Stats & Info: Robinson Cano

Cruz fills big power need for Mariners

December, 1, 2014
No American League team needed Nelson Cruz more than the Seattle Mariners. Last season, the Mariners designated hitters combined to hit .189 with an OPS of .568. Both of those numbers ranked last in the American League.

The M’s also struggled to find power from the right-hand side. The Mariners .604 OPS from righties was the lowest single-season mark for a team since the 1988 Pirates righties had an OPS of .603.

Nelson Cruz
Cruz parlayed a terrific 2014 season into a reported four-year deal to help fill those voids in Seattle. The $57 million dollar deal would be the third-largest in total value ever given out by the Mariners trailing only a five-year deal worth $64 million to Adrian Beltre and a 10-year, $240 million dollar deal for Robinson Cano.

Value added
This past season, Cruz was the only player in baseball to hit 40 home runs while driving in 100 runs.

From a wins above replacement standpoint, Cruz was worth nearly five wins last season (4.7), after putting up a WAR total of 4.3 from 2011 to 2013.

Although the 4.7 WAR marked a career high, Cruz did have a similar season in 2010 with the Texas Rangers when he had a WAR of 4.1, despite playing in just 108 games.

From Camden to Safeco
While the assumption was Cruz would benefit from playing at Camden Yards last year, he was actually much better on the road than at home. Cruz hit .289 with 25 home runs on the road, while batting .252 with 15 home runs at his hitter-friendly home park.

Despite a .234 career batting average at Safeco Field, all of Cruz’s 15 home runs at Camden Yards this past year would also have been home runs at Safeco.

Good omen for Seattle?
Cruz is not the first slugger to spend just one season in Baltimore before moving on. It was 38 years ago that Reggie Jackson made a splash in New York after spending one season with the Orioles. The Yankees went on to win consecutive World Series titles in his first two seasons.

Gil Bransford, Justin Havens, Paul Kinney and Kenton Wong contributed to this post

Barmes, Loney among those who bring D

December, 14, 2013
AP PhotoClint Barmes and James Loney are capable of making the tough defensive play.
Most of the time when we look at notable MLB moves, we look at how they improve a team's offense or pitching. But what about how they impact a team on defense? We'll go around the diamond and devote our weekly signings roundup to that subject this week.

Loney handles first base well
First baseman James Loney signed on for three more years with the Tampa Bay Rays after a season in which he posted his best OPS since 2007. But Loney contributes on the other end too.

Loney doesn’t have overwhelming defensive numbers, but he’s rated positively in Defensive Runs Saved in each of his eight seasons in the major leagues.

Baseball Info Solutions, a company that does video tracking for major league teams and media, likes certain aspects of Loney’s play.

Loney’s 259 “Good Fielding Plays” (think: Web Gem nominees) rank second-most among first basemen over the last four seasons, trailing only Joey Votto’s 268.

There are certain things that Loney does very well defensively. His long reach comes in handy with foul balls by the stands.

He’s made a dozen catches over the last four seasons in which he reached into the seats to pull back a foul ball, the most among first basemen. He’s also started the most double plays at that position in that span (50) and has the third-most Good Fielding Plays for handling difficult throws (such as those in the dirt and that required him to reach off the base to get an out), 151.

Loney does make some mistakes, but not enough to offset what he brings. His ratio of Good Fielding Plays to Defensive Misplays & Errors rates 10th-best in that span. In 2012, Rays first basemen averaged 2.3 Good Fielding Plays per Defensive Misplay. Loney had 68 Good Plays and 22 Misplays & Errors, for a ratio of better than 3-to-1 in 2013.

Cano a standout
The Mariners acquisition of Robinson Cano should provide them a defensive boost too.

Cano has 21 Defensive Runs Saved over the past two seasons, the fourth-most of any second basemen. He has excelled in ranging far to his left and right to make plays. Cano’s 119 “Out of Zone plays” over the last two seasons edge out Dustin Pedroia for the most at that position.

Mariners second basemen rated exactly major-league average last season (0 Defensive Runs Saved).

Pirates bring back defensive specialist
Clint Barmes is about as good as they come defensively. He’s not as flashy as someone like Andrelton Simmons of the Braves, but Barmes makes up for that with consistency.

Barmes has 89 Defensive Runs Saved as a shortstop since 2003 (which is both the year the stat was first compiled and the season in which Barmes debuted). He rates third among shortstops in that stat and also ranks third when looking at that number on a per-inning basis. Barmes has seven seasons in which he’s been credited with at least 10 Defensive Runs Saved (which includes his time playing second baseman). Only Adrian Beltre has more, with eight.

He hasn’t slowed down at all. His 39 Defensive Runs Saved over the last three seasons rank third in the majors, trailing only Andrelton Simmons (60) and Brendan Ryan (51).

-- Mark Simon

Uribe solid at the hot corner
Juan Uribe, who was reportedly close to an agreement with the Dodgers, had quite a contract year for them after being below replacement level in his first two seasons of his deal.

He ranked third among third basemen with a career-best 15 Defensive Runs Saved last season.

Handling the hot corner means facing a lot of screaming liners, and when it came to Good Fielding Play-grabs of liners, Uribe was tied for third among third basemen last season with five. Only Evan Longoria (8) and Josh Donaldson (6) had more.

-- Kenton Wong

Davis adds to Tigers depth
The Tigers added a capable outfielder, signing Rajai Davis to a two-year contract.

Davis will likely platoon with current left-fielder Andy Dirks. The two have similar defensive profiles, though Davis rated slightly better in a small sample of games at the position last season.

Last year in just under 400 innings, Davis secured outs on all 63 balls hit into his fielding zone (areas in which more than half of batted balls are turned into outs), and made a defensive misplay or error (per video review by BIS) once every 64 innings, compared to once every 48 innings for Dirks.

Davis will also be a capable backup in center for Austin Jackson or right for Torii Hunter. He has played 3,200 innings as a centerfielder and 670 as a rightfielder, contributing above-average defense at both positions in his career.
-- Katie Sharp

Approach gives Cano staying power

December, 6, 2013

Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesSeattle’s new $240 million investment should have no trouble at Safeco Field.
As a left-handed power hitter, Robinson Cano is believed to have been the benefactor of Yankee Stadium’s hitter-friendly porch in right field and thus presumed to be unable to thrive in a new environment -- such as his new digs at Safeco Field.

However, away from Yankee Stadium, rather than hitting a large number of short fly balls to right field for outs in other parks, Cano's adjustment has been to take aim at center field and left field.

And, in the past five seasons, it has translated to opposite-field home runs with much more frequency on the road than at home.

It’s clear Cano has an ability to change his approach based on the park he plays in, and evidence suggests he isn't simply a product of his home park.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
ESPN Stats & Information Cano has no trouble driving the ball to all fields.

The charts to the right are Cano’s results on balls marked as “well hit” that went at least 350 feet since 2010 (his road results are on the left, home results on the right).

Quite simply, whatever park he’s in, it’s clear he has power to all fields. And, although he might lose some home runs to right field in Seattle, there’s opportunity for more success in left-center with a shorter distance at Safeco Field compared with in Yankee Stadium.

Expect Cano’s general approach at Safeco Field to be to left-center and, naturally, between right-center and right field -- an adjustment he has shown an ability to make.

So, Mariners fans, take a sigh of relief -- Cano should adjust to his new confines quite well.

Stats to know: Mariners nab Cano

December, 6, 2013
The Seattle Mariners went beyond their usual means to net a player whose production rates among the best in the game, agreeing to a 10-year, $240 million deal with free agent second baseman Robinson Cano.

The Mariners have not won more than 75 games in any of the last four seasons but seem determined to try to change that with an approach that will center around this deal and this player.

The contract
Cano’s contract is tied for the third-largest ever given to a free agent in terms of total value, trailing only the two deals signed by Alex Rodriguez (for $275 million with the Yankees and $252 million with the Rangers).

It far surpasses any deal given to a second baseman, free agent or otherwise. In terms of average value, Cano will be making $24 million, or $9 million more than the second baseman with the next largest contract (Ian Kinsler, $15 million per year through 2017).

It is also considerably more than the Mariners have ever given a free agent, surpassing the previous mark of $64 million for Adrian Beltre in the 2004-05 offseason.

In fact, in the last eight offseasons, the Mariners have signed free agents to contracts worth approximately $239 million, or about a million dollars less than the amount for which Cano signed.

This is only the third time that a player left the Yankees to sign a free agent contract worth at least $50 million. The other two were Denny Neagle bolting for a five-year, $51 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in the 2000-2001 offseason and Nick Swisher leaving for a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cleveland Indians last offseason.

What Cano brings
Cano has arguably been baseball’s most valuable position player over the last five seasons, totaling a major-league best 34.2 Wins Above Replacement in that span. He finished in the top six of the AL MVP voting in each of the last four seasons.

Cano has three seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. Only two second basemen have had more- Jeff Kent (6) and Rogers Hornsby (4).

He’s also one of 19 players to record at least 600 extra-base hits in the first nine seasons of his career. The other active players to do that are Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera and Matt Holliday.

The Mariners have been looking for a hitter to get the team back to its winning ways and boost their attendance. From 2001 to 2003, they won a major-league best 302 games and led the majors averaging more than 42,000 fans per game. From 2010 to 2013, they’ve averaged slightly more than 23,000 fans per game, which rates 26th among the 30 teams.

The Mariners still have holes to fill within their lineup. Their left-handed hitters ranked in the top three in the AL last season in slugging percentage and OPS. Their right-handed hitters ranked last in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Safeco Field has been a reasonably friendly park, statistically speaking, for left-handed hitters, though that hasn't necessarily been so for Cano. Cano has four home runs in 152 at-bats there (all against Mariners pitching).

Kernels: 2B ... or not 2B (lots of doubles!)

September, 15, 2013
Back in June we did a whole post on triples. So it's only fitting that we also devote one to interesting and unusual stats about the week in doubles before the season's out.

• In a week with several more high-scoring games, two teams-- the Houston Astros on Tuesday and the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday-- each hit eight doubles in a game to tie the big-league season high. It was the first time Houston had eight two-baggers in a game in a decade (September 12, 2003 versus Atlanta), and just the second time any team had done it at Safeco Field (the Twins on April 17, 2007).

• In addition to hitting two of those doubles, Jose Altuve also stole three bases, including two swipes of third. Only 10 players in the past 50 years have had two doubles and three steals in a game; the others include Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter, Tim Raines and Lou Brock.

• That Wednesday game for the Athletics was a lopsided 18-3 win over the Minnesota Twins that saw Oakland's first double-digit inning since June 18, 2000. (It was also the first score of exactly 18 this season, filling in every number from 0 to 20.) The Athletics became the first team to hit eight doubles in Target Field's four-season history. The Orioles, earlier this season, had been the only team to hit seven.

• Robinson Cano of the Yankees, on Friday, was one of three players this week to have three doubles in one game. Cano has had four three-double games for the Yankees, the first being May 30, 2007. Since then only two other Yankees have even done it once: Jorge Posada in 2008 and Mark Teixeira in 2011.

• Twins catcher Josmil Pinto has made the most of his September callup; he had seven hits in his first 10 at-bats and is still hitting ,405 over his 11-game major-league career. In Monday's win over the Angels, Pinto became the first Minnesota hitter with three doubles since another catcher, Joe Mauer, in August 2009.

Pinto also became the first player with a three-double game in his first 10 career appearances since Nick Evans of the Mets did it in his debut on May 24, 2008. The only other catcher in the live-ball era with that distinction is Tim Spehr of the Royals (July 28, 1991).

• Mark Trumbo of the Angels also hit three doubles in Tuesday's win over Toronto. He added a homer and a single for his first career five-hit game. He's just the second batter in Angels history with a homer and three doubles in a game. Juan Rivera in September 2008 was the other.

Behind cleanup hitter Trumbo, Josh Hamilton and Chris Iannetta also each had three hits with at least one homer and two RBI in that game. They're the first 4-5-6 hitters to do that in the same game since Brian Jordan, John Mabry, and Gary Gaetti teamed up for the Cardinals against the Cubs on July 12, 1996.

Thanks to hits behind him, Trumbo also scored on all five trips around the bases. Only two other players in the live-ball era have posted a homer, three doubles, and five runs scored in one game. They are Dodger great Steve Garvey (1977) and HOF'er Willie Stargell for the Pirates in a 20-10 outburst against the Braves on August 1, 1970.

• Two players on Saturday reached the 50-double plateau for the season. Manny Machado of the Orioles now stands six shy of the team record of 56, set by Brian Roberts in 2009. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter won't approach Joe Medwick's mark of 64 in 1936, but he has joined some elite company. Since the team joined the NL in 1892, the only other Cardinals with 50 doubles in a season are Medwick, Enos Slaughter, Albert Pujols, and Stan Musial.

And Machado's teammate, Chris Davis, hit his 50th home run on Friday night to tie franchise record owned by Brady Anderson. But Davis also hit his 40th and 41st doubles this week, becoming just the third hitter ever to have a season with 50 homers and 40 doubles. The others are Albert Belle (1995) and Babe Ruth (1921).

Numbers show Pedroia is among the elite

July, 24, 2013
Elsa/Getty ImagesDustin Pedroia won the 2008 AL MVP award.
Dustin Pedroia has signed a seven-year extension (beginning in 2015) worth around $100 million with the Boston Red Sox, according to's Gordon Edes and multiple reports.

If Pedroia’s contract is indeed worth $100 million, it would be the fourth of at least $100 million handed out by the Red Sox organization in the team's history.

None of the previous three –- Manny Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford –- completed their contracts in a Red Sox uniform, although Ramirez came close before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final year of his deal. Coincidentally, Gonzalez and Crawford were also traded to the Dodgers, so perhaps that means Pedroia will end up in Los Angeles one day.

Not many second basemen have been as productive as Pedroia.

Since Pedroia’s first full season in 2007, he ranks first or second among second basemen in batting average, hits and doubles.

Pedroia leads all second basemen in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) since his MVP season in 2008, narrowly ahead of Chase Utley.

Only four second basemen who debuted since 1980 have more Wins Above Replacement through their age-29 season: Roberto Alomar, Chuck Knoblauch, Ryne Sandberg and Robinson Cano.

Pedroia’s numbers are historically elite for a second baseman. He’s one of five second basemen (players who played at least 50 percent of their games at second base) to hit at least .300 with at least 450 RBIs in their first eight seasons. The first two to do so were Jackie Robinson and Pete Rose. The others were Jose Vidro and Cano.

That’s not the only honor Pedroia shares with Robinson.

Since Major League Baseball first handed out the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, Robinson and Pedroia are the only second basemen (players who played at least 50 percent of their games at second base) in history to win Rookie of the Year, MVP and a World Series title while playing for the same team.

Pedroia isn’t just elite among second basemen. Since his rookie season in 2007, he has the fifth-most Wins Above Replacement among all players.

Based on that list, it seems that a raise was well deserved. The other four players on the list are each earning at least $15 million this season, while Pedroia’s 2013 salary is $10.3 million.

5 stats to know: Yankees at Rangers

July, 22, 2013

Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsYu Darvish, who makes his return from the DL, struck out an MLB-leading 157 batters prior to the All-Star break, the most since Curt Schilling (186) and Randy Johnson (171) in 2002.
The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers will meet Monday night in the first game of a four-game series in Texas at 7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

Here are five stats our broadcast crew will likely be talking about during Monday night’s game.

1. The American League’s strikeout leader, Yu Darvish, makes his return from the DL after missing just one start.

He’ll hope to get back on track after failing to complete seven innings in each of his past four starts, a stretch over which he’s posted a 4.50 ERA.

Darvish throws a variety of pitches, but his approach against righties and lefties is completely different. He’s mainly a fastball-slider pitcher against righties while lefties can only guess what could be coming.

2. Alex Rodriguez was expected to make his season debut tonight, but instead will remain out of action due to a grade 1 quad strain. This season, Yankees third basemen have combined to hit .220 with only four home runs and 27 RBI, ranking them next-to-last in the majors in each category. In fact, David Adams (now playing in Triple A) was the last New York third baseman to hit a home run, but that came all the way back on May 22.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees have not had fewer than 10 home runs in a season from the third base position since 1996 (six) and they haven’t had fewer than 50 RBI from that position since 1991 (39).

3. Ichiro Suzuki is 7-for-14 in his career against Darvish, with his .500 batting average being the highest of any batter against him (min. 10 at-bats).

Ichiro is two hits shy of becoming the third active player with 2,700 hits, joining teammates Derek Jeter and Rodriguez.

4. The Yankees trail the division-leading Boston Red Sox by seven games entering tonight. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, New York won a league or division title when trailing by seven or more games at any point after the All-Star break only once. That was in 1978 when the team trailed the Red Sox by 14 games and came back to win the AL East.

5. New York has taken the season series from the Rangers in seven of the last nine seasons (tied 4-4 in 2010, lost 4-3 in 2008).

After dropping two of three in the Bronx earlier this year, the Yankees will have to win three of the four games this week to take the season series.

Quick Hitters
• Since rejoining the Yankees rotation, Ivan Nova is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his last two starts, completing eight innings in both appearances (the first time in his career he’s gone at least eight innings in consecutive appearances).

• Robinson Cano is hitting .415 with a .519 OBP over a Yankees season-high 12-game hit streak. He’s also driven in 12 runs in that span, including two in each of the last two games.

• Mariano Rivera has 38 career saves against the Rangers, the most against them by any pitcher, a dozen more than Rollie Fingers, who ranks second.

• The Rangers began the season 19-8 at home, but have gone 8-14 since. Fourteen of the team’s first 17 games post-All-Star break are at home. They haven’t started this stretch in a positive manner as the Baltimore Orioles just completed a weekend sweep.

• Adrian Beltre has hit eight home runs this month, tied with Alfonso Soriano for the most in the majors in July.

Top stats to know: 2013 Home Run Derby

July, 14, 2013
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:

5 stats to know: Yankees at Orioles

June, 30, 2013

m McIsaac/Getty Images
Chris Tillman looks to be just the sixth AL pitcher since 1990 to go 6-0 in June.

The Baltimore Orioles host the New York Yankees at Camden Yards Sunday at 8 ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN. Here are five stats to keep an eye on during the game.

1 - Chris Davis (HR) and Manny Machado (2B) are on track to be the second pair of teammates to lead the MLB outright in home runs and doubles. In 1927, Lou Gehrig led in doubles, while Babe Ruth led in home runs.

With his two homers Saturday, Davis matched Brady Anderson club record for HR in the first half with 30 -- and the Orioles still have 14 games left before the All-Star break.

Machado is on an incredible doubles pace at a young age.

His 37 doubles before the All-Star break are the most for a player in his age-20 season or younger in MLB history. He is on pace for 73 doubles, which would break Earl Webb’s major-league record of 67 in 1931.

2 - Chris Tillman takes the mound looking to close out a successful month for the Orioles.

Tillman is 5-0 in June. He could be the franchise’s first pitcher to win six games in June since Urban Shocker went 6-1 for the St. Louis Browns in 1923.

He’d also have the ninth month with a record of 6-0 or better by an Orioles pitcher in the live-ball era.

3 - Tillman has struggled against the Yankees. He is 2-3 with an 8.16 ERA against the Bronx Bombers. Only Jeremy Affeldt has a higher ERA among active pitchers with 25+ career innings against the Yankees.

For Tillman’s winning streak to continue, he will have to get past Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano.

Ichiro holds the highest career batting average at Camden Yards (min. 150 PA),.382.

Cano could also pose a threat to Tillman at the plate. Cano’s .338 BA is the highest for a Yankees player against the Orioles since Joe DiMaggio, who hit .363 in his career against Baltimore (min. 500 PA).

4 - Barring a surge tonight, this will go down as the Yankees’ worst offensive June in years.

The Yankees are averaging 3.3 runs this month. It would be their lowest in June since 1967 (3.0).

One reason for the offensive struggles could be that the Yankees have more payroll on the disabled list (more than $97M) than the entire Opening Day payroll of 16 teams, including the Orioles.

5 – Hiroki Kuroda’s 2.77 ERA would be among the lowest by an AL pitcher his age in the past 50 years. It would be the lowest for a qualifying Yankees starter 38 or older since Spud Chandler’s 2.10 in 1946.

He’s been tough on right-handed hitters…

Kuroda is tied with Justin Masterson with a .514 Opp OPS against right-handed batters, the lowest among AL starting pitchers.

…and with runners in scoring position.

He has held opponents to a .182 BA with runners in position, the fifth-lowest among AL starters.

Santana, Cano are powered 'up' this season

June, 3, 2013

Elsa/Getty Images
Carlos Santana (left, wearing mask) leads the Indians against Robinson Cano and the Yankees.
Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana and New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano are 11th and 12th in the American League, respectively, in OPS this season.

Their teams square off on Monday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 ET).

They’ve both had success on pitches up in the zone but in different ways. Santana is hitting 140 points higher with an OPS that is almost 340 points higher on pitchers in the upper half of the strike zone.

He’s also taken advantage of being ahead in the count, hitting .553 with a 1.749 OPS in hitters’ counts (1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1) this season (.178/.420 in pitchers’ counts). His OBP of .696 when he’s ahead in the count leads all American League hitters.

Cano’s batting average and OPS are higher against pitches in the upper half, but he gets most of his power against pitches in the lower half of the strike zone, where he’s hit 11 of his 14 home runs this season.

Take a look at his hot zones at the bottom of the page to see the difference.

He’s gone back and forth this season between the 2-hole and the 3-hole in the lineup, but he’s clearly been better hitting second, as you can see in the chart on the right.

Mastering the slider
Indians starter Justin Masterson is holding opponents to an .063 batting average against his slider, the lowest against any starting pitcher with at least 100 sliders thrown this season.

The league-average starting pitcher gets a whiff on 31 percent of swings against sliders. Masterson gets whiffs on 43 percent of swings against his slider, and his 48 strikeouts with the pitch are the third-most in the majors.

When he throws it at least 83 MPH, opponents are hitting just .030 with a .114 OPS. Those numbers are .231 and .795 against sliders below 83 MPH.

And he has the ability to ramp up the velocity -- on both his slider and his fastball -- as he gets closer to a strikeout.

Did you know?
• Yankees starter Andy Pettitte is one win away from 250 for his career. He would be the 47th pitcher to reach the 250 win plateau. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 23 pitchers have earned their 250th career win in the past 70 years, but only five had fewer losses at the time of their 250th win than Pettitte entering tonight: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver.

Mariano Rivera
• Mariano Rivera hasn’t walked an Indians batter since July 14, 2002. That was arguably his worst career outing, when he gave up six runs (his most as a reliever) on five hits in 2/3 of an inning, blowing the save in dramatic fashion when Bill Selby hit a walk-off home run against him.

• Rivera has gone 24 straight games against the Indians without walking a batter, which is tied with the Royals for his longest active streak against any team. The longest walk-less streak in his career is against the Blue Jays, a 30-game streak from 2006-10.

• Rivera has a 3.16 ERA at Progressive Field, his second-highest at any AL ballpark, behind Angel Stadium (3.26).

Robinson Cano is hitting pitches up in the zone for a high average, but his power is coming against pitches in the lower half.

Yankees have ace up sleeve in Kuroda

May, 22, 2013

Manny Machado has had a better start to his career than Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.
Hiroki Kuroda takes the hill for the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 ET).

Kuroda is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles (including the postseason), all coming since he joined the Yankees. He’s pitched at least seven innings in each of those outings and thrown a pitch in the ninth inning in three of them.

In his start this season, he threw a 5-hit shutout, including just two hits over his final 23 batters faced.

Kuroda has done a number on righties this season, holding them to a .399 OPS, which is 55 points lower than the next-closest starter. He’s struck out 21 righties and walked just 3 (18 strikeouts, 11 walks vs LHB).

He’s also been great against the middle of the order this season. He’s allowed a .384 OPS to opposing 4-7 hitters, the lowest among starters in the American League.

One of those righties will be Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. The 20-year-old is hitting .348 against right-handed pitchers this season -- Miguel Cabrera is the only AL righty hitting higher against righties.

Machado was the youngest Opening Day starting 3B since Adrian Beltre in 1999 for the Dodgers. He was the youngest in the AL since Brooks Robinson in 1957.

You can see above how Machado compares to other young stars.

Matchups to Watch
The Yankees bullpen has combined to post a 1.73 ERA (11 ER, 57 1/3 IP) and hold opponents to a .200 (38-for-205) batting average with 60 K and just 13 BB in May. The winning run last night was the first run allowed by the Yankees bullpen on the road this month (in 27 2/3 IP).

Power Up the Middle
Two of the top three middle infielders in home runs since the start of the 2011 season are in this game -- Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (first with 70) and Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (third with 60).

He’s Going Streaking
Ichiro Suzuki has an active 20-game hit streak at Camden Yards dating to April 2008, hitting .391 (34-87) in that span.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a hit tonight would tie him with Joey Votto (at Minute Maid Park) for the longest active hit streak at a single park and put him one behind Jacoby Ellsbury (from August 2008-August 2012) for the longest hit streak at Camden Yards.

Cutting Down on Ks
In a season where strikeouts are at an all-time high, the Orioles have cut down on the strikeouts from last season. They struck out at the third-highest rate in the AL last season (21% of PA). This year, they have the AL’s second-lowest K rate behind Texas (17%).

• Chris Davis cut his K rate from 30% to 25%
• Manny Machado cut his from 19% to 14%
• J.J. Hardy cut his from 15% to 10%
• Nick Markakis cut his from 11% to 8%
• Nate McLouth cut his from 18% (with BAL last year) to 12%
• Mark Reynolds signed with the Indians (30% last season)

Yanks, Sabathia try to reverse trend vs Rays

April, 22, 2013

AP Photo/Brian BlancoCC Sabathia has struggled against the Rays since joining the Yankees, going 3-8 in 18 starts.
Tropicana Field has not been a very welcoming host to the New York Yankees and CC Sabathia, but tonight New York has a chance to start reversing that trend when they take on the Tampa Bay Rays (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN) in the first game of a three-game set.

New York went 2-7 at Tampa Bay last season and is 9-18 over the last three years at Tropicana Field. From 2007-09, the Yankees won 15 of the 27 games played in Florida against the Rays.

Pitching Matchup
CC Sabathia will take the mound tonight looking to reverse his fortune against the Rays on the road. The Yankees are just 6-12 in Sabathia’s last 18 starts against Tampa Bay, and just 1-7 in his eight starts at Tropicana Field since he joined the team in 2009!

Sabathia has gotten off to a good start this season, going 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sabathia has never won more than three games in April in his previous 12 career seasons. He won three in April for the Cleveland Indians in 2007 and three of the Yankees in both 2010 and 2012. For all other months combined, he’s won at least four games 20 times.

Opposing Sabathia will be Matt Moore, who is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in three starts this season. His fastball has been great this season (he averages 92 MPH on that pitch), but his offspeed pitches have been even better.

However, he’ll have to be careful throwing changeups to Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells, who are hitting .556 (ninth) and .500 (11th) against changeups, respectively, this season.

Offensive Comparison
So far in the early going, these two teams could not be further apart in terms of offensive production. Despite missing Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees offense keeps humming, and hitting home runs. New York ranks in the top five in baseball in slugging percentage (.467, 2nd), batting average (.273, 3rd), and OBP (.339, 5th).

With all the power the Yankees are missing – nine of their top 10 home run hitters from last season are not on the roster – power was expected to be at a premium. However, they have already hit 27 home runs so far this season, good for third-best in the majors.

As for the Rays, they are at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to offense this season. Part of it is due to an incredibly low batting average on balls in play (.260, last in the majors).

Stat of the Game
Evan Longoria is 14-for-39 (.359) with three doubles and five home runs against Sabathia. That is Longoria’s most home runs against any pitcher and only Alfonso Soriano (six) has hit more home runs against Sabathia than Longoria (Jermaine Dye has also hit five home runs against Sabathia).

Kernels: Triple play highlights unusual week

April, 14, 2013
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Yankees turned a very unusual triple play last week.
Our favorite statistical anecdotes from the past week in the major leagues:

Play of the Week: Yankees turn bizarre triple play
The New York Yankees rounded out the week by turning a bizarre triple play that involved two Baltimore Orioles getting caught in rundowns on the basepaths. It was the first one turned by the Yankees since April 22, 2010, but just their second in the past 45 seasons. Before that, you have to go back to June 3, 1968. The Orioles had not hit into a triple play since 1996.

If you're scoring at home, it went ((4-6)-5-6-5)-3-4, easily the first triple play ever to have that combination of fielders.

It's just the 10th of the 690 triple plays documented by SABR to involve at least seven chances, and the first time ever that three different fielders (2B, 3B, and SS) got both a putout and an assist as part of a triple play.

Players of the Week: Hudson, Wainwright do it with bat and arm
Tim Hudson and Adam Wainwright not only had good Saturdays on the hill, they had good games at the plate also. Hudson earned the win over the Washington Nationals, while at the same time becoming the first opposing pitcher to get two hits off Stephen Strasburg.

Since the start of 2010, eight Braves pitchers have had multi-hit games ... and six of those are by Hudson. Only Clayton Kershaw and Mike Leake have more such games over that span.

Wainwright, meanwhile, threw a shutout with 12 strikeouts and no walks. And he collected three hits at the plate (while giving up only four to the Brewers). The last pitcher to have three hits in a nine-inning shutout was Livan Hernandez for the 2004 Expos. And only one other St. Louis Cardinals pitcher in the live-ball era has pitched a shutout with 12 K and 0 BB: That's Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson who did it four times.

Game of the Week: Astros break out
After scoring 17 runs in their first seven games combined, the Houston Astros erupted for 16 in Tuesday's game against Seattle, their highest-scoring game since August 2010.

The Mariners' late surge brought the final score to 16-9, a record for combined runs in a game at Safeco Field. And (since there is no slot for pitchers' numbers) the manual scoreboard operators needed their "22" card for the first time ever. The Astros hit total was also a record for any team since the park opened in 1999.

Among those 22 hits were four each by Jose Altuve and Chris Carter, the first pair of four-hit Astros in the same game since Willy Taveras and Morgan Ensberg did it in August 2005.

Mets amazin’ offensive outburst
The New York Mets' first trip into Target Field ended with a 16-5 outburst on Friday night. The New Yorkers hung 5-spots in both the 1st and 2nd innings, with nine of those runs coming off Minnesota Twins starter Vance Worley who only got three outs.

In the last four seasons, there has been exactly one pitcher per year to surrender nine or more runs while going 1 one inning or less. They were Jamie Moyer (2010), Zach Britton ('11), Rick Porcello ('12), and now Worley. The last Twins starter to post such a line was Joe Decker way back on May 12, 1976 (Brett Merriman did it in relief in 1993).

Although Elias tells us the Mets were the first team ever to score 5 or more in each of their first two innings playing in a stadium, Friday's game also happened to be the time in Mets history that they had scored 5+ in the first two innings of ANY game.

Cano’s breakthrough
The New York Yankees downed the Cleveland Indians 14-1 on Tuesday after an 11-6 victory on Monday. That's the first time the team had back-to-back double-digit totals since a pair of 12-4 wins over the Texas Rangers in June 2011.

Robinson Cano hit two homers and scored four times in Monday's game, numbers last accomplished by a Yankee when Hideki Matsui did it in August 2009.

Cano then reversed his line and hit two doubles and a homer on Tuesday. In the Live-Ball Era, he is one of only two Yankees to have back-to-back games with three or more extra-base hits. Cano did it once before, at the end of the 2005 season. The other is Lou Gehrig in June 1936.
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesChris Davis has enjoyed watching the ball fly away in 2013.
A rematch of one of last year's best matchups is on the Sunday Night Baseball schedule for this evening.

Let's preview some of the topics that they'll be talking about on tonight's broadcast at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Orioles Hitter to watch: Chris Davis
Chris Davis enters the night tied with New York Mets catcher John Buck for the major-league lead in RBI with 19 in 11 games.

Only four players have ever had MORE through a team’s first 11 games of a season: Lou Gehrig (20 in 1927), Bobby Doerr (20 in 1941), Willie Mays (20 in 1964) and Manny Ramirez (22 in 1999).

The record for RBI through his team’s first 12 games is 23 by Scott Rolen in 2004.

The key for Davis is a rather simple one. Entering this season, Davis missed at a rate of about one of every three swings he took. This season, that rate has been cut to one miss for every six swings.

Davis has excelled against pitches on the outer half of the plate (an area Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda frequently targets). Eleven of his 15 hits and five of his homers have come on pitches to that area.

Yankees hitter to watch: Robinson Cano
After a rough first six games of the season, Robinson Cano has returned to form in the last four games, with 11 hits and three home runs in 19 at-bats.

Cano is 1-for-9 with four strikeouts against left-handed pitching this season. Lefties have been able to succeed at getting Cano out dating back to last season by pitching him to the outside part of the plate and off the outside corner.

Cano has done a lot of damage to righties on pitches to that area during this hot streak. Seven of those 11 hits and two of the home runs came on pitches to the outer-third or off the outside corner.

Wei-Yin Chen stats to watch
Chen gave up a home run to the first major-league hitter he faced last season- New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. He won’t have to worry about facing Jeter on Sunday, but he’ll have to worry about home runs.

He allowed six in 24 innings in four starts against the Yankees last season, though he did beat them in a homer-free start in the ALDS last season.

Chen is 8-0 and the Orioles are 12-1 in the starts in which he didn’t allow a home run. He’s 4-8 and the Orioles are 7-14 when he allows at least one.

One other note on Chen: a win would give him 13, tying him with Hong-Chih Kuo was the second-winningest of the five major league pitchers born in Taiwan. The all-time leader is Chien-Ming Wang, with 61 wins.

Hiroki Kuroda stats to watch
Kuroda had a terrific season in 2012 for the Yankees and will be seeking to duplicate that effort in 2013.

Kuroda excelled last season at getting opponents to beat the ball into the ground. His 53 percent ground-ball rate was seventh-best among AL starters and a significant increase from his single-season career best of 45 percent.

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is hitting .209 this season, will be facing a pitcher who has given him a lot of trouble in the past.

Hardy is 1-for-10 in the regular season against Kuroda and also went 0-for-4 against him in last year’s playoffs.

Orioles back of the bullpen terrific again
There were some doubters as to whether the back of the Orioles bullpen would be as good in 2013 as it was in 2012.

But two of their pitchers have lived up to expectations so far.

Darren O’Day and closer Jim Johnson have each allowed one unearned run in a combined 12 1/3 innings this season.

Mark Simon also contributed to this post

Cano extra-base binge has Yankees winning

April, 10, 2013
AP Photo/Tony DejakRobinson Cano looks to become the first player in the modern era with three extra-base hits in three straight games.
The New York Yankees look to get over .500 for the first time this season when they visit the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN2).

After not topping four runs in any of their first five games, the Yankees have scored 32 runs in their past three games, including double-digit outputs in each of the first two games of the series.

Cano leads the charge
Robinson Cano is 7-for-10 in the series after going 6-for-63 in his previous 15 games dating to the start of last year’s postseason.

Cano is the first major league player with at least three extra-base hits in consecutive games since 2005 –- also by Cano. The only other Yankee to accomplish the feat was Lou Gehrig in 1936.

If he can get three extra-base hits Wednesday, the Elias Sports Bureau confirms that he would be the first player in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) with three extra-base hits in three straight games.

Bronx Bombers
Coming into the season, one of the big questions for the Yankees was where the power would come from. Nine of their top 10 home run hitters from 2012 are either on the disabled list or no longer with the team.

That hasn’t stopped this year’s squad, which is tied for the major league lead with 15 home runs, including eight in the first two games of the series.

Newcomers Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner have each hit two home runs and hit at least .333 in the first eight games.

Last season the Yankees led MLB with 48.4 percent of their runs scoring on home runs. This year’s pace is slightly higher -- 49.0 percent -- but is only sixth in the majors so far.

Cleveland’s free-agency plunge
After spending $117 million in free agency this offseason, the Indians are off to a disappointing 3-5 start and are in last place in the AL Central.

Cleveland’s free-agent commitment was the third highest in the majors, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, who combined to spend $335 million in the offseason.

The team’s spending was not only high relative to league standards, but unprecedented for Cleveland. In the previous three offseasons, the Indians combined to spend just more than $12 million on free agents.

Indians pitching struggles
The Indians have yet to name a starter for Wednesday’s game after projected starter Brett Myers pitched in relief Tuesday. But the entire staff has had trouble throwing strikes so far this season.

Cleveland pitchers have thrown strikes on only 60 percent of their pitches and walked 11 percent of the batters they’ve faced. Both numbers are worst in the majors.

The Yankees' home run onslaught is also likely to continue Wednesday. The Indians allow 2.0 home runs per nine innings, the highest rate in the majors.