Stats & Info: Kevin Kouzmanoff

Chasing history in the AL West

September, 15, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Paul Maholm takes the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday holding the team-lead in strikeouts with 90 (Side note: 34 pitchers had more than that before the All-Star break). Not having a 100-K pitcher is a bit more common than you might think. In fact, it happened five times last decade, including last season to the Washington Nationals. Which brings us today’s trivia question: Which pitcher led the Nationals in strikeouts last season?

The standings might say otherwise, but there’s always something to play for – in this case, history. In the first of a series of divisional breakdowns, here’s some statistical minutiae to keep an eye on in the closing weeks. First the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels
    Bobby Abreu
  • Bobby Abreu needs one stolen base for 20 on the season. That would give him 12 straight seasons of 15 HR and 20 SB, extending his own record streak. Barry Bonds (10 straight) has the next longest such stretch.
  • Brandon Wood’s .397 OPS would be the lowest for a player with 200 plate appearances since Frank O’Rourke posted a .325 OPS for the 1912 Boston Braves. Wood is just below Tony Pena Jr.’s .398 for the Kansas City Royals in 2008. Wood’s .185 on-base percentage would be the seventh lowest since 1900 for players with 200 PA.
  • With 56 strikeouts and only four walks, Wood would have the most strikeouts for a player with fewer than five walks since Rob Picciolo (63 K, 2 BB) of the 1980 Oakland A’s.
Oakland A’s
  • Both the Seattle Mariners and A’s do not have a player with 15 home runs. The difference is that the A’s leader Kevin Kouzmanoff (14 HR) has been missing time with a back injury. The last AL team without a 15-HR player was the 1992 Angels, who were led by Gary Gaetti’s 12.
  • If Daric Barton (100 BB, 88 K) stays below 100 strikeouts, he’d be the first American League player since Rafael Palmeiro to do that in a season with over 100 walks. Since Palmeiro’s 2002 campaign, 16 players have done this, but all were in the National League. With only eight HR, Barton would be the first to do this with fewer than 10 HR since Rickey Henderson in 1996.
  • How does a pitcher with only 98 strikeouts have the lowest opponent OPS in the AL since Tim Hudson in 2003? There just might be some luck involved for Trevor Cahill. The .224 BABIP against Cahill is the lowest against a qualifying AL pitcher since opponents had a .212 BABIP against the Detroit Tigers Jeff Robinson in 1988. Not only was that Robinson’s only season with a sub-3.00 ERA, but his next best was 4.73.
Seattle Mariners
    Franklin Gutierrez
  • With Franklin Gutierrez currently leading the team with 56 RBI, the Mariners could become the first team since the 1983 Cincinnati Reds without a 60 RBI player in a non-strike shortened season. That Reds squad was led by Ron Oester’s 58 RBI.
  • Russell Branyan only has 56 RBI to go with the 24 home runs he’s hit between the Cleveland Indians and Mariners. He’s safe though. The fewest RBI for a player with 25+ HR is 54 by Ron Gant when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels in 2000. The AL “record” is shared by Fred Lynn (1988 Orioles/Tigers) and Marcus Thames (2008 Tigers) with 56.
  • Mariners designated hitters are batting just .190 at the plate this season. Over the last 35 years, the only AL team to hit below the Mendoza Line at DH was the Texas Rangers (.197) in 1988. Larry Parrish was the most frequent DH on that squad.
Texas Rangers
  • Left-handed hitters are batting just .136 against C.J. Wilson. That’s the second lowest for a qualifying AL starter over the last 35 years. In 1995, lefties hit just .129 against Randy Johnson. The difference is that Johnson only faced 92 lefties that season, while Wilson has done battle with 156.
  • If he doesn’t suit up again in the regular season, Josh Hamilton will finish with 21 home runs and .395 batting average at home. Over the last 50 years, the only other AL player to hit .390 with 20 HR at home was Albert Belle for the 1994 Indians.
  • Elvis Andrus has 145 hits, but only 17 have gone for extra bases. The last player with over 150 hits in a season with 17 of fewer extra base hits was Kirby Puckett in 1984. Only 17 of his 165 hits were no singles.
James Shields
Key Matchups: Alex Rodriguez (.208) and Mark Teixeira (.143) have been baffled by James Shields in the past. However, no one compares to Curtis Granderson. His .077 average is lowest for anyone that Shields has faced at least 20 times. Granderson’s struggles are notable for the fact that he usually struggles against right-handed pitchers. In fact, against righties not named James Shields, he has a .289 career average compared to .216 against southpaws.

Chad Billingsley has an 0.61 in 29 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, good enough for a 2-0 record in four starts. In fact, Billingsley has tossed 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against San Francisco. Both Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval are 0-for-10 against him in 2010. Uribe was 5-for-10 entering the season.

Trivia Answer: With 92 strikeouts, Jordan Zimmermann led the 2009 Nationals, despite making only one appearance after the break. Washington’s Tyler Clippard (97) had already eclipsed that total while pitching solely in relief.

1st Pitch: Jays mashing for history

September, 8, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Neither the Oakland Athletics nor the Seattle Mariners have a player with at least 15 home runs. Kevin Kouzmanoff’s 14 leads Oakland, while Russell Branyan paces Seattle with 13 (in just 50 games!). If either team ends up without a 15-HR player, it would the first time for an AL team since the 1992 Angels. Who led that team in home runs? (Hint: He has the third-most career HR for a player who homered in his first at-bat.)

Quick Hits: With their third straight game with at least three home runs, the Toronto Blue Jays now have 215 on the season. That’s tied for the third most in franchise history and 33 more than any other team. Let’s dive into Toronto’s torrid pace with help from STATS LLC.

• Toronto has hit at least three homers in each of its last three games. In 138 games this season, the Houston Astros have the same number of three-HR games.

• The Blue Jays now have 33 three-HR games, the mostby a team in a season since the 2005 Texas Rangers. Over the last 90 years, the 1997 Mariners had the most three-HR games with 43.

• Speaking of the Mariners, they’ve only hit a home run in 62 games this season. The Blue Jays have hit multiple home runs in 63 games this season.

• The Blue Jays have hit an incredible 181 home runs against right-handed pitchers, 54 more than any other team. In fact, only the Boston Red Sox (182) have more total HR than the Blue Jays have against righties alone.

• The Blue Jays are hitting just .218 against lefties this season, which would be the lowest season average over the last 35 years. Not surprisingly, only 34 of their homers have come against southpaws (tied for 17th in the majors).

• The Blue Jays are on pace for 150 home runs at home this season. That puts them just off the pace of 2005 Rangers, who hold the record with 153 HR at home.

Jose Bautista has already hit 27 home runs at home this season, the most by an AL player since Mark Teixeira’s 30 in Arlington back in 2005. The MLB record would be a task though. That belongs to Hank Greenberg, who hit 39 of his 58 home runs at home in 1938.

• At home, Bautista is averaging a home run every 7.93 at-bats. That would be the best in the American League over the last 50 years. In 1994, Frank Thomas averaged one per 8.14 at-bats at home. Over that span, Bautista’s rate would be the sixth best in the majors behind two seasons apiece for Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, and Hank Aaron’s 1971 campaign.

Today’s Leaderboard: Of Adam Lind’s 20 home runs, 14 have come in two-strike counts. Compare that to Baustista, who has 8 of his 43 HR coming with two strikes. Lind’s total is the most in the AL and trails only Albert Pujols, who has 15 more total home runs.

Key Matchups: Zack Greinke has not enjoyed facing the Minnesota Twins this season, going 0-3 with a 10.29 ERA. In fact, take out his starts against Minnesota and Greinke’s ERA would drop from 3.87 to 3.36, as noted in the Kansas City Star. Joe Mauer is 4-for-8 against Greinke this season, after entering 2010 just 6-for-27 against him.

After missing two years due to injury, Chris Capuano made it back to the big leagues in 2010. However, that means he will have to face Albert Pujols again for the first time since 2007. If Pujols wants to make a run at the Triple Crown, it will require a massive climb in batting average. Tonight is a good place to start. Albert is 15-for-27 against Capuano, a .556 average that is his third highest against anyone he’s faced 20 times.

Trivia Answer: Gary Gaetti led the 1992 Angels with 12 home runs. That’s the fewest HR to lead an AL team in a non-strike year since Bobby Bonds paced the 1976 Angels with 10.

1st Pitch: History chasing Moyer Tuesday

June, 22, 2010
Quick Hits: Jamie Moyer gets the start against the Indians on Tuesday with history looming. The southpaw has allowed 504 home runs in his career, one shy of Robin Roberts' record. Using’s Home Run Log, let’s take a look at the 504 that got away:
  • The player that has faced Moyer the most times without a home run happens to be a likely future Hall of Famer. Roberto Alomar was homerless in 49 plate appearances.
  • Moyer has 478 career at-bats without hitting a home run himself. Only three active players have a longer career drought: Reggie Willits (863 PA), Ryan Dempster (548), and Ben Sheets (496).
  • Moyer has allowed 87 home runs in the first inning alone. Christy Mathewson allowed 89 over the course of a 17-year career.

  • Moyer is 149-67 in his career when not allowing a home run, and 116-134 when he does.
  • Moyer has allowed seven grand slams, which is not even the most among active players. Brad Penny, Kevin Millwood and Cliff Lee have all been victimized eight times. Lee has allowed 368 fewer home runs than Moyer, yet more grand slams.
  • Manny Ramirez has the most home runs against Moyer with 10, followed by Carlos Delgado’s eight.
  • The only player to homer in his lone plate appearance against Moyer? Kurt Abbott in 1993.
  • In part because of his extended time in the AL, Moyer has never allowed a home run to a pitcher. By contrast, Phil Niekro allowed 12.
  • The lone walk-off home run against Moyer belongs to Alfonso Soriano in the bottom of the 18th inning on June 24, 2004. Soriano also has one of the 18 home runs off of Moyer to lead off a game.
Today’s Trivia: Which current manager hit the first home run that Jamie Moyer gave up?

Today’s Leaderboard: The Indians, whom Moyer faces on Tuesday, have only managed nine home runs against lefties this season, tied for fourth fewest in the majors. The Dodgers are last with only seven, while the Red Sox and Yankees share the league lead with 28. The Indians’ nine have come in 739 at-bats. The rate of one HR per 82.1 AB vs lefties in second worst in the majors. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have one per 23.5 AB.

Key Matchups: So who is the most likely culprit to go deep against Moyer on Tuesday? A pair of Indians have a history of success against Moyer. Jhonny Peralta is the only current Indian with a home run against Moyer, and has a lifetime .500 average in 10 at-bats against him, while Austin Kearns is 7-for-16 (.438) against Moyer. If it’s anyone other than Peralta that takes Moyer deep, it would mark the 322nd different batter to homer off of him.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is swinging one the hottest bats in the majors at the moment, and Tuesday he gets to face the pitcher he does the most damage against. In June, Kouzmanoff is hitting .418 (4th in the AL) with five HR (t-4th in AL). In 16 career at-bats against Bronson Arroyo, he’s hit .688 with a pair of long balls. That batting average is by far his best against any pitcher he’s faced at least 10 times.

Trivia Answer: Juan Samuel, current interim manager of the Orioles, hit the first homer off of Jamie Moyer almost exactly 24 years ago today (June 23, 1986). He wasn’t the only current manager to appear in that game. Terry Francona came on as a defensive replacement for Moyer’s Cubs.

BIS: Defensive support in perfect games

May, 10, 2010
Behind every perfect-game pitcher is a good defense, and Dallas Braden’s perfect game on Sunday was no different. Kevin Kouzmanoff made a few nice plays in support of his pitcher, including one foul catch that led him right into the third base dugout. Similarly, Mark Buehrle can thank DeWayne Wise for turning in the top Web Gem of 2009, robbing a Gabe Kapler home run to preserve the perfect game in the ninth last July 23.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could take an objective look at the defense played in each of these two games? Fortunately, we have the Plus/Minus system to do just that. (I took you inside the Plus/Minus and Runs Saved systems on this blog last week, if you want a refresher.)

In his perfect game, Mark Buehrle struck out six batters, and induced 11 ground balls, four fly balls, four fliners, and two line drives. Based on the Plus/Minus system, the White Sox defense totaled +4.3 plus/minus points on the day. In other words, with average defensive play we’d expect an average of 4.3 of these 21 balls in play to fall in for hits. The White Sox were a below average defense last year (totaling -9 Runs Saved), but for whatever reason they stepped it up that day.

Braden is one of the more extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball and relied on his outfielders again on Sunday, retiring six on fly balls, six on fliners, and two on line drives in addition to six via the strikeout and seven on grounders. Fortunately, the A’s defense didn’t have to work too hard to support Braden. When we add up the Plus/Minus for the A’s defense during the game, we find they only needed to contribute +1.8 plays above average to preserve the perfecto. Braden succeeded in inducing lazy fly balls right at his outfielders and high pop-ups on the infield. There was no single play that had a plus/minus value greater than 0.50, while there were three such plays in the Buehrle game (including Wise’s catch in the ninth).

Of course, Kouzmanoff’s foul catch late in the game was replayed on highlight reels all night long. Though we don’t rate fly balls in the Plus/Minus system, we know that Braden was somewhat fortunate to be playing in Oakland this weekend. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is notorious for the amount of foul territory in play, and Kouzmanoff needed every inch of it to reach the Carlos Pena pop-up in the eighth. If that foul ball falls into the stands, the at bat would have been prolonged and Pena would have had another shot to break up the perfect game.

So, hats off to Dallas Braden, not only for throwing the 19th perfect game in history but also for making it relatively easy on the defense behind him.

BIS: Why swap Figgins and Lopez?

April, 29, 2010
The Mariners front office threw their fans for a loop on the first team workout of the spring when second baseman Jose Lopez trotted out to third base while newly-acquired third baseman Chone Figgins positioned himself at second. As Dave Cameron noted on this blog, “More and more, teams are realizing that if you can play a quality third base, you probably have the skills to transition to second, and vice versa.” But if it doesn’t matter who’s playing where, why bother?

Fast forward to the first week of the season: Rajai Davis hit a sharp ground ball off Doug Fister that sped toward the 3B/SS hole. Lopez, playing in on the grass with the chance of a bunt from the speedy Davis, dove to his left but missed the ball by inches. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I’d bet that Adrian Beltre or Chone Figgins would have come up with that ball, and Lopez just cost them a base hit.” Before I could finish the thought, shortstop Jack Wilson flew into the picture, backhanded the ball, set his feet and launched a rocket to first, just in time to get Davis. Wilson bailed out Lopez, Fister, and the Mariners on a play that Figgins might have made (had he been playing third).

Sure, it’s just one play, but this example illustrates that playing two good fielders on the left side of the infield could cause some overlap, effectively making the total less than the sum of the parts. On some ground balls, both the third baseman and the shortstop could make the play, but only one needs to.

I created a model of the Mariners’ infield using each player’s 2009 performance. I’ll spare you the long explanation for now (I’m running over my word count as it is), but I projected the distribution of ground balls allowed by Mariner pitching in 2009 onto their projected infield before and after the swap. Since I didn’t have a model for Lopez and Figgins at their new positions, I used average third basemen (Melvin Mora, Kevin Kouzmanoff) and above-average second basemen (Dustin Pedroia, Chase Utley, Aaron Hill) as proxies at their respective positions.

For example, let’s compare the Mora/Wilson/Pedroia/Casey Kotchman infield to Figgins/Wilson/Lopez/Kotchman. Adding up the full season of plays, the drop-off at third was significant, but Jack Wilson reached most of the grounders anyway. In fact, Mora (Lopez’s proxy at third base) covers an estimated 58 fewer plays than Figgins, but Wilson’s elite defense makes up 45 of those from shortstop! Add in the 18-play increase from Lopez to Pedroia (Figgins' proxy) at second base, and it’s a net gain of five plays for the team. Using similar infield proxies at third and second, the Mariners’ improvement ranges from zero to 15 plays per season as a result of the swap. Even though it’s not a huge improvement, every run could make a difference in the competitive AL West.

Regardless of the reasons, the (very) early returns on the position swap are positive: Figgins has saved one run at second according to Baseball Info Solutions, while Jose Lopez has accumulated eight Runs Saved, leading all third basemen. So far, so good in Seattle.

1st pitch: Red Sox, the Rookie and RISP

April, 20, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Who is the youngest position player to win the NL Rookie of the Year?

Quick Hits: Over their last five games, the Red Sox are 0-for-30 with runners in scoring position, which has certainly contributed to the fact that they haven’t held a lead in their last 48 innings. Over that same stretch, the Nationals are hitting .408 with RISP, and have won four of their last five. Here are some quick hits on RISP:

* Jason Heyward is 8-for-11 (.727) with runners in scoring position, and just 5-for-32 (.156) otherwise. He leads the majors in batting average and OPS with RISP.

* Tim Lincecum is actually 2-for-2 with RISP and has already matched last season’s RBI total (3).

* Scott Podsednik’s 10 hits with RISP lead the majors, but all 10 are singles, so he only has six RBI in those situations.

* Among those still hitless with RISP? Kevin Kouzmanoff (0-15), Adam Dunn (0-12), Carlos Lee (0-10).

* Gary Matthews Jr. has 15 plate appearances with RISP. He does have one hit, but is still without an RBI in those situations.

* Jose Bautista is just 2-10 with RISP, but has walked eight times, which gives him a .526 on-base percentage.

* Matt Capps has held opponents hitless (0-11) with RISP, but has walked five.

* The Cardinals have held opponents to an MLB-best .172 BA with RISP, while the Cubs are in the basement at .340.

* As a group, the Red Sox outfield is 3-for-31 with RISP.

* Over their first eight games, the Astros hit .157 with runners in scoring position. Since then, they are hitting .444 with RISP, and have won three of four.

* The Rays are hitting an MLB-best .324 with RISP, but just .221 with the bases empty.

* With two outs and runners in scoring position, the Orioles are 5-53 (.094).

Today’s Leaderboard: The Rays’ .324 batting average with RISP is far and away the best in the majors. The Yankees are tied for fifth at .286. But the rest of the AL East has not fared so well, as the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Orioles are all hitting under .200 and rank in the bottom five.

Key Matchups: When you look at the active players who have had the most success against Tim Wakefield, one common trait sticks out: Free swingers. Among active players with at least 15 plate appearances against the knuckleballer, the top three in OPS are Aaron Rowand, Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Lopez. Guerrero faces Wakefield Tuesday looking to improve on a lifetime .429 average with five home runs. There was a point five years ago when Wakefield wouldn’t even bother. In 2005, he intentionally walked Guerrero four times in seven plate appearances. In total, Wakefield has intentionally walked Guerrero five times, three more than any other batter he has faced.

For Jason Bay, one of the perks to returning the National League is the chance to face Carlos Zambrano with regularity. As a rookie in 2003, Bay had his breakout game against the Cubs righty with two home runs to go with eight RBI. Bay hasn’t let up since. He has five career home runs against Zambrano, tied for his most against any pitcher. No hitter has more RBI against Zambrano than Bay’s 16.

Trivia Answer: Willie Mays turned 20 during his rookie campaign, and is the youngest position player to win the award in the NL. Jason Heyward turns 21 in August.