Stats & Info: Joey Cora

Choice matchup: slider vs. cutter

April, 11, 2012

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Roy Halladay celebrates after throwing a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, 2010.
The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies continue their three-game series tonight (ESPN2, 7 ET). This will be the first game for the Marlins without manager Ozzie Guillén, who was suspended five games by the team for his comments regarding his respect for Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. This is the first time Guillén has been suspended in his managerial career. Joey Cora will make his managerial debut in the interim.

Starting Pitchers
Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay have started against each other four times, with Johnson’s teams winning three of the four games. Since Halladay joined the Phillies in 2010, they have faced off three times, with both pitchers going at least seven innings. In those games, a grand total of six runs were scored – and one perfect game was thrown (by Halladay).

The key for Johnson tonight will be how he commands his slider. Last season, opponents were 5-for-68 (.074) on at-bats ending in his slider. The league average was .217. Right-handed hitters were just 2-for-40 (.050) against the slider, with Albert Pujols and Justin Turner recording the only hits.

However, in his first outing this season, Johnson had trouble commanding the slider and allowed two hits off the pitch, both to David Frese.

In his first start this season, Halladay recorded the win over the Pittsburgh Pirates after throwing eight innings, allowing two hits, no earned runs and striking out five. The key to his success against the Pirates was his cutter, which has become his main weapon of choice. In that outing, Halladay threw only seven regular fastballs among the 92 pitches he threw.

Key Stat
The Phillies offense has been anemic to start the season. Their four extra-base hits are the fewest in the majors and no team but the Minnesota Twins have scored fewer than the Phillies’ 2.0 runs per game. Not since 1997 have the Phillies scored as few as eight runs in their first four games of the season. Philadelphia finished 68-94 that season and in last place in the NL East.

Player to Watch
Giancarlo Stanton has yet to hit a home run this season after hitting a career-high 34 last year. Overall, Stanton improved across the board in 2011, compared to his rookie year. He cut his strikeouts down, increased his walk rate from the league average to better than 83 percent of the league, all while increasing his power output. His 5.7 Wins Above Replacement, according the Baseball-Reference, ranked second among MLB rightfielders (Jose Bautista, 8.5).

Interesting Fact
Stanton’s full name is a sonorous mouthful: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. He is not Italian, and Giancarlo is not a family name – his parents just liked it. In school, Stanton, a California native, went by Giancarlo until the fifth grade.

Will Cohen contributed to this post

BP: Florida's historic DP duo

April, 7, 2010
What the Marlins' middle infielders -- second baseman Dan Uggla and shortstop Hanley Ramirez -- have been able to accomplish since being paired in 2006 would have been unheard-of less than two decades ago. The duo has combined to hit 224 home runs, an average of 56 a year.

Until the 1990s, middle infielders, with very few exceptions, were in the lineup for their defense. The second basemen and shortstops of yore were supposed to be seen and not heard when they stepped into the batter's box -- they were asked to do little more than hit a few opposite-field singles, make contact on the hit-and-run and drop down an occasional bunt. The Marlins' middle infield pair is one a few that has been posting historic home run rates in the last two decades.

No middle-infield combination combined for 50 homers in a season until 1958, but that was mainly due to shortstop Ernie Banks hitting 47 for the Cubs while second baseman Tony Taylor added six. The 55-homer plateau wasn't reached until 1969 by the Red Sox as shortstop Rico Petrocelli had a 40-homer season and second baseman Mike Andrews went deep 15 times. It took until 1999 before a middle-infield tandem reached the 60-homer mark as shortstop Alex Rodriguez (42) and second baseman David Bell (21) combined for 63 for the Mariners.

And it’s been a different story since then. All 11 of the top combined home run totals by middle infielders have occurred since 1999, including six in the past five seasons. Rodriguez is on the list four times and Uggla and Ramirez are on it three times, combining for at least 55 in each of the past three seasons.

Going beyond home runs, a handy metric for measuring a player's overall offensive contribution is Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). The concentration of top-10 seasons by double-play combination according to VORP is not as restricted to recent seasons as those on the home runs list. However, all 10 come from the divisional play era, which began in 1969. The general rule of thumb is that 10 points of VORP is worth the equivalent of one victory.

John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus. BP's Eric Seidman provided research for this story.