Stats & Info: Mike Leake

Top stats to know: Cardinals vs. Reds

May, 25, 2014
May 25
The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds square off in the rubber match of a series tonight (8 ET, ESPN) in a game that should be an entertaining pitcher’s duel. Here's a look at some of the numbers our broadcast crew will be talking about tonight.

Wainwright picks up where he left off
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright has shown no ill effects from a laborious 2013 workload in which he worked 276 2/3 innings, including postseason (the most by any pitcher since Curt Schilling threw 305 and Randy Johnson threw 291 in 2001).

Wainwright will look to continue an impressive start to the season, one in which he is 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA.

Part of his success is thanks to an opponent batting average of just .185 this season, second in the majors to Johnny Cueto.

Last season, Wainwright posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in Cardinals franchise history (6.3). His mark this season, (4.3), would be the fourth-best.

Wainwright’s breaking ball has long been the key to his success, and that’s no different this season. His 45 strikeouts with his curve and slider this season ranked third in the majors entering Sunday, trailing Corey Kluber (61) and Jose Fernandez (52).

Wainwright is 6-9 with a 4.75 ERA in his career against the Reds, his worst won-loss record and second-worst ERA against any National League team. The only NL team against which he has a higher ERA is the New York Mets (5.13), whom he had one of the finest moments of his career against when he saved Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

He did pitch seven scoreless innings against the Reds earlier this season.

Leake’s efficiency
Mike Leake has ranked among the most efficient pitchers in the majors this season. In fact, he has matched Wainwright in one regard. They are tied for the second-fewest pitches per inning this season (13.9), trailing Tim Hudson (12.9).

League has made significant improvements to his work against right-handed hitters. They hit .269 with a .445 slugging percentage in 2012 and 2013 but are hitting only .209 with a .291 slugging percentage against him in 2014.

The Cardinals have hit Leake well. He is 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA in 10 games, nine starts, against them.

But again, like Wainwright, he has been good against tonight's opponent this season, throwing eight scoreless innings in his lone meeting against the Cardinals on April 9.

Reds struggling offensively
The Reds are averaging 3.6 runs per game this season. They haven’t fared worse than that over a full season since averaging 3.4 in 1983.

The decline has come largely as the product of fewer home runs. They are on pace for only 131 this season, which would be a 24-homer drop from 2013.

The Reds also miss Shin-Soo Choo quite a bit. Their leadoff hitters had a .415 on-base percentage in 2013 but have reached at a .282 clip in 2014.

Matchup to Watch: Wainwright vs. Bruce
Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is 11-for-30 (.367 batting average) with two home runs and 10 strikeouts in his career against Wainwright.
Bruce’s numbers have been in significant decline since he returned from a disabled list stint in August. We’ve illustrated that in the chart on the right.

Bruce is hitting .209 with three home runs this season. He can expect to see a defensive shift from the Cardinals, as 21 of his 25 ground balls this season have been to the right of second base. He is 3-for-20 on ground balls and line drives hit against shifted defenses this season.

5 stats to know: Reds at Cardinals

August, 26, 2013
With five weeks left in the season, the top three teams in the NL Central are separated by 2½ games. The Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals begin a pivotal three-game series tonight on “Monday Night Baseball” (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Here’s a look at some of the stats our broadcast crew will be talking about during the game.

1. The Reds won the NL Central last season and entered 2013 as the favorites to do so again. However, the organization has not made consecutive postseason appearances since winning back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976.

The Reds have taken care of business against teams who are below .500, going 45-22. But they’re just 29-35 against teams with a .500 or better record.

2. Mike Leake is making his first start at Busch Stadium. He has been much better on the road during his career, posting an ERA more than 25 percent lower than his home ERA and allowing far fewer home runs.

In the past two seasons, the Reds have had one of the healthiest rotations in the majors. More than 93 percent of their starts have been by the five pitchers who opened the 2012 season in the rotation -– only the 2012 World Series champion Giants have had more consistency. That has helped the Reds' starters post the second-best ERA in the majors the past two seasons.

3. Joey Votto leads the National League with a .433 on-base percentage, but is that what the Reds need out of the 3-hole in their lineup? Votto has 61 RBIs this season, and the Reds have driven in only 62 runs from the No. 3 spot, fourth-fewest in the NL.

Why is Votto’s RBI total so low? He just doesn’t get pitches to hit in scoring opportunities. He has had 151 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, and walked in more than a quarter of them this season. On the flip side, Votto has reached base 254 times. That provides plenty of opportunities for Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to drive in runs.

What does all of that add up to? Votto is fifth in the NL in wins above replacement among position players, trailing Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Paul Goldschmidt and David Wright.

4. The Cardinals lead the league by a wide margin in batting average with runners in scoring position (.327). That’s easily the best by any team in the past 50 seasons.

The Cardinals have five of the top eight hitters with RISP this season, led by Allen Craig’s .447 average, which ranks second in the NL.

5. Tyler Lyons is one of 12 rookies to pitch for the Cardinals this season. They’ve gotten 27 wins from rookie pitchers this season (12 from Shelby Miller), tied for their second-most by any team since World War II.

Phillies could end drought in Cincinnati

April, 17, 2013

Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images
Ryan Howard will look to the end Phillies offensive slump against the Reds (7 ET, ESPN2 & WatchESPN)

Tonight, ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball will feature the Cincinnati Reds hosting the Philadelphia Phillies (7 ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN). The teams will face off after completing Tuesday’s game, which was suspended in the ninth inning due to rain.

There hasn’t been much offense in this series so far. Through the first nine innings of Tuesday’s game, the Reds have batted .200 (11-55) while the Phillies are batting .119 (7-59).

This series has continued the trend of offensive struggles for the Phillies. Last season, the team averaged 4.2 runs per game, the team’s lowest total since 1997, when they averaged 4.1. This season, Philadelphia is averaging just 3.8 runs per contest.

That offensive downturn last season led to the Phillies finishing 81-81, the first year they didn’t finish over .500 since 2002, and the first time missing the playoffs since 2006.

Despite these struggles, there are reasons to believe that Cincinnati could be a good site for Philadelphia to turn it around.

Although Ryan Howard's numbers have slipped considerably since his 2006 MVP season, he’s always shown excellent power in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. Howard has 24 career hits at the park, 19 of which have gone for extra bases, including 11 home runs.

There are four pitchers that Howard has hit at least .500 against (minimum 10 plate appearances), and one of those is Mike Leake, tonight’s starter for the Reds. Howard is 6-12 career vs Leake with a pair of home runs.

Howard’s infield mates, Chase Utley and Michael Young, have shown signs of bounce-back seasons.

Utley, through the ninth inning of last night’s game, already has seven extra-base hits this season. Last season, it took Utley 21 games to reach seven extra-base hits. He already has two triples this season, equaling last season’s output.

Young is coming off the worst season of his career, setting career lows in slugging percentage, OPS, home runs and WAR in 2012. His -2.0 WAR was the third-worst among position players in the majors last season.

However, this year, Young is taking a more disciplined approach at the plate. His chase percentage has fallen from 32 percent last season to 26 in 2013, and his overall swing rate has dropped from 51 to 42 percent from last season.

Cincinnati has been a good site for the Phillies since the Great American Ball Park opened in 2003. In that time, the Phillies have the second-best win percentage at the park, with a 22-14 mark.

Cincinnati is also a good site to face Leake. Last season, Leake had a 5.54 ERA at home, the highest home ERA of any NL pitcher to qualify for the ERA title last season. He was one of just two such pitchers to have a home ERA over five last season, joining teammate Homer Bailey (5.16).

Jim Cowsert/US PresswireRyan Dempster (right) has switched leagues, but will face a former rival in his Rangers' debut.

Ryan Dempster will make his debut for the Texas Rangers on Thursday as they wrap up their four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. Dempster switches leagues with the second-best ERA (2.25), trailing only the San Francisco Giants' Ryan Vogelsong.

Unfortunately for Dempster, the trade means he’s back in the same division as Albert Pujols, who is 18-for-55 with seven home runs in his career against Dempster. It's also the most home runs Dempster has allowed to any batter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pujols has had no trouble with Rangers pitching during this series, going 7-for-15 with four home runs and eight RBIs. Pujols has been crushing fastballs since the All-Star Break -- he has as many home runs off fastballs in the last three weeks (7) as he had in the entire first half of the season.

Pujols entered play on May 15 hitting below .200 (.197). Since then, he’s hit .332 with 21 HR and 59 RBI. In fact, Pujols' numbers are better through Aug. 1 with the Angels (.284, 22 HR, 71 RBI) than they were at this point last season with the St. Louis Cardinals (.280, 24 HR, 65 RBI).

Pujols' former teammate Matt Holliday has not been a welcome sight at his former home ballpark, Coors Field. In nine games at Coors Field since joining the Cardinals, Holliday is 13-for-30 with six home runs and 15 RBI. He’s been even better the last two games, going 5-for-9 with 3 HR and 9 RBI.

All three of Holliday's hits on Wednesday came on pitches outside the strike zone. He’s batting .279 on pitches outside the strike zone this season, and his .939 OPS on such pitches ranks third behind Melky Cabrera (.965) and Ryan Braun (.958).

Over in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds are a major-league best 16-3 since the All-Star Break, and have opened up a three-game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central.

The Reds have allowed 383 runs this season, the second-lowest total this season behind the Washington Nationals. One key has been the continued development of Johnny Cueto.

Cueto posted a 2.31 ERA in 156 innings in 2011. If he had not fallen six innings short of qualifying for the ERA title, Cueto would have finished second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw’s 2.28. Among qualified pitchers, Cueto has the lowest ERA since the start of last season.

Cueto’s home ballpark has ranked in the top six in number of home runs hit each of the past two seasons. Despite that, he has allowed only 13 HR since the start of last season, and none in his last 11 starts. The only other qualified starter to allow fewer than 20 in that span is Roy Halladay with 19.

In nine starts at Great American Ballpark this season, Cueto has allowed just two home runs in 223 at-bats, and only 3.3 percent of his flyballs allowed have left the ballpark. Every other Reds starter this season has allowed home runs on at least 10 percent of his flyballs.

Leake beats Braves with cutter, homer

May, 22, 2012
Ask the Atlanta Braves whether Mike Leake's arm or bat did more damage to their hopes of winning on Monday night, and they might hesitate to answer.

We'll detail his arm below. What Leake will likely remember the most is that, in his 117th career at-bat, he hit his first major league home run. It was his first RBI this season, though his .333 batting average suggests there might be more on the way.
Mike Leake

On the mound, here's how Leake beat the Braves:

" Leake threw a lot more cutters than he has in most of his starts this year, using the pitch 28 times, getting eight outs and allowing no hits. Leake has only used his cutter more in one start this year. Leake only has 27 strikeouts in 2012, but most of them have come with his cutter (7).

" Leake was efficient, throwing just two pitches in three-ball counts. Leake had thrown 31 pitches in three-ball counts in his previous three starts combined.

" Leake was in the zone all night, throwing 48 pitches in the zone, but surrendering just one hit on a pitch in the zone. Leake also had three strikeouts on pitches in the zone, his most in a start since August 10, 2011.

Elsewhere around MLB:

The Red Sox sent three outfielders onto the field vs the Orioles on Monday who began the season in places other than Boston. Daniel Nava and Che-Hsuan Lin started the season in Pawtucket, and Marlon Byrd was with the Cubs. Of course, each had at least one hit and one run scored in the Red Sox two-run win.

The injury bug finally bit the Texas Rangers, but it had held off for quite a while. With Neftali Feliz being placed on the DL, it's the first move the Rangers have made to their 25-man opening day roster this season. They were the last team to make a move to an opening-day roster. According to the release from the team, it's also the latest date the Rangers had ever gone in a season before making their first roster move.

It had been almost 13 years since the Kansas City Royals shut out the New York Yankees in New York. The last time it happened was August 18, 1999 in a game where Carlos Beltran started in center field for the Royals and Paul O'Neill started in right for the Yankees.

Tyler Greene's game-winning HR for the St. Louis Cardinals came off a 100.5 MPH fastball from Andrew Cashner. That's the fastest pitch anyone has homered on since 2009.

Minor, Leake look to reverse fortunes

May, 20, 2012
Hitters could have their way Monday night in Cincinnati when a pair of struggling starters take the mound for Monday Night Baseball (7 ET on ESPN).

The Atlanta Braves are hoping Mike Minor can avoid making history. Minor has allowed at least six earned runs in four straight starts, the longest streak in the majors since Kenny Rogers in 2008 and tied with Rosy Ryan of the 1925-26 Boston Braves for the longest streak in franchise history.

Minor was 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA through his first four starts of the season, but his ERA has jumped to 7.09 after being roughed up in each of his past four outings.

Minor’s reversal of fortune can be tied to his fastball, which has been ineffective in his past four starts. Over that span, opponents are hitting .339 with six home runs against Minor’s heater after batting .277 with no homers in his first four starts of the season.

But the Cincinnati Reds will send their own slumping starter to the mound Monday.

After going 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA in 2011, Mike Leake has lost his first five decisions in 2012 and brings a 6.21 ERA into Monday’s start. With a loss Monday, Leake would become the fourth Reds pitcher to start a season 0-6 in the last 15 years, joining Dontrelle Willis (2011), Homer Bailey (2008) and Brian Reith (2001).

And while Minor is having major issues with his fastball, it’s the changeup that is giving Leake the most trouble. Opponents have nine hits in 17 at-bats ending in a Leake changeup this season, including five extra-base hits.

Only Luke Hochevar (.600) and Aaron Harang (.556) are allowing hitters a higher batting average among qualifiers than Leake (.529) on changeups this season.

Leake has pitched well against the Braves in limited opportunities, however. He has a 1.50 ERA in two career starts against Atlanta with eight strikeouts and four walks. If Leake can fix his off-speed issues, he could lead the Reds to their eighth win in their last 11 home games in the series.
(The Tampa Bay Rays host the Cincinnati Reds on Monday at 7 ET on ESPN2.)

Despite a 3-9 record in interleague play, one team the Cincinnati Reds will be happy to face is the Tampa Bay Rays. Cincinnati -- which begins a three-game road series with the Rays on Monday -- is 6-0 all-time against Tampa Bay.

Mike Leake, who’s lost his last two starts, takes the mound for the Reds. He still struggles against left-handed hitters (.294 opponent batting average), but he has improved against righties. Last season, right-handed batters hit .292 against Leake, but are hitting just .230 in 2011.

Lefties have hit Leake well this season (.297), as have leadoff and cleanup hitters. The top of the order has hit .385 (15-39) with two home runs against Leake. No. 4 hitters have fared even better, going 15-for-33 (.455) with two home runs.

Opposing Leake will be Jeremy Hellickson. He was the American League pitcher of the month in May, going 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA. His June ERA is 3.81, but he’s lost three of his four starts and has allowed four home runs in 26 innings and struck out just one more hitter than he’s walked (10).

Hellickson, however, has not received much in the way of run support. In his last three starts, the Rays’ offense is hitting a combined .091 (8-88) with one run scored.

Some other notes from tonight’s game:
• Since their 1-8 start, the Rays are 43-26, the second-best record in the majors over that span.

• The Reds are tied with the Colorado Rockies for the most comeback wins this season with 23, but they're the worst team in the NL in one-run games at 11-15.

• Jonny Gomes is the only individual who has played at least 300 games for both the Rays and Reds, and is one of two players with 45 HR for both franchises, along with Greg Vaughn.

• Jay Bruce has cooled off considerably for the Reds. After hitting .342 with 12 home runs in May, Bruce has gone deep just once in June and is hitting .225 this month.

• Only one pitcher has 10 wins for both franchises: Paul Wilson.

1st Pitch: Pujols pursues 400

August, 24, 2010
Today’s Trivia:
After going deep last night in Pittsburgh, Albert Pujols is now one home run away from his 400th career HR. Pujols' first career longball came in April of 2001 off of Armando Reynoso and the Arizona Diamondbacks. What did Pujols do in that game that he ALSO did last night? Hint: it’s something he has now done 26 times in his career. Pujols

Bonus: Obviously, Busch Stadium is the park where Pujols has gone deep the most. But which Busch Stadium – the one that closed in 2005 (Busch II) or the one that opened in 2006 (Busch III)?

Quick Hits:
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Rafael Soriano accomplished a rare baseball feat on Monday (a feat with a cool-sounding moniker to match its impressiveness): the Immaculate Inning. Such an inning requires striking out the side on nine pitches, which Soriano did against Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli and Peter Bourjos. Soriano

So rare is the feat that it has only been done 44 times in MLB history. Let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who have pulled off the Immaculate Inning, according to

• Only three have done the feat twice, and all three are Hall-of-Famers: Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan. No one has done it three times.

• An Immaculate Inning has occurred in every inning, though it is most common late in games. It’s happened nine times in the ninth, seven times in the eighth and four times in the seventh.

• There are some pretty solid sluggers who have been on the other end of an Immaculate Inning. Ken Boyer was part of one thrown by Bob Bruce in 1964. Andre Dawson and Rafael Palmeiro were both part of one thrown by Jeff Robinson in 1987. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have each been victims, though in different games. Even contact machine Ichiro Suzuki fell prey to one, but in his defense, it was done by Pedro Martinez.

• From Elias: The last closer to get a save while striking out the side on nine pitches in the ninth inning was LaTroy Hawkins in September 2004 for the Chicago Cubs.

• Call it the Rich Harden connection: On the same night Harden was pulled in the middle of a no-hitter, Soriano threw his Immaculate Inning. But Harden has an I.I. of his own, and it came in the first inning. He did it in June 2008 with the Oakland Athletics against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

• Koufax is the only one to throw an Immaculate Inning that turned into an immaculate game. His first Immaculate Inning came in his first no-hitter – on June 30, 1962 - and was also done in the first inning. His immaculaticity (not a word) ended in the second inning when the New York Mets’ Frank Thomas grounded out to short.

• And finally, a Lou Piniella connection. Piniella managed the 1991 Cincinnati Reds to a 74-88 record and fifth place division finish. But that might not have been the worst of it. That team, featuring Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo and Hal Morris, is the only team in MLB history to have two Immaculate Innings thrown against them in the same season. Andy Ashby and David Cone did it to them that year.

Today’s Leaderboard:
It’s becoming one of the classic adages in the sport – if you let the leadoff man get on base in an inning, he’s going to come around to hurt you. Well, don’t pity the leadoff men tonight. Several of the pitchers who are the top culprits in letting the leadoff man get on base are starting for their teams on Tuesday.

Key Matchups:
• Ichiro has been an All-Star every year of his 10-year MLB career and has never batted below .303 in a season. But none of that might be true if he had to face Josh Beckett in every at-bat. Beckett is limiting Ichiro to a career .190 BA (4-21) with more strikeouts (five) than hits. Among pitchers who have faced Ichiro at least 20 times, Beckett is the starter who’s holding him to the lowest average.

• These numbers don’t seem to match up: Adam Wainwright has a perfect 5-0 record at PNC Park, yet a pedestrian 5.56 ERA there. Among parks where Wainwright has pitched more than once, he has a higher era at only Dodger Stadium. Turns out, you can chalk up his sparkling record at PNC to run support. His offense has scored an average of 7.43 runs in games he started there.

• There’s a new Cincinnati Reds rookie starter in town, and he’s not named Mike Leake. Travis Wood takes the mound in San Francisco tonight, making his 10th career start. No Giant has seen him before, but they might want to know these numbers. Wood is allowing a .135 BA his first time through the lineup, but that jumps to .184 his second time through and .222 his third time through.

Trivia Answer: In both games, Pujols finished a triple shy of the cycle. In fact, Pujols has never hit for the cycle in his career despite coming a triple shy of it on 26 occasions. He has finished a home run shy of the cycle twice and finished a double shy of the cycle once.

The bonus question was a trick question. Sort of. Pujols has the exact same number of home runs at both Busch Stadiums – 94 at each.

The Closer: Pitching not perfect Saturday … but close

July, 4, 2010
How Red Sox starter Jon Lester improved to 12-0 lifetime against the Orioles:
- Lester got 13 groundballs against 5 fly balls. At 72.2 pct, that’s his highest percentage since April 23 (also against Baltimore).
- The Orioles did not put 1 of Lester's 13 two-strike fastballs in play and struck out 4 times against the pitch.
- Lester got 6 of his 7 strikeouts on pitches low in the strike zone. He kept the ball out of the middle of the zone vertically, with 92 of his 100 pitches judged by Inside Edge to be either up in the zone, down in the zone, or out of zone high or low.

How Tigers starter Justin Verlander beat the Mariners:
- He had a miss pct of 27.9 (2nd-best this season).
- His chase pct was 34.0 (2nd-best this season).
- He threw and offspeed pitch on his first pitch 34.5 pct of the time (2nd-most this season).
- His offspeed stuff set up his heater: 8 swings-and-misses (2nd-most this season) and 7 K (most this season) vs fastball.

Ubaldo Jiménez had a rough 3rd Inning. How rough?

- Allowed 1st career grand slam (Travis Ishikawa).
- Allowed as many earned runs (7) as he did in April and May combined.
- Had given up 7 ER in a start just twice in career prior to Saturday
- ERA rose from 1.83 to 2.33<>Through 3rd inning (not after)

Stephen Strasburg struck out 5 in 5 innings. His 53 strikeouts in his first 6 games are 3rd-most all-time.

Saturday’s Longest No-Hit Bids
Saturday was the 2nd day this season that 2 pitchers each took a no-hit bid into the 7th inning. The 1st was June 13, when Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd did it in the same game. Randy Wells and Bruce Chen each made it through 6 full innings before allowing a hit leading off the 7th. Chen had been perfect through 6, which was the first time in 7 starts this season that he took a perfect game bid beyond the 1st inning. In all 6 of his previous starts, he allowed a hit in the 1st inning.

Rolling Rookie
How about the consideration for a rookie, with 3 weeks of major league experience to make the All-Star team? We’re not talking about Stephen Strasburg, but Indians rookie Carlos Santana, who ranked 2nd among the teams’ hitters in WAR. The catcher position for the American League, with injuries to multiple players of significance, is a bit on the depleted side, and there’s a vacancy for an Indian with Shin-Soo Choo headed to the disabled list. Santana was 0-for-3 Saturday, but his 2 walks gave him 17 in 21 games and kept his on-base percentage well above .400

Managing similarity
Saturday was Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson’s 2nd game. In his 2nd game as a player, his team won, 14-1. Today in his 2nd game as manager, his team lost, 14-1.

Mike Leake has allowed a .529 (9-17) opp BA (league average: .314) on 1st pitches during his current 4-game losing streak.

Mark Teixeira has not had a hit against Toronto's right handed-pitchers (0/8). He is batting .111 when behind in the count (1/9), batting .000 when ahead in the count (0/5) and 2 of his 3 hits against Toronto in 2010 came off the 1st pitch of the at-bat.

Rapid Reaction: Strasburg's dazzling debut

June, 8, 2010
Stephen Strasburg's debut was among the most hyped in MLB history. And it was also one of those rare moments when an athlete's performance lived up to the considerable hype swirling around him. Let's put his performance into context.

The MLB record for strikeouts in an MLB debut is 15, shared by Karl Spooner (1954 Dodgers) and J.R. Richard (1971 Astros). And he did it all with just 94 pitches, 65 of which were strikes. Of his 24 batters faced, Strasburg fired a first-pitch strike to 16 of them. He induced 41 swings and 18 of them missed Pirate bats.

Strasburg retired the final 10 hitters he faced, including the last seven and eight of the last nine by strikeout. The last pitcher to strike out seven in a row in their MLB debut was Sammy Stewart for the 1978 Orioles.

Strasburg struck out the side three times (2nd, 6th and 7th innings). No Pirate hitter reached base after Delwyn Young's 4th-inning home run. Every Pirate starter was struck out by Strasburg at least once.

His fastball caught everyone's attention as it averaged 97.9 MPH tonight according to Inside Edge, but he used it for just half of his 14 punchouts. His curveball was responsible for four of his strikeouts, and his changeup for three.

He is the first pitcher with 14+ strikeouts without walking a batter in his MLB debut. Forget about the amazing context that this came in his MLB debut, but with this performance he joins an elite list of starters to put up those numbers in ANY game while pitching seven or fewer innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Strasburg joins this list of pitchers to do that in the modern era of baseball (since 1900): Brad Penny (2007), Javier Vazquez (2003), Randy Johnson (twice in 2001), Mike Mussina (2000) and Roger Clemens (1997).

In fact, Strasburg has already equaled the great Nolan Ryan with one career start featuring at least 14 strikeouts and no walks... and he did so in 772 fewer career starts!

And long-time Washington baseball diehards may have been reminded of another famous Washington hurler after witnessing Strasburg's effort on Tuesday. Take a look at the numbers during his debut compared to Walter Johnson's first MLB game for the Washington Senators way back in 1907. Strasburg and the Nats defeat the Pirates 5-2, while Johnson and the Senators lost to Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers 3-2.

The Closer: For starters, a good day

May, 16, 2010
Pitching has enjoyed a renaissance in 2010 and Saturday was no exception. Effective - if not dominating - starting pitching performances were seen throughout the day. A good sampling occurred in the American League East as Tampa Bay's James Shields and Toronto's Ricky Romero were dominant in their teams' wins, Andy Pettitte continued his amazing season for the Yankees, while Baltimore's Brian Matusz and Boston's Jon Lester pitched deep into their games.

Here's a look at some of those efforts and several others from Saturday in Why They Won:

Why Rays starter James Shields deserved a win:
- Control. Not only did Shields not walk anybody, but he didn't go to a 3-ball count on any hitter.
- Changeup. Mariners hitters were only 1-10 (.100) against the pitch Saturday and Shields is holding batters to a .188 mark (12-64) vs. the change in 2010.
- Put them away. When he got 2 strikes on a hitter, they were just about done as 93 pct of such at-bats ended in outs (MLB average: 72 pct).

Why Yankees starter Andy Pettitte Won:
- More effective with the fastball. Coming into the game, batters were hitting .295 against Pettitte's heater. Saturday, the Twins were 1-11 (.091) against the fastball.
- Only allowed two hits over 6.1 innings pitched. Prior to 2010, the left-hander surrendered 1.05 H/IP. This season, he's only allowed 36 hits in 45.1 IP (0.79 H/IP).
- Finished off hitters. 82 percent of his 2-strike at-bats became outs (MLB average is 72).

Why Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero threw a shutout:
Used his power changeup:
- 29 of his 116 pitches (25 pct) were changeups, his most in a start this season
- Got eight of his 12 strikeouts with changeup (most in a start in his career)
- Hitters chased 71.4 pct of changeups out of the zone, most in a start in his career
- 11 swings-and-misses with his changeup, matching total from previous two starts
- Hitters went 0-for-13 against changeup

Why Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw Won:
Used his fastball:
- Threw fastballs on 85 of 110 pitches (77.3 pct, most in a start this season)
- Fastball averaged 94 MPH, up from 92.5 this season before Saturday
- Hitters went just 1-for-17 (.059 -- .238 against fastball entering the game)
- Got 5 of his 7 strikeouts with the heater (2nd straight start with 5 or more)
- K pct of 26.3 with fastball (highest in a start this season)

Why Reds starter Mike Leake Won:
- Down and away. Cardinals hitters were 0-7 on pitches "down and away" Saturday. Leake threw 38 of 93 pitches in that "spot" (a whopping 40.9 pct - since there are 9 "spots"). For the season, the rookie has thrown 40.5 pct of his pitches and has held the opposition to a .118 average there.
- Put them away. 83 pct of his 2-strike at-bats became outs (MLB average: 72 pct).
- Good starts. Retired 5 of his 6 leadoff hitters (83 pct) in innings. (MLB average: 68 pct).

Why Indians starter Mitch Talbot Won:
- Wouldn't let Orioles get started. Talbot retired all 8 leadoff hitters in innings (MLB average: 68 pct).
- The fastball. The O's were only 3-21 against the heater. Talbot threw fastballs on 86 of 102 pitches (84.3 pct). Prior to Saturday, he only used the pitch 72.7 pct of the time.
- Three and done. Half of Talbot's 8 frames were 1-2-3 innings (MLB average: 31 pct).

Why Giants starter Tim Lincecum was fortunate to win:
- First-batter problems. He only retired 3 of 8 leadoff hitters (MLB average is 68 pct).
- Control. Lincecum walked 5 over 8 innings and 31 pct of at-bats went to 3-ball counts (MLB average: 19 pct).
- More control. First-pitch strike pct was only 47 (lg avg.: 58) and his overall strike pct was only 56.
- He was facing the Astros. Houston is hitting a MLB-worst .227 this season. Lincecum is now 4-0 in his career vs. the Astros with a 1.33 ERA (best ERA vs. any NL foe).

1st pitch: A good start for young arms

May, 3, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Since 1990 there have been just eight rookies to win at least 15 games in a season. Only one team has produced more than one of those eight. Can you name the team and the pitchers? [hint: the years were 1992 and 1999]

Quick Hits: It’s been a good year so far for rookie pitchers, and three of the best are on the mound tonight – Jaime Garcia, Mitch Talbot and Mike Leake. Here’s a look at some fun facts on rookie pitchers this season:

* Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia’s 1.04 ERA is the lowest ERA in April by a rookie starter since Tom Browning in 1985.
* Garcia has gotten ahead in the count 0-2 13 times this season and has yet to allow a base runner in any of those 13 situations. That’s tied with Carlos Marmol for the major-league lead in 0-2 counts without allowing a base runner.
* Indians rookie Mitch Talbot finished April with a 2.05 ERA. Over the past 50 seasons, the only Indians rookie with a lower ERA in the month of April (min. 20 IP) was Charles Nagy in 1991.
* Talbot has induced a double play in 31.6 of double-play situations this season (6 of 19). That percentage trails only Brad Penny among pitchers with at least 15 double-play situations.
* Opponents are batting just .245 against Mike Leake this season – on pace to be the lowest by a Reds rookie since Tom Browning (.245 in 1985).
* Brian Matusz has a 2.90 K/BB ratio this season - on pace for the second-best ratio by an Orioles rookie in the last 50 seasons (Josh Towers, 3.63 in 2001).

Today’s Leaderboard: Kevin Correia is 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA this season, but Bud Black may want to consider pulling him earlier than usual tonight against the Rockies. Opponents are batting .409 against Correia the third time through the lineup – tied for the fourth-worst average in the majors this season.
Key Matchups: Adrian Gonzalez is batting just .190 in 21 career at bats against Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez. That’s Gonzalez’s 4th lowest average against a pitcher which he’s faced at least 20 times. The numbers are even worse when he faces Jimenez in Petco Park. Gonzales is just 1-10 against Jimenez in San Diego. The one hit was a home run in 2008.

Alex Rios has a .571 career batting average (12-21) against Gil Meche. That’s his highest batting average against a pitcher which he’s faced at least 20 times. Kenny Rogers and Jamie Moyer are the only others against whom he’s batting over .400.

Trivia Answer: Mariners. Dave Fleming (17-10 in 1992) and Freddy Garcia (17-8 in 1999) were the pitchers. The others on the list are CC Sabathia, Jason Jennings, Rodrigo Lopez, Jeriome Robertson, Justin Verlander and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

1st pitch: A good start to a start

April, 29, 2010
Today’s Trivia: With one more hit, Magglio Ordonez will become the sixth Venezuelan with 2,000 career hits. Can you name the other five?

Quick Hits: A lot of attention is paid to how a team’s pitching staff fares in the final innings of a game, and rightly so. Just ask the Tigers. Justin Verlander has a 14.40 ERA in the first inning and opponents are hitting .435. However, the best bullpen ERA in the majors (2.31) is a big reason that team is 5-2 when trailing at the start of the second inning. Other early inning tidbits:

* The Tigers have allowed 20 runs in the first inning, which is four more than the 16 they have allowed in innings seven through nine combined.

* The Red Sox are the only team that hasn’t allowed a home run in the first inning, but they’ve allowed 12 after the sixth inning, which is the most in baseball.

* The Red Sox have allowed 10 stolen bases in the third inning alone, which is more than seven teams have allowed all season.

* Opponents are hitting just .188 against the Rays in the first three innings, compared to .252 after.

* Of the 29 home runs allowed by the Rays, 11 led off the inning. In fact, opponents are hitting .296 against the Rays to lead off an inning and just .211 after.

* The Braves have a 2.29 ERA in the first three innings and a 6.24 ERA in the next three.

* The Indians have issued 28 walks to lead off an inning compared to only 20 strikeouts.

* Opponents are hitting .467 against Mike Leake in the first inning and just .205 after that.

* Similarly, Todd Wellemeyer has allowed four home runs in the first two innings and opponents are hitting .333. After that, he’s only allowed one long ball and opponents are hitting .170.

* On the other side of things is John Lackey. Opponents are hitting .091 in the first inning and .354 after that.

* Opposing hitters are hitless in the first inning against Phil Hughes (0-9) and Brian Matusz (0-11).

Today’s Leaderboard: Opponents are hitting .368 against the Tigers in the first inning and .320 in the first three innings combined, both the highest in the majors. Meanwhile, opponents are hitting just .171 against the Marlins in the first inning.

Key Matchups: One way to tell that 2009 was a down year for Roy Oswalt? He didn’t beat the Reds. He picked up a no-decision in all four starts against Cincinnati, but that was good enough to keep his incredible record intact. In his career, Oswalt is 23-1 against the Reds. At .958, he has the highest winning percentage for a pitcher with at least 20 wins against a particular team. Next on the list is Carl Mays who was 35-3 against the A’s in a career that spanned from 1915 to 1929. Oswalt will again have to deal with Joey Votto. After entering 2009 just 3-for-17 against Oswalt, Votto went 4-for-6 with a home run and triple against him last season.

Every pitcher aims to keep the ball in the park, but for Carl Pavano it is especially important. In his 83 career wins, Pavano has thrown 583 innings and allowed only 37 home runs. But in 79 losses, he has thrown 398 1/3 innings and allowed 69 long balls. Thursday, Pavano faces the Tigers, against whom he is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his career. A big reason for the success? In 42 innings, Pavano has never allowed a home run against the Tigers. In fact, current Tigers are homerless in 108 at-bats against the Twins starter.

Trivia Answer: Omar Vizquel (2,706), Luis Aparicio (2,677), Andres Galarraga (2,333), Dave Concepcion (2,326), and Bobby Abreu (2,136) are the only Venezuelans with more hits than Ordonez. However, Miguel Cabrera (1,250 hits at age 27) may end up passing them all.

1st pitch: Players with unfamiliar numbers

April, 16, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Indians trading Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. At the time, Colavito was just 26 and the reigning AL home run champ. Kuenn lasted just one season with the Tribe before he too was shipped off. Can you name the only four players with last names beginning in the letter C who have more career home runs than Colavito?

Quick Hits: Some players have already entered uncharted waters this season.

* James Loney has stolen third base three times this season, which leads the majors. Loney had never even attempted to steal third prior to this season.

* In 16 plate appearances, Ryan Raburn has been hit by three pitches. In 669 plate appearances entering the season, he’d only been hit twice.

* Jeff Mathis already has two bunt hits. Last season, Gerald Laird was the only catcher with more than two bunt hits. He had seven.

* Howie Kendrick has grounded into four double plays, tied for the most in the MLB. Last year, Kendrick only had eight GIDPs.

* Chris Young has three game-winning RBI. He had four all of last season.

* In 8 2/3 innings Tyler Clippard has allowed three sacrifice flies, tied for the MLB lead. He had allowed one sacrifice fly in his first 97 2/3 innings.

* David Price has allowed two triples. He had never allowed a triple before this season.

* Trevor Hoffman has already allowed more extra-base hits (8) than he did all of last season (7).

* Chris Carpenter has already been the victim of more unearned runs (2) than he was all of last season (1).

* Ryan Rowland-Smith went all of last season (96 1/3 innings) without allowing a stolen base. He has already allowed two this season.

Today’s Leaderboard: In his debut, opponents swung at 38.7 percent of Mike Leake’s first pitches. That’s the third highest rate among starers this season. Given the seven walks he issued in his debut, that seems destined to change today.

Key Matchups: When Jason Bay opted to return to the National League, he had to know it meant facing Chris Carpenter again. As NL Central rivals, they clashed regularly from 2004 to 2006, with Carpenter often coming out on top. Bay is a career .077 hitter against Carpenter with 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats. He is hitless in his last eight at-bats with six strikeouts. No pitcher has struck him out more (Doug Davis also has 12 K), and the .077 average is Bay’s worst against a pitcher he has faced 20 times.

It’s a similar story for Carlos Pena against Josh Beckett. Last season, Pena struck out in all eight at-bats against Beckett, though he did manage a walk. Overall, Pena is 3-for-25 with 16 strikeouts against Beckett.

Trivia Answer: Jose Canseco (462), Joe Carter (396), Orlando Cepeda (379) and Norm Cash (377) are the only players beginning in C with more homers than Colavito (374), who is the next player Albert Pujols will pass on the all-time list.