Stats & Info: Neftali Feliz

AP Photo/LM OteroNeftali Feliz pitched seven shutout innings in his first major-league start.
Tuesday marked the first major league starts for former bullpen stalwarts Neftali Feliz and Daniel Bard. Both were successful in the bullpen, but only one handled the transition well in his debut.

Feliz was facing off with a familiar foe as the Texas Rangers hosted the Seattle Mariners. Entering the game, the Mariners had not recorded a hit in 48 at-bats against Feliz. Justin Smoak finally broke the hitless drought with two outs in the fourth inning.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 58 at-bats before allowing a hit is the longest streak to start a career against one team in the expansion era (since 1961). The record was previously held by Billy Wagner, who held the Pittsburgh Pirates hitless in their first 48 at-bats from 1996 to 2001.

Feliz was able to handle the move to the bullpen by mixing up his pitches. As a reliever, he threw a fastball on 80 percent of his pitches. The first time through the Seattle order on Tuesday, he threw heat on 69 percent of his pitches. After that, he relied on his fastball only 39 percent of the time.

For the game, Feliz mixed in sliders on 26 percent of his pitches and changeups on 23 percent. Mariners hitters were 1-for-8 in at-bats ending with a changeup, including two strikeouts.

Bard wasn’t as fortunate in his transition to the rotation. He allowed five earned runs without recording an out in the sixth inning as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Boston Red Sox 7-3.

In three years as a reliever, he threw fastballs 71 percent of the time and sliders 21 percent of the time. The key to his success out of the bullpen was his slider. Opponents missed nearly half the times they swung at the pitch. He was able to coax swings on sliders outside the zone nearly a third of the time.

On Tuesday, he threw the slider 35 percent of the time and was just as successful. The Blue Jays missed on nine of their 14 swings against the slider and four of Bard’s six strikeouts came on the pitch. But they were able to tee off on his fastball, getting eight hits in 17 at-bats ending with the pitch.

Bard was unable to establish a third pitch during the game. In the first four innings, he threw only four changeups and all of them missed the strike zone. He found the zone with three of six changeups to his last five batters and induced a groundout by Adam Lind.

Quick hits
Freddy Garcia tied the American League record with five wild pitches in his start against the Baltimore Orioles.

Jayson Werth recorded his eighth career four-hit game, his first since June 27, 2009.

The Detroit Tigers are the last undefeated team in the American League, despite not getting a decision from their starters.

The Atlanta Braves snapped a nine-game losing streak dating to last season with a win at the Houston Astros.

Andre Ethier celebrated his 30th birthday by hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth, his 11th career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later.

Dan Braunstein contributed to this post.

2 pitchers win ROY for 1st time since '81

November, 14, 2011
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ESPN Stats & InformationCraig Kimbrel struck out lefties by going away with his fastball and down with his slider.
Click here to generate more heat maps for Kimbrel.
For the fourth time, both leagues gave rookie of the year honors to a pitcher. The last time it happened was in 1981 when Dodgers lefty Fernando Valenzuela won National League honors and Yankees southpaw Dave Righetti won the American League award.

Jeremy Hellickson is the second player from the Rays to win the award, joining third baseman Evan Longoria, who won in 2008, and the third straight pitcher to win the AL Rookie of the Year, joining Athletics reliever Andrew Bailey, who won in 2009, and Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who won in 2010.


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It’s the first time that the AL Rookie of the Year has been won by a pitcher in three straight seasons. It happened once in the NL, from 1979 to 1981, when the award was won by Rick Sutcliffe (1979), Steve Howe (1980) and Valenzuela, all with the Dodgers.

Kimbrel is the fifth NL reliever to win rookie of the year, the first since Scott Williamson in 1999. Kimbrel set the rookie save record with 46 this season, surpassing the mark of 40 set by Feliz in 2010. He’s the first Brave to win rookie of the year since shortstop Rafael Furcal in 2000.

How was each so successful?

Kimbrel averaged 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings, a rate that ranked second-best in the majors in 2011 (minimum 50 innings pitched) and sixth-best all-time.

From June 14 to Sept. 8, Kimbrel pitched 37 2/3 innings without allowing either a run or any of the three baserunners he inherited to score. In that stretch he allowed only 14 hits and 11 walks, striking out 67.

Kimbrel allowed only two extra-base hits to the 147 left-handed hitters he faced, neutralizing them with a nasty slider. The images at the top of this article show where Kimbrel struck out left-handed hitters with his fastball (image on left) and slider (image on right). He struck out 60 left-handed hitters, the most of any relief pitcher.

Hellickson was far less reliant on the strikeout, whiffing 117 in 189 innings. His high point came in May when he went 4-1 with a 1.36 ERA and a .168 opponents' batting average in 33 innings, winning AL Pitcher of the Month honors.

As Matt Meyers noted in his Insider piece, the Rays defended very well behind Hellickson, particularly against ground balls. Opponents hit .161 when hitting a ground ball against Hellickson, 68 points below the major league average and best among all AL starting pitchers who got at least 100 ground balls last season.

Hellickson succeeded largely on the strength of his changeup, with which he held opponents to a .210 opponents' batting average, and a .221 opponents' batting average on balls in play, both of which ranked in the top 10 among starting pitchers who threw at least 100 changeups last season.

Hellickson was unusual in that he was a right-handed pitcher who wasn’t shy about throwing his changeup to right-handed hitters. He threw it at a rate of about once every three pitches to right-handed batters, the second-highest frequency among starting pitchers (Rich Harden of the Athletics threw it 40 percent of the time).

Pitch locations key as Rangers eye title

October, 25, 2011
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Let’s take a closer look at some of the key performances through the first five games of the Fall Classic, that may better explain why the Texas Rangers are on the cusp of their first World Series title.

We’ll do so through the lens of our pitch-performance data and with the help of specific heat maps for individual players, which can detect and visualize some trends that have emerged so far.

Mike Napoli
Napoli has been arguably the most valuable player of the World Series with nine RBI, one fewer than the rest of his teammates combined. Napoli’s biggest hit came in the eighth inning of the Rangers' Game 5 win on Monday, a double on a slider that was up and over the middle of the plate.

Of Napoli’s four hits in this series, three have come on pitches thrown to the middle or outside portion of the plate. The St. Louis Cardinals have been able to get him out when they’ve jammed him inside, with one exception: his three-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 4 came on an up-and-in pitch.


Left: The pitch locations for Mike Napoli’s four hits in the World Series
Right: The pitch locations for Napoli’s 10 outs in the World Series
Click here to create your own Napoli heat maps


Albert Pujols
Despite a 1.213 OPS in the World Series, Pujols is hitless in four of the five games against the Rangers. Since his three-homer game in Game 3, the Rangers have either avoided him, or done their best to not give him anything to hit.

In the last two games, they’ve gotten him out six times. Four of those have come on pitches that were out of the strike zone, including the ninth-inning strikeout in Game 5 when he chased a 99-mph fastball on a 3-2 count.


Above: The pitch locations for Albert Pujols’ outs in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series
Click here to create your own Pujols heat maps


Neftali Feliz
Feliz has had his share of difficulties this postseason, but he’s gotten the job done with six saves. He has been wild, with seven walks in 10⅓ innings, though his issues have primarily been against right-handed hitters.

Lefties are 2-for-18 against him this postseason, including 0-for-4 in the World Series. Feliz has taken the approach of challenging lefty hitters to hit pitches thrown over the heart of the plate. So far, none have succeeded.


Above: The most frequent pitch locations from Neftali Feliz to left-handed hitters this postseason
Click here to create your own Feliz heat maps


Rafael Furcal
With the Rangers starting three left-handed pitchers in this series, they’ve successfully neutralized the Cardinals leadoff hitter. Furcal has been getting jammed repeatedly by the Rangers southpaws.

He’s 1-for-12 in the series against them, and of the 11 balls he has put in play, six have been on the ground. His only hit was a bunt single in Game 5 against C.J. Wilson. He’ll be happy to see the righty Colby Lewis in Game 6, but would be almost certain to see a lefty starter in Game 7.


Above: Where Rangers lefties have primarily pitched Rafael Furcal this World Series
Click here to create your own Furcal heat maps


The pitch locations for Derek Holland's 22 outs against right-handed hitters. He got 14 outs with pitches within the inner-third of the strike zone. Click here to create your own Holland heat maps and images.

Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland returned the World Series to a sense of pitching normalcy that prevailed in the first two games. He had one of the best mound performances in quite some time in a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4.

After the blip that was the high-scoring Game 3, Holland put forth a performance that was almost the pitching equivalent to what Albert Pujols put on in his three-homer game. Let’s take a closer look at the combination shutout thrown by Holland and Neftali Feliz.

The Rangers are the first AL team to pitch a shutout, allowing two hits or fewer in a World Series game since the Boston Red Sox got a one-hit shutout from Jim Lonborg against the Cardinals in Game 2 of the 1967 World Series.
With that, Holland is the fourth pitcher in the past 40 seasons to throw at least eight scoreless innings, allowing two hits or fewer in a World Series game, joining Tom Glavine (1995 Braves), Roger Clemens (2000 Yankees) and Kenny Rogers (2006 Tigers).

Holland came within two outs of being the first pitcher to throw a two-hit shutout in World Series play since Nelson Briles of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971. Holland's Bill James game score (a metric that rates starting pitching performances on a scale that's usually from 0 to 100) was an 84, tied for the seventh-best by a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game in the live ball era (since 1920).

The Cardinals scored 16 runs in Game 3, the most of any team that was then shut out in its next game in that year’s World Series. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the previous mark was held by the Toronto Blue Jays, who scored 15 runs in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, then went scoreless in a loss to Curt Schilling and the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5.

Just as Saturday was the type of thing that could be expected from Pujols, Sunday’s effort from Holland wasn’t that surprising in this regard: He’d pitched four shutouts during the regular season, tied for the most ever by a Rangers left-hander and the most by any Rangers pitcher since Charlie Hough in 1981.

Holland used his curveball with a frequency not seen since the end of the 2009 season, throwing 15 of 23 for strikes. The 23 curves matched the total thrown in his two LCS starts combined.

He completely changed his pitch pattern on the first pitch of at-bats, throwing 11 first-pitch breaking balls out of 28 first-pitches. Overall, he started 16 of 28 hitters with a first-pitch strike, with not one being put into play.

Holland got four of his strikeouts with his slider, one shy of his season-high for strikeouts with that pitch.

Holland and the Rangers put a stop to the Cardinals' vaunted offensive attacks in a number of fashions.

This game snapped the Cardinals' streak of scoring first this postseason at 10 games, one shy of the major league record of 11 set by the Detroit Tigers.

And Rangers pitchers froze David Freese’s hitting streak, stopping it at 13 games, one shy of the mark for longest in postseason play by a third baseman (Brooks Robinson) and longest in a single postseason (shared by Marquis Grissom and Manny Ramirez).

With all this, the Rangers kept an impressive streak intact. They haven't lost consecutive games since Aug. 25.
The Texas Rangers extended their win streak to 11 games Sunday, the most consecutive wins by any team since the Phillies won 11 in a row last September. With a win Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels, Texas will have the longest win streak by a team since the 2006 Boston Red Sox won 12 in a row. The Rangers would also pull within two games of the longest win streak in franchise history, 14 straight wins back in 1991.

For every winner there's a loser, and that was the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. The Mariners 3-1 loss to the Rangers was the team's ninth defeat in a row. That's their longest losing streak since 12 straight losses back in September 2008.

The Mariners were set down in order by Neftali Feliz in the ninth inning. Feliz might be young, but one would guess the Mariners have already seen more than enough of the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. Mariners hitters are now 0-33 all-time vs Feliz with 13 strikeouts.

Elsewhere are the majors on Sunday:

• Jim Thome moved within four HR of becoming the eighth member of the 600-HR club, launching a 464-foot blast against the Kansas City Royals. Thome's bomb was the longest HR in the short history of Target Field. It was also his 500th career HR in the American League, making him the 11th player in AL history to reach the 500-HR mark.

• Freddie Freeman's walk-off single, his first career walk-off hit, gave the Atlanta Braves their seventh win in 10 games. Atlanta is now 17-6 since June 19 and hasn't lost consecutive games during that span.

• The Oakland Athletics jumped all over Joel Pineiro, scoring a season-high eight runs in the first inning and forcing Pineiro from the game after just ⅓ IP. Pineiro becomes the second pitcher in Angels history to allow eight or more runs in while not recording more than one out in a game. He joins Mark Langston, who allowed eight runs to the Yankees in the first inning on June 4, 1995.

Kimbrel sets rookie standard

July, 8, 2011
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Craig Kimbrel picked up his 27th save of the season Thursday against Colorado, a number that happens to be a very significant milestone; it broke a tie with Jonathan Papelbon for the most saves by a rookie prior to the All-Star Break since saves became an official stat in 1969. Kimbrel is part of the best relief corps in baseball, as the Braves bullpen owns a MLB-low 2.64 ERA this season.

Kimbrel has converted his last nine save opportunities without allowing a run, and batters are hitting under .100 against both his fastball and slider in that span. Kimbrel also has not allowed a walk in those nine straight saves, and has reached a three-ball count just three times.

Something’s Brewing

Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford continued his roll Thursday, notching his 20th straight save. It’s a particularly interesting streak, considering Axford blew two of his first five save chances of the year. He’s now closing in on the team’s single-season consecutive saves record of 25 set by Doug Jones in 1997.

During his current saves run, Axford has compiled a 1.91 ERA while allowing only one home run in 33 innings. He has recorded 45 strikeouts and just 11 walks in that span.

Axford has shown significant improvement with inside pitches this season. On at-bats ending with pitches inside this season, foes are hitting .194 with a .585 OPS. Compare that to 2010, when those numbers were .270 and .737.

Royal Numbers

Middle relievers don’t often receive much credit for their work, but Kansas City Royals reliever Louis Coleman certainly deserves praise for his most recent week. In three July outings this year, Coleman has gone two innings in each and has yet to allow a run. During this month, he’s faced 24 batters and gotten them to swing and miss at a rate of 35 percent (league average: 20 percent).
Alexi Ogando
Ogando
During Spring Training, the Texas Rangers decided to keep Neftali Feliz -- last year's AL Rookie of the Year -- in the bullpen as their closer. So when Tommy Hunter went down with an injury, that meant Alexi Ogando, with 44 relief apperances and no starts in his major-league career, would be in the starting rotation.

It's worked out well; Feliz has four saves in six scoreless appearances, and has allowed just two hits and one walk. Ogando has been even better.

He threw seven scoreless innings Monday afternoon, allowing two hits and a walk, as the Rangers beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 2-0. It was Ogando's second career start; he allowed two hits and no runs in six innings in his first start, a 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners.

That makes him the fifth pitcher in the Live Ball Era -- and the first since Roger Clemens -- to win his first two starts of a season while pitching six innings and allowing two or fewer hits in each one. And he's the first to do so without allowing a run.

Ogando shut the Tigers down by getting ahead. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 23 hitters he faced. As a result, he had only two plate appearances that exceeded five pitches, and didn't need more than 14 pitches to get through any inning.

His slider was working Monday; he threw 28 of them, 22 for strikes, and Tigers hitters were 0-for-10 in at-bats ending with a slider. Seven of those 10 outs did not leave the infield.

With the win, Texas improves to 9-1 and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the second franchise in major-league history to win nine or more of its first 10 games of a season after playing in the World Series the previous year. The only other franchise to do that was the Giants in 1918, 1923, 1938 and 2003.

In the loss, Verlander was excellent for the Tigers, going the distance, allowing six hits and two earned runs. It's the 10th time in his career he's gone nine innings and the first time he took the loss in such an outing.

That puts him in pretty good company. Last season, only Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Dan Haren went the distance in a game and got a loss.
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.
There’s plenty to watch with the Detroit Tigers taking on the Atlanta Braves in ESPN’s first spring training telecast Thursday at 1 ET. Here’s a closer look at a couple of interesting storylines the new announcing team of Dan Shulman, Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser will be watching.

Chipper and changeups
One point of focus for Chipper Jones will be his performance against the slow stuff located away. Our Inside Edge video scouting data showed that Jones hit just .136 last season in at-bats that ended on a breaking ball or changeup on the outer part of the plate or beyond. That’s down significantly from .358 in 2008, and .274 in 2009.

Chipper Jones
Jones
Jones’ biggest bugaboo was the changeup away. It wasn’t that he was missing on these swings at an exorbitant rate (last season he was just above the major league average), but Jones wasn’t able to hit the ball hard when he made contact. All of our data sources indicate that Jones hit line drives and hard-hit balls at a rate well below the league average. When Jones did, he didn’t get hits. Jones was just 5-for-35 (.143) when making any sort of contact with a changeup away. The league average was .280 when making contact with those pitches.

Jones, who’s returning from a torn ACL, has missed 253 games over the past six seasons. Since 2005, the Braves are 375-344 with Jones in the lineup, and 127-126 when he does not play. Last season, Atlanta was 15 games over .500 (55-40) when he played.
-- Katie Sharp, Mark Simon, Douglas Clawson

Can the kid close?
Hershiser is picking Atlanta's flamethrowing rookie Craig Kimbrel as his National League Rookie of the Year. Even though Kimbrel isn’t pitching today, expect his name to be mentioned during the telecast.

Kimbrel’s strikeout rate (17.4 per 9 innings) isn’t the only amazing statistic. In 171⅔ professional regular-season innings, the youngster with a 95-mph fastball has yielded just five home runs (none in the majors). In his last 16⅔ innings, combining regular season and postseason, Kimbrel has not allowed an extra-base hit.

Something to watch with Kimbrel is whether he can get ahead in the count. Kimbrel threw first-pitch strikes only 43 percent of the time last season. That was the worst rate for those who threw at least 350 pitches. Kimbrel's first-pitch strike rate was just 36.6 percent in his first eight appearances. His rate improved to 55 percent over his final 13 regular-season appearances and four postseason outings.

This wouldn't be the first time the Braves went with an inexperienced closer. They did so multiple times during the 1990s, most notably in 1993 (Greg McMichael, 19 saves, 2.06 ERA), 1998 (Kerry Ligtenberg, 30 saves, 2.71 ERA) and 1999 (John Rocker, 38 saves, 2.71 ERA).
-- Katie Sharp, Jeremy Lundblad, Zach Singer

Stat of the day
A quick search of the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index shows that Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward have a chance to be the second pair of teammates since 1900 to have an OPS of .700 or better in their “age-21-or-younger” season (age computed as of June 30). The only teammates who did that were Gary Carter and Larry Parrish in 1975 with the Montreal Expos.

Coincidentally, Parrish is in his first season as the Braves' hitting coach.
-- Ben Duronio
Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz was named American League Rookie of the Year Tuesday. That makes it back-to-back years in which the AL Rookie of the Year is a relief pitcher.

Neftali Feliz
Feliz
Feliz finished third in the AL with 40 saves, setting the major league record for saves by a rookie. He tied for the fourth-most saves in a season in Rangers history and more than doubled the Baltimore Orioles’ Alfredo Simon, who was the next closest AL rookie with 17.

Feliz is the second Ranger to win the award, joining Mike Hargrove, who won it playing first base in 1974.

Detroit Tigers centerfielder Austin Jackson, who finished second, led AL rookies with 27 stolen bases and was second with a .293 batting average. He also played great defense, including a spectacular catch in the ninth inning of Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game.

Plus-Minus measures a fielder’s ability to turn batted balls into outs, comparing how he fared to others at his position. No outfielder had a better rating in 2010 than Jackson did. He rated a +18, meaning that had Jackson and an average major league centerfielder been hit the same balls to the same spots, Jackson would have made 18 more plays.

Jackson does join a pretty good list of AL rookies to score 100 runs and steal 20 bases since 1980. But Jackson struck out 170 times, the fourth-highest single-season total ever for a rookie.

The only rookie to hit for a higher average was Minnesota Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, who finished third in the voting. Valencia hit .311 in 85 games this season, and according to Baseball Reference, finished fifth in the league in fielding percentage at his position.

With Buster Posey winning in the National League, the Rookies of the Year faced each other in the World Series for just the third time in baseball history. In 1981, the New York Yankees and Dave Righetti faced Fernando Valenzuela and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And in 1951, Gil McDougald and the Yankees faced the New York Giants and Willie Mays.

ALDS Game 5 Preview: Rangers at Rays

October, 12, 2010
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Baseball’s postseason dates back to 1903, but there has never been a series in which the road team has won every game, according to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau.

So there’s a chance for some history tonight when the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays meet at Tropicana Field, with the road team having taken each of the first four contests.

Let’s take a look at keys to this game from the perspective of both teams:

Keys for the Rays
David Price has made two starts against the Rangers this season, and thanks to some studying of our Inside Edge video data by Stats and Analysis’ Lee Singer, we know that those are the two starts in which Price threw his highest percentage of fastballs in the upper third of the zone and above all season.

That’s a mistake against a Rangers team that crushed fastballs better than any team in the majors this season. Price had his best success against the Rangers in Game 1 when he mixed his pitches. In the first four innings, he threw 68 pitches, 57 of which were fastballs, and the Rangers went 7-for-20. In his last 2 ⅔ innings, he scaled back to 73 percent fastballs, and held the Rangers to just two hits in 10 at-bats.

The Rays hit .307 with 11 extra-base hits in the last two games and it will be interesting to see if Joe Maddon leaves a couple of lefty bats in against Cliff Lee -- such as Dan Johnson and John Jaso -- or goes with right-handers Willy Aybar and Kelly Shoppach at DH and catcher, respectively.

Aybar is an intriguing choice to ponder. He only hit .246 against left-handed pitching this season, but the last time the Rays were in a winner-take-all postseason game, he hit a key home run in a win over Jon Lester and the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS.

Keys for the Rangers
Priority No. 1 for the Rangers will be to get their top bat going. Josh Hamilton is just 2-for-14 in the series and has not looked comfortable. Hamilton has been vulnerable to offspeed pitches throughout the series, according to a review of our Inside Edge data by Stats and Info’s Katie Sharp. He’s swung at 11 offspeed pitches out of the strike zone, missing seven. In all, he’s 0-for-8 in at-bats ending against offspeed pitches with four strikeouts.

It goes without saying that the Rangers will do everything possible to keep Cliff Lee in the game, but if he’s not in late, Neftali Feliz will also be faced with the pressure of trying to close out a series in front of a hostile crowd.

The Rays have done a good job being patient with Feliz, who has retired just four of the nine hitters he faced. If Feliz finishes the series, he’d become the youngest relief pitcher to close out a winner-take-all postseason game. Feliz is 22. The current mark is held by none other than David Price, who was 23 when he got the last out of the 2008 ALCS.

This Date in Baseball
Thirty years ago today, Nolan Ryan was on the mound in Game 5 of a best-of-five series for the Astros against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series. Ryan had a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning but left after loading the bases and walking in a run. The Phillies would go on to win the game and the series in extra innings.

Perhaps it’s a bad omen, but Ryan’s teams were 0-3 all-time in Game 5 in postseasons when he pitched. He did have experience closing out a postseason series though. Ryan was the man on the mound for the 1969 Mets when they clinched their LCS against the Braves in Game 3 to advance to the World Series.

Stat of the Day
Road teams are 7-6 in Division Series Game 5s since baseball went to the eight-team playoff format in 1995.

Stats & Info ALDS Preview: Rangers-Rays

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
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Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez had a knack for strong defensive play and clutch hitting, two factors that could be key in the postseason.



A capsule stat-based preview of the Texas Rangers-Tampa Bay Rays ALDS matchup.

Top things to know

The Rays led the American League in both walks and stolen bases, which partly accounts for how a team could finish near the bottom of the AL in batting average, yet near the top of baseball in runs scored (third-best in the majors).

The Rays also rank atop the majors by a huge margin in a Bill James-devised metric Baserunning Gain (ability to take an extra base on hits, outs and other plays). The Rangers rank second (+66 bases, 52 behind the Rays).

Josh Hamilton had the greatest offensive season by a member of the Texas Rangers. He had the highest batting average (.359) of any player in Rangers team history (for a team that led the AL in the stat), as well as the best OPS+ (OPS compared to league average, adjusted for ballpark), a 174.

Deciding factor

The Rays had the second-best record in baseball when opponents started a left-handed pitcher, and they'll face left-handers in each of the first two games. They beat Cliff Lee three times during the regular season in 2010. Evan Longoria, currently battling an injury, led the way with a .956 OPS against lefties, followed by B.J. Upton's .919.

The Rangers bullpen won 32 games this season, most of any American League team. Their four most frequently used relievers who are available for the ALDS (Neftali Feliz, Darren O'Day, Darren Oliver and Alexi Ogando) combined for a 2.22 ERA, and had a strikeout-to-walk rate of 3.6 to 1.

Most interesting matchups

Vladimir Guerrero has good numbers against almost every Rays reliever of note, albeit in a limited number of meetings. He's 5-for-9 against Rafael Soriano, 3-for-5 against Dan Wheeler, 3-for-6 against Grant Balfour, and 4-for-15 (with four walks and a .450 on-base percentage) against Joaquin Benoit. If Tampa Bay puts James Shields in the bullpen, Guerrero is good against him too (.394 BA, 1.030 OPS).

With the first two games taking place in the afternoon, it's worth noting that the Rays .587 win percentage in day games ranked sixth-best in baseball. The Rangers were 24th out of 30 (19-25, .432 win pct). The biggest impact seemed to be with Hamilton, who hit .384 with an 1.121 OPS at night, compared to .286/.819 during the day.

Statistical secrets

Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez has all sorts of value to his team. His 18 defensive runs saved (a metric that measures ability to turn batted balls into outs, and turn double plays) rank best in baseball among second basemen.

Rodriguez also had an unusual knack for getting hits in big spots. He hit .400 (18-for-45) in "close and late" situations (defined by Baseball-Reference.com as plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck).

The Rangers combination of Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon bunt for hits better than almost anyone. Fangraphs.com charted Borbon as tied with Erick Aybar for the major league lead with 18 bunts hits. Andrus ranked third with 13. Combining bunt hits and infield hits, the Rangers rated tops in the majors, by Fangraphs calculations, with 187.

SIG's Picks

Albert Larcada of ESPN Stats & Info did statistical analysis of the last 10 postseasons, looking for the factors that most separate winning and losing teams. He found three -- power hitting, front-end starting pitching, and the ability to turn batted balls into outs. Using his findings, he was able to make a projection.

For the Rangers-Rays matchup, Larcada's system picks the Rays in four games. He gives the Rays a 56.6 percent chance to win the series.
Some notes from Thursday's early baseball games:

Cardinals 11, Braves 4
• The St. Louis Cardinals win for just fourth time in their last 16 games. The Atlanta Braves have lost six of their last eight.

Adam Wainwright snapped his four-game losing streak and improved to 6-0 in his career vs the Braves (best W-L vs them of any active pitcher). He's the first pitcher to start his career 6-0 against the Braves since Ron Robinson (1984-89).

Albert Pujols, who entered with one HR in his last 11 games, hit his first HR vs the Braves since August 24, 2008. He now has 99 RBI, one shy of his 10th straight 30 HR/100 RBI season.

Colby Rasmus tied a career-high with four hits and had his second career multi-homer game. The last Cardinal with a four-hit, two-homer game against the Braves was George Hendrick in 1978.

Jair Jurrjens lost at home for the first time this season (now 6-1).

Rockies 6, Reds 5
• The Colorado Rockies win their 12th straight September game against the Cincinnati Reds, as they sweep their four-game series.

• The Reds have now been swept in a four-game series on the road by both the Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chris Nelson, in his seventh MLB game, won the game with his first career steal of home. It was a straight steal in bottom of the eighth inning. He's the third rookie to steal home this season.

• Nelson was inserted as a pinch runner after Jason Giambi drew a walk. Nelson was then replaced at 1B by Todd Helton to start the ninth. Thus Nelson's ONLY appearance in the boxscore is as a pinch runner who stole home.

• According to Elias, the last time this happened was June 11, 1985. Gary Pettis ran for Bob Boone in a California Angels loss to the Texas Rangers. He stole home and then was replaced by Jerry Narron in the field.

Aroldis Chapman got his first career hold, getting Carlos Gonzalez to ground into a double play with the bases loaded in the seventh-inning. His 12 fastballs averaged 100.3 MPH and maxed out at 103.0 MPH.

• The Rockies get their 19th last at-bat win, tying the Reds for 4th-most in MLB.

• The Reds blew a five-run lead. It's their 21st blown lead resulting in a loss this season, which is tied for second fewest in MLB.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau it was the fourth time this season that the Rockies won a game after trailing by at least five runs, tying the Tigers for the most such wins in the majors. It was the third time this season that the Reds lost a game after leading by at least five runs, tying the Red Sox, Rangers and Nationals for the most such losses in the majors.

Rangers 4, Blue Jays 2
• Texas Rangers' starter Colby Lewis snapped his seven-game losing streak and four-game road losing streak.

Mitch Moreland had a career-high 3 RBI.

Neftali Feliz became the fourth rookie in MLB history with a 35-save season and is two shy of the MLB rookie record set by Kaz Sasaki in 2000.

• Jose Bautista hit his 44th HR, which is tied for third most in a season in Blue Jays history. His 28 HR at home are the 2nd most in Blue Jays history.




Tigers 6, White Sox 3
• The Detroit Tigers win their third straight and have won six of their last eight games.

• The Tigers had 13 hits, all singles. That is the most hits in a game without an extra-base hit by the Tigers since May 11, 2004 when they 14 singles in a loss vs the Oakland Athletics - their last win in such a game was June 12, 1993 vs Toronto (15 singles).

Johnny Damon had a team-high four hits, his 36th career four-hit game and first as a Tiger.

• Rick Porcello improves to 4-0 in his last four starts (5-11 in first 20 starts). He now sports a 4.09 ERA since returning from his minor league demotion. He and teammate Max Scherzer have both been much improved since returning to the club after being sent down following early struggles.

• The Chicago White Sox have lost three straight after winning seven in a row.
Let's take a look at some notes from around baseball on Tuesday night:

• The New York Yankees hit five HR for the second time this season in their win at the Toronto Blue Jays. It's the first time the Yanks have hit five HR at Toronto since 2004.

JeterDerek Jeter hit his 10th HR, and now has 10+ HR and 10+ SB in 15 consecutive seasons. In MLB history (according to the Elias Sports Bureau), only Barry Bonds has a longer such streak. Bonds did this in 16 straight seasons from 1986 to 2001.

• The Chicago Cubs improved to 2-0 under Mike Quade with their win over the Washington Nationals. Alfonso Soriano smacked his 20th HR, giving him nine straight 20-HR seasons. That is tied for the third-longest active streak in baseball. Alex Rodriguez (15 straight season) and Albert Pujols (10) have the only two longer streaks.

• Also for the Cubs, Tyler Colvin hit his 19th HR. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is tied for the third-most HR by a rookie in Cubs history. Only Billy Williams (25) and Geovany Soto (23) have ever hit more. Ernie Banks is one of three others to also hit 19.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3. It's the second time in the last week that the Cardinals lost a one-run game, leaving the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning.

• The New York Mets topped the Florida Marlins with Luis Castillo's walk-off single. It's Castillo's seventh career walk-off hit (third with the Mets). It's just the third walk-off loss of the season for the Marlins (only the Yankees have fewer).

• The Oakland Athletics topped the Cleveland Indians, 5-0, as Gio Gonzalez pitched seven shutout innings. Athletics starters have tossed a franchise-record 16 consecutive quality starts. Gonzalez is 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in five career starts vs the Indians.

• The Detroit Tigers knocked off the Kansas City Royals, 9-1. Detroit has now won five straight, outscoring its opponents 40-7 during this streak. Miguel Cabrera drove in his MLB-leading 104th run of the season, surpassing his total from last season.

• The Texas Rangers defeated the Minnesota Twins, 4-3. Josh Hamilton hit his 29th HR and has now driven in a run in five straight games for the fifth time in his career. Neftali Feliz notched his 32nd save, which is the fourth-most by a rookie since saves became an official stat in 1969.

Scott • The Chicago White Sox topped the Baltimore Orioles, but Luke Scott hit his 25th HR for Baltimore, matching the career high he set last season. He's the first Oriole with 25+ HR in back-to-back seasons since Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora in 2004-05. His 13 HR since the All-Star Break are the most by anyone not named Jose Bautista.

Mauer spoils Rangers' no-hit bid in 9th

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
11:14
PM ET

AP/Tony Gutierrez
Rich Harden, in his first start back from the DL, was unhittable in Monday's win over the Twins.
The Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer broke up the Texas Rangers' no-hit bid with a one-out single in the ninth inning off Neftali Feliz. This was the 10th no-hit bid taken into the 9th inning this season.

Five pitchers completed the deal (Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza) while four did not: Armando Galarraga, Ted Lilly, Travis Wood and Brandon Morrow. The Rangers, who used three relievers after Rich Harden was taken out after 6⅓ innings, were trying to become the first team since the 2003 Houston Astros (at Yankee Stadium) to throw a combined no-hitter.

This was the fifth time in team history that the Rangers had a no-hit bid broken up in the ninth inning, and the first time since Sept. 3, 2002 at Baltimore. Joaquin Benoit, the third pitcher in that game, lost the no-hitter with no outs in the 9th on a triple by Jerry Hairston.

Monday's Notables:
Albert Pujols
Pujols
• The St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols is now one shy of becoming the 47th player with 400 career home runs. He has 43 against the Pirates, tied for the second most he's hit against one opponent. Pujols has 46 HR against the Cubs and also has 43 against the Reds. With the obvious exception of St. Louis, Pujols has played at least one game against every team in his career. The one team he has had the most plate appearances against without a home run is the Oakland Athletics (40 PA in nine games).

• The Pittsburgh Pirates' Ross Ohlendorf left with an arm injury after the Cardinals' Skip Schumaker walked and Jon Jay singled to start the game. Both runners scored on Pujols 399th home run, and Ohlendorf wound up being the losing pitcher, falling to 1-11. Since 1920, Ohlendorf is just the second Pirates starter to lose a game despite facing two batters or fewer. In Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Boston Braves on Aug. 27, 1950, Mel Queen walked Roy Hartfield and Sam Jethroe then left the game. Both players scored and Queen ended up taking the loss.

• The Houston Astros' Brett Myers (7 IP at Philadelphia Phillies) has now pitched at least six innings in all 26 starts this season. That ties Larry Dierker's franchise record for consecutive starts with six-plus innings pitched. Myers is also the first player to start a season by pitching at least six innings in each of his first 26 starts since Curt Schilling in 2002. (Schilling went at least six innings in all 35 starts he made that season.)

Jose Bautista
Bautista
• Jose Bautista joined Jesse Barfield (1986) as the second Toronto Blue Jay to be the first player in baseball to reach 40 home runs in a season. Bautista has 25 HR at home this season, five shy of the franchise record held by Carlos Delgado in 2000. Bautista also has six multi-HR games this season, tied with Delgado (1998, 1999) and Vernon Wells (2006) for the second most in a season in team history. George Bell holds the record with nine in 1987.

• Monday's loss was the first by the New York Yankees this season when Alex Rodriguez was not in the lineup (12-1).

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