Stats & Info: Starling Marte

Kernels: A singular focus

May, 11, 2014
May 11
Our weekly look at the interesting and unusual in Major League Baseball only takes us 90 feet.

• The Kansas City Royals accumulated 16 hits in Friday's 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners. None of them went for extra bases. It's the first time any team has had 16 or more hits in a game, all singles, since April 2011 (by the Pittsburgh Pirates). The last American League team to do it... was the Royals, on August 31, 2004, against Detroit (they had 17 singles in a 9-8 walk-off victory).

Fourteen of Friday's hits came off Mariners starter Brandon Maurer; he's the first pitcher this year to allow 14 hits (of any value), and just the third in Mariners history (joning Doug Fister in 2011 and Greg Hibbard in 1994). But no pitcher, for any team, had allowed 14 hits in a game, with all of them being singles, since the Cardinals' Tom Poholsky did it against the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 3, 1956. Jackie Robinson had three and Duke Snider hit two.

• David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox had only one hit on Friday night, a single against Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. That otherwise-unremarkable single came with two outs in the ninth and was the only hit allowed by Darvish in the game. For the second straight year, Darvish took a no-hit bid through 8 2/3 innings (last year Marwin Gonzalez of the Houston Astros did the honors).

Darvish is just the third known pitcher in history to have two potential no-hitters broken up with two outs in the ninth. Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays is remembered for having it happen three times in two seasons (1988-89) before finally completing one in 1990. The other was "Sleepy Bill" Burns who pitched such a game for the Washington Senators on May 25, 1908, and then pitched one against the Senators on July 31, 1909 (as a member of the Chicago White Sox).

Darvish was already at 126 pitches and was replaced right after Ortiz' single. He's the only pitcher in the live-ball era to have two outings of 8 2/3 innings with only one hit allowed.

• The Red Sox beat the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday when Ortiz, Mike Napoli, and Grady Sizemore started the 12th with three singles. It was the first time the Red Sox had walked off on three straight singles to start an inning (no other baserunners in between) since July 3, 1984, when Mike Easler, Bill Buckner, and Gary Allenson delivered against the Oakland Athletics.

For Sizemore, it was his first walk-off anything since August 11, 2006, when he had a three-run triple off the Royals' Ambiorix Burgos.

• The Baltimore Orioles specialized in singles on Saturday, but those were runs, not hits. The O's scored once per inning in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth to tie the Houston Astros, and then walked off in the 10th on a Steve Clevenger double. According to Elias, they are the fourth team in major-league history to score exactly one run in each of those five frames (6 through 10), the last being the Oakland Athletics on July 21, 1987. Baltimore did it once before, against the Mariners in 1979; and the first team to do it was the 1961 White Sox.

• Seth Smith of the San Diego Padres had trouble with singles on Saturday, failing to get one in his five plate appearances against the Miami Marlins. He did, however, get a double, a triple, and a home run to complete the rarest three-fourths of the cycle. Of the 294 near-cycles last season, only four players were missing the single. (Triples, at 235, are the overwhelming majority.) Smith is the 63rd player this year (through Saturday) with a near-cycle, but the first to miss the single. Only 10 players have done it in Padres history; the most recent had been Adrian Gonzalez in April 2008.

• Although they mixed in three doubles, the San Francisco Giants collected 17 singles in Monday's 13-inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the team's first game with 17 or more singles since June 8, 1990, a 27-hit outburst against the Braves which they won 23-8. The Pirates had 16 total hits of their own Monday, their first loss in a 16-hit game since August 2008.

Wainwright's curve carries Cards to LCS

October, 9, 2013
What were the biggest statistical keys for the St. Louis Cardinals in their NLDS win over the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Adam Wainwright was the best pitcher in the series
The Cardinals ace was awesome in both Game 1 and Game 5. He’s now 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA in his past six home starts, combining regular season and postseason. He's 4-0 for his career in postseason play.
Adam Wainwright
Wainwright became the fourth Cardinals pitcher to throw a complete game while allowing one run or fewer in a winner-take-all postseason game, joining Dizzy Dean (1934, against the Tigers), Danny Cox (1987 NLCS, against the Giants) and Chris Carpenter (2011, against the Phillies).

Wainwright’s curveball wasn’t as good as it was in Game 1, in which he threw 27 of 33 for strikes, and it netted 11 outs and yielded no hits. But it was good enough to record six strikeouts, including the series-ender against Pedro Alvarez. He threw it more often in Game 5 (45 percent of his pitches) than he did in any start in his career.

Complete games in winner-take-alls have been a trend the past four seasons. Five pitchers have them: Wainwright, his teammate Carpenter, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander and Cliff Lee.

The Cardinals made the plays when they had to
The Cardinals had some defensive blips in Game 2 but made big plays in key spots in this series. Yadier Molina threw out Josh Harrison trying to steal as the tying run in the eighth inning of Game 4 to aid that win.

In Game 5, Pete Kozma made two nifty plays at shortstop and Matt Carpenter made a pair of catches on line drives that resulted in double plays.

Carpenter’s first catch, on a line drive hit by Alvarez in the second inning, snuffed out an early rally.

It also validated the use of a defensive shift by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. The Cardinals have ranked among the teams that shifted least often over Matheny’s first two seasons.

But since Alvarez had the lowest rate of hitting ground balls to the opposite field among those who qualified for the NL batting title (four percent of balls hit), the Cardinals had Kozma and Carpenter shifted. Thus, Carpenter was in the perfect spot to make the catch.

The Pirates lacked support at the top
The Pirates got some punch from Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen had his share of base hits, but a couple of hitters didn’t perform as they usually did.

The Pirates' 1-2 punch of Starling Marte and Neil Walker were a combined 1-for-38 in the series.

Cardinals pitchers put on a clinic in how to get Marte out, getting him 13 times on pitches on the outer half of the plate or off the outside corner.

Walker set a Pirates postseason record for worst oh-fer in a series with his 0-for-19.

NL Defensive MVP? Simmons/Arenado lead

September, 6, 2013

Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesAndrelton Simmons has been super-solid for the Braves this season.
If you were going to pick the NL’s Defensive MVP for 2013, much like for the overall award, there is one candidate who stands above the rest.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is going to break the single-season record for most Defensive Runs Saved (definition here). He’s currently at 38 Defensive Runs Saved. Baseball Info Solutions has charted that stat since 2003 and no player previously finished with more than the 35 Brett Gardner had in 2010.

Simmons has twice been named Sweet Spot’s Defensive Player of the Month and was runner-up for that selection in August. He has more than twice as many runs saved as the next-closest shortstop (Pedro Florimon of the Minnesota Twins with 16) and has more than three times as many as the nearest NL shortstop had entering Friday (Clint Barmes, 11). No other Braves player has more than 16.

What Simmons does best is not just make the difficult play, but make the routine one as well. The left side of the Braves infield has been in vacuum mode all season. Opposing hitters are reaching base only 21.6 percent of the time on ground balls hit to the left of the second-base bag. That’s the lowest success rate in the majors. And let’s remember what Simmons replaced when he came up last season—Taylor Pastornicky, who had -15 Defensive Runs Saved in only 330 innings.

As we noted: There is a considerable statistical gap between Simmons and the next-best NL defender. That gap exists at one other position of note, third base. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado would be the runaway NL Defensive Rookie of the Year if such an award existed. His 30 Defensive Runs Saved are 20 more than anyone else in the league.

Nolan Arenado
Arenado is one Defensive Run Saved shy of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for the major league lead at the hot corner. Machado gets a lot of national press for his glovework, but Arenado has been similarly good. He leads all third baseman in the Baseball Info Solutions-tracked “Good Fielding Plays” (think: plays that are Web Gem nominees) and ranks second to Machado in Baseball Tonight with 11 Web Gems (Machado had 16).

There are a number of other players who have had fine defensive seasons on non-contenders and teams that are fading out of contention, most notably Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers and Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks. The next-highest rated defender among those players on contending teams is Russell Martin (whom Dave Cameron is profiling today for ESPN Insider).

Martin ranks second among catchers with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only Wellington Castillo of the Chicago Cubs, who has 18. Martin doesn’t have quite the arm of Yadier Molina (who also has legitimacy with 10 Defensive Runs Saved), but he’s having his best year at throwing runners out, nailing 33 of 76 attempting to steal (43 percent) and picking off three others.

Starling Marte
Martin’s teammate, Starling Marte also could make a case. He leads all leftfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved this season, a total that got a nice early boost from a pair of early-season homer robberies. He’s rated best in the majors at his position in chasing down balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark.

The Reds and Dodgers don’t have any candidates that would necessarily be standouts in a defensive MVP competition. The Reds top candidate is rightfielder Jay Bruce, who has rebounded from a pair of below-average (stat-wise) defensive seasons to lead his team with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for fourth among NL players at that position).

The Dodgers have a host of defenders who rate well, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez ranking best relative to his position (10 Defensive Runs Saved, third-best in the National League). Another player deserving of props: utility man Nick Punto, whose 10 Defensive Runs Saved tie Juan Uribe, Gonzalez and Puig for the Dodgers lead.

Therein lies the difference been MVP and Defensive MVP. Punto is unlikely to ever be mentioned in any MVP conversation at any point.

For more NL MVP info, see Jerry Crasnick's article from earlier today.

5 stats to know: Pirates at Cardinals

August, 14, 2013

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Andrew McCutchen struggled down the stretch last season, but has been red hot this August.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won two in a row after enduring a tough stretch over which the team lost 13 of 17 games. They’re now two games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the NL Central as they host the Bucs Wednesday in Game two of their three-game series (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).

Here are five stats to know going into tonight’s action at Busch Stadium.

1. Shelby Miller takes the mound for the Cardinals coming off a start in which he threw just two pitches and left after being hit in the elbow by a Carl Crawford line drive. Although he has struggled as of late - going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in his last 10 starts - his fastball remains a force to be reckoned with.

Miller throws his fastball 74 percent of the time; the second-highest fastball usage among MLB starters behind Bartolo Colon (85 percent).Only teammate Lance Lynn has more strikeouts with his fastball (105) than Miller this season (102).

2. Whereas Miller is a fastball pitcher, Francisco Liriano uses his slider as often as any pitcher in baseball. As a lefty, he throws more sliders to righties than any other pitcher (min 10 starts). Among left-handed pitchers, only Chris Sale throws his slider more often against lefty batters.

Opponents are hitting just .144 against Liriano’s slider this season. That’s the fourth-lowest average among pitchers with at least 150 plate appearances ending with the pitch.

3. The Cardinals lead the league by a wide margin in batting average with runners in scoring position, batting .334. They have five of the top 10 hitters with RISP this season.

How are they performing so much better with runners in scoring position?

One way is by cutting down strikeouts. The team has struck out in 19 percent of plate appearances with the bases empty, the 10th-lowest rate in MLB. But with RISP, the team has struck out in only 16 percent of plate appearances, the lowest rate in baseball.

4. After slumping down the stretch last year, Andrew McCutchen is doing the exact opposite this year. He’s batting .471 in August, second in MLB behind Jayson Werth (.531) and has multiple hits in seven of his last 10 games.

While McCutchen has reversed his late-season trend from last year, overall, he is still better in his home park. McCutchen is hitting .362 at home this season, third-best in the majors, but just .263 on the road, 84th in MLB.

5. Starling Marte has provided a boost at the top of the order for the Pirates this season. Last year, the Pirates’ .291 OBP out of the leadoff spot was the fourth-worst in the majors. This year, Pirates leadoff hitters have a .334 OBP and Starling Marte’s 75 runs out of the top spot are second-most in the majors.

5 stats to know: Athletics at Pirates

July, 10, 2013

AP Photo/Jim CowsertYoenis Cespedes, who earned a spot in Monday’s Home Run Derby, looks to end his 15-game homerless drought, the second-longest streak of his career.
The Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates complete a three-game series at PNC Park at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN. Here are five stats that will surely be talked about on tonight's telecast.

1. The Athletics have already won the series (their fifth straight series win) and will look to maintain their undefeated record all time against the Pirates.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Oakland’s 11-0 mark against Pittsburgh is the best record without a loss for any team against another in the modern era (since 1900).

2. Oakland was 13 games behind the Texas Rangers on June 30 last year before winning 57 of its last 83 games to capture the division.

The Athletics have kept the hot streak going into this season. They have 111 wins since June 30, 2012, six more than any other team in baseball.

3. Yoenis Cespedes has a spot in the Home Run Derby on Monday, but he might not be the most deserving player in this contest. Cespedes has gone 15 straight games without a homer, the second-longest streak of his career.

In the other dugout, Pedro Alvarez leads the National League with 13 home runs since the beginning of June.

In fact, his 23 home runs not only lead the team, but are the most by a Pirates player before the All-Star break since Willie Stargell hit 30 in 1973.

4. The Pirates might be starting their annual summer swoon. Pittsburgh is 2-6 so far in July and has fallen 1½ games behind the St. Louis Cardinals after holding a two-game division lead on June 30.

The Pirates are 134-104 through June the last three seasons and 70-105 from July 1 to the end of the season.

5. You should expect another low-scoring game tonight. Oakland won the first two games of the series 2-1. The A’s have eight wins this season when scoring two or fewer runs -- that leads the majors (tied with the Pirates).

The Athletics now have 18 one-run wins this season. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks have more (19).

•  Josh Reddick had 20 home runs at the All-Star break last season, but he has hit only 16 in 135 games since then.

•  A's closer Grant Balfour is 24-for-24 in save situations this year and has converted 42 straight save opportunities (his last blown save came on April 29, 2012). The 42 straight saves are a franchise record (the old mark was 40 straight by Dennis Eckersley).

•  The Pirates have four players on the All-Star roster – Andrew McCutchen, Alvarez, Jason Grilli and Jeff Locke. It’s the first time since 1981 that Pittsburgh has sent this many players to the Midsummer Classic.

•  Starling Marte has 27 stolen bases, the most for the Pirates since Tony Womack had 31 in 1998.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Manny Machado has been on fire since his rookie debut belting three homers in four games.

Baltimore Orioles rookie Manny Machado has made quite a splash since his debut last Thursday.

In four games Machado has gone 6-for-16 (.375 BA), with five extra-base hits, three home runs and seven RBI.

He is yet another rookie who has made a very quick impact after making their MLB debut this season.

Machado tripled in his first MLB game, then had two home runs in his second game. The Elias Sports Bureau notes he became the youngest player to hit two home runs in either his first or second MLB game.

Sunday, Machado hit his third home run in his 13th career at-bat. Surprisingly he's the fifth player to hit three homers in his first 13 at-bats over the last six seasons and the third to do so this year.

Here is a list of other notables:

Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics
Cespedes homered in his second, third and fourth MLB games, including one in the Oakland Athletics 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners in Japan.

Yu Darvish, Rangers
In just his fourth MLB start, Darvish pitched 8 ⅓ scoreless innings against the New York Yankees, striking out 10 in a 2-0 Texas Rangers win. He’s recorded 12 wins so far this season, tying the Rangers rookie record done also by Chris Young (2005), Kevin Brown (1989), and Edwin Correa (1986).

Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox
Middlebrooks opened his career with an extra-base hit in each of his first five MLB games, the longest streak since Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter had a five-game streak to start his career in 1938.

Bryce Harper, Nationals
Harper made an instant splash as he became the fourth teenager since 1969 with an extra-base hit in his MLB debut (Jose Reyes 2003, Adrian Beltre 1998 & Ken Griffey Jr. 1989). Then just eight games into his MLB career Harper was credited with a steal of home in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, after being hit by a pitch from Cole Hamels.

Jose Quintana, White Sox
Quintana allowed one hit in 5 ⅔ IP of relief in his MLB debut. He then entered the Chicago White Sox rotation shortly thereafter, allowing two runs or fewer in each of his first six starts.

Derek Norris, Athletics
Elias says in his third MLB game, Norris became the third player in Athletics franchise history whose first career home run was a walk-off homer (the others were Dee Miles in 1939 and George Hendrick in 1972).

Yasmani Grandal, Padres
In his second MLB game, Grandal became the first player in history whose first two major-league hits were a pair of home runs, in the same game, from each side of the plate.

Matt Harvey, Mets
Harvey set a Mets record with 11 strikeouts in his debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Elias tells us he became the first pitcher since 1900 to have at least 10 strikeouts and record two hits in his MLB debut.

Starling Marte, Pirates
Batting leadoff, Marte homered on the first pitch he saw against the Houston Astros. He’s the first Pittsburgh Pirates player to hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat since Don Leppert vs the Cardinals on June 18, 1961.