Stats & Info: Manny Ramirez

5 stats to know: Rays at Red Sox

July, 24, 2013

USA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoFelix Dubront (left) and David Price (right) will take the mound for their respective teams on Wednesday Night Baseball. The teams have split the first 2 games of the 4-game series
The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox play the third game of a four-game series tonight at Fenway Park at 7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

Here are five stats our broadcast crew will likely be talking about during Wednesday night’s game.

1. Since returning from the disbaled list on July 2, David Price has a 3-1 record and a 1.97 ERA. During that stretch, he’s walked one batter in 32 innings.

One of the biggest changes for Price since returning from the disabled list has been his increased usage of his changeup.

In April and May, he threw the pitch only 13% of the time. In his last four starts, he’s throwing it 21% of the time.

Price is 8-5 in 17 career starts against the Red Sox, with a 3.27 ERA. However, he’s been much better at Fenway, going 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in eight starts.

His ERA is the lowest of any active visiting pitcher at Fenway with at least five starts.

2. Dustin Pedroia has reportedly agreed to a seven-year extension worth about $100 million that would keep him in a Red Sox uniform until 2021. The team plans to make a formal announcement within days.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if Pedroia plays out this new contract with Boston, he would have spent 16 seasons with the team, something only five players have done: Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19), Dwight Evans (19), Tim Wakefield (17) and Jim Rice (16).

Pedroia’s contract would be the fourth contract worth at least $100 million handed out by the team in its history.

None of the previous three completed the contact in a Boston uniform, although Manny Ramirez almost got there.

3. Despite losing Tuesday night, the Rays are still one of the hottest teams in baseball, having won 21 of their last 26 games. This streak has moved them within 1½ games of the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.

However, Tampa Bay has struggled against Boston this year, going 4-10 (20-15 against the rest of the AL East). The Rays have lost the season series to the Red Sox for the first time since 2007.

4. David Ortiz is one home run shy of reaching 20 for the 11th time in a Red Sox uniform. That would match Dwight Evans and Jim Rice for the second-most such seasons in club history, behind only Ted Williams (16 years).

5. Felix Doubront is enjoying a solid run for Boston, as he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 8, compiling a 2.59 ERA in those 12 starts.

Doubront is the first Red Sox pitcher to go 12 straight starts while allowing three or fewer earned runs since Pedro Martinez went 16 straight ending in April 2003.

Quick Hitters
• Tampa Bay will play 38 road games after the All Star break, the most in the majors. The good news is the Rays have the best road record in baseball since 2010 (.550 win percentage).

• The Red Sox and Atlanta Braves are the only teams that have remained above .500 for the entire season. It’s the latest Boston has stayed above .500 since 1946, when they stayed above that mark the entire season.

Numbers show Pedroia is among the elite

July, 24, 2013
Elsa/Getty ImagesDustin Pedroia won the 2008 AL MVP award.
Dustin Pedroia has signed a seven-year extension (beginning in 2015) worth around $100 million with the Boston Red Sox, according to's Gordon Edes and multiple reports.

If Pedroia’s contract is indeed worth $100 million, it would be the fourth of at least $100 million handed out by the Red Sox organization in the team's history.

None of the previous three –- Manny Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford –- completed their contracts in a Red Sox uniform, although Ramirez came close before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final year of his deal. Coincidentally, Gonzalez and Crawford were also traded to the Dodgers, so perhaps that means Pedroia will end up in Los Angeles one day.

Not many second basemen have been as productive as Pedroia.

Since Pedroia’s first full season in 2007, he ranks first or second among second basemen in batting average, hits and doubles.

Pedroia leads all second basemen in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) since his MVP season in 2008, narrowly ahead of Chase Utley.

Only four second basemen who debuted since 1980 have more Wins Above Replacement through their age-29 season: Roberto Alomar, Chuck Knoblauch, Ryne Sandberg and Robinson Cano.

Pedroia’s numbers are historically elite for a second baseman. He’s one of five second basemen (players who played at least 50 percent of their games at second base) to hit at least .300 with at least 450 RBIs in their first eight seasons. The first two to do so were Jackie Robinson and Pete Rose. The others were Jose Vidro and Cano.

That’s not the only honor Pedroia shares with Robinson.

Since Major League Baseball first handed out the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, Robinson and Pedroia are the only second basemen (players who played at least 50 percent of their games at second base) in history to win Rookie of the Year, MVP and a World Series title while playing for the same team.

Pedroia isn’t just elite among second basemen. Since his rookie season in 2007, he has the fifth-most Wins Above Replacement among all players.

Based on that list, it seems that a raise was well deserved. The other four players on the list are each earning at least $15 million this season, while Pedroia’s 2013 salary is $10.3 million.

Young Machado has a day for the ages

August, 11, 2012

Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesManny Machado hit two homers in his second career MLB game.
Manny was just being Manny, but at a younger age than Manny.

Does that make sense?

In just his second Major League game, Baltimore Orioles rookie Manny Machado went deep not once but twice.

Machado is the youngest player in Major League history with a multi-homer game within his first two career games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The previous youngest player to do so was 21-year-old Manny Ramirez for the Indians in 1993.

At 20 years and 35 days old, Machado is also the youngest Orioles player with a multi-homer game. Elias tells us the previous youngest was Boog Powell in 1962 at the age of 20 years, 258 days.

Both of Machado's home runs came on two-strike breaking balls, the first a slider and the second a curveball.

Machado is just the fourth player this season to have a multi-HR game in which both of the home runs came off two-strike breaking balls. All four of Machado's hits so far have come both with two strikes and against breaking balls. He's seen more breaking balls than fastballs in his first two games.

Machado, who turned 20 on July 6, is the youngest Orioles player to hit a home run since 19-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Jim Palmer homered against the Yankees on May 16, 1965.

Adding in his triple from his first game, Elias says Machado is the first player in modern baseball history (since 1900) with two home runs and a triple through his first two career games.


Paul Maholm
Paul Maholm threw his fourth career shutout and first of the season. He did it in just 95 pitches, the fewest by a Braves pitcher in a shutout since Greg Maddux in 2000. How did he do it?

• Despite facing 29 hitters, tied for his second-most this season, only six of those batters had a plate appearance of more than four pitches, his third-fewest this season. Pitcher Matt Harvey, at seven pitches, had the longest at-bat of the game.

• Harvey was the lone hitter to see a three-ball count against Maholm. It's Maholm's first start this season in which he went to only one three-ball count (min. 10 batters faced).

• Maholm induced 15 ground-ball outs, including two double plays, tied for his most in the last four seasons. Twelve of the 15 ground-ball outs came via his fastball or slider.


Clay Buchholz
Clay Buchholz threw his second complete game of the season and his first on the road since June 2010. How did he do it?

• Buchholz put hitters away. He took 12 hitters to a two-strike count and none of them would reach via hit or walk (one reached on an error). It's Buchholz's first start this season in which he didn't allow a hit or walk with two strikes.

• Buchholz threw just 23 percent fastballs (2/4-seam) with two strikes, his fewest percentage in a start since September 2009. His six strikeouts came on four different pitch types (one fastball, two changeups, two cutters and one splitter).

US Presswire
Jose Bautista (right) beat out Curtis Granderson (left) for the AL HR crown by 2 long balls.

The 2011 regular season finished, arguably, in one of the most exciting fashions in baseball history. Now that the postseason has been set, let’s take a look back at which players won batting and pitching titles this season.

AL Crowns
• For the second consecutive year, Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays claimed the home run title. His 43 on the season were two ahead of the New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson. He's the first to claim the crown in two straight years since Alex Rodriguez did it in 2002-03.

• Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers - who also led the league in doubles with 47 - was the AL (and MLB) batting champion at .344. He is the second Tigers player to win the batting title in the last 50 seasons (Magglio Ordonez in 2007).

• Although Granderson and Robinson Cano started the day one-two in the AL RBI race, it was Mark Teixeira who came up big for the Yankees on Wednesday. His five-RBI game gave him 111 on the season and propelled him into fourth place. The last time three teammates finished within the top four of their league's RBI race was the 1966 Baltimore Orioles. That year, Frank Robinson (122) won the AL RBI race, while teammates Boog Powell (109) and Brooks Robinson (100) finished second and tied for fourth, respectively.

NL Crowns
Jose Reyes

• Jose Reyes singled in his first at-bat Wednesday and was promptly subbed out for a pinch runner. That left the New York Mets' leadoff hitter with a batting average of .337, potentially caught only by Ryan Braun who started the day at .335. Ultimately he finished the game 0-for-4 for a season average of .332, giving Reyes - and the Mets franchise - their first-ever NL batting champion. Reyes won the NL batting title in only 126 games played this season. That's the fewest amount of games played for a batting champion since Manny Ramirez hit .349 in 120 games played in 2002.

• Prince Fielder and Matt Kemp were tied for the NL home run lead entering Wednesday, but with just three innings left in the season, Kemp launched his 39th of the season out of Chase Field and claimed the title outright. Fielder finished with 38 and was followed by Albert Pujols' 37. The last season the National League leader did not finish with at least 40 HR was in 1992 when Fred McGriff had 35. Kemp also finished as the National League RBI leader with 126, six above Fielder.

• Starlin Castro led the National League in hits this year with 207. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 21-year-old Castro is the youngest player ever to lead the NL in that category, breaking the mark set in 1918 by another Chicago Cubs player, Charlie Hollocher, who was 22 years, 83 days old on the final day of that war-shortened season.

Other Point of Interest
• Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw both won the pitching Triple Crown in their respective leagues (Wins, ERA and Strikeouts). While the pitching Triple Crown has been won several times in MLB history (most recently by Jake Peavy with the San Diego Padres in 2007), this is the first time there’s been dual pitching Triple Crowns since 1924.

Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez announced his retirement today, ending a stellar career that spanned 19 seasons. He was a 12-time all-star, racking up nine Silver Slugger awards and recording 14 straight 20-HR seasons (1995-2008). Ramirez ranks among the top-six home run hitters for two different franchises -- third in Indians history (236) and sixth for the Red Sox (274). His 555 career home runs put him 14th on the all-time list.

He wasn’t just a regular-season compiler either. No one has hit more postseason home runs than Manny’s 29. He appeared in the playoffs 11 times, winning the World Series twice, including 2004 when he was World Series MVP.

Some of the shine has come off of Ramirez’s career as he was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games for violating the league’s drug policy in 2009.

Let the Hall-of-Fame debate begin:

• He’s one of just five players with 550 HR and a .300 career batting average.

• His career OPS is fourth among outfielders (minimum 3,000 PA), trailing only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. That means he's got the highest OPS among right-handed hitting outfielders … EVER.

• Ramirez is ninth all-time in slugging percentage and OPS, and 18th in RBI with 1,831.

• Only Alex Rodriguez (14) has more seasons that Ramirez (12) with 20 HR and 100 RBI.

• In Red Sox history, he’s second in slugging percentage (.588), fifth in batting average (.312) and seventh in RBI (868).

• Since his debut in 1993, only Barry Bonds posted a higher WAR (120.2) than Ramirez did (72.0) among outfielders.

What may stick in Hall-of-Fame voters' minds as hard to ignore is the progression of his power numbers in his final years along with his performance-enhancing drug issues.

Isolated Power (ISO) measures how many extra bases a player averages per at-bat. As seen in the chart to the right, Ramirez’s ISO was .305 in 2004 before it declined in three straight seasons. In 2008, when he was traded to the Dodgers, his ISO surged back up by more than 70 points. Then came declines in each of the next two seasons, starting in 2009 with his suspension.

He’s bounced around between four different teams since the start of 2008 and hasn't been the same player since returning from his suspension. His OPS declined each season since 2008 and he fell from 11th in 2008 in WAR (among position players) to 168th last season.

-- Justin Havens contributed to this report
Today’s Trivia: Can you name the only two players with 50+ home runs for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees?

Quick Hits: Let’s take a look at some fast facts regarding the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and what the fresh faces might mean for 2011.

• The Red Sox and Yankees have split the season series 9-9 in each of the past three seasons. That includes 2009 when the Red Sox took the first eight games against New York.

• Joe Girardi took over in 2008, so that makes him an even 27-27 against Boston while with New York. Including the postseason, Terry Francona is 67-69 against the Yankees as Boston manager.

• According to Elias, this will be the 28th time that the Red Sox have had their home opener against the Yankees. Boston has won the last six and in 14-13 overall.

• The last time the Red Sox faced the Yankees while on a six-game losing streak. According to Elias, it was in the midst of a nine-game streak in 2001. The last time the Red Sox snapped a six-game losing streak against the Yankees? May 1998.

• Mark Teixeira hit eight home runs against the Red Sox last season. That’s the most by a Yankees hitter since Mickey Mantle clubbed nine in 1958. Oddly, Teixeira hit just .237 against Boston in 2010.
Adrian Gonzalez

• Adrian Gonzalez has never beaten the Yankees, though he’s only had had three chances. Friday is also the Fenway Park debut for the hitter who has the most opposite field home runs in the majors since 2008.

• By contrast, Carl Crawford has almost a full season of data against New York. With a .301 lifetime average, he has 171 hits in 138 games. Among active players, only Manny Ramirez and Vernon Wells have more hits against New York, who is actually tied with David Ortiz for third. In 2005, Crawford tallied 35 hits against the Yankees, the first person to do that since Dale Mitchell in 1952.

• Since 2009, Dan Wheeler has made 10 appearances against the Yankees, but only lasted 5⅓ innings while allowing six home runs. His ERA in that span? 20.25. The Yankees are hitting .467 with a 1.634 OPS.

• It looks like Dennys Reyes won’t quite get to experience the rivalry, as he was designated for assignment Friday. If this is it for Reyes in a Boston uniform, he will go down as the only pitcher in Red Sox history with more hit batsmen (2) than innings pitched (1⅔).

• Russell Martin has faced the Red Sox in three games, and is just 1-for-11 (.091).
Rafael Soriano

• Rafael Soriano has been excellent against the Red Sox in his career with a 2.61 ERA and .178 opponent batting average. He had five saves against Boston last season, the most for a pitcher since Francisco Rodriguez in 2008.

Trivia Answer: Johnny Damon and Mike Stanley are the only players with 50+ HR with both the Yankees and Red Sox. Babe Ruth? He only had 49 homers with Boston.
If you're a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, it's been a pretty rough six months.

After losing in the ALDS to the Texas Rangers, ownership cut payroll, letting go of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and just about every member of the bullpen.

Things have gone from bad to worse to open the 2011 campaign, as the Rays are 0-5 for the first time in franchise history.

They are the second team in AL history to start 0-5 after having the best record in the American League the previous season, joining the 1905 Red Sox.

While it's still early, the players tasked with replacing the departed Rays' have struggled mightily, most notably Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon.

The Rays as a whole have found it difficult at the plate. They are batting just .136, and have scored only seven runs through the first five games.

Even worse, they are hitting just .111 with runners in scoring position, with four hits in 36 at-bats. It appears the Rays’ hitters are starting to feel the pressure, especially with two strikes in the count.

According to Inside Edge, in Wednesday's loss against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Rays’ batters chased 62 percent of pitches out of the strike zone when there were two strikes in the count. The major-league average is 36 percent.

Things won’t get any easier for the Rays on Thursday against the Chicago White Sox as they face Edwin Jackson, who no-hit Tampa Bay last season while he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Rays are the Texas Rangers who completed a sweep of the Seattle Mariners to improve to 6-0 this season.

It is their best start since opening a franchise-best 7-0 to start the 1996 season.

They needed to get past reigning AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez to do so. The Rangers scored four of its seven runs off the ace who is now 5-7 all-time in Texas.

Texas has been tearing the cover off the ball leading the majors in runs scored, and extra-base hits. More importantly though has been how well the Rangers’ starting staff has pitched early, despite the loss of Cliff Lee.

Collectively they have a 2.63 ERA through six games this season. In five of those a Rangers’ starter has produced a quality start (gone at least 6 IP, allowed 3 ER or less).

This has helped make the Rangers look pretty smart for moving Neftali Feliz back into the closers role. Oh, and by the way, Feliz has made four appearances having allowed no hits and picking up two saves.
Our weekly statistical review of MLB moves focuses on notables who joined the AL East.

Vladimir Guerrero
How does Vladimir Guerrero have the potential to help the Baltimore Orioles? Let’s take a closer look.

Guerrero boosts the Orioles in multiple areas in which they were deficient last season. Baltimore slugged .358 against left-handed pitching, fourth-worst in baseball last season and the team’s worst since 1988.

In adding Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds, the Orioles netted three players whose combined slugging percentage vs lefties last season was .495. Guerrero slugged .536.

In all three spots in the lineup (DH, first base, third base), the Orioles have a player whose numbers vs lefties were better than the primary player used by Baltimore last season.

The other thing that comes with Guerrero is that Baltimore gets the same version of Guerrero when there are runners in scoring position as when there aren’t.

Guerrero has hit .300 or better in those situations in 12 of the last 13 seasons. His .321 batting average with runners in scoring position is a near match for what he hit in those situations last year (.320) and his career batting average overall (.320).

The Orioles hit .246 with runners in scoring position last season, fourth-worst in baseball.

Guerrero also figures to maintain his power in a hitter-friendly park.

While Rangers Ballpark was slightly favorable to right-handed batters over the last three seasons, with a home run park factor of 114 (according to The Bill James Handbook), Camden Yards is even more friendly, boosting homers for righties by 21 percent in that span, tied with Coors Field for the fourth-highest mark in the major leagues.

Lastly, though this won’t necessarily impact wins and losses, Guerrero still possesses a “wow” factor to his home run hitting. According to data compiled by our video review crew for, Guerrero averaged a distance of 408.14 feet per home run. That was 12 feet better than the big league average and eighth-best among the 47 players with at least 25 home runs in 2010. New teammate Reynolds ranked second.
-- Mark Simon, Katie Sharp, Derek Czenczelewski

Ramirez/Garcia battle worth watching
Manny Ramirez

The moves of Freddy Garcia (New York Yankees) and Manny Ramirez (Tampa Bay Rays) to the AL East increase the likelihood that the two will face off for the first time since 2006.

Ramirez has been Garcia’s kryptonite. A check of shows Ramirez has the highest OPS (1.559) and slugging percentage (1.042) among batters Garcia has faced at least 20 times (including postseason).

Ramirez has three homers, two doubles and a single over his last six at-bats versus Garcia, though they may go five years in between meetings.
--Katie Sharp

Reyes an unusual lefty in 2010
New potential Boston Red Sox lefty Dennys Reyes had some of baseball’s most unusual splits last season. Typically a lefty specialist, Reyes had far better success against right-handed hitters (.177 opponents batting average) than lefties (.307).

Dennys Reyes
The discrepancy was wider when looking only at when contact was made. Within the small samplings faced by a lefty reliever, right-handers hit .418 when making contact, lefties just .193, both numbers out of sync with major league norms.

Reyes may have caught a couple of breaks against right-handers. Inside Edge, which tracks every major league pitch, has its video scouts chart “well-hit balls.” It is an opinion-based rating, but with parameters emphasizing line drives and long fly balls.

Right-handers who had a "well-hit ball" against lefties got a hit 66 percent of the time last season. But against Reyes, they were 6-for-16 (.375). Three or four more hits would have significantly impacted his numbers.

Reyes faced 75 right-handed hitters last season and did not allow a home run, third-most among lefties in the major leagues.
--Mark Simon
Our regular statistical survey on some of the notable baseball moves from the past week

What are the biggest areas to watch for new Tampa Bay Rays DH Manny Ramirez in 2011?

Two things to track, based on the data provided to us by Inside Edge (which does video review for every major league pitch) are his performance against breaking pitches, and his production against pitches that are thrown in areas in which he has a history of driving the ball.

The biggest area of decline for Ramirez has been in how he fared when a right-handed pitcher threw him a curveball or slider.

Last season, Ramirez missed on 49 percent of the swings he took against those pitches from right-handers, a significant jump from how frequently he missed in each of the prior three seasons (28 percent in 2007, 34 percent in 2008, 35 percent in 2009).

That led to him hitting .140 in at-bats that ended with a breaking ball from a righty, a figure 86 points below league average and 96 points below what he’d done in 2009.

One particular area of the strike zone Ramirez struggled with was on pitches located in the middle of the plate, and those that came middle-in.

Inside Edge charts a stat, “Well-Hit Average,” a rating based primarily on line drives and deep outfield fly balls. From 2005 to 2009, Ramirez’s Well-Hit Average on pitches charted by Inside Edge was .199 on pitches over the middle of the plate, and .114 against pitches that were middle-in. Both of those are significantly better than league average.

In 2010, those numbers dipped to .127 and .075 respectively, partly explaining the struggles he had last season.
-- Derek Czenczelewski

Damon, Pavano contracts in perspective
At the moment, Johnny Damon’s $5.25 million salary makes the highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay Rays for 2011. He’s the only player on the team slated to earn at least $5 million next season.

A search of Cot’s Baseball Contracts shows that every team has at least one player earning at least $5 million in 2011.

The Royals are the only team without a player whose base salary is $5 million, but newly-signed Billy Butler’s $3 million salary and $2 million signing bonus put that deal at the $5 million mark for this season.

The two-year, $16.5 million contract that Carl Pavano inked with the Minnesota Twins is nearly an unprecedented free agent signing for the franchise.

Not only is it just the third multi-year free agent contract given to a pitcher by the team, but it’s also only the second time that Minnesota has spent at least $10 million on a free agent pitcher over the last 20 offseasons.

In 1995 the team handed Rick Aguilera a three-year $9 million contract , its longest for a pitcher and their only previous multi-year deal.

In 2004 the Twins gave Brad Radke a two-year, $18 million dollar deal, its largest contract given to a free agent pitcher.
-- Katie Sharp

Boyer suited for ROOGY role
Over the last few years, statisticians have referred to left-handed specialists as LOOGYs (left-handed one-out guys). Now, we’ve begun to see the term ROOGY (for right-handers) tossed around a little bit. The pitcher for whom it may be the best fit is recently-signed New York Mets reliever, Blaine Boyer.

Right-handed hitters hit .198 against him last season. Left-handed hitters drilled him for a .352 opponents batting average. Among those who faced at least 100 hitters from each side of the plate, no pitcher last season had a wider gap in opponents batting average between righties and lefties than Boyer did, 154 points.

The pitcher on the opposite end of the spectrum was Angels righty Scot Shields. Right-handed hitters batted .333 against him. Left-handers hit just .172, an unusual 161-point difference for a right-handed pitcher.
-- Mark Simon
The soon-to-be-official acquisition of Manny Ramirez by the Tampa Bay Rays is the latest attempt to solve an issue that has plagued them for five seasons -- how to get the most production out of the designated hitter slot.

Manny Ramirez
In the last five seasons, Rays DHs have never hit higher than .246. They rank among the least productive in all three slashline statistics (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage), as well as home runs.

Despite his age, Ramirez still does something that makes him worthy of a low-cost risk for certain teams -- he gets on base at a high rate. Ramirez ranked eighth in the majors in on-base percentage last season, among those who had at least 300 plate appearances.

Ramirez’s acquisition does prevent him from adding to his totals against Tampa Bay. Rays fans will have to get used to cheering for the all-time leader in RBI against their team. Ramirez was particularly impressive from 1998 to 2003, amassing 86 RBI in 81 games against the then-Devil Rays.

Johnny Damon, who has compiled the second-most hits, runs and stolen bases against Tampa Bay, is on the verge of some major-league history, whether he ends up sharing the DH role with Ramirez or playing left field.

Via the National Pastime Baseball Almanac, we can tell you that he’s one of only five players to have 15 straight seasons of at least 140 games played. The only players with more are Brooks Robinson, Hank Aaron and Pete Rose (16 each)

To merit that much playing time, Damon may need to improve in a couple of areas from what he did last season -- not an easy thing for a 37-year-old to do. Rays rookie Desmond Jennings is waiting to be the regular left fielder should Damon falter.

Damon, a career .290 hitter with runners in scoring position, hit .209 in such situations last season, but perhaps more alarmingly, struck out 33 times in 148 at-bats.

It was the second straight season in which Damon’s strikeout rate with runners in scoring position was just about double what it had been in his career prior to 2009.

Johnny Damon
Damon’s weakness is similar to that of someone we wrote about Friday, Vernon Wells. He struggled against breaking pitches last season. He went from getting hits on 15 percent of his swings against breaking balls in 2009 to only nine percent in 2010.

Leaving Yankee Stadium for Comerica Park and the Detroit Tigers hurt Damon’s power numbers, as his slugging percentage in his home park dropped 98 points (perhaps also cause for alarm, it dipped 82 points on the road). He went from 24 home runs in 2009 to eight in 2010, and his home run total on breaking pitches went from eight to zero.

Damon also went homerless against left-handed pitchers in 2010. He only had one RBI in 120 at-bats against southpaws last season.

That would seem to be an argument for making him part of a DH platoon, rather than having him open the season having to fill the shoes of fan favorite and superstar left fielder Carl Crawford. The Rays may have their own game plan in mind.

Why Texas declined Guerrero's option

November, 3, 2010
The Texas Rangers declined Vladimir Guerrero’s $9 million option on Wednesday, instead choosing to pay him a $1 million buyout. At face value, this might seem like a puzzling decision; after all, Guerrero is coming off a resurgent year where he provided a legitimate presence in the middle of the team’s order. In addition, $8 million (the difference between the option and the buyout) is not pricey for someone coming off a season where he hit .300 with 29 HR and 115 RBI. So, why did they decline?

The most likely explanation is that, despite his overall productive season, Guerrero declined noticeably in the second half, a decline that continued into the postseason. From April through June, Guerrero hit .339/.383/.580 with a home run every 15.7 at-bats – in other words, vintage Guerrero. However, from July through the end of the regular season, he hit a pedestrian .265/.310/.419 with a home run every 28.2 at-bats.

The decline continued into the postseason and, in fact, became even more pronounced. In 59 postseason at-bats, Guerrero hit .220/.242/.271 with three total extra-base hits. In other words, from the beginning of July through the end of the postseason, Guerrero produced the following line: .257/.299/.396 (for reference, Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno hit .256/.293/.382). He grounded into more double plays (14) than he hit home runs (11).

According to, Guerrero was worth approximately $10.3 million in 2010 overall. Thus, in order to be worth his option, he’d have to roughly duplicate his 2010 production. Given that he either provides no defense when at DH or well below average defense when in the field, his ability to earn his contract comes down to offense. Here's something to consider – since 2005, exactly one player age 36 or older has hit .300 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. That player? Manny Ramirez in 2008, the season he split between the Red Sox and Dodgers. In other words? The Rangers are probably wise to not count on it from Guerrero.

1st Pitch: Manny Ramirez, this is your life

August, 30, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Trevor Hoffman has his first opportunity to nab save No. 600 tonight, so let’s take a look back at his career with a two-part trivia question.

You might not have realized that Hoffman’s first career save came not with the San Diego Padres but with the Florida Marlins. Hoffman played on that inaugural Marlin team in 1993 but was traded in the middle of the season to the Padres. Who was the big name on the other end of the deal that was traded for Hoffman?

In Hoffman’s career, only two closers have won Cy Young awards – Eric Gagne and Dennis Eckersley. But Hoffman TWICE finished as the runner-up in Cy voting. Who did he lose to? Bonus points if you know the year.

Quick Hits: If Sunday was Manny Ramirez’s last game and last plate appearance with the Los Angeles Dodgers, then he went out with an … extended thumb. Manny’s ejection, after arguing about a strike call that PitchFX had located 3.8 inches off the outside corner, was certainly a memorable and odd way to finish a stint with a team. Let’s take a look at some of Manny’s other openers and closers with the team’s he has played for in his 18-year career:

• His MLB debut, in 1993 with the Cleveland Indians, didn’t come until September as a call-up. In his first-ever game, Manny was the DH and went 0-for-4, though he didn’t strike out. It was the first of 268 times that Manny has gone 0-4 or worse in his career, though only 68 of them didn’t include a strikeout.

• He went out with a bang, or more appropriately, a bomb with the Indians, homering in his last game. In fact, Manny finished his Cleveland career by homering in each of his last three games. Manny has had 20 streaks of three-plus games with a home run in his career.

• There’s more: Manny also had two-plus hits in each of those last three games with the Indians. He’s only had seven streaks of three-plus games with two hits and a homer in his career, and his streak to finish his Indians career was one of them.

• In his first game with the Boston Red Sox, Manny went 1-3 and only lasted seven innings before being lifted for a pinch runner, Darren Lewis. Not a smart decision by Jimy Williams, then the Red Sox manager. The Sox ended up losing, 2-1 in extra innings, and Manny would have had two more at-bats in the game. Instead, Lewis took those at-bats and went 0-2.

• Manny’s last game with Boston was a lesson in bad breakups. Ramirez went 0-3, then gave this quote: "The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me," he said in an interview with "During my years here I've seen how they have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them to try to turn the fans against them."

• His first game as a Dodger had better numbers: 2-4 at the plate, the only Dodger in the lineup that day who got multiple hits against Diamondbacks starter Randy Johnson. But in the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers down a run, Manny had a chance to have an extra-special debut and send Dodgers fans into a frenzy. Instead, he grounded into a double play with a runner on base, sealing the Dodgers’ loss.

Today’s Leaderboard: You’ll never guess where Manny’s new team is playing this week. They’re headed to Cleveland and then Boston – two locations pretty familiar to Ramirez. Thank the baseball scheduling gods for their sense of timing.

There are only two stadiums where Manny has not had a plate appearance - Target Field and the new Yankee Stadium. The White Sox don’t travel to either park the rest of the year, so Manny won’t be able to cross those off his list yet.

Key Matchups: Trevor Cahill enters tonight’s matchup with the New York Yankees on an absolute tear. He has a 1.00 ERA over his last seven starts, throwing a quality start every time. Cahill has faced the Yankees only once in his two-year career, and it came earlier this season. That start was one of the worst of the year for Cahill, allowing six ER in six innings. But it was Alex Rodriguez who did most of the damage, hitting two home runs. That won’t be the case this time around - A-Rod is on the DL, and the rest of the Yanks haven’t had much success against Cahill. All other Yankees are 3-22 (.136 BA).

• Something to keep an eye on when Pat Misch tries to limit the Atlanta Braves in tonight’s ESPN game: in his career Misch allows a .256 batting average when the bases are empty but that jumps to .322 when there are runners on. Pretty odd numbers for a former reliever that should be used to pitching out of the stretch. Those numbers are even more disparate this season: .222 opponents’ BA when the bases are empty, .379 with runners on.

• Among all active batters whom Jake Westbrook has faced more than 30 times, Carlos Lee is hitting them the hardest. Lee has a career .406 BA and .594 slugging percentage against Westbrook, whom he’ll face tonight in Houston. Lee and Westbrook spent most of their duels in AL Central play when Lee was on the White Sox and Westbrook an Indian.

Trivia Answer: On the other end of the deal was Gary Sheffield, who went to the Marlins in June. Just for fun, Sheffield batted just .150 (3-20) with seven strikeouts in his career against Hoffman.

Hoffman was runner-up for the Cy in 1998 to Tom Glavine. Hoffman’s Padres beat Glavine’s Braves that year in the NLCS. In 2006, Hoffman finished second to Brandon Webb.

1st Pitch: An 0-fer for the ages

August, 25, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Today is Rollie Fingers’ birthday, which means they’re probably celebrating in both Oakland and Milwaukee. After all, both the A’s and Brewers have retired Fingers No. 34 jersey. Fingers is one of just nine players in history to have his jersey retired by more than one team.

So your question is – which two other players have a jersey No. 34 retired in MLB? Hint: one of the two, like Fingers, is part of the nine-member club that has had a jersey retired by multiple teams.

Quick Hits:
Move to the edge of your seat tonight when Hiroki Kuroda comes to the plate. Kuroda has managed to go 0-40 at bat this season and is on the verge of history. Only eight previous players since 1901 have had an 0-fer season with at least 40 at-bats. Can we get Kuroda out of his “slump” by delving deeper into his numbers?

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Hiroki Kuroda’s hitting woes this season are reaching historic proportions

• Of his 40 at-bats, 18 have ended in strikeouts. Those K’s have come at inopportune times, too – his only two plate appearances with the bases loaded? They ended in strikeouts. His 14 at-bats with the game tied? Six ended in strikeouts.

• Two pitchers in particular have especially feasted off Kuroda’s meekness. Aaron Harang has faced him five times and Edwin Jackson has faced him four times. Kuroda, obviously, has gone o-fer against both.

• If you believe in OPS+ (which is OPS adjusted for league and ballpark), you probably don’t believe in Kuroda. His OPS+ checks in at -85, almost as impressive as it is awful. Among anyone who has batted more than 20 times this season, that’s the worst. But have no fear Kuroda – the wunderkind is close behind. Stephen Strasburg’s OPS+ is a not-much-better -73.

• But it’s not ALL bad for Kuroda – twice, he’s drawn a walk! That gives him a whopping .048 on-base percentage. In fact, on one of those occasions, he even scored a run. It came against Bud Norris and the Astros, when Manny Ramirez drove Kuroda in. It’s the only time Kuroda has touched home plate this season.

• Maybe place discipline is what’s killing Kuroda. Only eight times this season has he reached a three-ball count. Only seven times has he seen a 2-0 count.

• So how many chances does he have left? Well, figure he’ll make about seven more starts this season, including tonight. He’s averaging 2.08 PA per start. So bank on Kuroda getting about 14 or 15 trips to the plate the rest of the year. Talk about drama. Only two players have gone 0-50 or worse in a season: Bill Wight in 1950 and Bob Buhl in 1962.

Today’s Leaderboard:
It’s always fascinating when a batter gets the green light (or sometimes gives himself the green light) to break one of the unwritten rules of baseball and swing on a 3-0 count. But so far this season, batters have swung on a 3-0 count 6.1 percent of the time. In fact, Adam Dunn and Jose Bautista each have two home runs this season on 3-0 counts. So maybe the rule isn’t that ironclad.

With a nod to a batter’s decision as the count move along, let’s look at the times where batters are MOST likely to take the bat off their shoulder, and in which count they’re most likely to get a hit.

Key Matchups:
• Lock J.D. Drew up for treason – he shows no respect for the King. King Felix that is, who has faced Drew 23 times and allowed Drew to dishonor him for a .400 BA and 1.028 OPS. Among the 47 batters who Felix Hernandez has faced as often as Drew, Drew’s OPS ranks third. In their most recent showdown, July of last year, Drew homered off Hernandez.

• If the Rangers are thinking ahead, they’ll take as many pitches as they can from Brian Duensing to scout his stuff. Duensing is a potential playoff opponent, and only four Rangers batters have ever hit against him. Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy and Michael Young are a combined 3-16 (.188 BA) against him.

Carlos Lee hasn’t seen a ton of Roy Halladay, but when he has, he’s hit him. Lee has three homers off of Halladay is just 23 at-bats. Among all the other batters who have faced Halladay, only Luke Scott and Justin Morneau have as many homers in as few at-bats. Lee has a career .639 slugging percentage against Halladay, but that might be on its way down – in their previous meeting this season, Lee went 0-4 with two strikeouts against Halladay.

• Speaking of Halladay, he has a chance to win the pitching triple crown this season (ERA, Wins, Strikeouts). Halladay

Although it’s slightly more commonly done than the batting triple crown (30 pitching triple crowns vs 13 hitting triple crowns since 1900), it’s still a remarkable accomplishment. Entering Wednesday, Halladay led the NL in ERA and strikeouts, and was only one behind Adam Wainwright and Ubaldo Jimenez in wins.

Jake Peavy last won the pitching triple crown in 2007 and it has been won three times in the last eight seasons, but in the National League, it’s only been won four times since Sandy Koufax won three in a four-year span (1963, 65, 66).

If the remarkable happens and we get a pitching and hitting triple crown in the same season, then we start talking some real baseball history. A pitching and hitting triple crown hasn’t been won in the same season since 1966, when Frank Robinson and Sandy Koufax won them. Both of those players now have plaques in Cooperstown.

If Pujols/Votto and Halladay win their respective triple crowns in the National League, they’d be the first National Leaguers to win their respective triple crowns in the same season since 1894. It’s happened twice before in the American League -- in 1901 (Nap Lajoie and Cy Young), and 1934 (Lou Gehrig and Lefty Gomez)

Trivia Answer: Kirby Puckett has his No. 34 retired by the Twins, and Nolan Ryan has his No. 34 retired by BOTH the Rangers and Astros. Ryan also has his No. 30 jersey retired by the Angels.

Just for fun – Puckett went 1-4 against Fingers in his career, managing a single in his first-ever at-bat against Fingers.

1st Pitch: Bronx bases loaded bonanza

July, 7, 2010
Quick Hits: Alex Rodriguez smacked his third grand slam of the season on Tuesday. It’s the fourth time he’s had multiple grand slams in a season, a feat only Jimmie Foxx can match according to the Elias Sports Bureau. With 21 in his career, A-Rod is tied with Manny Ramirez for second all-time behind Lou Gehrig (23). Let’s take a look at how others have fared with the bases loaded.
  • According to Elias, the Yankees’ nine grand slams before the All-Star break are a record. Three teams had eight slams before the break: the 2000 A’s, 2005 Red Sox and 2006 Indians.
  • Already, those nine grand slams are tied for the second-most in Yankees history.
  • With 123 RBI with the bases loaded, the Yankees already have more than 16 teams had all of last season. They are on pace for 240. Over the last 35 years, the only team with 200 bases loaded RBI in a season was the 2000 A’s with 203.
  • The Yankees are also hitting .422 with the bases loaded. Over the last 35 years, the highest bases-loaded batting average belonged to the 1976 Phillies (.410), according to STATS LLC.
  • Mark Reynolds has averaged about one home run per 16 at-bats in his career, but he is homerless in 46 bases-loaded at-bats with 21 strikeouts.
  • David Ross is just 1-for-3 this season with the bases loaded, but has managed seven RBI. Confused? Ross also has three walks and a hit by pitch with the bases full. In fact, three of his 12 walks this season have been with the bases loaded.
  • Torii Hunter is a perfect 6-for-6 with the bases full, leading to 14 of his 60 RBI on the season.
  • Hunter faces Freddy Garcia tonight. He has never allowed a grand slam to the 109 batters that he’s faced with the bases loaded, most of any active pitcher.
  • Half of Francisco Cervelli’s 30 RBI have come with the bases loaded.
  • B.J. Upton is 0-for-10 with the bases loaded this season after hitting .429 last season.
  • Ivan Rodriguez has grounded into a MLB-most four double plays with the bases loaded.
Today’s Trivia: Among active players, who has the most career home runs without a grand slam?

Today’s Leaderboad: The Rockies are hitting just .200 with the bases loaded this season, and join the Mets, Blue Jays and A’s as the only teams without a grand slam. In fact, the Rockies have one more bases-loaded strikeout than the Yankees, despite 42 fewer plate appearances.

Key Matchups: Tim Lincecum and Ryan Braun debuted within three weeks of each other in May 2007, and they’ve faced one another each year since. Braun has owned the matchup between the two phenoms, having hit .462 with a pair of home runs in 13 at-bats. In fact, Braun’s seven RBI are the most of anyone against Lincecum, despite the fact that the Giants’ ace has faced 49 batters on more occasions.

Torii Hunter hasn’t faced Freddy Garcia since 2006, but he sure would like to pick up where he left off. In 2006, Hunter went 7-for-12 with three home runs against Garcia. Overall, he’s a .400 hitter with four long balls. Estaban Loaiza (5) is the only pitcher he has taken deep more often.

Trivia Answer: Orlando Cabrera has yet to hit a grand slam in a career that has included 117 home runs. His 168 plate appearances with the bases loaded are also the most for any active player without a grand slam.

1st Pitch: Chasing history before the break

June, 25, 2010
Quick Hits: With less than a week before All-Star voting closes, let’s take a look at some players having historic first halves to the season. Can they keep up the pace going into the break?
  • Arthur Rhodes’ 0.24 ERA would be the second lowest going into the break (min. 30 IP) over the last 50 years. In 1989, Bill Landrum took a 0.23 ERA into the break for the Pirates (but was not an NL All-Star), before finishing the season at 1.69.
  • Likely to make three more starts before the break, Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1) has a shot at being the first pitcher with 16 wins before the break since Wilbur Wood (16-11) in 1974 for the White Sox. However, Wood did it in 27 starts, whereas Jimenez will have only made 18. The last pitcher to win 15 before the break was David Wells in 2000.
  • Jaime Garcia’s 1.79 ERA would be the lowest at the break for a qualifying rookie since Mark Fidrych’s 1.78 in 1976. He started the All-Star Game for the AL that season.
  • If he gets enough plate appearances to qualify, Brennan Boesch’s .346 batting average would be the highest for a rookie at the break in the last 50 years. In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki found himself at .345 going into the All-Star Game.
  • Cliff Lee has issued just four walks in 86.2 innings, a rate of 0.42 per nine innings. Only one starter has had a lower rate going into the break over the last 50 years. In 2005, Carlos Silva walked only five in 114.2 innings, a rate of 0.39 per nine.
  • Kenshin Kawakami (0-9) draws another start on Saturday. In 2007, Anthony Reyes went into the break at 0-10. The worst winless pre-break start over the last 50 years belongs to Anthony Young, who was 0-12 in 1993 for the Mets.
  • The Orioles’ .278 winning percentage would be the fourth lowest at the break over the last 50 years, and the lowest since the 2003 Tigers (.272). The 1979 A’s hold the low-water mark over that span, having entered the break at 25-69 (.266).
Today’s Trivia: Over the last three seasons combined, who has the most home runs before the All-Star break?

Today’s Leaderboard: Roy Halladay takes the hill against the Blue Jays for the first time in his career today. Among players that started their career in the last 50 years, Halladay has the second best winning percentage before the All-Star break. Only Pedro Martinez has been more dominant. Halladay is 101-44 (.697) before the break, and just 55-38 (.591) after.

Key Matchups: Aaron Rowand has only started four of the Giants’ last 11 games, but you can bet that he will be penciled in on Friday. Quite simply, no one mashes Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball like Rowand, who is 11-for-17 with four home runs and eight RBI in his career against the veteran. That’s the highest average for anyone who has faced Wakefield at least 15 times. This would be their first regular season meeting since 2006.

In four of the first five games that he faced CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez hit a home run. He’s homerless in two meetings since, but has a .571 career average against the big lefty. Only Jermaine Dye and Alfonso Soriano have more career homers against Sabathia, but among those with 15 plate appearances, no one tops Manny’s 1.894 OPS.

Trivia Answer: Since 2008, Adam Dunn’s 66 home runs before the All-Star break are the most in the majors. He has one more than Albert Pujols and two more than Ryan Howard.