Stats & Info: Tyler Clippard

Windy City woes for Carlos Marmol

July, 15, 2011
On Thursday Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol blew his seventh save of the season, the most in the majors. Entering the game with a 2-0 lead against the Florida Marlins, Marmol allowed five earned runs while failing to get a single batter out.

He walked four batters, and eight of his first nine pitches in the inning went for balls. His first two walks came on the slider, a pitch that has spelled control issues throughout 2011. Among relievers who have utilized the slider at least 100 times this year, Marmol’s walk rate of 12.8 percent is the highest in baseball, and second-highest including starters. The Cubs closer has thrown the slider over 100 times more than any other reliever this season, so it’s certainly a concern.

Marmol blew only five saves in over 77 innings of work last year, a mark he has equaled in just his last 20 appearances this season.

Gone in a New York Minute

Fans will see Francisco Rodriguez in a different uniform for the second half of the season after the closer was traded from the New York Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers. It was huge news when New York signed Rodriguez as a free agent in December of 2008, and opinions will likely vary on his level of success with the Mets. In his years as the Mets closer Rodriguez’s 83 saves ranked as the ninth-most in the majors. That number pales in comparison to his previous three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, when he notched a staggering 149 saves and posted an ERA of just 2.24.

According to Inside Edge, there have been several areas where Rodriguez is finding success this season. He’s allowing just 8 percent of runners to score, 4 percent below league average. He’s also using his offspeed pitches effectively: his changeup and curve have been converting for strikes 70 percent of the time (league average is 61 percent).

Stranger Than Fiction

Elias had an interesting note that came from the All-Star Game this week: Tyler Clippard was the winning pitcher, the second straight year a Washington Nationals pitcher was credited with the win (Matt Capps earned the win last season). Both Clippard and Capps won by pitching just 1/3 of an inning. Clippard got the All-Star Game win even though he faced only one batter – Adrian Beltre. He gave up a single to Beltre, but Jose Bautista was thrown out at home plate on the play to end the inning. That feat (pitcher faces exactly one batter, gives up hit, gets the win) has never happened in any other All-Star Game or in any postseason game.
The National League made it two wins in a row at the All-Star Game for the first time since it won three straight from 1994-96, with a 5-1 victory at Chase Field Tuesday night. Before last season's win, the NL had been winless in 13 straight All-Star Games.

Prince Fielder
It’s the first time since a 9-4 AL win in 2004 that the game has been decided by more than two runs, and it’s the largest victory margin for the NL since a 6-0 win in 1996. The NL has allowed just one run in each of the last two contests, the first time they’ve done that since 1984 and 1985.

This marks the sixth consecutive All-Star Game in which the winning team has not scored more than five runs. That matches the longest such streak in the history of the game, set from 1986-91.

Prince Fielder put the NL in the lead for good with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning. He’s the first Brewer to homer in an All-Star Game and the sixth player in the last 35 seasons to hit a three-run homer or a grand slam in the Midsummer Classic. The last to do it was Alfonso Soriano in 2004.

Fielder earned MVP honors for his performance, becoming the first Brewer to be named MVP at the All-Star Game and just the fourth first baseman to win the award.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fielder is the fourth son of a major-leaguer to win All-Star Game MVP. The others are Ken Griffey Jr (1992), Sandy Alomar (1997) and Roberto Alomar (1998).

Roy Halladay, who was the first pitcher to start an All-Star Game in both leagues, threw two perfect innings for the NL. In his first five All-Star appearances Halladay had been knocked around, allowing 13 hits in 29 at-bats.

The AL didn’t have a player reach base until the fourth inning, when Adrian Gonzalez homered, snapping a streak of 3⅔ perfect innings pitched by NL pitchers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest perfect game bid in an All-Star Game since a 4⅓ inning bid by the AL in 1986.

Gonzalez's home run was the first homer by either team in an All-Star game since J.D. Drew went yard in the seventh inning of the 2008 game. That ended a drought of 206 at-bats in the All-Star Game without a home run.

C.J. Wilson took the loss, allowing all three runs in the fourth inning. Wilson is the second Rangers pitcher to lose an All-Star Game, joining Jim Kern in 1979.

Tyler Clippard
Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless one-third of an inning for the win. He’s the fouth pitcher to win an All-Star Game in Nationals/Expos franchise history. Matt Capps won last year, Steve Rogers won in 1982 and Charlie Lea won in 1984.

Brian Wilson got the final two outs for the save. He’s the first Giants pitcher to get a save in an All-Star Game since the save became an official stat in 1969.

What does the National League’s win mean for the Senior Circuit team that reaches the World Series? Since 1985, the team with home-field advantage has won 20 of the last 25 World Series. And if it goes to a decisive Game 7, the home team has won each of the last eight times, with the last road win in a Game 7 by the 1979 Pirates.

Nationals bullpen stoking hot streak

June, 24, 2011
Jim Riggleman’s departure from the Washington Nationals this week was a huge story, especially considering how well Washington has been playing lately, bullpen included. The relief corps has a 2.89 ERA this season, third-best in baseball.

Drew Storen
The franchise hasn't had a season with a bullpen ERA below 3.00 since 1984 when they were the Montreal Expos. Who’s behind the success this season? Namely Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey and Drew Storen.

Storen’s .541 opponents' OPS leads the team and his 0.97 WHIP is third-lowest in the majors among first-and second-year pitchers (minimum 30 IP according to Baseball Reference). The Nationals closer has used a fastball and slider to great effect this season.

Storen throws his fastball more than 63 percent of the time, but with two strikes he goes a different route -- his slider becomes his putaway pitch.

With two strikes, he has a 52 percent strikeout rate with his slider, compared to just 30 percent with his heater.

Coffey has also been successful with offspeed pitches, throwing 67 percent strikes (league average is 61 percent). Clippard, meanwhile, has been making batters miss all year -- his miss rate of 37 percent is fifth-best among all relievers this season.

Easy Street
Huston Street, baseball’s saves leader this season, has looked very comfortable in Colorado. Since joining the Rockies in 2009 Street’s 77 saves are fifth-most in the National League, and he’s on pace to record over 45 this season.

That would easily set a career-high, surpassing his 37 saves from 2006.

Street has been especially clutch in big spots. Opposing hitters are batting .263 against him this season, but just .214 with RISP. In those situations he’s thrown 37 sliders and allowed just a .167 on-base percentage.

On a Roll
Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox was dominant this past week. In three appearances he collected two saves, struck out seven, walked none and allowed no hits. In that stretch he never even reached a three-ball count. It’s quite the turnaround from his previous three games, where he allowed eight earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings.

Call to the 'pen: D'Backs rattle opponents

April, 8, 2011
A team already off to a good start in the relief department has been the Arizona Diamondbacks. After posting the 6th-worst relief ERA in the Divisional Era (since 1969) according to Elias, the Diamondbacks bullpen has turned it around early in 2011. Arizona relief pitchers lead baseball with a 10.38 strikeout per 9 innings ratio and have a combined ERA of 2.77. In three of five games they have not allowed an earned run.

Newcomer and closer J.J. Putz has not allowed a baserunner in his two appearances, and according to Inside Edge, is throwing his first pitch for a strike 83 percent of the time. There are areas of concern however. Relievers are allowing a .288 batting average, with a WHIP of 1.62.

The Boston Red Sox terrible start to the season has been well documented to this point, and the bullpen should bare a huge portion of the blame. Through the first week of play, Red Sox relievers have posted the highest ERA in baseball (8.04) and have allowed only two fewer runs than they’ve scored as an offense.

Much of the problem stems from Boston’s newcomers, Dennys Reyes and Dan Wheeler. Granted, it’s still very early, but the two have been less than effective thus far. Reyes’ primary pitch is the fastball, but he’s only converting it into a strike 33 percent of the time this season according to Inside Edge, down from 57 percent in 2010. Reyes has since been designated for assignment.

Meanwhile Dan Wheeler had been one of the best middle relievers in baseball for the Tampa Bay Rays over the last three seasons. His .195 opponent batting average was tied for 3rd among relievers with 20 or fewer saves and at least 150 innings pitched according to Baseball Reference. But this year, Wheeler has already allowed two home runs in his first three outings, both off of his fastball. Last year, Wheeler gave up seven home runs all season. That is a concern, as Fangraphs tells us that his ground ball-fly ball ratio has been under 1.00 in every season since 2005. As a pitcher that relies on fly-ball outs, Wheeler may struggle in a park like Fenway, which had an ESPN Park Factor of 1.083 last year (a rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter), 7th-highest in baseball.

Tyler Clippard
The underrated bullpen performer of this past week is arguably Tyler Clippard of the Washington Nationals. After a rough start to his career with the New York Yankees, Clippard has found a home in Washington. This past week he didn't get credited with a run allowed in six innings of relief. In each of his four appearances, Clippard entered the game with runners in scoring position. Twice he allowed a runner to score but both were via outs. So far only two of the 11 batters to face him with runners in scoring position have reached base and both were via a walk.

Chasing history in the AL West

September, 15, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Paul Maholm takes the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday holding the team-lead in strikeouts with 90 (Side note: 34 pitchers had more than that before the All-Star break). Not having a 100-K pitcher is a bit more common than you might think. In fact, it happened five times last decade, including last season to the Washington Nationals. Which brings us today’s trivia question: Which pitcher led the Nationals in strikeouts last season?

The standings might say otherwise, but there’s always something to play for – in this case, history. In the first of a series of divisional breakdowns, here’s some statistical minutiae to keep an eye on in the closing weeks. First the AL West.

Los Angeles Angels
    Bobby Abreu
  • Bobby Abreu needs one stolen base for 20 on the season. That would give him 12 straight seasons of 15 HR and 20 SB, extending his own record streak. Barry Bonds (10 straight) has the next longest such stretch.
  • Brandon Wood’s .397 OPS would be the lowest for a player with 200 plate appearances since Frank O’Rourke posted a .325 OPS for the 1912 Boston Braves. Wood is just below Tony Pena Jr.’s .398 for the Kansas City Royals in 2008. Wood’s .185 on-base percentage would be the seventh lowest since 1900 for players with 200 PA.
  • With 56 strikeouts and only four walks, Wood would have the most strikeouts for a player with fewer than five walks since Rob Picciolo (63 K, 2 BB) of the 1980 Oakland A’s.
Oakland A’s
  • Both the Seattle Mariners and A’s do not have a player with 15 home runs. The difference is that the A’s leader Kevin Kouzmanoff (14 HR) has been missing time with a back injury. The last AL team without a 15-HR player was the 1992 Angels, who were led by Gary Gaetti’s 12.
  • If Daric Barton (100 BB, 88 K) stays below 100 strikeouts, he’d be the first American League player since Rafael Palmeiro to do that in a season with over 100 walks. Since Palmeiro’s 2002 campaign, 16 players have done this, but all were in the National League. With only eight HR, Barton would be the first to do this with fewer than 10 HR since Rickey Henderson in 1996.
  • How does a pitcher with only 98 strikeouts have the lowest opponent OPS in the AL since Tim Hudson in 2003? There just might be some luck involved for Trevor Cahill. The .224 BABIP against Cahill is the lowest against a qualifying AL pitcher since opponents had a .212 BABIP against the Detroit Tigers Jeff Robinson in 1988. Not only was that Robinson’s only season with a sub-3.00 ERA, but his next best was 4.73.
Seattle Mariners
    Franklin Gutierrez
  • With Franklin Gutierrez currently leading the team with 56 RBI, the Mariners could become the first team since the 1983 Cincinnati Reds without a 60 RBI player in a non-strike shortened season. That Reds squad was led by Ron Oester’s 58 RBI.
  • Russell Branyan only has 56 RBI to go with the 24 home runs he’s hit between the Cleveland Indians and Mariners. He’s safe though. The fewest RBI for a player with 25+ HR is 54 by Ron Gant when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels in 2000. The AL “record” is shared by Fred Lynn (1988 Orioles/Tigers) and Marcus Thames (2008 Tigers) with 56.
  • Mariners designated hitters are batting just .190 at the plate this season. Over the last 35 years, the only AL team to hit below the Mendoza Line at DH was the Texas Rangers (.197) in 1988. Larry Parrish was the most frequent DH on that squad.
Texas Rangers
  • Left-handed hitters are batting just .136 against C.J. Wilson. That’s the second lowest for a qualifying AL starter over the last 35 years. In 1995, lefties hit just .129 against Randy Johnson. The difference is that Johnson only faced 92 lefties that season, while Wilson has done battle with 156.
  • If he doesn’t suit up again in the regular season, Josh Hamilton will finish with 21 home runs and .395 batting average at home. Over the last 50 years, the only other AL player to hit .390 with 20 HR at home was Albert Belle for the 1994 Indians.
  • Elvis Andrus has 145 hits, but only 17 have gone for extra bases. The last player with over 150 hits in a season with 17 of fewer extra base hits was Kirby Puckett in 1984. Only 17 of his 165 hits were no singles.
James Shields
Key Matchups: Alex Rodriguez (.208) and Mark Teixeira (.143) have been baffled by James Shields in the past. However, no one compares to Curtis Granderson. His .077 average is lowest for anyone that Shields has faced at least 20 times. Granderson’s struggles are notable for the fact that he usually struggles against right-handed pitchers. In fact, against righties not named James Shields, he has a .289 career average compared to .216 against southpaws.

Chad Billingsley has an 0.61 in 29 2/3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, good enough for a 2-0 record in four starts. In fact, Billingsley has tossed 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against San Francisco. Both Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval are 0-for-10 against him in 2010. Uribe was 5-for-10 entering the season.

Trivia Answer: With 92 strikeouts, Jordan Zimmermann led the 2009 Nationals, despite making only one appearance after the break. Washington’s Tyler Clippard (97) had already eclipsed that total while pitching solely in relief.

Next-Level Awards: Part 2

July, 15, 2010
Yesterday, we unveiled some of our midseason 2010 Next-Level Awards. Here are the rest of the honors:

The "Let's Go Home" award

For exemplary performance in the 7th inning and later.

Despite Baltimore's lowly place in the standings, Nick Markakis has been trying his best to keep them in the game. Among players with 100 plate appearances from the 7th inning onward, he has the best batting average (.384), and is among the league leaders in doubles (10).

Unfortunately, by the 7th inning, the Orioles are already trailing 58% of the time, and they're a ridiculous 1-51 when behind entering the 9th. That one win was the extra-inning, rain-delayed affair in Texas last Friday. Markakis can only do so much.

Runners-up: Joey Votto (.380), Angel Pagan (.379), Jose Guillen (.353).

And now (drum roll) on to the pitching side. For pitching awards, we used a minimum of 200 batters faced (as opposed to a certain number of innings), giving us 164 eligible recipients.

The "Tie 'Em Up" award

Some of the silliest-looking swings are when hitters chase balls way in on their hands. It's hard to get around quickly on an inside pitch, so even if you do hit it, it's generally not for power.

The best at tying 'em up? The Braves' Tim Hudson, who surrenders just a .116 batting average on pitches that are on the inner third or too far inside.

Hudson is doubly qualified for this award; his overall opponents' average is .219. That 103-point difference between the two is also the best among our qualifying pitchers.

Runners-up: Francisco Rodriguez (.143), David Price (.155), Mat Latos (.158)

The "Finish Him" award

If the best pitch in baseball is strike one, then strike three must be right behind it. For some reason, though, some pitchers can't get over that two-strike hump. Sometimes they get cute and try to trick a hitter into swinging at bad pitches. Sometimes they know a hitter is sitting on a pitch in the zone and will try to nibble.

The pitcher who gives up the least once he gets to two strikes is the Mariners' Felix Hernandez. You'd better get to King Felix early, because opponents only hit .117 off of him in two-strike counts. (And that's ALL two-strike counts; when it's 0-2 it drops to .089.) Before two strikes, though, his average against is a whopping .331.

A close second is Giants ace Tim Lincecum, at .121. With all those strikeouts, you'd expect he'd be good at closing the door. But his average allowed with zero and one strikes -- .367 -- is even worse than Felix's. In fact, the 246-point difference in Lincecum's averages is third-highest in the majors.

Other runners-up: Trevor Cahill (.131), Mat Latos (.132), Ervin Santana (.138).

And the worst? The Nationals' John Lannan, who allows a .293 average and has surrendered 11 of his 26 extra-base hits after he's got two strikes.

The "Souvenir Hunter" award

Tiger fans are going to show up to watch Justin Verlander pitch anyway. But bring your glove. Verlander is currently inducing the highest number of foul balls off the bats of opposing hitters (414). He barely lost this category (by three) to Cliff Lee last season. Obviously not all of those reach the seats. But it's an indication of how much trouble batters have catching up to Verlander's fastball which averages in the 96-mph range.

Runners-up: Phil Hughes (407), Johan Santana (402), Matt Cain (392).

The "Making Him Work" award

In this blog and others, we reference the "patience index" -- the average number of pitches that a batter sees during a plate appearance. We can do that for pitchers also. Because, again, it's not always innings that matter.

Jered Weaver of the Angels gets the nod for having the most pitches thrown per batter this season. He's faced 490 hitters and launched 2,088 balls toward them. That's 4.26 each. Only 33 of those batters bothered to put Weaver's first pitch in play, and a third of them got hits.

Runners-up: Rich Harden (4.25), Tyler Clippard (4.20), Bruce Chen (4.18).

Honorable mention: Appropriately, we'll close with the guy who's occasionally labeled the "greatest closer ever", Mariano Rivera. He actually comes in higher than Weaver, at 4.42 pitches for every batter faced. Alas, he doesn't face enough batters to make our minimum.

1st Pitch: Decisions, decisions, decisions

July, 8, 2010
Quick Hits: With LeBron James’ “Decision” set for tonight at 9 ET… what better time to dive into the wonderful world of decisions? In this case, wins and losses.
  • Jamie Moyer (9-8) has a decision in all 17 starts this season. The pitcher with the next most starts in which he recorded a decision each time out is Jhoulys Chacin with 12 (though he also has appeared twice in relief).
  • It’s been 20 years since a pitcher had 33 decisions in a season. In 1990, Jack Morris, Dave Stewart and Bob Welch all had 33.
  • Will Ohman has made 42 appearances without registering a decision in 2010. He’s currently tied with Mike Flanagan (1992) for the most appearances without a decision in Orioles history.
  • In 14 starts, Craig Stammen (2-3) only has five decisions, which is the lowest rate among all those who have started 10 games.
  • With 13 decisions, Tyler Clippard (8-5) is on pace for about 24 decisions, all in relief. The last pitcher with 20 or more decisions without making a start was Scot Shields (10-11) in 2005. The last with at least 24? Rollie Fingers (13-11) had 24 in 1976.
  • The Orioles rotation has only 14 wins this season, and no one on the team has more than three. But with 44 losses, their rotation has fewer than only the Pirates (45).
  • The Angels’ starting pitchers have recorded the decision in 72 of 87 games, or 82.8 percent of the time. That’s the most in the majors.
  • By contrast, the Nationals’ rotation has just 49 decisions this season, representing a mere 57.6 percent of their contests. In fact, Yankees starters have almost as many wins (44) as the Nationals starters have decisions.
Today’s Trivia: Who has the most home runs in Indians history among players born in Ohio?

Today’s Leaderboard: The Braves and Tigers both have bullpens with an 18-7 record, tied for the best in the majors. But on the other end of the spectrum is Florida. The Marlins bullpen is just 6-16, giving it the worst win percentage of any relief corps.

Key Matchups: If you had to guess Vladimir Guerrero’s nemesis, how long would it take until Jeremy Guthrie’s name came up? In 17 career at-bats, Guerrero has managed just one hit against the Orioles starter, a .059 batting average. That includes a current 0-for-11 stretch dating back to 2007, during which Guerrero is averaging just 2.4 pitches per plate appearance. His next-worst batting average against a pitcher he’s faced 15 times is .105 against Robert Person.

Lance Berkman has a home run in three straight games after managing just seven over his first 67 games. Could he make it four games in a row? Berkman is a .462 career hitter against Ross Ohlendorf with a home run. On three occasions, Berkman has homered in four consecutive games, most recently in 2007. Morgan Ensberg has the Astros record with six consecutive games with a home run back in 2006.

Trivia Answer: David Justice’s 96 home runs are the most in Indians’ history for a player born in Ohio. Justice was born in Cincinnati, though he went to high school in Kentucky. Mike Schmidt is the all-time home run leader from Ohio, while Justice ranks third.

1st Pitch: Pitchers on pace for history

June, 15, 2010
Quick Hits: With about 100 games to go on each team’s schedule, several players are on pace for history. Yesterday, we touched on hitters, and today it’s the pitchers’ turn.
  • Zack Greinke is on pace for just 5 wins and 197 strikeouts. The fewest wins for a pitcher with 200+ strikeouts is 8. Bob Johnson was 8-13 with 207 K for the 1970 Royals. Nolan Ryan was 8-16 with 270 K for the Astros in 1987.
  • Kevin Millwood is still winless through 90.2 innings. If his season ended today, he’d have thrown the 19th most innings without a win in MLB history. Terry Felton has the most innings in a season without recording a win. He went 0-13 in 117.1 innings for the Twins in 1982.
  • Ricky Romero already has 14 wild pitches – the same number that Chad Billingsley led the NL with last year. Romero is on pace for 34 wild pitches. The modern (since 1900) record is 30 by Red Ames in 1905.
  • Dan Haren has given up 17 home runs and issued 17 walks. The only pitcher in MLB history to allow 40+ home runs in a season and issue fewer walks than homers was Robin Roberts (46 HR, 40 BB) in 1956.
  • Joel Pineiro has allowed 9 triples already, putting him on pace to allow 21. No pitcher in the last 35 years has allowed more than Larry Christenson’s 17 in 1976.
  • At 8-3, Tyler Clippard is on pace for 20 wins -- as a reliever! Unsustainable? Probably. But then there is the example of Roy Face, who went 18-1 in 57 relief appearances for the Pirates in 1959. It’s been 24 years since a pitcher won as many as 13 games in relief. Both Mark Eichhorn and Roger McDowell won 14 in 1986.
  • Juan Gutierrez has allowed 10 HR in 21.1 innings, putting him on pace to allow 25. Over the last 50 years, the only relief pitcher to allow 20 homers in a season was John Wyatt, who gave up 23 in 123 relief innings in 1964.
Today’s Trivia: Tim Lincecum and Andy Pettitte were both born on this day -- albeit 12 years apart. Who are the only two active players who have been teammates of both players?

Today’s Leaderboard: Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia square off in the Bronx tonight. Since Sabathia broke into the majors in 2001 only Halladay has more wins.

Key Matchups: Jhonny Peralta has appeared in 33 straight games for the Indians, only coming off the bench in one of those. If there was ever a night to give him a rest, it would be when Johan Santana takes the mound. Peralta has struck out in 22 of 28 at-bats against the Mets’ ace and is hitting just .107. Even more amazing? In his last 23 at-bats against Santana, Peralta has 3 hits and 20 strikeouts. Not one out has been recorded in the field.

Roy Halladay has a 2.84 career ERA against the Yankees and -- at 18-6 -- has the third best winning percentage against the Bombers among pitchers with at least 20 decisions. A big reason is his neutralization of Derek Jeter, who has more strikeouts (24) against Halladay than any other pitcher he’s faced. A lifetime .242 hitter against Halladay, Jeter has just five hits in his last 43 at-bats against him, a .116 batting average.

Trivia Answer: Randy Winn and Aubrey Huff are the only active players who have been teammates of both Lincecum and Pettitte.

TMI Power Poll: Top 10 middle relievers

May, 11, 2010
This week on the TMI Power Poll we look at middle relievers. It was the most hotly contested Power Poll yet, with six different guys receiving at least one first-place vote.

Other notable courtesy of Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon:
Todd Coffey - Nobody in MLB sprints from bullpen faster

Also receiving votes: Neftali Feliz, Dan Wheeler, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Manny Corpas, Pedro Feliciano, Brad Ziegler, Darren Oliver, Mike Wuertz, Carlos Villanueva, Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen, Peter Moylan, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Hideki Okajima, Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp, Nick Masset, Kris Medlan, Rafael Betancourt, Darren O'Day, Alfredo Aceves, Tim Byrdak, Todd Coffey, Sergio Santos, Takashi Saito, Ramon Troncoso

1st pitch: April showers bring…

May, 10, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Today is the anniversary of Nomar Garciaparra’s three HR, 10 RBI game against the Mariners in 1999. Including that game, there were eight three-HR games by AL shortstops between 1999 and 2003. However, there hasn’t been one since July 30, 2003. Can you name the last AL shortstop to hit three homers in a game? (hint: he did it for an AL Central team)

Quick Hits: We’re a little over a full week into May, so let’s take a look at some players who are off to a hot start this month:
* Nick Swisher leads the AL with five HR this month. He had just two in April.
* Andre Ethier is batting .516 this month, easily tops in the majors.
* Tyler Clippard has pitched just 5 2/3 innings this month, but has picked up three wins for the Nationals.
* In two starts this month, the second and third of his career, Jhoulys Chacin has yet to allow a run.
* Neftali Feliz is a perfect five for five in save situations in May, and has only allowed one hit in five innings of work.
* Yovani Gallardo has struck out 21 batters in 12 innings of work this month.

Today’s Leaderboard: Here’s a look at the players with the lowest batting average with runners in scoring position this season. It should come as no surprise that all of the teams represented have a losing record, including the White Sox who have two players on the list.

Key Matchups: Tommy Hanson hasn’t struggled with many hitters in his young career, but one guy he can’t seem to get out is Ryan Braun. In seven career at bats against Hanson, Braun has three hits, including two homers. Braun is the only player who has taken Hanson deep more than once.

Carlos Pena hasn’t faced Joel Pineiro since 2004, but back when Pineiro was in the AL the first time around he owned Pena. In 11 career at bats against Pineiro, Pena struck out six times and only recorded two hits.

Trivia Answer: Jose Valentin hit 3 HR for the White Sox. All three homers came off Royals’ starter Runelvys Hernandez.

1st pitch: Guess who leads the team

April, 19, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Joe Mauer turns 27 today. Who is the only player younger than Mauer who has more career hits?

Quick Hits: Early on, there are some interesting names who currently reside as team statistical leaders:

* After closing out Saturday’s marathon, Mike Pelfrey now leads the Mets in wins (two) and saves (one).

* David Ortiz only has six hits on the season, but with five doubles, he leads the Red Sox.

* Despite pitching solely out of the bullpen, Casey Janssen leads the Blue Jays with three wins. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he was the first pitcher in 18 years to win three of his team’s first six games. The last to do it was Jose Melendez for the 1992 Padres.

* Joey Votto leads the Reds with four stolen bases, which matches his total from last season.

* Jeff Mathis is tied for the Angels’ team lead with two stolen bases, which matches his career-high.

* Lyle Overbay might be hitting just .080, but he leads the Blue Jays in triples. Granted he’s hit the team’s only triple thus far.

* Jeff Keppinger leads the Astros with 17 total bases.

* Cliff Pennington, who never hit more than eight homers in the minors, leads the A’s with two.

* Tyler Clippard, who has only appeared as a reliever, leads the Nationals in strikeouts with nine.

Key Matchups: Bobby Abreu, one of the most patient hitters in the game, has faced Dontrelle Willis 35 times in his career and only walked once. To be fair, the two haven’t squared off since 2005. Willis was the runner-up for the NL Cy Young that year, and hadn’t yet begun to struggle with his control. However, Abreu has only faced two pitchers more without drawing multiple walks. Both Roy Halladay (39 PA, 0 BB) and Curt Schilling (44 PA, 1 BB) are famous for pinpoint control.

After missing the final 129 games of 2009, Conor Jackson is still getting back in the groove for Arizona. He has hit safely in 10 of 11 games, but only has one extra-base hit and one multiple hit game. Against Brad Penny, Monday could be a breakout game. Jackson is a .474 career hitter against Penny, his second highest average against any pitcher he’s faced 15 times. David Wright (.579) is the only hitter with a higher average against Penny with at least 20 plate appearances.

Today’s Leaderboard: Early in 2010, Joel Pineiro, who starts Monday against the Tigers, has continued his renaissance by using the ground ball to his advantage. He currently has a 6.50 ground out to air out ratio, which is nearly double that of any other pitcher, according to

Trivia Answer: Jose Reyes turns 27 in June and has 105 more hits than Mauer, though in 645 more plate appearances. Miguel Cabrera almost qualifies, but he turned 27 yesterday.

1st pitch: Players with unfamiliar numbers

April, 16, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Indians trading Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. At the time, Colavito was just 26 and the reigning AL home run champ. Kuenn lasted just one season with the Tribe before he too was shipped off. Can you name the only four players with last names beginning in the letter C who have more career home runs than Colavito?

Quick Hits: Some players have already entered uncharted waters this season.

* James Loney has stolen third base three times this season, which leads the majors. Loney had never even attempted to steal third prior to this season.

* In 16 plate appearances, Ryan Raburn has been hit by three pitches. In 669 plate appearances entering the season, he’d only been hit twice.

* Jeff Mathis already has two bunt hits. Last season, Gerald Laird was the only catcher with more than two bunt hits. He had seven.

* Howie Kendrick has grounded into four double plays, tied for the most in the MLB. Last year, Kendrick only had eight GIDPs.

* Chris Young has three game-winning RBI. He had four all of last season.

* In 8 2/3 innings Tyler Clippard has allowed three sacrifice flies, tied for the MLB lead. He had allowed one sacrifice fly in his first 97 2/3 innings.

* David Price has allowed two triples. He had never allowed a triple before this season.

* Trevor Hoffman has already allowed more extra-base hits (8) than he did all of last season (7).

* Chris Carpenter has already been the victim of more unearned runs (2) than he was all of last season (1).

* Ryan Rowland-Smith went all of last season (96 1/3 innings) without allowing a stolen base. He has already allowed two this season.

Today’s Leaderboard: In his debut, opponents swung at 38.7 percent of Mike Leake’s first pitches. That’s the third highest rate among starers this season. Given the seven walks he issued in his debut, that seems destined to change today.

Key Matchups: When Jason Bay opted to return to the National League, he had to know it meant facing Chris Carpenter again. As NL Central rivals, they clashed regularly from 2004 to 2006, with Carpenter often coming out on top. Bay is a career .077 hitter against Carpenter with 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats. He is hitless in his last eight at-bats with six strikeouts. No pitcher has struck him out more (Doug Davis also has 12 K), and the .077 average is Bay’s worst against a pitcher he has faced 20 times.

It’s a similar story for Carlos Pena against Josh Beckett. Last season, Pena struck out in all eight at-bats against Beckett, though he did manage a walk. Overall, Pena is 3-for-25 with 16 strikeouts against Beckett.

Trivia Answer: Jose Canseco (462), Joe Carter (396), Orlando Cepeda (379) and Norm Cash (377) are the only players beginning in C with more homers than Colavito (374), who is the next player Albert Pujols will pass on the all-time list.

Clippard messes with Mets

April, 11, 2010
With all due respect to Willy Taveras (4 RBI) and Willie Harris (game-saving catch), the true star for the Washington Nationals in their 4-3 win over the New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday was Tyler Clippard.

Clippard’s final stat line: 3 IP, H, 0 ER, 7 K (all swinging)

Not only did Clippard match his career high in total strikeouts in a game (7/25/09 vs SD), but it was the most swinging strikeouts he has produced in his career. Judging from his career success against the Mets hitters who struck out, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Of the 40 pitches that Clippard threw Saturday, 29 of them were strikes (73 percent). This was considerably better than his career rate of 59 percent. In addition to the pitches that were swung on and missed, Clippard’s ability to get the Mets hitters to chase pitches outside of the zone was a key to his success.