Giambi had three of Cleveland's four pinch-hit homers this year, two of them walk-offs. On July 29 he broke Hank Aaron's mark as the oldest player to hit any walk-off homer.

Well, by September 24 he's just getting older. So at 42 years 259 days, Giambi extended his own record. He now has 11 total pinch-hit homers in his career, more than any other active player (Eric Hinske has nine). And his six pinch-hit walk-off homers are believed to be the most in major-league history; no other active player has more than one!

As for two pinch-hit walk-offs in a season, that hadn't been done since Chris Jones of the Mets in 1995.

• At the other end of the spectrum, Jurickson Profar hit his first walk-off homer for the Texas Rangers on Thursday. At 20 years 218 days, he missed by two weeks becoming the youngest player in the live-ball era to hit a pinch-hit walk-off homer; Hall-of-Famer Jimmie Foxx did it on May 14, 1928 (pinch-hitting for another Hall-of-Famer, Mickey Cochrane).

• The Pittsburgh Pirates clubbed six home runs in Saturday's game against the Reds. That was their most in a game since 2007, and it tied the record for a visiting team at Great American Ball Park. Reds starter Bronson Arroyo allowed the first five, becoming the only pitcher this season to allow five homers in a game. The last hurler to allow that many to the Pirates in one game was Don Sutton, who gave up five solo shots in a 5-4 Dodgers loss on May 7, 1973.

• The Pirates also had a notable home run in Sunday's finale in Cincinnati-- notable because it didn't leave Great American Ball Park. Jordy Mercer hit the season's sixth inside-the-park home run, and the second for Pittsburgh (Pedro Alvarez).

But when Mercer added a triple and a single later in the game, he became the first Pirate since 1985 with three hits including a triple and an inside-the-parker. It was done by Marvell Wynne on June 22 that year against the Astros. The occurrence before that? May 19, 1971, by Roberto Clemente.

Kernels: A week of wacky walk-offs

August, 4, 2013
8/04/13
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It was a week for walk-offs, the kind of week that hasn't been seen in some time.

• Sunday through Wednesday brought us a combined 13 walk-off hits, including at least three each day. In the era of complete searchable play-by-play (which dates to 1973), that was the most walk-off hits in any four-day span. Twelve in four days was last done in July 1999.

• However, Thursday may have provided the most dramatic walk-off win of the season. One day after Stephen Drew's 15th-inning walk-off hit, the Red Sox entered the ninth inning trailing the Mariners 7-2 and with a win probability that briefly dipped as low as 0.6%. Ten batters and only one out later, Boston had racked up six hits, three walks, six runs, and an 8-7 victory on a walk-off single by Daniel Nava (who also drew the walk to start the inning).

It was Boston's 11th walk-off win of the season, leading the majors, and just two shy of their team record set in 1940.

• Jason Giambi's pinch-hit walk-off homer in Cleveland on Monday was the 436th of his career. It also made the 42-year-old Giambi the oldest player ever to hit a walk-off home run, topping the mark of Hank Aaron (1976) by 45 days. Giambi now has the odd split of going deep 218 times at home and 218 times on the road.

The White Sox had not surrendered a walk-off home run yet this season, and hadn't allowed one to the Indians since Omar Vizquel took Keith Foulke deep on September 9, 2001.

• The Indians weren't done for the week, however. Carlos Santana ended Wednesday's game with a 10th-inning solo shot to beat the White Sox 6-5. That gives the Indians five walk-off homers this season, the most in the majors. The Giants and Red Sox each have four.

• Not long after Giambi's blast, Rangers catcher Geovany Soto brought an end to Monday's game with a solo shot off Ernesto Frieri of the Angels. Soto's home run was the game-winner, but earlier in the 9th inning, A.J. Pierzynski had tied the game with his own solo homer.

That made the Rangers the fourth team this season to hit a tying home run and a walk-off homer in the same inning.

Elias noted that the Rangers had three straight wins via walk-off homer, only the fourth time in major-league history that has happened. Only one other team has won all three games of a series via walk-off homer: the 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks against the Montreal Expos.

• Aroldis Chapman-- who gave up the tying and walk-off homers to the Phillies on May 19-- ended up on the wrong side of Monday's third walk-off homer—this one to Chris Denorfia of the San Diego Padres. It put Chapman in the company of Tommy Hunter and Carlos Marmol as the only pitchers this season to allow multiple walk-off home runs.

Denorfia drove in Yonder Alonso who was on first base, also meaning the Padres were trailing (1-0) at the time.

It was the fourth time in Padres history that they'd gotten a pinch-hit, walk-off homer when trailing; and the first since September 28, 1988 against the Dodgers (Mark Parent), the same day Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser broke the record for the longest scoreless innings streak in major-league history.

• The pairing of Giambi and Denorfia gave us the first day with two pinch-hit walk-off homers since June 2, 1995, when Ellis Burks of the Rockies and Rusty Greer of the Rangers each hit one.

• And we haven't even covered the most unusual of Monday's walk-offs: An Andrelton Simmons triple that gave the Braves a 9-8 win over the Colorado Rockies in the 10th inning, after the Rockies had tied the game in the top of the 9th.

Walk-off triples are fairly unusual because the rule requires a batter to actually run out all three bases, and the majority are content to stop at second and watch the play at the plate. In fact, there had been only one other walk-off triple this season, by Ryan Doumit of the Twins on June 1. There were three walk-off triples last year, and the last season with MORE than three was 20 years ago in 1993. Some years don't have any.

The Rockies had never allowed a walk-off triple in their 21-year history. And the Braves hadn't hit one in nearly 60 years (Harry Hanebrink, 1953)

Jones, Giambi still Chipper after turning 40

May, 3, 2012
5/03/12
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Roy Halladay allowed eight earned runs and 12 hits in six or fewer innings for just the fourth time in 358 career starts, but the history books were rewritten hours after he left the game.

Since the Philadelphia Phillies rallied to force extra innings, Halladay remained 69-0 in his career when staked to a six-run lead. Wednesday was only the second time that he blew a six-run lead. On April 25, 2002, he blew a 6-0 lead for the Toronto Blue Jays before earning a no-decision in a loss to the Texas Rangers.

The game ended in the bottom of the 11th when Chipper Jones hit a two-run walk-off home run to give the Atlanta Braves a 15-13 victory. It was the eighth walk-off homer of his career and first since 2006.

Jones joined Jason Giambi, who hit a walk-off home run earlier in the afternoon for the Colorado Rockies. With that combination, Elias cracked open the record books to discover a pair of firsts and close-but-not-quite scoring fact.

It was the first time in major-league history that two players who had already hit 400 home runs hit walk-off home runs on the same day.

With Chipper turning 40 last week, today was also the first time that a pair of 40-year-olds hit walk-off homers on the same day. The last time that two 40-year-old players hit walk-off home runs in the same season was 1986, when Hal McRae and Davey Lopes pulled it off.

With the teams combining for 28 runs, it tied the second-highest scoring game to end with a walk-off home run in major-league history. In 1925, Ty Cobb did the honors as the Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago White Sox 16-15.

It was the first time that both teams in a Phillies-Braves game scored at least 13 runs since the Braves moved to Atlanta … or even Milwaukee. On July 6, 1934, the Boston Braves beat the Phillies 16-13.

Around the Diamond
• Carlos Ruiz entered the game with 10 RBI on the season, before driving in a career-high seven runs in the losing effort for the Phillies.

• Ruiz wasn’t the only player to drive in a career-high seven runs on Wednesday. Carlos Beltran hit two home runs and drove in seven runs – in the first three innings – as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates.

• In that game, A.J. Burnett became the first starting pitcher in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) to allow 12 or more earned runs while recording less than nine outs. Before Vin Mazzaro did so out of the bullpen for the Oakland Athletics last year, no pitcher had fared so badly since 1948.

2011: Year of the Next-Level Note

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
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One of the things we do in Stats & Information is come up with notes and tidbits that earn the billing of Next Level. These are nuggets that go beyond the box score in an attempt to tell the story of a game, moment, or player in a different manner.

With the calendar year about to end, we went back through our files and found 10 of our favorite Next Level notes.

Justin Verlander no-hitter (May 7)
Justin Verlander
Lincecum
In Verlander’s second career no-hitter, he saved his heat for the end of the game, averaging 99 miles-per-hour with his fastball from the seventh inning on, with five pitches over 100 miles-per-hour.

That made it tough to time his offspeed stuff. The Toronto Blue Jays did not hit a ball out of the infield against any of Verlander's 52 offspeed pitches.

Jason Giambi: among oldest players with a 3-HR game (May 19)
Giambi became the oldest player since the mound was lowered in 1969 to hit three home runs in a game (40 years, 161 days). Giambi hit two of his three home runs on 1-1 counts, notable because over the past three seasons hit .343 with 16 home runs in at-bats ending in an early count.

There was a 194 point difference in Giambi's performance in the first three pitches of an at-bat, compared to beyond that. The typical major leaguer had a difference of 116 points last season.

Wilson Valdez gets the Win (May 25)


Pitch locations for where Wilson Valdez got his outs


In becoming the first player to start a game as a position player and then earn a win in relief since Babe Ruth in 1921, Valdez got through the 19th inning against the Cincinnati Reds unscathed.

Valdez’s nine fastballs were clocked at 87 miles-per-hour (about the same as Freddy Garcia and Shaun Marcum).

When comparing the break and movement, the best comparison to it would probably be the fastball thrown on occasion by New York Mets knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey.

The image on the right shows the pitch locations where Valdez got outs. All three came on pitches on the edge of the strike zone.

Cliff Lee in June
Lee went 5-0 with an 0.21 ERA in June, one of the best months in major league history.

The success was in large part due to getting fewer swings and more misses on the first pitch from his performance in the first two months. Lee gave up only two hits on the first pitch of an at-bat in June, with an opponents batting average of .154. That was down from .341 in the first two months.

Lee also increased the percentage of first-pitch swings that missed from 20 percent to 31 percent in those time periods.

Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit (July 10)
Jeter’s 3,000th hit was a home run to left field against Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price. Entering the game, just 23 percent of Jeter’s outfield hits went to left field, a drop of nearly 10 percentage points from two seasons prior.

From that point, to the rest of the season, nearly one-third of Jeter’s 85 hits were to right field.

Stephen Strasburg returns (September 6)
On September 6, Strasburg made his return to the big leagues on after missing over a year due to Tommy John surgery throwing five scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers went up hacking against him. Of 17 batters, nine of them swung at the first pitch. The Dodgers also swung at 22 of the 29 pitches Strasburg threw in the zone, his highest rate (76 percent) in a game.

Strasburg’s fastball returned to form, averaging 96.2 miles-per-hour, topping out at 98.7.

Mariano Rivera breaks all-time saves record (September 19)
Rivera became the all-time saves leader in MLB history on September 19 by pitching a perfect 9th inning in the Yankees 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.

To get the save, Rivera got a groundout from Trevor Plouffe and a line out from Michael Cuddyer before striking out lefty Chris Parmelee with a 93 mile-per-hour cutter away.

Rivera had been struggling in August, but started throwing his pitches (particularly his cutter, which he throws upwards of 90 percent of the time) to the outside corner much more frequently.

He went from throwing one-third of his pitches on the outer-third of the plate and further away in June and July to nearly 50 percent in August and September.

It worked. Rivera converted 17 of 18 save chances in the season’s last two months.

AL Wild Card Drama (Rays/Red Sox on September 28)
With the Yankees up 7-0 on the Rays in the seventh inning, the Rays win probability was less than one percent.

With the Red Sox up on the Orioles by a run with two outs and no one on base in the ninth inning, their win probability was 94.3 percent (not to mention that Boston was 76-0 when leading after eight innings entering the day).

At that point, the Rays were in some trouble in extra innings, with the Yankees threatening. At that point, Boston's chance of getting at least a one-game playoff was 99 percent.

But as we saw, 99 percent was not a baseball certainty.

Nelson Cruz, ALCS MVP
Cruz was named ALCS MVP after hitting six home runs and driving in 13 runs against the Detroit Tigers.

Cruz did almost of his damage on inside pitches, with five of his six home runs and 11 of his 13 RBI coming on those pitches.

The Cardinals fared considerably better than the Tigers did at pitching Cruz inside. He could not sustain his success into the World Series.

Albert Pujols hits 3 HR in Game 3 of World Series
Pujols became the third player in World Series history to hit three home runs in a game.

Pujols saw 21 pitches in Game 3 and seven were over the middle third (horizontally) of the strike zone, including five fastballs. He took advantage.

Four of Pujols’ five hits in the game came against those pitches, including each of the three home runs.

Getty Images
Doug Fister (left) and Ivan Nova (right) make their 1st career postseason starts in Game 5.

The 2011 playoffs have not lost any momentum to the exciting finish to the regular season. For only the third year, three Divisional Series will last five games (also in 1981 and 2001), with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees playing the first of the elimination games.

Divisional Series History
In the Wild Card Era (since 1994), only two teams have won Game 5 of an LDS and gone on to win the World Series: the 2000 Yankees and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. This will be the Tigers first Division Series Game 5 in franchise history, while the Yankees are 3-3 all-time in Division Series Game 5’s.

Detroit is 2-1 in winner-take-all games on the road, with their last win coming over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series. The Yankees are 5-4 in winner-take-all games at home. The last time they played in such a game, they lost of the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

On the Mound
Doug Fister and Ivan Nova will both take the mound for their first career postseason STARTS (both began Game 1’s suspension on Saturday in relief roles). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in MLB postseason history that both starting pitchers in a winner-take-all game (Game 5 of 5-game series or Game 7 of 7-game series) will be making their first career postseason starts.

Fister went 4⅔ innings while allowing six earned runs in his Game 1 appearances, the most earned runs he’s allowed since Aug. 14. In his career, Fister is 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in four career appearances against New York and has not recorded a win against the Yankees since August 16, 2009.

Nova went 6⅓ innings while allowing two earned runs in his Game 1 appearance. Nova is 13-0 with a 3.22 ERA in his last 17 appearances going back to regular season (he has not lost since June 3).

Elias says, Nova will be the third Yankees rookie to start a postseason winner-take-all game. Spec Shea got a no-decision in Game 7 of the 1947 World Series against the Dodgers, and Mel Stottlemyre lost Game 7 of the 1964 World Series against the Cardinals.

Players to Watch
Detroit catcher Alex Avila (.295 batting average in the regular season) is 0-for-12 thus far in the series. According to Elias, since 2005, three players with a regular season batting average of .290 or higher (among batting qualifiers) went hitless in an entire postseason series (minimum 10 at-bats): Bill Mueller in the 2005 ALDS against the Chicago White Sox (0-for-11); Aramis Ramirez in the 2007 NLDS against the Diamondbacks (0-for-12); and Chone Figgins in the 2009 ALDS against the Red Sox (0-for-12).
Derek Jeter
Jeter

New York’s Derek Jeter is 10-for-29 (.345) in winner-take-all postseason games. The Elias Sports Bureau says his 10 hits are tied with Jason Giambi (10-for-18, .556) for the most hits in such games in major league history. Next on the list with nine are Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Lonnie Smith, and Gil McDougald.

Debby Wong/US Presswire
CC Sabathia makes his third attempt at becoming the first Yankees pitcher since Tommy John in 1979 and 1980 to win at least 20 games in consecutive seasons.

The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees play the third game of their four-game series in New York on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET on ESPN). The Rays were nine games out of a playoff spot on Sept. 2. No team has ever overcome that large of a deficit in September to make the postseason. The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals overcame the largest deficit – 8½ games back on Sept. 3.

On the mound
For the Yankees, CC Sabathia is making his third attempt at winning 20 games this season. He’s trying to become the first Yankees pitcher since Tommy John in 1979-80 to win at least 20 games in consecutive seasons.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one active pitcher won at least 20 games in back-to-back seasons. That was Roy Oswalt, who was 20-10 in 2004 and 20-12 in 2005. The last American League pitcher to win 20 games in consecutive seasons was Roger Clemens, for the 1997-1998 Toronto Blue Jays.

Sabathia has 224 strikeouts this season, ranking third on the Yankees single season all-time list. Ron Guidry holds the record with 248 strikeouts in 1978 (Jack Chesbro is second with 239 strikeouts in 1904).

Sabathia has struggled against the Rays (fellow AL East rival, the Boston Red Sox) all season.

Besides struggling against the Rays and Red Sox, Sabathia has struggled with his fastball lately. Check out ESPN's Stats and Info's Mark Simon's blog on Sabathia's last nine starts.

For the Rays, Jeremy Hellickson takes the mound, searching for his 14th win of the season. Hellickson has a 2.91 ERA and is allowing the opposition to hit only .212 against him this season. Among qualified American League starting pitchers, his ERA and opponent batting average are each fifth-best.

Player to watch
Curtis Granderson is the first Yankees left-handed hitter with 40 home runs in a season since Jason Giambi in 2003. He’s also the first Yankee since Joe DiMaggio in 1937 with 40 home runs, 20 doubles and 10 triples in a season. Granderson also joins Willie Mays as the only players in MLB history to hit 40 home runs, record 10 triples and steal 20 bases in a single season. Mays did it in 1955.

According to Elias, only four players have ever finished a season in sole possession of the major-league lead in home runs, RBI and runs: Babe Ruth (three times, 1920, 1921 and 1926), Ted Williams (1942), Mickey Mantle (1956) and Alex Rodriguez (2007).

Granderson has struggled in his career against the Rays, with a career .147 batting average against current Tampa Bay pitchers. Against Hellickson, Granderson has just one hit in six at-bats, with three strikeouts.

Stat of the game
B.J. Upton has hit 13 career home runs against the Yankees, tied for his most against one team (Baltimore Orioles). He has three home runs this season against New York after having three combined against them from 2008-10.
Ubaldo Jimenez has been a hot topic of conversation lately with trade rumors swirling around where the Colorado Rockies may send their ace. Jimenez's consistency has also been a hot topic lately – highlighted by a Twitter exchange Tuesday between Buster Olney and David Cameron.

While a glance at Jimenez's ERA would suggest he’s inconsistent, a look at the statistics he can control – strikeout rate and walk rate, primarily – indicates that he’s essentially the same pitcher he’s been all along, with these two measurements staying relatively steady over the past three seasons.

Against the Atlanta Braves, Jimenez continued his string of solid starts, striking out nine in 6.2 innings to improve to 5-1 in his last seven starts. Jimenez's strikeout total is his second-highest in a game in which he allowed seven or more hits.

On August 15, 2010 he allowed 10 hits and had 10 strikeouts against the Brewers in a 6-5 win. On Tuesday against the Braves, he allowed seven hits and had nine strikeouts.

Elsewhere Around the Diamond:

Danny Valencia tallied his fourth career walk-off hit to lead the Minnesota Twins to a win over the Cleveland Indians. For the Indians, Justin Masterson (7.2 IP, 0 ER) now has a 1.52 ERA over his last six starts.
Justin Masterson
Masterson

Masterson ran with his sinker, tying a season high with 103 sinkers of 104 total pitches. When Masterson kept his sinker down, it was untouchable as the Twins went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts and eight ground-ball outs.

In two games against Masterson this season, the Twins are 1 for 19 (.053) with six strikeouts in at-bats ending with a sinker down. Masterson threw a season high 59 of his 103 sinkers in the strike zone.

The Twins grounded out 14 times in at-bats ending with a pitch in the strike zone. That is Masterson's highest total in a start since the start of the 2009 season.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds 1-0, behind a strong performance from starter James McDonald. At 51-44, the Pirates are now seven games over .500 for the first time since April 21, 2002 when the team was 12-5 (and finished the season 72-89). The Pirates have eight shutouts this season, with three coming against the Reds.

Neil Walker was 1 for 3, and now has a 13-game hitting streak. The Pirates posted consecutive shutouts for the first time since April 17-18, 2009, and they have eight shutouts this season after posting six last season.

• The New York Mets defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-2. Carlos Beltran went 2-2 with two doubles and two walks against Kyle Lohse, and is now hitting .564 (22-39) with four home runs and 11 walks off Lohse.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the .564 mark by Beltran is the second-highest average by any active batter against any active pitcher (minimum 35 at-bats). The top mark is held by Jason Giambi (.622, 23 for 37) against Darren Oliver.
(The New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox, Wednesday at 7 ET on ESPN.)

The Red Sox are 6-1 against the Yankees in 2011, but recent history suggests that by the end of the season this series will balance itself out. The season series each of the last three seasons has been split 9-9. (In 2009, Boston won the first eight games. Last season New York won five of the first seven.)

Recent history also suggests that Yankees' starter A.J. Burnett will struggle, which is somewhat odd since he dominated the Red Sox before signing with the Yankees.

As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2006-08, Burnett was 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA against the Red Sox. With the Yankees, Burnett is is 0-3 with an 8.33 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the highest ERA for any pitcher who’s thrown at least 25 innings against the Red Sox over the last three seasons.

One player who has given Burnett problems is Dustin Pedroia. He has a .475 on-base percentage against Burnett, thanks largely to 10 walks in 40 plate appearances. Pedroia is part of an interesting group of hitters who have had great success reaching base against Burnett. His .475 OBP against Burnett is comparable to Justin Morneau (.481), Joe Mauer (.478) and Ichiro Suzuki (.478).

On Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the game, the 13th time as a member of the Yankees that he’s ended a game by striking out. Tim Wakefield is on the mound Wednesday for the Red Sox, and the only player he’s struck out more than Rodriguez (20 times), is Jason Giambi (21).

Rodriguez also has hit seven home runs off Wakefield. One tonight would tie him for the most home runs he’s hit off one pitcher in his career. (Rodriguez has eight career HR against Ramon Ortiz, David Wells and teammate Bartolo Colon.)

If Rodriguez -- or any other Yankee -- strikes out against Wakefield, don’t expect it to be on a “fastball.” Batters have swung at 11 of Wakefield’s 33 fastballs this season and have made contact each time.

Also, expect a right-handed dominant lineup for the Yankees. Left-handed batters are hitting .179 (12-67) this season against Wakefield. Righties are hitting .289 (28-97), and all six of Wakefield’s home runs this season have been hit by right-handed batters.

As for Derek Jeter, he’s 12 hits from 3,000. He's a career .287 hitter against Wakefield (31-108), but is hitless in his last nine at-bats against the knuckleballer. His last hit was a single on Aug. 26, 2008

The Yankees have relied heavily on home runs to score this season. Almost 50 percent (49.5) of their runs have been scored off home runs, by far the highest percentage in the league. The Brewers are second at 39.3. Why is this important? Of the last 10 teams (2001-10) to lead the league in this statistic, only two made the playoffs (2008 Chicago White Sox, 2009 Philadelphia Phillies) and neither won the World Series.
So who’s going to be next to hit three home runs in a game?
Corey Hart
Hart

On Monday, Corey Hart hit three home runs, the first three of the season for him, in the Milwaukee Brewers 11-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. According to Elias, Hart was the first player since Dmitri Young in 2005 to hit his first three homers of the season in the same game.

Hart’s efforts were the fourth game this season where a player hit three homers in a single game. All four have come in the last 11 days. Jason Giambi (May 19), Jose Bautista (May 15) and Carlos Beltran (May 12) all accomplished the feat before Hart.

According to Baseball Reference, it’s the first time there’s been four instances of a three-HR game by May 24 in a season since 2003. That year, Richie Sexson (April 23), Aaron Boone (May 8), Carlos Pena (May 19) and Geoff Jenkins (May 21) all had three-homer games before May 24.

Hart’s efforts were the first by the Brewers since Jenkins’ exploits in 2003. It also came on the nine-year anniversary of another mega-HR game at Miller Park. On May 23, 2002, Shawn Green of the Los Angeles Dodgers hit four HR against the Brewers to become the 14th player in MLB history with a four-homer game. No National League player has done it since Green.

For Hart, Giambi, Bautista and Beltran, it was their first career three-HR games each. So who might be next to record their first career three-HR effort? According to Elias, the player with the most career home runs without a three-HR game is Vladimir Guerrero with 441 career homers.

But who had a “true” three-homer game, meaning their hit would have gone over the wall in all 30 parks. The website Hit Tracker has the ability to do that type of tracking. Using that model, none would have all three of their respective homers clear the fence in all 30 parks.

Beltran, Bautista and Giambi each had two which would have cleared the wall in all 30 ballparks while Hart had one. The closest to having all three blasts being homers in all 30 parks was Beltran. His first homer off Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies would have been gone in 27 of the 30 parks.
Jason Giambi
Giambi
Jason Giambi of the Colorado Rockies hit his 419th career home run Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies -- but that’s noteworthy because it was his third home run of the game. Only Babe Ruth had more career home runs (522) entering his first career three-home run game.

Ruth had one other game with three home runs and they were the last three homers of his career.

This performance came seemingly out of nowhere for Giambi, who entered the day batting .115 and had just three hits the entire season. He was hitless in his previous 18 at-bats before he homered in his first three at-bats Thursday. Even after striking out in his final two appearances of the night, he had raised his season slugging percentage 350 points.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Giambi, at 40 years and 131 days old, is the second-oldest player in major league history with a three-home run game.

Stan Musial was a year and 98 days older when he went deep three times in a game in July of 1962. Only four players have ever had such a game over the age of 40.

Giambi is the first Rockie with a three-home run game since Larry Walker on June 25, 2004. It’s the 12th such game in Colorado Rockies history, and the third in the major leagues this season. All three of those have come since last Thursday, and all were on the road.

In addition, Giambi drove in all seven runs for the Rockies, tying his career-high for RBIs in a game. According to Elias, the previous player to drive in seven or more runs and account for all of his team’s runs was St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who did so on Aug. 22, 2006 in an 8-7 loss to the New York Mets.

Coincidentally, Giambi entered the day with one home run more than Pujols (416-415) and has opened up that lead with Pujols in the midst of the longest homerless streak of his career.
Some notes from Thursday's early baseball games:

Cardinals 11, Braves 4
• The St. Louis Cardinals win for just fourth time in their last 16 games. The Atlanta Braves have lost six of their last eight.

Adam Wainwright snapped his four-game losing streak and improved to 6-0 in his career vs the Braves (best W-L vs them of any active pitcher). He's the first pitcher to start his career 6-0 against the Braves since Ron Robinson (1984-89).

Albert Pujols, who entered with one HR in his last 11 games, hit his first HR vs the Braves since August 24, 2008. He now has 99 RBI, one shy of his 10th straight 30 HR/100 RBI season.

Colby Rasmus tied a career-high with four hits and had his second career multi-homer game. The last Cardinal with a four-hit, two-homer game against the Braves was George Hendrick in 1978.

Jair Jurrjens lost at home for the first time this season (now 6-1).

Rockies 6, Reds 5
• The Colorado Rockies win their 12th straight September game against the Cincinnati Reds, as they sweep their four-game series.

• The Reds have now been swept in a four-game series on the road by both the Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chris Nelson, in his seventh MLB game, won the game with his first career steal of home. It was a straight steal in bottom of the eighth inning. He's the third rookie to steal home this season.

• Nelson was inserted as a pinch runner after Jason Giambi drew a walk. Nelson was then replaced at 1B by Todd Helton to start the ninth. Thus Nelson's ONLY appearance in the boxscore is as a pinch runner who stole home.

• According to Elias, the last time this happened was June 11, 1985. Gary Pettis ran for Bob Boone in a California Angels loss to the Texas Rangers. He stole home and then was replaced by Jerry Narron in the field.

Aroldis Chapman got his first career hold, getting Carlos Gonzalez to ground into a double play with the bases loaded in the seventh-inning. His 12 fastballs averaged 100.3 MPH and maxed out at 103.0 MPH.

• The Rockies get their 19th last at-bat win, tying the Reds for 4th-most in MLB.

• The Reds blew a five-run lead. It's their 21st blown lead resulting in a loss this season, which is tied for second fewest in MLB.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau it was the fourth time this season that the Rockies won a game after trailing by at least five runs, tying the Tigers for the most such wins in the majors. It was the third time this season that the Reds lost a game after leading by at least five runs, tying the Red Sox, Rangers and Nationals for the most such losses in the majors.

Rangers 4, Blue Jays 2
• Texas Rangers' starter Colby Lewis snapped his seven-game losing streak and four-game road losing streak.

Mitch Moreland had a career-high 3 RBI.

Neftali Feliz became the fourth rookie in MLB history with a 35-save season and is two shy of the MLB rookie record set by Kaz Sasaki in 2000.

• Jose Bautista hit his 44th HR, which is tied for third most in a season in Blue Jays history. His 28 HR at home are the 2nd most in Blue Jays history.




Tigers 6, White Sox 3
• The Detroit Tigers win their third straight and have won six of their last eight games.

• The Tigers had 13 hits, all singles. That is the most hits in a game without an extra-base hit by the Tigers since May 11, 2004 when they 14 singles in a loss vs the Oakland Athletics - their last win in such a game was June 12, 1993 vs Toronto (15 singles).

Johnny Damon had a team-high four hits, his 36th career four-hit game and first as a Tiger.

• Rick Porcello improves to 4-0 in his last four starts (5-11 in first 20 starts). He now sports a 4.09 ERA since returning from his minor league demotion. He and teammate Max Scherzer have both been much improved since returning to the club after being sent down following early struggles.

• The Chicago White Sox have lost three straight after winning seven in a row.

1st Pitch: Gallardo a better hitter than Jeter?

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
3:26
PM ET
Today’s Trivia: Maybe the most interesting part about the Triple Crown battle going on between Albert Pujols and Joey Votto is that they’re both in the same division and both fighting for playoff spots. It’s more than just a personal duel. Carlos Gonzalez’s competition and Omar Infante’s potential late addition to the pool of candidates notwithstanding, let’s suppose Votto and Pujols finish one-two in batting average this season.

When was the last time two players from the same division finished one-two in the batting average race with BOTH of their teams making the playoffs?
PujolsVotto

Quick Hits:
Bill James has developed an interesting baseball idea called the Pythagorean win theorem. It’s not as difficult as it sounds – it takes the total runs you score compared to the total runs you allow and gives you an expected win-loss record based on those totals. Sure, every team will have blowouts and close games over the course of a season, so this theory looks at a larger scale – essentially, the team’s winning margin on a full-season basis.

The thing is, your expected win-loss record doesn’t always equal your true win-loss record. Let’s take a look at some teams who are above or below their expected record:

• The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are currently tied for the best record in baseball (78-49), but the Pythagorean win theorem suggests the Yankees should be three games ahead of where they are now (81-46) while the Rays should be one game ahead of where they are now (79-48). That’s because the Yankees have a +164 run margin this season while the Rays are +144.

• In the NL, the St. Louis Cardinals are a whopping six games behind where they should be. They’re at 68-56, but their expected record is 74-50. If they actually WERE 74-50 at this point, they’d be 2 games up on the Cincinnati Reds instead of 3 behind.

• Then throw in this factor – the Reds are actually ahead of their expected record. By one game. They’re 73-54, but their expected record is 72-55. That’s because their run margin is +80 this season, compared to +105 for the Cardinals.

• Not many predicted the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres as leaders of their divisions. But would you guess that both teams are actually below their expected records? The Braves are four wins behind, while the Padres are three wins behind. The Padres (+134) and Braves (+112) have the best run margins in the NL.

• Not true for the Philadelphia Phillies, who are actually one game above their expected record. So the Braves and Phils went by their expected record instead of their true record, the Braves would have a 5-game lead in the division instead of a 2-game lead.

• Finally, not many people would say the Astros are “good” right now, but they’re still better than they’re expected to be. Their 57-69 record is still a whopping seven games better than their expected record (50-76) thanks to a -111 run margin on the season. Same story for the Pirates, with an unfathomable -246 run margin.

To peruse the numbers yourself, check out this link: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/rpi

Today’s Leaderboard:
We featured Hiroki Kuroda and his futility at the plate in yesterday’s edition, so it’s only fair that we check out the other end of the spectrum too. Yovani Gallardo, pitching this afternoon for the Milwaukee Brewers, has a whopping .836 OPS in 50 at-bats this season. Of his 12 hits this season, seven have gone for extra bases. His four home runs are by far the most among pitchers this season too. Essentially, he’s been a slugger in the nine-hole whenever he starts.
Gallardo

To further bolster Gallardo’s ego, let’s take a look at some of the regular position players who Gallardo has been better than this season.



Key Matchups:
Kevin Correia will see plenty of his usual foes tonight on the Arizona Diamondbacks. The four batters Correia has seen most in his career – Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, and Justin Upton – are all Diamondbacks. And they’re all batting under .300 against him, including just .195 by Drew.

• Jordan Zimmerman makes his first start of the season tonight for the Washington Nationals and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that he’s not thrilled to face Albert Pujols. Zimmerman has only faced Pujols and the Cardinals once in his career. But in that game, Pujols went 3-3 off Zimmerman with a solo home run in the first inning.

• There might not be anyone who hates facing Cliff Lee as much as Delmon Young does. Young has just a career .125 BA (3-24) against Lee, with a paltry .125 slugging percentage to match. They’ve met each other once already this season, and Lee got Young to go 0-3 including two foul-out pop flies.

Trivia Answer: If you pulled Ichiro Suzuki and Jason Giambi out of your hat, you win today’s trivia. Ichiro and Giambi finished one-two in 2001, when both Ichiro’s Seattle Mariners and Giambi’s Oakland Athletics made the postseason.

Before Ichiro and Giambi, there was Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra. They finished 1-2 in 1999 with both the Yankees and Boston Red Sox reaching the postseason.

But in the NL, since 1995, also known as the Wild Card era, it has never happened where the players that finished one-two in batting average both played on teams that made the postseason – regardless of division.

Next-Level Awards: Part 1

July, 14, 2010
7/14/10
9:06
AM ET
With the 2010 season at the halfway point (and with apologies to the purists who say the halfway point was actually at the end of June), we present a handful of Next-Level Awards to a few players who have excelled (or "de-celled"?) in our favorite categories so far this season.


Since all teams have played between 86 and 90 games at this point, we're using 275 plate appearances as our minimum for all hitting awards.

The "Friendly Confines" award

Although Target Field has confounded some power hitters, Twins CF Denard Span seems to enjoy the place. He has the biggest difference between his home and road batting average this season. In Minneapolis, he's hitting .357; elsewhere, it's .198. Ironically, all three of his home runs have been in road games; however, he does have more total extra-base hits (8 doubles, 5 triples) in the Twins' new home.

The average "home" advantage in the majors, by the way, is .016.

Runners-up: Vernon Wells (.322 in Toronto, .199 on the road); Martin Prado (.389/.273); Travis Hafner (.303/.189).

Honorable mention: Jason Giambi has taken a liking to Denver. He's batting .380 at Coors Field and only .173 away from it, although his 132 PA are not enough to qualify for our award.


The "Summer Breeze" award

No surprise here. Mark Reynolds, who shattered the single-season record for strikeouts in '09 after setting it in '08, is whiffing on 40.9% of his swings this season and again leading the majors in K's. That's 8% higher than anybody else who qualifies for the award.

Far-runners-up: Mike Napoli (32.9%), Adam Dunn (32.3%), Ryan Howard (30.8).


The "Gettin' Low" award

Pitchers are always trying to keep the ball down. It takes a special hitter to go down there and get it with any degree of success. In a very tight three-way race, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera ekes out the best average in the majors on low pitches (down in the zone or below it).

Cabrera, at .3618, just beats out Justin Morneau and the Orioles' Nick Markakis, who both have identical low-ball averages at .3613. To his credit, Miggy also has seven homers on low balls, and more extra-base hits than the other two contestants. Markakis is the most patient of the three, chasing only 16% of balls below the zone.

Which brings us to....

The "Reach For The Stars" award

Vladimir Guerrero left Los Angeles (home of the stars), but he's still chasing them in Texas. Vlad has gone reaching for 38.4% of bad balls (out of the strike zone) this season, giving him a clear lead in that category.

Runners-up: Adam Jones (36.0%), Pablo Sandoval (32.2%), Jose Guillen (32.2%).

Fifth place belongs to Ichiro Suzuki, who has set all kinds of base-hit records so far in his career. You wouldn't think of him as someone who would swing at a lot of bad balls. In Ichiro's case, though, he succeeds in making contact and finding holes.

That begets...

The "Trashman" award

Cleaning up bad balls is messy work. Not a lot of hitters do it well. Ichiro does. In fact, he's got a 52-point lead when it comes to batting average on balls out of the strike zone. And he hits almost as well (.319) on balls outside the zone as he does on balls that are in it (.329).

Runners-up: The aforementioned Guerrero, despite swinging a lot, also makes pretty good contact on bad balls. He's hitting .267, followed by Markakis (.264) and Boston's Marco Scutaro (.244).

More awards, including a few for the guys who THROW the ball, will be posted tomorrow.

The Closer: Baserunning fundamentals

June, 27, 2010
6/27/10
9:16
PM ET
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.

The Closer: Tough luck for Greinke

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
2:51
AM ET
Tuesday was a great day for pitching. Several hurlers dominated and home runs were more scarce than normal. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: the eight homerless games in the majors Tuesday was the most since October 2, 1990 (2nd-to-last day of that season), when eight of 13 games were homerless.

One player who pitched well, but probably wasn't smiling at game's end was Zack Greinke. Greinke threw seven shutout innings only to leave and see the bullpen blow it. Greinke has an excellent 2.56 ERA this season with nearly a 4 to 1 strikeout-walk ratio, but has no wins to show for it. A big reason is the Royals bullpen has blown 3 of his potential wins. Last season Greinke won his first 5 starts with an ERA of 0.50 on his way to the Cy Young Award.




Why Ubaldo Jimenez won:
- Dominant fastball: Jimenez's heater averaged 97.1 MPH, a season-high. He didn't command it particularly well with only 48.9 percent of the pitch in the strike zone (MLB avg 55.6 pct), but hitters helped him out with a 41.7 chase percentage. It was Jimenez's best on his fastball since May 16, 2008. The Diamondbacks were 1-11 against Jimenez's heater with three of his six strikeouts coming on the pitch. Jimenez didn't fall behind to many hitters going to only one 2-0 count and one 3-1 count. Jimenez also retired every leadoff batter (MLB avg 68 pct). With his league-leading fifth victory Tuesday, Ubaldo Jimenez is now 13-3 with a 2.24 ERA since August 1, 2009. No pitcher in baseball has more wins in that span. Jimenez also extended his scoreless streak to 22.1 innings - the second longest streak in baseball this year behind Mike Pelfrey's active streak of 24. Jimenez also pitched at least six innings for the 33rd time in his last 34 starts.


Why Francisco Liriano won:
- His slider is back: Liriano threw his slider 40 times, the most since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2008. Tigers hitters were 1-11 off the pitch and chased it out of the zone 63.2 percent of the time - also a best since coming off surgery. Six of his 10 strikeouts were on sliders.


Can Papi keep going?
David Ortiz (.549 OPS this season) reportedly wants to play "2 or 3" more seasons in the big leagues. While the issue of whether or not he's fit to play in the big leagues RIGHT NOW is a relevant question, it's extremely unlikely he'll be a contributor at age 36 or older. Since 1990, only 4 different 1B/DH that weighed 230 or more pounds at age 36 or older have had a season with a .850+ OPS: Frank Thomas (four times), Andres Galarraga (three times), Jim Thome (three times) and Jason Giambi (once).

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