Stats & Info: Tommy John

Kernels: Leadoff hitters in leading role

June, 8, 2014
Our look at the week's interesting and unusual baseball stats takes us to the front of the line.

Leadoff hitters are selected carefully. Teams generally want someone who can get on base, has a little bit of speed, and can "set the table" for the power hitters who follow. This week, however, it was the leadoff batters putting up some big games of their own.

The speedy Dee Gordon of the Los Angeles Dodgers had two triples on Friday, and stole a base after singling in the sixth inning. The last Dodgers leadoff hitter with two triples and a steal was Steve Sax in 1984. Add Gordon's three RBIs and he's only the second Dodger ever with those numbers-- from any spot in the order. Willie Davis, batting third, did it twice (1962 and 1970).

The Pittsburgh Pirates' Josh Harrison did his part on Wednesday, knocking a triple and two doubles. His teammates, however, never drove him in; two hits came with two outs and he was stranded at third once. He's the first Pirate in four decades to have a triple and two doubles without scoring at least one run. Al Oliver, batting third, pulled it off against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 28, 1973. Their last leadoff hitter with that line was Ira Flagstead in 1930.

Cardinals leadoff man Matt Carpenter posted the team's first five-hit game in five seasons (Ryan Ludwick, 2009) on Wednesday. Carpenter added a walk to reach base in all six plate appearances, joining Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies as the only players this season to have a perfect day at the plate over six or more plate appearances. (Blackmon, of course, has what is still the season's only six-hit game.)

The Cardinals have had just one other leadoff hitter do it in the past 60 years. Fernando Vińa had five hits and a walk in a 14-13 slugfest at Coors Field on April 16, 2000. Before that it was Tommy Glaviano in 1950.

Danny Santana of the Minnesota Twins added to the leadoff parade on Saturday when he went 4-for-5 with five RBI. Santana came up with five runners in scoring position and drove them all in, but he was stranded on all four trips and never crossed the plate himself. Only four leadoff batters have ever had four hits and 5 RBI without scoring at least once themselves: then-Pirate Pokey Reese in 2002, longtime Baltimore Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry in 1980, and Raymond "Rip" Radcliff of the Chicago White Sox in 1936.

Diamondbacks leadoff hitter Didi Gregorius was 3-for-6 with a homer on Wednesday, but it was the players after him that made the game notable. No. 2 hitter Gerardo Parra had three hits. So did No. 3 Paul Goldschmidt. Cleanup batter Martin Prado... three hits. And Miguel Montero, batting fifth? You guessed it. Three hits and six RBIs as Arizona hung 16 on the Rockies. It was the first time in team history that any five batters had three-hit games, and it had been more than a decade since any team had its first five batters get three each. On May 13, 2004, the Pirates had their first six batters do it in a 21-hit outburst that also occurred at Coors Field.

Follow-up: First homer madness
Last week we highlighted three players who each hit their first career home runs, notably Ben Revere of the Philadelphia Phillies. We concluded by mentioning that Kolten Wong now had the most career plate appearances of any active non-pitcher who hadn't homered yet. Guess what?

In plate appearance number 200 on Tuesday, Wong not only hit his first home run, but his first grand slam. The last Cardinals position player whose first homer was a slam was Willie McGee in 1982. That put Leury Garcia of the White Sox "on the clock" with 162 career plate appearances heading into Wednesday. Garcia got a rare chance to start that night, and of course he homered, meaning the top five players on the list all got themselves off the list in a 15-day span.

So, new list. Jumping from sixth to first is Luis Jimenez (139), who has played nine games with the Los Angeles Angels this season but is currently in triple-A. The top three on active rosters are James Jones (122), Irving Falu (101), and Ender Inciarte (76).
Today’s Trivia: If David Price wins, he will join Jon Lester and CC Sabathia with 18 wins. All lefties, all in the AL East. The last time three AL East left-handers won 18 games was 1979. Can you name the three lefties?

Quick Hits: Just 10 days after their epic matchup, Sabathia and Price are at it again. Both pitchers went eight scoreless innings in the first one, so what are some fun things to look for this time around?

Sabathia" Sabathia is 11-1 at home this season. He could become the first New York Yankees pitcher to finish 12-1 at home since Ron Guidry in 1978. The last AL pitcher to go 12-1 at home was Curt Schilling for the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

• Sabathia is 19-1 when receiving at least three runs of support.

• Sabathia tied for the AL lead with 19 wins last season, and is on his way to a solo title in 2010. The last Yankee to lead the league in wins in back-to-back seasons? Sorry, it’s never happened before!

• A win would give Sabathia 40 over the past two years. The last Yankees pitcher with 40 wins over two seasons was Tommy John, who won 43 in 1979 and 1980.

Price" Price has faced 183 left-handed hitters this season without allowing a home run. That’s the most for an AL pitcher since Kevin Brown faced 184 for the 2005 Yankees. Before that, you have to go back to Scott Schoeneweis (217 in 2001).

• Price is 8-2 with a 2.16 ERA against AL East opponents this season. Those numbers are unprecedented in the wild-card era. The last pitcher with eight wins and an ERA below 2.20 against the AL East? Kansas City Royals pitcher Kevin Appier, who was 11-2 with a 1.60 ERA against the AL East in 1992. Oddly, he was just 4-5 with a 3.74 ERA against his own division.

• Only Fausto Carmona (1.52) has a lower ERA than Price (1.55). But more amazing is the fact that Price is holding opposing hitters to a .133 batting average this month. The last AL starter to do that in September was Ken Hill in 1997, when he held opponents to a .126 average.

Today’s Leaderboard: Bad news for leadoff hitters. Hitters in the one-spot are batting .160 against Sabathia and .174 against Price, who rank second and fifth, respectively, in that category.

Key Matchups:
Carlos Pena is 0-for-6 with 5 K’s against Sabathia this season. In fact, he’s fanned 19 times in 35 at-bats against the big lefty, so it’s no surprise that he’s not expected to be in the lineup Thursday. His likely replacement is Dan Johnson, who is 5-for-9 against Sabathia in his career, though the two haven’t faced each other since 2007.

Derek Jeter entered this season with just one hit in 10 career AB against Price, but is 4-for-10 this year. Other Yankees haven’t had the same success in changing their luck. Jorge Posada is now 1-for-15 lifetime, though that one hit did come this year. Curtis Granderson is 1-for-8 with 5 K’s this season, and is now a .154 career hitter against Price.

Trivia Answer: In 1979, Mike Flanagan went 23-9 on his way to the Cy Young. The other two AL East southpaws were both Yankees: Tommy John (21-9) and Ron Guidry (18-8).