Stats & Info: Russell Branyan

Chasing history in the AL West

September, 15, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Paul Maholm takes the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday holding the team-lead in strikeouts with 90 (Side note: 34 pitchers had more than that before the All-Star break). Not having a 100-K pitcher is a bit more common than you might think. In fact, it happened five times last decade, including last season to the Washington Nationals. Which brings us today’s trivia question: Which pitcher led the Nationals in strikeouts last season?

The standings might say otherwise, but there’s always something to play for – in this case, history. In the first of a series of divisional breakdowns, here’s some statistical minutiae to keep an eye on in the closing weeks. First the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels
    Bobby Abreu
  • Bobby Abreu needs one stolen base for 20 on the season. That would give him 12 straight seasons of 15 HR and 20 SB, extending his own record streak. Barry Bonds (10 straight) has the next longest such stretch.
  • Brandon Wood’s .397 OPS would be the lowest for a player with 200 plate appearances since Frank O’Rourke posted a .325 OPS for the 1912 Boston Braves. Wood is just below Tony Pena Jr.’s .398 for the Kansas City Royals in 2008. Wood’s .185 on-base percentage would be the seventh lowest since 1900 for players with 200 PA.
  • With 56 strikeouts and only four walks, Wood would have the most strikeouts for a player with fewer than five walks since Rob Picciolo (63 K, 2 BB) of the 1980 Oakland A’s.
Oakland A’s
  • Both the Seattle Mariners and A’s do not have a player with 15 home runs. The difference is that the A’s leader Kevin Kouzmanoff (14 HR) has been missing time with a back injury. The last AL team without a 15-HR player was the 1992 Angels, who were led by Gary Gaetti’s 12.
  • If Daric Barton (100 BB, 88 K) stays below 100 strikeouts, he’d be the first American League player since Rafael Palmeiro to do that in a season with over 100 walks. Since Palmeiro’s 2002 campaign, 16 players have done this, but all were in the National League. With only eight HR, Barton would be the first to do this with fewer than 10 HR since Rickey Henderson in 1996.
  • How does a pitcher with only 98 strikeouts have the lowest opponent OPS in the AL since Tim Hudson in 2003? There just might be some luck involved for Trevor Cahill. The .224 BABIP against Cahill is the lowest against a qualifying AL pitcher since opponents had a .212 BABIP against the Detroit Tigers Jeff Robinson in 1988. Not only was that Robinson’s only season with a sub-3.00 ERA, but his next best was 4.73.
Seattle Mariners
    Franklin Gutierrez
  • With Franklin Gutierrez currently leading the team with 56 RBI, the Mariners could become the first team since the 1983 Cincinnati Reds without a 60 RBI player in a non-strike shortened season. That Reds squad was led by Ron Oester’s 58 RBI.
  • Russell Branyan only has 56 RBI to go with the 24 home runs he’s hit between the Cleveland Indians and Mariners. He’s safe though. The fewest RBI for a player with 25+ HR is 54 by Ron Gant when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels in 2000. The AL “record” is shared by Fred Lynn (1988 Orioles/Tigers) and Marcus Thames (2008 Tigers) with 56.
  • Mariners designated hitters are batting just .190 at the plate this season. Over the last 35 years, the only AL team to hit below the Mendoza Line at DH was the Texas Rangers (.197) in 1988. Larry Parrish was the most frequent DH on that squad.
Texas Rangers
  • Left-handed hitters are batting just .136 against C.J. Wilson. That’s the second lowest for a qualifying AL starter over the last 35 years. In 1995, lefties hit just .129 against Randy Johnson. The difference is that Johnson only faced 92 lefties that season, while Wilson has done battle with 156.
  • If he doesn’t suit up again in the regular season, Josh Hamilton will finish with 21 home runs and .395 batting average at home. Over the last 50 years, the only other AL player to hit .390 with 20 HR at home was Albert Belle for the 1994 Indians.
  • Elvis Andrus has 145 hits, but only 17 have gone for extra bases. The last player with over 150 hits in a season with 17 of fewer extra base hits was Kirby Puckett in 1984. Only 17 of his 165 hits were no singles.
James Shields
Key Matchups: Alex Rodriguez (.208) and Mark Teixeira (.143) have been baffled by James Shields in the past. However, no one compares to Curtis Granderson. His .077 average is lowest for anyone that Shields has faced at least 20 times. Granderson’s struggles are notable for the fact that he usually struggles against right-handed pitchers. In fact, against righties not named James Shields, he has a .289 career average compared to .216 against southpaws.

Chad Billingsley has an 0.61 in 29 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, good enough for a 2-0 record in four starts. In fact, Billingsley has tossed 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against San Francisco. Both Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval are 0-for-10 against him in 2010. Uribe was 5-for-10 entering the season.

Trivia Answer: With 92 strikeouts, Jordan Zimmermann led the 2009 Nationals, despite making only one appearance after the break. Washington’s Tyler Clippard (97) had already eclipsed that total while pitching solely in relief.

1st Pitch: Jays mashing for history

September, 8, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Neither the Oakland Athletics nor the Seattle Mariners have a player with at least 15 home runs. Kevin Kouzmanoff’s 14 leads Oakland, while Russell Branyan paces Seattle with 13 (in just 50 games!). If either team ends up without a 15-HR player, it would the first time for an AL team since the 1992 Angels. Who led that team in home runs? (Hint: He has the third-most career HR for a player who homered in his first at-bat.)

Quick Hits: With their third straight game with at least three home runs, the Toronto Blue Jays now have 215 on the season. That’s tied for the third most in franchise history and 33 more than any other team. Let’s dive into Toronto’s torrid pace with help from STATS LLC.

• Toronto has hit at least three homers in each of its last three games. In 138 games this season, the Houston Astros have the same number of three-HR games.

• The Blue Jays now have 33 three-HR games, the mostby a team in a season since the 2005 Texas Rangers. Over the last 90 years, the 1997 Mariners had the most three-HR games with 43.

• Speaking of the Mariners, they’ve only hit a home run in 62 games this season. The Blue Jays have hit multiple home runs in 63 games this season.

• The Blue Jays have hit an incredible 181 home runs against right-handed pitchers, 54 more than any other team. In fact, only the Boston Red Sox (182) have more total HR than the Blue Jays have against righties alone.

• The Blue Jays are hitting just .218 against lefties this season, which would be the lowest season average over the last 35 years. Not surprisingly, only 34 of their homers have come against southpaws (tied for 17th in the majors).

• The Blue Jays are on pace for 150 home runs at home this season. That puts them just off the pace of 2005 Rangers, who hold the record with 153 HR at home.

Jose Bautista has already hit 27 home runs at home this season, the most by an AL player since Mark Teixeira’s 30 in Arlington back in 2005. The MLB record would be a task though. That belongs to Hank Greenberg, who hit 39 of his 58 home runs at home in 1938.

• At home, Bautista is averaging a home run every 7.93 at-bats. That would be the best in the American League over the last 50 years. In 1994, Frank Thomas averaged one per 8.14 at-bats at home. Over that span, Bautista’s rate would be the sixth best in the majors behind two seasons apiece for Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, and Hank Aaron’s 1971 campaign.

Today’s Leaderboard: Of Adam Lind’s 20 home runs, 14 have come in two-strike counts. Compare that to Baustista, who has 8 of his 43 HR coming with two strikes. Lind’s total is the most in the AL and trails only Albert Pujols, who has 15 more total home runs.

Key Matchups: Zack Greinke has not enjoyed facing the Minnesota Twins this season, going 0-3 with a 10.29 ERA. In fact, take out his starts against Minnesota and Greinke’s ERA would drop from 3.87 to 3.36, as noted in the Kansas City Star. Joe Mauer is 4-for-8 against Greinke this season, after entering 2010 just 6-for-27 against him.

After missing two years due to injury, Chris Capuano made it back to the big leagues in 2010. However, that means he will have to face Albert Pujols again for the first time since 2007. If Pujols wants to make a run at the Triple Crown, it will require a massive climb in batting average. Tonight is a good place to start. Albert is 15-for-27 against Capuano, a .556 average that is his third highest against anyone he’s faced 20 times.

Trivia Answer: Gary Gaetti led the 1992 Angels with 12 home runs. That’s the fewest HR to lead an AL team in a non-strike year since Bobby Bonds paced the 1976 Angels with 10.
The New York Yankees have placed Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. However, they improved to 11-0 without him this season with Saturday's win over the Seattle Mariners. Russell Branyan homered for the third time in his last two games and each of his last five hits have been HR. His seven career HR at the new Yankee Stadium are tied with Victor Martinez for the most by a visiting player.

Mariano Rivera notched his 25th save. It's the 14th time he's had at least 25 saves in a season, tied with Trevor Hoffman for most all-time.

Rangers ace Cliff Lee allowed a career high four HR vs the Baltimore Orioles. Seven of the 13 HR he has allowed this season have come in his two starts against Baltimore. Lee also matched his career high by allowing 8 runs and pitched fewer than six innings for the first time this season.

Josh Bell hit two HR and had five RBI batting ninth for the Orioles. He's the first Oriole to do that since 1920, when RBI became an official statistic. He's just the second batter with at least two HR and five RBI batting ninth this season, joining the Rays' Reid Brignac.

The Cubs snapped their five-game losing streak with a win over the Braves. Tommy Hanson is now 0-4 in his last 9 starts.

Brooks Conrad nearly hit his third pinch-hit grand slam of the season, but settled for a 2-run double. He now has 10 pinch-hit RBI this season with the bases loaded. That is twice as many as any other player in baseball.

The Angels defeated the Twins and rookie Peter Bourjos was the hero. He had two hits (HR, triple) and recorded a career-high four RBI in his 15th big-league game. Bourjos becomes the second player this season to have his first career HR and triple come in the same game (Starlin Castro was the other on May 7). Bourjos and Bobby Abreu hit back-to-back HR. Abreu now has 15 or more HR in 13 consecutive seasons.

1st Pitch: July numbers to rely on

July, 1, 2010
Quick Hits: With the calendar turning to July, certain players are anxious for a fresh start, while others would prefer we just skip to August. Let’s take a look at what history tells us to expect.
  • CC Sabathia will get right to it with a start against the Mariners on Thursday. That might not be a good thing. Sabathia is 17-23 with a 4.61 ERA in July, compared to 128-61 with a 3.43 ERA in all other months combined.
  • Tim Hudson is 22-8 in July, a .733 win percentage. Among careers starting in the last 50 years, only two pitchers with at least 30 decisions have a higher win percentage: Storm Davis (.781) and Pedro Martinez (.750).
  • Brad Lidge is 37-for-38 in save opportunities in July, and has converted 21 straight in the month going back to 2006.
  • Hideki Okajima finished June with a 6.52 ERA, so July could not have come soon enough. He’s only allowed three earned runs over 29 July innings in his career.
  • It’s tough to know what we should expect from Carlos Zambrano at this point, but July has traditionally been his best month. He’s 27-10 with a 2.86 ERA in his career. Over the previous three seasons, he is 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA in July.
  • Rod Barajas is a .200 career hitter in July, the lowest of any active player (min. 300 PA). He hasn’t hit over .200 in the month since 2005.
  • Perhaps the fresh scenery will help Russell Branyan avoid a poor July. Over the previous three seasons, the slugger has hit just .166 in the month.
  • Over the previous two seasons, the Angels are 38-13 in July, best in the majors.
Today’s Trivia: July 1 is Canada Day. It’s also the final day of All-Star voting. Can you name the five players born in Canada to have made three or more All-Star Games?

Today’s Leaderboard: This is Howie Kendrick’s month to shine. He’s a .398 hitter in July, compared to .282 in every other month combined. Chase Utley’s injury status remains up in the air, which means he could miss the month where he performs at his best. He has the second best average among active players, followed by Robinson Cano. Throw in Skip Schumaker (fifth-best), and apparently July is for second basemen.

Key Matchups: Ichiro Suzuki is a .396 career hitter against CC Sabathia, whom he faces on Thursday. Even against an elite pitcher, a high batting average is nothing particularly notable for Ichiro. However, a .708 slugging percentage is quite noteworthy for a player known as a singles hitter. It’s his highest against any pitcher that he’s faced 35 times. Ichiro has eight extra-base hits (including three home runs) off of Sabathia, his most against any pitcher.

For the second straight year, Nelson Cruz will celebrate his birthday by facing Jered Weaver. Let’s just say it probably wasn’t his first choice. Cruz, who turns 30 today, is a .190 career hitter against Weaver with seven strikeouts in 21 at-bats. John Lackey is the only pitcher against whom Cruz has more strikeouts. In last year’s birthday meeting, Cruz went 1-for-2 against Weaver before leaving the game with back stiffness.

Trivia Answer: Larry Walker’s five All-Star Games are the most for a Canadian. Eric Gagne, Fergie Jenkins, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bay have all been named three times. On the subject of Canada, Jason Bay is 0-for-18 on Canada Day since 2006 according to the Elias Sports Bureau.