Stats & Info: Ryan Zimmerman

Nationals offense finally worth treasuring

September, 12, 2013

It took the Washington Nationals nearly five months to look like the team that everyone thought they would be coming out of spring training. That’s particularly true on the offensive end, as the Nationals just finished a four-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field.

It extended their run to 17 wins in 22 games, one keyed by three prominent hitters.

Ryan Zimmerman
The Nationals outhomered the Mets 13-0 in this series, with Zimmerman hitting three of those long balls.

Zimmerman now has eight home runs in his last 10 games after hitting 15 in his first 122 games.

As the image above shows, Zimmerman is crushing balls thrown to the inner-half of the strike zone, or just off the inside corner.

His first 447 swings against pitches thrown to that area produced 10 HR.

His next 47 swings have resulted in six home runs.

Jayson Werth
Werth finally cooled off by going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Thursday’s 7-2 win, but prior to that he’d been on an offensive tear.

Werth has a .376/.451/.605 batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage slashline in his last 43 games, which dates back to July 26. He ranks third in the majors in each of those three stats in that span.

Werth is hitting balls right on the nose. His 32 percent line-drive rate over that time period is the best in the majors.

And as good as Zimmerman has been against those inside pitches, Werth has been even better. In this 43-game span, he has 40 hits against pitches to that inner-half (or off the corner) and only 23 swings-and-misses

Denard Span
Zimmerman and Werth have been driving runners in. Span has been one of the guys getting on base to make their hits more damaging.

Span has a 23-game hitting streak, the longest current hitting streak in the majors, during which he’s hitting .385 with 37 hits and 16 runs scored.

Span has a dozen opposite-field hits during his hitting streak and has shown more of an inclination to hit the ball the other way. He had 25 opposite-field hits this season in 91 games prior to the streak’s start.

Looking Ahead
After going 8-2 on a 10-game road trip, the Nationals head home for 10 games to face the Phillies, Braves and Marlins.

Washington has hit an NL-leading 87 home runs in 74 road games this season, but has only 64 in 71 home games. Zimmerman is chief among those who have a sizable home/road homer disparity. He’s hit 19 home runs on the road this season and only four at home.

Did You Know?
The Nationals’ 13 homers at Citi Field shattered the previous record for most hit by an opponent in a series at that ballpark. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the previous record was seven, done four other times.

Also noteworthy, per Elias, was that the Nationals’ 22 homers at Citi Field were tied for the most in a season by a visiting team against the Mets, matching the 22 hit by the 1962 Cardinals and the 1966 Pirates.

Zimmerman, Davis lead DMV power surge

May, 30, 2013
ESPN Stats & InformationChris Davis homered twice and Ryan Zimmerman homered three times on Wednesday.
Something was in the air at Camden Yards on Wednesday as the DMV's (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) two MLB teams matched up. Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals and Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles combined for five home runs.

Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman, the first Nationals player with three homers in a game since Adam Dunn in 2010, had never faced Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman before hitting all three home runs against him. All three came off fastballs. Since 2009, Zimmerman has 59 home runs off fastballs, which ranks 11th in the National League during that span.

Two of Zimmerman’s three homers came on pitches well up in the zone. Since 2011, he's been a much better power hitter on pitches on the upper half. During that span, he has hit a home run on a pitch on the upper half twoce as often as he has on the lower half.

Zimmerman’s first homer (429 feet) was his longest of the season, his longest since a 437-footer on September 10 of last season against the Mets.

After hitting two home runs against the Nationals, Davis now has 19 homers this season, the most for an Orioles player through the team’s first 53 games of a season since Brady Anderson (20) in 1996.

Davis’s first homer came off a slider. Since 2012, he has 15 home runs off sliders, the most in MLB. That’s his most homers off any pitch other than a fastball during that span.

Chris Davis
It doesn’t pay dividends to try to pitch away from Davis either. His second homer came on a pitch over the outer half. Since 2012, he ranks third in MLB in home run percentage (7.3%) and slugging percentage (.569) on those pitches.

Both of Davis’s homers came with two strikes. He has 22 home runs with two strikes over the last two seasons; no one has more.

Navarro accomplishes rare feat
Dioner Navarro
Dioner Navarro homered three times for the Chicago Cubs against the Chicago White Sox. Navarro became the second catcher in MLB history to homer from each side of the plate in a three home run-game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Victor Martinez did it in 2004 against the Mariners as a member of the Indians.

Navarro is the third catcher in MLB history to go 3-for-3 with three homers and six RBI, joining Benito Santiago (for the Phillies in 1996) and Roy Campanella (for the Dodgers in 1950).

Machado's defense has been high caliber

May, 1, 2013

Roy Absalon/USA TODAY SportsBaltimore third baseman Manny Machado has been a terrific defender all season.
Manny Machado made an error of aggressiveness in Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Athletics, throwing away a bunt in which he charged and tried to get the out at third base.

But through the first half-season of Machado’s career, the Orioles third baseman has done more than his share to make up for that mistake.

Defensive Runs Saved is a stat devised by Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) that measures a fielder’s ability to turn batted balls into outs and do other defensive things specific to his position. (In the case of a third baseman, defend bunts and convert double plays.)

Since the start of last season, Machado ranks fourth among third basemen in Defensive Runs Saved -- and that’s despite playing about half as many innings as everyday players like David Wright and Adrian Beltre. The other primary defensive metric (UZR) also has Machado ranked near the top of his position.

Keep in mind that the player Machado was replacing as the primary third baseman, Wilson Betemit, finished 2012 credited with costing the Orioles six runs with his defense (-6 Defensive Runs Saved). The player originally intended for the position in 2012, Mark Reynolds, cost the Orioles seven runs in 142 innings.

In what aspects of third-base defense does Machado excel? A major league scout said of him:

"He is outstanding in all directions, with pop ups, relays, backhands and agility plays. He has a great throwing arm from all angles on the field, great feet, instinct-reactions and body control."

Let’s break down Machado’s skills with some numbers.

How can we put a value on the idea that Machado is “outstanding in all directions"?

Simply put: Machado gets to a lot of the balls he should, and a lot of the ones he shouldn’t.

Revised Zone Rating (RZR) is a defensive stat that looks how often a fielder turns batted balls into outs when the ball is hit into an an area (a zone) at a speed in which players at his position convert more than 50 percent of balls into outs.

Through Monday, Machado’s RZR ranks eighth of the 35 players who have played at least 500 innings at third base since the start of 2012.

Machado has also made 30 ”Out of Zone plays” –- meaning he got an out in an area that no more than half the third basemen turned those batted balls into outs.

Machado’s rate of Innings per Out of Zone play ranks fourth-best among those 35 third basemen.

Let's also note this:

The Orioles left-side defense has performed considerably better overall since Machado’s arrival. Remember, their starting shortstop, J.J. Hardy, won a Gold Glove last season and ranks among the best at that spot.

Since Machado’s recall, the Orioles have converted 77.4 percent of ground balls that on video review were either over or to the left of the second base bag into outs in that span, compared to 72.3 percent prior to his joining the team.

Over a full season, that equates to taking away nearly 60 would-be baserunners, just on ground balls to that part of the field.

Throwing arm
BIS provided a list of the 10 plays that had the most defensive value in impacting his Defensive Runs Saved total.

Almost all of them were ones in which Machado showed off his ability to go to his left and unleashed a cannon-like throw from an awkward position to rob a potential base hit.

The arm that was great from all angles has allowed him to get even the speediest of batters (including Coco Crisp and B.J. Upton) out on those plays.

Instinct -Reactions
The play Machado is best known for happened in an extra-inning win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 12, 2012, when he fielded a slow roller, faked a throw to first, then turned around and trapped the potential go-ahead run in a rundown off third base.

BIS classifies plays into about 30 categories of Good Fielding Plays and 50 categories of Defensive Misplays & Errors and that was one of 28 plays that qualified as “Good Fielding Plays” by video review. Since Aug. 9, 2012 that’s tied with Pablo Sandoval for the second-most of any third baseman in the majors, trailing only Ryan Zimmerman’s 41.

Not bad for someone who played a total of two minor-league games at third base.

As the scout also said. "It's going to be tough to move him off that position."

Cardinals' comeback unlike any other

October, 13, 2012
The Washington Nationals hadn’t won a postseason series since 1981 back when they were the Montreal Expos.

No D.C. team had won a postseason series since 1924.

With one more out (or even one more strike), all of that would have changed.

Instead, the St. Louis Cardinals completed the greatest comeback ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, winning 9-7 to advance to the NLCS.

Washington's offense jumped out early thanks in part to Bryce Harper’s bat. He became first teenager to triple in a postseason game, and then the second youngest to hit a home run (behind Andruw Jones).

Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Morse added long balls to make it 6-0. All three coming off Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright.

He was just the third pitcher to allow three home runs in a postseason winner-take-all game, joining Bob Gibson (1964 World Series) and Don Newcombe (1956 World Series). Gibson’s Cardinals won that game.

Incredibly, Wainwright’s teammates mounted a comeback on Friday.

No team had ever come back from more than four runs down in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Yankees climbed back from four runs behind the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. The 1925 Pirates did the same to the Senators in Game 7 of the World Series.

But coming back from six runs down? That was unprecedented.

In fact, only four teams had overcome six run deficits to win any postseason game, according to Elias.

After Morse’s home run put the Nationals up 6-0, the Cardinals had a 3.7 percent chance of winning the game according to’s win probability calculator. It was still just the third inning.

The lead had been cut to 7-5 going into the ninth inning, as the Cardinals bats came to life.

But even two runs presented a nearly unprecedented comeback in a do-or-die game.

According to Elias, the 1992 Atlanta Braves were the only team to overcome a multiple run deficit in the ninth inning of a winner-take-all postseason game. Francisco Cabrera's walk-off, two-run single capped that rally in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Pirates.

Carlos Beltran led off the ninth with a double. He finished the night 3-3 with a pair of walks. In doing so, Beltran joined Babe Ruth as the only players to reach base five times (either by walk, hit or hit-by-pitch) in a winner-take-all game.

Drew Storen managed to get the next two batters out. With Yadier Molina coming to the plate, the Cardinals’ win probability had again dipped to 3.5 percent.

In each of the next two plate appearances (both walks), Storen was one strike away from the win. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Cardinals were one strike away from elimination in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

Daniel Descalso tied the game with a bases-loaded single. Later, Pete Kozma plated two more runs for the first ninth-inning RBI in his brief career.

It had been 88 years since a rookie provided a game-winning RBI in a winner-take-all game. That was the Senators' Earl McNeely in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series.

The remarkable comeback continued a walk along a postseason tightrope for the Cardinals. They’ve now won six straight in elimination games, tying their own MLB record.

Nationals walk off with wild win over Reds

April, 12, 2012

Most frequent pitch locations for Gio Gonzalez vs Reds on Thursday.
Click here to create your own Gonzalez heat maps
Don’t look now, but the Washington Nationals have zoomed to the top of the NL East following their 3-2, extra-inning win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon.

The Nationals improved to 5-2, their best start since moving to Washington, and also win their first home opener since 2008. This is just the second time in the last 15 seasons the franchise has won five of its first seven games. In 2001, the Montreal Expos were 6-1 after seven games.

The Nats took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning but Brad Lidge blew the save, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. Lidge had allowed just one run over his previous 16 appearances dating to August of last year.

The Nationals won it in the 10th inning thanks to a wild outing by Reds reliever Alfredo Simon. Simon hit Ryan Zimmerman to lead off the inning and Zimmerman eventually came around to score four batters later on Simon’s wild pitch with Roger Bernadina at the plate.

This was the Nationals’ fifth win on a game-ending wild pitch since moving to Washington in 2005. Entering Thursday, the Nats had lost their last six extra-inning games against the Reds and were 0-5 in one-run games versus Cincinnati over the last two season.

Gio Gonzalez got a no-decision but deserved the win, tossing seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed.

Gonzalez had success going low as Reds hitters went 0-for-11 in at-bats ending with pitches down in the zone or below. Gonzalez also did a good job finishing off batters, allowing zero hits in 13 at-bats that reached a two-strike count.

Around The Diamond
• The Minnesota Twins came back from a six-run deficit against the Los Angeles Angels thanks to home runs from both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. It was the first time that Morneau and Mauer homered in the same game since July 6, 2010.

Matt Garza
• Matt Garza fell one out short of a shutout when he was pulled after 119 pitches in the ninth inning of the Chicago Cubs 8-0 win. Garza had his slider working, throwing 31 of them, as the Milwaukee Brewers were hitless including five strikeouts in nine at-bats ending with the pitch.

• The Detroit Tigers improved to 5-1 this season with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Austin Jackson scored a run and has now crossed home plate in all six games this season, the longest streak to start the season by a Tiger since Darrell Evans scored in the first eight games in 1986.

• Madison Bumgarner took a no-hitter into the sixth inning as the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 4-2. Bumgarner recorded a career-high 14 ground-ball outs (including a double play) with eight of them coming in at-bats ending in sliders.

Nationals lock up hot corner-stone

February, 26, 2012
Earlier today, the Washington Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension. The contract reportedly includes an option for a seventh year that would keep Zimmerman in Washington through 2020, if exercised. There are several angles for potential analysis, centering around both the historical place of the contract as well as Zimmerman’s own performance.
Ryan Zimmerman


Angle No. 1: The Contract

Zimmerman’s agreement with the Nationals immediately became the second-largest contract issued in franchise history, falling short only of the free-agent commitment the team made to outfielder Jayson Werth last offseason. When one considers the two years and $26 million that is remaining on his current contract, the Nationals owe Zimmerman $126 million through 2019. With the agreement, Zimmerman becomes one of just six players to be locked up through at least 2019, joining Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp.

The average annual value of the contract works out to $16.7 million, the second-most of any third baseman, behind only Alex Rodriguez, inching past the $16 million average of Adrian Beltre’s recent deal with the Texas Rangers. It is also the third-most lucrative extension signed by a player from the 2005 MLB draft class, behind only Tulowitzki and Braun.

All told, the Nationals have now committed $126 million to Zimmerman starting in 2012. That is the 10th-most money owed to any player in baseball by any team starting this upcoming season.

Angle No. 2: The Performance

Six full seasons into his MLB career, Zimmerman has produced several elite seasons, while also having several seasons marred by injury. There is little question that when he is healthy, he is capable of producing borderline MVP-caliber seasons.

Since the start of the 2006 season -- Zimmerman’s first full year in the majors -- he ranks 11th among all position players in Wins Above Replacement, ahead of such notable large-contract recipients as Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes. He ranks third among third basemen in WAR, behind Rodriguez and David Wright. Much of that value is derived from his defense – according to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved, Zimmerman ranks third among all position players since 2007 with 73 runs saved and has finished in the top three among third basemen in the category in four of the last five seasons.

He has also produced some of the greatest seasons in Nationals/Expos franchise history. His 2009 and 2010 seasons rank second and fifth, respectively, in franchise history, with his 2009 mark of 7.3 WAR ranking behind only Vladimir Guerrero's 2002 season (7.6) and tied with Tim Raines in 1985 and Gary Carter in 1984.

But while Zimmerman has displayed the ability to be an impact player at times, he’s struggled to do so consistently. 2011 was the second season in the last four that was noticeably impacted by injuries, as Zimmerman played in only 101 games. The injury issues may have had an impact on his performance; between 2009-10, he produced an average line of .299 BA, .893 OPS, 29 home runs and 96 RBI. In 2011, his OPS dropped nearly 100 points to .798, while he hit just 12 home runs. Specifically, Zimmerman has experienced a decline in his power output since 2009, with a corresponding increase in the rate at which he’s hitting balls on the ground.

Presumably, Zimmerman has provided the Nationals with everything they expected when they made him the fourth overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, as he ranks first in the entire draft class in Wins Above Replacement to this point, ahead of the likes of Tulowitzki, Braun and Justin Upton. But the value of the extension will be based on Zimmerman’s ability to stay on the field and reverse the downward trend in his power output.

It also raises the question of what the Nationals plan to do with third basemen Anthony Rendon, the sixth overall pick from the 2011 draft, to whom Washington gave the ninth-highest major league contract in draft history. But that is an issue for another day. For now, the Nationals locked up the franchise’s best player through 2019 and did so at a total cost of less than they paid Jayson Werth last offseason.

With their 6-5 come-from-behind win against the Angels Sunday, the New York Yankees increased their lead in the AL East to 3 ½ games in front of the Boston Red Sox. Mariano Rivera picked up his 40th save this season and 599th of his career. He's now one save away from joining Trevor Hoffman as the only players with 600 saves.

Prior to Sunday, the Yankees’ biggest lead in the AL East at the end of any day’s play this season was three games and their largest deficit was also three games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no major-league team has ever gone through an entire season without either leading or trailing in its division (or league before 1969) by more than three games at the end of any day’s play. Since 1900, no other team had done that as far into a season as this year’s Yankees.

B.J. Upton
The Tampa Bay Rays completed a sweep of the Red Sox after B.J. Upton blew the game open with a grand slam in the fifth inning. With Justin Upton having hit a bases-loaded homer on July 23, Elias also tells us the Uptons became the tenth pair of brothers to hit grand slams in the major leagues in the same season. The Molinas are the only other brothers to do that over the last ten seasons (Bengie and Jose in 2004, Bengie and Yadier in 2010). All three DiMaggio brothers (Joe, Dom and Vince) hit grand slams in 1941.

After 14 straight wins when Vance Worley has started, the Philadelphia Phillies finally lost Sunday with Worley on the mound, 3-2 to the Brewers. According to Elias, the 14 straight wins matched the longest such single-season streak for a rookie pitcher in the Live Ball era. The 1970 Reds won 14 straight behind Wayne Simpson, as did the 1944 Cardinals behind Ted Wilks.

Finally, in our nation's capital, Ian Desmond, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Zimmerman homered back-to-back-to-back as Washington beat the Astros 8-2. It was the first time the Nationals accomplished that feat since July 2009. Stephen Strasburg lasted just three innings and got another no-decision, the shortest start of his career.

How Nationals have battled back to .500

June, 23, 2011
The Washington Nationals are 14-6 in June -- including 10-1 in their past 11 games -- with a chance to move above .500 on Thursday against the Seattle Mariners.

They’ve done this without big production from Jayson Werth and with limited help from Ryan Zimmerman, who's batting .229 since returning from the disabled list on June 14.

Washington’s group of rising stars and relative unknowns have been finding ways to win with pitching, hitting and defense.

The Nationals have a team ERA of 2.71 in June, third-best in the majors this month behind the Minnesota Twins (2.08) and the Philadelphia Phillies (2.28). Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan are leading the charge after making some changes.

Zimmermann has steadily seen his ERA drop this season: 4.55 in April; 3.23 in May; and 1.32 in June. Early in the season, Zimmermann kept too many pitches in the strike zone and wasn’t generating swings and misses. As the season has progressed, Zimmermann has kept his pitches -- specifically his fastball and curve -- out of the zone more and has generated more misses.

Lannan is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in five starts this month. (He was 2-5 with a 4.40 ERA in the first two months of the season.) Lannan is throwing his changeup more in June and locating it better.

In April and May, 36.5 percent of Lannan’s changeups were thrown over the middle of the plate. In June, only 17.6 percent have been over the middle. Opponents are batting just .190 against the change in June, compared to .333 in April and May.

Offensively, the Nationals have hit 20 home runs in June, tied for fourth-most in the National League. Leading the way has been Michael Morse, who has hit six homers and 19 RBIs and has a 1.002 OPS.

His tear started in May and has carried over to June. Morse’s struggles early on were against fastballs, hitting .211 with one HR in 38 at-bats ending on fastballs in April. Since May 1, Morse is hitting .356 with a home run once every nine at-bats.

Defensively, Washington has committed 13 errors in the past 30 days with a .988 fielding percentage, both the fourth-best rates in the league.

Behind the plate, Wilson Ramos quietly has become one of the most dangerous catchers to run against. Excluding pitcher pickoffs, Ramos has thrown out 40.0 percent of runners in June and has the second-highest rate this season.
Today’s Trivia: Pete Rose turns 70 today. Since his final game on Aug. 17, 1986, who has collected the most hits?

Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder faces his nemesis today, but it’s not who you might think. Fielder is just 3-for-42 (.071) with 13 strikeouts and no extra-base hits against Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm. He’s not the only star player with a seemingly random pitcher that he can’t solve. Some other examples:

• Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-18 (.056) against Darrell May, a pitcher with a career 26-43 record.

• Ryan Howard traditionally has struggled against southpaws, but it’s a righty who has flummoxed him the most. Howard is 3-for-28 with 11 strikeouts against Tim Redding.

• Albert Pujols is 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his career against Rodrigo Lopez. That’s all been since 2007, a period during which everyone else is hitting .291 against Lopez.

• Vladimir Guerrero (1-for-19), Mark Teixeira (1-for-18) and Ryan Zimmerman (1-for-13) all share Jeremy Guthrie as an unexpected nemesis.

• Hanley Ramirez is 0-for-10 lifetime against Charlie Morton, a pitcher who entered 2011 at 11-29 with a 5.98 ERA.

Trivia Answer: Craig Biggio’s 3,060 hits all came after Rose retired, giving him the most in that span. Rafael Palmeiro is the only other player to collect 3,000 hits from that date on. His first hit came less than one month after Rose’s last game.

Tulowitzki an MVP-caliber bargain

September, 20, 2010

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki's abilities in the field only add to his overall value.

The Colorado Rockies enter play on Monday just 1½ games out of 1st in the National League West and 3½ games out of the National League Wild Card. While Carlos Gonzalez has been the team's catalyst for most of the season, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has picked up the baton, to the tune of .351/.407/1.000 (BA/OBP/Slug percentage) with 14 home runs and 34 RBI since the start of September. As a reaction to this explosion, some have suggested that Tulowitzki might very well walk away with the National League Most Valuable Player award this season. While that's not out of the question, the fact that he missed over a month between June and July hurts his cause.

Taking a broader view of Tulowitzki's production suggests that, while he may or may not be the MVP this season, the contract he signed with the Rockies in January 2008 might be the best value in the game. On Jan. 23, 2008, fresh off a .291/.359/.479 season with 24 HR, 99 RBI and plus defense, Tulowitzki and the Rockies agreed to a six-year, $31 million deal, one which ran from 2008 to 2013 with a club option for 2014. At the time, it was the largest deal ever for a player with less than two years of Major League service.

After a disappointing 2008 campaign, it looked as though the Rockies had ''bought high'' on Tulowitzki. His batting average dropped nearly 30 points, his OPS dropped over 100 and his defense even slipped. But the 2009 and 2010 seasons have fully justified the contract -- and more.

Over the last two seasons, Tulowitzki has averaged 29 HR, 90 RBI, 15 SB and a .309/.383/.569 line. That is outstanding for any player, but particularly a shortstop with above average defense. So outstanding, in fact, that calculates that he's been worth $50.1 million combined in 2009 and 2010 ($25.8M in 2009 and $24.3M so far in 2010). Assuming he nets $700,000 more worth of value in the final two weeks of the season, Tulowitzki will join St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman and Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria as the only players in MLB worth over $25 million in each of the last two seasons.

Between this season and last, the Rockies have paid Tulowitzki approximately $4.5 million, while he's been worth more than $50 million. He's scheduled to make $5.5M in 2011, $8.25M in 2012 and $10M in 2013. Given the amount that Tulowitzki has produced in 2009 and 2010, the contract is already a net "win" for the Rockies even if he doesn't play another game.

The Rockies, of course, hope to be playing well into October. And, if they do, their bargain shortstop will be a big reason why -- MVP or no.
The last day of July came down to the final at-bat for the Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, New York Mets and Colorado Rockies.

For the second straight game, the Detroit Tigers took a lead into the bottom of the 9th inning at Fenway Park. And for the second day in a row, David Ortiz delivered in the clutch. After clubbing a grand slam last night that cut a 6-1 deficit to a single run, the Red Sox designated hitter delivered a bases-clearing double to send Boston to a 5-4 win on Saturday. It was the 18th career walk-off hit for Ortiz and his 15th in a Red Sox uniform. Those 15 walk-off hits since 2003 are the most in the majors (Albert Pujols is 2nd with 12 in that span).

Ryan Zimmerman hit the 7th walk-off home run of his career (2nd this season) as the Nats rallied for a 7-5 victory against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was Zimmerman's 12th career homer against the Phillies (tied for his most against any opponent) and the game marks the 3rd time this season that Philly has lost on a walk-off home run. The third sacker's seven walk-off homers in the last five years are the most in the majors.

In Colorado, Carlos Gonzalez's solo shot not only gave the Rockies a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs, but also completed the cycle for the left fielder. It was the 1st career walk-off homer for Gonzalez, who has recorded a home run in each of the last four games. The last player to complete a cycle with a walk-off home run was Dwight Evans (6/28/1984). This was the 4th cycle of the season in the majors, with three of those happening since July 15th.

Carlos Beltran didn't get a hit, but his bases-loaded sacrifice fly finished off the Mets' 5-4 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was just the 4th walk-off victory for the Mets this season (Diamondbacks and Cubs are tied for the fewest in the majors with three). For the Diamondbacks, it was the 11th time this season that they've fallen victim to the walk-off (ironically, only the Mets have more).

Who are the biggest rally killers in baseball?

May, 27, 2010
With one out in the 8th inning on Wednesday, Joe Mauer came to the plate with men on the corners and the game tied at two. The Yankees chances of getting out of the inning without allowing a run seemed bleak. But last year’s American League MVP grounded into an inning-ending and double play.

That was the fourth time this season that Joe Mauer grounded into a double-play with men in scoring position, matching his total from a season ago. That got us thinking: who are the least clutch players in these situations? Fellow researcher Mark Simon, who has a knack for naming these stats, dubbed the one which we are about to present the “Rally-Killing Rate”.
There are certainly many ways to kill a rally, but for the purposes of this metric we’re only taking strikeouts and double-plays with runners in scoring position into account.

The calculation is as follows:
(K with RISP + (GIDP with RISP * 2))/PA with RISP

Double plays are counted as double because, well, they result in twice as many outs. What we end up with is essentially the rate at which a player grounds into a double play or strikes out with men in scoring position – or a “rally-killing rate.”

With the explanation out of way, now let’s take a look at this year’s worst rally killers (234 players with at least 30 PA with RISP were eligible).

Simply put, Napoli has been a liability with runners in scoring position. Nearly half (16 out of 36) of his opportunities with runners in scoring position have resulted in strikeouts or double plays.

Atkins barely qualifies with just 30 plate appearances, but he’s been astoundingly bad in those few opportunities. His five double plays is tied for second, trailing only Miguel Cabrera, who’s had exactly twice as many plate appearances.

Wright has decent total numbers this season (33 RBI) mainly because he’s had so many opportunities. His 63 plate appearances with runners in scoring position ranks as the 10th most in the game.

After a hot start, Olivo has cooled off considerably. He now has just a .304 OBP with runners in scoring position.

At the rate Ortiz is going, it certainly seems as though he’ll soon fall out of the top five. He’s batting .385 with a .713 slugging percent with runners in scoring position in May.

And here are a few others that many surprise you: Justin Upton (7th out of 234), Ryan Zimmerman (24th), Joe Mauer (36th) and Miguel Cabrera (45th)

TMI Power Poll: Top 10 third basemen

May, 27, 2010
This week in the TMI Power Poll, the topic was the best third basemen in the game today. There was a bit of a youth movement at the hot corner as four members of the top 10 have fewer than four years of service in the big leagues. Meanwhile, a former three-time MVP is not in the top spot.

Evan Longoria, the face of a young Rays team that has the best record in baseball, took the top spot. He has developed into a complete player. According to Baseball Tonight Researcher Mark Simon, Longoria is 3rd in the MLB with .738 offensive winning percentage. On the defensive side, Longoria's 17.0 UZR tied for the lead among all 3B over last two seasons (with Ryan Zimmerman).

Others receiving votes: Brandon Inge, Chipper Jones, Jose Bautista, Placido Polanco, Chase Headley, Jorge Cantu, Casey Blake, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Punto

1st Pitch: Hitters who love the slow stuff

May, 19, 2010
Quick Hits: Yesterday in Quick Hits we took a look at batters who are crushing fastballs this season. Today we’ll focus on guys who have excelled against off-speed pitches.

* Joey Votto is batting .529 (9-17) against changeups.

* Ryan Sweeney has yet to swing and miss on a curveball this season. He’s made contact on all 20 he has offered at, and is batting .357 against curves.

* Andrew McCutcheon is batting .647 (11-17) against curves thrown in the strike zone.

* Ryan Zimmerman is batting .520 against sliders (13-25) with four home runs. He has also missed a league-low 11.4 percent of curveballs he’s swung at.

* Derek Jeter is batting.219 against sliders this season, but it could just be bad luck. He leads the league with a .375 well-hit average against sliders.

* Alfonso Soriano is batting .395 (15-38) against sliders with 10 extra-base hits (eight doubles, two home runs).

Today’s Trivia: Vernon Wells tied Joe Carter for the 2nd most home runs in Blue Jays history yesterday. He now trails only Carlos Delgado. Since Wells debuted in 1999, he and Delgado have each hit over 200 home runs with the Blue Jays, over 100 more than the next player on the list. Who has the third most home runs for the Jays during that time span?

Today’s Leaderboard: On yesterday’s leaderboard, Franklin Gutierrez ranked among the leaders in slugging percentage against fastballs 93 mph or faster. Today, he shows up on essentially the opposite list. He’s batting .500 against pitches less than 80 miles per hour, which trails only Andrew McCutcheon.

Key Matchups: In two career starts at U.S. Cellular Field, Angels starter Joe Saunders is 2-0 with a stellar 1.66 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. In 2009, Saunders was 1-1 against the White Sox with a 2.63 ERA. To get a jump on Saunders, the White Sox may want to think about starting pinch hitter Jayson Nix, who was 3-5 versus Saunders last season with three home runs

Wednesday will mark the fourth time the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen Padres starter Jon Garland since 2009, and Garland likely wouldn't mind seeing them a bit more. The Dodgers have only hit .231 against Garland in those three previous starts, and his fastball in particular has been rough on Los Angeles hitters. The Dodgers are hitting .226 against Garland's fastball, well below the team's .297 average vs fastballs since the start of the ’09 season, and 58 points below the major league average in that same time span (.284).

Trivia Answer: Jose Cruz Jr. hit 97 home runs for the Blue Jays from 1999 to 2002. Trailing him on the list are Alex Rios (81), Tony Batista (80) and Eric Hinske (78).

Rapid Reaction: Braun's big day

April, 15, 2010
* The winner for the batter who had the best afternoon on Thursday has to be Ryan Braun. The Milwaukee Brewers OF went 4-for-5 with 3 RBI while hitting his third HR of the season.

All four of Braun's hits came on fastballs, three of them in the zone. Don't pitchers know better by now?

Braun's 6th-inning single came on the first pitch he saw from Sean Marshall. Apparently Marshall missed the scouting report that says "don't throw him a first-pitch fastball". Since the start of the '09 season, he's hitting .424 against those, and .583 when it's right in the middle of the plate, as Thursday's offering was. (As a point of context, during the 2009 season the MLB average for at bats ending with fastballs over the middle of the plate was .404.)

Marshall apparently didn't pass this knowledge on to Jeff Samardzija. He missed with the first pitch to Mr. Braun and then tried to even things up by throwing another fastball right down the middle. Braun took it out of the park. Over the past two-plus seasons, Braun hits a whopping .460 when he's AHEAD and gets a fastball. That's sixth in the majors over that span. When that fastball is right over the heart of the plate, Braun jumps up to .571, with an OPS of 1.643.

With three ribbies today, Braun has 11 RBI through 9 games. That puts him in some truly elite company in Brewers history...

Most RBI Through First 9 Team Games
Brewers Last 30 Seasons

1998 Jeromy Burnitz, 17 <<
1982 Ben Oglivie, 13
2010 Ryan Braun, 11
1987 Rob Deer, 11
>> franchise record

* From the Elias Sports Bureau: In the Nationals-Phillies game today, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Zimmerman each homered.

It was the first game in MLB history in which players with the last names starting in U, V and Z all homered.

* This afternoon's Texas/Cleveland tilt was the shortest game (by time) so far this season. The overwhelming crowd of 10,198 barely got their money's worth. Clocking in at two hours and three minutes, the Rangers/Indians game bested Wednesday's Pirates/Giants game which took only 2:08.