Stats & Info: Seattle Mariners

Efficient Kluber spoils the King's record

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsCorey Kluber has now thrown back-to-back shutouts, facing 28 batters in each game.
Corey Kluber needed just 85 pitches to shut out the Seattle Mariners, striking out eight hitters and issuing no walks. He's just the fourth pitcher to do that against an American League team in the past 20 seasons.

He's the first Cleveland Indians pitcher to throw a shutout with no more than 90 pitches since Charles Nagy on June 12, 1992.

Kluber faced only 28 batters, his second straight shutout in which he faced only 28 batters. He's the first pitcher with consecutive starts of nine innings and 28 or fewer batters faced since Jim Scott, who had two straight starts of that variety (with a relief appearance in-between) for the 1914 Chicago White Sox.

More than half of Kluber's pitches were breaking balls and the Mariners didn't stand a chance against those pitches. They went 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts and only one hard-hit ball in at-bats ending with a curveball or slider.

Overall, hitters chased 51.3 percent of Kluber's pitches out of the strike zone, the highest rate of his career.

Tough-Luck Loss For The King

Félix Hernández may have gotten the loss, but he broke a record in the process. He now has 14 straight starts of at least seven innings allowing two or fewer runs, breaking a tie with Tom Sever for the longest such single-season streak in the modern era (since 1900).

Hernández threw his changeup on 41.8 percent of his pitches, his second-highest rate in any start in the past six seasons. Indians hitters went 1-for-12 with no hard-hit balls in at-bats ending with the King's changeup.

This continued a trend for Hernández. He has thrown his changeup on 30.8 percent of his pitches this season, the highest rate in his career. Hitters have a .118 batting average against his changeup, good for second best in the majors (minimum 100 plate appearances).

Hernández has recorded 98 punch-outs with his changeup this season, up from 69 last season. It's already the most strikeouts he has had with his changeup in the past six seasons.

Double and Nothing

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
David Price beat the Red Sox with his MLB-leading fourth 10-strikeout, no-walk game of the season, collectively pushing 2014 one step closer to history

One throws from the left, one from the right and just a few days ago it appeared that there was a chance that they could be teammates in Seattle. On Friday night David Price and Félix Hernández showed why they’re the hottest pitchers in the American League.

Pitching at home against the Red Sox, Price allowed three earned runs in eight innings to earn his 11th victory of the season, extending the Rays season-high winning streak to 8 games. He also struck out 10 batters while walking none. That gave Price four double-digit-strikeout, 0-walk games this season, breaking a tie with Chicago’s Chris Sale for the most in the majors.

Just a couple of hours later, Sale would find himself tied again, this time by Felix Hernandez who went seven innings against the Orioles, striking out 10 while walking none in a no-decision against the Orioles. Hernández did emerge with a share of an all-time record, tying Tom Seaver for the major league mark for most consecutive starts of at least seven innings pitched and two earned runs allowed or fewer.)

Price, Hernández and Sale are three of the seven pitchers (with Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Zach Greinke and Corey Kluber) who have multiple games with 10 strikeouts and no walks this season. They’re all part of the 29 individuals who have done it a total of 40 times in 2014. If that seems like a lot, it is.

Looking back to 1900, there have only been two years in which there were more individual outings with double-digit strikeouts and no walks than we’ve had with six full days remaining in July. That’s ENTIRE seasons. And those came the past two years.

The standard was set way back in 2013 when 31 individuals went to the hill 45 times to rack up 10-K’s and no walks. Cliff Lee and Matt Harvey led the way with four apiece (Harvey’s came in just 26 games due to his season being cut short by Tommy John surgery) while Yu Darvish had three. That broke the old mark of 43 such games set in 2012 when nobody had as many as four.

Now we stand at 40 and there's a lot of baseball yet to be played. History will be made. By how much the old record will be shattered is the only question.

Kershaw, Hernandez overpowering in June

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw just completed one of the most impressive calendar months in major league history. Kershaw allowed zero runs and struck out 13 in seven innings as the Dodgers blanked the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.

Kershaw went 6-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts in June. He’s the only pitcher in major league history to be unbeaten with that many wins, that many strikeouts and an ERA that low in a single calendar month.

Only three other pitchers have gone 6-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA and 50 or more strikeouts in a month: Hideo Nomo in June 1995, Randy Johnson in April 2000 and Justin Verlander in June 2011.

Kershaw's 61 strikeouts in June were the most by any Dodgers pitcher in any month since Sandy Koufax had 62 in June 1966.

Kershaw’s month included a no-hitter and ended with a streak of 28 scoreless innings. He now has 107 strikeouts and only 11 walks this season. His ERA is 1.11 with seven runs allowed in eight starts since getting pounded for seven runs by the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 17.

How he dominated
Kershaw owned the month largely because of a super sharp slider. He had 34 strikeouts with his slider and 14 more with his curveball. His 48 breaking ball strikeouts were 18 more than the next pitcher, Yu Darvish.

When he wasn’t striking hitters out, he was getting them to hit the ball on the ground. Kershaw’s 65 percent ground ball rate was the highest in the majors this month.

He wasn’t the only one who owned Sunday … and June
Felix Hernandez was basically the AL version of Kershaw, both on Sunday and in June. Hernandez threw eight scoreless one-hit innings in a win over the Cleveland Indians and improved to 3-1 with a 1.22 ERA for the month, with 54 strikeouts and only six walks. The Hernandez changeup was vintage in June and netted 57 outs while yielding only three hits and two walks.

Hernandez bested Kershaw, barely, in one statistical category in June: Hernandez enters the final day of the month with the lowest opponents’ OPS in the majors, .410, which is nine points better than Kershaw's.

Looking ahead
Both Kershaw and Hernandez will get strong consideration to start the 2014 All-Star Game. Neither has started one previously.

Kershaw is trying to become the first Dodgers pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Brad Penny in 2006. Hernandez would be the first Seattle Mariners pitcher since Johnson in 1997.

Kershaw’s competition includes Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright, both of whom have ERAs hovering around 2.00. Wainwright also had a great June and finished with a 1.16 ERA for the month.

Hernandez might also have moved a notch ahead of New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka for All-Star starting consideration. Both have 2.10 ERAs this season. Hernandez is a hair better in WHIP, with 0.92 to Tanaka’s 0.95.

Hernandez's game reminiscent of perfection

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
“I think he was better than when he threw the perfect game.”
-- Rays manager Joe Maddon after Sunday’s game against the Seattle Mariners Yes, Felix Hernandez was that good, striking out 15 in seven innings in the Seattle Mariners' 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon.

Hernandez also experienced a bit of hard luck, since Chris Archer and the Rays' bullpen matched him, preventing him from earning his ninth win. Instead, Hernandez became the third pitcher in the past 25 years to strike out 15, allow no runs and record a no-decision, joining Nolan Ryan and Jake Peavy.

Hernandez now has 26 career no-decisions in games in which he pitched at least seven innings and allowed no runs. That’s the most by any active pitcher (second are Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson with 19) and one shy of the most for any pitcher in the past 20 seasons (Greg Maddux has 27).

Hernandez has a 1.40 ERA in his last five starts, with 46 strikeouts and five walks in 38 2/3 innings pitched.

Better than perfection?
We can take a closer look to see if Maddon’s comment about Hernandez’s stuff being better than in his perfect game two seasons ago rings true from a statistical perspective.

We’ll acknowledge that it’s close, though the perfect game would seem to have an edge based on Hernandez pitching deeper into the game.

Hernandez got 26 swing-and-misses in his perfect game, six more than he got in Sunday's start. Percentage wise, the two were virtually a match in that regard, with Rays hitters missing on 44 percent of their swings in each game.

On Sunday, Hernandez allowed three batted balls that were classified as hard hit, one more than he had in his perfect game, in two fewer innings.

The common bond between the two games was how good Hernandez’s changeup was. On Sunday, he got 13 outs with his changeup, including 10 strikeouts (the only pitcher with more in a game in the past six seasons is Alex Cobb of the Rays with 11). In the perfect game, he recorded seven outs with his changeup, six of them strikeouts.

How they won
The Mariners scored five runs in the ninth inning, with the key to that outburst being base hits that came after falling behind in the count 0-2.

Brad Miller’s triple, Endy Chavez’s go-ahead single and James Jones’ triple against Grant Balfour all came after they went down in the count, 0-2.

Balfour had held opponents to 1-for-19 after getting ahead 0-2 this season prior to those hits. Miller’s hit was impressive, considering that he was 1-for-23 in two-strike situations dating back to May 12.

Cano returns to his place of dominance

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29

Robinson Cano has not supplied much power yet in 2014.
Robinson Cano returns to a comfort zone-- the Bronx-- as the second baseman for the Seattle Mariners, who face the New York Yankees tonight to start a 10-game road trip.

Cano was one of the most prolific middle infielders in Yankees history. He ranks first among those who primarily played second base for the Yankees in both home runs and doubles and ranks second among those who played the position in RBIs.

He’s one of six Yankees to hit at least 25 home runs in five straight seasons, along with Babe Ruth (14 straight), Lou Gehrig (12), Mickey Mantle (9), Alex Rodriguez (7) and Joe DiMaggio (6). Cano’s seven seasons of at least 40 doubles with the Yankees are tied with Gehrig for the most in team history.

The chart above right shows how Cano has fared in Yankee Stadium, a place in which he thrived consistently.

Cano is off to a bit of a slow start power-wise. He has only one home run through the Mariners first 24 games, the second time in three seasons he’s had only one homer in his team’s first two dozen games. In 2012, when he did so, he finished the season with 33 home runs, the most he’s hit in any season in his career.

In an Insider piece a week and a half ago, Justin Havens broke down Cano’s power struggles. Basically, Cano is hitting more ground balls than he usually does (54 percent of his batted balls … he hovered between 44 and 49 percent in each of the last four seasons). He also started the season trying to go to center field and left field more often, but without the success he had in New York.

His rate of hitting batted balls that our system classified as “hard-hit" was 22 percent last season.

So far in 2014, it’s only 13 percent.

Cano has not yet been able to do with the outside pitch what he typically has been able to do in years past-- hit it for power. His 40 home runs against outer-half pitches over the last two seasons are fifth-most in the majors in that span. He has one home run against the 235 outer-half pitches he's seen in 2014.

That said, Cano is still hitting for average. He’s hitting .301 this season, with 11 hits in 26 at-bats in his last seven games (a .423 batting average). He’s finished each of the last five seasons with a batting average of .300 or better. The only other player to qualify for the batting title in each of those five seasons who did that is Miguel Cabrera.

Inside tonight's matchup
Cano will be matched up against his former teammate, Yankees starter CC Sabathia.

Cano has historically held his own against lefties very well. Over the last six seasons, his slashline against them is .286/.340/.462. Left-handed hitters have had a sub-.300 on-base percentage against Sabathia in each of the last three seasons. He has limited lefties to three hits in 15 at-bats this season, with five strikeouts.

Sabathia has a very good history against the Mariners. His 2.48 ERA against them is his lowest ERA against any AL team. Sabathia's eight straight wins against the Mariners match the longest winning streak against them in Yankees history, tying Ron Guidry (1982 to 1985) and Mike Mussina (2001 to 2008).

Cano will be looking to break out of a funk of sorts. He has seven RBI in seven games against the Rangers, but only four RBI in 17 games against other teams.

Jon Kramer also contributed to this post

Each win stranger for Rangers

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
The Texas Rangers are living a charmed life in the early part of the 2014 season.

They’re 8-7 this season despite being outscored by nine runs, and they’ve already managed a majors-best four walk-off wins, the latest being a bizarre 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

The game lived up to its billing as a great pitcher’s duel between aces Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners lost on a combination of mishaps, the first being the inability of Brad Miller to convert a potential forceout for the final out of the game. Miller entered the day with solid defensive numbers -- three defensive runs saved for the season.

The next was a wild pitch by closer Fernando Rodney, who has averaged a wild pitch about every 19 innings for his career. His wild pitch Wednesday allowed the tying run to score.

Leonys Martin then won the game with his third walk-off hit in the past eight months, a bloop single to left field that gave reliever Pedro Figueroa his first big league win.

The Rangers went from having two outs and nobody on, a situation in which their win probability was about 4 percent, to an unlikely victory.

The Rangers continue to win despite not hitting home runs. They entered the day with only seven, which ranked 14th in the American League, and did not add to that total on Wednesday.

For the Mariners, it was another in a long line of wasted starts by their starting pitchers.

Last season, they lost 12 games in which a starter went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer (the most in the majors since the 1986 Montreal Expos lost 13). It was their first such defeat in 2014.

Hernandez has now made 17 starts in the last five seasons in which he went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer. That’s the most in the majors in that span. Ex-Mariner Cliff Lee kept pace with his 13th on Wednesday for the Philadelphia Phillies, tying him with Jered Weaver for the second-most such starts.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
The Rangers are the first team with four walk-off wins by April 16 since the 2000 Kansas City Royals.

Top stats to know: For openers ...

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30

Getty Images, AP PhotoAmong those worth watching on Opening Day are Stephen Strasburg and Albert Pujols.
Three teams have had their Opening Day so far, but the baseball season really gets going Monday with a near-full slate.

Here are some of the statistical storylines we'll be keeping an eye on.

Usually a good day for the Mets
The New York Mets haven’t had a winning record since the 2008 season, but Opening Day is usually a season highlight for them.

The Mets’ 34-18 Opening-Day record is the best of any team.

They’ll face a Washington Nationals team that was picked by 12 experts to win the World Series and that has the consensus favorite for MVP in Bryce Harper (by comparison, none of the experts have the Mets even making the playoffs).

The Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg, who was 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five spring-training starts. He’s allowed one run in 14 innings in two previous Opening Day starts.

Cano’s debut comes in best pitching matchup of day
Robinson Cano makes his Seattle Mariners debut in Anaheim (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2) against the Angels.

Cano has contributed 34.3 Wins Above Replacement over the last five seasons, the most in baseball in that span.

Jered Weaver will be charged with stopping Cano, who is 12 for 32 against the Angels ace in his career. Weaver has won his last three Opening Day decisions and has a 1.93 ERA in five Opening-Day starts.

Felix Hernandez has started all but one of those openers for Seattle (this will be his sixth straight). He’s 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA on Opening Day (five of the six starts came against the Oakland Athletics)

The Mariners have won seven straight Opening Day games. With the Diamondbacks losing their opener earlier this season, the Mariners’ Opening Day winning streak is the longest current one in the majors.
Milestone Watch: Most Opening Day HR
Opening Day in Chicago means a matchup of the two teams at the bottom in the AL Central last year with the Twins facing the White Sox.

White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn will be trying to set the major-league record for most Opening-Day home runs. Dunn’s eight are tied for the most all-time with Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr.

In terms of season milestones, the most notable one on the horizon is that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is eight home runs from 500 for his career.

Pujols would become the fourth player to hit 500 home runs within his first 14 seasons, joining Mark McGwire (522), Alex Rodriguez (518) and Willie Mays (505).

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Athletics are the first team to lose nine straight season openers since the Atlanta Braves did from 1972 to 1980. No team has lost 10 straight.

Oakland has been beset by pitching injuries, most notably to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, and will start rookie Sonny Gray, the ninth pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Athletics in the last nine seasons.

Gray, who impressed in last year’s postseason, will be making his 11th career start.

That won’t be the fewest of anyone on Monday. The Rangers, also beset by injuries, will start Tanner Scheppers against the Philadelphia Phillies. Scheppers will be the first pitcher to make his first start in a season opener since Fernando Valenzuela for the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Approach gives Cano staying power

December, 6, 2013

Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesSeattle’s new $240 million investment should have no trouble at Safeco Field.
As a left-handed power hitter, Robinson Cano is believed to have been the benefactor of Yankee Stadium’s hitter-friendly porch in right field and thus presumed to be unable to thrive in a new environment -- such as his new digs at Safeco Field.

However, away from Yankee Stadium, rather than hitting a large number of short fly balls to right field for outs in other parks, Cano's adjustment has been to take aim at center field and left field.

And, in the past five seasons, it has translated to opposite-field home runs with much more frequency on the road than at home.

It’s clear Cano has an ability to change his approach based on the park he plays in, and evidence suggests he isn't simply a product of his home park.

[+] EnlargeRobinson Cano
ESPN Stats & Information Cano has no trouble driving the ball to all fields.

The charts to the right are Cano’s results on balls marked as “well hit” that went at least 350 feet since 2010 (his road results are on the left, home results on the right).

Quite simply, whatever park he’s in, it’s clear he has power to all fields. And, although he might lose some home runs to right field in Seattle, there’s opportunity for more success in left-center with a shorter distance at Safeco Field compared with in Yankee Stadium.

Expect Cano’s general approach at Safeco Field to be to left-center and, naturally, between right-center and right field -- an adjustment he has shown an ability to make.

So, Mariners fans, take a sigh of relief -- Cano should adjust to his new confines quite well.

Stats to know: Mariners nab Cano

December, 6, 2013
The Seattle Mariners went beyond their usual means to net a player whose production rates among the best in the game, agreeing to a 10-year, $240 million deal with free agent second baseman Robinson Cano.

The Mariners have not won more than 75 games in any of the last four seasons but seem determined to try to change that with an approach that will center around this deal and this player.

The contract
Cano’s contract is tied for the third-largest ever given to a free agent in terms of total value, trailing only the two deals signed by Alex Rodriguez (for $275 million with the Yankees and $252 million with the Rangers).

It far surpasses any deal given to a second baseman, free agent or otherwise. In terms of average value, Cano will be making $24 million, or $9 million more than the second baseman with the next largest contract (Ian Kinsler, $15 million per year through 2017).

It is also considerably more than the Mariners have ever given a free agent, surpassing the previous mark of $64 million for Adrian Beltre in the 2004-05 offseason.

In fact, in the last eight offseasons, the Mariners have signed free agents to contracts worth approximately $239 million, or about a million dollars less than the amount for which Cano signed.

This is only the third time that a player left the Yankees to sign a free agent contract worth at least $50 million. The other two were Denny Neagle bolting for a five-year, $51 million deal with the Colorado Rockies in the 2000-2001 offseason and Nick Swisher leaving for a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cleveland Indians last offseason.

What Cano brings
Cano has arguably been baseball’s most valuable position player over the last five seasons, totaling a major-league best 34.2 Wins Above Replacement in that span. He finished in the top six of the AL MVP voting in each of the last four seasons.

Cano has three seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. Only two second basemen have had more- Jeff Kent (6) and Rogers Hornsby (4).

He’s also one of 19 players to record at least 600 extra-base hits in the first nine seasons of his career. The other active players to do that are Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera and Matt Holliday.

The Mariners have been looking for a hitter to get the team back to its winning ways and boost their attendance. From 2001 to 2003, they won a major-league best 302 games and led the majors averaging more than 42,000 fans per game. From 2010 to 2013, they’ve averaged slightly more than 23,000 fans per game, which rates 26th among the 30 teams.

The Mariners still have holes to fill within their lineup. Their left-handed hitters ranked in the top three in the AL last season in slugging percentage and OPS. Their right-handed hitters ranked last in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

Safeco Field has been a reasonably friendly park, statistically speaking, for left-handed hitters, though that hasn't necessarily been so for Cano. Cano has four home runs in 152 at-bats there (all against Mariners pitching).

Aces rocked on Wednesday

August, 29, 2013
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsAdam Wainwright was one of three aces to struggle on Wednesday.
Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez and Hiroki Kuroda ranked fourth, sixth and eighth in ERA before taking the mound on Wednesday. Each ace struggled mightily and none would rank inside the top eight in ERA at night's end.

Wainwright's early exit
The ace of St. Louis Cardinals allowed a career-high nine earned runs over just two innings. Wainwright allowed all nine runs before he recorded four outs. The shortest start in Wainwright’s career also produced a rare instance in Cardinals history.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Wainwright is just the fourth Cardinals starter in the past 100 seasons to allow nine earned runs before recording four outs. Jason Marquis (2006), Jason Simontacchi (2002) and Bob Gibson (1967) are the others.

Wainwright struggled to put hitters away on Wednesday, as opponents batted .500 against him with two strikes. That’s the highest average he has allowed with two strikes in a single start all season and it’s tied for the second-highest average he has allowed with two strikes in any start over the past five seasons.

Rangers dominate King Felix
Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez also allowed a career high in earned runs, giving up eight over three innings Wednesday afternoon. Hernandez became just the eighth starter in Mariners history to allow eight earned runs in three or fewer innings pitched at home, and the first in five years.

The Texas Rangers have given Hernandez fits all season, as he is 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against them compared to going 12-4 with a 2.19 ERA against all other opponents. The Rangers are batting more than .140 points higher against Hernandez than all others this season.

King Felix has allowed 10 or more hits in a start four times this season. Three of those instances have come against Texas.

Kuroda trending downward
Hiroki Kuroda, the de-facto ace of the New York Yankees this season, allowed seven runs for the second consecutive start. Prior to his past two starts, Kuroda had allowed seven runs just five times in his entire career.

Kuroda appears to have hit a wall after having a stellar month of July. After leading the MLB with a 0.55 ERA in July, his ERA ballooned to 5.12 in August. He lost four games in August, his most in a single month as a Yankee, a far cry from going undefeated in five July starts.

The fastball did not fool the Blue Jays on Wednesday, as they batted .538 when putting Kuroda’s fastball in play, the second-highest average he has allowed in a single game this season. Opponents hit .333 off Kuroda’s fastball in August, much higher than the .280 they batted off his fastball for the season entering this month.

Ichiro joins the 4,000 hit club

August, 21, 2013
John Munson/USA TODAY SportsIchiro Suzuki has 4,000 hits combined between his time in MLB and Japan.
Ichiro Suzuki has accomplished a feat that has only been done by two players in Major League Baseball history -– 4,000 career hits.

After totaling 1,278 hits in Japan before coming to the majors, he reached the 4,000-hit mark on Wednesday night. Pete Rose and Ty Cobb are the only players in major-league history with 4,000 career hits.

Ichiro is one of the best hitters of this era.

Since entering the majors in 2001, Ichiro has nearly 400 hits more than any other player. He’s one of four players in history with at least 150 hits in each of his first 12 seasons, along with Paul Waner (1926-39), Richie Ashburn (1948-60) and Albert Pujols (2001-12). Ichiro has a chance to reach 150 hits for a 13th straight season this year.

Ichiro set the single-season mark for most hits in a season back in 2004 with 262. That surpassed the previous record, established back in 1920 by George Sisler.

Ichiro has recorded 10 seasons of at least 200 hits in his career, tied for the most in baseball history with Pete Rose. All 10 of Suzuki’s 200-hit seasons came with the Mariners.

His hit total through 13 seasons is the most for anyone in major-league history within any 13-season span.

He entered this season, his age-39 season, needing 394 hits to reach 3,000. Should he get to 3,000, he’d be only the ninth player since 1990 with at least 394 hits from his age-39 season on.

Ichiro has the fifth-most wins above replacement since entering the league in 2001. Only Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran have more.

Hit number 2,722 in his major-league career was a milestone in one other respect. It allowed him to pass Yankees great Lou Gehrig on the all-time hit list.

AL East extends its lead in power rankings

August, 1, 2013
Can anyone top the beasts of the AL East? Ahead in the rankings all season, the AL East further increased its lead as the AL West and NL Central were both underwhelming months in July according to the ESPN Stats & Information MLB Division Power Rankings.

The Tampa Bay Rays led the way for the AL East last month. Strong pitching outings by David Price and Matt Moore helped propel the Rays to a 21-5 month.

However, according to our player ratings, those were not the big players for the AL East. Baseball's home run leader, Chris Davis, continues to lead the division in the batter player ratings at third overall (

The Oakland Athletics have been the stabilizing factor in the AL West since last season. Sitting fifth in the power rankings ( and holding one of the best records in baseball, the A’s are led by Josh Donaldson and Bartolo Colón ranking in the top 30 of the player rankings ( And Bartolo Colón isn’t the only pitcher from the AL West dominating this season.

Yu Darvish holds the American League’s lowest opponent batting average and one of the best WHIPs in baseball. Darvish along with teammates Joe Nathan and Derek Holland have helped the AL West on the pitching side, but Mike Trout has provided the biggest boost from the offensive end for the AL West. Behind only Miguel Cabrera in batting average, Trout is arguably the second best hitter in the AL, doing his best to help a hurting Los Angeles Angels team.

The Seattle Mariners had their best month of the season, but sub-.500 months from the other three teams hurt. As a whole, the AL West had an ERA half a run higher than any of the other divisions.

With the Houston Astros holding steady at the bottom of the power rankings and the standings, it's not likely the AL West to overcome the AL East. However, improvement from the Angels or Rangers and continued winning from the Mariners could see the AL West start to chip away at the deficit.

For an explanation of the rankings system, click here.

Records in play as second half starts

July, 18, 2013
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyChris Davis had a prodigious first half, and he isn't the only player looking to rewrite the record book.
After four days off, all 30 MLB teams are back on the diamond on Friday. We get you ready for the key statistical storylines for the season’s second half.

Chris Davis has had a career year –- and the season isn’t even 100 games old yet. Davis begins his unofficial second half with 37 home runs, 93 RBI and a .315 batting average.

Who else has hit those thresholds in their team’s first 96 games? The list is short -- only Babe Ruth (1921 and 1928) and Jimmie Foxx (1932).

He is on pace to hit 62 home runs, which would break the American League record of 61 by Roger Maris in 1961. And with 64 extra-base hits so far he could threaten Babe Ruth’s record of 119 in 1921.

Davis isn’t the only player tearing things up in the AL. Miguel Cabrera is first in the league with a .365 average and 95 RBI and trails only Davis with 30 home runs.

Entering this season, the only player to finish in the top five in each Triple Crown category a year after winning the Triple Crown was Frank Robinson in 1967. Only four players have led the league in any triple-crown category while defending the Triple Crown, and none have led more than one the following year.

•  Manny Machado has 39 doubles at the break, the most since Edgar Martinez had 42 in 1996. On his current pace, he’ll threaten Earl Webb’s record of 67 two-baggers in 1931. No player has hit 60 doubles in a season since 1936.

•  Raul Ibanez has discovered the fountain of youth. Ibanez has hit 24 home runs this season and only needs six more to pass the 29 that Ted Williams hit in 1960 for the most by a player aged 41 or over.

•  Clayton Kershaw entered the break with a 1.98 ERA. The last pitcher to post an ERA below 2.00 for a full season was Roger Clemens in 2005. The only Dodgers pitcher to do so since the club moved to Los Angeles was Sandy Koufax, who did so three times.

•  So far this season, 19.75 percent of plate appearances have ended in a strikeout. That’s the most ever before the All-Star break, and just a fraction below last year’s full-season record of 19.78 percent.

•  Derek Jeter is 10th on the all-time hit list with 3,305 career hits, but should surpass Eddie Collins (3,313) and Paul Molitor (3,319) to move into eighth place before the season ends.

Jeter could also move into the Top 10 all-time in runs scored. He has touched home 1,869 times in his career, 19 behind Lou Gehrig for 10th all-time and 29 behind teammate Alex Rodriguez for ninth.

•  His power hasn’t been as prodigious since joining the Los Angeles Angels, but Albert Pujols is still climbing up the all-time home run list. He needs 10 home runs in the second half to become the 26th player in major-league history with 500 home runs.

Splitter is the difference for Iwakuma

July, 9, 2013
Hisashi Iwakuma gets the start for the Seattle Mariners' tonight against the Boston Red Sox.

Overshadowed in his own rotation by Felix Hernandez, it is Iwakuma that has the American League’s best ERA at 2.60 and leads all qualified starters with a 0.88 WHIP. These numbers were enough to get him selected to the All-Star Game in just his second season since coming over from Japan.

Splitting the difference
A big reason for Iwakuma’s success is his control over a devastating splitter. This season opponents are hitting .183 against the pitch -– the fifth lowest among starters who have thrown at least 100 splitters.

In 131 at-bats ending in an Iwakuma splitter, hitters have struck out 47 times and hit a ground ball 61 times. That means just 23 of 131 (18 percent) of hitters were able to elevate the pitch.

ESPN Stats & Information

Iwakuma has kept the majority of his splitters down in the strike zone or below it. The pitch has been most effective when he is able to start it at the bottom of the strike zone and allow the pitch’s break to take it out of the zone by the time it crosses the plate.

This season hitters have combined to go 3-for-55 (.055) against Iwakuma splitters that have ended up below the strike zone.

One of the best displays of Iwakuma’s splitter came back in May against the Oakland Athletics in which he allowed one run in seven innings. He finished off 11 at-bats with a splitter, six of which came via strikeout -– all swinging.

ESPN Stats & Information
Control freak
What forces hitters to bite on Iwakuma’s splitter is the fact that he’s nearly always around the plate. Over 55 percent of his pitches have been in the strike zone this season, the fourth-best rate in baseball among qualified starters.

This has helped Iwakuma induce the third-highest swing rate in the big leagues at 51 percent, behind only Cole Hamels and Jordan Zimmermann.

Home cooking
Iwakuma has a respectable 3.43 ERA and .240 opponent’s batting average on the road, but he has been nearly unhittable at Safeco Park. The righty has 1.84 ERA at home and has allowed opponent’s to hit .169.

Iwakuma has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched in each of his nine starts in Seattle this season. He’ll look to continue that success tonight against a Red Sox team that leads the majors in runs scored.

Kernels: Everything's just grand

June, 9, 2013
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig became a very popular man this week. His grand slam was one reason why.
Our weekly edition of notable and interesting facts has a one-topic subject this week.

Theme of the Week: Grand-Slam Barrage
It was a grand (slam) week for notable tidbits on grand slams and we're not just talking about Matt Holliday's on Sunday Night Baseball.

• John Mayberry cranked a walk-off slam to give the Phillies a win over the Marlins Tuesday, the first walk-off slam for the Phillies since Kim Batiste hit one against the Mets on August 13, 1993.

Mayberry-- who did not start the game-- also homered in the bottom of the 10th to re-tie the game after Miami took the lead in the top half. No player in the majors had hit two extra-inning homers in the same game since Baltimore's Mike Young did so against the Angels on May 28, 1987. And Elias confirms he was just the sixth player ever to do that.

Mayberry also didn't start the game. Since RBI became official in 1920, no player had ever come off the bench to record 5+ RBI, with all of them coming in extra innings.

• A grand slam was just one of the many oddities in Wednesday's White Sox-Mariners game. The teams played not just nine or ten, but thirteen scoreless innings. The White Sox piled up five hits and two walks in the innings and scored five runs, their most in any extra inning since May 17, 1996.

The Mariners answered with four straight singles to make it 5-1 and load the bases for Kyle Seager, whose grand slam tied the game.

Seager's slam was the latest by inning in Mariners history, and the latest in a game since David Eckstein hit a walk-off in the 14th inningfor the Angels on April 28, 2002. According to Elias, Seager's was the first game-tying grand slam in major-league history.

With a cap-tip to Retrosheet, the five runs were the most ever traded by two teams in an extra inning (i.e., so the game continued). And it was also the first time a game had gone scoreless through at least nine innings and then both teams scored five or more.

Addison Reed won, despite allowing five runs in extra innings. Only one other pitcher in the Live-Ball era entered a game in extras, allowed five or more runs, and still won. And that happened just two seasons ago: Micah Owings for the 2011 Diamondbacks.

• Thursday's grand slam belonged to newly-called-up Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig. It came in his fourth game in the majors, making him the first Dodger in the Live Ball Era to hit a slam within his first four career games..

But it wasn't even Puig's first homer of his career. It was his third. In his second career game two days earlier, Puig went deep twice and drove in five runs as Los Angeles beat San Diego 9-7. That performance made him the first player with a multi-homer game, and five or more RBI, so early in his career, in over 60 years.

Dino Restelli of the Pirates had a pair of two-run shots and an RBI single-- all off Warren Spahn, no less-- as Pittsburgh came from behind to beat the Boston Braves 8-7 on June 15, 1949.

Puig went deep again on Friday (a solo shot this time), giving him four home runs in his first five major-league games. According to Elias, only one other player since 1900 has been that prolific: Mike Jacobs, who did it in his first four games (one as a pinch hitter) when he debuted with the Mets in August 2005.

• Josh Donaldson of the Athletics extended our grand-slam parade on Friday by hitting Oakland's first one of the year and accounting for all four runs in their 4-3 victory over the White Sox.

He's the first player this season to hit a grand slam in a game in which his team only scored four runs total. And no Oakland player had done it in a win since July 15, 1990, when Felix Jose hit a first-inning slam off the Brewers' Chris Bosio. Despite not having another hit the rest of the game, those runs held up for a 4-1 victory.

Holliday's grand slam Sunday night was only the third in extra innings by a Cardinals player in the last 30 seasons. The others: by Tommy Herr and Albert Pujols, both came against the Mets.