Stats & Info: Shane Victorino

Kernels: Postseason in review

November, 4, 2013
By now you've probably heard that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. And that a couple of the games had endings (a pickoff, an obstruction call) the likes of which we'd never seen before in the postseason. (We here at Kernels were hoping for Game 5 to end on a pitch getting stuck in the umpire's mask. That's an automatic base, you know.)

To get to the World Series, however, the 10 postseason teams had to play 32 other games first. So let's recap a few of our favorite nuggets from the earlier rounds.

•  The Tigers lost ALDS Game 2 to the Athletics on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single. It was Detroit's first 1-0 postseason loss in team history. The Tigers and Reds had been the only two original franchises without such a loss. Ten days later, the Tigers lost Game 3 of the ALCS on Mike Napoli's solo homer, becoming the first team since the 1991 Braves and 1991 Pirates to drop two 1-0 games in the same postseason.

Napoli's homer was the first in 12 years to be the only run of a postseason game; Jorge Posada's solo shot for the Yankees held up to beat the Athletics in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS (better known for Derek Jeter’s flip relay throw that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate).

Justin Verlander allowed Napoli's run and became just the second pitcher to take a loss with one run, one walk, and double-digit strikeouts. Brooklyn's Don Newcombe was the other, as he gave up a walk-off homer to the Yankees' Tommy Henrich in the 1949 World Series (the first walk-off home in the Fall Classic).

•  The Tigers also won a 1-0 game this October; that's the ALCS opener where Daniel Nava's 9th-inning single was Boston's only hit.

Anibal Sanchez walked six in that game, becoming the first pitcher with zero hits, six walks, and a dozen strikeouts in any game since Nolan Ryan's no-hitter for the Angels in 1974. It was just the second game in postseason history where a team's only hit came in the ninth inning; the other was Cookie Lavagetto's pinch-hit walk-off double for the Dodgers against the Yankees in a near no-hitter by Bill Bevens in the 1947 World Series.

Max Scherzer fanned 13 in Game 2, giving the Tigers the second set of teammates with 12-strikeout games in the same postseason series. The other pair was Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott for the 1986 Astros.

Scherzer got a no-decision when David Ortiz hit his grand slam in the eighth. Thanks to Tigers pitching changes, all four runs were charged to different hurlers, just the ninth grand slam ever to have that quirk. Boston's six runs in the game came off six different pitchers, the first time in the live-ball era-- regular or postseason-- that a team had scored six or more runs with every opposing pitcher being charged with exactly one.

•  Shane Victorino also hit a grand slam in the ALCS. Not only did that make the Red Sox the first AL team with two postseason slams since the 1987 Twins (Dan Gladden, Kent Hrbek), but it was the second of Victorino's career. He had one with the Phillies in 2008. Jim Thome is the only other player with two grand slams in postseason play.

Victorino-- who led the AL with 18 hit-by-pitches in the regular season-- got plunked twice more by the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS. He's the first Red Sox hitter ever to get hit twice in a postseason game.

•  The Dodgers' four homers in NLCS Game 5 were the most ever by a single team in a postseason game at Dodger Stadium. Adrian Gonzalez hit two; he and Carl Crawford (who did it in the Division Series) became the first Dodgers teammates with multi-homer games in the same postseason since Davey Lopes and Steve Garvey in 1978. The Dodgers also had an NLCS game with two triples (including the one that Yasiel Puig initially thought was a homer). They were the only National League team without a multi-triple game in the regular season.

•  Jacoby Ellsbury had two singles, a double, and a triple in ALCS Game 4. The last Red Sox player with a four-hit postseason game as a leadoff hitter was Ellsbury in the 2007 World Series. Only one other player had done it in team history: Wally Moses in 1946.

And only one other major-leaguer has two such games in his career: Mickey Rivers of the Yankees. Ellsbury was also the second Boston hitter to go single-double-triple in the postseason; Mike Stanley did it in the 1999 ALDS.

•  When facing elimination, the old saying is "everybody's available". In Game 4 of the ALDS, the Rays ran nine different pitchers to the mound, the first team in postseason history to use that many in a nine-inning game.

Jeremy Hellickson was pulled after allowing two walks and a single to start the 2nd inning; Jamey Wright got out of it without any damage. Hellickson thus became the second starting pitcher in postseason history to work one inning (or less), allow zero runs, and leave for non-injury reasons.

Curly Ogden of the Senators was used as a decoy in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series so that Giants manager John McGraw would set his lineup for a righty, but after two batters the defense switched to southpaw George Mogridge. It worked; that game gave Washington its only World Series title.

Red Sox handle curves en route to Pennant

October, 20, 2013

Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsShane Victorino's seventh inning grand slam propelled the Red Sox into the World Series.
The Boston Red Sox advanced to its 12th World Series in franchise history and first since sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2007 by virtue of a 5-2 win against the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS.

This sets the table for a World Series between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals for the fourth time. The Cardinals won the first two meetings in 1946 and 1967 (both in seven games). Boston swept the Cardinals in 2004 to famously win its first World Series since 1918.

It will be the first World Series featuring teams with the best regular season records in the American and National Leagues since 1999 when the New York Yankees played the Atlanta Braves.

The pennant is even sweeter considering this was a last-place team a year ago.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Red Sox are the seventh team since 1990 to reach the World Series following a season in which they finished in last place.

The winning hit for Boston came off the bat of Shane Victorino, who hit the go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning to give the Red Sox a 5-2 lead. At the time, Victorino was mired in a 2-for-23 slump).

He’s the eighth player in MLB postseason history to hit a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning or later and the first in baseball history with multiple go-ahead grand slams in the postseason.

Victorino’s hit came on an 0-2 curveball from Jose Veras. He might have had an indication of what was to come as over the last three regular seasons, Veras had thrown 171 pitches on 0-2 counts, with 81 percent of them being curveballs.

That’s the highest curveball usage on an 0-2 count in the majors over this span (minimum 100 pitches thrown).

Boston is the first team in MLB history to hit two game-tying/go-ahead grand slams in the seventh inning or later in a single postseason (David Ortiz hit the other one in Game 2 of this series).

• Koji Uehara is the third relief pitcher to win the ALCS MVP, joining Mariano Rivera in 2003 and Dennis Eckersley in 1988.

• The Red Sox improved to 6-0 all-time in ALCS Game 6s and won their first best-of-7 postseason series after being tied 2-2.

In this series, Uehara went 1-0 with three saves while allowing no runs on four hits in six innings pitched.

• In relief of Max Scherzer, the Tigers bullpen threw 2⅔ innings, allowing seven earned runs on six hits (including those two grand slams).

• Prince Fielder went 4-for-22 (.182) with five strikeouts and no home runs or RBI in this series.

Veterans were Red Sox difference-makers

October, 9, 2013
What were the three biggest keys to the Boston Red Sox beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series?

The Red Sox's offense could not be stopped
The Red Sox's lineup overwhelmed the Rays' much like it overwhelmed their opponents on the way to 97 regular-season wins.

The Red Sox outscored the Rays 25-12, hit .300 with runners in scoring position to Tampa Bay’s .179, and stole six bases to the Rays’ one.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz were a combined 20-for-45 with 13 runs scored and eight RBIs in the series. Each of the three hit .385 or better.

Boston took advantage of every opportunity to get on base and every opportunity to score, capitalizing on not just hits, but defensive miscues and wild pitches.

Victorino tied a record for a single postseason by being hit by four pitches. Rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts came off the bench to draw two big walks and score two key runs in the series-clinching win. (He was only the second reserve player with a multi-walk, multi-run game in the postseason, joining Benny Agbayani of the 1999 Mets).

Myers unable to get going
AL Rookie of the Year candidate Wil Myers had a rough go of it in this series, going 1-for-16, with the lone hit being an infield single in Game 4.

Red Sox pitchers made a concerted effort to repeatedly pitch Myers on the outside edge of the plate and at the bottom of the strike zone. More than two-thirds of the pitches they threw him were on the outer-third or off the outside corner. Fifty-one of the 73 were in the lower half of the zone or below.

There’s good reason for the latter.

Myers hit .393 with nine home runs in at-bats that ended with a pitch in the upper half of the strike zone or above the zone.

His batting average rated best in the majors against that location and his .672 slugging percentage rated sixth-best.

Unsung hero: Craig Breslow
Red Sox lefty reliever Craig Breslow was an integral part of two of Boston’s wins.

Breslow got four vital outs to preserve a 6-4 lead in the sixth and seventh innings of Game 2, then got five more in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings of Game 4.
Craig Breslow
Breslow had four consecutive strikeouts in the clinching win. In 419 career regular-season games (and two previous postseason games), he struck out four batters only once.

Breslow’s value is in that he’s a lefty who can get right-handed hitters out.

Right-handed hitters went 2-for-10 against Breslow in the series, basically a match for their .208 batting average against him in the regular season.

Victorino's outburst powers Red Sox

August, 28, 2013

Bob DeChiara/USA Today SportsShane Victorino hit the 100th and 101st home runs of his career Tuesday.

On the night he hit his 100th career home run, Shane Victorino had the most productive night at the plate of his career.

Victorino reached base five times, scoring four runs and driving in another seven to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 13-2 win Tuesday over the Baltimore Orioles.

According to Elias, Victorino is the first player in Red Sox history to go 3-for-3 or better with at least two homers, four runs scored and seven RBI in a game. Only one other player had a game like that over the last ten years: Josh Hamilton at Baltimore on May 8, 2012 (5-for-5, 4 HR, 4 R, 8 RBI).

Switching it up
While all three of Victorino’s hits Tuesday came versus three Orioles left-handers, the handedness of the pitcher hasn’t been as notable as which way Victorino has batted this month.

After spending the first nine-plus seasons of his MLB career as a switch hitter, Victorino began batting almost exclusively right-handed on August 4 due to a left leg injury that prevents him from hitting from the left side. Since the move, Victorino is hitting .302/.388/.523 with four home runs in 21 games; he was hitting .289/.333/.424 with only seven home runs in 78 games prior to the switch.

He’s come to the plate 44 times as a right-handed hitter versus right-handed pitching since August 4 and is hitting .289/.386/.500 with two home runs; he’s hitting only .275/.318/.391 with three home runs as a lefty in 228 PA versus right-handed pitching this season.

Flying under the radar
While Victorino had a breakout game Tuesday, he’s quietly put together a highly productive first season for the Red Sox.

Entering Tuesday, Victorino has been worth 4.8 Wins Above Replacement this year, the second highest total of his career and the third highest this season of any American League outfielder.

While Victorino had a big game Tuesday offensively, most of his value has been on defense, as he’s is tied for 6th in MLB this season with 23 Defensive Runs Saved.

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.

Victorino starting to fix what troubled him

August, 14, 2012

U.S. Presswire/Gary VazquezShane Victorino (left) has had much to celebrate of late for the Dodgers.

The Shane Victorino that the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen in the last five games is the kind that could make a significant impact on the 2012 pennant race.

Victorino’s homer capped a three-RBI night in the Dodgers’ win over the Pirates on Monday night and is part of a nifty statistical surge on his part.

Victorino has swung at 36 pitches in this stretch and only missed one. He’s 8-for-22 in this span with a home run, three doubles and five RBI.

The fifth-inning home run came on a 3-2 slider from opposing starter Jeff Karstens, the second hit Victorino had with a two-strike count in the game.

After going hitless in his first nine two-strike at-bats with the Dodgers, he’s gotten back to his past success. He is 6-for-his-last-12 in two-strike counts.

Of Victorino’s 10 home runs this season, seven have come with two strikes. That’s one shy of his career-high of eight two-strike home runs, done in 2007.

The primary issue that has kept Victorino’s numbers down this season has been his struggle with right-handed pitching. But the home run gave him seven hits in his last 21 at-bats against right-handed pitching.

Earlier in the game, Victorino had a double against a fastball from Karstens, only his seventh extra-base hit against a fastball from a right-hander all season, and his first in nearly a month.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement for Victorino in his area. His .280 slugging percentage against fastballs from righties this season is tied with Mike Aviles of the Boston Red Sox for the lowest among all batting-title qualifiers this season.

It’s a massive drop from what Victorino used to do against fastballs from righties. The previous three seasons, his slugging percentages were .583, .514, and .431.

But so far, the Dodgers should be happy with their returns from Victorino. His .759 OPS is the third-highest among Dodgers this month, trailing Matt Kemp and A.J. Ellis.

Both Dodgers midseason acquisitions intended to boost its offense have paid off so far. Hanley Ramirez has done his share with 18 RBI in his 18 games with the team.

The ultimate proof is in the Dodgers win-loss record, which is 7-4 in Victorino’s 11 games.

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.

Harry How/Getty Images
Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino fill specific needs for their new teams.
In two separate trades Tuesday, the Philadelphia Phillies traded All-Star centerfielder Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers and All-Star rightfielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants.

How does each player fit with his new team?

He’s in the middle of a down season but Victorino fills a pretty specific need for Los Angeles -- a top-of-the-order hitter. The Dodgers are in the bottom three in the National League in almost every offensive category from the leadoff spot.

It’s not his strongest position in the order but Victorino has made more than 850 plate appearances in the leadoff spot, and this year, despite a down season, is performing much better than the Dodgers’ leadoff hitters.

With Matt Kemp manning center and Andre Ethier in right, Victorino will likely play left. Dodgers leftfielders are at or near the bottom of the National League in most offensive categories.

Victorino has also performed well in his new home park, hitting .357 with an OPS of 1.045. His batting average, on-base and slugging percentages and OPS are his best or second-best in any National League park (outside the NL East).

The Dodgers may have gotten themselves an underrated player. Since 2008 only seven outfielders have a higher Wins Above Replacement than Victorino and he brings value in different ways. Over the same five-year span, only one outfielder has more WAR Runs Baserunning, a stat on Baseball Reference that rates all aspects of baserunning, including stolen bases, taking extra bases and not making outs.

Pence can certainly be a boost in the power department to a punchless outfield. Giants outfielders are in the bottom third of the major leagues in home runs and extra-base hits and are just 15th in slugging percentage. They also could use his right-handed thump -- the Giants rank 14th or worse in the National League in slugging, isolated power and home runs among right-handed batters.

Pence is a downgrade defensively, however, in right field. After leading all major league right fielders with 17 Defensive Runs Saved in 2009, Pence has regressed in that category in each season, down to -6 this season. That’s tied for fifth among major league right fielders.

Giants right fielders -- mostly Gregor Blanco and the departed Nate Schierholtz -- combined for 8 Defensive Run Saved, tied for second among National League teams.

Both players rate poorly in a specific defensive metric -- Plus/Minus on balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark. Victorino is last among major league outfielders with a -23 on deep balls this season, and he and Michael Saunders are the only are the only players worse than Pence, who’s tied with three others at -17.

Why these hitters will headline the deadline

July, 24, 2012
The major league baseball trade deadline is just a week away (July 31 at 4 ET). Yesterday we looked at the available pitchers, and today we examine the hitters likely to be moved before the deadline.

Chase Headley
Why trade him?
Headley is relatively young (28), the San Diego Padres are in rebuilding mode, and he reportedly has many suitors around baseball. Though he’s affordable, the Padres may be interested in making room for prospects on the way up.

Why acquire him?
Headley is one of best regular third baseman in baseball and is not a free agent until after the 2014 season. He’s also been much more productive away Petco Park, hitting .307 with a .869 OPS on the road over the last two seasons compared to a .251 batting average and .692 OPS at home.

B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton
Why trade him?
B.J. Upton is a free agent at season’s end, and there’s some question as to whether the Tampa Bay Rays would re-sign him.

Why acquire him?
Upton is having one of the worst seasons of his career to this point, but his combination of moderate power and speed is rare. He is just one of three players to have at least 150 stolen bases and 90 homers combined since the start of 2007.

Justin Upton
Why trade him?
Upton finished fourth in the NL MVP vote last year but has yet to put together back-to-back star-level seasons. He’s owed $38.5 million from 2013-15, and the Arizona Diamondbacks could get multiple future/present contributors in a deal.

Why acquire him?
He has been regarded as a potential superstar since he was drafted, and his age (24) makes him appealing to contenders and rebuilders alike. However, he has struggled this year, and one issue has been his inability to turn on pitches on the inner half of the plate. After hitting 22 homers on those pitches in 2011, he has just two in 2012.

Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino
Why trade him?
Victorino is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season, and the Philadelphia Phillies are 14 games out of first place in the NL East and 11 back of the NL Wild Card.

Why acquire him?
Though he has struggled this year, Victorino has been among the most productive center fielders in baseball since the start of 2007. His WAR of 20.1 during that span is behind only Curtis Granderson among center fielders.

On Monday, the Florida Marlins traded second baseman Omar Infante and right-handed pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers for right-handed pitcher Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.

Omar Infante
Why did the Marlins trade him?
Infante was one of the few players on the Miami Marlins roster who was not a) a long-term piece or b) too expensive to move. He helped the Marlins add an asset or two for 2013 and beyond.

Why did the Tigers acquire him?
Infante is very affordable (owed $8 million for the rest of 2012 and 2013 combined) and has continued a multi-year trend of increasing his power output. His Isolated Power was just .084 in 2009 but has steadily risen to .155 in 2012, above the MLB average for second baseman (.126).

As you can see in the chart, the Tigers clearly needed offensive help at second base. Infante is a huge upgrade for a team with the worst OPS by second basemen this season at the time of the deal.
The Philadelphia Phillies look to wrap things up on Wednesday in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. A look at some key storylines going into the evening:

Inside the Series
The Phillies took Game 3 on Tuesday, and history shows the importance of that. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when a five-game Division Series is tied after the first two games, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 19 of 23 times since 1995.

Philadelphia is 3-0 all-time in Game 4 of a divisional series. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies have won each of the last six postseason games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent. The streak, which dates to 2008, is tied for the second longest in MLB history. The A’s won nine straight potential series clinchers from 1973 to 1990.

On the Mound
Roy Oswalt takes the mound for the Phillies, boasting a 5-0 career record in 10 postseason starts (note: his loss in the 2010 NLCS came in relief). According to Elias, he would be just the fifth pitcher to win his first six postseason decisions as a starter. Orlando Hernandez won his first eight. He is followed by Cliff Lee (seven), Orel Hershiser (seven) and Lefty Gomez (six).

Roy Oswalt
Oswalt is 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three career postseason starts against the Cardinals. However, he hasn’t faced them in the playoffs since Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS.

The Cardinals counter with Edwin Jackson, who after 173 regular season starts is making his first in the postseason. In 2008, Jackson’s 14 wins were tied for the most on the Tampa Bay Rays, but he was relegated to the bullpen for the postseason.

Jackson hasn’t lost since August 20, a span of seven starts in which he is 3-0 with a 3.02 ERA. His success has come from a consistent ability to work out of jams. As Elias notes, opponents are batting .339 with the bases empty against Jackson, the highest such average among qualifying pitchers. However, he also held opponents to a .216 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Matchups to Watch
In what could potentially be his final game in a Cardinals uniform, Albert Pujols will face a familiar foe in Oswalt. No one has more career plate appearances (102), hits (30) or home runs (seven) against Oswalt. That success has carried over to the postseason, when Pujols is 4-for-9 with two home runs and four RBI against Oswalt.

Jackson has only one career start against the Phillies, and a limited track record against their key players. However, keep an eye on Shane Victorino solely for where he hits in the lineup. Opposing No. 5 hitters combined to hit .353 with 6 HR, 18 RBI and a 1.103 OPS against Jackson this season. Only Joe Saunders (1.124) allowed a higher OPS from the five spot.
The National League Division Series shifts to St. Louis for a pivotal Game 3 between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals tonight.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in a five-game Division Series that is tied after the first two games, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 19 of the 23 times since 1995, including 11 of the 12 series in the National League.

However, by winning Game 1, the Phillies have history on their side. In the Wild Card Era (since 1995), the Game 1 winner in the Division Series has won 73 percent of the time, including wins in 29 of the 32 NL series.

Inside the Series
Sunday night’s loss snapped a six-game winning streak in the Division Series for the Phillies. That was tied for the third-longest all-time and second-longest among NL teams. Since their World Series run in 2008, the Phillies are 10-3 in Division Series.

Despite their victory on Sunday, the Cardinals are still just 2-5 in their last seven Division Series games. However, the Redbirds have won six of their last eight postseason games at Busch Stadium and are an impressive 11-3 all-time in Division Series games in St. Louis.

On the Mound
Cole Hamels, the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, makes his 13th career postseason start. Hamels has had success in this situation before, when he threw a five-hit, nine-strikeout shutout in Game 3 of the NLDS last year against the Reds.

Hamels struggled down the stretch this year, with a 3.79 ERA in September that was his highest in any month. He allowed four runs in two of his final five starts, after doing so in just three of his first 26 starts.

Hamels had trouble with the longball last month, during which he allowed nine of his 19 homers. Luck may not have been on his side, though, as one of every five flyballs hit against him went over the fence in September; in the first five months, he gave up a homer on just one of every 15 flyballs he allowed.

Jaime Garcia gets the nod for the Cardinals, making his first career postseason start. Garcia was much more effective at home this season, with an ERA in St. Louis that was more than two runs better than on the road.

Garcia shut down the Phillies in his two starts against them this season, allowing just one earned run in 15 innings while holding the Phillies batters to a sub-.200 average. Garcia owns a 1.20 ERA in six career games against Philly, the lowest ERA among active pitchers versus the team (min. four starts).

Matchups to Watch
Albert Pujols hasn’t been able to solve Hamels during his career. He is 4-for-23 (.174) in their matchups, although two of his four hits are homers. That’s his lowest batting average vs. any active pitcher (min. 20 at-bats).

Garcia has been able to neutralize the current Phillies hitters, holding them to a .186 batting average and .547 OPS in his career. Of note, lefties Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are a combined 2-18 (.111) while switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are a combined 3-20 (.150).
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies play the middle game of a three-game set in Philadelphia on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball.

Two of the top four teams in the National League square off in the City of Brotherly Love, a city where before Tuesday night’s win, Arizona had lost seven straight and eight of the last nine games to the Phillies.

On the mound

Joe Saunders takes the mound for the Diamondbacks tonight. The lefty has turned around his season of late after an ugly start to the year. After starting 3-7 with a 4.50 ERA, Saunders is 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA over his last 10 starts.

Saunders has not had success against the three Phillies he has faced the most, Placido Polanco (9-23, .391 BA), Raul Ibanez (8-23, .348 BA) and Ben Francisco (5-11, .455 BA).

However, the good news for Saunders is that the player he’s faced the next most is Ryan Howard (0-9, 4 K).

The Phillies counter with Cliff Lee, who’s also had a tale of two seasons. Lee got off to a slow start before having one of the best months ever by a starting pitcher in June.

Over the first two months of the year, Lee went 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA, but is 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA since June (including going 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA in five June starts).

How has Lee done it during this turnaround?

By throwing his curveball more often, which has made his changeup even more effective as a secondary pitch even though he’s throwing it with the same frequency.


There are two bona-fide MVP candidates squaring off in this game -- one who gets mentioned all the time (Justin Upton) and one who is routinely passed over (Shane Victorino).

Upton is on the short list of NL MVP candidates this season as he’s broken through to superstardom. He leads all National League players in Wins Above Replacement and is third among all major leaguers.

Victorino’s name doesn’t normally come up when National League MVP candidates are mentioned, but maybe it should, especially since Victorino has played just 93 games to Upton’s 121.

Stat of the game

The Diamondbacks are 33-27 on the road. They haven’t finished a season with a winning road record since 2005 (41-40). One of the biggest keys to that – their pitchers are on pace to allow 67 fewer ROAD walks than last season.
The following is a preview of the Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN, 8 ET) meeting between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, with Jair Jurrjens scheduled to start against Cole Hamels.

The Phillies' rotation gets all the attention, but the Braves have a claim to the title of National League's best. Atlanta's rotation has the best ERA, the most innings pitched and the lowest opponents' batting average in the National League.

The Phillies' starters lead the NL in complete games and strikeouts, have the fewest walks and rank second to the Braves in ERA and innings pitched, and the Philadelphia pitching staff has a league-leading six shutouts.

And they've pitched better as this young season has progressed, cutting their ERA nearly in half and bumping their strikeouts per nine innings pitched up over nine in the past 16 games.

The reason the Braves sit in third place in the division, four-and-a-half games behind the first-place Phillies, is that they rank near the bottom of the league in hitting.

They've been timely when they do hit, however, ranking first in the league in batting average with runners in scoring position.

Hamels Matchups to Watch
Dan Uggla was 3-for-his-first-11 versus Hamels. He has since gone 3-for-his-last-29, including 1-for-his-last 9 against him. Uggla does not have a hit this season on an outside pitch by a left-handed pitcher and only one hit off a lefty's fastball.

Jurrjens Matchups to Watch
Jimmy Rollins is 1-for-his-last-16 against Jurrjens. Amazingly, he’s hitting just .154 against Jurrjens (4-for-26), but has never struck out against him.

Shane Victorino is 1-for-his-last 15 against Jurrjens.

The Phillies have won eight of their past 11 meetings with the Braves, and have won seven of their past nine games overall. The Braves, on the other hand, have won six of seven, the only loss coming Saturday night to the Phillies.

As far as statistical oddities go, these are two that are tough to explain; one is good news for the Braves, the other is not. The Phillies are 10-0 in day games this season, making them 12-10 at night. But they are 4-7 in series openers, meaning they are 18-3 in all other games.

The latter has held true against the Braves; the Phillies have dropped both series openers and have won the other three games.

-- Mark Simon and David Bearman contributed to this report
ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. Below are the notable home runs in the months of March and April.

Wall-Scraper: Shortest True Distance
March/April Winner: Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays
Fuld’s 323-foot home run off of Daisuke Matsuzaka on April 11 took just 3.32 seconds to leave the yard. Fortunately for Fuld, his blast came while playing at Fenway Park, the only park that particular batted ball would have been a home run in. Believe it or not, Shane Victorino’s inside-the-park home run April 24 hit of Wade LeBlanc traveled 346 feet.

Moonshot: Highest Apex (Apex: maximum vertical height ball reaches)
March/April Winner: Luke Scott, Baltimore Orioles
Although they drop jaws for their height, “moonshot” home runs tend to produce true distances that are far from astonishing. Such is the case for Scott’s fifth-inning home run off Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin on April 16. It traveled just 339 feet, but was hit 148 feet in the air. Scott’s home run took 6.39 seconds to clear the fence, nearly 1.5 seconds longer than the league average (4.85 seconds).

Line Drive: Lowest Apex
March/April Winner: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista’s home run off Tampa Bay’s David Price on April 23 had an apex of just 46 feet. In 3.56 seconds, Bautista’s shot traveled 383 feet.

Fast-ball: Fastest Speed Off Bat
March/April Winner: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
There are many things that can’t travel 116.7 mph, including a large number of automobiles. But that was the speed that ball traveled off Upton’s second-inning homer on April 12 off the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter.

Player Power Surge: Most Combined Distance by One Player
March/April Winner: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun tallied 4,089 feet of total home run distance for the months of March and April, squeaking past Alfonso Soriano by 70 feet. Both Braun and Soriano hit 10 home runs in March and April. Five of Braun’s 10 home runs traveled more than 420 feet, including a pair that went 444 and 445 feet.

Server of the Month: Most Combined Distance Allowed by One Pitcher
March/April Winner: Armando Galarraga, Arizona Diamondbacks
The “Imperfect Game” winner has been far from perfect this season. In 28 innings in the month of April, Galarraga allowed 11 home runs (currently on pace to allow 71) that have traveled 4,400 feet.

Wackiest: Most Improbable
March/April Winner: Miguel Olivo, Seattle Mariners
Give an assist to Detroit Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn on this one. Olivo’s second-inning shot off Phil Coke was about 10 feet short of being a home run, but Raburn’s glove deflected the ball over the fence at spacious Comerica Park. With an apex of just 45 feet, Olivo’s “home run” should win the award for Line Drive of the Month. But, because it required some assistance from Raburn, wackiest is more apropos.