Stats & Info: San Francisco Giants

Top stats to know: World Series Game 7

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29

USA TODAY SportsTonight's matchup of Tim Hudson, left, and Jeremy Guthrie will be the oldest for Game 7 starters.
The Giants and Royals meet in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series tonight at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Here are the stats you need to know before the teams take the field:

Odds are with the Giants

• According to numberFire simulations, the Giants have a 54.7 percent chance to win tonight's Game 7.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Royals are the 61st team to trail 3-2 in the World Series.

• Like the Royals, 60.7 percent of them have forced a Game 7 (37 of 61).

• However, just 31.7 percent of them have won both Games 6 and 7 to win the series (19 of 60).

History is on the Royals' side

• The last nine times the World Series went a full seven games, the home team prevailed. The last time a road team celebrated a Game 7 win was the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates, who won Game 7 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium -- a facility demolished in 2002.

• The last seven World Series teams to force Game 7 by winning Game 6 at home won the title. The last to lose was the 1975 Red Sox, who lost the follow-up to Carlton Fisk’s dramatic Game 6 home run.

• As a franchise, the Royals have won their last four World Series elimination games, dating back to a 6-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 1985 World Series.

• In those games, including Tuesday night’s Game 6, Kansas City has outscored its opponent 29-2.

Eldest Game 7 matchup

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, tonight’s matchup between San Francisco’s Tim Hudson and Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie is the oldest combined meeting of Game 7 starting pitchers in World Series history.

• At 39 years, 107 days old, Hudson is 15 days older than the previous elder statesman of Game 7 starters, Roger Clemens, who set the mark with a no-decision for the Yankees against the Diamondbacks in a 2001 loss.

• Elias also tells us that Hudson, who went 9-13 during the 2014 regular season, has the lowest winning percentage (.409) of any starter in a winner-take-all game in World Series history. Only four other pitchers to pitch this type of game even had a losing record during the preceding regular season: Johnny Podres in 1955 (9–10, .474), Jon Matlack in 1973 (14–16, .467), Hal Gregg in 1947 (4–5, .444) and Liván Hernández in 2002 (12–16, .429).

Top stats to know: World Series Game 6

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28

Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThe World Series returns to Kansas City on Tuesday night for Game 6. The Giants lead the series 3-2.
The San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals will meet in Game 6 of the World Series Tuesday night, with the Giants trying to wrap up another title and the Royals trying to keep their magical season alive.

What's at stake
The Giants are trying to win their third World Series in the last five seasons. They’d be the fifth franchise to do that and the first since the Yankees in 1996-2000.

The Royals are trying to do what they did in their last World Series appearance in 1985: win Game 6 to force a Game 7.

Getting to Game 7 has a significant historical meaning.

The home team has won nine straight Game 7s in the World Series. The last team to win Game 7 on the road was the 1979 Pirates in Baltimore.

Jake Peavy stats to know:
Jake Peavy, who will start Game 6 for the Giants, has a 7.05 ERA in his postseason career. That is the highest postseason ERA among active pitchers and the second highest all time (minimum 35 innings pitched).

Including Game 2 of this World Series, Peavy is 1-6 lifetime at Kauffman Stadium with a 6.50 ERA and 1.69 WHIP.

Yordano Ventura stats to know:
The Royals are 3-0 in games started this postseason by Yordano Ventura, who gets the start Tuesday night.

Ventura had the fastest average fastball velocity among starters this season at 96.8 mph.

But the Giants have had success against heaters this postseason. The Giants are hitting .319 against pitches of 95 mph or faster this postseason, best among playoff teams, including 6-for-16 (.375) against Ventura in Game 2.

Keep an eye on: Giants versus pitches out of strike zone
One of the advantages the Giants hold in this series is success against pitches out of the strike zone.

Giants batters are hitting .270 with 17 hits on pitches out of the zone, compared to .167 with 10 hits for the Royals.

The Giants have done so without going considerably beyond their means. They chased 31 percent of pitches out of the strike zone during the regular season. Their chase percentage in this series is 32 percent.

Pablo Sandoval has four hits against pitches out of the strike zone this series. That’s not unusual. He had a major league best 70 such hits during the regular season.

But some of Sandoval’s success seems to have rubbed off on his teammates. Seven of his teammates have a hit against an out-of-the-zone pitch this series, including Brandon Crawford, whose second such hit scored Sandoval in the fourth inning of Game 5.

Why is that notable?

Crawford had only eight hits against pitches out of the strike zone during the regular season, tied for the fewest in the majors among the 150 players who saw the most out-of-zone pitches in 2014.

Also watch: Royals bats don't have the same pop in World Series
The Royals are hitting .221 in the Series. Left fielder Alex Gordon is among those struggling most, with only two hits in 20 at-bats. But he's 10-for-30 (.333 batting average) in his career against Peavy.

One batter Peavy has handled is Eric Hosmer, holding him to four hits in 22 at-bats. Hosmer, who was hitting .448 (13-for-29) this postseason entering the World Series, is hitting .263 (5-for-19) in five games against the Giants.

Stat of the night: Shutout in Game 5 is reason to celebrate
Since World War II, five pitchers have thrown a shutout in Game 5 of a World Series tied 2-2. Madison Bumgarner is the most recent to do so.

In the previous four instances (each of which happened more than 40 years ago), each pitcher's team lost Game 6, but won the Series in the final game.

How do you pitch to Pablo Sandoval?

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
Pablo Sandoval is in a pretty good place these days. He has hit .326 this postseason, has reached base in each of his past 23 postseason games, and he's about to play in his third World Series in five years.

Two years ago in the Fall Classic, Sandoval hit .421 with eight hits in a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers and joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game.

What might Royals manager Ned Yost take into account when pitching to and defending against Sandoval?

Use your lefties
The switch-hitting Sandoval hit .317 with 11 homers versus right-handed pitching and .199 with five home runs against left-handed pitching in the regular season.

This postseason, Sandoval has mostly avoided left-handed pitchers; he has had only three of his 48 plate appearances against them in 10 games.

But Yost has a few options he can throw at Sandoval, such as starting pitcher Jason Vargas and relievers Brandon Finnegan, Danny Duffy and Tim Collins (if he decides to again carry three lefty relievers).

What's mystifying about Sandoval's struggles against lefties this season is that he has missed a lot of hittable pitches.

Sandoval has three hits against the 96 pitches he saw within the middle third of the strike zone (as opposed to the outer third or inner third).

In 2013, he had 11 hits against the 79 pitches he saw in that area.

Right-handed pitchers don't have many options

Sandoval can cover the entire plate and then some against right-handed pitchers. There's a window to get him out at the bottom of the strike zone, but the margin for error is small.

The best hope for a right-hander is to throw a pitch far enough away that it can't be touched. Sandoval swung at 19 percent of what our pitch-tracking system labeled "noncompetitive" pitches (he had one hit on a ball that was almost in the dirt and another that was basically in the right-handed batter's box).

That was the third-highest rate among those hitters who qualified for the batting title this season (the two players ahead of him are Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Orioles outfielder Adam Jones).

But even that may not be enough. Sandoval had two hits in the NLCS against curveballs from St. Louis' Adam Wainwright that were termed "noncompetitive." One was on a pitch at his toes, the other was almost in the right-handed batter's box.

Handling the heat
As Buster Olney noted in his blog, Sandoval is very capable of turning around a 95 mph fastball from Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera or Greg Holland.

His batting average against pitches that fast from righties this season is .315.

But the temptation may still be there to throw those pitches. He put only 22 percent of his swings against those pitches in play (which ranked in the bottom 5 percent of major league hitters).

AP Photo/Chris SzagolaMadison Bumgarner two-hit the Mets on Sunday for his second career shutout.
Entering Sunday’s game, Bartolo Colon was looking to make history for the New York Mets as they hosted the San Francisco Giants, going for his 200th career major league win. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he would’ve been just the third pitcher to get his 200th win in a Mets uniform, joining Orel Hershiser and Pedro Martinez.

But it was Madison Bumgarner who stole the show, throwing a two-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts on just 94 pitches. It was Bumgarner’s second career shutout. He also one-hit the Reds back in June 2012.

Bumgarner’s shutout was very efficient. More than half of his pitches (55 percent) were fastballs, the highest percentage he’s had in an outing since the 2011 season. Mets hitters were 1-10 with four strikeouts and no hard-hit balls against his fastball.

He also threw nearly 80 percent (79.8) of his pitches for strikes. That’s the second-highest percentage he’s had in a game in his career. The highest came in a 2011 start in which he pitched just one-third of an inning.

Back on Friday, Ryan Vogelsong threw a two-hitter against the Mets in a win. According to Elias, this was just the third time a team has ever had two complete-game two-hitters or better in the same series against the Mets. The others were by the 1965 Dodgers (Sandy Koufax and Claude Osteen) and the 1963 Dodgers (Koufax and Don Drysdale).

The Giants' offense also came alive in the game, putting up nine runs with four homers. The long ball has been lacking for San Francisco recently. Over their previous 10 games entering Sunday, the Giants mustered just two home runs, going 3-7 over that 10-game stretch while averaging 2.3 runs per game.

Hunter Pence had a pair of home runs for the Giants out of the leadoff spot. He’s the first Giant with a multi-home run game since Brandon Crawford did so back on May 4. He’s also just the second Giants leadoff hitter with a multi-HR game in the past five seasons, joining Nate Schierholtz.

Buster Posey added four hits and three RBIs for the Giants. Over his previous 10 games, he was just 8-for-34 with one RBI.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27

AP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly has his team playing .610 ball since June 9, tied for the best mark in the NL.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), first place in the National League West is on the line as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers go into the game with a half-game advantage in the division. Through June 8, Los Angeles trailed San Francisco by 9½ games. Since then, the Dodgers have gone 25-16, while the Giants are 15-26.

Still, it’s easy to wonder if the Dodgers have underachieved, given their MLB-leading payroll. Similar questions could be asked of the Giants, who rank sixth in payroll. Part of the reason is that several of their star players haven’t played up to their star billing this season.

Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez started the season on a tear. At the end of April, he was hitting .317 with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.021. But since May, he is batting .245, with just seven home runs in 282 at-bats. His OPS over the last three months is down to .685.

Matt Kemp
In 2011 and 2012, Kemp was one of the top outfielders in baseball, finishing second in MVP voting in 2011 and making the NL All-Star team both seasons. Since then, however, Kemp has struggled.

Over the last two seasons, Kemp’s wins above replacement is a minus-0.6, meaning he’s worth less than a minor league call-up in the same position.

This season, his WAR is minus-1.1, which ties him for the third-worst among NL position players, behind only Domonic Brown and Jedd Gyorko.

Andre Ethier
Ethier’s decline has been going longer than Kemp’s. Ethier batted .292 in 2011, but his batting average has declined each year since, down to .248 this season. His home run total has also declined, from 20 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 to just four so far this season.

Hanley Ramirez
Although Ramirez is producing much more than the previous trio, he is still well off his mark from 2013, when he had a 1.040 OPS. This season, it’s .840. Last year, Ramirez had 20 home runs in 336 plate appearances. At this year’s All-Star break, he had 11 homers in the same number of plate appearances.

Buster Posey
One of the Giants’ stars, Posey has failed to live up to his 2012 NL MVP season, when he batted .336 with a .957 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Posey is batting .288 with a .801 OPS.

The key to Posey’s success might be a positional change. In his MLB career, Posey has a .361 BA and .996 OPS when playing first base. Those numbers drop to a .292 BA and .822 OPS when he’s in the lineup as a catcher.

Pablo Sandoval
After a rough start, Sandoval has turned his season around.

Through May 10, Sandoval was hitting .173 and striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. Since then, his batting average is .332, and his strikeout rate is down to 11 percent.

His free-swinging style has worked for him. This season, no batter has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than Sandoval’s 43 percent; he ranked second in that statistic last season. But he is hitting .255 on pitches out of the zone, the third-best mark in the NL and well above the MLB average of .163.

Pence gets exactly the pitch he needed

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
Wednesday on, writers discussed the importance of Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval to the San Francisco Giants’ playoff chances. But let’s not forget their wins above replacement leader, Hunter Pence.

Pence’s bloop three-run double against Jonathan Papelbon gave the Giants a lead and an eventual 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Papelbon has now pitched twice against the Giants in the past two days and allowed four earned runs. He has allowed only five runs in 38 1/3 innings against every other team in the majors combined.

Pence’s hit made him 3-for-4 in his career against the Phillies closer and gave him an NL-best 125 hits this season. He’s also now 10-for-25 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Inside the at-bat
Pence survived a close call on a 2-2 slider that was just below the bottom of the strike zone, than fouled off another pitch before hitting a 93-mph tailing fastball near the inside corner into a vacant spot down the right-field line.

That was probably the last place in which Papelbon wanted to attack Pence with two strikes.

Pence has 16 hits, second-most in the majors, and made only 17 outs on pitches that fit the following criteria:
    - 93 mph or faster
    - on the inner third of the plate
    - from a right-handed pitcher

Both Pence’s double and Posey’s game-tying home run on Tuesday came against that type of pitch from Papelbon.

Pence’s 2014
Pence has lived up to the big contract he signed with the Giants last season (five years, $90 million), hitting .304 with 13 home runs and an .840 OPS in 2014. He leads the NL in runs scored and is someone who is thriving at a time when offensive numbers are declining.

Pence’s basic skills (strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate) are almost identical to what they were last season, but the results have actually been a little bit better, thanks to a .300 batting average when he hits a ground ball (last season, he hit .263).

Pence currently ranks fifth among those whose primary position is right field with 3.3 wins above replacement (his defense rates a hair below average). Last season, he ranked as the ninth-best right fielder, with 3.9 WAR.

Stat of the night (amazing but true)
The last time a Giants player got a hit to break a scoreless tie in the ninth inning or later in Philadelphia was May 15, 1989, when Will Clark hit a go-ahead home run against Steve Bedrosian in the 12th inning.

Amazingly, the Giants lost that game on a three-run, inside-the-park home run by Bob Dernier in the bottom half of that inning.

However, they would go on to win the National League pennant.

Top stats to know: Giants at Phillies

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Madison Bumgarner will take his sparkling road record to the hill tonight against the Phillies.
Tonight, Wednesday Night Baseball features the San Francisco Giants hitting the road to take on the Philadelphia Phillies (7 PM, ESPN and WatchESPN).

The Giants enter tonight’s game with a one-game lead in the NL West over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the lead stood at nine-and-a-half after games on June 8. Since then, the Giants have been nine games under .500, while the Dodgers have put up a 23-15 mark.

Part of the Giants recent struggles have come at the plate, as they’ve been shut out in six of their last 25 games, and held to two runs or fewer in 13 of those contests.

It’s part of an offensive decline that’s been in effect for the Giants since winning the 2012 World Series. Their batting average and on-base percentage have each dropped in each season since, leaving them ranked 22nd in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage this season entering Wednesday’s games.

Luckily for the Giants, they’ll send Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight to face the lefty-heavy Phillies lineup. This season, no left-handed starter has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Bumgarner, who has 40 strikeouts against just three walks. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown are among the Phillies regulars who are left-handed.

Bumgarner has also been much better at home than on the road, going 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA on the road, compared to just a 4-5 mark with an ERA of 5.22 in his home park.

He’ll also be facing a Phillies lineup that is having one of the worst seasons in recent franchise history. A team that once leaned on its offense is now batting .238 with a .300 on-base percentage, which would be the worst marks for a Phillies team since the early 1970s. And this season, only the San Diego Padres have a lower slugging percentage.

Who has struggled for the Phillies? Nearly all of their sluggers have tailed off:

• Ryan Howard: .377 slugging percentage would be the lowest mark of his career (previous lowest is .423).
• Domonic Brown: .606 OPS is sixth-worst in the majors among qualified players. -1.6 Wins Above Replacement is second-worst in majors among qualifiers.
• Chase Utley: 47.25 at-bats per home run is more than double his career average of 23.5.

The Phillies find themselves in last place, four games back of the Miami Marlins for fourth in the NL East. The Phillies haven’t finished last place in their division since 2000. That 13-year streak since finishing in last place in the division is the eighth-longest in all of the majors.

Bumgarner shows power ... with his bat

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
Madison Bumgarner is making opposing pitchers pay for pitching him inside.
Perhaps San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner would make for a suitable last-second entrant into Monday’s Home Run Derby.

Bumgarner became the second pitcher in major league history to hit two grand slams in a season, clubbing his second in the Giants’ win over the Diamondbacks on Sunday.

The only other pitcher with two in a season is Tony Cloninger, who did so against the Giants, hitting both in one game on July 3, 1966.

The Elias Sports Bureau also noted that Bumgarner and Buster Posey are the first pitcher-catcher each to hit a grand slam in the same game. It marked the third time that the Giants hit two grand slams in a game since moving to San Francisco. The last instance was in 1998 (the hitters were Bill Mueller and Jeff Kent).

How he has hit: Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner entered the season with two career home runs. He now has three in 40 at-bats this season. He has already matched his single-season high for hits in a season with 11.

Bumgarner now has more grand slams in his career than Prince Fielder, who has 288 career home runs, but only one grand slam. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that's the most home runs of anyone with fewer than two grand slams.

Bumgarner (the hitter) has owned the inside part of the plate this season. He has seven hits, including Sunday's grand slam, and has made only six outs on pitches that were on the inner third of the plate, or off the inside corner.

From 2009 to 2013, he totaled seven hits and 70 outs against those pitches.

Bumgarner’s 12 RBIs this season are the most for a Giants pitcher since Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal had 15 in 1966.

How he's pitched
Bumgarner is in a little bit of a slump on the mound. He allowed four runs in 6⅓ innings on Sunday. Sunday's win did snap his three-game losing streak, but he's now 1-3 with a 7.03 ERA in his past four starts.

Perhaps over the All-Star break, he'll be able to regain the success he had with his slider. Opponents hit .224 against it prior to this four-game struggle. They have 21 hits and are batting .488 against it in these past four games, including five hits on Sunday.

Top stats to know: Lincecum's 2nd no-hitter

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25

Tim Lincecum made things a little easier for himself the second time around.

Lincecum threw his second career no-hitter in beating the San Diego Padres on Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco. Both no-hitters have come against the Padres, with the other coming last season. Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw, who were once featured on an ESPN The Magazine cover together, threw a no-hitter eight days apart.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Lincecum is the second pitcher to have two no-hitters against the same team. Hall of Famer Addie Joss had a pair against the Chicago White Sox in 1908 and 1910.

Lincecum is the fourth active pitcher with multiple no-hitters, joining Homer Bailey, Mark Buehrle and Justin Verlander.

He becomes the fourth pitcher to have multiple Cy Young Awards and multiple no-hitters, joining Roy Halladay (whose two include one in the postseason), Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax. Lincecum and Koufax are the only two with multiple no-hitters, multiple Cy Young Awards and multiple World Series rings.

Lincecum entered the day with a 6.85 ERA in four starts this month. With runners on base, opponents were hitting .333 with three home runs.

Lincecum kept the Padres off the bases, walking one and facing only one batter over the minimum. He threw 113 pitches, 35 fewer than he had in his first no-hitter.

He is the second Giants pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters, joining Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson (1901, 1905)

He can hit, too
Lincecum was the first pitcher with multiple hits in a no-hitter since Rick Wise, who homered twice in his no-hitter in 1971, and (as noted by Elias) Lincecum became the first to reach base safely at least three times since Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for the 1969 Baltimore Orioles.

How he won
Lincecum threw his fastball on only 36 percent of his pitches, his lowest percentage in any start in the past three seasons and his third-lowest percentage in 236 career starts.

He induced 14 outs with his changeup, eight of which came after he threw a fastball on the previous pitch, including two of three strikeouts.

Lincecum got 12 ground-ball outs, his most in the past three seasons. That played right into the hands of the Giants' defense. Opponents are hitting .209 on ground balls against the Giants this season, the second-lowest average in the majors.

Lincecum took 17 hitters to a two-strike count and retired seven via ground ball. In his previous no-hitter, he took 25 hitters to a two-strike count and retired three on ground balls, instead finishing with 13 strikeouts.

Lincecum was more efficient in his no-hitter Wednesday compared to last season's. He got four outs on the first pitch Wednesday compared to none in his previous no-hitter.

It’s been rough going for the Padres
The Padres entered the day hitting .216 and ranking last in the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs per game.

They were hitting .182 and slugging .280 in June, 47 and 51 points, respectively, lower than the next-worst teams.

Vogelsong bouncing back in 2014

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
Ryan Vogelsong struck out a career-high nine batters in the Giants' 3-2 win over the Reds Wednesday.

Vogelsong now has a 2.05 ERA over his last eight starts, and the Giants improved to 9-3 this season in his starts (they were 9-10 last season).

How has Vogelsong righted the ship in 2014?

Improved off-speed pitches
Vogelsong had been getting into trouble earlier this season –- and all of last season –- with his off-speed pitches. He primarily throws a changeup and curveball to offset his fastball and cutter, but those pitches had been failing him.

Opponents have hit only .182 against his curveball in his last eight starts and .240 against his changeup. In his first four starts this season and in 2013, opponents combined to hit .348 against his curve and .366 against his change.

The improved curve has been the biggest factor, however. Vogelsong is generating a swing-and-miss 32 percent of the time with his curve in his last eight starts, a 39 percent increase from his 23 starts prior.

Improvement in tough spots
Vogelsong’s ability to get out of jams has been a key factor for the turnaround as well.

Vogelsong has limited opponents to a .186 batting average with runners in scoring position his last eight starts with no home runs. That’s a big improvement from his .361 batting average and five home runs allowed the previous 23 starts.

By generating more misses (26 percent to 15 percent) while throwing the same number of strikes in these situations, he's allowed fewer balls in play and fewer hits.

Again, one of the biggest factors behind this improvement is the pitch selection. Vogelsong has limited his changeup usage to just 7 percent the past eight games (down from 20 percent), with his curveball making up the difference. Opponents have hit .167 with a 38 percent swing-and-miss rate against his curve with runners in scoring his past eight starts.

Panda and Big Papi join elite company

September, 5, 2013

AP Photo, Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz (left) and Pablo Sandoval (right) both reached milestones on Wednesday.
Wednesday saw milestones occur in both the National and American Leagues, as Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz each had special performances.

Encore performance for the Panda
Sandoval is the reigning World Series MVP after winning it with the San Francisco Giants last season, largely due to his three home runs in Game 1 of that series. By hitting three home runs on Wednesday, the Kung-Fu Panda joined an exclusive list.

Sandoval is just the sixth player in MLB history to have a three-homer performance in both the regular and postseason in his career. Of the other five players, two are active (Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre) and three are in the Hall of Fame (Babe Ruth, George Brett, Reggie Jackson).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sandoval also is the first reigning World Series MVP to hit three homers in a game (World Series MVP has been awarded since 1955).

Comparing the two performances, the World Series performance remains the better one – both in significance of the game and in distance. Sandoval’s average home run distance was 370 feet Wednesday, much shorter than the 412-foot average distance he posted in last year’s Fall Classic.

Ortiz reaches 2,000 with an exclamation point
David Ortiz became the 18th active player to reach 2,000 career hits, belting home runs before and after his 2,000th hit. Ortiz now has 39 career multi-homer games with the Red Sox, the most in franchise history.

Ortiz now has nine 25-homer seasons for the Red Sox, second-most in franchise history, trailing only the 14 by Ted Williams. No AL player has more 25-homer seasons than Big Papi (nine) dating back to 2003. Alex Rodriguez and Paul Konerko each have eight such seasons, but are not in range to tie Ortiz’s mark this season.

As has become routine for Ortiz in recent years, he’s further included himself in the company of Red Sox lore. Ortiz had 10 total bases on Wednesday. The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that this is his 11th game with at least 10 total bases, breaking a tie with Manny Ramirez and Ted Williams for most in franchise history.

Lots of young talent in Giants vs. Dodgers

June, 24, 2013

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsDodgers rookie Yasiel Puig has taken baseball by storm since his debut on June 3.
"Monday Night Baseball" at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2/WatchESPN features the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the San Francisco Giants. The game will showcase a plethora of young talent, highlighted by starters Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu as well as Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig.

Bumgarner has been an ace
Bumgarner has fared well against Los Angeles in his career, posting a 6-2 career record with a 2.53 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts).

He last faced the Dodgers in his first start of the season on April 2, holding them to only two hits over eight scoreless innings. In that game he retired 18 consecutive batters from the middle of the second inning to the eighth.

Since Bumgarner joined the league in 2009, his 3.21 career ERA ranks 11th among pitchers with at least 80 starts. That's the third-best ERA among lefties in that time span, behind only Clayton Kershaw (2.54) and Cliff Lee (2.93).

Bumgarner has anchored a Giants staff that is uncharacteristically ranked 13th in the NL this season with a combined 4.50 starter ERA. Giants starters haven’t ranked worse than fifth in ERA since 2008.

The Giants' southpaw relies heavily on his cutter, throwing a very low percentage of regular fastballs. Only 39 percent of his pitches have been fastballs, the sixth-lowest rate among qualified starters this season. Mixing it up has allowed Bumgarner to post the highest strikeout rate by any NL lefty this season (25 percent of batters faced).

Ryu effective at home
Ryu has been one of the best rookie starters this season, and he’s been at his best at Chavez Ravine. Ryu has posted a 1.88 ERA at home, the 10th-lowest home ERA in the NL. The Giants have given Ryu trouble, though -- he’s 0-2 in two starts against them with a 3.65 ERA.

The South Korean lefty’s changeup has allowed him to hold right-handed batters to a .220/.272/.310 slash line. He’s gotten them to miss on one-third of swings against his changeup. But lefties are batting .298 against Ryu, and the damage has come against his fastball to the tune of a .444 average in at-bats ending with the pitch.

Ryu has been excellent at shutting down opponents in the half-inning following a Dodgers score this season. According to Elias, he’s shut down opposing teams in 91.7 percent of opportunities, the highest rate in the NL.

Puig a dual threat
Puig has made quite an impression over his first 19 games with the Dodgers. Although he’s widely recognized for his bat (MLB-best .425 BA and 1.174 OPS since his June 3 debut), he’s added five defensive runs saved in right field, already tied for ninth-best among right fielders this season.

Puig’s performance has launched him to the top of the Dodgers' wins above replacement (WAR) leaders this season among position players for the season. He trails only ace Clayton Kershaw and Ryu for the overall team lead in WAR.

The Dodgers' star rookie has demonstrated significant opposite-field power in his short major league career. Of his six home runs, four have gone out to right field.

Giants quash Kemp by pitching him away

April, 3, 2013

Most of Kemp's damage has been done on pitches over the middle and inside.

No team has been able to solve Matt Kemp lately quite like the San Francisco Giants.

Kemp is hitless in his last five games dating back to last season, the second-longest streak of his career. All five of those games have come against the Giants.

In fact, the Giants have actually held Kemp to 0-21 at the plate in his last six games against them. In 2011, Kemp raked Giants pitching to the tune of a .359/.446/.672 slashline (BA/OBP/SLG). But since the start of last year, San Franciso has held him in check, only allowing him to slash just .203/.238/.322.

The key has been a change in pitch locations to him from 2011 to 2012.

Kemp does the most damage to pitches middle-middle, middle-in and middle-up. His weakest zones are on the outer half.

In 2011, 41 percent of Giants pitches to Kemp were located on the outer third. In 2012 and into this season, that percentage has bumped to 46 percent. Pitches located on the inside part of the plate fell from 37 percent in 2011 to 30 percent since.

Facing Lincecum
Tim Lincecum has held Kemp to a .214 average overall, but Kemp has warmed up against Lincecum lately.

Kemp is 7-22 (.318 BA) against Lincecum over the last two seasons compared to 2-20 (.100 BA) prior.

An issue for Lincecum is his drop in velocity. Lincecum’s average fastball dropped two MPH from 92.2 in 2011 to a career low 90.3 in 2012. At the same time, his changeup velocity only fell by 0.5 MPH, meaning the difference between his fastball and changeup went from 8.5 MPH in 2011 to 7.1 MPH in 2012.

One of Lincecum's struggles last year was throwing his fastball high and in to righties. As his velocity is no longer elite, that didn't really fly, and it stands to reason that it won't if he tries to do it against Kemp.

Tidbits to know
• Since the start of 2009, these teams have played to an even 37-37 split.

• The Dodgers and Giants have split shutouts to begin the year. They haven’t played each other in three straight shutouts since 2000 when Darren Dreifort shut the Giants out twice in a row (7/23, 9/26) followed by a Kirk Reuter shutout of the Dodgers (9/27).

Tigers put best 'Fist' forward in Game 2

October, 25, 2012

Elsa/Getty ImagesDoug Fister will try to even up the series for the Tigers in Game 2 tonight.
The comeback kings needed no rally in Game 1 as the San Francisco Giants jumped out to an early lead and cruised to the victory over the Detroit Tigers. The Giants have not trailed in a week, dating back to an 8-3 loss in Game 4 of the NLCS, and have won four games in a row in blowout fashion.

So the National League champs are a lock to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series? Not so fast. As many baseball fans know, momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. And, based on the numbers, Detroit appears to have the advantage in Game 2 tonight. But that was true in Game 1, right?

Doug Fister Stats to Watch
Fister is making his first career World Series start but has shown the ability to shine in the postseason spotlight, going 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in four starts on this stage.

Fister has been on a roll since the All-Star break, with an 8-4 record and 2.52 ERA in 17 starts including the postseason. This comes after a mediocre start to the season during which he posted a 4.75 ERA with just two wins in 11 starts in the first half.

An improved fastball has been the key to his turnaround.

Since the break, opponents are hitting more than 100 points lower in at-bats ending in a fastball compared to the first three months of the season.

Righties have fared even worse; they are hitting just .184 against Fister’s heater since mid-July after tagging the pitch for a .338 average and .873 OPS in the first half.

Madison Bumgarner Stats To Watch
Bumgarner, on the other hand, has faded down the stretch. He is 2-6 with a 6.85 ERA in his last nine starts, including 0-2 and an 11.25 ERA in two postseason outings.

The pitch that batters have taken advantage of most is his fastball, which is down a mile-per-hour from where it was before those nine starts.

Bumgarner has been unable to establish his fastball early in the count, which has led to him falling behind more batters and the results have not been favorable.

His fastball first-pitch strike percentage is just 56 percent in his last nine starts, 10 percentage points lower than in his first 25 starts.

Opponents have a 1.118 OPS after reaching a 1-0 count against Bumgarner in his last nine starts, compared to .731 in those situations before.

Looking Ahead
How important is Game 1? Teams to go up 1-0 in the World Series have won the series 63 percent of the time in major-league history, including eight of the previous nine years.

Game 2 might be even more crucial. According to Elias, 50 teams have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 World Series, and 40 went on to win the title. The last team to erase a 2-0 deficit in the Fall Classic was the 1996 New York Yankees, who won four games in a row after dropping the first two against the Atlanta Braves.

Cardinals, Giants: Differing streaks on line

October, 21, 2012
The San Francisco Giants will be looking to end a century’s worth of heartbreak in postseason winner-take-all games in a best-of-seven series when they face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Their 0-5 record in best-of-seven deciding games is the worst in major-league history.

The run dates back to their time as the New York Giants.

In 1912, they lost to the Boston Red Sox. The Giants blew a 2-1 10th-inning lead with their ace, Christy Mathewson pitching. The Red Sox scored twice in the 10th, the key play being a muffed fly ball by center fielder Fred Snodgrass to lead off the frame.

In 1924, they blew a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and lost to the Washington Senators, 4-3 in 12 innings. The winning run scored on Earl McNeely’s double after the Giants made two errors earlier in the inning.

Legend has it that the winning hit took a bad hop over the head of the Giants' third baseman (Fred Lindstrom) because it hit a pebble.

In 1962, they lost Game 7 of the World Series 1-0 to the New York Yankees. The Giants had runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth when Hall-of-Famer Willie McCovey lined to second base to end the series.

In 1987, they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-0. Jose Oquendo, who hit one home run all season, hit a three-run home run in the second inning to put the game away.

In 2002, they blew a 5-0 lead to the Anaheim Angels in Game 6 and then lost Game 7, 4-1. Garret Anderson had the go-ahead hit, a three-run double in the fourth inning.

The Giants got the tying run to the plate in three different innings, but could not get the key hit they needed.

They’ll be trying to win against a Cardinals team that is 11-4 all-time in Game 7s.

The win total and win percentage are the best for any team in major-league history.

The Cardinals have also won six straight winner-take-all games, tied for the longest-ever streak of success.

That streak also belonged to the Cardinals and ended in 1968, when they lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Detroit Tigers, a series in which they blew a 3-games-to-1-lead.

The Cardinals have players familiar with key Game 7 moments on their roster. The last time they played Game 7 of the NLCS, they beat the New York Mets, the go-ahead hit coming on a two-run home run by Yadier Molina.

Adam Wainwright struck out now-teammate Carlos Beltran with a nasty curveball for the final out of the series, stranding the bases loaded.

Molina also had two RBIs in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers, as did teammate David Freese.

Allen Craig added the hit that put the Cardinals ahead for good that day, a third-inning homer versus Matt Harrison.