Stats & Info: Ryan Dempster

5 stats to know: Yankees at Red Sox

August, 18, 2013

Getty Images
CC Sabathia’s Yankees are one of two teams that Ryan Dempster has never beaten.

With a win, the Boston Red Sox can clinch their fourth straight series against their archrivals as they host the New York Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).

Here are five stats to know going into tonight’s action at Fenway Park.

1. The Yankees are having their worst offensive season since 1990, but the recent addition of Alfonso Soriano and the return of Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson have helped. New York has averaged 5.2 runs per game with all three on the roster, nearly a run and a half better than they averaged in the first 110 games of the season.

2. CC Sabathia is having the worst season of his 13-year MLB career. He is posting career highs in ERA, home runs and hits per nine innings. His fastball is down 1.4 mph from last season and more than 3 mph from his first year with the Yankees in 2009.

3. Ryan Dempster is 0-5 with a 6.98 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees. That’s his second-highest ERA against any opponent (he has a 7.62 ERA against the Los Angeles Angels), and the Yankees and Detroit Tigers are the only teams he hasn’t won a game against.

What should he focus on against the Yanks?

When Dempster needs an out, he goes to his Vulcan changeup, which acts like a splitter. This season, opponents are hitting .137 and striking out 35 percent of the time against the pitch.

4. The Red Sox have seen more pitches than any other team this season, nearly 1,000 more than the second-most. Six of the Red Sox starters are in the top 50 in the American League in pitches per plate appearance, and Boston has forced more starting pitchers out before the sixth inning than any team in the majors.

Based on their most common starting lineup, the Red Sox see nearly two more pitches each time through the order than the average American League team – 36.5 to 34.7.

5. Soriano has filled a major void in the Yankees’ lineup. Before his arrival, Yankees’ right-handed hitters hadn’t hit a home run in 26 games. In the 20 games since then, they’ve hit 14, with Soriano accounting for eight.

Odds and Ends

• Ichiro Suzuki is closing in on 4,000 professional hits. He is third among active MLB players with 2,717 hits and had 1,278 hits during his career in Japan.

• Mariano Rivera has blown three straight save opportunities for the first time in his career. According to Elias, since Rivera became the Yankees’ closer in 1997, 33 different pitchers have had at least one streak of three or more blown saves in the ninth inning or later in the same season.

• David Ortiz has 24 home runs this season. It’s his 11th 20-homer season since joining the Red Sox, tied for second most in franchise history behind Ted Williams. His next home run will give him nine 25-homer seasons.

5 stats to know: Yankees at Red Sox

July, 21, 2013
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will meet Sunday night in the rubber game of a three-game series at 8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

Here are five stats our broadcast crew will likely be talking about a lot during Sunday night’s contest.

1. The Yankees' first four series out of the All-Star break are against the division-leading Red Sox, the team with the fifth-best record in the AL (Texas Rangers), a Tampa Bay Rays team that entered Sunday having won 19 of 23 and a Los Angeles Dodgers team that entered Sunday with 19 wins in their last 24 games.

The Yankees are averaging 3.9 runs per game and have a .243 batting average, .307 on-base percentage and .376 slugging percentage. Each of those stats, if they hold through to season’s end, would be their worst in those categories since 1990.

2. Red Sox hitters have had a very sound approach this season. They lead the majors in pitches seen per at-bat (4.04).

Thirty percent of the balls they’ve hit this season have been to the opposite field, the highest rate in the majors.

The Red Sox are hitting .196 in two-strike counts, ranking third in the majors. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia leads the AL with a .294 batting average in two-strike counts in 2013.

3. CC Sabathia has thrown more than 42,000 pitches since 2001, the most of anyone in the major leagues. He’s thrown 1,637.1 innings since 2007 (including the postseason), more than 100 more than any other pitcher.

Sabathia’s fastball is averaging 90.6 mph, down 1.6 mph from last season, and down more than 3 mph from 2011. Opponents are hitting .300 against the pitch this season

He enters with a 5.44 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park with the Yankees, his highest ERA in any ballpark since joining the team.

Sabathia will be trying to be the first Yankees starter to win a game on his birthday (he turns 33 today) since Joe Cowley in 1984. Before Cowley, Ron Guidry did it in 1977 and 1981.

4. Ryan Dempster enters this start with an 0-5 record, a 7.29 ERA and a 1.050 opponents’ OPS in six career starts against the Yankees. Since posting a 2.93 ERA in his first seven starts, Dempster has a 5.08 ERA. He’s gone six straight starts with fewer than five strikeouts. He hasn’t had a stretch of seven straight starts since 2002-03.

5. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera earned his 57th regular-season save against the Red Sox on Saturday, giving him 30 more than the pitcher with the next-highest total against the Sox (Rick Aguilera).

Rivera has a 2.58 ERA and 35 regular-season saves at Fenway Park. There are only two visiting ballparks at which he’s had more saves: Camden Yards (41) and Tropicana Field (36).

Top stats to know: Red Sox

March, 1, 2013

AP Photo/David GoldmanThe Red Sox will look to Ryan Dempster in 2013

With Baseball Tonight at Boston Red Sox spring training camp today, here’s a look at notable “Stats to Know” about a team that was very active in the offseason in an effort to avoid duplicating the disaster that was 2012.

How bad was it?
The Red Sox went 69-93 in 2012. Their .426 winning percentage was their worst since going 62-100 (.383) in 1965. 2012 snapped a streak of 45 straight seasons without 90 losses, which was the longest active in the MLB.

The Red Sox top player by Wins Above Replacement was Dustin Pedroia (4.7). The Red Sox have had only one other season in the last 50 in which their WAR leader’s total was so low—in 1980, when Fred Lynn paced the team with 4.5 WAR.

New faces at the plate
The Red Sox projected Opening Day starting lineup contains five new position players from last season's debut lineup. Among the acquisitions, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes will play the corners in the outfield, Mike Napoli first base, Stephen Drew shortstop, and fill-in reserves David Ross and Mike Carp will catch and play first base respectively.

The acquisitions of Gomes, Napoli and Victorino should help the Red Sox against left-handed pitching. The latter three all rank in the top 30 among active players in career slugging percentage against lefties.

The Red Sox went 26-25 in games against lefty starting pitchers in 2012.

Ross has a reputation as a good defensive catcher, a thought backed up by this stat: opponents have a 64 percent career stolen-base success rate against Ross, fourth-lowest against active catchers with at least 300 games behind the plate.

The most trepidation comes with Napoli, who had to settle for a one-year deal after hip issues uncovered with his physical torpedoed a potential 3-year contract.

Napoli went from striking out in 20 percent of his plate appearances in 2011 to a career-high 30 percent rate in 2012 (seventh-highest in the majors). His effectiveness against breaking pitches declined sharply as well, as noted in the chart on the right.

New faces on the mound
The Red Sox made two significant additions to their pitching staff in starter Ryan Dempster and closer Joel Hanrahan.

Boston hopes to get the version of Dempster who pitched for the Cubs last season to a 2.25 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, rather than the one who had a 5.09 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 69 innings with the Rangers. The key stat tied to his struggles: he allowed only nine home runs with the Cubs, but yielded 10 in 35 fewer innings with the Rangers.

The Red Sox are betting that Dempster's track record of consistency will help lower the starting rotation's 5.19 ERA from last season (a franchise-worst in the Live-Ball Era). His strikeout, walk, and homerun numbers have been consistent over the last four seasons, during which his FIP (an ERA estimator that uses those stats to measure effectiveness) has ranged from 3.69 to 3.99.

Hanrahan had 36 saves and a 2.72 ERA last season. However, a couple of key indicators were outliers for him.

Hanrahan’s percentage of baserunners stranded (89.7 percent) and BABIP (.230) both ranked in the top five among NL relievers with at least 50 innings last season and were far removed from his career averages of 75 percent and .306.

Dempster hopes control ends Bronx blues

August, 13, 2012

John E. Sokolowski/US PresswireThe Yankees have won five straight games against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium.

The Texas Rangers head to the Bronx on Monday to take on fellow World Series hopefuls, the New York Yankees (ESPN 2, 7 ET). This will mark the Rangers’ first trip to Yankee Stadium in 2012 and the Yankees hope to continue their recent run of home success against the two-time defending American League champions.

The Yankees have gone 8-1 against the Rangers at home over the last three seasons including wins in each of their last five meetings. Their .889 home win percentage against Texas since 2010 is the Yankees’ highest against any opponent they have faced at least four times over that span.

A win Monday would give the Yankees just their second home win streak of at least six games against the Rangers over the last 25 seasons and first since they won eight straight from 1994-96.
Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster
hopes to turn the tide for Texas in his third start with the Rangers since being acquired July 31. Dempster allowed no earned runs over 6.2 innings against the Red Sox in his most recent start after allowing a season-high eight earned runs against the Angels in his Rangers debut.

One big difference between the outings for Dempster was his control. Against the Red Sox on Aug. 7, Dempster threw first-pitch strikes to 63 percent of the batters he faced and 51 percent of his pitches were in the strike zone overall. He threw first-pitch strikes to 48 percent of Angels hitters Aug. 2 with only 36 percent of his total pitches in the zone.

In the other dugout, Robinson Cano hit his 25th home run of the season on Sunday against the Blue Jays. It marked the fourth consecutive season that he has hit at least 25 homers, tied for the second-longest streak among second basemen in MLB history. Only Dan Uggla has a longer such streak all-time (6, 2006-11). The homer also gave Cano his fourth-career season with at least 25 homers and 30 doubles, tied for third all-time among second basemen.

Another middle infielder posting impressive numbers at the plate is Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. Andrus is leading the American league with a .331 batting average in the seventh inning or later this season including a .394 average in those situations with runners in scoring position (4th in AL).

Overall, he’s batting .345 with runners on base at any point in the game, third in the league, and more success may be expected on Monday night. Andrus has hit safely in seven of his last eight games against the Yankees and is batting a team-best .344 over that span.

Jim Cowsert/US PresswireRyan Dempster (right) has switched leagues, but will face a former rival in his Rangers' debut.

Ryan Dempster will make his debut for the Texas Rangers on Thursday as they wrap up their four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels. Dempster switches leagues with the second-best ERA (2.25), trailing only the San Francisco Giants' Ryan Vogelsong.

Unfortunately for Dempster, the trade means he’s back in the same division as Albert Pujols, who is 18-for-55 with seven home runs in his career against Dempster. It's also the most home runs Dempster has allowed to any batter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pujols has had no trouble with Rangers pitching during this series, going 7-for-15 with four home runs and eight RBIs. Pujols has been crushing fastballs since the All-Star Break -- he has as many home runs off fastballs in the last three weeks (7) as he had in the entire first half of the season.

Pujols entered play on May 15 hitting below .200 (.197). Since then, he’s hit .332 with 21 HR and 59 RBI. In fact, Pujols' numbers are better through Aug. 1 with the Angels (.284, 22 HR, 71 RBI) than they were at this point last season with the St. Louis Cardinals (.280, 24 HR, 65 RBI).

Pujols' former teammate Matt Holliday has not been a welcome sight at his former home ballpark, Coors Field. In nine games at Coors Field since joining the Cardinals, Holliday is 13-for-30 with six home runs and 15 RBI. He’s been even better the last two games, going 5-for-9 with 3 HR and 9 RBI.

All three of Holliday's hits on Wednesday came on pitches outside the strike zone. He’s batting .279 on pitches outside the strike zone this season, and his .939 OPS on such pitches ranks third behind Melky Cabrera (.965) and Ryan Braun (.958).

Over in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds are a major-league best 16-3 since the All-Star Break, and have opened up a three-game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central.

The Reds have allowed 383 runs this season, the second-lowest total this season behind the Washington Nationals. One key has been the continued development of Johnny Cueto.

Cueto posted a 2.31 ERA in 156 innings in 2011. If he had not fallen six innings short of qualifying for the ERA title, Cueto would have finished second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw’s 2.28. Among qualified pitchers, Cueto has the lowest ERA since the start of last season.

Cueto’s home ballpark has ranked in the top six in number of home runs hit each of the past two seasons. Despite that, he has allowed only 13 HR since the start of last season, and none in his last 11 starts. The only other qualified starter to allow fewer than 20 in that span is Roy Halladay with 19.

In nine starts at Great American Ballpark this season, Cueto has allowed just two home runs in 223 at-bats, and only 3.3 percent of his flyballs allowed have left the ballpark. Every other Reds starter this season has allowed home runs on at least 10 percent of his flyballs.

AL West sits at top of divisional rankings

August, 1, 2012
Less than two months ago, each team in the American League East and National League East had a winning record, and the debate was which division was the best in baseball.

However, after the struggles of the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins and New York Mets, who went a combined 52-92 from June 4-30, a third division has joined the debate – the American League West.

The East and West divisions in the American League are vying for the top spot in ESPN Stats & Info’s Divisional Rankings. After the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners combined to go 57-41 through July, it’s the West that sits at the top of the rankings.

The four teams in the AL West have excelled in games outside of the division. Their combined win percentage of .547 in non-divisional games is the best in baseball.

Highlighted by the A’s going 15-3 against non-divisional opponents, the division went 43-28 in non-divisional games. This surge in non-divisional wins has helped Oakland gain more than six points since June in the category that measures non-divisional win percentage.

Conversely, no team in the American League East had a winning record against non-divisional opponents in July. As a result, the division lost 3.8 points in this category.

The AL West’s July record has lifted three of the four teams into the top eight of’s Power Rankings. No other division has more than two teams in the top 10, and only the New York Yankees rank higher than 14th among the five teams in the AL East.

The acquisition of big-name players before the trade deadline, combined with injuries to players including David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, also moved the West ahead of the East in the category that measures individual players. Zack Greinke (Angels) and Ryan Dempster (Rangers) both rank in the top 25 among pitchers. They have added depth to the AL West, which already had four top-25 pitchers even before those two deals were made.

The National West has also added depth at the trade deadline with the acquisitions of Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez (both traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Hunter Pence (San Francisco Giants). These additions could help the division climb out of last place in the rankings.

(Click here to understand how the divisions are ranked.)
It was a busy day as the trade deadline brought a lot of change for a few teams looking to make a playoff push. Here is a look at the major-league impact of Tuesday’s trades. All stats are entering Tuesday.

The Texas Rangers acquire P Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs for minor-league 3B Christian Villanueva and minor-league P Kyle Hendricks.

Dempster has limited experience against the AL West. He's faced the Oakland Athletics once, Seattle Mariners twice, but never taken the mound against the Los Angeles Angels.

While Dempster might not be the flashy add that Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke might have been, he immediately becomes the team's best starter by Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP.

One concern is that over the last two seasons, Dempster has been good in August (6-3, 3.34 ERA), but not so good in September and October (3-7, 4.79 ERA).

The San Francisco Giants acquire Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies for OF Nate Schierholtz, minor-league C Tommy Joseph and minor-league P Seth Rosin.

The Giants hope to give their outfield a power boost by getting Pence. San Fran outfielders have produced just 26 homers (T-26th in ML) while Pence has 17 himself this season.

He will also be a much-needed power-hitting right-handed bat since Pence is slugging .447 and with an isolated power of .176 while Giants righties are .386 and .119 respectively.

The Los Angeles Dodgers acquire Victorino from the Phillies for P Josh Lindblom, minor-league P Ethan Martin and a player to be named later or cash.

Victorino will play left field, a position the Dodgers have struggled to get production from (.259 BA ranks 11th in the NL). They’ve also matched a National League high by starting eight players in left field this season.

Over the past five seasons, only seven MLB outfielders have been worth more Wins Above Replacement than Victorino.

The Cincinnati Reds acquire P Jonathan Broxton from the Kansas City Royals for minor-league P Donnie Joseph and minor-league P J.C. Sulbaran.

The Reds get Broxton, but they already have arguably the best bullpen in the majors. Their team ERA (2.66), wins (20) and K/9 IP (10.2) all rank first among MLB bullpens this season.

Other trades Tuesday:
Pittsburgh Pirates acquire 1B Gaby Sanchez and minor-league P Kyle Kaminska from Miami Marlins for minor-league OF Gorkys Hernandez and 2013 Competitive Balance Lottery pick.
St. Louis Cardinals acquire P Edward Mujica from Marlins for minor-league 3B Zack Cox.
Boston Red Sox acquire P Craig Breslow from Arizona Diamondbacks for P Matt Albers and OF Scott Podsednik.
• Pirates acquire P Chad Qualls from New York Yankees for IF Casey McGehee.
Cleveland Indians acquire minor-league 1B Lars Anderson from Red Sox for minor-league P Steven Wright.

Aces abound in trade deadline market

July, 23, 2012

Getty ImagesZack Greinke and Cole Hamels are two of the pitchers that could be traded before the deadline.
The major league baseball trade deadline is just eight days away (July 31 at 4 ET). We get you ready for all the rumors and deals that will dominate the watercooler talk this week, starting with a preview of the pitchers likely to be moved before the deadline.

Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster
Why trade him?
Dempster is a free agent at the end of the season, and at 35 years old is not part of the Chicago Cubs rebuilding plan. His stock has never been higher.

Why acquire him?
Dempster is having the best season of his career (MLB-best 2.11 ERA), though his performance may not be sustainable with a .245 BABIP and 84 percent strand rate. However, he has significantly reduced his walk rate (career-best 6.9 percent) and had a 33-inning scoreless streak this season.

Matt Garza
Why trade him?
Garza is young and a good pitcher, but there’s the possibility he will become expensive before the Cubs are relevant again. He could help jumpstart the rebuilding process by infusing the organization with much-needed youth and upside.

Why acquire him?
Not only is Garza effective, but he’s one of the few starters on the market a team could control beyond 2012. Garza is also well-tested against the toughest division in baseball, with a 23-15 record and 3.34 ERA in 56 games vs the AL East.

Zack Greinke
Why trade him?
Greinke is a free-agent at season’s end, and will likely be too expensive for the Milwaukee Brewers to retain. He is having his best season since his Cy Young campaign of 2009, and could be the premier pitcher on the market.

Why acquire him?
Though his ERA has fluctuated between a high of 4.17 and a low of 2.16 since 2009, Greinke’s underlying performance has been much more consistent. Over the last four seasons, his FIP of 2.82 is surpassed only by Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.

Cole Hamels
Why trade him?
Hamels is a free agent at the end of the season and could cost north of $125 million to re-sign. That could be a burden for the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a total of $104 million committed to six players in 2013.

Why acquire him?
Hamels has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since 2010. No pitcher on the market has been more productive than Hamels over the last two-plus seasons.

James Shields
James Shields
Why trade him?
The Tampa Bay Rays are always watching their payroll and Shields has club options of $9 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. He would be a pitcher with two years of team control left in a market where most of the attractive options will be free agents at season’s end.

Why acquire him?
Shields has been among the most durable pitchers in baseball with the sixth-most innings pitched among major-league pitchers since 2009. Though his 4.39 ERA this season is nearly two runs worst than last year (2.82), he has been hurt by a poor Rays defense behind him. His BABIP of .339 is the third-highest in the AL and well above his career mark of .302.

Better fastball has Dempster tossing zeroes

July, 14, 2012
Jerry Lai/US PresswireRyan Dempster extended his scoreless streak to 33 innings Saturday, passing R.A. Dickey for the longest streak in the majors this season.
Ryan Dempster tossed six shutout innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks to run his scoreless streak to 33 innings, the longest in the majors this season.

According to Elias, Dempster is the fifth pitcher in the last 100 years to win five straight starts in the same season without allowing a run.

Also from Elias, Dempster is the first Chicago Cubs starting pitcher to top 30 straight scoreless innings since Ken Holtzman in 1969. Like Dempster, Holtzman’s streak was 33 innings. The last longer streak for a Cubs starter was in 1938, when Bill Lee had streaks of 37 and 35 innings.

The season has turned around for the Cubs right-hander since the calendar flipped from May to June. In the first two months of the season, the Cubs went 2-7 in Dempster’s starts. During his scoreless-inning streak, the Cubs are 5-0 when he is on the mound.

The change in results has less to do with Dempster and more to do with the rest of the team. In the first two months, Dempster posted a 2.90 ERA but the Cubs only scored 2.9 runs per game. In the last five games, they have supported him with 6.4 runs per game.

During his scoreless streak, Dempster has given up a similar number of hits with the bases empty, but has really been tough to hit from the stretch. He has allowed just four hits in 46 at-bats with runners on base and just one hit in 28 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

He has improved his results with the fastball by relying on the pitch less frequently. In his last five starts, Dempster has thrown the fastball 49 percent of the time. During his first nine starts, he used the pitch 53 percent of the time.

Dempster has been able to keep the ball off the middle of the plate in his recent starts. Vertically, he has dropped the percentage of pitches over the middle third from 32 to 27 while increasing his number of high fastballs.

He is also throwing more inside fastballs, as that rate has jumped from 20 percent to 28 percent with an offsetting decrease of pitches over the middle third.

The change in results has been dramatic. Opponents hit .278 against his fastball in the first nine games but have hit just .154 against it since then. He has reduced the line-drive rate against the pitch from 27 percent to 11 percent while upping the groundball percent from 34 to 51.

Sliders key on Monday Night Baseball

May, 13, 2012

Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireRyan Dempster brings a 1.02 ERA to St. Louis on "Monday Night Baseball," where he's looking to pick up his first win of the season.
The major league leader in ERA takes the hill Monday when Ryan Dempster and the Chicago Cubs visit the St. Louis Cardinals (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Dempster has allowed just four earned runs in five starts -- a 1.02 ERA -- but is 0-1. The Cubs have lost all of Dempster's starts, scoring a total of eight runs in the five games.

According to The Elias Sports Bureau, no pitcher in major league history has had an ERA as low as Dempster through five starts without a win.

He’s using his slider more often this season while decreasing the use of his fastball and splitter. That slider has been one of the best in baseball. Hitters are just 5-for-56 against Dempster’s slider this season, a paltry .094 batting average. (Last year through five starts, he allowed 11 hits against the slide piece.) Only one pitcher in baseball -- Matt Cain -- has a lower batting average against his slider (min. 50 PA ending with a slider).

Dempster’s opponent, Jake Westbrook, is off to a fine start of his own. He’s 4-2 with a 1.76 ERA and has pitched into the seventh inning in all six of his starts. Only Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay have pitched into the seventh inning more often this season.

Westbrook has improved his slider by keeping it out of the middle of the strike zone. Last season, more than 21 percent of his sliders were in the middle-third of the strike zone and just 52 percent were away. This season, fewer than 13 percent of his sliders are in the middle and more than 62 percent are away from hitters. As the chart to the right shows, hitters are swinging at the pitch less but are missing it nearly twice as often.

• Skip Schumaker is hitting .417 (20-for-48) against Dempster, the second-highest batting average by any hitter with 40 plate appearances against him.

• Rafael Furcal is hitting .154 (6-for-39) against Dempster, the lowest batting average by any player with 40 plate appearances against him.

• Alfonso Soriano is hitting .120 (3-for-25) against Westbrook, the third-lowest batting average by any player with 25 plate appearances against him.

• David DeJesus is 7-for-26 against Westbrook, just a .269 batting average, but he’s the only Cub who’s homered off the Cardinals righty. Plus, only two players have faced Westbrook more often without a strikeout.

These two teams first met in 1892, when the Chicago Colts beat the St. Louis Browns 14-10 on Opening Day. The Cubs lead the all-time series 1,169-1,107. Since the start of the 2002 season, the series is tied 86-86.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. THE BEST GOLFER WITHOUT A MAJOR? After the opening round of the Masters Tournament, Lee Westwood stands alone at the top at -5. Westwood has never won a major but has been a bridesmaid multiple times. This is the third time he’s opened a major with a 67, and both times he finished the major in second place.
Tiger Woods

2. TIGER ON THE PROWL Tiger Woods shot an even-par 72 at the Masters and is tied for 29th after the opening round. That might sound like he’s a ways back, but not for Tiger. The last time he was this far back after the opening round was 2005, when he was tied for 33rd. That year he went on to win the Masters, his last win there. Looking ahead to Friday, he’ll hope to repeat that 2005 success. He shot a 66 in the second round en route to his win.

3. PITCHERS DOMINATE OPENING DAY The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians treated fans to free baseball on their Opening Day. The 16 innings they played made it the longest season-opening game in MLB history. But pitchers stole the show for the day. FROM ELIAS: Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and Justin Masterson each allowed two hits in eight innings on Thursday while Ryan Dempster surrendered two knocks in 7⅔ innings. It was the first day on which four pitchers threw more than seven innings and allowed no more than two hits since Sept. 27, 1986.

4. NO MAGIC IN ORLANDO Dwight Howard scored just two points through three quarters in an Orlando Magic loss to the New York Knicks and finished with eight points for the game. It was just the third time this season that Howard failed to score in double-digits and two of those have come against the Knicks. His team’s woes continue: the Magic have lost five straight, their longest losing streak since Jan. 12-20, 2007.
Steven Stamkos

5. STAMKOS STALKING 60 Two big happenings in the NHL on Thursday: the eight playoff spots in each conference were decided BUT the seeding of each team is still up in the air. Also, Steven Stamkos moved one step closer to a landmark when he scored his 59th goal of the season. Stamkos has one game left, at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, and will try to become just the second player since 1996 to score 60 goals in a season.

Rewriting the Opening Day record book

April, 5, 2012
Pitching was the story of the day as opening week continued with 13 teams playing their first game of the season.

After Kyle Lohse tossed a gem on Wednesday, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson and Ryan Dempster all allowed two or fewer hits while throwing at least 7 innings. Even with 13 teams yet to make their 2012 debut, this is the first time in the Modern Era (since 1900) that there have been five season-opening starts to meet that threshold. According to Elias, the previous high was three in 1910.

The New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds all opened their season today by throwing shutouts. Elias points out that the last time there were three shutouts thrown by teams that opened their season on the same day was April 9, 1976. That season, the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals all pitched Opening Day shutouts.

The Miami Marlins became the first team with two losses this season and have managed a single run on seven hits in their two games. From Elias, they are the first team with that low an offensive output in their first two games since 1993. That season, the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies each had one run on six hits after two games.

Not all of the pitching news was good. Justin Verlander was denied a win after pitching 8 shutout innings after Jose Valverde blew a save for the first time since Sept. 2, 2010. Valverde was 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season and had converted 51 in a row dating back to 2010.

Going Long
The highest scoring game of the day was the Toronto Blue Jays' 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians. But that won’t be what the game is remembered for.

The game wasn’t decided until J.P. Arencibia hit a three-run home run in the top of the 16th inning. Elias confirmed that this was the longest season opener in MLB history. The Indians have the dubious distinction of losing two of the three season openers that lasted at least 15 innings. In the other, Walter Johnson threw a 15-inning complete game as the Washington Senators beat the Philadelphia Athletics.

Matt Kemp
Going Deep
The wait for a National League home run is finally over. Jay Bruce hit a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth as the Reds beat the Marlins. Four NL games had been completed before Bruce went deep, and his homer came in the 44th NL inning of the season.

After nearly winning the MVP Award last season, Matt Kemp added to his legend in the season opener this year. Kemp became the first right-handed hitter with two opposite field home runs at Petco Park since the start of the 2009 season.

C.J. Wilson is in position to cash in big

November, 1, 2011
C.J. Wilson
Despite going 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in five postseason starts, Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson is in a great position this offseason. Wilson is the best starter available on the free agent market, now that CC Sabathia signed an extension with the New York Yankees. His case is aided by the recent history of free-agent spending on starting pitchers.

Going back to the offseason prior to 2006, there have been nine contracts of $50 million or more given to starting pitchers. Excluding Daisuke Matsuzaka -- since he had no major-league statistics to compare prior to coming to MLB -- Wilson’s seasons leading into free agency compare well.

Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster and Gil Meche are poor comparisons given pre-free agency track record and the return expected around the industry. Wilson will be in his age-31 season in 2012. He’s accumulated 10.5 Wins Above Replacement in the two seasons preceding his free agency, third behind only Sabathia and Lee during the period being analyzed.

Interestingly enough, the three best-compensated pitchers during this period are all left-handers. Barry Zito’s contract is considered among the worst ideas of all-time, which seems to place Wilson in the “gap” between the Sabathia/Lee class and the Burnett/Lackey class.

Wilson’s 10.5 WAR is 29.6 percent higher than Burnett’s 8.1 mark prior to his free agency. If you scale that relative to Burnett's contract, Wilson could expect to receive $21 million per season.

On the flip side, Wilson contributed 76.1 percent of what Lee did prior to his free agency. Based on that, he’d be expected to receive $18 million per season. Splitting the difference, Wilson could be looking at a contract with an average annual value of $19.5 million, or $97.5 million in a five-year deal.

His agent can argue Wilson is superior to the likes of John Lackey and A.J. Burnett -- even without the aid of hindsight -- and thus we’re already starting to look at contracts approaching $90 million.

As we saw with Jayson Werth this past offseason, it only takes one team to change the expected market for a player. As such, don’t be surprised if the Rangers ace lands one of the richest contracts in the history of the sport for his position, particularly given the idea that he has so few innings on his arm relative to most pitchers who reach free agency.

One of the sport’s fiercest rivalries takes center stage as the Chicago Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals in this week’s Sunday Night Baseball tilt (ESPN, 8 ET).

The Cubs probably would prefer the game take place on a different day of the week -- Chicago is 3-13 (.188) on Sundays and 39-52 (.429) during the rest of the week.

No matter the day, the Cubs’ starting pitchers have been awful. They rank last in the majors with a 5.13 ERA. Over the last 60 years, the highest ERA for Cubs starters was 5.33 in 1999.

Things weren’t helped by Rodrigo Lopez’s outing on Saturday (4⅓ IP, 6 ER) as the Cardinals turned a 5-0 deficit into a 13-5 win. Ryan Theriot’s sixth career four-hit game and Albert Pujols’ 24th home run paced the attack.

The Cardinals’ offensive explosion was fairly typical since they lead the National League in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS and Runs per game.
Albert Pujols

Pujols, who recorded his 2,000th hit on Friday, is hitting .327 with 7 HR and 14 RBI against Ryan Dempster, Chicago’s starter Sunday. In addition, in 61 plate appearances against Dempster, Pujols has struck out only once.

Pujols’ seven homers against Dempster are tied for the most he has against any pitcher.

Another player who has had a lot of success against Dempster is Skip Schumaker. He's a .419 career hitter against Dempster (18-for-43), including 18-for-36 when putting the ball in play. This season, however, Schumaker is 0-3 with two strikeouts against Dempster.

Schumaker’s .419 mark is third-best among players with at least 20 at-bats against Dempster, behind Placido Polanco (.450 BA) and Jeff Keppinger (.448).

One bit of good news for the Cubs is that they're facing Jake Westbrook. On May 11, Westbrook lost to the Cubs 11-4, allowing five runs in 2⅓ innings. Westbrook allowed five straight baserunners, all of whom scored.

Westbrook is unbeaten in his last seven starts (3-0, 4.32 ERA); however, the Cardinals are just 4-3 in those games.
Today’s Trivia: As Tim Lincecum appears on his way to a third consecutive season leading the NL in strikeouts ... who was the last right-handed pitcher to lead the NL in strikeouts for three straight seasons?

Quick Hits: September has been quite a month on the mound, as eight pitchers are 4-0 or better. There are 15 starting pitchers with an ERA below 2.00, 11 of whom reside in the NL. Let’s dive into some September numbers:

LoweDerek Lowe is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in September, but the rest of the Atlanta Braves rotation is just 4-11 this month. Wednesday against the Florida Marlins, Lowe looks to become the first Braves pitcher to go 5-0 in September since Dave Jolly in 1954. Jolly picked up all five wins in a relief role.

Both Lowe and Carlos Zambrano (4-0, 0.78) have a shot at a 5-0 September with an ERA below 1.00. Over the last 50 years, that’s only been done five times in the NL: Randy Johnson (2002), Orel Hershiser (1988), Joaquin Andujar (1982), Don Sutton (1976) and Tom Seaver (1969).

Madison Bumgarner is just 1-2 this month despite a 1.00 ERA. That’s on pace to be the lowest September ERA for an NL rookie (min. 25 innings) since 1974 when Dale Murray of the Montreal Expos had a 0.26 ERA in 14 relief appearances.

The San Francisco Giants’ 1.85 ERA is on pace to be the lowest in September for any team since the 1967 Giants posted a 1.79 ERA.

With his start on Thursday, Jon Lester has a shot at becoming the first pitcher to go 6-0 in September since Jose Contreras in 2005. The last Boston Red Sox pitcher to do it was Bobby Ojeda in 1983. In his career, Lester is now 15-2 in September.

Carlos Marmol has 12 saves this month and hasn’t allowed an earned run. Since saves became an official stat, the only pitcher with more saves and a perfect ERA in September was Ryan Dempster with 13 in 2005.

RogersMilwaukee Brewers rookie Mark Rogers has faced 18 batters this month (and in his career) without allowing a hit. Over the last 50 years, which rookie faced the most batters in September without allowing a hit? Would you believe that it’s NBA Hall-of-Famer Dave DeBusschere? In September 1962, he faced 24 batters for the Chicago White Sox and did not allow a single hit. Unlike Rogers, DeBusschere had pitched in the big leagues earlier that season.

It’s not all positives. Jason Vargas takes the hill today for the Seattle Mariners trying to avoid an 0-6 September. The last pitcher to do that was Bud Black in 1992 for the Giants. In the AL, you’d have to go back to Jim Clancy for the 1986 Toronto Blue Jays. Clancy, who lost another one in October, was 14-7 going into September.

Today’s Leaderboard: How good has the pitching been in the National League this September? The league as a whole has a 3.85 ERA this month, which would be the lowest over the course of ANY full month since April 1993.

Key Matchups
Not only is Derek Lowe pitching on three days rest, but he faces a team that has hit him hard this season. In a pair of starts, he has a 9.35 ERA thanks in part to eight walks in 8 2/3 innings. But a much bigger problem has been Dan Uggla. A career .429 hitter against Lowe, most of the damage has been done recently. Going back to last season, Uggla has six hits in his last seven at-bats against Lowe, including two doubles and a home run.

LincecumWith Adam Wainwright (213) done for the season and Roy Halladay (219) unlikely to pitch more than the equivalent of a side-session, Tim Lincecum (220) is in the driver’s seat to take home his third straight NL strikeout title. And guess who he gets to face Wednesday: The Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that’s struck out more than any in MLB history. Mark Reynolds (13 K in 21 AB vs Lincecum), Stephen Drew (12 K in 36 AB) and Chris Young (13 K in 36 AB) are the main targets.

Trivia Answer: Dizzy Dean led the NL in strikeouts in four straight years from 1932 to 1935. The three to do it since – Johnny Vander Meer (1941-43), Warren Spahn (1949-52) and Randy Johnson (1999-2002) - were all lefties.