Stats & Info: Vicente Padilla
It might be a different year, but it's the same result in the American League Division Series for the Yankees. For the second straight season, the Bronx Bombers swept the Twins to advance to the American League Championship Series. New York has now won nine straight postseason games against Minnesota dating back to 2004. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's tied for the third-longest winning streak vs one opponent in postseason history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees' sweep of the Twins was their 13th postseason series sweep, most all-time. That's seven more than the Braves and Reds have and eight more than the Cardinals, Athletics and Red Sox.
Phil Hughes, making the first postseason start of his major-league career, picked up the win by pitching seven innings and allowing no runs. Hughes is the fourth pitcher this year to win his first career postseason start without giving up a run. (Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and C.J. Wilson are the others.) That matches the number of pitchers who did that over the previous four postseasons combined (Chris Young in 2006, Jon Lester in 2007, Hiroki Kuroda in 2008 and Vicente Padilla in 2009).
Also, Hughes (age 24) is the youngest pitcher to start and win a postseason game for the Yankees since Game 3 of the 1981 ALCS, when Dave Righetti, then 22 years old, wrapped up a three-game New York sweep with a victory against the A's.
Some notes from around baseball Friday night
• Jose Bautista continued his ridiculous 2010 season. Bautista cracked two more home runs and now has 46 on the season, which is one shy of matching George Bell's single-season franchise record set in 1987.
• 30 of his home runs this season have come at home. That ties Carlos Delgado's franchise record for HR at home in a single season.
• Bautista had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season coming into this year and had just 13 last season. He is the fourth player in MLB history to hit at least 45 HR one season after hitting fewer than 15. The others are Carlos Pena, Cecil Fielder and Mark McGwire.
• Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the New York Mets in Queens. Halladay picked up his 18th win of the season, becoming the first Phillies pitcher with 18 wins in a season since John Denny in 1983. Denny won the NL Cy Young Award that season and the Phillies advanced to the World Series.
• Four of Halladay's 18 wins this season have come against the Mets. He's the first Phillies pitcher with four wins in a season against the Metropolitans since Vicente Padilla in 2003.
• Halladay also reached 200 strikeouts for the third consecutive season. He's the first Phillies pitcher with 200 K in a season since Brett Myers in 2005.
• Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each went deep for the Phillies, which should come as no surprise. They each have five career home runs at Citi Field. That is tied for the most among visiting players at the stadium.
• Howard has now homered in three straight games for the first time this season and for the ninth time in his career. Five of these nine streaks have started in September or later. Howard has 57 home runs in September or later since joining the league in 2004, easily the most in baseball over that span.
• Howard's blast was his 251st career home run, all of them coming with the Phillies. That ties him with former teammate Pat Burrell for the third-most home runs in franchise history.
• In the Pittsburgh Pirates loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Andrew McCutchen swiped his 30th base of the season. He's the first Pirate with 30 SB in a season since Tony Womack back in 1998. Even better, he's the third Pirate 23 or younger with 30 steals in a season. Barry Bonds did it twice, in 1986 and 1987 (age 21 and 22), and Hall of Famer Max Carey also did it twice, in 1912 and 1913 (age 22 and 23).
• The Atlanta Braves picked up their first win of the season over the St. Louis Cardinals after St. Louis won the first five meetings. Chris Carpenter hit his second career home run, but allowed a season-high eight runs. Matt Holliday hit his 26th home run for the Cardinals, his most home runs since 2007.
• The Cleveland Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins, 2-0. Fausto Carmona snapped his six-start losing streak with a shutout. He's the first pitcher to snap a losing streak of at least six starts with a shutout since the Oakland Athletics' Rick Langford in 1980.
• The game lasted just one hour and 57 minutes, which makes it the quickest nine-inning game in Cleveland since 2004.
• Logan Morrison picked up a hit in the Florida Marlins victory over the Washington Nationals and has now reached base in 30 straight games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last rookie with a longer streak was his teammate Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez reached in 36 straight games as a rookie in 2006.
Quick Hits: Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that, effective immediately, minor league players will be subject to random blood testing for the detection of human growth hormone under Major League Baseball's Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Major League Baseball is the first United States professional sports league to conduct blood testing. All blood samples will be collected postgame from the non-dominant arms of randomly selected non-40-man roster players at select Minor League affiliates.
Carl Pavano pitched a five-hitter to earn his career-high seventh straight victory as the Twins beat the Orioles 5-0. In 32 starts since coming to Minnesota in a trade with Cleveland during the 2009 season, Pavano is 17-10 with 5 complete games. After signing a 4-year, $39.95 million deal with the Yankees in December of 2004, Pavano made only 26 starts for New York, going 9-8 with one complete game.
Cliff Lee allowed two runs in 8 1/3 IP in the Rangers' 3-2 win over Los Angeles. Lee - who won for the first time in three starts since joining the Rangers - extended his streak of at least eight IP and one or fewer walks to 7 straight starts. In the divisional era (since 1969), only Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 had a longer streak (eight).
The Kansas City Royals traded third baseman Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Angels for two pitchers Thursday: Sean O’Sullivan and minor-league lefty Will Smith. According to the Kansas City Star, plans call for O’Sullivan, 22, to join the big-league rotation — possibly as soon as Sunday’s series finale at Yankee Stadium. O’Sullivan made his season debut Tuesday against the Yankees (despite knowing he was being called up, he did not know until he got to New York that he was starting that night). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four other pitchers since 2000 have started against one team...for two different teams (within a span of seven days or less): In 2000, Andy Ashby started against Baltimore while pitching for the Phillies and Braves; Kris Benson in 2004 started against the Braves as a Pirate and a Met; Cory Lidle threw against the Rockies as a member of the Reds and Phillies in 2004; and Carl Pavano faced Detroit in 2009 as an Indian and a Twin.
From ESPN Stats and Information: Red Sox starter John Lackey threw 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball against the Mariners before allowing a Josh Bard single. That tied the longest no-hit bid for the Red Sox this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka also went 7 2/3 IP with a no-hitter on May 22 at the Phillies. Lackey represents the 13th time a pitcher has taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning this season. So that means 33 percent of the previous 12 instances ended up finishing off the no-hitter.
Additional Notes from ESPN Stats and Information: Jason Bay is being overly aggressive against fastballs compared to previous years. And in this month, he's striking out frequently and unable to get the ball in the air, which obviously doesn't help his chances of hitting more homers.
Before his injury this season, opponents were hitting .500 (10-20) against Josh Beckett’s change-up. Last season, opponents hit just .198 against Beckett's change.
Opponents are hitting .250 (10-40) against Randy Wells' fastball in July after hitting .348 (63-181) against the right-hander's heater in the first 3 months of the season.
Opposing batters are only hitting .200 (9-45) off Mark Buehrle's fastball this month (MLB avg .279) after hitting .377 (29-77) off heater in June.
Joe Saunders is walking just 4 percent of his batters faced in July (3/82) compared to 10 percent during the first three months.
In Vicente Padilla's first five starts (through June 19) opponents hit .325 (25/77) against his fastball. In his last five starts (since June 19) opponents have hit .165 (13/79) against his fastball.
Johan Santana looks to continue his July success. From April through June (5-5, 3.55 ERA in 16 starts), opponents hit .286 (61/213) against his fastball. In July (2-0, 0.58 ERA, 4 starts) opponents have hit .175 (11/63) against his fastball.
C.J. Wilson: On first pitch of the at bat: .333 BA, .854 OPS, PA/EBH 11.5. On all others: .230 BA, .603 OPS, PA/EBH: 18.92
Notable Elias Sports Bureau notes from Thursday night:
As mentioned above, the Twins defeated the Orioles, 5–0. That raised their record against Kevin Millwood to 9–0. That’s the most victories without a loss by any team against an active pitcher, breaking a tie with the Dodgers, who are 8–0 against Matt Cain. The Senators/Twins franchise won its first nine or more decisions against only three other pitchers: Sid Monge (their first 10, 1975–1981), Ted Blankenship (1922–1925), and Gordon Rhodes (1929–1933).
Josh Johnson lowered his ERA to 1.61, allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings in the Marlins’ 3–2 win over the Rockies. But for the fifth time this season, Florida’s bullpen cost Johnson a victory. That tied Johnny Cueto for the highest total in the majors this season, and it matched Johnson’s total of squandered wins in 2009. In fact, he’s the first pitcher in the Marlins’ 17-year history to lose five or more potential wins in consecutive seasons. It was also the fifth time this season that Johnson failed to win a start in which he allowed fewer than two runs. The only other pitchers with at least five such starts are John Santana (six), Gavin Floyd (five), and Randy Wells (five).
Matt Holliday’s fourth-inning single off Cole Hamels was the Cardinals’ only hit in the Phillies’ 2–0, 11-inning win at St. Louis on Thursday. It was only the third game since 1900 that went beyond the 10th inning in which a team allowed only one hit. One was the game in 1959 in which Harvey Haddix of the Pirates was perfect through 12 innings before losing, 1–0, to the Braves, with Joe Adcock’s baserunning blunder turning a potential home run into a game-winning double. The other was a 2–1 Yankees victory over the Angels in 1962 in which Whitey Ford pitched seven hitless innings and Jim Coates allowed a ninth-inning single to Buck Rodgers. That was also the game in which Roger Maris set an AL record that still stands when he was walked intentionally four times.
Derek Jeter hit his first inside-the-park home run since his rookie season in the Yankees’ 10-4 win over the Royals. Jeter’s previous inside-the-parker was also against Kansas City (Aug. 2, 1996). Only two other active players have more than one IPHR against the same team: Randy Winn against the Yankees and Chase Utley against the Reds (2 each). At age 36, Jeter became the oldest Yankees player to hit an inside-the-park home run since Earle Combs did it against the Washington Senators in 1935. Combs was 20 days older at the time than Jeter was on Thursday.
Today’s Leaderboard: As we know, Alex Rodriguez is 1 HR shy of becoming only the 7th player in baseball history to hit 600 career HR. A-Rod would probably prefer to hit the milestone HR in front of adoring Yankee fans rather than on the road (the Yankees start seven-game road trip through Cleveland and Tampa Bay on Monday). Luckily for A-Rod, there are 3 more games this weekend against Kansas City, a team he hit milestone HR No. 1 and 500 against (he also hit HR No. 499 and 599 against KC).
A-Rod’s 41 career HR against the Royals are second-most among active players and tied for 2nd with Rafael Palmeiro among ALL players.
Key Matchup: Brian Bannister takes the hill Friday night for the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Among pitchers he has faced at least 10 times in his career, Alex Rodriguez's best AB per HR rate is against Bannister. Overall, A-Rod is hitting .571 (4-for-7) with 3 HR and 6 RBI while posting a 1.857 slugging percentage against the righty. According to ESPN Stats and Information, on Bannister’s most common pitch, the fastball, Rodriguez is batting .500 with a 2.000 slugging percentage, .600 on-base percentage and two home runs in four at-bats.
Trivia Answer: Alex Rodriguez hit his first career HR on June 12, 1995 against Tom Gordon. His 500th career HR was on August 4, 2007 off Kyle Davies.
Starting Off On The Right Foot... er, Arm
Let's just admit it, Opening Day is fun. It's a new season filled with new players, new storylines, new hope, a new stadium or two, over 2,400 games waiting to be contested. Every team is tied for first place. It's not just fun for the fans, it's fun for the players too. One of the biggest honors for a pitcher is to be named a team's opening-day starter. It's usually the staff's "ace", the one who will take those hopes on his shoulders - literally- and start a new chapter. Start that run to the championship (you know, the one that every team says they're really going to make this year). And over the years, it's become a great privilege to throw the first ball of the season.
It's also probably the last time this season you'll see so much talent on display on the same day. Aside from NL wins (Adam Wainwright), both leagues' leaders in every category below will be pitching on Monday. (As an added bonus, Zach Duke also led the National League in losses.)
And there will be some new faces, too. A full third of this season's opening-day starters-- including surprises like Zack Greinke ("he's never started an opener?") and Vicente Padilla ("he's starting the opener?")-- will be getting that nod for the first time. Two (Roy Halladay and Jon Garland) will be making their first appearance for a new team. Garland will actually face one of his staff-mates from last season, Dan Haren, as the Padres travel to Arizona.
Incidentally, Tom Seaver holds the all-time record for most opening-day starts (16, including 12 straight from 1968-79). The leaders on this year's list are only halfway there.
Did you know: According to Baseball Almanac, the AL team that's won the highest percentage of its openers is Toronto (25 of 33, 76%). The NL team with the best opening-day record-- really-- is the New York Mets (60%). It's those other 161 games that have been a problem in Flushing recently.
If this scenario seems comically familiar, then you have probably seen it here
All kidding aside though, the question still remains: Why Vicente Padilla?
Whether Torre admits it or not, the real reason is likely so that Kershaw lines up to be the ‘home” Opening Day starter at Chavez Ravine. It’s a nice gesture for the current/future ace of this staff.
Additionally, Torre’s recollection of Padilla may be more positive than one may think. The pitcher that left the Texas Rangers was not the one that joined the Dodgers in late August of 2009.
Digging past the peripheral numbers of his 2009 regular season (8-6, 4.92 ERA, 18 starts for Texas; 4-0, 3.20 ERA, 8 starts for Los Angeles), Padilla bettered his numbers across the board when he landed in the West Coast. Thanks to Inside Edge, we have the numbers to back that up.
Delving a little deeper, one of the key factors in Padilla lowering his opposition’s overall batting average was his ability to lower it when he was ahead in the count. With the Rangers, opponents hit a robust .284 while Padilla was in “command” of the count. With the Dodgers, that number dropped to .127. Over the whole year, Padilla graded out exceptionally well throwing strikes (and thus getting ahead) in two of his first three pitches per batter (66 percent / MLB AVG: 60 percent).
A key component to that success was his ability to keep hitters off-balance. In 2009 as a Dodger, Padilla threw his fastball a whopping 76 percent of the time. When he got ahead in the count though, that number dropped to 67 percent.
In those same instances, his curveball usage increased from 12 percent to 15 percent while his slider rose from 10 percent to 16 percent. By utilizing his whole repertoire, the Dodgers Padilla became a much better pitcher than the Rangers version.
Selecting Padilla as the Dodgers Opening Day starter may be steeped in strategy as well. As noted above, Padilla has been pretty dominant with the Dodgers when getting ahead in the count. The Pirates don't have a good history in this regard.
While it may be common sense that most MLB players have a lower probability of success when behind in the count; some of the Pittsburgh Pirates take it to a whole other level.
With the realistic chance that Duke will struggle as much and if not more than Cedeno and Clement, that will mean that five of the Pirates likely Opening Day starters will fall below the league wide average of .208 when behind in the count. For the Pirates hitters, hoping Padilla falls behind in the count early may be their best hope. If Padilla is on, he may resemble what is associated with the Opening Day starter, an Ace.