Stats & Info: Martin Prado
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesUpton has a career .293 average at Turner Field, his 2nd highest at any park minimum 10 games.
The move unites Upton with brother B.J. Upton, and Elias says the two could become only the fourth pair of brothers to play at least 100 games each in the outfield for the same team in the same season. The most recent? Tony and Billy Conigliaro for the Boston Red Sox in 1970.
A career .293 batter at Turner Field, Upton certainly brings power. Since his first full season in 2008, Upton has an .842 OPS. That ranks seventh among NL outfielders with at least 500 games played over that stretch (Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier).
Upton had a down season in 2012 compared to his 2011 campaign, however. While his averages were often similar, his power was down, as he battled a thumb injury for much of the year. His average only took a slight dip from .289 to .280, but his OPS dove from .898 to just .785.
While he batted .300 against the fastball, he had an average of just .245 against offspeed stuff. The MLB average last season was .242 among qualified players, so there is certainly room for improvement.
Nevertheless, the pairing of Justin with his brother in Atlanta will certainly be something to watch. The brothers provide a power upgrade over the men they replace in the Atlanta outfield, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn. The Uptons smashed 45 homers last season, while Prado and Bourn combined for 19. What they do not provide, however, is a better batting average. Prado and Bourn combined for a .288 average in 2012, compared to just .263 by the Uptons.
What's more, Upton has 48 homers over the past two seasons, and what makes an Upton homer special is the distance it travels. In that two-year span, the average Upton homer has traveled 420 feet. That average distance leads the majors (among those who have at least 15 homers).
For Arizona, Prado ranked 10th in the NL in WAR last season (5.4), providing more than twice Upton's value (2.1). Prado has also accumulated 12.1 wins above replacement since 2010. In that span, Upton has 9.2 wins above replacement.
Rawlings will name its Gold Glove Award winners today at 9:30 pm ET on ESPN2.
What are some of the storylines we’ll be following this year?
Reel in a Trout?
There’s plenty of debate over whether Mike Trout should be the American League MVP. But should he be the AL’s Gold Glove centerfielder?
Trout also led the majors with four home run robberies. His five No. 1 Web Gems (as awarded by Baseball Tonight) were second-most in the majors, trailing only Alcides Escobar’s six.
Trout is one of three finalists for the centerfield spot. He’ll be competing with the majors leader in outfield putouts in Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones and Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers, whose 34 Defensive Runs Saved over the last two seasons are the most at that position.
An All-Braves Outfield
The Braves have an outfield nominee at each position, with Martin Prado in left field, Michael Bourn in center, and Jason Heyward in right.
Each of those three led National Leaguers at their position in Defensive Runs Saved.
In each of the last two seasons, a team has had a pair of outfielders win a Gold Glove- the Seattle Mariners had Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki in 2010, and the Los Angeles Dodgers had Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in 2011.
Will this be the first time we see three from the same team?
Big Red Defensive Machine
The Cincinnati Reds have the most finalists among teams with six, including two winners from last season- first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Votto led NL first basemen with nine Defensive Runs Saved. Phillips was second among those with at least 400 innings at second base, to Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney.
Shortstop Zack Cozart has the best chance of the newcomers to win. His 12 Defensive Runs Saved were the most among the nominee at shortstop.
New Metrics vs the Eye Test
The advent of advanced defensive stats (like Defensive Runs Saved and UZR) has brought about new ways of evaluating defense.
But the Gold Glove will not be decided by a player’s numbers, but by a voting panel of major league managers and coaches.
There are a number of instances of finalists not faring well in these advanced defensive metrics, but doing well in basic stats.
For example, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins rated as the top shortstop in fielding percentage, but did not rate well in Defensive Runs Saved.
The chart on the right shows the leaders in Defensive Runs Saved among the nominees.
It will be interesting to see how many of those players receive top recognition from the voting panel.
The Atlanta Braves beat the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in 11 innings on Martin Prado's third career walk-off hit. It’s the second straight night the Braves won via walk-off, their major-league-leading 22nd last-AB win this season. It’s their 10th walk-off win, tied with the Giants for second-most in the bigs (Royals – 11). It's the Giants' eighth walk-off loss, only six teams have more.
The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 in 11 innings on Garrett Jones’ second career walk-off HR. It’s the 11th last-AB win for the Pirates this season, only four teams have fewer. For the Cardinals, it’s their 11th walk-off loss this season, tied for the most in the major leagues.
The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 on Mark Kotsay's 10th career walk-off hit (second this season, both with the bases loaded). The Brewers have won 18 of their past 20 games for just the second time in franchise history. It’s their 18th final-AB win -- only three teams have more -- and L.A.'s fourth walk-off loss, only three teams have fewer.
The Houston Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 6-5 on a walk-off grand slam from Brian Bogusevic, just his second career home run and first career walk-off hit. The Astros have the fewest wins in baseball, but eight of them have come via the walk-off -- only four teams have more this season. It’s Carlos Marmol’s eighth blown save this season, tied for the major league lead.
And in the night’s final game, the Chicago White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 14 innings on a Juan Pierre walk-off single, his seventh career walk-off RBI. The White Sox have just four walk-off wins this season, they entered the game tied for last in the majors in that department. It’s the ninth walk-off loss for Cleveland, only four teams have more this season.
Quick Hits: The Minnesota Twins had 15 hits on Thursday (all singles, by the way), but Denard Span went 0-for-6. It’s not the first time Span has watched a hit parade from the sidewalk. On May 22, the Twins had 13 hits, but Span went 0-for-7. Then on August 4, he was hitless in six at-bats despite 10 hits for the Twins. Span is the only player in the majors with three games of no hits in at least six at-bats this season. In that spirit, let’s take a look at the most improbable oh-fers this season.
• The Oakland Athletics Chris Carter had a forgettable 0-for-19 start to his career before being sent down in August. Now on the minor-league disabled list, that oh-fer might stick. It’s not all bad news though. The last AL player to finish a season hitless in 19 or more at-bats was David Ortiz in 1999. A September call-up, Big Papi went 0-for-20 for the Twins, striking out 12 times.
• Carter’s 0-for-August was the worst in that month since Jason LaRue went 0-for-24 in 2007. According to STATS LLC, the worst oh-fer in any month over the last 35 years belongs to Mark Smith. In 1998 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Smith went 0-for-27 in April and didn’t collect his first hit until May 19.
• B.J. Upton is hitless in 12 at-bats with the bases loaded. Over the last 30 years, the worst oh-fer with the bases loaded was Jose Cruz Jr. (0-15) in 2003.
• Mark Kotsay is 0-for-24 against left-handed pitchers this season. This from a player who hit .336 against lefties in 2004 with Oakland. Over the last 35 years, only one position player had a bigger oh-fer against lefties. In 2000, John Mabry was 0-for-25 while splitting the season between Seattle and San Diego.
• Mark Reynolds leads the majors with 55 starts in which he didn’t pick up a hit. However, the strikeout king will avoid another mark of infamy. Over the last 90 years, the most oh-fer starts belongs to Bob Meacham, who was hitless in 84 starts for the Yankees in 1985 (though he did have a pair of four-hit games).
• In 13 appearances, Cleveland Indians reliever Justin Germano has yet to allow a hit to the first batter that he’s faced (though he did walk one). In 2005, the first batter facing the Mets Juan Padilla went 0-for-22.
Today’s Leaderboard: Josh Hamilton has 51 games with two or more hits this season, third in the majors behind Ichiro Suzuki and Martin Prado. However, Hamilton’s 24 three-plus hit games are six more than any other player. Interestingly, Ichiro only has 12 three-hit games. His career-low is 17.
Key Matchups: James Loney is hitting just .207 with a .605 OPS since the All-Star break. That includes a .192 average against lefties and a .195 average at home. All that spells trouble for Loney with Barry Zito coming to town. In 26 career plate appearances against the San Francisco Giants lefty, Loney has just 2 hits and no walks. That’s a batting average of .077, his lowest against anyone he’s faced at least 20 times.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Brandon Morrow has a chance at history on Friday. In his four previous starts against the New York Yankees, Morrow has 36 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings, a rate of 13.3 K per 9. Elias says that the highest single-season rate against the Yankees (min. 20 IP) is 12.6 by Pedro Martinez in 2001. Curtis Granderson has been Morrow’s primary victim with seven strikeouts in nine at-bats this season.
Trivia Answer: Dave Righetti’s 46 saves in 1986 broke Bruce Sutter’s mark set two seasons before. Thigpen’s record stood for 18 years before Francisco Rodriguez picked up 62 saves in 2008.
Can you name the active AL pitcher who has thrown the most career innings but never pitched for the NL? What about the active NL pitcher who has thrown the most innings but never pitched for the AL? We’ll give you the top 3 in each league at the bottom of this document.
Quick Hits on non-contenders who have owned contenders this season, on the heels of the Houston Astros improving to 5-2 in St. Louis this season (they’re 15-28 on the road against all other teams).
• The jury is still out on whether the Detroit Tigers are a contender, but they’re 3-1 against the Yankees this season. All other AL Central teams are 6-15 against the New York Yankees.
• The Tampa Bay Rays only have a losing record against one AL team this season (the Texas Rangers), but they have losing records against four different NL teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks (1-2) and Florida Marlins (2-4).
• The Cleveland Indians can claim dominance over the Chicago White Sox this season, going 8-4 against Ozzie Guillen’s club. Cleveland is 12-14 against the rest of the division.
• The Rangers need to stay away from AL East bottom-feeders. Texas is 3-9 against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles this season.
• If the Philadelphia Phillies could beat the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, they’d be a lot closer to the Atlanta Braves in the standings. Philly is 4-8 against the Cubs and Pirates this season, but 6-0 against the other two NL Central non-contenders (Milwaukee Brewers and Astros).
Today’s Leaderboard: Today is Sid Bream’s 50th birthday, so let’s celebrate the player who memorably scored from 2nd base with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS to send the Braves to the World Series. Who, in Bream’s footsteps (pun not intended), has scored from 2nd base on a single most often this season?
It would be Martin Prado, who recently was placed on the disabled list.
And, since you’re wondering, which MLBers have a 100 percent success rate? It’s a tie among two guys who are 6-for-6: Asdrubal Cabrera and Kyle Blanks.
• Here’s the daily A-Rod vs Opposing Starter update: Rodriguez is 4-13 (.308 BA) in his career against Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero. But he has never homered off Romero and has only one extra-base hit (a double). And Romero really has Rodriguez’s number this season – A-Rod is 0-5 with 2 strikeouts and a double play in his last 5 AB’s against Romero.
• Bud Norris has gained a reputation as a Cardinals-killer in his career (4-1 with a 1.60 ERA vs STL, 5-9 with a 6.35 ERA vs all other teams) despite getting knocked around by the Cardinals in his most recent start against them. But Norris still owns plenty of Cardinals individually. Felipe Lopez is 0-8, Matt Holliday is 4-16, Colby Rasmus is 2-13 and Skip Schumaker is 2-14. What about the Great Pujols? Not great either, just 3-14 and no home runs.
• In a battle of the newly-acquired players for NL West teams, give a strong edge to Ted Lilly when he pitches against Ryan Ludwick tonight. Ludwick is batting just .192 (5-28) with twice as many strikeouts (10) as hits (5) in his career against Lilly.
• Pat Burrell hasn’t been an everyday player this season, but he should find himself starting tonight against the Rockies’ Aaron Cook. Pat the Bat is batting .591 (13-22) and slugging .773 against Cook. Of all the pitchers Burrell has faced at least 20 times, Cook is the pitcher Burrell has hit the best.
Trivia Answer: Your top AL guys who have never pitched for the NL: Mark Buehrle (2,193.1 IP), John Lackey (1,641.2) and Kelvim Escobar (1,507).
As for the other way around, it’s the recently-traded Roy Oswalt (1,938.1 IP), Randy Wolf (1,823.1) and Ryan Dempster (1,769.2).
Since all teams have played between 86 and 90 games at this point, we're using 275 plate appearances as our minimum for all hitting awards.
The "Friendly Confines" award
Although Target Field has confounded some power hitters, Twins CF Denard Span seems to enjoy the place. He has the biggest difference between his home and road batting average this season. In Minneapolis, he's hitting .357; elsewhere, it's .198. Ironically, all three of his home runs have been in road games; however, he does have more total extra-base hits (8 doubles, 5 triples) in the Twins' new home.
The average "home" advantage in the majors, by the way, is .016.
Runners-up: Vernon Wells (.322 in Toronto, .199 on the road); Martin Prado (.389/.273); Travis Hafner (.303/.189).
Honorable mention: Jason Giambi has taken a liking to Denver. He's batting .380 at Coors Field and only .173 away from it, although his 132 PA are not enough to qualify for our award.
The "Summer Breeze" award
No surprise here. Mark Reynolds, who shattered the single-season record for strikeouts in '09 after setting it in '08, is whiffing on 40.9% of his swings this season and again leading the majors in K's. That's 8% higher than anybody else who qualifies for the award.
Far-runners-up: Mike Napoli (32.9%), Adam Dunn (32.3%), Ryan Howard (30.8).
The "Gettin' Low" award
Pitchers are always trying to keep the ball down. It takes a special hitter to go down there and get it with any degree of success. In a very tight three-way race, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera ekes out the best average in the majors on low pitches (down in the zone or below it).
Cabrera, at .3618, just beats out Justin Morneau and the Orioles' Nick Markakis, who both have identical low-ball averages at .3613. To his credit, Miggy also has seven homers on low balls, and more extra-base hits than the other two contestants. Markakis is the most patient of the three, chasing only 16% of balls below the zone.
Which brings us to....
The "Reach For The Stars" award
Vladimir Guerrero left Los Angeles (home of the stars), but he's still chasing them in Texas. Vlad has gone reaching for 38.4% of bad balls (out of the strike zone) this season, giving him a clear lead in that category.
Runners-up: Adam Jones (36.0%), Pablo Sandoval (32.2%), Jose Guillen (32.2%).
Fifth place belongs to Ichiro Suzuki, who has set all kinds of base-hit records so far in his career. You wouldn't think of him as someone who would swing at a lot of bad balls. In Ichiro's case, though, he succeeds in making contact and finding holes.
The "Trashman" award
Cleaning up bad balls is messy work. Not a lot of hitters do it well. Ichiro does. In fact, he's got a 52-point lead when it comes to batting average on balls out of the strike zone. And he hits almost as well (.319) on balls outside the zone as he does on balls that are in it (.329).
Runners-up: The aforementioned Guerrero, despite swinging a lot, also makes pretty good contact on bad balls. He's hitting .267, followed by Markakis (.264) and Boston's Marco Scutaro (.244).
More awards, including a few for the guys who THROW the ball, will be posted tomorrow.
Hitter of the Night
Adam Dunn, WSH: 3-4, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R
Dunn is the second player this season (Edwin Encarnacion) to homer on three different types of pitches in a game, as he homered off Jon Garland's changeup in the first inning, Garland's fastball in the third inning and Joe Thatcher's slider in the eighth inning. The homers off Garland reflected a trend this season for Dunn, who has been more aggressive in his approach. Dunn's swing percentage on the first two pitches he sees is up from 29.0 last year to 32.1 pct this season, and he's seen strong results.
On a homer-heavy day, there were starters who had success:
Why Tim Lincecum won:
- Lincecum's average fastball velocity was 93.3 MPH, his highest in a start this season. Lincecum started 20 hitters off with fastballs (71.4 pct of AB).
- The Giants righty threw his changeup 23 times on Wednesday, getting Brewers hitters to miss on eight of their 12 swings - the best miss pct (66.7) in a start this season for Lincecum's changeup.
- He especially turned to his changeup with two strikes: He threw 17 pitches with two strikes, eight of which were changeups. Lincecum managed six strikeouts with his change, all swinging. Overall with two strikes, Brewers hitters put just one ball in play, a groundout.
Why David Price won:
- Threw 99 fastballs out of 111 pitches (89.1 pct), a season high. Entering Wednesday, Price had thrown 70.3 pct fastballs on the season. The Red Sox missed on 19 of their 60 swings against Price's fastball (31.7 pct). For the season, the Red Sox miss pct vs fastballs is 13.1.
- Through six innings, Price had thrown 83 of 87 fastballs. In his final two innings, eight of Price's 24 pitches were offspeed. Price started 27 of the first 29 hitters he faced with a first-pitch fastball.
- Price threw five of his 12 offspeed pitches with two strikes. He also threw five of his 12 offspeed pitches to Marco Scutaro. Scutaro is a .300 hitter this season against fastballs from LHP; .241 against offspeed pitches from LHP.
- Price's strike pct of 74.8 was a season high, and he threw just one pitch all night out of a three-ball count.
- With runners in scoring position, Price threw 14 pitches; only one was an offspeed pitch.
Why Josh Johnson won:
- Challenged hitters in the strike zone. Johnson threw 75 of his 117 pitches in the strike zone (64.1 pct- a season high). As a result, Johnson's chase pct (4.8 pct) was almost half of his previous season low in a start (9.4 pct).
- Johnson threw 46 of his 76 fastballs in the strike zone, and Dodgers hitters showed patience, chasing only one of 30 fastballs out of the zone. However, they also only went 2-15 (.133) on fastballs in the strike zone. The MLB average on fastballs in the zone is .302.
- Worked efficiently. Johnson retired all eight leadoff men he faced, and 22 of his 31 batters faced saw four pitches or less.
- Mahut and Isner combined for 1,894 strokes in Wednesday’s portion of the fifth set. That’s more than the total number of pitches thrown by a pitcher this season. Dan Haren leads the majors with 1,761 pitches thrown this season, 81 more than the next pitcher (Chris Carpenter).
- Ubaldo Jimenez leads the majors with 110.5 pitches per outing. Since 2006, the only pitcher that has topped that number is Justin Verlander, who averaged 112.5 last season.
- Wade Davis is averaging 18.2 pitches per inning, which would be the highest for a qualifying pitcher since Ian Snell’s 18.3 in 2008.
- Jered Weaver is averaging 4.3 pitches per batter faced, which is just shy of Clayton Kershaw’s average from last season and the third highest rate over the last 10 years for a qualifying starter.
- No one has seen more pitches than Dustin Pedroia, in part because only Martin Prado and Rickie Weeks have more plate appearances. Pedroia has faced 1,449 pitches. That puts him on pace to see 3,215 pitches this season. Since 1988, no batter has faced more than Bobby Abreu’s 3,159 in 2005.
- Even though he swings less often than the average player, Pedroia also leads the majors in swings with 616. He’s on pace for 1,367 swings, just shy of Ryan Howard’s 2009 league-leading total of 1,385.
- Brett Gardner leads the majors with 4.53 pitches per plate appearance. That would be the highest average since Rickey Henderson’s 4.55 in 1997.
Today’s Leaderboard: Having issued more walks than any other team, it’s no surprise that the Brewers are throwing a lot of pitches. They average more pitches per game (158.0) and per inning (17.7) than any other team. The Rangers throw more pitches per plate appearance (4.0) than any other team. Contrast that with the Twins, who throw the fewest in all three categories.
Key Matchups: Manny Ramirez has traditionally fared better against lefty pitchers, but that has not been the case against Scott Kazmir. Ramirez is just 7-for-44 (.159) with 14 strikeouts against the Angels’ southpaw. That’s Manny’s lowest batting average against any of the 54 pitchers that he’s faced at least 30 times.
Alex Rios is 0-for-10 in his career against Derek Lowe. The only pitcher he has faced more without a hit is Mariano Rivera (0-for-13). Meanwhile, Lowe has actually faced three hitters more times without allowing a hit. It’s a pretty impressive group: Barry Bonds (0-for-11), Mark Teixeira (0-for-12) and Jason Bay (0-for-15).
Trivia Answer: On August 27, 1976, both Catfish Hunter and Frank Tanana tossed 13 scoreless innings before finally giving way to the bullpens. The Yankees wound up scoring five runs in the 15th to beat the Angels. No one has had an outing of 12 innings or more since Charlie Hough in 1986.
- Denard Span is hitting .378 at home and .172 on the road. That .206 discrepancy is the largest in baseball.
- On the other hand, Ryan Braun is hitting .370 on the road, but just .216 at home, the largest discrepancy in the other direction.
- Chris Young has hit 10 of his 12 home runs at home. Paul Konerko is next, having hit seven more homers at home.
- Nine of Justin Morneau’s 11 home runs have come on the road, while David Wright has hit eight more homers on the road than at home. Meanwhile, all seven of Ian Stewart’s homers are away from Coors.
- Of Ryan Sweeney’s 28 RBI, 23 have come at home.
- At .391, Martin Prado is on track for the highest home batting average since teammate Chipper Jones hit .399 at home in 2008.
- Over the last 55 years, only two Yankees have posted a higher home batting average than Brett Gardner’s .385: Paul O’Neill (.409 in 1994) and Mickey Mantle (.387 in 1957).
- Casey Kotchman’s .175 batting average at home would be the fifth worst among qualifying players over the last 50 years.
- Jason Heyward has 17 more walks on the road than at home, the biggest difference in the majors.
Today’s Leaderboard: The best hitters at home this season? A pair of players that could find themselves playing elsewhere in a couple months. Who knows if Paul Konerko will still be calling U.S. Cellular Field home after the trade deadline, but for now Konerko is crushing the ball at home. His 1.201 OPS at home is the best in baseball, and is on track to be the best since Barry Bonds in 2004. Second on the list is Kelly Johnson’s 1.133 OPS.
Key Matchups: David Ortiz faced Rodrigo Lopez each year from 2003 to 2006 as AL East foes. In 50 plate appearances, he’s hitting .326 with a .932 OPS. That includes a memorable two triple game in 2004, the only in Ortiz’s career. However, one thing has eluded Ortiz against Lopez: A home run. Ortiz is homerless in 50 plate appearances, the most he’s faced any pitcher without going deep. Even stranger? Despite that .932 OPS, Ortiz only has one RBI against Lopez.
Alex Rodriguez is expected back in the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday, and he’ll face Jamie Moyer in a matchup that dates back to 1996. They’ve faced each other 59 times in total, and A-Rod is a .389 hitter against Moyer with a 1.218 OPS. This will be the first meeting since 2005, but in his last nine at-bats against Moyer, Rodriguez is 7-9 with four home runs.
Trivia Answer: When Willie Mays stepped in against Robin Roberts on August 6, 1966, he had 529 home runs to his credit. In his previous start, Roberts became the first pitcher to allow 500 career home runs when Hank Aaron took him deep. It was Aaron’s 429th career home run.
Prado, 26, never made a Braves Top 10 Prospects list at Baseball America. When he broke camp with the team in 2008, after cups of coffee during the two previous seasons, he was supposed to be just a utility infielder, someone who could play in place of Chipper Jones at third, Yunel Escobar at short, and Kelly Johnson at second. Yet despite a sprained thumb that kept him out for 59 days, the Braves still managed to get Prado 254 plate appearances in which he hit .320/.377/.461. Those are impressive numbers for anyone, much less a reserve.
In 2009 Prado again broke camp as the primary utility man. But when Kelly Johnson started to struggle, Prado found his name on the starting lineup more frequently. By July he was the regular starter at second base. The Braves nearly doubled his playing time in 2009, giving him 503 plate appearances, and hit .307/.358/.464. That's when people started to take notice.
The Braves took a gamble on Prado this winter. Johnson was up for salary arbitration, but rather than pay him an increased salary after a year during which he struggled, the Braves decided not to tender him a contract, implicitly handing the job to Prado full-time. Once again Prado has rewarded their confidence. In addition to leading the NL in hitting (.325), he ranks fourth among senior circuit second basemen in OPS (.819). (Of course the leader in that category is Kelly Johnson, so let's not give Atlanta too much credit.)
After a slow start, the Braves are now in first place in the NL East, in no small part because of contributions from two players making around the league minimum, Prado and Jason Heyward. While Heyward gets the hype because of his age and prodigious power, Prado, because he plays a premium defensive position, has contributed equally to the Braves record. He has been worth 1.7 Wins Above Replacement, while Heyward is just a fraction better at 1.8.
Prado is still under-appreciated and he probably always will be. But Martin Prado has made the most of his opportunity and is a big part of why the Braves currently sit in first place, even if he's overshadowed by his teammates. For years, Martin Prado was overlooked, but given how well
he's played in the big leagues, it's time to give him his due -- the man is one of the better second baseman in baseball.
Joe Pawlikowski is a writer for FanGraphs.
First Base -- Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers, May 26, Bottom 7: Michael Saunders hit a hard ground ball that traveled over the base and into foul territory. Raburn (only 42 career innings at first base) dove, made the play and flipped to Jeremy Bonderman covering first. Not only does it go for a hit 97.5% of the time, but also that ball usually goes for a double.
Second Base -- Mike Aviles, Kansas City Royals, May 25, Top 4: Vladimir Guerrero is enough of a pull hitter that the Rangers employed the rare right-handed shift on him a few times last season. Apparently, Mike Aviles has been doing his homework, since he was ready for him. On a ground ball to the shortstop side of second base, Aviles ranged way beyond what is normal range for a second baseman and threw out the red-hot Guerrero. Aviles received a +0.99 for that play.
Shortstop -- Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks, May 15, Bottom 7: Martin Prado sent a rocket toward the 3B/SS hole that seemed destined for left field; in fact, hard ground balls at that angle go for hits 99.3% of the time. Drew laid out, came up with the ball and threw from his knees to nab Prado at first base. Drew also received +.99 plus/minus points for the play.
Third Base- Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland Indians, May 24, Top 8 and Don Kelly, Tigers, May 12, Top 6: Here’s an example where the flashy play isn’t necessarily the higher-rated play. Kelly’s play definitely looked harder, but Peralta was positioned closer to the line and managed to range deeper into foul territory and stay on his feet. Kelly’s play was made just 6% of the time over the past year, but Peralta’s play was made only 1% of the time and saved a certain double.
Left Field- Conor Jackson, Arizona Diamondbacks, May 25, Bottom 5: At Coors Field, Conor Jackson tracked down a Brad Hawpe fly ball deep in the left-center field gap. Had his momentum not carried him so far away from the infield, Jackson also would have doubled Todd Helton off of first. It wasn’t a flashy play, but Jackson had to cover a lot of group to save a sure RBI and extra-base hit. Similar balls fall for hits 88% of the time.
Center Field- Nate McLouth, Atlanta Braves, May 14, Top 2: After struggling with deep-hit balls near the wall earlier in his career (see the in-depth study in The Fielding Bible – Volume II), McLouth has played noticeably deeper, and it shows. Chris Young sent a deep fliner to left-center which McLouth caught at a dead sprint before crashing into the wall. Similarly-hit balls were caught only 11% of the time over the past year.
Right Field- Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians, May 1, Top 9: With no-pop Drew Butera up in the ninth, Choo cheated in a bit; he should have cheated more. Butera placed a soft fliner in shallow right, but Choo made a diving catch to save the hit, garnering a +.875 plus/minus score on the play.
He allowed a grand slam in a home game for the first time since 1995 against the Athletics (Geronimo Berroa). His streak of 51 straight saves at home comes to an end and he also walked a runner with the bases loaded for the first time since 2005.
Marlins Sweep Mets
It was just the second time in team history in which the Marlins swept a four-game series from their division rivals and the first time since 2004 in New York.
Jake Westbrook Throws a Complete Game?
He allowed one run in a complete game for the first time since August 9, 2006. He's won consecutive starts for the first time since 2007.
Cardinals out, Reds in
The Reds defeated the Cardinals Sunday to move into first place. That's somewhere Cincinnati hasn't been this late into a season since the 2006 season.
Be Proud of Prado
Martin Prado had four hits, two of which were homers in the Braves' 13-1 thumping of the Diamondbacks. He became the first Braves leadoff hitter to have two homers and four hits in a single game since Felipe Alou on April 26, 1966, against the Giants.
He threw a complete game with 10 strikeouts in a hard-luck loss to the Rays. He's the first Mariners pitcher with 10 strikeouts in a complete-game loss since Freddy Garcia on August 7, 1999. But while it was rare in recent years, that was something Randy Johnson did eight times with the Mariners.
Another ho-hum strong start from a Padres pitcher. LeBlanc unfortunately took the loss when he allowed 1 ER in 7 IP against the Dodgers. But he did extend his streak of starts with 2 ER or fewer to 6 straight from the start of the season. That’s the longest streak by a Padres pitcher to begin a year since Jake Peavy had a team-record 10 straight to start the 2004 season.
You Complete Me
Five pitchers threw complete games on Sunday (Lee, Westbrook, Joel Pineiro, Brett Myers and Bronson Arroyo). Sounds rare right? Actually it happened on July 10, 2009, when Jeff Niemann, Dan Haren, Zach Duke, Arroyo and Jonathan Sanchez did so. Sanchez threw a no-hitter that day.
Reasons to be Skeptical
Unfortunately, there are some reasons to worry about Prado’s overall run production. First off, Nate McClouth hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball this spring so it appears that batting in the second hole for the Braves might often mean batting with the bases empty and one out.
Perhaps a larger worry, and the two are probably connected, should be Prado’s inability to create runs last year. In fact, Prado (5.42) lagged far behind leaders Ben Zobrist (8.12) and Chase Utley (7.98) in terms of producing runs per 27 innings in 2009. Of course it should also be noted that Zobrist and Utley were both almost two full runs ahead of their closest rival (Brian Roberts). Still, McClouth’s inconsistency coupled with Prado’s seeming difficulty in producing runs is some cause for alarm.
With Chipper Jones coming off one of his worst seasons of his career there are two schools of thought: he’s due to bounce back, or it’s the end of a great career. Last year Jones posted a career low in RBI and had his lowest OPS since his rookie season. Still, the fact remains that if Jones gets 600 at-bats he drives in over 100 runs and if Prado is batting in front of him than fantasy owners are going to be the beneficiary of those RBI. Furthermore, there seems to be a growing feeling in Atlanta that given the closeness between Chipper and Bobby Cox that Jones would be willing to play through some injuries that in the past may have sidelined him.
Prado isn’t a player that you should draft before some of the other stalwart second basemen out there like Utley, but he is a very solid option for those willing to wait a little bit longer on draft night. I look for him to continue the improvement that he had last season and for his numbers to increase in 2010.
Our friends at Inside Edge Scouting Services charted every one of the 187,079 plate appearances in the major leagues during the 2009 regular season. That's almost three-quarters of a million pitches. Below are some things we can learn from that data.
1. Mauer Power is not a myth. The Twins' Joe Mauer was the best hitter in the majors last season if you isolate only those plate apparances that end on a fastball. (As we'll see later, don't throw him one down and in, either.) Since most pitchers' fastballs don't have a lot of movement, the key for hitters is simply catching up to it. As you'd expect, most of these leaders are your traditional "power hitters". Albert Pujols ranks eighth on the chart below.
2. Hitting an off-speed pitch is not the same as hitting a fastball. To catch up to a fastball, you need bat speed. On the other hand, the best off-speed hitters aren't power guys. They're batters with good eyes who can follow the movement on the pitch. And last season's leaders include some names who wouldn't roll off the tip of your tongue.
3. Know the hot zones. We've all seen those 3x3 charts that look like a tic-tac-toe board or a telephone keypad. Every ESPN GameCast has them when a batter comes to the plate. Sometimes it's a batter's stance that influences whether they can hit high heat or low "nasty" stuff. You've often seen pitchers with good control who can "lead" a batter, gradually throwing pitches farther and farther outside/inside/up/down until the hitter can't reach them anymore. Different batters have different zones. And waiting for a pitch that's in one of them-- or not throwing him a pitch there-- is a huge part of the strategy.
The best moral, though, is that if you can't hit it, don't try. You'll end up on a highlight reel-- and not in a good way.
4. Strike early. A long at-bat becomes a battle of wits between hitter and pitcher. Some players prefer to just get it over with. Although the conventional wisdom frowns upon swinging at the first pitch, a select few have done very well at it.
5. Strike early. It's true for pitchers also. You've heard that "the best pitch in baseball is strike one." Getting ahead in the count puts the batter on the defensive and allows the pitcher more flexibility. But for some hitters, it's a challenge they can rise to.
6. Being "clutch" is, well, clutch. It's fun to watch Albert Pujols rip one out of the park. But only 35% of the runs scored last season actually came on homers. A hitter who can drive runners in, especially with two outs, can often be the unsung hero on his team. These are the quiet guys who don't make a lot of home-run noise, but the team would flounder without them.
7. It all starts with contact. Some of the toughest outs are hitters who refuse to swing at bad pitches. It requires a good eye and a lot of self-restraint. But when a pitcher is forced to stay in the zone, the batter ends up with more pitches to hit. "Chase percentage" measures the number of pitches outside the strike zone that a batter swings at. "Swing-and-miss percentage" measures a batter's ability to make contact, whether inside the strike zone or out. A hitter can be equally selective by not swinging at pitches he knows he can't hit.
We'll keep analyzing pitch types and locations throughout the 2010 season on Baseball Tonight and here in The Max Info. Studying what a pitcher throws, and where, often provides clues to why he had a great outing. Studying a batter's hot and cold zones, along with favorite pitch types, adds insight to a great day at the plate (or a terrible one), a hitting streak or slump, or just that amazing walk-off homer.