Stats & Info: Jonathan Sanchez

How will Sanchez, Cabrera + others help?

November, 13, 2011

US Presswire
Melky Cabrera (left) and Jonathan Sanchez (right) will be swapping uniforms next season.
The Hot Stove heated up this week with our first major free-agent signing of the winter, when the Phillies agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with Jonathan Papelbon (pending a physical). We covered that signing in detail on Friday.

Here's a closer look at some other notable transactions from the past week, including a potentially significant trade and a few under-the-radar signings.

Jonathan Sanchez Traded by Giants to Royals for Melky Cabrera
This was a classic trade where both teams dealt from a strength while looking to improve a weakness. The San Francisco Giants last year had the second-best ERA and the fourth-worst OPS in the majors, while the Kansas City Royals had the fourth-worst ERA and seventh-best OPS.

In Sanchez, the Royals receive a hard-throwing left-hander who has the third-highest strikeout rate since 2008 (minimum, 500 innings pitched). He also struggles with his command, never averaging fewer than four walks per nine innings in a season, including last year’s league-high rate of 5.9.

One concern for the Royals is Sanchez’s diminishing strikeout rate and fastball velocity over the past three seasons. Last year, when Sanchez missed more than a month with a biceps injury, his fastball averaged below 90 mph for the first time in his career.

Sanchez should help a Royals rotation that struck out just 621 batters, fifth-fewest in the majors last year. But he’ll need to improve his efficiency if he is going to make an impact on a Royals rotation that ranked 24th in innings pitched. His average of 5.3 innings per start was second-worst in the majors (minimum, 100 innings).

The Giants hope that Cabrera, who had a breakout season with 18 homers and a .305 batting average in 2011, can help improve an offense that scored the second-fewest runs in the majors last year.

Cabrera's career-best numbers were partly fueled by a .332 BABIP that was well above his career mark of .299. Cabrera also posted the lowest walk rate (5.0 percent) and highest strikeout rate (13.3 percent) of his career.

Pirates Sign Rod Barajas
The Pittsburgh Pirates inked Barajas to a one-year, $4 million deal following his 16-homer season with the Dodgers. Barajas will bring some much-needed power behind the plate to the Pirates. Since 2004, only three catchers have hit more homers than Barajas’ 111.

Pirates catchers hit just 13 homers (23rd in MLB) and had a .382 slugging percentage last year (18th in MLB). The last Pirates catcher to hit more than 15 homers in a season was Jim Pagliaroni, who had 17 in 1965.

Diamondbacks Sign Willie Bloomquist
Twins Agree to Terms with Jamey Carroll
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Bloomquist to a two-year, $3.8 million contract. On a positive note, Bloomquist is a versatile defender, having played at least 100 innings at every position except catcher in his 10-season career.

But he is also the definition of a replacement-level player. Bloomquist has never posted a season with a WAR of at least 1.0. His career OPS of .654 is the ninth-worst among active players (min. 2,000 PA), and his .073 Isolated Power is seventh-worst.

The Minnesota Twins also found a utility man to their liking with the addition of Jamey Carroll, who has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal. The Twins had a rough go last season at second base and shortstop. The metric Defensive Runs Saved, which measures a middle infielder's ability to turn batted balls into outs and turn double plays, showed that Twins middle infielders went from saving the team 27 runs in 2010 to costing them 39 runs in 2011.

Though Carroll contributed positive value defensively at second base as recently as 2009, last season was his worst in that regard. Carroll's defense was viewed by that metric as costing his team 14 runs.

Edinson Volquez is at his worst in the first

June, 12, 2011
The 10-2 win by the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday was the second-biggest win that a Dusty Baker managed team has had against the San Francisco Giants since he left the franchise following the 2002 season.
Edison Volquez

His biggest win against them was a 10-1 win in April of 2008. The winning pitcher that day was Edinson Volquez, Sunday night’s starter.

Volquez did not have as much luck in his last start against the Giants. Last August, he went just ⅔ of an inning allowing five earned runs, the most he's allowed in the first inning in any start of his career. That also was the shortest start of Volquez’s career.

This will be particularly interesting to watch on Sunday night as Volquez’s biggest struggles this season have been early in games.

He has a 16.36 ERA in the first inning. Once he gets though the first, his ERA drops to 3.26. He’s allowed six home runs in the first inning (tied for most in MLB), and just three the rest of the game.

Twice this season, Volquez has allowed back-to-back homers to a team’s first two batters of a game. Only two other active pitchers have had two such games in their careers: Chad Durbin (both in 2000) and Ted Lilly (2001 and 2005).

The struggles led to a demotion on May 23 for Volquez, who was the Reds' opening day starter. In his first start following the demotion, he improved upon his early struggles, striking out two in a scoreless first inning.

Volquez will be happy to see one familiar face on the Giants. That’s Cody Ross, who is 0-for-8 in his career against Volquez with two strikeouts.

The only hitters with more at-bats without a hit against Volquez are Geoff Blum and Carlos Lee (0-for-12). Ross only has one pitcher against whom he has more at-bats without a single hit. He’s 0-for-10 against Tommy Hanson.

Opposing Volquez will be Jonathan Sanchez, who has posted the lowest opponent batting average by any pitcher since 2010. So why isn’t he among the elite pitchers in the game? He has also walked 141 batters during that span, by far the most in the majors.

More bad news for Sanchez, no National League team has handled lefties better this season than the Reds. In fact Cincinnati’s batting average against left-handed pitchers is best in all of the majors.

This hasn’t translated to victories though as even with this hot hitting, the Reds are just 7-6 against lefty starters.
Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on Thursday night, looking to bounce back from a six-run outing Saturday at Cincinnati.

That game aside, Kershaw has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball over the past three years, whether facing left-handed or right-handed hitters.

Left-handers are batting .186 against Kershaw, giving him the the sixth-best opponents' batting average, third among left-handed pitchers. His swing-and-miss percentage of 36.9 leads all pitchers against lefties.

Among left-handed pitchers, Kershaw ranks second in opponents' batting average and first in OPS and strikeout percentage when using breaking pitches.

While his success against lefties might be anticipated, Kershaw separates himself from other southpaws with his ability to get right-handed batters out as well. Since 2009, Kershaw has the ninth-ranked opponents' batting average against among all starting pitchers (.218) when facing right-handed batters. Kershaw and Jonathan Sanchez (who is eighth) are the only two lefties in the top 25.

Since 2009, right-handed hitters are batting .243 in at-bats ending against Kershaw's fastball, well below the league average of .284. His breaking pitches have also been effective against righties, particularly at preventing home runs. Ryan Ludwick and Allen Craig are the only two right-handed batters to take a Kershaw breaking ball deep over that span.

Kershaw takes his breaking ball to Denver on Thursday, looking to continue his improvement at Coors Field. He had a 9.88 ERA in his first three career starts there, but he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his past five starts in Colorado, posting an ERA of 3.38.
Today’s Trivia: The Connecticut Huskies now are 3-0 in the men’s basketball championship games. Can you name the only two MLB franchises with multiple appearances that have never lost the World Series?

In the spirit of last night’s national championship game, let’s look at the topics du jour: Low scoring and lots of misses.

• Consider former Houston Astros outfielder Cory Sullivan the Butler of baseball. Last season, he went 12-for-64 at the plate, just like the Bulldogs did from the field on Monday night. Sullivan is one of 22 players to go exactly 12-for-64 in a season, a list that includes Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel, Greg Maddux and Hall-of-Famer Bill Mazeroski

• In four games, the entire Seattle Mariners pitching staff has had only 22 swings-and-misses, three more than Jonathan Sanchez had in his lone start.
Starlin Castro

• The Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro has taken 25 swings this season and doesn’t have a single swing-and-miss.

• The Oakland Athletics have an MLB-low 10.7 swing-and-miss percentage thus far. With only 16 swing-and-misses, Oakland has only two more than Miguel Olivo’s 14 in 14 plate appearances.

• Fun fact: The Minnesota Twins had more doubles (4) on Monday than Butler had two-point field goals (3).

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the St. Louis Cardinals have been held to three runs or fewer in each of their first four games of a season for the first time since 1980.

• The Tampa Bay Rays, according to Elias, are the first team since the 2007 Cardinals and the first American League team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers to score one run or fewer in each of their first three games to open the season.

Birds, Bucs and Barbecue
The Baltimore Orioles (4-0) and Kansas City Royals (3-1) currently are in first place in their divisions, while the Pittsburgh Pirates (3-1) are a half-game out of first in the National League Central. From 2005-2010, the Pirates had the fewest wins in the majors (388) followed by the Royals (394) and Orioles (411). All three of the Royals’ wins have come in their last at bat. They’re the fifth team in the last 10 seasons to have at least their first three wins come in their last at-bat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Last season, the Royals were 3-86 when trailing at the beginning of the 9th inning. They are already 1-1 in that situation in 2011.

The Pirates are 3-1, and haven’t even had their home opener. Last season the Pirates were 17-64 in road games, matching the 1963 Mets for the worst such record in the past 65 years. Pittsburgh had separate road losing streaks of 17 and 14 games.

The last time the Orioles allowed one or fewer runs in four consecutive games at any point in the season was 1995. That was a string of five consecutive shutouts. The O’s are one win shy of last season’s April win total (5-18).

Trivia Answer: The Florida Marlins (2-0) and Toronto Blue Jays (2-0) are the only franchises that have been the World Series multiple times but never lost.

Marlins bank on breakout, ink Nolasco

December, 20, 2010
The Florida Marlins, widely criticized for failing to spend money, have locked up their second rotation piece to a multi-year contract, agreeing with right-hander Ricky Nolasco on a 3-year/$26.5 million deal. It was just under a year ago that the Marlins committed to Josh Johnson for four years, and now they will have both starters through at least 2013.

Ricky Nolasco
The Marlins commitment to Nolasco could signify that the team is expecting the sort of breakout that Nolasco’s peripherals have indicated is coming for years. Few pitchers have been as perplexing as Nolasco; over the last two seasons, Nolasco’s ERA has lagged well behind his supporting statistics. In other words, he has the ERA of a No. 4 starter and the peripherals of a No. 1.

In fact, Nolasco was the only starting pitcher between 2009 and 2010 (combined) to post a strikeout rate per nine innings of 8.5 or greater and an ERA of 4.75 or greater (min. 300 IP).

If Nolasco is wildly underperforming his peripherals, what could be the cause of it besides potential 'bad luck'? For starters, the Marlins defense has been one of the worst across-the-board over the last two seasons, ranking 15th in the National League in team-wide Defensive Runs Saved (-51) and 16th in Plus/minus (-79), both courtesy of Baseball Info Solutions. The Marlins received below-average defense, according to Defensive Runs Saved, at all four non-catcher infield positions, as well as in center field.

Though some of those fielders will be back in 2011 -- Dan Uggla is gone and the third base situation is up in the air -- Nolasco's combination of plentiful strikeouts and minimal walks seems destined to put him in line for a breakout season at some point in his career. Over the last two seasons, Nolasco ranks fourth among starting pitchers in baseball in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and three of the other four in the top five have won a Cy Young award at some point in their careers.

Put it all together, and the Marlins have assembled a front three portion of their starting rotation -- Johnson, Nolasco and Javier Vazquez -- that is unmatched in its ability to register strikeouts. In fact, among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched over the past two seasons, the Marlins are the only team in baseball scheduled to go into 2011 with three starters who have averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings or better over that span. Only two other teams even has two such starters -- the Detroit Tigers with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer and the San Francisco Giants with Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez.
So while the Marlins might be banking on a breakout from Nolasco to justify the contract, they are putting their money on a pitcher whose underlying statistics justify the faith.
Mitch Moreland's three-run home run was the fourth three-run HR by the Texas Rangers this postseason. All other teams have combined for two. Moreland is now 7-for-17 at home this postseason with two walks. (During the regular season, he had a .411 OBP at home.)

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Mitch Moreland is the first rookie first baseman to start the first three games of a World Series since Jackie Robinson in 1947.
Josh Hamilton

• Josh Hamilton's fifth HR of the postseason made him the first American League batting champion to hit a home run in the World Series since Bernie Williams in 1998. He also has four home runs off left-handed pitchers. That ties the record for most HR by a left-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers in a single postseason. Hamilton shares the mark with Rusty Staub (1973 Mets) and Chase Utley (2009 Phillies).

• Jonathan Sanchez allowed just five home runs in 138 at-bats during the regular season to left-handed batters. However, the last four home runs he's allowed have all been hit by left-handed hitters: Kosuke Fukudome, Kelly Johnson, Moreland and Hamilton).

• Nelson Cruz's second-inning double gives him seven this postseason. That ties the MLB postseason record previously set by Hideki Matsui (2004), Mike Lowell (2007) and Jayson Werth (2008).

• Neftali Feliz (22 years, 182 days) is the second-youngest pitcher to save a World Series game. Bob Welch was 21 years, 342 days when he recorded a save against the New York Yankees in the 1978 World Series.

• Cody Ross's fifth HR extended his postseason hitting streak to 10 games, tied for the second-longest in Giants history (Irish Meusel 11, Alvin Dark 10).

• Pat Burrell struck out in all four at-bats in Game 3, and is now 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts in the World Series. With the series guaranteed to go at least two more games, Burrell could set the record for most strikeouts in one World Series. That record currently is held by Ryan Howard, who struck out nine times in last year's World Series.
A preview of Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: The last 12 teams to win the first two games of a World Series at home went on to win the championship. The 1981 Yankees were the last team to lose a Series after winning Games 1 and 2, both at home. That year, Los Angeles went on to win the next three games at Dodger Stadium and closed out the Series at Yankee Stadium with a 9-2 victory in Game 6.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: San Francisco has outscored Texas 20-7 through Games 1 and 2 of the Series. The Rangers are the fifth team to be outscored by at least 13 runs through the first two games of a World Series. The others were the 1937 Giants, 1987 Cardinals, 1996 Yankees and 2007 Rockies. The 1996 Yankees were the only one of those teams that rebounded to win the Series.

Jonathan Sanchez will be looking for his first career postseason victory against Colby Lewis as the series shifts to Arlington. Lewis has been stellar thus far in the postseason, coming off an eight-inning gem against the New York Yankees that clinched the ALCS for the Rangers. Lewis will take the mound to attempt to win the franchise’s first World Series game ever, and hopefully reverse the fortunes of this series in their favor.

The curveball has been the out pitch for Sanchez late in the season. Since Sept. 16 – a span of seven starts – Sanchez has allowed two hits in 39 at-bats (.051) with his curve.

Despite throwing fewer curveballs per start during this stretch – 17.7 per start versus 21.7 per start before Sept. 16 – he is actually striking out more people with the pitch. He is averaging 3.7 strikeouts per start with the curveball during this span (only 2.7 strikeouts per start before).

Colby Lewis
Lewis is throwing his curveball more often and with more effectiveness late in the season.

Before Sept. 15, Lewis was throwing 11.2 curveballs per start and opponents were hitting .304 against it. Since Sept. 15, Lewis is throwing 14.6 curveballs per start and opponents have only one hit in 18 at-bats (.056).

Lewis has thrown even more curveballs in the postseason – 18.7 curveballs per start in his three playoff outings.

Jonathan Sanchez

Sanchez has only faced two Rangers hitters in his career – Jeff Francoeur and Jorge Cantu – but only Francoeur is in the Game 3 lineup. Francoeur is just 2-for-14 with 5 K against Sanchez, but Cantu has two hits, including a double, in six at-bats.

Francoeur hit almost 70 points higher this season against lefties than he did against righties, and nearly 30 points higher against lefties than David Murphy – who would play if Francoeur didn’t -- did during the regular season.

Lewis has only faced three Giants hitters a total of 10 times in his career. But he’ll need to beware of Aubrey Huff, who is 2-for-4 lifetime against him with a home run.

A Giant step for San Francisco

October, 24, 2010
San Francisco’s dominant pitching staff and timely hitting propelled the Giants into the World Series for the fourth time since moving to San Francisco and the first time since 2002. Entering Game Six of the NLCS, the Giants starters had an ERA of 2.84 so it was not a particularly good sign when Game Six starter Jonathan Sanchez became the 14th starter in Giants postseason history to pitch two innings or fewer.

Sanchez’s short stint however, did not do the Giants in as manager Bruce Bochy made a historic call to the bullpen that helped the Giants advance to the World Series.

According to the Elias Sport Bureau, Saturday was the first time in postseason history that a team used four straight left-handed pitchers in a game (Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner and Javier Lopez). When it was all said and done, five Giants relievers combined to hold the Phillies without a run over the final seven innings. It was the most innings pitched without allowing a run by the winning team’s relievers in a postseason series-clinching game that did not go to extra innings since Game Five of the 1984 NLCS (Padres’ bullpen combined for 7 ⅔ scoreless innings against the Cubs).

Closer Brian Wilson sealed the deal by getting five outs to earn his third save of the series. Wilson posted a win and three saves in this year’s NLCS. According to the Elias Sport Bureau he became the fourth pitcher to win or save four games in one postseason series since saves became an official major-league statistic (in 1969). He joins Dennis Eckersley (1988 ALCS), Mitch Williams (1993 NLCS) and John Wetteland (1996 World Series) as the only four pitchers to accomplish that feat.

Besides stingy pitching, Juan Uribe's tiebreaking solo HR off Ryan Madson in the eighth inning was the difference in the game. The bomb by Uribe was his first postseason homer since his first postseason game, Game One of the 2005 ALDS (for White Sox). He went 23 postseason games without a home run, but once the streak was snapped Uribe became the fifth Giants player with a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later of a postseason game.

Outfielder Cody Ross was named NLCS MVP after batting .350 with three HR and five RBI. Ross became the fifth player in MLB history to start the season with a different team and win the LCS or World Series MVP award. He also extended his postseason hit streak to seven and hit a double for the third straight game. The latter is tied with Willie Mays for the second-longest such streak in Giants franchise history (Edgardo Alfonzo holds the record with a double in four straight games).

The Giants victory was their sixth, one-run win this postseason as they become just the third team in MLB history with that many one-run wins in a postseason.

Looking ahead, the Giants and Rangers have gone a combined 104 seasons worth of baseball without a World Series win. The Giants have not won a title in 55 seasons while the Rangers have never won a title in their 49 seasons as a franchise. It's the second World Series in the last 50 years (non-strike season) in which both teams had 92 wins or fewer. The other was 1997 (Marlins vs Indians).

NLCS Game 6 Preview: Giants at Phillies

October, 23, 2010
A quick preview of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Sanchez will take the mound Saturday in a rematch of Game 2. Oswalt is 10-0 in his career at Citizens Bank Ballpark, combining regular and postseason. The only other pitcher to win his first 10 decisions in that park is Clay Condrey (10 straight).

And Oswalt has won the only Game 6 he previously pitched in, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS to clinch the series.

In Game 2 in Philadelphia, Oswalt went eight innings, allowing just three hits and striking out nine, including Andres Torres all four times he faced him. The only run he allowed came on a Cody Ross home run. Ross has a hit in six straight games, the longest in the postseason by a Giant since Kenny Lofton’s six-game streak in 2002. The last seven-game streak came that same year, courtesy of J.T. Snow.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORS BUREAU: Pat Burrell hit two home runs this season when the Giants played in Philly, giving him 76 during the regular season at Citizens Bank Park, the highest total for any right-handed batter.

The Phillies lost Game 4 when neither starter finished the fifth inning and it turned into a matchup of bullpens. With a day off yesterday, the Phils should be able to stick to their big guns. Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge are Charlie Manuel’s most trusted relievers, and they’ve shown up big time in the playoffs. In 13 2/3 innings combined this postseason, they’ve allowed only four hits and no runs, with almost four times as many strikeouts as walks (15/4).

Jonathan Sanchez
Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez gets the ball for the Giants tonight. Chase Utley (1-for-12 with a single) and Jayson Werth (0-for-9) are a combined 1-for-21 (.048) against left-handed pitching this postseason.

Utley had a .581 slugging percentage against lefties during the 2010 regular season, the highest of his career. But Werth's .287 batting average versus lefties in 2010 was his lowest in his four seasons with the Phillies.

In Game 2, Phillies lefties were 2-for-7 with two walks against Sanchez, while righties went 3-for-17 with a walk and four strikeouts.

After striking out three times in Game 5, Ryan Howard has eight career three-strikeout games in the postseason, the most in major league history. Next on the list is Reggie Sanders, the only other player with six such games.

However, in Game 2, Howard went 2-for-2 against the left-handed Sanchez, walking once and not striking out. Howard is 5-for-16 in his career against Sanchez with four extra-base hits.

NLCS Game 2 Preview: Giants at Phillies

October, 17, 2010
The San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies take the field tonight for a Game 2 matchup featuring Jonathan Sanchez and Roy Oswalt on the mound. San Francisco won the first game of the series 4-3, and if history is any indication, the Giants now have a distinct advantage in the series. The winner of Game 1 in the NLCS has won the series 15 of the last 17 years, including the last three.

The Giants have struggled recently in Game 2s in the postseason, having dropped eight of their last nine such matchups. Even worse, they’ve rarely had success in Game 2s on the road, with a 3-11-2 all-time record. The Phillies won Game 2 in the NLDS this year, but prior to that they had lost their previous four Game 2s in the postseason.

Jonathan Sanchez
Jonathan Sanchez
Bruce Bochy rearranged his rotation for the NLCS, moving left-hander Jonathan Sanchez up to start Game 2 so that he would be able to alternate right- and left-handed pitchers in the series. But that’s likely not the only reason he wanted Sanchez to start in the pivotal Game 2.

The southpaw was brilliant against the Phillies this year winning both of his starts while posting a 1.38 ERA and striking out 13 batters in 13 innings. He was even better in his lone start at Citizens Bank Park, allowing just two hits and one run in eight strong innings.

Sanchez has also been dominant down the stretch for the Giants. After going 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season, he pitched a gem in Game 3 of the NLDS, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and setting the Giants record for most strikeouts by a lefty in a postseason game with 11.

Key Matchups
Sanchez held lefties to a .181 average this season, the third-best among NL starters, so its no surprise that he’s had a lot of success in his career against three key left-handed bats in the Phillies lineup - Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard. The trio is just 6-31 (.194) vs Sanchez, including 0-8 with two strikeouts this season

Sanchez has held the Phillies to a .175 batting average over 34⅔ career innings in nine appearances (five starts). That’s the best among active pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched against Philadelphia. But if you change the qualifier to five starts, Sanchez ranks second-best in the last 55 years, trailing only Floyd Youmans, and 10 points better than Sandy Koufax, who is fourth (.185).

Roy Oswalt
Charlie Manuel made no changes to his rotation, giving Oswalt the start in Game 2 at home. One reason could be his struggles at AT&T Park, where he is just 3-6 and has allowed an opponent OPS of .805, his third-worst at any park where he’s faced at least 100 batters. He’s been outstanding at Citizens Bank Park since joining the Phillies, going 5-0 with a 2.15 ERA in seven starts, though that includes a rough five-inning, four-run outing in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Roy Oswalt
Oswalt also has a significant postseason track record, with a 4-0 record and 3.83 ERA over nine career appearances (eight starts). The last time he pitched in an NLCS he was nearly untouchable, as he won both his starts in 2005 for the Astros during their improbable run to the World Series that year, allowing just two runs over 14 innings while striking out 12 batters.

Key Matchups
Oswalt held righties to a .196 average this season, the second-best in the majors, including a .170 mark in 13 games with the Phillies. However, he’s had problems in his career against two key right-handed bats in the Giants lineup, Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe. Sanchez owns a .306 batting average in 36 at-bats, with five of his 11 hits going for extra bases, but he is hitless in his last seven at-bats against Oswalt dating back to September 2008. Uribe has six hits in 16 career at-bats (.375) against him, including 4-for-9 this year, but Oswalt did strike him out each of the three times he faced him as a Phillie on Aug. 17.

Oswalt is 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 career regular season starts at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. Among the 33 pitchers who have made more than five starts at the ballpark, his 2.10 ERA and 9-0 record are both tops in that group.

Stats & Info NLCS Preview: Giants-Phillies

October, 15, 2010
Top Things To Know
The Phillies have won seven straight Game 1's, which is tied for the fourth longest Game 1 win streak in postseason history, while the Giants have won six straight Game 1's. Philadelphia hasn’t lost a Game 1 in the postseason since the NLDS in 2007, and has won six of their seven series during this streak.

The Phillies’ top three starters – Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels – did not pitch well against the Giants this season. Combined they went 1-5 with a 4.80 ERA, including Oswalt’s three starts while with the Houston Astros.

Deciding Factor
Clutch hitting will decide this series, especially for the Giants, the only postseason participant to finish outside the top 12 in OBP this season. San Francisco finished last in the NL in BA with RISP at .248, and was even worse in the NLDS (.185).

On the other side, Phillies pitchers allowed the second-lowest BA with RISP in the NL this season (.236), and got even better in the NLDS, holding the Cincinnati Reds without a hit in that situation.

Most Interesting Matchups
Roy Halladay
Cy Young Award winners will face each other twice in this series, when Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum take the hill in Games 1 and 5. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, their Game 1 matchup will be the third since 1900 – and the first in the postseason – in which two pitchers faced each other, with one coming off a no-hitter and the other coming off a shutout allowing two hits or fewer.

The only other times it’s happened were on May 17, 1996, when Al Leiter of the Florida Marlins faced Jim Buillinger of the Chicago Cubs, and April 20, 1917, when Eddie Cicotte of the Chicago White Sox faced Allen Sothoron of the St. Louis Browns.

Decisions, Decisions
Giants manager Bruce Bochy changed his starting rotation a bit from the NLDS, but it was an easy call as Mark Simon details here. In the NLCS, Jonathan Sanchez will start Game 2 while Matt Cain will pitch Game 3. Of all active pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched against the Phillies, Sanchez has the lowest opponents’ batting average (.175). In two starts against the Phils this season, Sanchez allowed a .114 batting average, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA.

Jonathan Sanchez
The reason behind this move is that both of Sanchez’s starts will come in Philadelphia. In two career starts at Citizens Bank Park, Sanchez has allowed a .106 batting average, .106 slugging percentage, .208 OBP and 0.71 WHIP. Of all the parks that Sanchez has pitched in more than once, these numbers are the lowest.

Stat of the Day
The Giants allowed 115 stolen bases this season, second-most in the National League. That’s not a good sign, as the Phillies were fourth in the NL in steals and led the majors in stolen base percentage. In fact, since Charlie Manuel took over in 2005, the Phils are fourth in the major leagues in steals and first in stolen base percentage.

Starting Sanchez made easy by numbers

October, 13, 2010
Why would San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy flip-flop Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, so that Sanchez pitches Game 2 of the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies in Philadelphia?

There’s a very good reason.

Sanchez beat the Phillies twice during the regular season, holding them to a .114 batting average and two runs in 13 innings. For his career, he’s held the Phillies to a .175 batting average. That’s best among the 75 active pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings against the Phillies. Change the qualifier to five starts and Sanchez is second-best of anybody in the last 55 years (trailing only Floyd Youmans). He’s even 10 points better than the immortal Sandy Koufax.

The matchups rate favorably for Sanchez against every Phillies hitter, with one exception -- Shane Victorino is 6-for-15 (.400 BA) against him. Other than that, it’s pretty lopsided in Sanchez’s favor. Ryan Howard’s .214 batting average (3-for-14 with seven strikeouts) looks pretty good compared to Carlos Ruiz (.111, 1-for-9), Jimmy Rollins (.067, 1-for-16), Jayson Werth (0-for-12, six strikeouts), Ben Francisco (0-for-8) and Raul Ibanez (0-for-6).

Sanchez allowed one run and two hits in 7⅓ innings in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. He’s one of three Giants to have a postseason start of at least seven innings and allowing two hits or fewer, joining teammate Lincecum and Dave Dravecky (1987).

That kind of performance is nothing new. Over the last two seasons, Sanchez has had that sort of performance three times in the regular season, including Aug. 19, when he took a one-hitter into the ninth inning of an eventual 5-2 win over the Phillies.

Padres refuse to lose

October, 2, 2010
The San Diego Padres refuse to go away.

Bud Black's team trails the San Francisco Giants by one game in the National League West and is tied with the Atlanta Braves for the wild card.

That leaves three teams for two playoff spots heading into the final day of the regular season, and four different scenarios for Sunday.

Scenario One: Padres Lose, Braves Win
• Giants win the NL West.
• Braves win the NL Wild Card.
• Padres are eliminated.

Scenario Two: Padres Win, Braves Win
This creates a three-way tie for two playoff spots:
• Padres and Giants would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday in San Diego, and the winner is the NL West champion.

• Loser of the Padres-Giants game travels to Atlanta and plays the Braves on Tuesday. The winner advances to postseason as the wild card.

Scenario Three: Padres Win, Braves Lose
• Padres win NL West based on head-to-head tiebreaker with Giants.
• Giants win wild card.
• Braves are eliminated.

Scenario Four: Padres Lose, Braves Lose
• Giants win NL West.
• Braves and Padres play one-game tiebreaker in Atlanta on Monday. The winner advances to postseason as the wild card.

The Padres send rookie Mat Latos to the mound, who is 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA in his last four starts. In those starts, his curveball has been getting raked. LatosLatos is leaving 64 percent of them in the strike zone, and opponents are 9-for-16 when his curveball finds the strike zone. The inability to get hitters out with the curveball has rendered his fastball less effective. In the last four starts, opponents have swung at 51.3 of his fastballs and are hitting .400. Batters are hitting .417 over the last four games when Latos has been ahead in the count.

Jonathan Sanchez is on the mound for the Giants. He has a 1.16 ERA in his last six starts. He's 0-3 this season against the Padres, but has a 2.59 ERA. His changeup has been unhittable in his last six starts -- opponents are 2-for-21 against it. This season, the Padres are hitting .127 against Sanchez with nobody on base, and are 3-for-49 with two strikes. Sanchez has put the Padres away with two-strike fastballs: San Diego hitters are 0-for-26 against that pitch from Sanchez this season.

Five reasons to watch: Giants at Dodgers

September, 5, 2010

Jayne Oncea/Icon SMI
The Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his last start.

Want a reason to watch the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball at 8 ET on ESPN2?

How about the idea that you might get to watch some pitching history. People have been calling this season The Year of the Pitcher, but perhaps the year of the great pitching performance is more apt.

There have been 25 games this season in which a team managed no hits or one hit. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s one shy of the all-time major league record, set in 1988.

The kicker is that both starting pitchers tonight -- Jonathan Sanchez and Hiroki Kuroda -- have thrown one-hitters this season. Kuroda did it in his last start against a powerful Philadelphia Phillies lineup, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before settling for a shared one-hitter with Hong-Chih Kuo.

It’s part of a stretch of nine starts in which Kuroda has held opponents to a .193 batting average and .520 OPS, yet somehow Kuroda is just 3-4 with a 2.56 ERA in that span. That’s what happens when your team totals just 21 runs of support in those games.

Sanchez’s one-hitter came in an odd situation -- a 1-0 loss to the San Diego Padres on April 20 in which he yielded just a Chase Headley single, but was done in when the lone run scored on a sacrifice fly. Sanchez already has a no-hitter to his credit against those same Padres last season.

If there is a one-hitter to be had tonight, it’s more likely to be for the Dodgers than the Giants, for two reasons:

First, Sanchez is 0-5 with a 6.04 ERA against the Dodgers, the second-worst mark against them for any active pitcher (Jorge De La Rosa is 0-6). His ERA is the second worst of any Giants pitcher who has thrown 40+ innings against the Dodgers since the teams moved to California in 1958.

Second, the Giants haven’t thrown a one-hitter against the Dodgers since 1973.

But Sanchez’s .215 opponents batting average rates among the best in baseball, and the Dodgers offense rates among the most inept in the majors since the All-Star break. Perhaps the Giants are due.

Four other reasons to watch, with some help from our game researcher, Katie Sharp:

• Rafael Furcal is a Giants killer
He’s hitting .324 against the Giants as a Dodger, third-best among anyone since the two teams moved westward in 1958.

• The Dodgers like small ball
Los Angeles leads the National League in sacrifice bunts, and with the help of, we know the Dodgers lead in bases taken via fly balls, wild pitches, passed balls, balks and defensive indifference. They’ve also taken an extra base on 45 percent of the opportunities they’ve had, matching the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds as the most aggressive teams in the league.

• See an unknown star
If you’re a fan of some of these new sabermetric statistics, you’ll like Andres Torres, who, primarily on the strength of his defensive rating, is fourth in the NL in Wins Above Replacement. His “Ultimate Zone Rating” (a gauge of ability to turn hit balls into outs, avoid errors, and serve as a base-running deterrent) rates higher than any outfielder in the league.

• You're going to see a close one
Of the 14 games the teams have played this season, 11 have been decided by two runs or fewer, including the last seven.

We checked with the Elias Sports Bureau, which tells us this is the first time that the Giants and Dodgers have had a season in which they played seven straight games that were that close since 1928, and they have never played eight straight games in the same year, decided by two runs or fewer.

Maybe tonight's the night for some history.

1st Pitch: Grounds for Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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