Stats & Info: Omar Vizquel

Scott Rovak/US PresswireCarlos Beltran is one of the reasons the Cardinals lead the National League Central this season.
(The Los Angeles Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday at 8 ET on ESPN)

The post-Albert Pujols era is in its first season in St. Louis, and right now the Cardinals do not appear to miss the second-most prolific home run hitter in franchise history.

In fact, the Cardinals are in first place in the National League Central thanks in part to some savvy offseason moves.

Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal have been two of the three most effective free agent signings. Beltran’s 1.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is tied with Kelly Johnson for the highest this season among 2012 free agent signings. Furcal is third with a 1.8 WAR.

In fact, Beltran and Furcal are part of an interesting 2012 trend: rejuvenation of older players once thought to be done.

• Carlos Beltran (35) Leads NL in home runs (hasn’t hit 30 HR since 2007)
• Rafael Furcal (34) .351 BA ranks 4th in NL (.231 BA in 2011; didn’t play 100 games in either of last 2 seasons)
Derek Jeter (37) .355 BA ranks 3rd in AL (hit .282 in previous 2 seasons)
David Ortiz (35) 3rd in AL in OPS and 4th in BA (hit .257 from 2008-10)
Paul Konerko (36) .367 BA is 2nd in AL (hit .240 in 2008)

Beltran has 13 home runs through 40 games, the most he’s ever hit in his team’s first 40 games. (Before 2012, the most HR Beltran hit in his team’s first 40 games was 11 in 2004.) In addition to leading the National League in home runs, Beltran ranks fifth in OPS (1.036).

He’s also two stolen bases from becoming the eighth player in major-league history with 300 HR and 300 stolen bases. With a .861 career OPS, he’d join Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds as the only 300-300 players with an .850 OPS.

As good as Beltran has been, Furcal has been just as impressive. He’s hitting .400 this month, which is the fourth-highest NL average in May behind David Wright (.436), Andrew McCutchen (.420) and Carlos Ruiz (.411) Furcal also is one of the best NL hitters with two strikes. His .293 average with two strikes is third in the National League.

One part of Furcal’s success is that he isn’t so pull happy. Last season, Furcal pulled 42 percent of all balls that he put in play. In 2012, that percentage is down to 34 percent.

Furcal and Beltran are also two of the most prolific active switch hitters. Beltran ranks third among active players with 1,956 hits and Furcal is sixth with 1,739.

US Presswire/Jeff HanischFrancisco Cordero's 194 saves since 2007 are the most in the majors.

Stats & Information's weekly roundup of notable baseball moves:

Toronto Blue Jays sign pitcher Francisco Cordero to one-year contract
Three notes on the changes related to Cordero’s performance over the last two seasons.

1-- Cordero’s average fastball velocity dropped from 94.3 miles-per-hour in 2010 to 92.6 in 2011. Fastballs and sinkers, which made up more than two-thirds of his pitches in 2010, represented 44 percent of his pitches in 2011.

2-- Cordero’s ground ball rate increased from 42 percent in 2010 to 48 percent in 2011. His opponents’ batting average on ground balls dropped 100 points, from .250 to .150 in that span. That .150 ranked sixth-best in the majors among those who induced at least 75 ground balls in 2011.

3-- Our advanced hit location data shows Cordero’s batting average made the biggest drop on ground balls hit between 15 degrees to the right and 15 degrees to the left of second base (in other words, the middle of the field).

The chart on the right shows the difference, as well as an increase in plays made by Reds shortstops.
--Mark Simon

Blue Jays sign infielder Omar Vizquel
to minor league contract

If Vizquel makes the major-league roster, he will be chasing two milestones, both with the same number -- 3,000.

Vizquel has 2,841 hits, leaving him 159 away from becoming the 29th player with 3,000 hits. Vizquel has 137 hits over the last two seasons.

Vizquel could be the fourth player of Hispanic heritage in the 3,000-hit club, joining Roberto Clemente, Rod Carew, and Rafael Palmeiro.

Another milestone would occur if Vizquel (2,908 games played) plays in 92 games. He would become the ninth player in major league history to play in 3,000 games. Vizquel who turns 45 on April 24, played in 108 and 58 games the last two seasons.

Both the active leader and the No. 2 man in sacrifice bunts signed this week. Vizquel has 255 sacrifices, 111 more than new Phillies free agent signee Juan Pierre.

Thirty players who played in the majors last season were born after Vizquel made his major league debut on April 3, 1989, including Vizquel’s infield mate, Brett Lawrie.
--Zachary Singer/Kevin Gibson

Other moves of note
Quick hits on other signings from the past week-- players who share a theme of being given opportunity despite recent struggles.

New Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jeff Francis is 14-32 in four seasons since starting Game 1 of the 2007 World Series (he was 17-9 that season). His .304 winning percentage is third-worst among the 162 pitchers who have made at least 50 starts in that span.

New Houston Astros pitcher Zach Duke is 40-72 over the last six seasons. His .357 winning percentage is the worst among the 105 pitchers who made at least 100 starts in that span. Duke was 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 2005.

New San Francisco Giants shortstop Ryan Theriot has dealt with injuries and not fared well via advanced defensive metrics over the last two seasons. His -17 Defensive Runs Saved (a stat that measures a shortstop’s effectiveness of turning batted balls into outs and converting double plays) in 1,001 innings are tied for fourth-worst among shortstops in that span.
--Mark Simon

Wrapping up a long week on the diamond

July, 23, 2010
Since Monday, there have been 10 extra-inning games across the majors – including a game of at least 13 innings on each of the 4 days.

Rangers 8, Tigers 6 (14 innings)
Royals 5, Blue Jays 4 (10 innings)*

Orioles 11, Rays 10 (13 innings)*
Athletics 5, Red Sox 4 (10 innings)*

Astros 4, Cubs 3 (12 innings)
Padres 6, Braves 4 (12 innings)
Mariners 2, White Sox 1 (11 innings)*
Diamondbacks 4, Mets 3 (14 innings)*

Phillies 2, Cardinals 0 (11 innings)
Red Sox 8, Mariners 6 (13 innings)
*Walk-off win
The last time there were at least 4 straight days with a game that lasted at least 13 innings was September 22-26, 1992 (5 straight days). That was a Tuesday through Saturday, so it didn’t technically “start” the week the way the current streak has managed to do by beginning on a Monday.

September 22, 1992: Pedro Munoz drives in Kirby Puckett with the only run of the game in the 13th inning, as the Twins win at the Rangers at Arlington Stadium.

September 23, 1992: Moises Alou hits a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 14th inning to give the Expos a 5-1 win at Olympic Stadium.

September 24, 1992: The Mets scored 3 runs in the top of the 14th inning at Busch Stadium to take a 3-0 lead over the Cardinals – but St. Louis countered with 4 in the bottom of the inning, capped off by a Todd Zeile walk-off single.

September 25, 1992: Omar Vizquel of the Mariners had a go-ahead single in the top of the 16th inning at Arlington Stadium to give Seattle a 4-3 win over the Rangers.

September 26, 1992: The Red Sox explode for 4 runs in the top of the 14th inning at Camden Yards to beat the Orioles 7-3. This was a particularly long day in Baltimore, as that was the 1st game of a doubleheader.