Stats & Info: Yoenis Cespedes

Names to know: Winter Meetings targets

December, 5, 2014
Getty ImagesJon Lester and Matt Kemp could find themselves with new teams after the Winter Meetings.
The Winter Meetings begin Monday in San Diego and there are expectations of major wheeling and dealing by baseball executives.

Here's a look at some of the players who figure to be headline-grabbers at this year's gathering.

Max Scherzer and Jon Lester
Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two premium pitchers available in free agency this year. Both could threaten or exceed the record for largest contract issued to a free agent pitcher, $161 million by CC Sabathia with the Yankees.

In 2012, Lester posted a 4.82 ERA in over 200 innings. It improved in 2013 to 3.75 before he re-established himself as an ace in 2014 with a 2.46 ERA. What was behind this renaissance?

Improved strikeout & walk rates: Lester has steadily improved his strikeout rate over the last three years – from 19 percent to 20 to 25 in 2014 – while simultaneously reducing his walk rate – from 8 percent in 2012 down to 5.4 percent last season.

Fewer home runs: Lester allowed 25 homers in 2012 (good for 3.2 percent of batters faced). He allowed just 16 (or 1.9 percent) in 2014.

Improvement against righties: Since 2012, Lester has lowered his batting average allowed vs righties by 48 points, and lowered his OPS allowed by nearly 170 points.
In 2011, Scherzer posted a 4.43 ERA, before taking a step forward in 2012 with a 3.74 ERA. He’s been a true ace since the start of last season, however, eclipsing 200 innings in both while finishing in the top-5 in the AL Cy Young in both 2013 and 2014.

What led to this improvement?

Better versus lefties: From 2011-12, left-handed batters hit .286 with an .837 OPS against Scherzer. Since the start of last season, lefties have hit just .233 with a .666 OPS.

Now a strikeout artist: Scherzer’s strikeout rate jumped from 8.0 per 9 innings to 11.1 from 2011-12, and has stayed above 10 strikeouts per 9 innings since. This relates to his performance with two strikes – opponents hit .206 from 2011-12 with two strikes, and just .149 since then.

Added a curveball: Scherzer did not throw a curveball in 2011, before throwing it under two percent of the time in 2012. He’s steadily increased its usage, though – from seven percent in 2013 to over 10 percent in 2014.

Matt Kemp
Kemp may be dangled to other teams by the Dodgers to alleviate their outfield logjam. He had a huge second half last season, leading the majors with a .606 slugging percentage and 35 extra-base hits. His 54 RBI ranked second to teammate Adrian Gonzalez.

Kemp’s value may be hurt by his defensive metrics. He ranked last among outfielders last season with -23 Defensive Runs Saved.

Kemp was one of 24 players to have an OPS+ (measure of OPS relative to league average) of 140 or better last season. His 1.1 Wins Above Replacement was the lowest of the group. He was one of only three of those players with a WAR below 3.0.

Justin Upton
Justin Upton
J. Upton
The Braves have been rumored to be shopping Upton, who had a career-best 102 RBI last season. He brings durability, having played at least 149 games in each of the last four seasons.

Upton had four really good months and two bad ones last season. He didn’t close well, hitting .169 with 30 strikeouts in 83 September at-bats.

Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes, like Kemp, may be dealt to deal with overload at a position. He’s also coming off a career-high with 100 RBI between the Athletics and Red Sox last season.

Cespedes can make a good case that he’s a difference-maker in a lineup (despite on-base percentages of .294 and .301 the last two seasons).

The Athletics went 229-136 when Cespedes played for them from 2012-14. They were 49-72 in all other games.

Jeff Samardzija
Samardzija may be the best pitcher available via trade. He had a 2.99 ERA last season, split between the Cubs and Athletics, his best ERA in three seasons as a starting pitcher.

Samardzija is one of five pitchers with at least 200 strikeouts in each of the last two seasons, along with Scherzer, Chris Sale, Kershaw and Felix Hernandez.

James Shields
James Shields
James Shields may not command the price of a Scherzer or Lester, but whoever signs him will be getting an arm with a lot of mileage on it.

Including the postseason, only two pitchers have logged more innings than James Shields’ 1,969 2/3 since he debuted in 2006 – Justin Verlander (2,065) and Felix Hernandez (1,976 1/3).

Melky Cabrera
For the third time in four seasons, Cabrera produced a .300 batting average and .800 OPS. In fact, he was one of only three outfielders to achieve that in 2014 The others were Andrew McCutchen and Michael Brantley.

David Robertson
David Robertson
David Robertson is reportedly seeking one of the largest free agent contracts ever issued to a relief pitcher. The current mark is Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies.

For his career, Robertson has struck out 524 batters in 393 innings pitched, the best strikeouts per 9 rate of any active pitcher with at least 350 innings (12.2).

Andrew Miller
Miller has evolved from a top prospect who was struggling significantly to one of the most dominant relievers in the game. His 43 percent strikeout rate last season ranked second to Aroldis Chapman’s 53 percent among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings in 2014.

Céspedes brings power, arm to Boston

July, 31, 2014

AP Photo/Ben MargotYoenis Céspedes has hit 17 HR this season. Red Sox outfielders have combined to hit 14.
The Boston Red Sox added outfielder Yoenis Céspedes to their lineup as they traded pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics.

Let’s take a look at what Céspedes will bring to Fenway Park.

Although he has only had 26 plate appearances, Céspedes has not hit a home run at Fenway Park. However, he should be able to take advantage of the Green Monster as 47 percent of his hits are to left field this season.

Only three players – Brian Dozier (54 percent), Edwin Encarnacion (52 percent) and Albert Pujols (50 percent) - in the American League this season have a higher percentage of hits to the left side of the field than Céspedes.

He also brings power to a Red Sox outfield that has the worst combined slugging percentage in the majors this season. Céspedes has three more home runs than all Red Sox outfielders combined (903 fewer PA).

Céspedes broke onto the scene in 2012 and hit .292 while sporting a .505 slugging percentage. Since that season, his average has gone down (.240 batting average in 2013; 256 so far this season), but the power is still there.

His 66 home runs since his rookie year is tied for 15th among all American League players (among the 167 qualified batters).

Céspedes brings nearly as many Wins Above Replacement as the top three Red Sox outfielders combined this season.

In fact, only Dustin Pedroia (3.5) has a higher WAR among Red Sox players than the 3.0 that Céspedes brings to Boston.

Céspedes also ranks second among left fielders with 10 defensive runs saved in 2014. Alex Gordon leads the majors with 20 defensive runs saved.

Red Sox left fielders have combined for minus five defensive runs saved (12th in the AL).

In addition, in Jackie Bradley Jr. (12) and Céspedes (12), the Red Sox now have the two players tied for the most outfield assists in baseball this season.

Cespedes overwhelms to repeat as champ

July, 15, 2014
Oakland Athletics slugger Yoenis Cespedes knows how to put on a homer-hitting show.

Cespedes became the second player to win consecutive Home Run Derby competitions, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (who won in 1998 and 1999) with a 9-1 win over Todd Frazier in the finals.

Cespedes, whose win marked the fifth straight year that an AL player won the title, finished with 30 home runs, a year after hitting 32 at Citi Field.

He’s the first player to hit at least 30 home runs in two different Home Run Derby competitions.

The eight-homer margin of victory was the largest in the history of the finals.

Cespedes barely made it out of the first round, needing a swing-off to advance, but got more comfortable as the competition went along. His seventh home run of the finals had an estimated distance of 509 feet had it continued its descent. His average projected distance in the finals was 465.4 feet.

Cold temperatures made for tough hitting conditions. The 56 degree temperature at first pitch was the coldest in the history of the Home Run Derby.

Frazier, who also advanced out of the first round via swing-off, finished with only 11 home runs (he had as many outs as Cespedes had home runs).

He advanced to the finals with upsets of Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton, the latter a 1-0 win in the semifinals.

Frazier became the first player to hit only one home run in the final round since 2002, when Jason Giambi beat Sammy Sosa 7-1.

Stanton, who clubbed a home run with an estimated distance of 510 feet in the first round (the longest estimated distance at this year’s competition) wasn’t the only one to go homerless in a round.

Yasiel Puig finished with no homers at the competition, the first to do so since Robinson Cano in 2012. Coincidentally, Puig’s pitcher was Cano’s father, Jose.

Top stats to know: 2014 Home Run Derby

July, 14, 2014

Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsYoenis Céspedes looks to be the 1st back-to-back-winner since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999.
The 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby gets going at 8 p.m. ET from Target Field in Minnesota (ESPN and WatchESPN).

The competition features some new rules this season.

Five players from each league bat in the opening round, with seven outs instead of 10. The player who hits the most home runs from each league gets a bye to the third round. The two players with the next-most home runs go head-to-head in the second round. The head-to-head winners will face their league's top seed in the third round, with the winners from each league going against each other in the final round.

Here's a look at the numbers for each of the 10 participants.

Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista will captain the American League team. The last four Home Run Derby champs have been from the American League. The last NL winner was Prince Fielder in 2009. Bautista was the runner up to Fielder in 2012 when Fielder was a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Bautista is a huge fan of Target Field. He has a .966 slugging percentage and 11 home runs in 59 at-bats there.

A player’s home run park percentage is the percentage of stadiums at which a home run would have gone over the fence under calm conditions (70 degrees Fahrenheit, no wind). Of the 31 players to hit at least 15 home runs in the first half, Bautista has the highest home run park percentage, 94.7 percent (meaning on average, his home runs would have been out of 30 of the 32 parks).

Yoenis Céspedes, Oakland Athletics
Céspedes, the defending champion, is looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Ken Griffey Jr. won in 1998 and 1999.

Céspedes hit a total of 32 home runs in last year’s Home Run Derby, which was eight more than any other contestant.

Target Field has a shorter power-alley in left center field than last year’s host park, Citi Field (377 feet versus 385 feet), though it does have a slightly longer distance to the foul pole (339 feet versus 335 feet). Twenty-six of Cespedes’ 32 home runs in last year’s Home Run Derby were hit to the left of center field.

Cespedes has not shown the power he showed in 2013. Last season, he averaged 403 feet per home run. This season, he’s averaging 383.5 feet per homer.

Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Donaldson has 20 home runs this season, with 15 coming on the inner half of the plate, or off the inside corner.

Donaldson would be expected to pull the ball on Monday night, but he has very good opposite-field power. His seven home runs to the opposite field are one shy of Nelson Cruz for the major-league lead.

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
Dozier will be trying to join Ryne Sandberg as the only players to win the Home Run Derby in their home ballpark. Sandberg did so in the early days of the event, in 1990.

Dozier’s home runs have a distinct characteristic. He likes to hit them on pitches up at his shoulders and above. His six home runs on pitches above the top of the strike zone are twice as many as anyone else in the majors.

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
In contrast to Dozier, Jones likes the ball low. Eleven of his 16 home runs (69 percent)have come against pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone or below. The only player in the majors with more such home runs is Mike Trout with 16.

Jones is trying to become the first Orioles player to win the Home Run Derby since Miguel Tejada in 2004.

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki finished tied for the NL lead with 21 home runs in the first half, with 14 of them coming at Coors Field.

He’s trying to become the first Rockies player to win the Home Run Derby.

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Frazier has already matched his career high for home runs in a season with his 19 at the All-Star Break. Though he’ll likely take aim for left field at Target Field, he might poke a few out to the deepest parts of the park. Frazier has seven home runs to straightaway center field this season. Only Carlos Gomez (eight) has more.

Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies
Morneau is the only left-handed hitter in this year’s Home Run Derby.

Seven of the past nine and 14 of the past 18 Home Run Derby winners have been left-handed hitters. The only right-handed hitter to win in the last six Derby's is last year’s winner, Yoenis Céspedes of the Oakland Athletics.

Morneau is very familiar with Target Field from his time with the Minnesota Twins. His 20 home runs there are second-most by a left-handed hitter, trailing Jim Thome’s 24.

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Puig hit 12 home runs in the first half, but he hit them pretty far, averaging 417.3 feet per home run (fourth-best in the majors).

Puig’s shortest home run of the first half was 390 feet, making him one of two players to hit 10 home runs and have all of them calculated at 390 feet or more (Jay Bruce is the other).

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Stanton averaged 423.8 feet per home run in the first half, the best of anyone in baseball with at least 10 home runs.
He also led in average speed off bat (109.5 miles per hour), 425-foot home runs (nine) and 450-foot home runs (five).

Stanton’s 484-foot home run on April 4 is the second-longest home run of the year (Mike Trout, 489 feet on June 27 is the longest).

ESPN HR Tracker derby dream team

July, 8, 2014
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesYoenis Cespedes will attempt to defend his 2013 Home Run Derby title.

The Gillette Home Run Derby (Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) captains Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista will announce their teams this evening on the 6 p.m. ET edition of "SportsCenter." The ESPN Home Run Tracker team put together the lineups it would most like to see, using data from every home run hit this season.

American League

Yoenis Cespedes
Yoenis Cespedes hit a total of 32 home runs in last year’s Home Run Derby, eight more than any other contestant. Target Field has a shorter power alley in left-center field than Citi Field (377 feet vs. 385 feet), although it does have a slightly longer distance to the foul pole (339 feet vs. 335 feet).

Of Cespedes’ 32 homers in last year’s derby, 26 were hit to the left of center field.

Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz leads the majors with 28 home runs. He also has 19 homers off fastballs this season, four more than any other player.

Cruz has hit 2.1 miles worth of home runs this year, which leads the majors. He's also shown some of the most raw power in baseball, being tied for fourth in the American League with five homers of at least 425 feet.

Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu has 27 home runs, second-most in MLB behind Nelson Cruz. Abreu is one of three players to hit two or more miles worth of home runs this year.

David Ortiz
David Ortiz is one of four players to hit a 475-foot home run this season. Ortiz’s 482-foot homer on April 22 traveled 119.9 mph off the bat, the highest for a home run this year.

Ortiz has 16 homers of at least 400 feet this season, tied for fourth-most in the league. The only players with more than Ortiz are Edwin Encarnacion (injured), Mike Trout (has already declined derby consideration) and Giancarlo Stanton.

National League

Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton’s average home run to this point in the season has traveled 423.8 feet, the longest of any player with at least 10 homers. Stanton’s average is no sample-size fluke either: His 21 homers are the most of the 11 players averaging at least 410 feet per home run.

Stanton has nine homers this year that traveled at least 425 feet, most of any player in the league. Stanton has five 450-foot home runs; no one else in the league has more than two. Stanton has more 450-foot home runs than any other team in MLB.

Michael Morse
Michael Morse has eight 425-foot home runs, two 450-foot home runs and an average distance of 420.5 feet. All of those are second in the league behind Giancarlo Stanton.

Morse ranks in the top 10 in the National League in average distance, speed off the bat and apex among players with at least 10 home runs.

Justin Upton
Justin Upton has hit four 440-foot home runs, trailing only Stanton and Morse for the most in the majors. His 477-foot homer on April 10 is the fourth-longest in baseball this season and the longest at Turner Field since September 2010.

Ian Desmond
The shortest of the 15 home runs hit by Ian Desmond this year was calculated at 387 feet, making him the only player who has hit at least 15 homers that all traveled at least 375 feet. His average home run distance is 416.4 feet, the fifth-longest in the majors (mininum 10 HR).

Desmond’s 462-foot shot on April 21 is the second-longest home run recorded at Nationals Park since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

Stats to know: Tigers vs. Athletics (Game 5)

October, 10, 2013

Getty ImagesJustin Verlander (left) and Sonny Gray (right) struck out at least 9 and allowed zero runs in Game 2.
The Detroit Tigers visit the Oakland Athletics in Game 5 of the ALDS tonight (8:07 ET/ESPN Radio). Detroit is 2-0 in ALDS Game 5s (2011 and '12) and is looking to advance to the ALCS for the third straight season (would be first team to do that since the 1998-2001 New York Yankees).

Oakland is 0-5 all-time in ALDS Game 5s and will be looking to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2006. The A’s were eliminated by the Tigers in their past two trips to the postseason (2006, 2012).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Oakland is 1-11 since 2000 in games in which they had a chance to eliminate an opponent from a postseason series.

Let’s take a look at some other storylines for this game.

History Lesson
This will be the seventh time that two teams have met in a winner-take-all postseason game in consecutive years.

The last time it happened, the Boston Red Sox and Yankees met in consecutive Game 7s of the ALCS in 2003 and 2004.

The last team to win the first meeting and the rematch was the Yankees, who beat the Athletics in consecutive ALDS Game 5s in 2000 and 2001.

The team that won the first winner-take-all won the rematch three times and lost the rematch three times in the first six instances.

Justin Verlander stats to know
Verlander has thrown three straight scoreless starts dating back to the regular season, with 33 strikeouts in 19 innings, including 11 in the Game 2 duel in Oakland.

He has faced Oakland three times in the ALDS in the past two seasons, going 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA. In those 23 innings pitched, he’s struck out 33 and walked six while allowing just 11 hits.

In his Game 2 start against Oakland, Verlander relied on his fastball and curveball to put hitters away. He threw 20 fastballs and 16 curveballs among his 42 two-strike pitches, his second-highest combined percentage (85.7) with those pitches this season. All 11 of his strikeouts came on those pitches.

Sonny Gray stats to know
Gray’s eight scoreless innings in Game 2 against the Tigers marked the fourth time that a starter has thrown eight scoreless frames in the 67 postseason games the Tigers have played since 1968. The other three are Bob Gibson (1968 Cardinals), Blue Moon Odom (1972 Athletics) and Chris Carpenter (2006 Cardinals).

Like Verlander, Gray relied on his fastball and curveball in Game 2. All but two of his 111 pitches were fastballs (80) or curveballs (29). That was his second-highest combined percentage (98.2) with those pitches in 11 career starts.

Nineteen of the 24 outs Gray recorded were via strikeout (nine) or groundout (10). None of his 10 groundouts came on fastballs, and five of his nine strikeouts came on his curve.

In that game, Gray became the second rookie on postseason history with at least eight scoreless innings and nine strikeouts in his first career postseason start, joining the Orioles’ Mike Boddicker in 1983. Boddicker had 27 career regular season starts under his belt while Gray had just 10.

The Big Bats: Cespedes and Cabrera
The big hitters for each team, Yoenis Cespedes and Miguel Cabrera, have had contrasting performances with regards to a specific pitch location.

Cespedes is 7-for-18 in the series, with the bulk of that damage (five hits, including a homer) coming on pitches on the inner half of the plate.

Meanwhile Cabrera, who is 4-for-16 in the series and is battling injuries, has struggled to drive the inner-half pitches that he was crushing earlier this season.

Through the end of August, Cabrera had a .401 batting average and 27 home runs against pitches thrown to the inner half of the plate or off the inside corner.

But since the start of September, Cabrera has only 10 singles against such pitches, against which he is hitting .244. He has two hits versus such pitches in this series, both infield singles.

Justin Havens also contributed to this article.

Cespedes' HR slump no factor in Derby

July, 15, 2013

Yoenis Cespedes was the best home run hitter from start to finish in this season’s Home Run Derby.

Cespedes, the first non-All-Star to win the Derby, finished with 32 home runs and beat out Bryce Harper in the finals 9-8.

Here’s a look at some of the statistical highlights from Monday’s competition.

Hot at the right time
Cespedes’ 32 homers tied for third-most in Derby history. His 17 homers in the first round were more than twice as many as any other Derby competitor this year and tied for third-most by anyone in a single round all time. He had more home runs in the first round than any other player did in the first two rounds combined.

Cespedes entered the All-Star break with no home runs in his past 19 games and only two home runs in his past 31 games (both came June 21 against the Seattle Mariners). He’s homered in only three of the past 46 games he’s played since May 22. Cespedes’ current drought is 71 at-bats, which the Elias Sports Bureau notes is the second longest of his career and the longest current drought of any of the contestants this season.

Cespedes was the fourth straight AL player to win and ninth in the past 12 seasons. He’s the first right-handed hitter to win the Derby since Vladimir Guerrero in 2007.

Harper consistent as runner-up
The 20-year-old Harper, the second-youngest entrant ever into the Derby (trailing only Ken Griffey Jr, by 42 days), was trying to become the competition’s youngest winner. Elias tells us that mark is still held by Juan Gonzalez, who won in 1993 at age 23.

Harper hit eight home runs in each of the three rounds, hitting cutters thrown by his father, Ron. Harper is 12-for-29 in at-bats ending with cutters in regular-season games, with a pair of home runs.

No repeat title for Fielder
Prince Fielder was knocked out in the first round after hitting only five home runs, leaving Griffey Jr. as the only player to win the competition in back-to-back years (1998 and 1999). Fielder’s 68 lifetime home runs in the Derby rank third-most all time, trailing Griffey’s 74 and David Ortiz’s 77.

Citi Field no deterrent
If there were concerns that Citi Field was going to keep the home run total down, they proved to be unfounded. The 103 home runs hit in the Derby were 21 more than were hit last year and the most in any Derby since 2008 (105).

Top stats to know: 2013 Home Run Derby

July, 14, 2013
John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty ImagesPrince Fielder will try to repeat as Home Run Derby champ.

The 2013 Chevrolet Home Run Derby kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Monday night on ESPN at Citi Field. History suggests that one of the five left-handed batters in the competition is going to win it.

Seven of the past eight and 14 of the past 17 Home Run Derby winners have been left-handed hitters, including each of the past five: Fielder, Robinson Cano (2011), David Ortiz (2010), Fielder (2009) and Justin Morneau (2008).

Since the first individual competition in 1995, Frank Thomas (1995), Sammy Sosa (2000), Miguel Tejada (2004) and Vladimir Guerrero (2007) are the only righties to win.

Let's take a quick look at each of this year's contestants.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
Alvarez was a late addition to the Home Run Derby, replacing Carlos Gonzalez. He leads the NL with nine "no-doubt" home runs this season, meaning homers that our video-tracking crew deemed cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.

He's trying to become the first player to win the Derby as a member of the Pirates.

Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
This will be the third straight Home Run Derby for Cano, who went homerless in the 2012 Derby as the competition’s defending champ. Cano was the fifth player in the last 15 years to go homerless for a Derby.

Cano has two home runs in 57 at-bats at Citi Field. Each traveled an estimated 440 feet.

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics
Cespedes will be making his Home Run Derby debut and the best argument for him winning would be in how the ball jumps off his bat upon contact. His average home-run distance and speed-off-the-bat are both best among Derby participants this season.

Cespedes is trying to be the first Athletics player to win the Derby since Mark McGwire in 1992.

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies
Cuddyer, a childhood friend of NL Derby captain David Wright, is making his first Home Run Derby appearance.

Only 10 of Cuddyer’s 16 home runs this season would have been home runs at Citi Field, the fewest of any player.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
Davis will try to be the first Orioles player to win the Home Run Derby since Miguel Tejada in 2004.

Davis enters the All-Star Break with 37 home runs, tied for the second-most by anyone before the Break. The only player with more was Barry Bonds with 39 home runs in 2001.

Since the individual competition began in 1995, the major-league leader in homers at the break has never won the Derby. Jose Bautista came closest, as runner-up last year.

Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Fielder is a two-time Derby winner and the defending Home Run Derby champ.

If Fielder was to win, he’d be the second repeat champ and the second three-time winner, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (1994, 1998, 1999) in both cases.

Fielder’s 63 Derby homers rank fifth-most all-time. He’s 14 behind the all-time leader, David Ortiz.

Fielder's average distance of 396.4 feet and average speed-off-the-bat (102.4 mph) are the lowest for any of the Derby entrants.

Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Harper will try to become the first Nationals/Expos player to win the Home Run Derby.

This is Harper’s first major-league Derby, but he made a huge impact in a previous competition, as a 16-year-old using a metal bat at the 2009 High School Power Showcase.

Harper had one six-homer stretch in the competition in which his homers averaged 469 feet and 121 mph off the bat.

His longest homer in regular-season play was a 444-foot shot against the Miami Marlins last September.

David Wright, New York Mets
Wright will try to become the first Mets player to win the Home Run Derby (he was runner-up in 2006) and the first to win it in his home ballpark under the current Derby rules.

Wright enters with only three home runs in 159 at-bats at Citi Field this season. Since the ballpark opened in 2009, he's hit 37 homers at home and 50 on the road.

Here's a look at the home-run spray charts for Wright and the other entrants in this year's competition:

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.

Cespedes gets an 'A' for improvements

September, 30, 2012

AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye
The first home run Yoenis Cespedes hit foreshadowed his penchant for big late-game long balls.

Yoenis Cespedes won’t win the MVP or even the Rookie of the Year Award.

But consider that the Oakland Athletics, now on the verge of a postseason spot, are 79-46 when he starts and 12-22 when he doesn’t, when you fully assess his value.

Add Sunday’s game-winning homer to the Cespedes highlight reel for 2012. It was the third time this season that Cespedes hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later against the Seattle Mariners.

The third happens to be the charm that by the end of the night dropped the Athletics magic number for clinching a playoff spot to one.

The value of the Cespedes home run
Sunday’s home run was Cespedes’ fifth this season that either tied the game or put the Athletics ahead in the seventh inning or later. He and Jonny Gomes are tied for the team lead, two shy of major-league co-leaders, Adam Jones and Billy Butler.

The Athletics have been all about the clutch home run this season. Their 22 such home runs are one shy of the major-league lead. The White Sox have the most, with 23.

The progression of Cespedes
All three of Cespedes' hits on Sunday came on sliders, and that’s noteworthy, as part of the improvement that he’s made against offspeed pitches this season.

In the season’s first two-and-a-half months, he missed on 44 percent of his swings against them, but he’s reduced that to 34 percent since returning on June 20.

This is part of an overall improvement by Cespedes against pitches of all types. His rate of missed swings overall has dropped from 35 percent pre-injury to 25 percent since.

That would help explain the difference in Cespedes slashline splits, from .275/.338/.489 through June 6 to .298/.359/.517 since then.

Who else has benefited from Cespedes’ return?
The Athletics have experienced a big power surge since Cespedes returned to the lineup.

Prior to June 20, they averaged less than a home run per game. But since then, they’ve hit 132 home runs in 91 games.

Among the biggest power beneficiaries of the Athletics regulars has been Cespedes’ outfield mate, Coco Crisp.

Crisp did very little in the first two-and-a-half months of the season (he was dealing with an inner-ear infection), but has been a potent bat over the last several months.

Crisp started hitting well a few games prior to Cespedes’ return. Since June 13, he’s hitting .300 with 10 home runs, 28 stolen bases, and an .867 OPS. His 11 home runs this season are his most since hitting 16 in 2005.

The key to the switch-hitting Crisp’s improvement is that he’s taken big-time advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

Crisp homered on Friday on a pitch over the middle-third of the plate width-wise, then started an eighth-inning rally with a single on such a pitch on Saturday.

The switch-hitting Crisp is 26-for-his-last-50 when an at-bat from the left side ends with a fastball, sinker or cutter over the middle-third of the plate.

What’s Next?
Cespedes should be eager to face the Rangers in these final three games of the season.

He’s hitting .396 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 15 games against Rangers pitching. His .755 slugging percentage against the Rangers is his best against any AL opponent.

Perez's changeup poses challenge for A's

September, 26, 2012
The Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers take the field Wednesday (ESPN, 8 ET) for their third of seven meetings over the season’s final 10 days with both teams chasing a playoff berth.

The Athletics have gotten almost half of their wins this season – 43 of 87 – from rookie pitchers. The last team to get at least half its wins from rookies was the A’s in 2009 (44 of 75). The last to do so while posting a winning record was the 1986 Rangers (46 of 87).

The Athletics youth movement extends to their lineup, which is led by rookie Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, who is playing his first full season in the majors.

Cespedes and Reddick are the first pair of Oakland outfielders to hit 20 home runs in the same season since Eric Byrnes and Jermaine Dye in 2004.

Strong rookie campaign for Cespedes
If it weren’t for Los Angeles Angels phenom Mike Trout, Cespedes could have been in line to win Rookie of the Year. He ranks in the top three among major league rookies in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, runs batted in and on-base percentage.

Cespedes is one of the American League’s best hitters on the first pitch of an at-bat. He’s hitting .434 on such pitches, the sixth best average in the AL. The early swings limit his power, as only two of his 21 homers have come on the first pitch.

Reddick cools in second half
Reddick helped carry the team before the All-Star Break, but has slowed down in the second half. He is hitless in his last 27 at-bats and was not in the A’s starting lineup on Tuesday.

Amazingly, his 0-for-27 streak isn’t the worst stretch for an Oakland hitter this season. Derek Norris went 30 at-bats without a hit in July and Cliff Pennington had an 0-for-29 stretch from May to June.

Reddick’s average since the break is 57 points lower than the first half of the season and his home run rate has been cut in half. As shown on the chart to the right, he is swinging more often but making contact less frequently.

Perez’s changeup could foil A’s
The A’s will be facing rookie southpaw Martin Perez, whose first major-league start was against Oakland in June. In that game, he allowed two runs in 5⅓ innings to earn the win.

Perez had more success with his changeup than his fastball in that game. Oakland hitters were 4-for-12 with three extra-base hits against his fastball and 2-for-9 with four strikeouts against his changeup.

The success with his slower pitches has continued since that start. Hitters miss on 28 percent of their swings against Perez’s offspeed pitches, and 21 percent of at-bats that end with an offspeed pitch against him result in a strikeout.

Several A’s hitters have struggled against changeups this season. Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Pennington all hit below .200 while striking out at least 20 percent of the time against the pitch.

Oakland hitters have struck out 1,322 times this season, just two shy of the American League record. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays struck out 1,324 times in 2007.

Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees and extra innings

September, 22, 2012
The Baltimore Orioles won -- again -- in extra innings on Saturday, beating the Boston Red Sox 9-6 in 12 innings.

It was Baltimore's 16th straight extra-inning win. That's the second-longest single-season streak in major league history behind the 1949 Cleveland Indians, who won 17 in a row.

The Orioles are a perfect 11-0 on the road in extra innings -- including 4-0 at Fenway Park. Their 16 extra-inning wins are the most for a team in a single season since 1999 Atlanta Braves won 17.

Almost 19 percent of the Orioles' wins this season (16 of 87) have come after the ninth inning.

Ironically, the Orioles actually lost the first two extra-inning games of the season before their streak started.

The loss dropped the Red Sox to 0-7 at home this season in extra-inning games. Since 1901, only five teams have finished a season 0-7 or worse at home in extra-inning games.

As impressive as that streak is for the Orioles, the New York Yankees outdid the O's on Saturday when it came to playing extra baseball.

The Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 in 14 innings; the win was only the second of its kind in franchise history.

Oakland hit three home runs (Jonny Gomes, Yoenis Cespedes, Chris Carter) in the 13th inning to go up 9-5. Gomes became the first A's player to hit a go-ahead HR in 13th inning or later on the road since Mark McGwire on July 4, 1988, at Cleveland. For Cespedes, it was his 20th home run of the season, the first Oakland rookie with 20 home runs since current Yankee Nick Swisher hit 21 in 2005.

However, in the bottom of the 13th, Raul Ibanez hit a two-run home run that tied the game. Ibanez is first Yankee to hit a game-tying home run in the 13th inning or later since Roy Smalley did it in the 14th inning against the Seattle Mariners in 1984.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was only the third time in the divisional era (since 1969) that teams combined to hit at least four home runs in a single extra inning. It was done in 2004 by the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers -- each team hit two home runs in the 10th inning. In 1969, the Seattle Pilots and Red Sox also combined for four home runs in the 11th inning.

Also according to Elias, it's the first time in franchise history that the A's lost an extra-inning game in which they led by at least four runs.

Conversely, it's only the second time the Yankees won after trailing by at least four runs in extra innings. The first instance happened almost 32 years ago to the day (Sept 17, 1980 vs. Blue Jays). What's more, the Yankees had been 0-5 when they were down by four or more runs in the 13th inning or later.

Finally according to Elias, this is the first time in the Expansion era (1961) the Yankees had a walk-off win in the 14th inning or later that ended on an error.

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.

Offspeed success has A’s in fast lane

July, 27, 2012

Getty ImagesYoenis Cespdes has been leading the offensive charge for the A's during their July surge.
The American League’s two Cinderella wild card contenders face off this weekend as the red-hot Oakland Athletics continue their six-game road trip with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Oakland had their seven-game win streak snapped on Thursday in a 10-4 loss at Toronto, but still own the league’s best record in July at 16-3 (.842).

This series with the Orioles is the third of five straight series against AL East teams for Oakland. So far, they are 6-1 against the division on this trip and 15-9 overall against them this season, the only division they have a winning record against.

The A’s July surge has been fueled by a pitching staff that owns the lowest ERA in the league during the month, and a power-hitting lineup that is averaging the most home runs per game in the majors during July.

Tonight’s starter Jarrod Parker is coming off one of the best outings of his rookie campaign, when he held the New York Yankees to one run in eight innings. He pounded the bottom of the zone in that game, getting a career-high 13 groundouts.

Leading the offensive charge for the A’s has been Yoenis Cespedes. Since the All-Star break, Cespedes is hitting .458, which ranks third in the majors. More notable than the hot streak itself is how Cespedes is getting his hits.

In his last 12 games, he has nearly as many hits versus offspeed stuff as he did in the entire first half. He’s hitting .500 (16-32) in at-bats ending with an offspeed pitch since the break. He hit .194 (19-98) against offspeed pitches in the first half.

When Cespedes signed with Oakland, scouting reports – such as this one by ESPN’s Keith Law – noted how Cespedes could be vulnerable to offspeed stuff, especially on the outer half with his pull-happy approach.

In the first half, that’s exactly what happened. He hit .330 against fastballs but under .200 against offspeed stuff.

Teams began to catch on. Since the All-Star break, 55 percent of the pitches Cespedes has seen have been offspeed, the highest rate in baseball. Pitchers adjusted to Cespedes, but he adjusted back. He has an MLB-best 16 hits versus offspeed stuff since the break, including six for extra bases.

He has also started to use the whole field, relying less on his pull-heavy approach. He has five opposite-field hits on offspeed pitches since the All-Star break; he had one in the entire first half.

Cespedes’ presence in the lineup has been key for the A’s. He missed 22 games in May and nine more games in June with various injuries. The A’s are 41-25 this season when he’s in the lineup and 12-20 when he’s not. If he can stay in the lineup, the upstart A’s might just find themselves in the postseason.

Oakland gets an A grade in July

July, 22, 2012

Kelley L Cox/US PresswireRookie Yoenis Cespedes (center) has been key for the A's, helping lead them to an MLB-best
14-2 record in July, including a four-game sweep over the New York Yankees.

The Oakland Athletics completed a four-game sweep over the New York Yankees on Sunday with a dramatic, walk-off, 5-4 victory. It was the team’s fifth straight victory, all of them coming by a one-run margin, and improved the team to an MLB-best 14-2 in July.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Oakland is the first team to win five straight games, all by a margin of one run, since the 1999 Miami Marlins. The A’s will try to finish the season with a better result than those Marlins, who ended up 64-98 and last in the N.L. East.

Many of the A’s wins this month have come in dramatic fashion. Coco Crisp’s walk-off single was the A’s sixth walk-off hit this month.

• July 3: Brandon Moss hits game-tying single in bottom of ninth against his former team, the Boston Red Sox. Coco Crisp ends it with a walk-off sac fly.
• July 6: Chris Carter hits a pinch-hit three-run walk-off homer in the 11th for a win over the Seattle Mariners.
• July 8: Josh Reddick’s walk-off double gives the A’s a 2-1, 13-inning win over the Mariners.
• July 18: Brandon Hicks’ first career home run is a walk-off to beat the Texas Rangers.
• July 20: Moss again plays hero with a walk-off single to beat the Yankees.
• July 22: Crisp gives Oakland a four-game sweep with a walk-off, 12th-inning victory over the Yankees.

The A’s sweeping the Yankees, previously owners of the base record in baseball, is also historically significant.

The last time the A’s swept the Yankees in a series of at least four games was in 1972. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, those teams had played 19 series of at least four games without a sweep.

The last time the A’s swept a home series of at least four games against the Yankees was in 1913, back when the A’s played in Shibe Park in Philadelphia. According to Elias, the A’s had hosted 57 straight series of at least four games against the Yankees between sweeps.

Pitching has been key for the Athletics, as they’ve gone a perfect 8-0 in one-run games in July. But even more central to the hot streak is the return of Yoenis Cespedes.

Despite going 0-5 in Sunday’s win, Cespedes is batting .500 in nine games since the All-Star Break, with four home runs and nine RBI. This season, Oakland is 39-24 with Cespedes in the lineup, opposed to 12-20 without him.

The A’s haven’t finished over .500 since their 2006 squad, a team that included Barry Zito, Dan Haren and Frank Thomas. This team is slightly more unknown, with Tommy Millone, Brandon McCarthy and Josh Reddick leading the way, but could become much more well-known come playoff time.