Stats & Info: Oliver Perez

1st Pitch: The importance of 599 and 59

August, 2, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Alex Rodriguez struck out as a pinch-hitter in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, leaving him stuck on 599 home runs for another game. The strikeout dropped A-Rod to 0-10 as a pinch-hitter in his career. Only two active major leaguers have worse career numbers as a pinch hitter. Who are they?

(Hint: one was an All-Star last season for a team that currently leads its division. The other has a career BA of .224 and is a former teammate of Rodriguez’s with the Yankees.)

Quick Hits on the number 59 in baseball after golfer Stuart Appelby carded a 59 to win the Greenbrier Classic (thanks to researcher Paul Carr for several items)...

Only one team has exactly 59 games left this season: the San Diego Padres, who are 61-42 through 103 games. Every other team has fewer games left, some as few as 55.

Your MLB leader in games pitched this season is the oft-used Pedro Feliciano, who has appeared in 59.

Hall-of-Famer Satchel Paige pitched his final major-league game at age 59. He started for the Kansas City Athletics on September 25, 1965 and allowed just one hit in three shutout innings.

The active MLB player who has hit the most doubles in a season is Todd Helton, who hit 59 in 2000. Helton finished eight shy of the record 67 doubles by Earl Webb in 1931.

Only one player has ever hit exactly 59 home runs in a season. That was Babe Ruth, who broke his own single-season record in 1921 when he hit 59 homers, a record that stood for six years until Ruth broke it again.

No current MLB pitcher has exactly 59 career wins. One player has 58, but he might not get his 59th for a while. Oliver Perez is that player, and he’s 0-4 this season and hasn’t won since August of last season.

Today’s Leaderboard: After an intentional walk to the batter in front of him, Jason Kubel blew open a scoreless game in the sixth with a bases-loaded double against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. Kubel had to feel comfortable at the plate in that situation – he’s among the league leaders in bases-loaded plate appearances this season.

Would you believe that two Minneosta Twins are on this list and neither are typical No. 4 batter Justin Morneau or No. 5 batter Michael Cuddyer?

Key Matchups: Here’s the daily A-Rod vs Opposing Starter update: Rodriguez is 4-15 (.267 BA) in his career against Brandon Morrow. He does have one career HR against Morrow, however, it came at a stadium that isn’t in use anymore. Rodriguez hit it in 2007 at old Yankee Stadium.

The first name Bobby Cox should write when he makes his lineup tonight against Johan Santana is Matt Diaz. Diaz is 14-26 (.538 BA) with a HR in his career against Santana. That’s the highest BA by any active player who has come to the plate at least 20 times against Santana (and there are 101 such players).

It’s probably for two reasons – the young Houston Astros roster and the fact that he has pitched his whole career in the AL until tonight – but Jake Westbrook has only faced one current Astro before. And he might want to stay away from that one tonight when he debuts for the Cardinals. Carlos Lee is batting .400 (12-30) and slugging .600 against Westbrook in his career. (Note: Westbrook has faced Geoff Blum before, but Blum is on the DL for the Astros)

Trivia Answer: Wil Nieves (A-Rod’s former teammate) is 0-16 in his career and Texas Rangers 2009 All-Star Nelson Cruz is 0-14.

The Closer: Proud pair of Pirates

May, 15, 2010
Hitters of the Night

Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones, PIT: 10-for-11, 2 HR, 7 R, 7 RBI, 2 SB

McCutchen and Jones, batting three-four in the Pirates' order, both had five-hit games, the first Bucs to do that since 1970. It was the first career five-hit game for both players.

Only one of the 10 hits was on an inside pitch, while five were on the outside-- including two out of the strike zone away. Cubs pitchers were reading the scouting report by keeping balls out there. Prior to Friday, the two had combined for a .321 average on inside balls-- with Jones' .344 propping that up-- and only .223 on outside offerings.

Prior to Friday, the two combined Pirates hit only .127 against sliders and .111 against changeups, while striking out on those pitches over one-fourth of the time. Today they went 3-for-4, although the only blemish on their record-- Jones' fourth-inning strikeout-- was on a slider.

McCutchen and Jones saw 23 pitches in the strike zone, and swung at 18 of them (78.3%, much higher than their previous rate of 63.9). They fouled off 10 and had ZERO swings-and-misses. The eight strikes they put in play all went for hits, including both homers.

Two-strike hitting was also key. The two Pirates entered the game with a batting average of only .219 in two-strike counts. On Friday they got five hits and five RBI, including Jones' homer, in those situations. Both players have also had great success against the Cubs so far this season, combining to bat .679 with an OPS of 1.745. Against all other opponents, they're hitting just .255.

Why They Won

Why Giants starter Todd Wellemeyer won:

- Got ahead: 65.5 pct first-pitch strikes (51.5 entering the game), including no hits in four at-bats when the first pitch was put in play (.385 entering the game)
- Pounded away with his fastball: 74.5 pct of his pitches and 65.8 pct strikes, both highs for the season
- Allowed just two hits in 16 at-bats ending on the heater, which averaged a season-high 90.5 MPH

Why Angels starter Joe Saunders won:
- Got ahead: 68.8 pct first-pitch strikes (58.0 entering the game)
- Allowed no hits in 10 at-bats when ahead in the count (.340 entering the game)
- Went to 3-ball counts on just four hitters (0-2, 2 BB)

Why Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie won:
Used his fastball:
- Threw it on 66.4 pct of his pitches, his most in a start this season
- Allowed no hits in 18 at-bats (.296 entering the game)
- Induced misses on 13.3 pct of swings (7.6 pct entering the game)

Why Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez won:
Used his fastball:
- Threw it a lot and threw it for strikes (65.7 pct and 69.0 pct, most in a start this season)
- Allowed only 3 hits in 14 at-bats (.214 -- .379 entering the game)
- Got 3 strikeouts (4 strikeouts total entering the game)

Why Mets starter Oliver Perez lost:
- Couldn't finish off hitters. Florida batters got two hits and drew three walks when Perez already had two strikes on them. Previous opponents hit only .125 in two-strike counts.
- Threw his fastball 56.8 pct of the time, way down from the 67.5 pct rate entering the game.
- Left too many pitches in the strike zone. Earlier this season, Perez left only 45.6 pct of his pitches IN the zone, forcing hitters to chase more. On Friday, 53.4 pct hit the zone, and Florida hitters went 9-for-17 against them. Only two Marlins concluded their at-bats on a pitch outside the zone, and both were swinging strikeouts.
- Left the ball up in the zone. More than a third of his pitches were high, and the Marlins went 5-for-9 including two homers against those.

Home Run Notes

David Ortiz ended up seeing five straight fastballs from Max Scherzer, thanks to the first three missing the zone. He then fouled off a 3-0 pitch before launching his three-run homer.

Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Ortiz has swung at nearly 17% of 3-0 pitches-- almost TRIPLE the major-league average of 5.9%.

However, only seven of his 90 previous homers over that span have come on 3-0 or 3-1 counts.

Ortiz's 459-foot blast was the longest home run of the night, and not surprisingly, would have been a home run in all 30 MLB parks.

As noted above, Andrew McCutchen had a tremendous game at the plate, going 5-for-5. But his 382-foot solo shot at was hit in the lone MLB park (Wrigley Field) where it would clear a fence. That's right, out of all 30 MLB parks, McCutchen's home run wouldn't have cleared the fence in any of the 29 other parks.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Marathon

April, 18, 2010
Ubaldo Jimenez threw the Rockies’ first no-hitter in franchise history Saturday night against the Braves. However, that game may not have been the most noteworthy of the day.

The Mets outlasted the Cardinals, 2-1, in 20 innings at Busch Stadium. Here are some of the notable nuggets:

  • This was the second time in history that a 20-inning game and a no-hitter occurred on the same day. On April 27, 2003, Philadelphia’s Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants, while St. Louis and Florida played a 20-inning game.
  • The game lasted 6 hours and 53 minutes. When Jaime Garcia threw the first pitch at 4:14 p.m. EDT, the first of four NBA playoff games (Bulls-Cavs) was at halftime. Since then, 10 quarters of NBA basketball were played (2nd half, plus entire Bucks-Hawks and Heat-Celtics games) before the game finally ended.
  • The game was scoreless for the first 18 innings. It was the first MLB game to go that long without a run since the Expos and Dodgers went 21 scoreless frames on Aug. 23, 1989. Los Angeles won, 1-0, in 22 innings on a Rick Dempsey home run.
  • The Cardinals used TWO position players as pitchers. Infielder Felipe Lopez threw a scoreless 18th inning and Joe Mather pitched the last two innings. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that it's the first time a team used two position players as pitchers in a game since July 20, 1990, when Dave Martinez and Junior Noboa pitched for Montreal.
  • Mather gave up two runs (both on sacrifice flies) and took the loss, becoming the first non-pitcher to get a decision since San Diego’s Josh Wilson picked up a loss last season in an 18-inning game with Florida on June 7.
  • Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse entered the game as a defensive replacement in left field in the 18th inning. He recorded two putouts.
  • Angel Pagan went 3-for-6 in the game. The rest of the Mets were 6-for-55 (.109).
  • The teams combined to go 1-for-25 with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals were 1-for-18 and the Mets 0-for-7.
  • Jeff Francoeur knocked in one of the Mets runs but his average dropped 76 points (.457 to .381) after an 0-for-7 effort.
  • Of the 20 innings pitched by the Mets, 19 of them were scoreless. The only pitcher to give up a run was Francisco Rodriguez – and he got the win!
  • The teams combined to use 46 players. The Mets used every player except Friday’s starter Oliver Perez. Even Sunday starter John Maine made a pinch-running appearance. Mike Pelfrey picked up his first career save.
  • The Mets went 1-for-30 against fastballs. They entered the day 21st in the majors hitting .269 against fastballs, and are now down to 26th, hitting just .238 against heaters! Just as shockingly, they hit .357 against sliders and changeups (3-9 and 2-5, respectively). They entered the game hitting just .250 against those two pitches.

Dontrelle Willis' exasperating start

April, 13, 2010
Dontrelle Willis cleared 100 pitches over his five-inning stint against the Royals on Tuesday. This is the kind of start that you could call "The Exasperator."

It's the kind of start that is frustrating for fans and frustrating for managers. And it's been a trend over the last few years that they've increased in number. But by how much?

According to, there were 173 starts of more than 100 pitches and five or fewer innings pitched in 2000, accounting for about 3.5 percent of all major league starts.

In 2005, there were 193 such starts. The next year, there was a jump to 229 and that figure has held steady. Over the last two years, there were 222 and 226 respectively. So now we're looking at about one in every 20 starts, meaning we're likely to see at least one of these per day throughout the year.

Who are your most likely culprits when it comes to exasperating starts?

Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo actually led the majors in Exasperators last season with seven. Daisuke Matsuzaka topped the big leagues in 2008 with six, but amazingly went 4-0 in his exasperating starts. That doesn't provide much of an incentive to get better.

But here's one. Of the 10 teams that had the most exasperating starts in the majors last season, only one (the Red Sox) had a winning record.

BP: Johan, Maine, and pray for … Perez

March, 25, 2010
Over at BP, we might currently have the Mets projected to win just 78 games this year, but as with any projection, there's some wiggle room. Or in the Mets' case, a lot of wiggle room. Some of my colleagues argue that the Mets could win anywhere between 92 games and 72, and a big part of the reason why they could end up on either end of that range is their enigmatic rotation. Let's see if the staff really has that kind of upside.

Start with Johan Santana. His injury-shortened 2009 season still generated 4.9 wins via support-neutral lineup-adjusted value above replacement (SNLVAR). That's good, but it was also a 3.4-win drop from his first season as a Met in 2008 (8.3), in no small part because of the nine starts he lost to a bum elbow. Any hope of a Mets revival revolves around Santana regaining his 2008 form.

The real wild cards are Oliver Perez and John Maine. Perez's career has veered from excellence to horror with a dash of the DL to make him one of the least-certain commodities in a major league rotation. His SNLVAR value was above 4.0 in 2007 and 2008, and bottomed out at zero in last season's wild, injury-wracked campaign. PECOTA's projections for him anticipate a rebound less than halfway back, to 1.7, but he's being paid to be the four-win pitcher the Mets need. Maine's fall from grace has been just as steep, a four-win drop from his 5.6 SNLVAR season in 2007 to 1.6 last year in 15 turns. Here again, PECOTA's shy about damaged goods, going for 2.3 wins as a baseline; pretend he gets to 32 starts again, and you might have a guy back up over 3.0.

For homegrown goodies, there's the hope that Mike Pelfrey might bounce back from a crummy sophomore campaign (2.3 SNLVAR) and repeat his rookie bust-out (5.6). He should regain some of that lost ground, but the more fundamental problem is that he'll need to beat his one-trick pony rep as the big man with the big sinker handicapped by weak off-speed stuff. In the fifth slot, lefty Jon Niese is the likely choice. Though he doesn't project as a star, he should be an improvement on Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding, with a base projection of 2.1 SNLVAR, but the possibility he pushes that up around 3.0.

You should see the problem: The expected outcomes don't really net you any huge improvements. Cherry-pick the best recent seasons -- Santana and Pelfrey in '08, Maine and Perez in '07 -- and you wind up with a sunniest scenario where the club nets more than 10 wins from its rotation on its projected season tally of 78. Santana's return to greatness would be a major part of it, as would Pelfrey's picking up something with wiggle to fool lefties more reliably. But so much also depends on Perez and Maine bouncing back to health and excellence that you can see why the skeptics are right to expect another underwhelming season in Queens.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.