Stats & Info: Prince Fielder

Fielder injury might explain power outage

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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AP Photo/David ZalubowskiPrince Fielder was struggling to produce even before his recent injury.
If Prince Fielder’s herniated disk in his neck costs him the rest of the season, it would be a surprise turn for a player who had been among the most durable in baseball.

Since his first full season in 2006, Fielder has missed a total of 13 games over a span of eight seasons. His 1,283 games played during that stretch were more than any other player in baseball.

The slugging first baseman has already missed five games this season, matching the most he’s missed in a single season in 2006 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Fielder’s absence is just the latest in a long line of maladies that have afflicted the Texas Rangers. They have used the disabled list 17 times already this season, four more than the next closest team, the Cincinnati Reds.

Signs of decline
Even before his injury, Fielder had been struggling to replicate the power numbers that he had in the past. After posting a .981 OPS in his last season with the Brewers in 2011, his OPS has decreased in each of the last 3 seasons, bottoming out at .720 so far this season.

Due to the fact that Fielder doesn’t contribute much on defense or the basepaths, his diminished hitting has resulted in -0.3 wins above replacement this season, making him one of the least productive first basemen in baseball.

Power outage
Back in 2011, 22 percent of Fielder’s fly balls ended up as home runs. That number dropped to 16 percent in 2012, then 13 percent last season. Through 42 games this season, only eight percent of his fly balls are turning into home runs. This season his average fly ball distance is just 272 feet – that ranks outside the top 100 in baseball.

Opposing teams have taken notice. Fielder is seeing more pitches in the strike zone and more fastballs than he had previously in his career. Although he seems to be seeing no shortage of hittable pitches, he’s no longer doing anywhere near the damage with pitches in the strike zone that he used to, slugging just .402 against pitches in the strike zone on the season.

Justin Havens and Lee Singer contributed to this post

Fielder finally gets ahold of one

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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It took until the 14th game of the season for Prince Fielder to hit the kind of home run that Texas Rangers fans had been waiting for.
Prince Fielder
Cabrera
Fielder had not homered in his previous 30 games (including postseason) entering the day, but he had a 446-foot shot Tuesday in the Rangers' win over the Seattle Mariners.

It was the longest home run for Fielder since May 10, when he hit a 460-foot home run against Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians.

There had not been much positive to say about Fielder prior to this game. He entered the day ranked tied for last in the American League in Wins Above Replacement through the season’s first two weeks.

Historically, April has been a good month for Fielder. He hit .300 or better in April in each of the previous three seasons. But he's not headed that way to start 2014.

He hasn’t completely fixed things
Fielder had been in a funk since joining the Rangers. He entered this series with the Mariners with seven hits in 47 at bats. He’s now 3-for-7 in the past two games.

One of the issues attached to Fielder’s struggles were that he has been unable to get hits on pitches outside the strike zone.

In the previous three seasons, Fielder averaged 47 hits per season against pitches that were out of the zone. This season, he has managed only two such hits and the outs are piling up.

His two strikeouts swinging Tuesday gave him 17 outs against out-of-the-zone pitches this season. Typically, Fielder’s ratio of outs to hits on these pitches is 3-to-1. This season, it’s 17-to-2.

Better days to come
One potentially positive indicator for Fielder would be this: He’s 4-for-9 this season when he hits a ball that our hit classification system rates as “hard-hit.”

A typical major leaguer gets hits on 70 percent of his hard-hit balls. Fielder has been at about 65 percent the past couple of seasons, so 4-for-9 is a little below expectation.

Looking ahead
Fielder will face Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night in the day’s premier matchup (Yu Darvish will pitch for the Rangers).

Fielder is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts against Hernandez. But a lot of Rangers have had good days against Hernandez in the past.

Hernandez is 12-20 against the Rangers, by far his most losses versus any team (next-most: 13 versus Angels).

Top stats to know: Phillies at Rangers

April, 2, 2014
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The Texas Rangers will host the Philadelphia Phillies in the rubber game of their season-opening three-game series on ESPN2's "Wednesday Night Baseball" at 8 ET.

Veterans have been key to the first two games -- first Jimmy Rollins in the season opener and then Adrian Beltre with his walk-off hit on Tuesday night.

What are some of the storylines our broadcast crew will be following?

Fielder an upgrade, but still has work to do
Given his recent track record, Prince Fielder figures to be a significant upgrade on the Rangers' recent production at first base.

Fielder and the Rangers will face right-handed pitcher Kyle Kendrick on Wednesday. Fielder saw a significant drop off in performance against righties last season after dominating against them for most of his career.

Fielder posted a .775 OPS against pitches on the outer half from righties, compared to a 1.014 OPS from 2009 to '12. Further, he hit 66 home runs on pitches in that zone from 2009 to '12 (16.5 per season), while hitting just seven last season.

Rangers fill-in of the day: Robbie Ross
Robbie Ross has made 123 career appearances in the majors -- none of which have been starts. He’ll be the second Rangers starter in this series to make his first major league start, joining Tanner Scheppers, who got pounded by the Phillies on Opening Day. Ross did start 68 times in 69 minor league appearances

In his rookie season in 2012, Ross held left-handed batters in check, but in 2013, they hit him hard, batting .344 with a .960 OPS against him.

Ross did a solid job of neutralizing right-handed hitters last season, holding them to a .519 OPS. Among the keys to his success was that he upped his first-pitch strike percentage against righties from 59 percent in 2012 to 69 percent last season. The league average is about 55 percent for lefty pitchers against righty batters.

Chase prone to chase
While he's no longer the MVP-caliber force he was in his prime, the first 11 seasons of Chase Utley's career rank among the best for any second baseman to debut in the live ball era (since 1920).

Utley has remained a very productive player despite health issues cropping up over the years, but he’s not nearly the threat he used to be against left-handed pitching. Utley will face lefty Ross on Wednesday.

Not only has Utley shown an increased willingness to chase pitches out of the strike zone against lefties, but he’s also having demonstrably less success against pitches in the strike zone. Utley hit .337 with a 1.022 OPS against pitches in the strike zone from lefties in 2009 and 2010; he’s hit just .240 with a .684 OPS since.

Fielder trade: Follow the money

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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USA TODAY SportsThe Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade should open up playing time for young players Jurickson Profar and Nick Castellanos.
The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers agreed to a blockbuster trade Tuesday that might be as much about future salary as it is about current talent.

The Tigers will send Prince Fielder, who is due to make $168 million over the next seven seasons, to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The second baseman is due to make another $62 million through 2018, a year in which he has a $10 million club option or $5 million buyout.

Fielder is the fourth player in MLB history to be dealt with more than $100 million remaining on his contract. He joins Alex Rodriguez, who was dealt from the Rangers to the Yankees, as well as Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, who were part of the same deal between the Red Sox and the Dodgers.

Big-time production
Fielder has had one of the best starts to his career by a left-handed power hitter. His 285 career home runs are the fifth-most in MLB history before the age of 30 by a lefty, behind just Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott and Adam Dunn.

During his two years in Detroit, Fielder was one of four players to hit 50 home runs, drive in 200 runs and hit .290 along with now former teammate Miguel Cabrera, free agent Robinson Cano and Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Kinsler, who entered the league in 2006, has been one of the best second baseman in the game. His 34.9 WAR is the fourth-best among second basemen in that span behind just Chase Utley, Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia.

One thing to watch for this upcoming season is how Kinsler adapts to playing in Detroit, as he was much more productive at the Ballpark in Arlington in his career than on the road, hitting 62 points higher.

Postseason pasts
One area where the two players have had different degrees of success is in the postseason.

Since joining the Tigers, Prince Fielder hit .196 in 92 postseason at-bats with just one home run. And in his past 18 postseason games, Fielder hasn’t driven in a single run.

Kinsler, meanwhile, has hit .311 in his postseason career.

Roster impact
For the Rangers, the roster change is fairly apparent, as they had three quality middle infielders for two spots last season, including Elvis Andrus whose eight-year, $120 million extension starts in 2015. Moving Kinsler allows Jurickson Profar to man second base, while Fielder provides a big upgrade over Mitch Moreland at first base. Profar was Keith Law’s No. 1 prospect heading into last season.

For Detroit, moving Fielder allows Miguel Cabrera to take over at first base -- where he won’t be as big of a liability on defense. It also opens the door at third for the Tigers’ top prospect, Nick Castellanos, who started his career as a third baseman but was moved to the outfield in 2012. Castellanos was a first-round pick in 2010 and was the 2012 Futures Game MVP.

Red Sox handle curves en route to Pennant

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
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Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsShane Victorino's seventh inning grand slam propelled the Red Sox into the World Series.
The Boston Red Sox advanced to its 12th World Series in franchise history and first since sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2007 by virtue of a 5-2 win against the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS.

This sets the table for a World Series between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals for the fourth time. The Cardinals won the first two meetings in 1946 and 1967 (both in seven games). Boston swept the Cardinals in 2004 to famously win its first World Series since 1918.

It will be the first World Series featuring teams with the best regular season records in the American and National Leagues since 1999 when the New York Yankees played the Atlanta Braves.

The pennant is even sweeter considering this was a last-place team a year ago.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Red Sox are the seventh team since 1990 to reach the World Series following a season in which they finished in last place.

FLYIN’ HAWAIIAN BREAKS SLUMP IN GRAND WAY
The winning hit for Boston came off the bat of Shane Victorino, who hit the go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning to give the Red Sox a 5-2 lead. At the time, Victorino was mired in a 2-for-23 slump).

He’s the eighth player in MLB postseason history to hit a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning or later and the first in baseball history with multiple go-ahead grand slams in the postseason.

Victorino’s hit came on an 0-2 curveball from Jose Veras. He might have had an indication of what was to come as over the last three regular seasons, Veras had thrown 171 pitches on 0-2 counts, with 81 percent of them being curveballs.

That’s the highest curveball usage on an 0-2 count in the majors over this span (minimum 100 pitches thrown).

Boston is the first team in MLB history to hit two game-tying/go-ahead grand slams in the seventh inning or later in a single postseason (David Ortiz hit the other one in Game 2 of this series).

ALCS FACTS
• Koji Uehara is the third relief pitcher to win the ALCS MVP, joining Mariano Rivera in 2003 and Dennis Eckersley in 1988.

• The Red Sox improved to 6-0 all-time in ALCS Game 6s and won their first best-of-7 postseason series after being tied 2-2.

In this series, Uehara went 1-0 with three saves while allowing no runs on four hits in six innings pitched.

• In relief of Max Scherzer, the Tigers bullpen threw 2⅔ innings, allowing seven earned runs on six hits (including those two grand slams).

• Prince Fielder went 4-for-22 (.182) with five strikeouts and no home runs or RBI in this series.

Red Sox win is both amazing and unlikely

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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For a team to beat Justin Verlander when he’s pitching as he has in this season-ending stretch is a major challenge.

But the Boston Red Sox are familiar with such tasks, given their comeback from five runs down in Game 2 of the ALCS.

In their 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers in Game 3, they managed to do just enough to win.

Napoli comes through
Mike Napoli was 2-for-19 in the postseason and 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the ALCS before before his seventh-inning homer put the Red Sox ahead.

The home run came on a 96-mph fastball. In the last two seasons, Napoli homered only once against the more than 200 pitches he saw that were thrown at least 96 mph-- against Evan Reed of the Tigers on Sept. 4.

Verlander could not have been much better
Verlander finally allowed a run, ending his scoreless streak at 34 innings and his postseason scoreless streak at 21 innings.

He has an 0.39 ERA and 0.57 WHIP with 31 strikeouts and three walks in his three starts this postseason. The Tigers are 1-2 in those games.

Verlander struck out 10 in defeat. His six double-digit strikeout games are a postseason record. He’s also the first pitcher in postseason history with 10 or more strikeouts and four or fewer hits allowed in three straight games.

Turning Point: Cabrera and Fielder strike out
The Tigers had a great opportunity to score in the eighth inning, but relievers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to escape the jam.

Cabrera had nine swinging strikes in the game. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is a single-game career-high for Cabrera in either the regular season or postseason.

A brief history of 1-0 postseason games
This was the 46th 1-0 game in postseason history. It was the fourth 1-0 game this postseason, matching the most in a single postseason (there were also four in 1991).

There were only three 1-0 postseason games in the last 11 years.

This was the third 1-0 postseason win for the Red Sox in their history, with the other two being in Game 1 of the 1918 and 1986 World Series.

The Tigers had never lost a 1-0 postseason game until this year and now they’ve become the first AL team to lose two in the same postseason (the 1991 Pirates and Braves are the most recent teams to lose two). Both losses came in games started by Verlander.

This was the first 1-0 postseason game decided by a home run since Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS, when Jorge Posada homered to give the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Athletics (better known as the Derek Jeter “flip” game). It’s the first time the Red Sox won a postseason game in such a fashion and the first time the Tigers lost a postseason game in such a fashion.

Game 3 of the ALCS was very similar to Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, when the visiting Yankees beat the Braves, 1-0.

Parallels include:

• The Yankees rallied from six runs down to win the previous game. The Red Sox rallied from five down to win their previous game.

• The Yankees beat a pitcher who would win the Cy Young that season in John Smoltz. The Red Sox beat a pitcher who has previously won the Cy Young in Verlander. Verlander is the first pitcher to lose a game in which he allowed one run and struck out at least 10 since Smoltz that day.

• The Yankees survived a situation in which the Braves had a man on third with one out in the ninth inning. The Red Sox escaped a situation in which the Tigers had a man on third with one out in the eighth inning.

The Yankees went on to win that series without losing again.

The Red Sox have a little ways to go to match that.

Top things to know: Tigers vs Athletics

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
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Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsMax Scherzer has the second lowest road ERA among AL starting pitchers this season.
The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics begin their ALDS tonight (9:37 ET/ESPN Radio) in Oakland. Here are some storylines to follow.

1. This is the fourth all-time meeting in the postseason (1972 ALCS, 2006 ALCS and 2012 ALDS). The Tigers have won nine of the 14 all-time postseason meetings, including seven of the last nine.

Oakland won the regular season series this year, taking four of the seven games, including three of the last four, in which they outscored the Tigers 34-20.

2. These two teams have not had much success in the postseason lately. Detroit has lost four straight postseason games. They have not lost at least five straight since 1907-08, when they lost six in a row. In addition, the Tigers have lost 11 of their last 16 road postseason games.

Oakland comes into this postseason having lost seven of its last nine playoff games.

The A’s have made the playoffs seven times since 2000 (including this year) and only once have they advanced to the ALCS (2006, lost to Detroit).

3. Max Scherzer is 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA in seven postseason appearances (six starts). In his only postseason appearance against the Athletics (Game 4 of the 2012 ALDS), Scherzer went 5⅓ innings, allowing one run while striking out eight in a no-decision.

This season, Scherzer went 9-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 16 road starts. He only allowed more than three earned runs once in his 16 road starts. James Shields is the only AL starter who had a lower ERA away from home (2.07).

4. Bartolo Colon will take the ball for Oakland tonight. He is starting the first game of a postseason series for a third different team (he started twice for Cleveland and once for the Angels).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, five other pitchers made Game 1 starts for three different teams – Roger Clemens (Red Sox, Yankees, Astros), Tommy John (Angels, Dodgers, Yankees), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks, Astros, Mariners), Jack Morris (Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays) and Curt Schilling (Phillies, Red Sox, Diamondbacks).

The only other 40-year-old to start a postseason game for the Athletics was Jack Quinn (46 years old) in the 1929 World Series.

5. What sort of impact will Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder make? The 2012 Triple Crown winner hit over .350 with 43 home runs over the first five months of the season, but all but disappeared in September.

Fielder is hitting .183 (19-for-104) in 28 career postseason games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his average is the third lowest among active players with at least 50 postseason at-bats.

Only Alex Avila (.129) and Nick Swisher (.165) have worse averages.

What's wrong with Prince Fielder?

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesSince signing with Detroit, Fielder has struggled at the plate, mainly against right-handed pitching.
There is no shortage of major stroylines surrounding the AL-Central leading Detroit Tigers this season. Miguel Cabrera is en route to another MVP-caliber season. Max Scherzer's is breaking out as an ace. Justin Verlander's uncharacteristic struggles have been well documented. Those have pushed Prince Fielder's struggles to the back seat.

2013 has been a massive disappointment for Fielder, whose OPS sits at a pedestrian .784 entering Tuesday. With the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians on the Tigers' tail, Fielder's play could go a long way towards Detroit holding them off and securing a postseason spot.

It's a growing concern considering how much Detroit is due to pay for his future services. Only two players are owed more money starting next season than Fielder, as the Tigers owe him $168 million through the 2020 season.

His current OPS of .784 would be his worst over a full season by nearly 50 points, and a drop of over 150 points from just last season.

Fielder ranks 230th among position players in Wins Above Replacement – entering Tuesday, he’s been worth 0.6 WAR. What specific issues have plagued Fielder this season? Let’s take a look.

Issue No. 1: No longer punishing righties
As a left-handed batter, Fielder has long feasted on right-handed pitching. That is anything but the case this year, as his ability to hit for power has diminished considerably against righties.

Specifically, righties appear to be having a great deal more success throwing offspeed stuff to Fielder, as he’s swinging-and-missing far more often against soft stuff from righties.

This season, Fielder is slugging .456 against offspeed pitches from righties while swinging and missing about a third of the time. In 2011, he led the majors with a .654 slugging percentage on offspeed pitches while swinging-and-missing only 24 percent of the time.

Issue No 2: Getting Beat by Fastballs
Regardless of righty or lefty, Fielder is getting beat by fastballs this season. He’s slugging only .404 (115th in the majors) against those pitches. Just two seasons ago, Fielder feasted on heaters, slugging .607 against them, 16th among all players.


Odds and Ends
Oddly enough, Fielder is still hitting the ball hard. A check of data provided by Sportvision/MLBAM showed that as of a week ago, the average speed of a ball hit in the air off Fielder’s bat was 83.5 mph, which was up nearly two MPH from last season and up five MPH from 2010.

Not surprisingly, Fielder has seen a decline in his power numbers since moving from Milwaukee's Miller Park to Detroit's Comerica Park.

In Detroit, he’s slugging .504 while hitting a home run every 19.4 at bats. In seven seasons in Milwaukee, Fielder slugged .566 while hitting a homer every 13.9 at bats.

Fielder's power has been sapped particularly when he hits the ball in the air straightaway or to the left side of second base. He had 43 homers to that part of the park from 2009 to 2011, but has only 10 (including three in 2013) over the last two seasons.

Kernels of wisdom: MLB week in review

August, 12, 2013
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The Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie went single-double-triple in Monday's 3-1 win over Seattle, becoming the first Toronto hitter this season to even have a triple and a double in one game. Had he also homered, Lawrie would have recorded the Jays' first cycle since Jeff Frye on August 17, 2001.

In Tuesday's game, the Astros didn't need to steal any bases (although they did have two). The Red Sox-- specifically catcher Ryan Lavarnway-- were giving away bases.

Handling knuckleballer Steven Wright's first career start, Lavarnway was charged with four passed balls in the first inning alone, tying the major league record for one inning. It's happened twice before in the modern era, and also with knuckleballers: On August 22, 1987, the Rangers' Geno Petralli committed four while catching Charlie Hough; and on September 10, 1954, the Giants' Ray Katt did it while trying to catch Hoyt Wilhelm.


AP Photo/ElsaMatt Harvey threw his 1st career shutout on Wednesday against the Rockies.


Matt Harvey, on the other hand, threw his first career shutout (and first complete game) on Wednesday, holding the Rockies to four singles as the Mets won 5-0. He also went through a start without walking a single batter, the eighth time this season he’s done that. Only Bartolo Colon and Hisashi Iwakuma (with 10 each) have more walk-less starts this season, of any length.

Harvey also threw nine scoreless innings with zero walks against the White Sox on May 7, but got neither a decision nor a complete game because the Mets didn't score either and the game went to extras. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Archer are the only other pitchers with multiple such games this season.

He's the first Mets pitcher to have multiple starts of 8+ scoreless, walk-less innings since Jason Isringhausen in 1995; and the first with a pair of NINE-inning games since Craig Swan in 1979.

Thursday's limited slate brought us a matchup between Detroit and Cleveland at Progressive Field. Although the outcome wasn't in much doubt when the Tigers took an 8-0 lead after 3 innings, the notable part of the boxscore was that both cleanup hitters (Prince Fielder and Asdrubal Cabrera) had two doubles and two runs driven in.

Strangely, it's only the second game in the past 20 years where BOTH cleanup hitters have had at least two doubles and two RBI. The other occurred when Fielder "teamed up" with the Rangers' Adrian Beltre to do it on May 19.

On Friday the Tigers had their 12-game winning streak (which matched their longest since 1934) on the line against the Yankees and Mariano Rivera. The Tigers, however, countered with Miguel Cabrera, who launched his 34th home run of the year - but first in the ninth inning or later - to tie the game.

It was only the second homer Rivera allowed to the Tigers in a save situation. Bobby Higginson hit the other way back on July 6, 1999.

In Sunday's finale between the Tigers and Yankees, the visitors from Motown trailed by two runs after eight innings. Enter Rivera. Enter Cabrera.

Same result as Friday as Cabrera hit his 36th home run of the season. By doing so, he became the first player ever to homer off Rivera in consecutive at-bats, and one of just five players to have multiple homers against Rivera.

Later that inning, Victor Martinez hit a solo homer to tie the game, handing Rivera his third consecutive blown save. Something he had never done in his career to that point.

Rivera was still officially the pitcher of record when Brett Gardner hit his first career walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning. This was the 18th time Rivera has won a game after blowing a save, and the first since August 13, 2007.

Pitching riches overwhelm in All-Star Game

July, 17, 2013
7/17/13
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Robert Deutsch/USA Today SportsIn Mariano Rivera's final All-Star Game, pitching ruled the day.


Pitching, pitching and more pitching was the dominant statistical storyline in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game.

This year’s contest was, like last year’s, a shutout, marking the first time in All-Star Game history that consecutive games were shutouts.

The three runs scored were the fewest combined by the two teams in an All-Star Game since 1990, when the AL won 2-0. The teams combined to hit .197 with the NL managing only three hits, tied for the second-fewest in an All-Star Game.

With the win, the AL will hold home-field advantage in this year’s World Series.

Let’s run through some of the highlights.

Mariano Rivera the MVP
Mariano Rivera won MVP honors, which wasn’t so much for this game (in which he pitched a scoreless eighth inning), but was more of a lifetime achievement award to commemorate his great career.

Rivera pitched nine innings in his All-Star career and allowed one unearned run. The only pitcher to pitch more All-Star innings without allowing an earned run was Mel Harder, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians in the 1930s and 1940s.

Rivera got a “hold” in this game and not a save. His four All-Star Game saves are the most all-time.

Rivera is the first pitcher who was primarily used by his major league team as a relief pitcher to earn All-Star Game MVP honors. He’s the second to pitch in relief in the game and earn MVP, joining Jon Matlack, a starter on the 1975 New York Mets who shared MVP honors in that year’s All-Star Game.

Rivera is the first pitcher to win All-Star Game MVP since Pedro Martinez in 1999 and the second Yankees player to win it, joining Derek Jeter in 2000.

Elias notes that he’ll join Cal Ripken Jr. as the only players to win All-Star Game MVP in their final seasons.

The young guys were very impressive
NL starter Matt Harvey, the first New York Mets pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Dwight Gooden in 1988, looked sharp after letting the first two hitters reach base. He was the first Mets pitcher to throw two scoreless innings in an All-Star Game since Gooden in 1984.

Harvey continued a run of dominance by Mets pitchers making their All-Star debuts. The 11 pitchers have combined for 12 2/3 scoreless innings, with 20 strikeouts.

White Sox pitcher Chris Sale earned the win. He was the first AL pitcher to throw two perfect innings in an All-Star Game since Roger Clemens in 2001. He’s the first White Sox pitcher to win an All-Star Game since Mark Buehrle in 2005.

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez struck out a pair of hitters in the sixth inning to become the third pitcher age 20 or younger with multiple strikeouts in an All-Star Game, joining Gooden (1984) and Hall of Famer Bob Feller.

The combined line for those three -- five innings pitched, one hit allowed, seven strikeouts. The trio has 93 career starts between them.

Teamwork
The AL benefited from a couple of nifty examples of teamwork en route to the win.

Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera each had at least one hit in the game. It’s the first time that the Detroit Tigers have had three different players get a hit in an All-Star Game.

On the pitching side, Toronto Blue Jays relievers Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar combined for the last two outs of the seventh inning by striking out left-handed hitting Domonic Brown and right-handed hitting Buster Posey.
Cecil has held lefties to a .154 on-base percentage this season, the lowest for anyone in the majors this season.

Delabar has struck out 150 batters in 108 innings over the last two seasons. His rate of 12.5 strikeouts per 9 innings is eighth-best in the majors in that span.

Did You Know?
The NL finished with only four baserunners, the fewest in a game for either team since 1995 and the fewest for the NL in an All-Star Game since 1968.

The AL grounded into an All-Star Game-record four double plays.

Joe Nathan recorded the save. The only other Rangers pitcher to record a save in an All-Star Game was John Wetteland in 1999. You might remember Wetteland as the pitcher who preceded Rivera as Yankees closer.

Cespedes' HR slump no factor in Derby

July, 15, 2013
7/15/13
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Yoenis Cespedes was the best home run hitter from start to finish in this season’s Home Run Derby.

Cespedes, the first non-All-Star to win the Derby, finished with 32 home runs and beat out Bryce Harper in the finals 9-8.

Here’s a look at some of the statistical highlights from Monday’s competition.

Hot at the right time
Cespedes’ 32 homers tied for third-most in Derby history. His 17 homers in the first round were more than twice as many as any other Derby competitor this year and tied for third-most by anyone in a single round all time. He had more home runs in the first round than any other player did in the first two rounds combined.

Cespedes entered the All-Star break with no home runs in his past 19 games and only two home runs in his past 31 games (both came June 21 against the Seattle Mariners). He’s homered in only three of the past 46 games he’s played since May 22. Cespedes’ current drought is 71 at-bats, which the Elias Sports Bureau notes is the second longest of his career and the longest current drought of any of the contestants this season.

Cespedes was the fourth straight AL player to win and ninth in the past 12 seasons. He’s the first right-handed hitter to win the Derby since Vladimir Guerrero in 2007.

Harper consistent as runner-up
The 20-year-old Harper, the second-youngest entrant ever into the Derby (trailing only Ken Griffey Jr, by 42 days), was trying to become the competition’s youngest winner. Elias tells us that mark is still held by Juan Gonzalez, who won in 1993 at age 23.

Harper hit eight home runs in each of the three rounds, hitting cutters thrown by his father, Ron. Harper is 12-for-29 in at-bats ending with cutters in regular-season games, with a pair of home runs.

No repeat title for Fielder
Prince Fielder was knocked out in the first round after hitting only five home runs, leaving Griffey Jr. as the only player to win the competition in back-to-back years (1998 and 1999). Fielder’s 68 lifetime home runs in the Derby rank third-most all time, trailing Griffey’s 74 and David Ortiz’s 77.

Citi Field no deterrent
If there were concerns that Citi Field was going to keep the home run total down, they proved to be unfounded. The 103 home runs hit in the Derby were 21 more than were hit last year and the most in any Derby since 2008 (105).

Top stats to know: 2013 Home Run Derby

July, 14, 2013
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John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty ImagesPrince Fielder will try to repeat as Home Run Derby champ.


The 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Monday night on ESPN at Citi Field. History suggests that one of the five left-handed batters in the competition is going to win it.

Seven of the past eight and 14 of the past 17 Home Run Derby winners have been left-handed hitters, including each of the past five: Fielder, Robinson Cano (2011), David Ortiz (2010), Fielder (2009) and Justin Morneau (2008).

Since the first individual competition in 1995, Frank Thomas (1995), Sammy Sosa (2000), Miguel Tejada (2004) and Vladimir Guerrero (2007) are the only righties to win.

Let's take a quick look at each of this year's contestants.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Alvarez was a late addition to the Home Run Derby, replacing Carlos Gonzalez. He leads the NL with nine "no-doubt" home runs this season, meaning homers that our video-tracking crew deemed cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.

He's trying to become the first player to win the Derby as a member of the Pirates.

Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
This will be the third straight Home Run Derby for Cano, who went homerless in the 2012 Derby as the competition’s defending champ. Cano was the fifth player in the last 15 years to go homerless for a Derby.

Cano has two home runs in 57 at-bats at Citi Field. Each traveled an estimated 440 feet.

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
Cespedes will be making his Home Run Derby debut and the best argument for him winning would be in how the ball jumps off his bat upon contact. His average home-run distance and speed-off-the-bat are both best among Derby participants this season.

Cespedes is trying to be the first Athletics player to win the Derby since Mark McGwire in 1992.

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
Cuddyer, a childhood friend of NL Derby captain David Wright, is making his first Home Run Derby appearance.

Only 10 of Cuddyer’s 16 home runs this season would have been home runs at Citi Field, the fewest of any player.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Davis will try to be the first Orioles player to win the Home Run Derby since Miguel Tejada in 2004.

Davis enters the All-Star Break with 37 home runs, tied for the second-most by anyone before the Break. The only player with more was Barry Bonds with 39 home runs in 2001.

Since the individual competition began in 1995, the major-league leader in homers at the break has never won the Derby. Jose Bautista came closest, as runner-up last year.

Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Fielder is a two-time Derby winner and the defending Home Run Derby champ.

If Fielder was to win, he’d be the second repeat champ and the second three-time winner, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (1994, 1998, 1999) in both cases.

Fielder’s 63 Derby homers rank fifth-most all-time. He’s 14 behind the all-time leader, David Ortiz.

Fielder's average distance of 396.4 feet and average speed-off-the-bat (102.4 mph) are the lowest for any of the Derby entrants.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Harper will try to become the first Nationals/Expos player to win the Home Run Derby.

This is Harper’s first major-league Derby, but he made a huge impact in a previous competition, as a 16-year-old using a metal bat at the 2009 High School Power Showcase.

Harper had one six-homer stretch in the competition in which his homers averaged 469 feet and 121 mph off the bat.

His longest homer in regular-season play was a 444-foot shot against the Miami Marlins last September.

David Wright, New York Mets
Wright will try to become the first Mets player to win the Home Run Derby (he was runner-up in 2006) and the first to win it in his home ballpark under the current Derby rules.

Wright enters with only three home runs in 159 at-bats at Citi Field this season. Since the ballpark opened in 2009, he's hit 37 homers at home and 50 on the road.

Here's a look at the home-run spray charts for Wright and the other entrants in this year's competition:



To pitch or not to pitch to Miguel Cabrera?

May, 24, 2013
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Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season was clearly not a fluke.

Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera
Cabrera has been even more dominant thus far this season.

After going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI in the Detroit Tigers’ 7-6 win over the Minnesota Twins, Cabrera now has 14 homers and 55 RBI in 45 games this season.

Cabrera is on pace for 198 RBI, which would break Hack Wilson’s single-season RBI record of 191 in 1930.

Cabrera is the first player with at least 55 RBI in his team's first 45 games of a season since Manny Ramirez in 2001.

Cabrera joins Ramirez (2001), Jimmie Foxx (1932) and Chuck Klein (1930) as the only players in MLB history with at least 14 home runs and 55 RBI with a .390 or better batting average through their team’s first 45 games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Entering Thursday, Cabrera had seen only five inside fastballs that were 86 MPH or slower this season.

Scott Diamond threw Cabrera four of those pitches in his first at-bat Thursday (four consecutive pitches), the last of which he hit for a home run (86 MPH fastball).

Cabrera’s homer came on a two-strike fastball. He’s hitting an MLB-best .432 this season on two-strike fastballs. His on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS also lead the league against those pitches.

With a runner on second base and one out and the game tied 6-6 in the eighth inning, the Twins intentionally walked Cabrera with a base open to get to Fielder.

That perhaps was a mistake.

Prince Fielder
Fielder
Fielder hit an RBI single to give the Tigers the lead and ultimately the win.

Over the last two seasons -- since joining the Tigers -- Fielder is 8-for-16 (.500 BA) with 11 RBI following a Cabrera intentional walk.

This season alone, he's 3-for-4 with five RBI in those situations.

If you can’t walk him and he hits nearly everything, what is the best solution when facing Cabrera?

There’s probably no answer for that question.


Quality and quantity to Upton's home runs

May, 1, 2013
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Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesJustin Upton left little doubt to each of the 12 home runs he hit in the first month of the season.

The month of April ended in style when it came to home runs. There were 50 home runs hit on Tuesday, the most in a single day since Sept. 11, 2007 when there was also 50 home runs.

No team had more than the Cleveland Indians, who hit seven against the Philadelphia Phillies, including three off Roy Halladay. The 50 home runs measured a combined 19,992 feet, or just under 3.8 miles.

Here’s a look at some of the HR highlights from the first month of the season.

Player of the Month
Justin Upton hit a league-leading 12 home runs in April, two shy of the MLB record for the most in March/April. None of Upton’s home runs were cheap -- each one traveled more than 400 feet. His longest of the month came on Opening Day against Cole Hamels. It went 460 feet, Upton’s 12th home run of at least 450 feet in the past four seasons. That’s tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the most in MLB over that span.

Upton’s average home run distance in April was 423.5 feet, that’s the highest this season among players with at least six home runs. Upton hit eight home runs in April that went at least 420 feet, four more than any other player and three more than he had all of last season. This is resurgence for Upton, who led baseball in 2011 with 18 home runs that traveled at least 420 feet.

Unlikely HR of the Month
On April 13, Nick Swisher hit a 397-foot home run at Progressive Field in Cleveland off Chris Sale. The ball cleared the 19-foot left field fence by about 10 feet.


ESPN Stats & InformationNick Swisher's home run on April 13 was helped significantly by a strong tailwind.


The home run appeared to be a clear no doubter. However, at the time the wind was blowing 23 MPH out to left, which pushed the ball an extra 69 feet. If there was no wind, the ball would have landed about 14 feet shy of the warning track and would not have been a home run in any major-league park. It was the most wind-aided home run since David Wright’s home run was pushed 72 feet by the wind in Citi Field on April 24, 2011.

Since the start of the 2006 season, only eight other home runs have been aided more by the wind than Swisher’s.

Longest of the Month
There was a tie between the Cubs Anthony Rizzo and the Angels Mark Trumbo. On April 18 against Alexi Ogando, Rizzo hit a career-long 475-foot home run to right-center field. It was the longest home run hit at Wrigley Field since 2008.

On April 29, Trumbo matched Rizzo, hitting a career-long 475-foot shot off Dan Straily to left-center field at the O.co Coliseum. It was Trumbo’s third home run longer than 470 feet in the last three seasons, the most in baseball. There are only three other players (Giancarlo Stanton, Prince Fielder, Nelson Cruz) who have hit multiple 470-foot home runs during that time span, and 19 total such home runs. In addition, Trumbo’s home run was the longest hit at Oakland in the past eight seasons.

Bumgarner with a bounceback, flashback

October, 26, 2012
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US Presswire/Kyle TeradaMadison Bumgarner returned to past success in his Game 2 win.

The formula for the 2012 San Francisco Giants through the first two games of the World Series was the same as it was in the first two games of the 2010 World Series.

For the second time in three years, the Giants beat a former Cy Young Award winner in Game 1 (Cliff Lee in 2010, Justin Verlander in 2012), then pitched a shutout in Game 2.

Here's a closer look at how they handled the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Madison World
Two years removed from a brilliant scoreless start in the World Series against the Texas Rangers, Madison Bumgarner came through with a pitching gem for the Giants.

Bumgarner joined Tom Glavine (1995 Braves) and Roger Clemens (2000 Yankees) as the only pitchers since 1950 to have a World Series line of at least seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits or fewer, with eight strikeouts.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Bumgarner became the fifth pitcher (and second Giants pitcher) to start his World Series career with at least 15 straight scoreless innings.

The only other Giants pitcher with that sort of streak is Christy Mathewson, whose 28-inning streak spanned from 1905 to 1911.

The two hits allowed by the Giants were the fewest they’ve allowed in any of their 107 World Series games.

It marked the second straight year that a team pitched a two-hitter in the World Series (the Texas Rangers threw one against the St. Louis Cardinals last season).

The last time a National League team held an American League team to two hits or fewer in a World Series game was in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, when the Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians.

The Giants and Braves are the only NL teams to shut out an AL team on two hits or fewer in a World Series game in the past 41 seasons.

Bumgarner won on the strength of his slider, which he threw 34 times.

The Reds and Cardinals combined for six hits against the slider in his previous two postseason starts (both losses), but in Game 2 it netted 11 outs against just one hit and one walk.

Bumgarner set the tone for that with the first two outs of the game, when he struck out Austin Jackson looking and Omar Infante swinging with a slider.

That made him the third Giants pitcher to start a World Series game with a pair of strikeouts, joining Hall of Famers Mathewson and Carl Hubbell.

Bumgarner went to a two-strike count against 10 hitters, striking out eight of them (he walked the other two). This was the first start of his career in which an opponent failed to put a two-strike pitch from Bumgarner in play.

Tigers' bats silenced
The Tigers' two hits were their fewest in a World Series game since 1940. They’ve been shut out twice this postseason after being shut out twice in the entire regular season.

The Tigers are 4-for-19 with men on base in the first two games of this series. Prince Fielder is 0-for-4 in those situations, with a popout and lineout in Game 1, and a fly out and ground ball double play in Game 2.

Tigers hitters have had trouble hitting the fastball in this series.

They missed on 21 percent of their swings against heaters in Games 1 and 2. In their AL Championship Series sweep of the Yankees, they missed on only 14 percent of their fastball swings and hit .364 in at-bats that ended with that pitch.

They are 2-for-18 against fastballs in this series.

Quirk of the Night
This marked the first World Series game in which a go-ahead run scored on a ground ball double play in the seventh inning or later.

It marked the first with a go-ahead ground ball double play in any inning since 1981, when then-Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia hit into one against the New York Yankees.

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