Stats & Info: Jason Kubel

Erik Bedard
The MLB trade deadline came and went Sunday and on the final day of July, several teams made notable moves.

After their attempt to get Oakland A's pitcher Rich Harden fell through Saturday, the Boston Red Sox acquired Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade involving the Los Angeles Dodgers. Boston also received minor league pitcher Josh Fields from Seattle in exchange for outfielders Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang. This after the Dodgers traded Robinson to the Red Sox for three minor leaguers.

Bedard returns to the AL East where he pitched for Baltimore from 2002 to 2007. He was just 15-14 with a 3.31 ERA with Seattle and missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Now he'll be pitching at Fenway Park where he has struggled in the past posting a 6.99 career ERA there. That's the second-worst ERA of any stadium that Bedard has thrown at least 20 innings.

The St. Louis Cardinals also picked up veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal from the Dodgers on Sunday. Like Bedard, Furcal has also been hampered by injuries playing in just 283 out of a possible 486 games from 2008 to 2010. He played in 37 of 106 games this season with the Dodgers. Furcal went 0-1 as a pinch hitter in his Cardinals' debut Sunday.

Also it wasn't Heath Bell, but another Padres reliever Mike Adams who switched teams on Sunday. Adams went to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor-league pitchers Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland. Adams was just 11-9 with a 2.11 ERA in his career, but 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA this season. He struck out 49 batters while walking just nine.

Meanwhile, Michael Bourn who leads the league with 39 stolen bases was traded from the Houston Astros to the Atlanta Braves for Jordan Schafer and three minor leaguers. Bourn's speed helps the Braves who rank 27th in the league in steals with just 42. The two-time Gold Glove winner hit .303 this season with Houston.

Despite these deals, trading on the final day of the deadline was light compared to the last two years. Also, this was the first season since 1998, Brian Cashman's first year as General Manager, that the Yankees did not make any trades in July.

Among the notable players expected to be traded that were not: Heath Bell, B.J. Upton, Wandy Rodriguez, Hiroki Kuroda (invoked no-trade clause), Josh Willingham, Carlos Pena, Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Drew Storen.
(The Boston Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins tonight at 7 ET on ESPN.)

The Boston Red Sox started 2-10, but have rebounded to win 14 of their next 22 games. Their bats have slightly been better over the last 22 games, but it’s the pitching that’s made a dramatic turnaround.

Boston’s team ERA is 3.04 over the last 22 games after a 6.79 ERA in its first 12 games.

While Boston’s begun to turn things around, the Minnesota Twins have not. At 12-20, the Twins are off to their worst 32-game start under manager Ron Gardenhire.

The Twins' main problem has been an anemic offense. They rank near the bottom in most statistical offensive categories, and are last in home runs (15), RBI (92) and on-base percentage (.292). They’ve been particularly bad at Fenway Park in recent years. Since 2008, Minnesota is 1-9 at Fenway Park, scoring a total of 32 runs in those games. And their team ERA has been 7.15.

Minnesota’s offensive struggles start early in games. The Twins are hitting .216 and scoring less than a run in the first three innings. (Last season, they hit .274 and averaged 1.7 runs in the first three innings of games.) Don’t expect things to get much better tonight. In six starts this season, Josh Beckett has allowed one earned run in the first three innings.

Imagine how much worse things would be for Minnesota’s offense if Denard Span and Jason Kubel weren’t hitting. The two have a combined batting average of .320 with four home runs. The rest of the team is barely hitting over the Mendoza Line (.204) with 10 home runs in 825 at-bats.

Justin Morneau
Things have been especially bad for Justin Morneau, who missed five games with the flu in mid-April, and has struggled ever since. In his last 11 games, Morneau is hitting .132 with one extra-base hit and two RBI. Morneau remains stuck on one home run in 99 at-bats this season.

Morneau is hoping that the rest of his season mirrors the last time his average was this low at this time of the season. In 2006, he entered May 9 hitting .206, then went on to hit .345 the rest of the way and finished at .321.

Twins-Yankees matchups to watch

April, 6, 2011
Tonight is the third game of a four-game set between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees (7 ET on ESPN2). Since 2002, the Twins are 17-46 against the Yankees, their worst record against any opponent over that span. Did you know? In the last 20 seasons, the Twins have only won a season series from the Yankees only 3 times — 1991, 1992 and 2001.

Carl Pavano
Pavano’s Matchups to Watch
Nick Swisher is 1-for-6 against Carl Pavano in the regular season with 5 strikeouts. Pavano also struck him out twice in two at-bats in the 2009 ALDS (Swisher did go 1-3 against him last year’s ALDS).

Mark Teixeira’s lone HR against Pavano came in his last regular season AB against him - May 31, 2009.

On Carl Pavano’s Yankees tenure (and why wins don’t tell the whole story for a pitcher)
There are a number of pitchers who have been the subject of Yankees fans derision, among them Ed Whitson, Javier Vazquez, Kenny Rogers, Jeff Weaver, and Pavano. Yet those names all share a common thread. All finished with ERA’s of 5 or higher in their Yankees tenure … and they all finished their Yankees career with winning records!!

Freddy Garcia
Garcia’s Matchups to Watch
Joe Mauer’s .419 BA vs Freddy Garcia includes a 6-for-10 in 2010. He homered in his last AB against Garcia on August 10, 2010.

Jason Kubel was 6-for-8 against Garcia last season with 3 BB. He’s reached base in 4 straight PA vs Garcia. One other note on Kubel: He went 7-for-15 with 3 HR against the Yankees in the regular season last year.

Jim Thome has walked 9 times against Garcia in 28 regular season plate appearance, and twice more in six postseason PA. His last 2 AB vs Garcia are a HR and a 2B.

Twins hitters hit .337 against Garcia last season (he made 4 starts vs MIN)

Jeter Watch
Derek Jeter is hitting .167 through the Yankees first 5 games of the season. The only season in which he hit worse within the Yankees first 5 games of a season was in 1998 when he was hitting .150 (3-for-20). Jeter rebounded to hit .324 and the Yankees ended up winning 114 games.

Mark Teixeira
Teixeira Watch
Mark Teixeira is hitting .373 in the regular season against the Twins. But if you just go back to 2007, it’s even more ridiculous. Since 2007, he’s hitting .453 against them in the regular season (39-for-86) and has a walk-off HR against them in the postseason.

Teixeira is glad to have Freddy Garcia on his team. Teixeira is 0-for-16 in his career against Garcia!

Twins righty struggles
The Twins are hitting .174 against right-handed pitching this season. Mauer’s game-winning hit last night made him 1-for-7 against right-handers this season.

Lastly, from the Elias Sports Bureau
The Twins came back from 4 down to beat the Yankees last night, the first time they've rallied from 4+ down to beat the Yankees since May 5, 1997 (the Yankees catcher that day was Joe Girardi), when they beat the Yankees, 9-8 at Yankee Stadium.

1st Pitch: The importance of 599 and 59

August, 2, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Alex Rodriguez struck out as a pinch-hitter in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, leaving him stuck on 599 home runs for another game. The strikeout dropped A-Rod to 0-10 as a pinch-hitter in his career. Only two active major leaguers have worse career numbers as a pinch hitter. Who are they?

(Hint: one was an All-Star last season for a team that currently leads its division. The other has a career BA of .224 and is a former teammate of Rodriguez’s with the Yankees.)

Quick Hits on the number 59 in baseball after golfer Stuart Appelby carded a 59 to win the Greenbrier Classic (thanks to researcher Paul Carr for several items)...

Only one team has exactly 59 games left this season: the San Diego Padres, who are 61-42 through 103 games. Every other team has fewer games left, some as few as 55.

Your MLB leader in games pitched this season is the oft-used Pedro Feliciano, who has appeared in 59.

Hall-of-Famer Satchel Paige pitched his final major-league game at age 59. He started for the Kansas City Athletics on September 25, 1965 and allowed just one hit in three shutout innings.

The active MLB player who has hit the most doubles in a season is Todd Helton, who hit 59 in 2000. Helton finished eight shy of the record 67 doubles by Earl Webb in 1931.

Only one player has ever hit exactly 59 home runs in a season. That was Babe Ruth, who broke his own single-season record in 1921 when he hit 59 homers, a record that stood for six years until Ruth broke it again.

No current MLB pitcher has exactly 59 career wins. One player has 58, but he might not get his 59th for a while. Oliver Perez is that player, and he’s 0-4 this season and hasn’t won since August of last season.

Today’s Leaderboard: After an intentional walk to the batter in front of him, Jason Kubel blew open a scoreless game in the sixth with a bases-loaded double against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. Kubel had to feel comfortable at the plate in that situation – he’s among the league leaders in bases-loaded plate appearances this season.

Would you believe that two Minneosta Twins are on this list and neither are typical No. 4 batter Justin Morneau or No. 5 batter Michael Cuddyer?

Key Matchups: Here’s the daily A-Rod vs Opposing Starter update: Rodriguez is 4-15 (.267 BA) in his career against Brandon Morrow. He does have one career HR against Morrow, however, it came at a stadium that isn’t in use anymore. Rodriguez hit it in 2007 at old Yankee Stadium.

The first name Bobby Cox should write when he makes his lineup tonight against Johan Santana is Matt Diaz. Diaz is 14-26 (.538 BA) with a HR in his career against Santana. That’s the highest BA by any active player who has come to the plate at least 20 times against Santana (and there are 101 such players).

It’s probably for two reasons – the young Houston Astros roster and the fact that he has pitched his whole career in the AL until tonight – but Jake Westbrook has only faced one current Astro before. And he might want to stay away from that one tonight when he debuts for the Cardinals. Carlos Lee is batting .400 (12-30) and slugging .600 against Westbrook in his career. (Note: Westbrook has faced Geoff Blum before, but Blum is on the DL for the Astros)

Trivia Answer: Wil Nieves (A-Rod’s former teammate) is 0-16 in his career and Texas Rangers 2009 All-Star Nelson Cruz is 0-14.

FanGraphs: Why patience means power

June, 2, 2010
Perhaps the tortoise had something on the hare –- he knew how to walk. A select group of players this year are taking the tortoise’s path to success by increasing their walk rates significantly. In particular, improved plate selectivity is working well for Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Franklin Gutierrez, and is the reason why their fast starts should be believed.

Morneau’s big season is similar to another player who recently rode an increase in walks into a huge season. Between 2008 and 2009, Adrian Gonzalez saw his walk rate increase 6.9 percent, which compares favorably with Morneau’s 6.7 percent increase in the same category this year. Gonzalez's corresponding career-best OPS was not all driven by the walks alone -– Gonzalez also put up a career-best slugging percentage last year, just as Morneau is doing this season.

A quick glance at the table above shows that improving your walk alone is not the magic key to success. For every Morneau on this list, there is a struggling Jason Kubel to serve as anecdotal evidence in that regard, although even he has shown signs of coming around lately.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to notice the success stories. As measured by ISO (isolated power, or slugging percentage minus batting average), Colby Rasmus, Willingham, Morneau, Aaron Hill and Kevin Youkilis are all enjoying years more powerful than their career rates. In fact, the average 2010 ISOs of the 10 men on this list are 6.2 percent better than their career ISOs.

The theory is pretty simple: By being more patient, these guys are getting into good hitters' counts and getting better pitches to swing at. When they don't get the pitch they're looking for, they simply wander on down to first base, helping their team by avoiding outs. Increasing walk rate isn't the only way to improve, but as we're seeing from these notable spikes in patience, it is certainly one way to make yourself a better player.

Eno Sarris is a writer for FanGraphs.

Rapid reaction: What Jason Kubel has in common with Babe Ruth

April, 12, 2010
The last time the Red Sox opened a new ballpark, John Phillip Sousa’s marching band opened the festivities at Yankee Stadium and Babe Ruth christened his new home with a home run.

This time around, the Red Sox were victimized by Jason Kubel in Target Field’s debut. The result was the same: a three-run loss.

* Albert Pujols, through seven games, has outslugged the Astros lineup by himself. He has more home runs and RBI than all the Astros hitters combined.

* And speaking of the Astros, let’s show them some pity. Of the starting pitchers they’ve faced so far, three got Cy Young votes as recently as last year. That trio of Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright, have combined for 24 innings pitched without allowing an earned run.