Stats & Info: Paul Konerko

ABCs of Dunn's 400 HR: away, big, clutch

August, 18, 2012

AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
Adam Dunn has given a lot of high-fives in his 12-year career

What is the statistical significance of Adam Dunn hitting his 400th career home run? Let’s run through a few notes:

Inside the Swing
Not surprisingly Dunn’s 400th career home run came on a pitch on the outer-third of the plate.

Over the last four seasons, Dunn has hit 58 home runs on pitches that the Pitch F/X tracking system judged to be on the outer-third of the plate or further away from him.

Only Ryan Howard and Carlos Pena have more such home runs in that span, with 59.

The history
• The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Dunn joined Paul Konerko as the only teammates to reach the 400 home run mark in the same season.

Those two, along with Frank Thomas and Andruw Jones are the four players to hit their 400th career home run as a member of the White Sox.

• Dunn’s 400 home runs are the eighth-most of any player within the first 12 seasons of his major league career.

With three more home runs, Dunn will match Frank Robinson’s total from his first 12 major-league seasons.

One more after that will match Mickey Mantle’s total. And two more after that will match the 406 home runs hit by Willie Mays in his first 12 seasons.

• Dunn is known as the Big Donkey and being big a big part of his game. He’s the third player listed at 6-foot-6 or taller on to hit at least 400 career home runs.

The other two are Dave Winfield (465) and Dave Kingman (442).

• Dunn’s home run was his 35th of the season. He’s one of four active players with eight 35-homer seasons, joining Alex Rodriguez (12), Albert Pujols (9), and Jim Thome (9).

• What has Adam Dunn done best in his career? One aspect of that answer might surprise you.

The clutch home run has been an integral part of Dunn’s game. His 17 go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning or later are the most of any player in baseball since 2001, the year of his major-league debut.

Pujols and Jason Giambi rank second with 16.

Strikeouts down, power up for Sox's Viciedo

June, 2, 2012
Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko are grabbing most of the headlines as the Chicago White Sox continue their red hot play. However, it’s left fielder Dayan Viciedo who is becoming the player to watch as he turns into Chicago’s next star.
Dayan Viciedo
Viciedo defected from Cuba in 2008 at age 18, and signed with the White Sox that December. Going into 2009, Baseball America ranked Viciedo as the team’s No. 2 prospect. With a 240-pound frame and a nickname of "Tank", Viciedo’s power potential was never in question -- he launched 52 home runs over 1,408 minor-league plate appearances before turning 23.

The concern for Viciedo was his plate discipline. He doesn’t walk much and this season he began striking out at a very high rate.

After May 13, Viciedo looked like a player just waiting to be sent to the minors. His .226 OBP ranked fourth-lowest in the American League among 100 players with 100 plate appearances. No outfielder in the A.L. posted an OPS as low as Viciedo’s .530, and only teammate Brent Morel had fewer RBI (4) than his five. The White Sox were 16-19, but just two and-a-half games out of first place in the A.L. Central.

A lot of Viciedo’s struggles could be attributed to a high strikeout rate. He struck out essentially two times in every seven plate appearances (29 percent) which ranked fourth-worst in the A.L. Usually these types of strikeout rates are reserved for sluggers, but at the time Vicideo had just three HR.

On May 14, something clicked for Viciedo, who began a hot stretch to finish out the month.

Over his last 17 games, Viciedo hit .418 with a 1.232 OPS. His eight home runs, 10 multi-hit games and 23 RBI in the span either lead or are tied for the league. Viciedo has raised his average and OPS from .196/.530 to a much more respectable .284/.808.

The strikeout problem has all but disappeared. Viciedo was striking out in more than 29 percent of his plate appearances to start the season, but he has just six strikeouts over his last 68 plate appearances.

Viciedo is not practicing more patience. His swing rate at pitches out of the zone has stayed consistently high, around 36 percent. (The league average is just over 28 percent.)

The difference is that Viciedo is making solid contact more often. He’s hitting weak grounders at a much lower rate (42 percent to 52 percent), and he’s punishing pitches that are left over the middle of the plate. Five of his last eight home runs have come on off-speed pitches roughly belt high over the middle/inside two thirds of the plate.

The White Sox have been rewarded for their confidence in him. Viciedo helped Chicago win 14 of 17 games and move them into first place in the division.

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.
Andre Ethier
With his RBI double in the first inning Tuesday, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier extended his hit streak to 23 straight games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the longest hit streak in April in MLB history.

Ethier broke the record of 22 games set by Joe Torre in 1972. It's the longest hit streak by a Dodger since Paul LoDuca's 25-game streak in 2003.

Ethier is now hitting .386 (34-for-88) this month, including a scorching .407 (11-for-27) the last week.

Elsewhere around the diamond:
• Paul Konerko hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning as the White Sox won consecutive games for the first time since April 9-10. The home run was Konerko's 15th career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later, according to

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Konerko now has 10 home runs in the Bronx, all of which have come as a member of the White Sox. That's the third-most home runs for a White Sox player at the old-or-new Yankee Stadiums, behind Joe Kuhel (16) and Harold Baines (11).

• Rafael Soriano’s struggles continued for the Yankees, allowing two runs in one inning of work Tuesday. He has now allowed 9 earned runs in 10⅓ innings this year (allowed 12 ER in 62⅓ IP last year). This is the third time this season that Soriano has allowed multiple runs in a game -- he only had two such outings in 2010.

Ryan Braun
• The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Cincinnati Reds for the first time this season. The Brewers had lost 19 of their last 22 against the Reds.

Ryan Braun has reached base in 23 straight games to start the season, tying Robin Yount's team record set in 1983. Additionally, Braun and teammate Prince Fielder homered in the same game for the 28th time since Braun broke into the majors in 2007 -- the most by teammates over that span, according to Elias.

• With a win against the Kansas City Royals, Justin Masterson (6 IP, 3 ER) became just the third Cleveland Indians pitcher to win each of his first five starts with an ERA under 2.20, joining Cliff Lee (2008) and Bob Lemon (1955), according to Elias. Masterson now is 5-0 against the Royals.

• Zach Britton (4-1) allowed one run in six innings in a win against the Boston Red Sox. He is the first Orioles rookie to win four games in April since Willis Roberts in 2001. According to Elias, he's also the first Orioles pitcher with at least four wins in his first five career starts since Wally Bunker in 1964.

• In his third win of the season, Seattle Mariners starter Felix Hernandez got at least six runs of support for the third time this season in six starts. Last season, the Mariners scored at least six runs in only three of Hernandez's 34 starts.
Today’s Trivia: Hank Aaron made his major-league debut 57 years ago today. Since then, who are the three players with the most home runs in the American League?

Let’s take a look at some odd trends in league-wide splits. A big question emerges: What’s going on with American League offenses?

• Non-pitchers in the National League are hitting .267, while the American League is hitting .247 (entering Wednesday).

• The big difference is at home. American League teams are hitting almost the same at home (.246) as on the road (.247). National League teams are substantially better at home (.271) than on the road (.251).

• Is it a difficulty adjusting to playing under the lights? American League teams are hitting .237 at night compared to .256 during the day.

• American League left fielders have combined to hit .217 with a .628 OPS. Both of those are the lowest for a position in either league. Six American League teams are hitting .200 or worse in left, with the Angels (.106) worst of all.

• Last season, American League outfielders combined to hit .270 with a .761 OPS. This season? A batting average of .234 with a .669 OPS.

• Oddly, the lowest OPS for a National League position is first base (.723). That would be the fourth best OPS for an American League position. In fact, four American League spots have a sub-.700 OPS.

• There’s an interesting age gap in American League pitching. Those who are season age 30 or younger combine for a 3.73 ERA. Those older than that combine for a 5.06 ERA.

Key Matchup: Kevin Youkilis is hitting just .182 on the season, but the cure isn’t likely to be James Shields. Youkilis is 3-for-31 (.097) with 10 strikeouts against Shields in the regular season. It’s worth noting that he’s 3-for-6 with a home run against Shields in postseason play.

This Date in Baseball History
1954: Henry Aaron made his major league debut

1963: Pete Rose got his first major league hit

1984: Pete Rose got his 4,000th hit, a double off Philadelphia pitcher Jerry Koosman

2009: Chicago's Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko reached 300 career home runs in consecutive at-bats. They became the first teammates to hit century milestone home runs of at least 300 in the same game.

Trivia Answer: Since Aaron’s debut, no one has more home runs in the AL than Alex Rodriguez (616). The next two are Harmon Killebrew (573) and Reggie Jackson (562).

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J.J. Hardy, Shaun Marcum and Ty Wigginton were among the under-the-radar players on the move last week.

With more than $750 million committed by major league teams, plus a slew of significant trades, it’s been a busy offseason. Here are some quick takes on notable moves that took place in the last seven days.

Jason Bartlett (Padres) Bartlett was consistently below average as a Ray in his ability to turn double plays. According to Baseball Info Solutions, it is estimated that Bartlett cost his team four runs in 2009 (worst in the majors) and three runs in 2010 (second-worst) because of his poor performance when attempting to turn double plays. -- Katie Sharp

Carl Crawford (Red Sox) If a good statistical benchmark for Carl Crawford over the next seven seasons is 250 steals and 100 home runs, consider this: The last player to do that over seven seasons was Marquis Grissom (1992-1998). -- Mark Simon

Jack Cust (Mariners) Cust fills a significant need for the Mariners. His .395 on-base-percentage, .438 slugging percentage, .166 isolated power and .371 weighted on-base average (wOBA) for the Oakland Athletics in 2010 all would have been the best on the Mariners. -- Justin Havens

Jeff Francoeur (Royals) Francoeur posted the second-worst on-base percentage of any outfielder in 2010. That runs counter to one area of improvement for Kansas City. The Royals tied for ninth in the AL in walks last year, after finishing in the bottom two in the previous three seasons. -- Paul Carr

Tony Gwynn Jr.(Dodgers) Gwynn finished fourth in Net Rating (a measure from Baseball Info Solutions that looks at approximately 30 categories of Good Fielding Plays and 50 categories of Misplays). Gwynn’s signature defensive play was a game-saver on June 6, with the Padres leading by a run in the bottom of the 10th inning. He threw out Placido Polanco trying to go first-to-third on a single with one out. That’s the kind of play the Dodgers could use. Their assist total from centerfielders dropped from 14 in 2009 to three in 2010, tied for fewest in the majors. -- Mark Simon

J.J. Hardy (Orioles) Last year’s Orioles left side of the infield averaged a home run every 71 at-bats and a walk every 25. Hardy and Mark Reynolds netted a homer every 22 at-bats and a walk every eight. -- Justin Havens

Shaun Marcum (Brewers) It will be interesting to see if Marcum’s ability to generate swings-and-misses is as good in the NL. Batters missed on 50 percent of their swings against his changeup and chased over 40 percent of those offerings, both ranking among the top five in the AL. His changeup putaway rate (strikeouts/two-strike changeups thrown) of 25.9 percent was the fourth-highest in the league. -- Katie Sharp

Mark Reynolds (Orioles) Reynolds’ league-worst .198 batting average last season was unusual -- more than 50 points worse than the his .250 over the two previous seasons. Though Reynolds’ contact rate and in-play percentage were consistent from 2008-10, he didn’t have good fortune when putting balls in play. His BABIP of .257 in 2010 was the fourth-lowest in the NL, far below his mark of .330 from 2008-09. -- Katie Sharp

Ty Wigginton (Rockies) Wigginton may mesh well with Coors Field. Inside Edge tracks well-hit average (a subjective rating that favors line drives and long fly balls) and ranked Wigginton 33rd in that stat (.263). However, he ranked 95th in slugging percentage (.415). For comparative purposes, new teammate Troy Tulowitzki had a well-hit average one point higher than Wigginton (.264) and ranked eight-best in the majors in slugging. -- Mark Simon
Tuesday was a day for rumors and developments at baseball's Winter Meetings. Wednesday was a day for action.

The most noteworthy thing to happen today is that both Chicago teams resolved their first base situations. The Chicago White Sox re-signed Paul Konerko for three years and $37.5 million and the Chicago Cubs inked ex-Rays first baseman Carlos Pena to a one-year, $10 million deal.

Konerko's dominance at U.S. Cellular Field in 2010 may have played a role in his decision to stay with the White Sox. He was one of two players to hit .340 or better with 25 home runs at home last season, along with Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Those two were the first to put up those numbers since Matt Holliday hit .376 with 25 home runs at Coors Field in 2007.

Konerko, who is a season-and-a-half away from joining Luke Appling and Nellie Fox as the only players to play in 2,000 games for the White Sox, had one blemish on an otherwise outstanding 2010 season. Konerko ranked last among major league first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved, with -17.

Paul Konerko
In simplest terms, this means Konerko struggled to turn batted balls and bunts into outs more than any first baseman in the league. Konerko also rated worst in a stat called Revised Zone Rating. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Konerko fielded approximately 65 percent of all ground balls hit into his zone, compared to Daric Barton's league-leading 83 percent.

Pena's issues in 2010 were based on his offensive performance. He's coming off a season in which he hit .196. That is by far the lowest batting average for a player who signed a deal averaging $10 million in the offseason. The next lowest? After the 2007 season, Andruw Jones signed a two-year deal averaging $18.1M with the Dodgers after hitting just .222 that season for the Braves.

Pena's .204 batting average against right-handed pitching last season matched the worst by any left-handed hitter against right-handed pitching in the last 35 seasons (current Braves television analyst Joe Simpson hit .204 for the 1981 Mariners). That represented a significant drop from 2007 and 2008, when he hit .280 or better in each season.

Carlos Pena
Pena averaged 37 home runs and 108 RBI from 2007 to 2009, but had just 28 home runs and 84 RBI in 2010. He goes from Tropicana Field to a ballpark that has historically rewarded left-handed power hitters, Wrigley Field. Tropicana's Park Factor for left-handers from 2008 to 2010 was 92, according to the Bill James 2010 Handbook. Wrigley had a Park Factor of 120, the fifth-friendliest in all of baseball.

While it's not rare for a free agent to receive a one-year contract or a contract that averages at least $10M, it is fairly uncommon for a free agent to receive a contract that is both just a year AND is at least $10M, especially for a position player. Pena is just the fifth non-pitcher to receive a free agent contract of one year that averages at least $10M (15 pitchers have received this type of contract).

It's a move that worked for Juan Gonzalez, who finished fifth in the MVP voting for the 2001 Indians, Ivan Rodriguez, who won a World Series with the Marlins in 2003, and Adrian Beltre, who had a huge year for the Red Sox in 2010. Pena will be hoping for a similar combination of dividends.

Can Hamilton make up for missed time?

November, 23, 2010

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Josh Hamilton's offensive and defensive contributions make him the AL MVP favorite.

Voters for the AL Cy Young had a decision to make on whether they valued wins or other statistical measures most when considering baseball’s top pitcher.

Those choosing for AL MVP have a different consideration to ponder. Is it okay for the MVP to miss a significant number of his team's games?

There are a multitude of candidates for the American League’s top honor (the winner will be announced this afternoon), and the one with the best numbers has one shortcoming. Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton played in only 133 of the team's 162 contests.

It has been a long time since AL MVP voters were willing to embrace an extended absence. The last position player to win the AL award with fewer games played in a non-strike season was George Brett (119 games played) for the 1980 Kansas City Royals.

The key to Brett’s win was that his numbers dwarfed everyone else's. Hamilton’s do in certain regards. He led the AL in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. He hit .405 with a 1.166 OPS from June 1 on. His .401 batting average against right-handed pitching was the second-best of any big leaguer in the past 35 years.

Additionally, Hamilton had a considerable lead on anyone else in the league in the metric Wins Above Replacement. WAR, tracked by attempts to combine the value of a player’s offensive contributions (based on a weighted version of on-base average that assigns values to home runs, triples, doubles, singles and walks) and defense (based on a metric that rates the ability to turn batted balls into outs, deter baserunner advancement, and avoid errors).

Hamilton rated eight wins above a replacement-level player, considerably ahead of any other position player in the AL.

Is that enough? That depends on how you feel about the other major candidates. A quick statistical snapshot for each:

Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera, trying to become the first Detroit Tigers position player to win the MVP since Hank Greenberg in 1940, led the AL in on-base percentage and RBI and ranked in the top three in batting average, OPS, and home runs. He also topped the AL in the metric Win Probability Added (explained more in Monday’s MVP preview), which rates offensive impact on the basis of how much each plate appearance contributed to winning.

Robinson Cano
Cano ranked among the top offensive and defensive players at second base all season. He was especially dominant early in the year, hitting .334 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs in his first 102 games. Cano was the Yankees' top clutch hitter all year. Bill James Online has a variety of measurements regarding performance in key spots and had Cano hitting .326 with a .449 slugging percentage in them. The rest of the Yankees measured .226/.375.

Paul Konerko
Konerko ranked in the top four in the American League in slugging percentage, OPS and home runs, putting him into the mix. He’s also someone whose performance was meaningful despite his team not making the postseason. Konerko hit .311 with a .947 OPS and 21 home runs in situations in which the White Sox were ahead or trailing by three runs or fewer.

A-Rod passes Sosa

September, 24, 2010
Friday was quite a day in baseball. Let's get you caught up on some of the notable happenings in a busy night around the league...

• The New York Yankees hit six home runs against their rival, the Boston Red Sox -- and LOST! Since 1920 (the dawn of the Live Ball Era) this is the third time the Yankees have hit at least six home runs and lost, but it is the first time it has happened in a home game. It's the fourth time in the Live Ball Era that the Yankees have hit at least six home runs against the Red Sox. It's the first of the four games that the Yanks have lost.

Alex Rodriguez cracked two of the Yankees' homers and now has 610 career HR. The pair of dingers moved him past Sammy Sosa (609 career HR) for sole possession of sixth-place on MLB's all-time HR list.

• Yankees' starter Andy Pettitte was shelled for seven runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 IP. CC Sabathia also allowed seven runs and 10 hits in the Yankees' last game. This marks just the second time in the last 65 years that the Yankees had a starting pitcher allow seven or more runs and 10 or more hits on consecutive days.

Jed Lowrie became the first Red Sox player in history to record four hits, three RBI and three runs scored in a road game against the Yankees.

Some quick hits on other action:

• The San Francisco Giants defeated the Colorado Rockies, 2-1, thanks to a two-run HR by Pat Burrell and eight innings of two-hit, one-run ball from Tim Lincecum. The Giants have now allowed 3 runs or fewer in 18 straight games, which is two games shy of matching the 1917 White Sox' Modern Era record (since 1900). Over this 18-game span, the Giants sport a 1.18 team ERA. However, they own a rather modest 12-6 record thanks to an anemic offense that has offered just 3.6 runs per game of support over this stretch (four of the six losses have come via shutout).

• The Philadelphia Phillies extended their win streak to 11 games with a 3-2 win over the New York Mets. The Phillies' win streak is the longest an MLB team has had in the month of September since the 2007 Rockies also won 11 straight. The win streak is the longest by the Phillies since they had a 13-game streak in 1991 (a Phillies team that won just 78 games). The win gives Philadelphia 93 wins this season, matching their total from last season. If the team wins out, it can match the franchise record for single-season wins (101) set in 1976 and 1977.

• The Tampa Bay Rays picked up their third straight win with a 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners. Rafael Soriano picked up his 44th save of the season, setting a franchise record. Jason Vargas took the loss for the Mariners and has now lost seven straight starts. That is one shy of tying the franchise record shared by Randy Johnson, Mike Parrott and Rick Honeycutt.

• And Toronto Blue Jays' slugger Jose Bautista just keeps on mashing. He hit two more HR to push his MLB-leading season total to 52. He has eight multi-HR games this season after having just two in his career entering the season. His 52 home runs this season are identical to his total in 1,471 minor league at-bats. His 52 HR are 15 more than the next highest total in the American League (37 by Paul Konerko). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three players in American League history have posted a larger advantage over the second-place HR hitter in that particular year: Babe Ruth (six times), Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle.

Some notes and stats to wrap up a busy Sunday:

Stanton• Mike Stanton hits 2 HR, is the fourth player since 2000 to reach 20 home runs within his first 81 games, joining Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, and Adam Dunn.

• Albert Pujols has his 38th multi-HR game. He passes Stan Musial for the most multi-HR games in St. Louis Cardinals history.

• The New York Yankees were held to just two hits today, the fourth time this season they've been held to two hits or fewer. That's the most times they've been held to 2 hits or fewer since 1990 (6).

• Ryan Howard has an RBI in five straight games, matching his best streak this season (April 5-10).

Latos• Mat Latos allowed three earned runs in the first three innings, snapping his modern-era record streak of 15 straight starts with five IP and two or fewer ER. It's the first time he's allowed at least three earned runs in a game since allowing three on June 4 vs the Philadelphia Phillies. He hasn't allowed more than three in a start since allowing seven on April 26 vs the Florida Marlins.

Konerko• Chicago White Sox 1B Paul Konerko hits two HR and drives in five runs, giving him 36 and 104 for the season. It's the fourth 35-homer season and fifth 100-RBI season of Konerko's career. In White Sox history, only Frank Thomas has more seasons of 35 HR (seven) or 100 RBI (10).

Sabathia has Whitey Ford in his sights

August, 17, 2010
• The Detroit Tigers’ Austin Jackson hit a leadoff home run on the first pitch that CC Sabathia threw. It was the seventh leadoff HR allowed by Sabathia in his career and the first since 2007. However, it's the first time Sabathia has allowed a HR on the first pitch of the game.

• Sabathia (7 IP, 2 ER) extends his streak of pitching more than six innings and allowing three earned runs or fewer to 15 starts, the longest streak by a Yankee since Ron Guidry (also 15) in 1978.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Sabathia is now undefeated in his last 19 home starts. That’s tied for the second-longest streak without a loss at home by a Yankees starter in franchise history.

• The Minnesota Twins' Jim Thome hit a walk-off HR in the 10th inning to give the Twins a 7-6 win. It was his 12th career walk-off, which is tied for the most in major league history. The other players with a dozen walk-offs: Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson and Babe Ruth.

• The Tampa Bay Rays roughed up Texas Rangers starting pitcher Tommy Hunter early on Tuesday. In the 1st inning, the Rays scored three runs on three extra-base hits and drew two walks. In his previous 13 starts, Hunter had allowed just one run and three extra-base hits, holding opponents to a .156 batting average. Tuesday was also the third time in his last four starts that Hunter lasted just three innings.

• The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Torii Hunter robbed the Boston Red Sox’s Adrian Beltre of a home run in right field in the 2nd inning. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Hunter led the majors with five home run robberies from 2007 to 2009. This was his first of 2010.

• Ryan Kalish is the second Boston Red Sox rookie to hit a grand slam this season (Daniel Nava being the other). Boston is the first team since the 2008 Texas Rangers (Taylor Teagarden, David Murphy) with two rookies to hit a grand slam. The last time the Red Sox had two rookies hit a grand slam in the same season was 1992: John Valentin and Bob Zupcic.

• Paul Konerko hit his 30th home run, his sixth 30-HR season of his career (all with the Chicago White Sox). Only Frank Thomas (8) has more 30-HR seasons in franchise history.

• Jose Guillen hit his first home run as a member of the San Francisco Giants. Guillen now has hit a home run with 10 different teams (Pirates, Devil Rays, Diamondbacks, Reds, Athletics, Angels, Nationals, Mariners, Royals and Giants). Among active players, only the San Diego Padres’ Matt Stairs has hit a HR with more different teams (11).

• The San Diego Padres blanked the Chicago Cubs, 1-0. It’s their fifth 1-0 win of the season, matching the Dodgers for the most this season. As for the Cubs, they lose a 1-0 game for the first time since June 16, 2007 … against the Padres.

While we waited for A-Rod’s milestone HR…

August, 4, 2010
Alex Rodriguez hit his 599th home run on July 22. He hit No. 600 Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays after a span of 46 at-bats and 51 plate appearances. That is the longest drought between number 599 and 600 in MLB history. The previous longest drought was 21 at-bats by Willie Mays. Here are some home run facts from that time period.

During the drought, Rodriguez saw 209 pitches. Meanwhile, 322 home runs were hit by 187 different players. The Yankees hit 17 home runs as a team, led by Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher who hit five longballs each.

Maybe Alex Rodriguez was stuck on 599 for so long because he wanted the situation to be exactly right... as in exactly like it was when he hit home run number 500. Both happened on August 4th at home. Both were in the 1st inning of games in which Phil Hughes was starting.
The Alex Rodriguez 600 Home Run Watch continues. Rodgriguez faces Brandon Morrow on Monday, against whom he has one home run in 15 previous career at-bats.

In 5 July starts, A.J. Burnett posted a 2.00 ERA, with 20 K and nine walks. During the month, righties hit .156 including .133 against the fastball, while lefties hit .315 overall and .368 against the fastball.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko has had plenty of trouble hitting breaking balls this season. Konerko is batting just .057 (2-35) against curveballs and .182 (10-55) against sliders.

John Lackey finished July with a .218 batting average against his breaking balls for the month, his lowest such batting average against those pitches in a month since he allowed a .097 average in June of 2008.

Hitters are batting .208 against Tim Hudson's offspeed pitches this season. The New York Mets enter Monday hitting .232 against sliders and .277 against changeups, which are 11 and 30 points higher than the league averages, respectively.

From April through June, opponents hit .524 (22-42) against Randy Wells when they swung on the first pitch. In July, opponents hit .118 (2-17) when they swung on the first pitch (the league average is .338). 61 percent of Wells' first pitches went for strikes.

The .258 opponent's batting average that Colby Lewis gave up in July was his highest in any month, as was his .311 BABIP.

Hiroki Kuroda's chase percentage has increased each month, and was at 31.0 percent in July. Kuroda has thrown his splitter more each month as well, with a 36.9 overall chase percentage against the pitch.

Bobby Abreu's 32.0 swing percentage is second-lowest in AL among qualifiers (Brett Gardner); his 13.2 chase percentage is third-lowest among AL qualifiers, behind Daric Barton and Marco Scutaro.

How Santana can exploit Pujols’ ‘weakness’

July, 28, 2010
Let’s start off with a quick “Name That Player” quiz. Pencils ready? Thinking caps on? Here you go:

Player A: .296/.401/.553, 23 HR, 70 RBI
Player B: .297/.374/.559, 23 HR, 69 RBI

It would appear that both players are having excellent, highly productive seasons. Yet Player A has been called out in the media for his “struggles”, while Player B has been praised for having a “career year”. Give up? Player A is Albert Pujols and Player B is Paul Konerko.

Pujols is arguably one of the best hitters in baseball, but even “The Machine” is human sometimes. Statistically, he is having one of his worst seasons – his .296 batting average and .553 slugging percentage would both be the lowest marks of his career – and he has just one hit in his last 19 at-bats entering Wednesday.

Last year, Pujols absolutely crushed pitches that were thrown in the upper third of the strike zone and above it. His batting average of .342 and slugging percentage of .631 on those high pitches were both well above the major-league averages of .259 and .420, respectively.

Yet this season he is merely ordinary, hitting .250 and slugging .479, which puts him in the esteemed company of ... Yuniesky Betancourt, who is batting .241 and slugging .470 on these high pitches. Pujols endured one particularly horrible month-long stretch from May 18-June 23, managing just one hit in 22 at-bats (.045) ending on high pitches, with his lone hit a single against the Reds on June 1.

Last year, Pujols feasted on inside fastballs, hitting .349 and slugging .605 when pitchers dared to try and jam him with a heater near his hands. That’s certainly a typical Pujolsian line, considering that the average major-leaguer has posted a .259 batting average and .410 slugging percentage on those same pitches this year.

As my Stats & Info colleague Mark Simon recently pointed out, however, this year Pujols has barely been able to get any good wood on inside fastballs. He’s hitting just .242 and slugging .435 in at-bats ending in such pitches, which puts him in the company of Indians sophomore outfielder Trevor Crowe, who has a .240 batting average and .440 slugging percentage against inside fastballs.

Pujols actually is in the middle of a miserable stretch against these pitches. Dating back to June 24, he has just two hits in 24 at-bats (.083) ending on inside fastballs, including 0-for-8 against lefties.

Despite Pujols’ alleged “struggles” this year, pitchers still seem to fear “Prince Albert.” Pitchers throw in the strike zone on 45.1 percent of their pitches to Pujols, the fourth-lowest percentage among players with at least 300 plate appearances. His 66 walks are the second-most in the majors, while his 24 intentional walks are by far the most in baseball.

Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals look to take the lead in the NL Central, when they face the New York Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET on ESPN). Pujols has gone 0-for-5 in his last two games against the Mets, but still remains one of the most successful hitters all-time against the franchise.

Pujols owns a career OPS of 1.035 against the Mets, the second-highest mark ever against them (min. 250 PA). He’s even better in Queens, where his career OPS of 1.179 is the highest of any player against the Mets (min. 100 PA). Good luck to Johan Santana tonight, who has faced Pujols 15 times in his career, with the Cardinals first baseman knocking out six hits, including two home runs and a double.

Ryan Howard's power surge continues

July, 16, 2010
Ryan Howard hit another HR on Friday against a fastball, continuing his improved power numbers and plate discipline against heaters over the past two months.

Howard also extended his hit streak at Wrigley Field to 16 games on Friday. According to Baseball Reference, only two visiting players have had longer hit streaks at the Friendly Confines since the turn of the century: Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye.