Stats & Info: Anibal Sanchez

Wednesday Night Baseball: Tigers-Rangers

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25

Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
Aníbal Sánchez takes a 2.33 ERA into Wednesday’s start against the Rangers.
The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers square off on Wednesday Night Baseball at 8 ET on ESPN2.

The Tigers have won five in a row and lead the Kansas City Royals by three games in the AL Central. The Rangers are 11 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL West and on a six-game losing streak.

Here are three statistical storylines of two teams headed in different directions going into the matchup.

Anibal Sanchez leads the way

Aníbal Sánchez, the Tigers’ starter Wednesday night, has been the best pitcher on a staff that features two of the past three AL Cy Young Award winners. Since joining the Tigers’ rotation in 2012, Sánchez has an ERA of 2.79. Only Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners has a lower ERA among qualified AL starters during that time (2.73).

Sánchez uses off-speed pitches 52 percent of the time, the fifth-highest percentage among AL starters (minimum 10 starts). Among the 65 AL starters with at least 10 starts in 2014, Sánchez ranks in the top 11 in opponent batting average (.185), on-base percentage (.219) and slugging percentage (.260) in at-bats that end with off-speed pitches.

J.D. Martinez stays hot

J.D. Martinez followed up his award-winning week with a 2-for-5 performance that included a two-run home run Tuesday. Martinez began his current 13-game hit streak June 9 and has raised his batting average from .242 to .314 in the process.

Martinez has 12 extra-base hits during his hitting streak, including five home runs. Both numbers are tied for the best in baseball over the past 16 days.

Joe Saunders struggles

Wednesday’s starter for the Rangers is Joe Saunders. Saunders is 0-3 with a 4.11 ERA in six starts this season and has not won a start since Aug. 31, 2013. Saunders is 0-6 in 10 starts since that win.

Opponents have a .346 batting average against Saunders this season, worst among MLB starters (minimum six starts). Teammate Colby Lewis has the second-worst batting average against at .345.

Saunders is 1-3 with a 5.20 ERA in 10 career starts against the Tigers.

Top stats to know: Red Sox at Tigers

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
"Sunday Night Baseball" features a rematch of the 2013 American League Championship Series with the Detroit Tigers hosting the Boston Red Sox and trying to finish a sweep.

Both teams have some positives and lots of issues to discuss, as each has had trouble meeting expectations in 2014. Here are some of the topics our broadcast crew will be talking about tonight.

Star watch: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera has ripped Red Sox pitching this season, with 11 hits in 19 at-bats, including four doubles and a home run, along with three walks. He has more doubles against them than he has swings and misses.

Cabrera has 376 home runs, 1,311 RBIs and a .321 batting average in his career. Only five other players have ever amassed those numbers, with all five being in the Hall of Fame.

Matchup to watch: David Ortiz vs. Anibal Sanchez
Red Sox DH Ortiz enters today 4-for-10 in his career against Tigers starter Sanchez, combining regular-season and postseason play. Ortiz hit two home runs and a double against Sanchez in 2006 but is 1-for-7 with two strikeouts and two walks against him since then.

Left-handed hitters are 15-for-106 (.142 batting average) with zero home runs and 29 strikeouts against Sanchez this season and 4-for-44 against him in his last three starts. One reason is that Sanchez has four options that he can throw for strikes to a lefty. His strike rates with his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider are all 60 percent or better against left-handed batters.

Rookie watch: Xander Bogaerts
Each team’s third baseman is worth keeping an eye on. We wrote up Nick Castellanos’ recent success Saturday night.

But Red Sox infielder Bogaerts has him beat.

Through May 13, Bogaerts was hitting .252 with a .705 OPS. On May 14, he would go 2-for-4, and it’s been smooth sailing since. Bogaerts is hitting .362 with a .596 slugging percentage in his last 23 games, with four home runs and 10 doubles.

Bogaerts has improved the most against pitches on the outer half, as noted in the chart on the right.

What’s going on with the Red Sox offense?
The Red Sox are tied for 11th in the American League with 4.07 runs per game. Their .246 batting average and .375 slugging percentage are down 31 and 71 points from last season, respectively.

Boston has particularly been hurting at the bottom of the lineup. Its Nos. 6 through 9 hitters are batting .220 with a .628 OPS and 241 strikeouts. Each of those ranks worst in the American League.

What’s going on with Torii Hunter’s defense?
For much of his career, Hunter has been one of baseball’s top defensive outfielders, both via advanced defensive metrics and the eye test.

But Hunter’s best days appear to be behind him. Over the past two seasons as the Tigers right fielder, he has -23 Defensive Runs Saved (had 24 in the positive column in 2011 and 2012), with his -13 this season ranking last at that position in the major leagues.

Hunter’s Web Gem potential this season has been minimal. In 2011, he was credited with 36 Good Fielding Plays (think Web Gem nominee-type plays) by video scouts from Baseball Info Solutions. This season, in about one-third as many innings, he has only three such plays.

Top stats to know: Tigers at Red Sox

May, 18, 2014
May 18
The Detroit Tigers go for the sweep of the Boston Red Sox as they look to extend their winning streak to six games on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 p.m., ESPN).

The Tigers have outscored the Red Sox 7-1 in the series and have the 2013 American League ERA champ returning to the mound tonight. Here are some of the storylines Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Buster Olney will be talking about on our telecast.

Inside the Pitching Matchup: Sanchez vs. Peavy
Anibal Sanchez has gone from a solid midrotation starter with the Marlins to front-line caliber with the Tigers. His ERA, which was 3.70 from 2010 to 2012, dropped to 2.63 combining 2013 and 2014, with a strikeout rate that increased from 21 percent to 27 percent of hitters faced.

What has changed about Sanchez’s profile? He is throwing his devastating changeup more often than he used to, increasing its use from 15 times per 100 pitches (2010 to 2012) to 23 times per 100 pitches (2013 and 2014).

Red Sox starter Jake Peavy has had his share of struggles this season, and the primary reason for this has been something uncharacteristic -- wildness. Peavy leads AL starting pitchers with a 13 percent walk rate this season.

Star Watch: Ortiz vs. Cabrera
What should we be watching out for from two of the game’s premier power hitters in David Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera this evening?

With Ortiz, watch how Sanchez pitches him. If Sanchez throws him a pitch on the outer half of the plate, he’s living dangerously. Ortiz has a .364 batting average (best in the majors) over the past three seasons in at-bats that end with an outer-half pitch.

With Cabrera in the middle of a potent Tigers lineup, see how the Red Sox approach the situation should they face him with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Over the past three seasons, Cabrera is hitting .444 (56-for-126) with 15 homers in that scenario. Even when opponents try to avoid him, they can’t. He is 19-for-49 in those situations when the at-bat ends with a pitch out of the strike zone.

Red-Hot: Victor Martinez
Tigers DH Martinez got off to a slow start last season but has been one of the best hitters in the game over the past 11 months. Martinez’s .357 batting average since July 1 is the best in the majors over that span.

Martinez has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, with six home runs in 74 at-bats. He is 3-for-9 in this series, but the damage could be far worse. He has recorded six balls that our hit classification system charted as “hard-hit.”

What makes Martinez so challenging is that he is extraordinarily difficult to strike out. He has fanned in only 6 percent of his plate appearances this season, the lowest rate among any hitter currently qualified for the batting title.

Kernels: Postseason in review

November, 4, 2013
By now you've probably heard that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. And that a couple of the games had endings (a pickoff, an obstruction call) the likes of which we'd never seen before in the postseason. (We here at Kernels were hoping for Game 5 to end on a pitch getting stuck in the umpire's mask. That's an automatic base, you know.)

To get to the World Series, however, the 10 postseason teams had to play 32 other games first. So let's recap a few of our favorite nuggets from the earlier rounds.

•  The Tigers lost ALDS Game 2 to the Athletics on Stephen Vogt's walk-off single. It was Detroit's first 1-0 postseason loss in team history. The Tigers and Reds had been the only two original franchises without such a loss. Ten days later, the Tigers lost Game 3 of the ALCS on Mike Napoli's solo homer, becoming the first team since the 1991 Braves and 1991 Pirates to drop two 1-0 games in the same postseason.

Napoli's homer was the first in 12 years to be the only run of a postseason game; Jorge Posada's solo shot for the Yankees held up to beat the Athletics in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS (better known for Derek Jeter’s flip relay throw that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate).

Justin Verlander allowed Napoli's run and became just the second pitcher to take a loss with one run, one walk, and double-digit strikeouts. Brooklyn's Don Newcombe was the other, as he gave up a walk-off homer to the Yankees' Tommy Henrich in the 1949 World Series (the first walk-off home in the Fall Classic).

•  The Tigers also won a 1-0 game this October; that's the ALCS opener where Daniel Nava's 9th-inning single was Boston's only hit.

Anibal Sanchez walked six in that game, becoming the first pitcher with zero hits, six walks, and a dozen strikeouts in any game since Nolan Ryan's no-hitter for the Angels in 1974. It was just the second game in postseason history where a team's only hit came in the ninth inning; the other was Cookie Lavagetto's pinch-hit walk-off double for the Dodgers against the Yankees in a near no-hitter by Bill Bevens in the 1947 World Series.

Max Scherzer fanned 13 in Game 2, giving the Tigers the second set of teammates with 12-strikeout games in the same postseason series. The other pair was Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott for the 1986 Astros.

Scherzer got a no-decision when David Ortiz hit his grand slam in the eighth. Thanks to Tigers pitching changes, all four runs were charged to different hurlers, just the ninth grand slam ever to have that quirk. Boston's six runs in the game came off six different pitchers, the first time in the live-ball era-- regular or postseason-- that a team had scored six or more runs with every opposing pitcher being charged with exactly one.

•  Shane Victorino also hit a grand slam in the ALCS. Not only did that make the Red Sox the first AL team with two postseason slams since the 1987 Twins (Dan Gladden, Kent Hrbek), but it was the second of Victorino's career. He had one with the Phillies in 2008. Jim Thome is the only other player with two grand slams in postseason play.

Victorino-- who led the AL with 18 hit-by-pitches in the regular season-- got plunked twice more by the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS. He's the first Red Sox hitter ever to get hit twice in a postseason game.

•  The Dodgers' four homers in NLCS Game 5 were the most ever by a single team in a postseason game at Dodger Stadium. Adrian Gonzalez hit two; he and Carl Crawford (who did it in the Division Series) became the first Dodgers teammates with multi-homer games in the same postseason since Davey Lopes and Steve Garvey in 1978. The Dodgers also had an NLCS game with two triples (including the one that Yasiel Puig initially thought was a homer). They were the only National League team without a multi-triple game in the regular season.

•  Jacoby Ellsbury had two singles, a double, and a triple in ALCS Game 4. The last Red Sox player with a four-hit postseason game as a leadoff hitter was Ellsbury in the 2007 World Series. Only one other player had done it in team history: Wally Moses in 1946.

And only one other major-leaguer has two such games in his career: Mickey Rivers of the Yankees. Ellsbury was also the second Boston hitter to go single-double-triple in the postseason; Mike Stanley did it in the 1999 ALDS.

•  When facing elimination, the old saying is "everybody's available". In Game 4 of the ALDS, the Rays ran nine different pitchers to the mound, the first team in postseason history to use that many in a nine-inning game.

Jeremy Hellickson was pulled after allowing two walks and a single to start the 2nd inning; Jamey Wright got out of it without any damage. Hellickson thus became the second starting pitcher in postseason history to work one inning (or less), allow zero runs, and leave for non-injury reasons.

Curly Ogden of the Senators was used as a decoy in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series so that Giants manager John McGraw would set his lineup for a righty, but after two batters the defense switched to southpaw George Mogridge. It worked; that game gave Washington its only World Series title.

Sanchez, Tigers starters dominate ALCS

October, 17, 2013

Al Bello/Getty Images
Anibal Sanchez gets the ball for Game 6 after holding the Red Sox hitless for six innings in Game 1.

The Detroit Tigers evened the ALCS up at two games apiece with their 7-3 victory Wednesday night.

Now, they get a chance to go up 3-2 on the Boston Red Sox as they send Anibal Sanchez to the mound in Game 5 tonight.

In his Game 1 start, Sanchez threw six no-hit innings before being removed in Detroit’s 1-0 victory. He was the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

He’s also the fourth pitcher in MLB postseason history to go at least six innings without allowing a hit. In two of the others, the pitcher went on to complete the no-hitter (Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series and Roy Halladay in the 2010 NLDS). The third instance was in the 1999 ALDS, when Pedro Martinez threw six hitless innings in relief.

How was Sanchez able to dominate Red Sox hitters? By getting them to chase pitches with two strikes.

Red Sox hitters chased 41 percent of pitches in two-strike counts in Game 1, compared to just 17 percent before two strikes. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

It wasn’t just Sanchez flustering Boston hitters in Game 1, but the Tigers bullpen did its part as well, allowing one hit in three shutout innings with no walks and five strikeouts.

In the game, Tigers pitchers struck out 17 Red Sox batters, tying the record for most strikeouts by a staff in a nine-inning postseason game.

The Detroit pitching dominance has been a continuing theme in the series. The four-man staff of Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister has combined for 42 strikeouts in the first four games of the series.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the most strikeouts for a team’s starters in the first four games of any series in postseason history. In addition, that group's total of one run allowed per nine innings pitched (3 R in 27 IP) is the second-lowest for any starting staff through the first four games of a League Championship Series.

The only staff with a better mark in an LCS was... last year’s Tigers, whose staff allowed two runs in the first 27 1/3 innings pitched.

In the two ALCS, those four Tigers starters have combined for a 5-1 record, with a 0.83 ERA, .146 opponents’ batting average and more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.

Strikeouts power Tigers to near no-no

October, 13, 2013

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJacoby Ellsbury was one of three Red Sox players to strike out three times against the Tigers.
Just two days after Justin Verlander flirted with a no-hitter against the Oakland Athletics, the Detroit Tigers came even closer to making history Saturday against the Boston Red Sox.

The Tigers pitched 8 1/3 no-hit innings before a Daniel Nava single off Joaquin Benoit spoiled the bid. It was the second longest no-hit bid in postseason history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Bill Bevens carried a no-hitter 8 2/3 innings for the Yankees in Game 4 of the 1947 World Series before a Cookie Lavagetto walk-off double not only spoiled the no-hitter but gave the Dodgers the win.

The Tigers would hold on to win 1-0, just over five hours after the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0. Saturday is the first day in postseason history with two 1-0 games.

While the Cardinals won Saturday in a tidy two hours and 40 minutes, the Tigers-Red Sox game lasted more than an hour longer at 3:56. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was more than a half hour longer than the previous longest 9-inning, 1-0 game in postseason history (3:23 – 2013 ALDS Game 2).

Tigers match strikeout mark
The Tigers' staff set a major-league record for strikeouts during the regular season, and the team hasn’t slowed since. Anibal Sanchez (12), Al Alburquerque (2), Jose Veras (2) and Joaquin Benoit (1) combined for 17 strikeouts Saturday, matching the most strikeouts by a team in a nine-inning game in postseason history.

Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher against the Red Sox in postseason history. Thanks to a rising pitch count, he was pulled after just six innings, becoming the first pitcher in postseason history to go at least six innings and be pulled with a no-hitter intact.

The Elias Sports Bureau also notes that Sanchez’s 12 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher before he allowed a hit in a postseason game in major-league history. The previous record belonged to Sandy Koufax, who struck out 10 Yankees before allowing a hit in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series.

How Sanchez Won
• Sanchez was able to overcome falling behind in the count. More hitters saw a first-pitch ball (14) than a first-pitch strike (11), but he held Red Sox hitters to 0-for-9 with six strikeouts (and five walks) after falling behind 1-0. The Red Sox had baseball’s best average (.295) and slugging percentage (.502) after getting ahead in the count 1-0 during the regular season.

• Sanchez was able to get the Red Sox to expand their strike zone with two strikes. Hitters chased only 17 percent of his pitches before two strikes but upped that to 41 percent in two-strike counts. Seven of his 12 strikeouts came on pitches out of the zone.

• Sanchez took 17 of the 25 hitters he faced to a two-strike count, retiring 15 of those. He used three pitches to put Red Sox hitters away, getting six outs on his slider (all strikeouts), five outs on his fastball (four strikeouts) and four outs on his changeup (two strikeouts). The Red Sox swung at 20 pitches with two strikes and put only three in play.

How he lost: Anibal Sanchez vs Athletics

October, 7, 2013

Anibal Sanchez was done in by Oakland's left-handed hitters.

What went wrong for Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez in Game 3 of the ALDS?

Sanchez, who posted an AL-best 2.57 ERA this season, was roughed up for six runs and three home runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched. He had allowed a total of seven runs in his previous five starts (over a combined 30 2/3 innings pitched) and did not have a start all season in which he allowed multiple homers.

Pitch Location
Sanchez invited trouble with his pitch location. Of his 101 pitches, 49 were in the upper-half of the strike zone or above. That led to four Athletics hits, including the homers by Brandon Moss and Seth Smith in the 5th inning.

During a typical regular-season start, Sanchez threw about 41 of every 100 pitches to that area.

Unable to finish
The Moss home run was one of two that Sanchez allowed with a two-strike count on Monday (the other being by Josh Reddick.

Sanchez had only allowed three two-strike homers during the regular season and had only one start in which he allowed multiple two-strike homers in his career (August 16, 2011 against the Colorado Rockies) prior to Monday.

An ineffective changeup
One of the reasons that Sanchez pitched so well in the 2012 postseason was that his secondary pitches were very effective. In his ALCS win over the Yankees and World Series start against the Giants, Sanchez had a great changeup, netting 10 outs with the pitch without allowing a hit.

On Monday, Sanchez got eight swings and misses against that pitch, but allowed three hits with it. He paid the price for the hanger he threw Moss, which ended up hooked into the right field bleachers.

Sanchez had allowed only one home run with his changeup in his last 14 starts.

Did you know?
The Tigers had not had a starter allow at least six runs while retiring 13 batters or fewer since June 25, when Rick Porcello got roughed up for seven runs by the Angels.

They only had five such starts all season, tied with the Cardinals for the second fewest in the majors. Only the Rays, with four, had fewer.

Justin Havens also contributed to this post.

Sanchez's no-hit bid has familiar ring to it

May, 25, 2013
There have been a bunch of times that it seemed like we were going to see the first no-hitter in the major leagues this season.

But Anibal Sanchez’s bid came up just short against the Minnesota Twins. It gets added to the list of really good pitching performances this season.

Let’s run through some of the statistical highlights.

Nothing new for Sanchez
Sanchez has thrown five complete games in which he has allowed one hit or fewer, the most of any active pitcher (with the complete games being a minimum of nine innings). In the past 40 seasons, only Nolan Ryan (14), Dave Stieb (6) and Randy Johnson (6) have more.

This was also the second time Sanchez had a no-hitter broken up in the ninth inning in the past three seasons. On April 22, 2011, he had one against the Colorado Rockies, broken up by Dexter Fowler leading off the ninth inning.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted Sanchez is the first pitcher to have two no-hit bids broken up that late within a three-year span since Pedro Martinez did in 1994 and 1995.

Elias also noted Sanchez became the third pitcher in Tigers history to throw a shutout in which he allowed one hit or fewer and struck out at least 12. Justin Verlander and Jim Bunning each did that in no-hitters, and Verlander also did it in a one-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates last season.

This was Sanchez's third 10-strikeout game in 22 starts with the Tigers.

He had three in 132 starts with the Marlins.

Nothing new for the Tigers
This was the third time the Tigers had a no-hit bid broken up in the ninth inning in the past four seasons. The others were by Armando Galarraga against the Cleveland Indians (which would have been a perfect game if not for a blown call at first base)and Verlander in that start against the Pirates.

And nothing new for Mauer, either
This was the third time Joe Mauer broke up a no-hit bid in the ninth inning. He also did so against Gavin Floyd and the White Sox in 2008, and a combined effort by the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Elias noted that in the expansion era (since 1961), Mauer and former Yankee Horace Clarke are the only players to break up three no-hit bids in the ninth inning.

What made Sanchez so good?
This game was a little different from Sanchez’s 17-strikeout game against the Atlanta Braves on April 26. That day, he recorded 28 swings-and-misses, twice as many as he had against the Twins on Friday night.

What stood out for Sanchez was that his called-strike rate was a season-high 42 percent (32 strikes on 77 takes).

Sanchez got to two strikes on 20 hitters and retired all 20, striking out 12. He struck out six with his fastball, three with his slider, two with his changeup and one with his curveball. The six strikeouts with his fastball were his most in more than a year (he had seven against the Arizona Diamondbacks last April 28).

The Tigers' defense, which has had trouble converting batted balls into outs all season, came through for Sanchez in this one. Sanchez entered the game with a .361 opponents batting average on balls in play, the fifth-highest in the majors among ERA-title qualifiers.

Great games, no no-nos
Sanchez posted a 94 on the Bill James Game Score metric, the fourth-best start this season. The only ones it trailed were Shelby Miller’s one-hit shutout against the Rockies (98), Matt Harvey’s one-hit no-decision against the Chicago White Sox (97) and Yu Darvish’s near-perfecto versus the Houston Astros (96).

It tied for the third-best by a Tigers pitcher since 2000, trailing only a Verlander no-hitter and one-hitter.

Had he gotten it
Had he completed the no-hit bid, Sanchez would have become the fourth active pitcher to throw a pair of no-hitters, joining Verlander, Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle.

He also would have become the seventh pitcher to throw no-hitters for multiple teams in major league history, joining a list that includes Cy Young, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan.

Kernels: Another big week of strikeout feats

April, 28, 2013

Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsAnibal Sanchez had his best stuff on Friday.

Let's review another week in statistical marvels and oddities in Major League Baseball.

Feat of the Week: Anibal Sanchez 17 K
There were plenty of impressive strikeout-related performances this week (we’ll note one more below), but none topped Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez who set a franchise record with an 8-inning, 17-strikeout outing against the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

It was the first 17-whiff game since Brandon Morrow's one-hitter against the Rays on August 8, 2010, and the first that was not a complete game since Johan Santana two-hit Texas for eight innings on August 19, 2007.

Two Atlanta starters-- Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman-- had four strikeouts each, just the second time in the Live Ball Era that a pair of Braves have done that in the same game. The others were Greg Norton and Gregor Blanco in 2008-- and that was in a 17-inning game.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers piled up 15 hits and won via shutout 10-0.

The last pitcher to get 10 or more runs of support in a 17-strikeout game was Sandy Koufax against the Chicago Cubs on April 24, 1962.

The four-whiff wonder
Not only did he get his first career base hit in Sunday's game, but Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani pulled off the rare four-strikeout inning when Denard Span reached on a wild pitch. He's just the fifth pitcher in franchise history with a four-strikeout frame. The last was Frankie Rodriguez, on July 22, 2001, against the Marlins.

It was just the 67th documented occurrence of a four-strikeout inning in major-league history; only the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians (6 each) have done it more frequently than the Reds.

Cingrani also is the fifth pitcher currently in the major leagues to have an 11-strikeout, no-runs outing no more than six games into his career.

The other four are Mariano Rivera (1995 against a Chicago White Sox team that included ESPN’s John Kruk!), Oliver Perez (2002), Matt Moore (2011) and Matt Harvey (2013).

Another walk-off grand slam
This week Jordany Valdespin became the 12th player in New York Mets history to play all three outfield positions in the same game.

But what about his walk-off grand slam?

It was already the second one this season; Matt Wieters had one for the Orioles last week, and both have been in tie games in the 10th inning.

Last year there were only three walk-off slams total, all in the ninth inning.

Alex Gordon also had an extra-inning slam this week, the first for the Kansas City Royals since Danny Tartabull had one against the New York Yankees in 1991.

Beyond the weird weather- Braves/Rockies oddities
In Tuesday's frigid doubleheader in Colorado, both Colorado Rockies starters (Jeff Francis and Jon Garland) gave up three home runs as the Atlanta Braves swept the twinbill.

It was the first time that starters for the same team gave up three or more homers in both ends of a doubleheader since August 29, 1998. Dennis Springer and Bryan Rekar managed that for the newly-founded Tampa Bay Devil Rays against the Detroit Tigers.

Although he did not homer, Reed Johnson had a 4-for-4 day with three doubles in the day game of that doubleheader.

It was the first time a player in an Atlanta uniform had three extra-base hits, no runs and no RBI in a game; the last Brave with such a line was Frank Torre (Joe’s brother) for the Milwaukee Braves against the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 14, 1957.

Scorekeeping watch: An unusually short shutout
The Oakland AthleticsBoston Red Sox game was called after seven innings on Tuesday night due to rain, with the Athletics winning by a 13-0 count.

There hadn't been a shutout of 13 runs or more, in a game that lasted seven innings or less, in more than 60 years.

On August 16, 1952, the Dodgers ran up 15 runs on the Phillies at Ebbets Field before the game was called with one out in the top of the seventh.

Three key moves: Sanchez, Choo, Youkilis

December, 16, 2012
Throughout the offseason, we'll feature regular in-depth reviews of MLB moves. This week's piece looks at three veterans: Shin-Soo Choo, Anibal Sanchez, and Kevin Youkilis.

Anibal Sanchez signs 5-year deal with Tigers
Sanchez will now try to duplicate the success he had with the Detroit Tigers down the stretch for a full season in 2013 and beyond.

One key change for Sanchez after he was traded mid-season from Miami to Detroit was an increase in the use of his curveball. Including the playoffs, he threw 55 more curves in 26 fewer innings in Motown compared to Florida.

His hook was a liability with the Marlins but became a key out-pitch for him with the Tigers.

Opponents hit .379 in at-bats ending in a curve and whiffed on just one of every 10 swings against the pitch when he was in Miami.

Sanchez began to throw his curveball more often in all counts, especially with two strikes, after moving to Detroit, and he dominated hitters with the pitch.

After throwing just 14 two-strike curves in a Marlins uniform, he tripled that number with the Tigers. His 47 two-strike curves in Detroit netted him 28 outs and just one hit allowed.

Overall, he doubled his curveball miss rate with the Tigers and opponents hit just .111 against it, including a 3-for-31 mark by lefties.

In his last five regular-season starts and first two postseason starts (vs the Athletics and Yankees), Sanchez threw 104 curveballs and got 27 outs with the pitch, yielding just one baserunner.
-- Katie Sharp

Reds obtain Shin-Soo Choo in 3-team trade
Choo and his .384 on-base percentage over the last five seasons represents a distinct upgrade for the Cincinnati Reds in the leadoff spot. Reds leadoff hitters had a .254 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage, which ranked last and next-to-last in the majors respectively.

What are the two aspects of Choo’s game in which he is statistically struggling that are worth watching in 2013?

One would be his issues with left-handed pitching. Choo averaged one home run per 33 plate appearances against lefties in 2008 and 2009, but is averaging just one per 144 over the last three seasons.

In 2012, Choo slugged only .286 against lefties, fifth-worst among the 64 lefties with 100 plate appearances against southpaws last season.

The other problem for Choo is his likely transition to center field. Choo finished with -12 Defensive Runs Saved (a stat that measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs and deter baserunners with your throwing arm). That ranked tied for second-worst among right fielders last season.

The defensive value that Choo has comes from his throwing arm. His 11 Defensive Runs Saved contributed with his arm over the last three seasons are fourth-most among right fielders, behind Jeff Francoeur, Jose Bautista, and Torii Hunter.

One item of note on the Choo trade from the Indians perspective. The Indians got 20 Wins Above Replacement from Choo after obtaining him from the Seattle Mariners in 2006, giving up Ben Broussard.

For the -0.9 WAR that Broussard was worth to Seattle, the Indians get the 20 WAR from Choo, and all the WAR that Trevor Bauer will contribute, being under team control until 2018.
--Justin Havens

Kevin Youkilis signs 1-year deal with Yankees
Youkilis replenishes an offensive approach the New York Yankees were in danger of losing this offseason.

Patience, discipline and the ability to work the count have been trademarks of the Yankees offense in recent history.

The Yankees have faced more pitches per plate appearance than the league average in 16 straight seasons. Last year, the team saw 3.89 pitches per plate appearance, fourth-most in MLB.

The Yankees had seven players in the upper half of the league in pitches per plate appearance last season (min. 250 PA). But of those seven, Russell Martin, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez have signed elsewhere, while Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher remain on the market.

Youkilis ranked third in the majors with 4.34 pitches per plate appearance last season behind Adam Dunn and A.J. Ellis. He’s seen the third-most pitches per plate appearance among active players since joining the league in 2004.
--Will Cohen

Vogelsong looks to stay ahead vs Tigers

October, 27, 2012

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound for Game 3 of the World Series. He'll be opposed by Anibal Sanchez.
The World Series moves to Detroit for Game 3, where the San Francisco Giants will send Ryan Vogelsong to the mound and the Detroit Tigers counter with Anibal Sanchez. Both pitchers are making their first career World Series start.

Vogelsong has a streak of three consecutive starts allowing one earned run or fewer, tied for the most in a single postseason in Giants history.

Opposing hitters are 2-for-34 against him in the postseason in at-bats ending in pitchers’ counts (0-1, 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2), and 3-for-36 in at-bats ending with two strikes.

If Vogelsong falls behind or gets to a three-ball count, Tigers hitters should look for his fastball. Vogelsong has thrown 23 pitches in three-ball counts and 10 in 2-0 counts this postseason -- and all of them have been fastballs. He’s thrown just 10 offspeed pitches in hitters’ counts (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 and 3-1) in his three starts.

Vogelsong struggled with his fastball for most of the second half of the season, but it has been extremely effective for him down the stretch and into the postseason.

Tale of Two Starts
Anibal Sanchez
Sanchez faced the Giants twice this season before being traded to Detroit, with drastically different results. He allowed one earned run in seven innings, striking out seven on May 3. Three weeks later, he allowed five earned runs and didn’t get out of the sixth inning.

The major difference between the two outings was the effectiveness of his offspeed pitches. The Giants were 1-for-9 against offspeed pitches in his first start, and 5-for-12 against them in his second start.

Stats to Watch
• Of the 50 teams to take a 2-0 series lead in a best-of-seven format, 40 of them (80 percent) went on to win the World Series.

• The past eight teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series went on to win, including the Giants two years ago.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants are the 37th team in World Series history to win the first two games at home in a best-of-seven format. More than 80 percent (29 of the previous 36) of those teams have gone on to win the World Series, including each of the last 13 teams to take such a lead. The 1981 Yankees are the last team to lose after winning the first two at home.

• The Giants have won five straight postseason games, the longest postseason win streak in franchise history (outscored opponents 30-4).

• The Tigers trail a postseason series 2-0 for sixth time -- they lost the previous five such series.

• Pablo Sandoval has an eight-game postseason hit streak and has 21 hits this postseason. That’s one shy of J.T. Show's single-postseason franchise record of 22 set in 2002.

Tigers take hook to Detroit with 2-0 lead

October, 14, 2012
The Detroit Tigers entered the ninth inning of Game 2 with a 3-0 lead, but unlike Saturday night, this time they only needed three more outs to finish off the New York Yankees.

The Tigers are just the third team to shut out the Yankees in an ALCS game, joining the 2000 Mariners and 2010 Rangers. All three of those shutouts have come at Yankee Stadium.

Detroit held the Yankees to only four hits, becoming the fourth team to allow four hits or fewer in a postseason shutout of the team in the Bronx.

And with the win the Tigers are now 8-3 all-time in the postseason vs the Yankees, the best postseason record vs the Yankees among all teams.

Starting Strong
Anibal Sanchez scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings to continue a strong run of starting pitching by the Tigers this postseason. Detroit’s rotation has a 0.94 ERA in seven games and has not allowed an earned run in the past four outings.

The Tigers are the first team in the last 100 years to have their starters allow zero earned runs in four straight starts of five innings or more, according to Elias.

Sanchez has been nearly unhittable in his last four starts dating back to September 25 versus the Royals. Over 28 2/3 innings, he has given up only three runs and two extra-base hits for a 0.94 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.

His curveball has been electric during this streak. He has thrown 68 curves over this four-start span, netting him 20 outs and zero baserunners allowed. Of the 16 curveballs put in play, 11 were on the ground and just one was classified as a line drive.

Ca-no He Didn’t!
Robinson Cano’s miserable 2012 postseason continued with another 0-fer effort. He is now hitless in his last 26 at-bats, the longest hitless streak in a single postseason in major-league history, according to Elias.

Robinson Cano
All four of his outs in this game came on offspeed pitches: two sliders, one curveball and a changeup. Cano hit .321 vs the soft stuff during the regular season, the second-best mark among all qualified batters.

The Tigers continued the successful strategy of pitching away to Cano, a pattern started by the Baltimore Orioles. Two-thirds of the pitches Cano has seen this postseason have been on the outer third of the plate or off the outside corner.

He has made 22 outs and has reached base just once (a walk in ALDS Game 2) in at-bats ending in a pitch to that location. On Sunday night nine of the 14 pitches he saw were away, and all four of the outs he recorded came on those pitches.

Panic in the Bronx?
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that this is the ninth time the Yankees have been down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. They have come back to win four of the previous eight series. The four series wins when trailing 2-0 are the most of any major-league team.

First half defensive All-Stars

July, 13, 2011

Getty Images/Gregory ShamusAsdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Gomez show off the skills that made them Defensive All-Stars.

With the All-Star break almost over, and as we await the resumption of baseball on Thursday, let’s take a break from the typical chatter of second-half storylines, and shift our focus to the players on the field and the defensive All-Stars of the first half.

Baseball Info Solutions is a company specializing in determining the best (and worst) defensive players in more than 100 different metrics, from barehanded plays to home run robberies.

Using their data, here’s our take on the players in the first half that have been good enough to be called a Defensive All-Star. (Note: ranks are for the player at his position, unless otherwise noted)

Pitcher: Anibal Sanchez, Marlins
Most Barehanded Plays For Outs (5)
Sanchez is averaging more than a strikeout per inning, but he gets on this list because of his defense while on the mound.

Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Most Catcher Blocks (401)
Yadier is known for a strong arm, having thrown out over 40 percent of baserunners during his career. This season he also leads everyone in catcher blocks, defined as plays when runners are on base or if the pitch was the third strike.

First Base: Carlos Pena, Cubs
Most Difficult Throws Handled (32)
Pena can likely thank Starlin Castro for this award, as the shortstop already has 18 errors this season. Handling difficult throws applies to throws in the dirt or throws wide of the bag.

Second Base: Brandon Phillips, Reds
Most Double Plays Turned Despite An Aggressive Slide (6)
Brandon Phillips has wowed many fans with his defensive Web gems, he’s also one of the best at turning double plays.

Third Base: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Most Barehanded Plays For Outs (10)
Ramirez has not only been one of the Cubs best offensive players, hitting .298 with 15 home runs and a team leading 51 RBI, but he’s also been a star on the diamond, converting 10 barehanded plays into outs.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Most Web Gems (11) and Web Gems Points in MLB (41)
Asdrubal Cabrera has been a familiar face on Baseball Tonight, as a four-time Web Gem champ. Between two behind the back flips, a bare-hander on a short hop, and a diving stop and throw in a defensive shift, Cabrera has done it all defensively this season.

Left Field: Sam Fuld, Rays
Most Web Gems Either 1st or 2nd in MLB (9)
Despite being second in both Web Gems and Web Gem points, Fuld has more Web Gems rated as first- or second-best than any other player.

Center Field: Carlos Gomez, Brewers
Tied for Most Home Run Robberies in MLB (2)
Taking away a home run might be the most exciting play in baseball, and Gomez has done it twice, once with the bases empty and once with Carlos Beltran on first base, saving three potential runs.

Right Field: Nick Swisher, Yankees

Most Times Holding Players to a Single Among OF (6)
Swisher has recently begun to heat up at the plate, with seven homers and a .986 OPS since June 1, but his strong arm in the outfield has been an asset for the Yankees all season.

For more defensive stars, check out Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems Mid-Year Special (11:30 ET, ESPN2).
After scoring only 14 runs combined in four games entering Wednesday's contest with the Cleveland Indians, the Boston Red Sox have now hammered out 14 runs in each of their last two games, with Thursday's victim being the Detroit Tigers.

This marked the eighth time since 1919 that Boston scored at least 14 runs in back-to-back games, and first time since July of 1998.

Much to the relief of Red Sox fans, at the forefront of this offensive outburst is Carl Crawford, who had two triples as part of his second straight four-hit game. He's just the fourth different Red Sox player (joining Dustin Pedroia, Jim Rice and Wade Boggs, who did it three different times) with consecutive four-hit games in the divisional era.

Crawford's also the first Red Sox player with at least four hits and at least two extra-base hits in consecutive games since Del Pratt did it in back-to-back games on August 23-24, 1921.

In the last two games alone Crawford has raised his average from .212 to .244 and seen his slugging percentage jump from .293 to .368 during that same stretch.

While all the talk following the game centered on Boston's offense, entering Thursday's contest the buzz surrounded the man tasked with shutting it down. Heading into the game, Max Scherzer was 3-0 in five home starts with a 0.77 ERA, the lowest ERA for a Tigers pitcher in his first five home starts of a season since 1945, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Scherzer's home ERA is now 2.43 following the Tigers' 14-1 loss to the Red Sox.

Scherezer faced three batters in the second inning without recording an out before exiting. Almost all the damage was done by the seven left-handed hitters in Boston's lineup. Nine of the 15 batters Scherzer faced reached base, and six of the seven hits he allowed were to left-handed batters.

Elsewhere around the majors:

• After using eight different relief pitchers on Wednesday in their 19-inning win over the Cincinnati Reds, Cliff Lee gave the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen a much-needed day off, throwing eight innings. But it was his bat that contributed almost as much as his arm. Cliff Lee had two hits and three RBI, without the benefit of a home run. He's just the fifth Phillies pitcher since Divisional Play began in 1969 to do that.

Jay Bruce did hit a two-run home run off Lee. It was Bruce's 10th home run in the month of May, currently tied with Jose Bautista for the most in the month of May.

• The Florida Marlins defeated the San Francisco Giants 1-0 behind Anibal Sanchez who pitched the third shutout of his career. It marked just the fifth time in franchise history that a pitcher threw a 1-0 shutout. Sanchez has allowed zero earned runs in four of his last seven starts.

As for the Giants, their first game without Buster Posey displayed their offensive deficiencies that could prevent them from reaching the playoffs. According to 10,000 simulations done by, the injury dropped the Giants' chances of making the playoffs to 44.4 percent if he is out for the entire season.

Francisco Liriano's no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox was the 248th in major league history and 246th in the regular season. Liriano walked six and struck out two, becoming just the second pitcher since 1900 to have four more walks than strikeouts in a no-hitter according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pittsburgh’s Cliff Chambers walked eight and struck out four when he no-hit the Braves in 1951.

Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter last night is a great example of a statistical oddity in baseball. Looking inside the numbers at the no-hitter, Liriano did not do much differently than in his previous 5 starts that yielded a 9.13 ERA. In fact in some cases, his numbers were worse.

His miss pct on his “out pitches” (changeup and slider) were actually worse than his season total

On top of that, Liriano's no-no wasn't all that special. Last year, Edwin Jackson, Liriano's opponent on the mound Tuesday, threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays also in a 1-0 game. In fact, the strike percentage, called strikes and three-ball counts from both of those games were nearly identical.

Although it's the first no-hitter of this season, Liriano's was the seventh this decade. From 2000-2009, there were a total of 15 no-hitters.

Here's more on how Liriano was able to no-hit the White Sox:

• He adjusted to the White Sox as the game went on. Chicago swung at just 34.1 percent of Liriano's pitches, the lowest percentage against the Twins' left-hander over the last three seasons. From innings 1-3, Liriano threw just 38.7 percent of his pitches in the strike zone. That number increased to 43.6 in innings 4-6 and 48.6 in innings 7-9.

• The White Sox did not hit the ball out of the infield in the last four innings, as Liriano threw 59.6 percent of his pitches down in that span, compared to 46.5 in the first five innings.

• Twenty-one of Liriano's 26 changeups were low. He got five outs with his changeup in the last four innings (including a double play), and none left the infield.

• Liriano had six innings of 12 pitches or less. It's even more impressive considering that he threw first-pitch balls to 19 of the 30 White Sox hitters he faced.

While Liriano got the no-no, one could argue that he wasn't even the best pitcher in U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday. Jackson and reliever Matt Thornton outpitched Liriano in several categories.

Finally, Liriano was just the second active starting pitcher to throw a no-hitter after previously undergoing Tommy John surgery joining Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins.