Stats & Info: Johan Santana

Top stats to know: Dodgers vs. Braves

October, 3, 2013

AP PhotosKris Medlan and Clayton Kershaw will get the starting nods for the Braves and Dodgers in Game 1.
Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves begins tonight from Turner Field (8:37 ET/ESPN Radio).

The only other postseason meeting between these clubs was in the 1996 NLDS, which the Braves won 3-0.

Here are a few storylines to watch.

1. The Braves won the season series 5-2 and come into postseason play having won three of their last four overall. Atlanta has won 25 of its last 35 home games, but has not fared so well at Turner Field in the postseason lately.

Atlanta has lost three straight and 16 of its last 21 postseason games played in front of its home crowd, dating back to 1999.

The Dodgers clinched a playoff berth on Sept. 19. That might explain why they went 4-9 to finish the season (including losses in four of their last five games).

Los Angeles was the first team to win a division title after being at least 12 games under .500 at any point in the season since the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays.

In the playoffs, the Dodgers have lost three straight and 26 of their last 36 road games.

2. Braves starter Kris Medlen enters the postseason on a roll, going 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA in his last six starts.

He made two excellent starts against the Dodgers early in the season, allowing one run and seven hits in 13⅔ innings pitched.

3. One of the leading candidates for the National League Cy Young Award, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, will pitch for the Dodgers.

The Braves went an NL-best 25-16 in games in which the opposing starter was left-handed.

Kershaw has not recorded a decision in four career starts vs. the Braves, but does have a 2.45 ERA (he has not faced them since Sept. 4, 2011).

For the season, Kershaw sported a league-low 1.83 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first postseason start by the ERA champion has not been stellar recently.

There have been 13 ERA-title winners to start a postseason game since 1999, going a combined 2-8 with a 4.29 ERA in those starts. The only two with a win were Johan Santana in 2004 for the Minnesota Twins and Jason Schmidt in 2003 for the San Francisco Giants.

4. Matchups to watch in this game include these two:

Hanley Ramirez vs.Kris Medlen: Ramirez is the only player on the Dodgers roster who has homered against Medlen. He’s 5-for-9 against him, though the two haven’t faced each other since the 2010 season.

Justin Upton vs. Clayton Kershaw: Upton and Kershaw did not face each other during the 2013 season, but they have plenty of matchup experience from Upton’s time with the Diamondbacks.

Upton is 3-for-29 with nine strikeouts against Kershaw, though he does have a single, double and triple in his last 11 at-bats against him.

5. Misc Notes
* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves’ Justin and B.J. Upton will be the first set of brothers to play in a postseason game as teammates since the Molinas (Jose and Bengie) did so for the Angels in 2005.

The only pair of brothers to play in a playoff game for the Braves was Tommie and Hank Aaron in 1969. Both played in the second game of a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets in the NLCS.

* Yasiel Puig went 8-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs in four games against the Braves this season.

* Puig’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, however, didn’t have as much luck, hitting only .130 (3-for-23) in seven games against Atlanta in 2013.

Show them the money, watch them get hurt

August, 20, 2012

AP Photo/Kevin CaseyAlex Rodriguez is one of a host of players with large contracts who got hurt this season

This isn’t necessarily the best time to be a big-money player. Carl Crawford’s decision to have season-ending Tommy John surgery is the latest in a run of significant injuries to players with $100 million contracts.

Let’s run through the list:

Carl Crawford After signing a $142 million contract in the 2010-11 offseason, Crawford was a disappointment in his first season with the Boston Red Sox. He then missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury, came back, but has since decided to have Tommy John Surgery and will miss the remainder of 2012.

Ryan Howard-- The Philadelphia Phillies signed Howard to a $125 million contract extension in 2010, though the deal didn’t kick in until this season. Howard’s contributions this year were stalled by an Achilles injury suffered while making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s played in just 35 games this season.

Matt Kemp-- Kemp signed an 8-year $160 million contract that began this season, but has had to battle through a pair of hamstring injuries. He’s had a fantastic follow-up season to his 2011 campaign, but has only played in 70 games.

Alex Rodriguez-- Rodriguez played only 99 games last season for the Yankees due to injuries. This season, in his 94th game, he suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez.

CC Sabathia-- Sabathia had a season and a vesting option added on to his massive contract this offseason, but has since fallen victim to the injury bug. He is expected to return from his second DL stint of the season on Friday, but has battled both a groin and elblow injury.

Johan Santana-- Santana proved to be worth the $137.5 million early into his contract with the Mets. But he then had to miss all of 2011 with a shoulder injury. He returned to throw a no-hitter in 2012, but has been greatly ineffective in the latter part of the season.

One stint on the DL doesn’t appear to have cured him and there is talk that the Mets could shut him down for the remainder of 2012 in the near-future.

Troy Tulowitzki-- Tulowitzki signed a 7-year deal worth more than $130 million with the Colorado Rockies after the 2010 season. This season, he’s been limited to 47 games by a groin injury and hasn’t played since May 30.

Joey Votto-- After signing a $225 million extension with the Reds this year (it kicks in in 2014), Votto got through 86 games before being forced to the sidelines with a torn meniscus. He has yet to return.

Vernon Wells--A thumb injury in mid-May sent Wells to the sidelines and he didn’t return for more than two months. Wells, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal that runs through 2014, is hitting just .222.

Jayson Werth-- Werth got a 7-year $126 million deal in the 2010-11 offseason, but was a disappointment with the Washington Nationals in 2011. Werth broke his wrist trying to make a catch in May and missed nearly half a season’s worth of games. He is hitting .389 since his return on August 2.

Hitters making fast work of Santana's heater

July, 21, 2012

Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesJohan Santana didn't reach the 4th inning against the Dodgers Friday.
Less than two months after he earned a permanent spot in New York Mets lore by throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history, Johan Santana tied a more dubious team mark on Friday.

Santana joined Pedro Astacio in 2002 and Bobby Jones in 1995 as the only Mets pitchers to ever allow at least 6 earned runs in 3 straight outings after giving up 6 runs over 3 innings in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since throwing the Mets initial no-hitter on June 1, Santana is now 3-5 with a 6.54 ERA in 8 starts.

Santana’s fastball has let him down over that span. Opposing hitters are batting .323 against Santana’s heater in his last 8 starts, in large part because he’s having serious trouble locating the pitch. 52 percent of Santana’s fastballs have been in the strike zone since his no-hitter, compared to the one-third of Santana’s fastballs that found the zone against the Cardinals on June 1.

If there was an opponent that was likely to snap Santana out of his post-no-hitter struggles, the Dodgers were a good bet. Entering Friday, Santana was 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in 5 career starts vs the Dodgers, the lowest ERA vs the Dodgers of any pitcher with at least 5 starts against the team in the live ball era (since 1920).

Elsewhere in the majors Friday:

• The Atlanta Braves overcame a 9-0 deficit to beat the Washington Nationals 11-10 in 11 innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Atlanta’s 9-run comeback ties a franchise record also accomplished in 1987 vs the San Diego Padres and 1977 vs the St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals 9-run blown lead is the largest in team history, including the franchise’s years in Montreal.

• Jim Thome’s 4th-inning home run vs the Cleveland Indians was the 610th of his career, breaking a tie with Sammy Sosa for seventh on the all-time HR list. Next up for Thome is Ken Griffey Jr. at 630.

• Robinson Cano now owns the longest hit streak in the majors this season after his 7th-inning single vs the Oakland Athletics extended his hit streak to 23 games, one more than Michael Brantley’s streak earlier this year. Cano’s streak is the longest by a Yankee in a single season since Derek Jeter in 2006 (25 games).

• Justin Verlander allowed 2 runs in 8 innings in a win against the Chicago White Sox. Verlander has now pitched at least 6 innings in 62 straight starts, breaking a tie with Catfish Hunter for the third-longest streak in the live ball era. Verlander is 11-1 in 12 starts vs the White Sox since 2009, tied for the highest win percentage (.917) for a pitcher against a single opponent over the last 4 seasons according to the Elias Sports Bureau (minimum 10 decisions).

Dale Zanine/US PresswireBen Sheets allowed no runs in six innings on Sunday to pick up his first win in more than two years.
His last win came more than two years ago, but Ben Sheets showed Sunday he can still be dominant. Three days before his 34th birthday, Sheets tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits in the Atlanta Braves' 6-1 win over the New York Mets and Johan Santana. It was his first win since July 10, 2010 when he was with the Oakland A's. In Sheets' last win, he also went six innings and allowed two hits and no runs in a game against the Los Angeles Angels.

Sheets missed the entire 2009 and 2011 seasons since turning 30 in 2008. He was the third pitcher in the past 15 years to start a game in the majors at age 30 or older after twice missing a full season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The others were Scott Erickson, after missing the 2001 and 2003 seasons, and Bret Saberhagen, who missed the 1996 and 2000 seasons.

Mets hitters went 1-for-9 with three strikeouts against Sheets' fastball, and 1-for-9 with two strikeouts against his curve. Sheets used both as out pitches; of 21 two-strike pitches, 11 were curves and 10 were fastballs. Counting strikeouts, Sheets got eight outs with each pitch.

Sheets wasn't the only pitcher to go at least six innings and not allow a run on Sunday. 2012 All-Stars Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander and Matt Harrison also dominated.

• Strasburg also went six innings, allowed no runs and struck out seven in a 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins. It was the third straight start in which Strasburg went exactly six innings and allowed no runs against Miami. In fact, Strasburg has blanked the Marlins in four of his six career starts while going six innings in each. Strasburg has thrown 105 innings this season and the Nationals have maintained he will be capped at 160 innings pitched.

Justin Verlander
• Meanwhile, Justin Verlander had a far better outing than he did in the All-Star Game, as he improved to 7-0 in his career against the Baltimore Orioles. Verlander won his 10th game by allowing just three hits in eight innings and striking out eight.

Four pitchers have started and allowed 5-plus runs in the All-Star Game, and three of them went on to allow no runs in their next start, including Verlander. Tom Glavine in 1992 and Jim Palmer in 1977 are the others.

• Matt Harrison recorded his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the Mariners. Harrison had two career shutouts entering this season.

Four different pitchers have thrown complete-game shutouts and allowed five hit or fewer against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field this season, including Harrison. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1998 Montreal Expos were the last team to have that happen to them at home four times through July 15.

Jered Weaver
• Although Jered Weaver struggled Sunday allowing 10 hits, five earned runs and three home runs to the New York Yankees, he still managed to win and improve to 11-1 this season. Weaver was the first pitcher since Bronson Arroyo in 2009 and the first Los Angeles Angels pitcher since Geoff Zahn in 1981 to post those numbers and still win.

Alex Rodriguez took Weaver deep for his sixth home run (including the playoffs) off the Angels righty, most of any player.

In all, seven starting pitchers who played in the All-Star Game started on Sunday, and all ended up winning.

How impressive was R.A. Dickey's 1-hitter?

June, 14, 2012

AP Photo/Chris O'MearaR.A. Dickey is one of two 10-game winners in the Majors this season.
On June 1, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in Mets franchise history.

But was R.A. Dickey’s performance against the Tampa Bay Rays even more impressive?

It took 50 years before Santana threw the Mets’ first no-hitter. But side-by-side, Dickey’s performance may be closer to flawlessness.

Keep in mind that Santana’s no-hitter included a foul ball that replays showed may have been a hit and Dickey’s outing included a hit that could have been scored an error.

Then, consider that Santana struck out eight batters and walked five, while Dickey struck out 12 and didn’t walk a single batter.

Only two pitchers in Mets history have struck out more than 12 batters in a 1-hitter. Those pitchers are both in the Hall of Fame: Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.

In the win, Dickey ended a streak of 32 ⅔ scoreless innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest streak in Mets history, surpassing Jerry Koosman’s 31 ⅔ consecutive scoreless innings in 1973.

Dickey has now had four straight starts with no earned runs and at least eight strikeouts. According to Elias, no pitcher has had more than four straight such starts in MLB history. The other three pitchers to do so were Pedro Martinez (2002), Ray Culp (1968) and Gaylord Perry (1967).

So how did Dickey dominate the Rays?

• Of his 106 pitches, 100 were knuckleballs. That’s Dickey’s highest knuckleball percentage (94.3) in his Mets career.

• Of his 100 knuckleballs, 55 of them were above the belt, gaining 16 outs (six strikeouts), the most in his Mets career.

• The Rays missed 22 of the 63 knuckleballs they swung at (34.9 percent). The 22 missed knuckleballs are also the most in Dickey’s Mets career.

• Eleven of the 12 strikeouts were swinging.

With the victory, Dickey is now one of two 10-game winners in baseball this season.

That’s rather impressive considering that Dickey has never had more than 11 wins in a season, he was 8-13 last season, he’s 37 years old, and he was in the Minors just two seasons ago.

At 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 90 strikeouts, Dickey has cemented himself into the early Cy Young Award conversation. If Dickey were to win it, he’d be the oldest first-time Cy Young Award winner as a starter since Early Wynn, who was 39 years old when he won it in 1959. When Wynn won it, it was just the fourth year of the Cy Young Award, so it’s possible Wynn could have won one earlier in his career if the award had existed.

A Cy Young Award for a Met? It hasn’t happened since 1985, when Doc Gooden went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts.
Johan Santana
Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history Friday night, and we already told you what it meant and how he did it.

Today, we have a very odd name nugget, some leftover notes, and a very different look at the special night.

After Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter last season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Santana is the 11th surname in baseball history to be shared by two different pitcher who have thrown a no-hitter. The only pitchers with the same first and last names to throw no-hitters are Sam Jones (1955) and "Sad Sam" Jones (1923).

Oddly enough, Ervin Santana was born with the name Johan Santana, and changed it in 2003 because the lefty was already an established pitcher.

More no-no notes:

• The Elias Sports Bureau tells us it's just the eighth no-hitter in major-league history against the defending World Series champs.

• Seven former Mets had thrown no-hitters for other teams, including Philip Humber this season.

• There have been 12 no-hitters since the start of the 2010 season (including the postseason). There were eight no-hitters thrown from 2005-2009 combined.

Scroll down in the box below to see the distribution of Santana's outs. The size of the plotted outs correlates to the inning so the larger the circles, the later in the game. This shows the manner in which Santana recorded outs as the intensity of the no-hitter grew.

Out types are represented by color. For visualization purposes, all fly-ball outs (including lineouts and popouts) are categorized as flyouts. Santana had eight strikeouts, three groundouts and 16 flyouts.

US Presswire/Tim FarrellIt took 51 seasons for the Mets to celebrate a pitching performance of this nature.
Johan Santana spent more than 19 months waiting to pitch in a major league game after injuring his shoulder in September 2010.

That was nothing compared to how long the New York Mets waited for their first no-hitter.

Santana continued his comeback by pitching the Mets' first no-hitter in franchise history, which came in their 8,020th game. It took a career-high 134 pitches for him to finish off the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Santana had never thrown a one-hitter or two-hitter. He’d previously thrown five three-hitters.

Santana was the fourth pitcher with multiple Cy Young Awards at the time of his first career no-hitter. The other three are Bob Gibson (1971), Tom Seaver (1978) and Bret Saberhagen (1991).

It was Santana’s second consecutive shutout, making him the first Met to record back-to-back shutouts since David Cone in 1992. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that he was the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his next start after throwing a shutout since Dave Righetti in 1983.

How He Did It
Santana got the last out of the game with his most effective pitch, a changeup at which David Freese swung and missed.

That was one of 10 outs Santana recorded with the changeup in the game. He threw 38 changeups and coaxed nine misses on the 19 swings by Cardinals hitters.

Santana also got seven outs with the slider, a pitch he threw around the strike zone but rarely in it. Only five of Santana’s 20 sliders ended up in the strike zone.

Getting outs out of the strike zone was a significant part of this game. Santana got 10 outs on pitches that Pitch F/X deemed out of the strike zone. Eight of those were pitches that were off the inside part of the plate.

In all, Cardinals hitters chased 28 pitches that were out of the strike zone, the most in a Santana start since he got 29 chases in April 2009.

Santana also kept his defense busy. He got 15 fly ball outs -- including the running, crash-into-the-fence catch by left fielder Mike Baxter against Yadier Molina -- three groundouts and one line-drive out.

Santana was challenged by a Cardinals lineup in which he had to get a right-handed hitter out 25 times. Right-handed hitters are now 2-for-44 against him in his past two starts.

Santana also survived five walks. He threw 58 percent strikes, his second-lowest percentage in any of his starts this season.

Stats of the Night
The Mets went 8,019 games without a no-hitter. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that’s the most by any team before it recorded its first no-hitter. The team with the next-most was the Mets' opponent on Friday, the Cardinals, who played 4,826 games before their first no-hitter.

The Padres are now the only current team without a no-hitter. They’ve played 6,895 games without one.

Elias also noted that the Cardinals were the first defending World Series champions to be no-hit since the 1990 Oakland Athletics were no-hit by Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers.

Lastly, via Elias: Santana was the third non-rookie in the past 50 seasons to throw a no-hitter after not pitching in the majors the previous season. The other two were Jim Palmer for the 1969 Baltimore Orioles and former Met Dwight Gooden for the 1996 New York Yankees.

Two former Cy Youngs are ace-worthy

May, 26, 2012

Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJohan Santana threw his first shutout since August 12, 2010 as the Mets beat the Padres 9-0.
Four former Cy Young winners took the mound on Saturday afternoon, but only two pitched like aces. Let's take a look at the performances from this quartet:

Vintage Santana
Johan Santana continued his comeback from shoulder surgery, throwing his first shutout since August 12, 2010 as the New York Mets blanked the San Diego Padres, 9-0.

Santana was efficient, tossing just 96 pitches in the win. It’s the fewest pitches by a Mets pitcher in a nine-inning shutout since at least 2000 (as far back as complete pitch-count data is available).

Santana did not go a three-ball count for this time this season, after averaging five three-ball counts in his first nine starts. He threw 77 percent of his pitches for strikes, his highest rate since August 20, 2009.

Twenty-five of his 96 pitches (26 percent) were sliders, his second-highest percentage since the start of 2009. He got seven outs with the pitch, matching his most outs with the pitch over the last four seasons.

Sabathia brings the heat
Another New York lefty, CC Sabathia, also had a strong outing this afternoon, throwing seven innings of two-run ball as the New York Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics, 9-2.

CC Sabathia
Sabathia allowed seven hits, including a home run, but was still able to avoid his first three-start losing streak since joining the Yankees in 2009. Without his best swing-and-miss stuff (had a season-low four strikeouts), Sabathia got 11 groundball outs, his second-most in a start this season.

Sabathia recorded 17 of his 21 outs with his fastball, three more outs than he's gotten with the pitch in any previous start this season. It matches the second-highest total of outs with his heater since the start of 2009.

Not the best Bartolo
The former Yankee and current A’s starter, Bartolo Colon, was on the losing end of that game in Oakland, allowing six earned runs in six innings. Colon is now 1-3 with a 7.96 ERA in five May starts, after going 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in five April starts.

Colon threw 14 pitches on the inner third of the plate, but couldn’t jam the Yankee batters. They knocked out four hits on nine swings against those inside pitches, including Robinson Cano’s second-inning home run.

Peavy past his peak
In the Windy City, Jake Peavy allowed a season-high seven runs, but still got the win as the Chicago White Sox offense exploded for 14 runs and 17 hits in their victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Peavy has allowed a total of 13 earned runs over his last three starts, after giving up just 11 earned runs in his first seven starts combined. Peavy had trouble stranding runners today, as the Indians had four hits in six at-bats with runners on base against Peavy, including two home runs.

Floyd's curveball made him no-hit threat

April, 29, 2012
It took a great pitching performance from Chicago White Sox starter Gavin Floyd to end the Boston Red Sox six-game winning streak.

Sunday marked the fourth time in Floyd’s career that he carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, but he’s yet to finish one off. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Floyd’s four such bids are the third-most among active pitchers.

How did Floyd pitch so well?

Our pitch-performance data showed that he got five of his nine strikeouts on pitches that were out of the strike zone. He finished off all 15 hitters on whom he got a two-strike count.

Floyd’s curveball was working in those two-strike counts. He threw 11 curveballs in two-strike situations and got five strikeouts with them.

The White Sox were bidding to become the first team with two regular-season no-hitters in the same season since the 1973 Angels, who got two from Nolan Ryan. The 2010 Phillies are the last team with two no-hitters, if you combine regular season and postseason (both by Roy Halladay).

Floyd is 7-0 with a 2.75 ERA in eight career starts against the Red Sox. He’s the first pitcher to win his first seven career decisions against the Red Sox since former Minnesota Twins right-hander Kevin Tapani.

Other notable performances from Sunday included:

The day’s best pitchers
Johan Santana threw six scoreless innings in his Coors Field debut, in the New York Mets wild win over the Colorado Rockies. Santana has now pitched 22 scoreless innings against the Rockies, which (via Elias) is the longest streak by any pitcher to start his career.

CC Sabathia beat the Tigers to remain undefeated this season. The Tigers right-handed hitters were 1-for-21 against him. Sabathia got five strikeouts with his slider. He’s had at least five with that pitch in all five of his starts this season.

Speaking of sliders, Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza got 10 outs with his, and notched six strikeouts with the pitch, in a 5-1 win over the Phillies.

Also chiming in with impressive efforts were Arizona Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley, who is 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA in his last eight starts dating back to last season after beating the Diamondbacks, and Cleveland Indians starter Derek Lowe, who beat the Los Angels of Anaheim with an efficient effort- he threw single-digit pitch totals in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

The day’s best hitter
Rightfielder Jay Bruce homered for the fourth straight game, the longest streak by a Cincinnati Reds player since Adam Dunn homered in five straight games in May, 2008.
Jay Bruce
The streaky Bruce has had another hot week, hitting .476 with an OPS of 1.685 since Tuesday. His last three home runs have come on pitches over the outer-third of the plate. Bruce has 40 home runs on outer-third pitches since 2009, sixth-most in the majors in that span.
The New York Mets, the recipient of so much bad news over the past couple of seasons, got some good news on Tuesday with the return to the mound of ace starter Johan Santana.

Johan Santana
Santana, who did not pitch for the Mets in 2011 due to a shoulder injury , threw 29 pitches and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings in the Mets win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Here’s a quick statistical snapshot of his performance, based on video review data from Inside Edge.

• Santana threw 23 fastballs, ranging from 86 to 89 miles-per-hour, averaging 87. In 2010, Santana’s fastball averaged just over 89 miles-per-hour.

• Santana threw 15 of those 23 fastballs for strikes, including 8-of-9 to left-handed hitters.

• Santana’s other six pitches were four changeups and two sliders and he threw two of his six offspeed pitches for strikes. He typically threw those pitches for strikes about two-thirds of the time in 2009 and 2010.

• Santana got a pair of swings-and-misses- one on an 88-mile-per-hour fastball to Matt Holliday, the other on a 77 mile-per-hour changeup to Yadier Molina that Molina told the media looked like a vintage Santana changeup.

Santana’s changeup historically has been a huge key to his past success. In 2009 and 2010, Santana got 286 swings-and-misses on his changeup, fourth-most of any pitcher in baseball.

Verlander had many options

November, 15, 2011

AP Photo/The Canadien Press/Darren CalabreseJustin Verlander got to celebrate both a no-hitter and Cy Young Award in 2011.
There's no shortage of statistical superlatives when describing the season of Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander.

He’s the first Tigers Cy Young Award winner since reliever Willie Hernandez won in 1984, and only the second Tigers starting pitcher to win the award, joining Denny McLain, who won in 1968 and shared the award in 1969. Verlander and McLain are the only pitchers in Tigers history to finish a season with a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) under 1.00 (minimum 20 decisions). McLain did so in 1968, when he won 31 games.

Verlander led the AL in wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, and innings pitched. He was the first pitcher to win the AL pitching Triple Crown since Johan Santana for the 2006 Twins.

He was the first pitcher to win at least 24 games and throw a no-hitter in the same season since Sandy Koufax won 26 games and pitched a no-hitter for the 1965 Dodgers. He’s the first AL pitcher to accomplish the feat since Bob Feller for the 1946 Indians.

Verlander was able to turn the velocity up on his fastball as the game went longer. He averaged around 96 mph with it in the seventh through ninth innings, about 1.5 mph greater than in the first three innings.

Only five starting pitchers threw a fastball clocked at 99 mph or greater this season. Verlander did so 71 times, 44 more than the next closest, Dodgers pitcher Rubby De La Rosa.

But it was Verlander's other pitches that made him so good in 2011. Over a two-year period, Verlander increased the number of successful options he had with a two-strike count.

In 2009, he threw fastballs nearly 60 percent of the time with two strikes. He reduced that to 46 percent in 2011, increasing how often he threw his curveball, changeup and slider (see chart on right).

His strikeouts on fastballs went from 134 to 2009 to 88 in 2011.

Verlander’s strikeouts from his other pitches increased from 130 in 2009 (ninth-most in the majors) to 162 this year (fourth-most in the majors).

He cut 20 points off his opponents’ batting average with two strikes (from .154 to .134) and 41 points off his opponents’ OPS (from .436 to .395).

Some think that Verlander may win MVP honors. He would be the first starting pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986. If he does win, he may want to pay extra thanks to his teammates. He may have gotten some statistical help from the Tigers defense.

With the exception of centerfielder Austin Jackson, Detroit's defense didn't perform at a high level statistically this season. But when Verlander pitched, things went right.

Our pitch-performance data shows that opponents got 66 hits on the 106 line drives they hit against him. That .623 batting average sounds impressive, but it is 94 points below the major league average of .717. The average pitcher would have given up 10 more hits than Verlander did.
Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke made waves with his comments regarding St. Louis Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter heading into Game 1 of the 2011 NLCS.

The Milwaukee Brewers pitcher will have a chance to back those words up at Miller Park, a place he has not tasted defeat since being acquired by the team this offseason.

Greinke went 11-0 at home this season. You have to go al the way back to Billy Pierce of the San Francisco Giants in 1962 for the last time a National League pitcher had 11 or more wins at home without a loss.

In fact he was one of only four pitchers since 2000 to go undefeated at home with a minimum of 10 decisions, joining Cliff Lee in 2008 (10-0), Johan Santana in 2006 (12-0) and Jamie Moyer in 2005 (10-0) as the only pitchers to do so. Lee and Santana were awarded the Cy Young in the years they accomplished the feat.

While Greinke won't be walking away with a Cy Young this year, his acquisition was a key move in the Brewers reaching the LCS for the first time since 1982, when they were still in the American League.

He is the perfect guy to start Game 1 as among the Brewers top four starters, only Greinke posted an ERA against the Cardinals (3.15) that was lower than his season ERA (3.83).

Greinke has made three starts against the Cardinals this season and lost just once, his last start against them in September.

In that start, the Cardinals were aggressive early in the count, swinging at the first pitch 43 percent of the time, the second highest by any opponent against Greinke in a start this season.

Four of the Cardinals' eight hits and both runs they scored that game were driven in on the first pitch. When Greinke has been able to get deeper into the count against the Cardinals this season, he's been dominant.

Friday's First Pitch

April, 1, 2011
Today’s Trivia: For the first time since 2002, Roy Oswalt will not be the Opening Day starter for the Houston Astros. Who was the Opening Day starter for the Astros in 2002?

Quick Hits: A quick look at more Opening Day longevity.

* With Vladimir Guerrero gone, the Texas Rangers will have a different Opening Day designated hitter for the 12th straight season. The last to go back-to-back was Rafael Palmeiro in 1999-2000.

Carl Crawford
* The most storied position in franchise history, the Boston Red Sox may have finally found their man in left. Carl Crawford will be the fourth different Opening Day starter in as many years. That hasn’t happened in Boston since 1973-76 when the team was transitioning from Carl Yastrzemski to Jim Rice.

* The Chicago White Sox appear set to start the same outfield trio that began the 2010 season. In the past 35 years, the White Sox have had the same Opening Day outfield in back-to-back seasons just once. That was in 2003-04 with Carlos Lee, Aaron Rowand and Magglio Ordonez.

* Here's a glimmer of hope for New York Mets fans: the Mets have won five straight games on Opening Day, the longest active Opening Day win streak. Of course, Friday starter Mike Pelfrey may not evoke memories of Johan Santana or Tom Glavine, the starting pitchers in those five Mets wins.

* Conversely, no team has a worse recent Opening Day history than the Oakland Athletics. The A's have lost six straight times on Opening Day, the longest current streak in baseball. Oakland's most recent win was 2004, which was the last Opening Day start that Tim Hudson made in an A's uniform.

* Apart from first base, the entire Minnesota Twins infield falls into this category. In its Opening Day lineup, Minnesota will have its fifth second baseman in five years and eighth shortstop in eight years. It also will be the ninth straight year that the starting third baseman is different from the year before.

* Evan Longoria will be the only player in the Tampa Bay Rays lineup who started each of the last two opening days.

* Yunel Escobar will be the Toronto Blue Jays sixth different Opening Day shortstop in six years. Russ Adams was the last to start back-to-back openers in 2005-06.

* Similarly, Josh Willingham will be the A’s 12th Opening Day leftfielder in 12 years. Ben Grieve was the last to go back-to-back.

* Carlos Beltran is expected to be the 13th different person to man right field on Opening Day for the Mets in the past 15 years. Only Ryan Church and Jeromy Burnitz managed two such starts in that span, which included the likes of Eric Valent and Butch Huskey.

* The Colorado Rockies have only had two Opening Day first basemen: Todd Helton and Andres Galarraga. Jose Lopez will be the 14th to start at second in the opener. The last to do so in back-to-back seasons was Mike Lansing (1998-2000).

* Kevin Correia will be the 15th different Opener Day starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 19 years. That’s the period since Doug Drabek left via free agency.

Trivia Answer: Wade Miller was the last Astros pitcher not named Roy Oswalt to start on Opening Day.
Roy Halladay
Roy Halladay won the National League Cy Young Award Tuesday, receiving all 32 first-place votes, the first time he’s won in the NL and the second Cy Young he’s won in his career. He is the fifth pitcher ever to win the award in both leagues, joining Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

He’s the fourth Philadelphia Phillies pitcher to win the award and the first since reliever Steve Bedrosian won it in 1987. After winning six times in the 16 seasons from 1972-1987, this is the first time in 23 years that a Phillies pitcher won the award.

Halladay went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA, with 219 strikeouts and just 30 walks in 250 ⅔ innings. He’s just the fourth National League pitcher since 1994 to throw at least 250 innings with an ERA of 2.50 or below, joining Johnson, Greg Maddux and Kevin Brown. Halladay led the league in wins, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched and K/BB ratio. He was second in the league in strikeouts and WHIP (1.04), and third in ERA, and he threw the 20th perfect game in major league history when he beat the Florida Marlins on May 29.

The superior start is a statistic created by Stats & Information designed as an enhanced version of the quality start. For each start a pitcher is assigned a probability he gave his team of winning based on his innings pitched and earned runs -- the same statistics used to determine a quality start.

A superior start is deemed to be any start where the pitcher gave his team at least a 75 percent chance to win. The four pitchers who tied for the lead finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals finished second, his second top-three finish in the last three seasons. Wainwright went 20-11 with a career-low 2.42 ERA and a career-high 213 strikeouts in 230 ⅓ innings pitched. He won 20 games for the first time in his career and had five complete games, after throwing three combined in his career entering this season.

xWIN is another statistic created by Stats & Information that measures how many wins a pitchers team should get based on his combination of innings pitched and earned runs allowed in each start. It eliminates the adverse effect of a having a bad offense on a pitcher's win total. Wainwright barely outpaced Halladay to lead the National League this season.

Ubaldo Jimenez finished third after having one of the best seasons in Colorado Rockies history. He went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 221 ⅔ innings. That’s the second-best ERA by a starting pitcher in Rockies history and his 214 strikeouts set the all-time franchise mark.

Jimenez was counting on the fact that the NL Cy Young winner had fewer than 20 wins for four straight seasons before this one. With Halladay’s win, just twice in the last eight years has the winner registered 20 wins or more.
The Washington Nationals' Adam Dunn hit a 479-foot home run Tuesday at Atlanta -- the third longest HR this season behind Josh Hamilton (485 feet on June 27) and Colby Rasmus (483 feet, also on June 27). Dunn owns the third- and fifth-longest home runs of the season. Interestingly enough, the five longest home runs this season have all been hit by left-handed batters.

More significant is the fact that it's the seventh straight season Dunn has hit at least 35 home runs, which is tied for the fifth longest streak in baseball history. Only one left-handed hitter has a longer streak than Dunn: Rafael Palmeiro hit at least 35 HR in nine straight seasons from 1995-2003.

Also in the Nationals' 6-0 over the Atlanta Braves, pitcher Livan Hernandez hit his 10th career HR and drove in two runs. He now has 77 career RBI, two shy of the Arizona Diamondbacks' Mike Hampton for the most among active pitchers.

• The Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels struck out a season-high 13 batters in 6⅔ innings against the Florida Marlins. From the Elias Sports Bureau: Hamels is the first Phillies pitcher since 1900 to strike out 13 batters in fewer than seven innings.
• The New York Yankees' Jorge Posada hit his first career pinch-hit, go-ahead home run in the 10th inning or later to give the Yankees an 8-7 win against the Tampa Bay Rays. From the Elias Sports Bureau: The last Yankee to hit a go-ahead, pinch-hit HR in extra innings was Matt Nokes on May 8, 1993 at Detroit. Posada had been 0-for-10 this season as a pinch-hitter prior to hitting the home run.

• From 2005 to 2008, there were three left-handed pitchers who won at least 45 games and an ERA under 3.60: Johan Santana, CC Sabathia and Scott Kazmir. That seems like a distant memory for Kazmir, who is now 0-5 in his last seven starts and 1-9 in his last 12.