Stats & Info: Jay Bruce

Top stats to know: Cardinals vs. Reds

May, 25, 2014
May 25
The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds square off in the rubber match of a series tonight (8 ET, ESPN) in a game that should be an entertaining pitcher’s duel. Here's a look at some of the numbers our broadcast crew will be talking about tonight.

Wainwright picks up where he left off
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright has shown no ill effects from a laborious 2013 workload in which he worked 276 2/3 innings, including postseason (the most by any pitcher since Curt Schilling threw 305 and Randy Johnson threw 291 in 2001).

Wainwright will look to continue an impressive start to the season, one in which he is 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA.

Part of his success is thanks to an opponent batting average of just .185 this season, second in the majors to Johnny Cueto.

Last season, Wainwright posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in Cardinals franchise history (6.3). His mark this season, (4.3), would be the fourth-best.

Wainwright’s breaking ball has long been the key to his success, and that’s no different this season. His 45 strikeouts with his curve and slider this season ranked third in the majors entering Sunday, trailing Corey Kluber (61) and Jose Fernandez (52).

Wainwright is 6-9 with a 4.75 ERA in his career against the Reds, his worst won-loss record and second-worst ERA against any National League team. The only NL team against which he has a higher ERA is the New York Mets (5.13), whom he had one of the finest moments of his career against when he saved Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

He did pitch seven scoreless innings against the Reds earlier this season.

Leake’s efficiency
Mike Leake has ranked among the most efficient pitchers in the majors this season. In fact, he has matched Wainwright in one regard. They are tied for the second-fewest pitches per inning this season (13.9), trailing Tim Hudson (12.9).

League has made significant improvements to his work against right-handed hitters. They hit .269 with a .445 slugging percentage in 2012 and 2013 but are hitting only .209 with a .291 slugging percentage against him in 2014.

The Cardinals have hit Leake well. He is 3-4 with a 5.06 ERA in 10 games, nine starts, against them.

But again, like Wainwright, he has been good against tonight's opponent this season, throwing eight scoreless innings in his lone meeting against the Cardinals on April 9.

Reds struggling offensively
The Reds are averaging 3.6 runs per game this season. They haven’t fared worse than that over a full season since averaging 3.4 in 1983.

The decline has come largely as the product of fewer home runs. They are on pace for only 131 this season, which would be a 24-homer drop from 2013.

The Reds also miss Shin-Soo Choo quite a bit. Their leadoff hitters had a .415 on-base percentage in 2013 but have reached at a .282 clip in 2014.

Matchup to Watch: Wainwright vs. Bruce
Reds right fielder Jay Bruce is 11-for-30 (.367 batting average) with two home runs and 10 strikeouts in his career against Wainwright.
Bruce’s numbers have been in significant decline since he returned from a disabled list stint in August. We’ve illustrated that in the chart on the right.

Bruce is hitting .209 with three home runs this season. He can expect to see a defensive shift from the Cardinals, as 21 of his 25 ground balls this season have been to the right of second base. He is 3-for-20 on ground balls and line drives hit against shifted defenses this season.

Top stats to know: Reds at Pirates

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21

AP Photo/Don WrightFrancisco Liriano helped eliminate the Reds last postseason. Will they pay him back tonight?

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates meet Monday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Francisco Liriano’s change in approach
Francisco Liriano helped eliminate the Reds last postseason with his slider, throwing it on half of his 90 pitches. His slider netted him 14 outs and yielded only one baserunner in the NL wild-card game.

Since the start of last season, Liriano’s slider has been one of the best in the majors, ranking in the top 10 in most major categories. Although successful against the Reds last season with the pitch, Cincinnati is batting an MLB-best .307 against sliders this season.

The slider isn't the only pitch Liriano has leaned on this season. Liriano has increased the usage of his changeup, throwing it nearly 31 percent of the time, up from 22 percent last season.

Liriano has limited opponents to a .174 batting average while generating a 54 percent swing-and-miss rate this season when throwing the change. Last season opponents hit .273, while swinging and missing 38 percent of the time.

We could see a continuation of that trend tonight. The Reds have hit .192 against changeups this season, 22nd in the majors.

Joey Votto’s lineup change
On April 12, the Reds moved Joey Votto to second in the batting order instead of his usual third. The move has aided Votto in returning to his former MVP self.

The Reds are 4-2 since the tweak to the lineup after going 3-7 with Votto batting third. Votto has hit three of his four home runs when batting second.

Andrew McCutchen not as valuable
Last season Andrew McCutchen became the first Pirates player to win the National League MVP award since Barry Bonds in 1992. So far this season, McCutchen has been unable to replicate last season’s success.

McCutchen’s OPS has dipped to .759 this season, which if it held, would be the lowest of his career. McCutchen’s OPS exceeded .900 in each of the previous two seasons.

Such a big dip in OPS isn’t uncommon for the reigning league MVP. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 55 players have dropped 100 points in OPS the season after winning the MVP award. Both McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera have seen such dips in the opening weeks this season.

Jay Bruce is a slow starter
Jay Bruce is batting .220 to start this season, but this hasn’t been uncommon in his career.

Bruce’s career batting average in March and April is .249, his second lowest in any month. Last season, Bruce hit .252 with a .651 OPS in April before ripping off a .288 average and .903 OPS from May to July.

Top things to know: NL Wild Card

October, 1, 2013

AP PhotosJohnny Cueto and Francisco Liriano will start for the Reds and Pirates in tonight's NL Wild Card game.
For the first time since October 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates will play a postseason game.

Tonight’s game against the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card Game is the first home playoff game for the Pirates since Bob Walk pitched a complete-game three-hitter Oct. 11, 1992, in Pittsburgh’s 7-1 win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS.

Here are a few storylines for tonight’s game.

1. The Pirates won the season series against the Reds 11-8, including a season-ending sweep this past weekend in Cincinnati.

This is the first meeting between these teams in the postseason since the 1990 NLCS, which the Reds won 4-2. The Reds have won 13 of 20 meetings against the Pirates in the postseason.

2. Johnny Cueto will take the mound for the Reds tonight. He’s 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA in 21 career starts against the Pirates, including 7-2 with a 1.43 ERA in his last 12 starts against Pittsburgh.

In his last start vs. the Bucs on May 31, Cueto threw eight shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out six in the win.

3. Francisco Liriano will make the start for Pittsburgh in a park where he has excelled this season. Liriano is 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 starts at PNC Park this season compared to an 8-7 record with a 4.33 ERA in 15 road starts.

Against the Reds, he’s 0-3 with a 3.70 ERA in four starts this season. Pittsburgh lost all four of those games.

Liriano is a three-pitch pitcher who throws a fastball, slider and changeup. One of his downfalls against the Reds this season has been the ineffectiveness of his changeup. Overall, opponents are hitting .273 against that pitch, but the Reds are hitting .353.

4. Marlon Byrd and Andrew McCutchen have had a lot of success against Cueto during their careers. Byrd is hitting .583 (7-of-12) with a home run and three RBI. Three of McCutchen’s nine career hits against Cueto are home runs.

On the other side, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto are a combined .154 (8-of-52) in their careers against Liriano.

5. Pittsburgh has not won a World Series title since the “We are Family” team in 1979. The 34-year drought is the third longest active streak in baseball (among franchises that have won at least once).

The 105-year drought for the Chicago Cubs and 65-year drought for the Cleveland Indians are the only longer active streaks.

Gomez breaks HR-rob mark, Reds hearts

September, 15, 2013
Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder Carlos Gomez is hitting only .192 with 18 strikeouts in 52 at-bats against the Cincinnati Reds this season.

But he’s having as significant an impact as any star hitter on the Reds division title and postseason hopes.

Gomez made his second robbery of a potential game-winning homer by a Reds hitter this season in Sunday’s win, snaring one from Jay Bruce in a game the Brewers would win in the bottom of the ninth inning. He also had one against Joey Votto earlier this season.

Baseball Info Solutions has been charting home-run robberies for the past 10 seasons.

Gomez now has five of them this season, the most of any player in the time they’ve been charting. His other three have come against Carlos Gonzalez, John Mayberry Jr. and Marlon Byrd.

Gomez entered Sunday’s game with 31 Defensive Runs Saved. That’s the most by a centerfielder in the major leagues this season and his homer-rob should push him ahead of Franklin Gutierrez’s 2009 season (32 Defensive Runs Saved) for the most Runs Saved by a centerfielder in the 11 seasons for which BIS has been tracking that stat.

NL Defensive MVP? Simmons/Arenado lead

September, 6, 2013

Daniel Shirey/Getty ImagesAndrelton Simmons has been super-solid for the Braves this season.
If you were going to pick the NL’s Defensive MVP for 2013, much like for the overall award, there is one candidate who stands above the rest.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is going to break the single-season record for most Defensive Runs Saved (definition here). He’s currently at 38 Defensive Runs Saved. Baseball Info Solutions has charted that stat since 2003 and no player previously finished with more than the 35 Brett Gardner had in 2010.

Simmons has twice been named Sweet Spot’s Defensive Player of the Month and was runner-up for that selection in August. He has more than twice as many runs saved as the next-closest shortstop (Pedro Florimon of the Minnesota Twins with 16) and has more than three times as many as the nearest NL shortstop had entering Friday (Clint Barmes, 11). No other Braves player has more than 16.

What Simmons does best is not just make the difficult play, but make the routine one as well. The left side of the Braves infield has been in vacuum mode all season. Opposing hitters are reaching base only 21.6 percent of the time on ground balls hit to the left of the second-base bag. That’s the lowest success rate in the majors. And let’s remember what Simmons replaced when he came up last season—Taylor Pastornicky, who had -15 Defensive Runs Saved in only 330 innings.

As we noted: There is a considerable statistical gap between Simmons and the next-best NL defender. That gap exists at one other position of note, third base. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado would be the runaway NL Defensive Rookie of the Year if such an award existed. His 30 Defensive Runs Saved are 20 more than anyone else in the league.

Nolan Arenado
Arenado is one Defensive Run Saved shy of Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado for the major league lead at the hot corner. Machado gets a lot of national press for his glovework, but Arenado has been similarly good. He leads all third baseman in the Baseball Info Solutions-tracked “Good Fielding Plays” (think: plays that are Web Gem nominees) and ranks second to Machado in Baseball Tonight with 11 Web Gems (Machado had 16).

There are a number of other players who have had fine defensive seasons on non-contenders and teams that are fading out of contention, most notably Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers and Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks. The next-highest rated defender among those players on contending teams is Russell Martin (whom Dave Cameron is profiling today for ESPN Insider).

Martin ranks second among catchers with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, trailing only Wellington Castillo of the Chicago Cubs, who has 18. Martin doesn’t have quite the arm of Yadier Molina (who also has legitimacy with 10 Defensive Runs Saved), but he’s having his best year at throwing runners out, nailing 33 of 76 attempting to steal (43 percent) and picking off three others.

Starling Marte
Martin’s teammate, Starling Marte also could make a case. He leads all leftfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved this season, a total that got a nice early boost from a pair of early-season homer robberies. He’s rated best in the majors at his position in chasing down balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark.

The Reds and Dodgers don’t have any candidates that would necessarily be standouts in a defensive MVP competition. The Reds top candidate is rightfielder Jay Bruce, who has rebounded from a pair of below-average (stat-wise) defensive seasons to lead his team with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (tied for fourth among NL players at that position).

The Dodgers have a host of defenders who rate well, with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez ranking best relative to his position (10 Defensive Runs Saved, third-best in the National League). Another player deserving of props: utility man Nick Punto, whose 10 Defensive Runs Saved tie Juan Uribe, Gonzalez and Puig for the Dodgers lead.

Therein lies the difference been MVP and Defensive MVP. Punto is unlikely to ever be mentioned in any MVP conversation at any point.

For more NL MVP info, see Jerry Crasnick's article from earlier today.

Who should Wright, Cano pick for Derby?

July, 8, 2013
Who should David Wright and Robinson Cano pick to participate in the 2013 Home Run Derby when selections are announced tonight at 6 ET on "SportsCenter"? Members of ESPN’s Home Run Tracker team weighed in.

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

Upton has only one home run since May 17, but his shortest home run is 404 feet. Remarkably, his 427.9 average home run distance is highest among all players with more than one home run. Upton has two 460-foot home runs and six others of at least 425 feet. Of his 15 home runs, 13 would have cleared the fence at Citi Field.

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

Bruce has eight home runs that have gone at least 425 feet, tied with Upton for the most in the NL.

June solidified Bruce’s nomination, as he hit his five longest home runs of the season, all at least 430 feet. His headline home run was a 472-foot blast off Patrick Corbin, the third-longest home run this season.

Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates

Alvarez edges out Paul Goldschmidt by the narrowest of margins, getting the nod because he's hit two home runs over 450 feet this season and has three others over 430 feet.

Fourteen of his 22 home runs have been at least 400 feet, and all but four of his home runs would have been out at Citi Field.

Alvarez has nine home runs classified by as “No Doubt” home runs, the most in the majors. ("No Doubt home run" means the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence).

Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Although Trumbo ranks ninth in the AL with 19 home runs, nine of those went at least 425 feet, the most in baseball. His average home run distance is 417.7 feet, fourth in the majors (among players with a minimum of 10 home runs), and all but three of his home runs would have been out at Citi Field.

His 475-foot home run off Dan Straily on April 29 is tied for the longest home run of the year.

Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Davis leads the majors with 33 home runs, showing power to all fields.

Davis has not hit a home run over 440 feet this season; seven have gone at least 425. His eight home runs to center field are the most in baseball.

Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

Cruz has 22 home runs this season, including ones that went 450 feet and 445 feet. Nineteen of those homers would have been out at Citi Field.

Although his average home run distance is 410.4 feet (12th among players with at least 10 home runs), when excluding his opposite-field home runs, his average home run distance is 419 feet.

Home runs come in a variety of paths

July, 1, 2013

G Fiume/Getty ImagesChris Davis hit 12 home runs in June, increasing his major league-lead to 31.
If June taught us anything about the way home runs were hit, it would be the fact they come in many shapes and sizes.

On June 22, Jay Bruce hit the longest home run of the month, a 472-foot shot off Patrick Corbin at Chase Field. That tied him for the third-longest home run hit this season and since the beginning of ESPN Home Run Tracker in 2006, only Adam Dunn has hit longer home runs as a left-handed batter off a left-handed pitcher.

Dunn hit a 504-foot HR off Glendon Rusch on September 27, 2008 and launched a 474-foot shot off John Grabow on April 6, 2006.

Masher of the Month
Mark Trumbo his six June home runs, averaging 423.8 feet per homer. His longest was a 457-foot home run off Jordan Lyles, and all but two went over 425 feet. For the season, Trumbo is averaging 417.2 feet per home run, second-longest in baseball to Justin Upton (427.9 feet, min. 15 HR).

On the flip side, Dustin Pedroia hit the shortest home run of the month, a 330-feet dinger off Alexi Ogando at Fenway Park that barely snuck over the Green Monster. Three of the four shortest home runs in June have come at Fenway Park.

Hitting Homers in Different Ways
Chris Davis had the most home runs in June (12) and leads the majors with 31 overall. Davis has shown power to all fields this season, as nine of his home runs have gone to either left or left center field.

Domonic Brown is second in the National League with 21 home runs, however all but one has gone to either right or right center field (he finally hit a home run to center field on June 27). Brown’s average home run distance is 381.4 feet, the shortest for any player with 10-or-more home runs.

Check out the home run spray chart for Davis and Brown:

Where Have the Long Home Runs Gone?
On June 8, Jeff Baker hit a 440-foot home run in Toronto, the 16th home run at Rogers Centre to go at least 440 feet this season, by far the most in baseball.

It was also the only time this month Rogers Centre yielded a 440+ foot home run. There have been 23 other home runs hit at least 440 feet in June.

Vastly Different Paths Lead to Same Result
On June 19, Hanley Ramirez hit a home run at Yankee Stadium that went 353 feet. Six days later, Juan Francisco hit a home run at Miller Park that also went 353 feet.

The significance? Ramirez’s home run left the ballpark in 3.03 seconds, the second fastest a home run has left any park this season. Francisco’s home run was in the air for 7.25 seconds, the longest hang time for a home run since the beginning of ESPN Home Run Tracker in 2006.

Check out the trajectories of each home run (Ramirez top, Francisco bottom):

Reds-Pirates was familiar and unfamiliar

June, 20, 2013

Frank Victores/USA TODAY Sports
Brandon Phillips recorded his 5th career walk-off hit on Wednesday.

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates played a game Wednesday that featured feats both rare and familiar.

Rare feats

Pirates closer Jason Grilli had been automatic entering Wednesday’s game, converting on all 25 of his save opportunities. He blew his first save since September 29 of last season when he allowed Jay Bruce's ninth-inning home run. That was also a 2-1 loss to the Reds.

Bruce homered off of Grilli’s fastball, which held opponents to a .167 batting average with no homers on the season before Wednesday.

Grilli fell just one save shy of Joel Hanrahan’s franchise record of 26 consecutive saves converted to begin a season set in 2011.

The Reds got a rare good start out of Bronson Arroyo against the Pirates. Over the previous two seasons, Arroyo was 0-3 with an 8.40 ERA in three starts against Pittsburgh. He delivered a quality start this time though, allowing just one unearned run in seven innings.

Familiar feats

Pirates two-time All-Star Andrew McCutchen has experienced a recent power outage. He failed to homer in his 22nd consecutive game, the third-longest streak in his career.

McCutchen is representative of a larger scoring problem with the Pirates. Wednesday marked the 18th game this season that the Pirates scored one run or fewer, the third-highest total in the majors.

The Reds won in dramatic fashion, as has become customary for them. This was their seventh walk-off win this season, tied for the most with the San Francisco Giants.

It has become a frequent occurrence for Jay Bruce to step up for the Reds in the closing moments of ballgames. Including Wednesday, Bruce has 10 career game-tying or go-ahead homers in the ninth inning or later since he entered the major leagues in 2008.

The only player with more such homers in that span? Miguel Cabrera with 14.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe Giants hit just two home runs at home in July, both by Buster Posey.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season and as far back as 2006. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. With the exception of the final day of the month, below are the notable home runs for the month of July.

No Doubter of the Month: Longest true distance HR
June Winner: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (484 feet)
July Winner: Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres (485 feet)
On July 2 at Chase Field, Maybin hit a 485-foot shot to left-center field. Not only was it the longest home run of his career, but the second-longest at Chase Field since ESPN began tracking home runs in 2006.

Wall-Scraper of the Month: Shortest true distance HR
June Winner: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (329 feet)
July Winner: Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox (338 feet)
On July 19 at Fenway Park, Ross hit an Addison Reed pitch into the monster seats for a walk-off home run. The 338-foot HR is the longest “wall-scarper” this season. It was Ross’ shortest home run since he hit one 337 feet off Hiroki Kuroda in 2008.

Moonshot of the Month: Highest apex HR (maximum vertical height ball reaches)
June Winner: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (152 feet)
July Winner: Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians (154 feet)
Hafner’s 363-foot HR off Ricky Romero on July 13 was the third-highest in 2012. The two home runs with higher apexes in 2012: 366-foot home run by Todd Helton on April 14 that had an apex of 162 feet, and a 419-foot bomb by Paul Goldschmidt on April 6 that reached a height of 156 feet.

Liner of the Month: Lowest apex HR
June Winner: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (43 feet)
July Winners: Ryan Ludwick, Cincinnati Reds and Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians (47 feet)
Ludwick’s 361-foot HR on July 14 was his lowest apex since the beginning of the tracker in 2006. Kotchman’s 354-foot shot on July 4 also had an apex of 47 feet, the lowest at Progressive Field since May of 2010.

Mother Nature: Most climate-impacted HR
June Winner: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds (+67 feet)
July Winner: Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies (+50 feet)
On July 28, the wind was blowing out at Coors Field when Michael Cuddyer’s 363-foot home run was aided by a 13 mph wind. That carried the ball an extra 50 feet. Only four home runs at Coors Field have been more wind-aided since 2006.

Masher of the Month: Player with greatest average distance (min. 5 HR)
June Winner: Miguel Montero, Arizona Diamondbacks (425.8 feet)
July Winner: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (424.9 feet)
Cabrera’s nine home runs in July had an average distance of 424.9 feet, more than five feet more than the next closest player, Edwin Encarnacion. Four of Cabrera’s nine July home runs went at least 440 feet, including his 300th career HR, which went 457 feet.

Team Power Outage of the Month: Team with fewest HR
June Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (6)
July Winner: San Francisco Giants (14)
After relinquishing the June award to their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants once again take the award for fewest home runs. The Giants hit just 14 in July, three more than the 11 the Giants hit in May. Only two of the Giants’ 14 HR in July were hit at home.

Cruz crushes the ball to earn June HR award

July, 1, 2012
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesNelson Cruz headlines the June awards with his 484-foot homer against the Angels.

ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season and as far back as 2006. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. Below are the notable home runs for the month of June (games through June 30).

No Doubter (Longest true distance)
May Winner: Justin Maxwell (471 feet)
June Winner: Nelson Cruz (484 feet)
Nelson Cruz’s 484-foot blast in Angel Stadium off Bobby Cassevah on June 3 is the longest home run hit this season. It is also Cruz’s longest home run of his career and the longest home run hit at Angel Stadium since the beginning of the ESPN Home Run Tracker in 2006.

Wall-Scraper (Shortest true distance)
May Winner: Jed Lowrie (330 feet)
June Winner: Adrian Beltre (329 feet)
Adrian Beltre drove a Brad Brach pitch off the bottom of the right field foul pole 329 feet in PETCO Park on June 19, giving the Rangers the first two June awards. The 329-foot homer is only the third home run to have a true distance of less than 330 feet this year.

Moonshot (Highest apex - maximum vertical height a ball reaches)
May Winner: Josh Hamilton (153 feet)
June Winner: Jay Bruce (152 feet)
Jay Bruce’s 392-foot home run off Joe Smith on June 18 had an apex of 152 feet, taking the award by one foot over Mark Trumbo, who hit a 364-foot homer on June 10 that had an apex of 151 feet.

Liner (Lowest apex)
May Winner: Adam Dunn (47 feet)
June Winner: Adam Jones (43 feet)
On June 23, Adam Jones hit a 354-foot home run off Edwin Jackson that had an apex of 43 feet and left Camden Yards in 3.06 seconds. It is the lowest apex of the season and lowest apex by an Oriole since the beginning of ESPN Home Run Tracker in 2006.

Fastball (Fastest speed off bat)
May Winner: Giancarlo Stanton (122.4 mph)
June Winner: Giancarlo Stanton (120.0 mph)
For the second month in a row, Giancarlo Stanton takes home the award for the homer with the fastest speed off the bat.

Server (Pitcher who allowed the greatest cumulative distance)
May Winner: Mike Minor
June Winner: Jason Vargas
Jason Vargas gave up 11 home runs in June, including a 457-foot bomb to Justin Upton on June 20. The 11 home runs allowed did not exactly help Vargas’ 7.34 June ERA.

Masher (Greatest average home run distance, min. five home runs)
May Winner: Mark Trumbo
June Winner: Miguel Montero
Miguel Montero’s five June home runs had an average distance of 425.8 feet, edging out Torii Hunter by 1.2 feet. Montero hit a 458-foot home run off Jarrod Parker on June 9 and a 447-foot home run off Yoshinori Tateyama on June 14, helping his cause.

Floyd's curveball made him no-hit threat

April, 29, 2012
It took a great pitching performance from Chicago White Sox starter Gavin Floyd to end the Boston Red Sox six-game winning streak.

Sunday marked the fourth time in Floyd’s career that he carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, but he’s yet to finish one off. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Floyd’s four such bids are the third-most among active pitchers.

How did Floyd pitch so well?

Our pitch-performance data showed that he got five of his nine strikeouts on pitches that were out of the strike zone. He finished off all 15 hitters on whom he got a two-strike count.

Floyd’s curveball was working in those two-strike counts. He threw 11 curveballs in two-strike situations and got five strikeouts with them.

The White Sox were bidding to become the first team with two regular-season no-hitters in the same season since the 1973 Angels, who got two from Nolan Ryan. The 2010 Phillies are the last team with two no-hitters, if you combine regular season and postseason (both by Roy Halladay).

Floyd is 7-0 with a 2.75 ERA in eight career starts against the Red Sox. He’s the first pitcher to win his first seven career decisions against the Red Sox since former Minnesota Twins right-hander Kevin Tapani.

Other notable performances from Sunday included:

The day’s best pitchers
Johan Santana threw six scoreless innings in his Coors Field debut, in the New York Mets wild win over the Colorado Rockies. Santana has now pitched 22 scoreless innings against the Rockies, which (via Elias) is the longest streak by any pitcher to start his career.

CC Sabathia beat the Tigers to remain undefeated this season. The Tigers right-handed hitters were 1-for-21 against him. Sabathia got five strikeouts with his slider. He’s had at least five with that pitch in all five of his starts this season.

Speaking of sliders, Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza got 10 outs with his, and notched six strikeouts with the pitch, in a 5-1 win over the Phillies.

Also chiming in with impressive efforts were Arizona Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley, who is 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA in his last eight starts dating back to last season after beating the Diamondbacks, and Cleveland Indians starter Derek Lowe, who beat the Los Angels of Anaheim with an efficient effort- he threw single-digit pitch totals in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

The day’s best hitter
Rightfielder Jay Bruce homered for the fourth straight game, the longest streak by a Cincinnati Reds player since Adam Dunn homered in five straight games in May, 2008.
Jay Bruce
The streaky Bruce has had another hot week, hitting .476 with an OPS of 1.685 since Tuesday. His last three home runs have come on pitches over the outer-third of the plate. Bruce has 40 home runs on outer-third pitches since 2009, sixth-most in the majors in that span.

Rewriting the Opening Day record book

April, 5, 2012
Pitching was the story of the day as opening week continued with 13 teams playing their first game of the season.

After Kyle Lohse tossed a gem on Wednesday, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson and Ryan Dempster all allowed two or fewer hits while throwing at least 7 innings. Even with 13 teams yet to make their 2012 debut, this is the first time in the Modern Era (since 1900) that there have been five season-opening starts to meet that threshold. According to Elias, the previous high was three in 1910.

The New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds all opened their season today by throwing shutouts. Elias points out that the last time there were three shutouts thrown by teams that opened their season on the same day was April 9, 1976. That season, the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals all pitched Opening Day shutouts.

The Miami Marlins became the first team with two losses this season and have managed a single run on seven hits in their two games. From Elias, they are the first team with that low an offensive output in their first two games since 1993. That season, the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies each had one run on six hits after two games.

Not all of the pitching news was good. Justin Verlander was denied a win after pitching 8 shutout innings after Jose Valverde blew a save for the first time since Sept. 2, 2010. Valverde was 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season and had converted 51 in a row dating back to 2010.

Going Long
The highest scoring game of the day was the Toronto Blue Jays' 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians. But that won’t be what the game is remembered for.

The game wasn’t decided until J.P. Arencibia hit a three-run home run in the top of the 16th inning. Elias confirmed that this was the longest season opener in MLB history. The Indians have the dubious distinction of losing two of the three season openers that lasted at least 15 innings. In the other, Walter Johnson threw a 15-inning complete game as the Washington Senators beat the Philadelphia Athletics.

Matt Kemp
Going Deep
The wait for a National League home run is finally over. Jay Bruce hit a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth as the Reds beat the Marlins. Four NL games had been completed before Bruce went deep, and his homer came in the 44th NL inning of the season.

After nearly winning the MVP Award last season, Matt Kemp added to his legend in the season opener this year. Kemp became the first right-handed hitter with two opposite field home runs at Petco Park since the start of the 2009 season.
Cameron Maybin


On Saturday, Cameron Maybin agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract with the San Diego Padres. The deal will keep the 24-year-old in San Diego through at least his first free agent year.

It's been a long journey for the former first-round pick, who was drafted ahead of the likes of fellow outfielders Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Jacoby Ellsbury and was involved in trades for both a star (Miguel Cabrera) as well as two middle relievers (Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb). But now on his third team and fresh off his fifth season of Major League action, Maybin has found a home.

Maybin had the best season of his young career in 2011, posting a .265/.323 /.393 triple slash line and swiping a team-leading 40 bases. He also led the Padres in runs scored (82), total bases (203), and triples (8). He tied for the team lead in hits (136) and was tied for second in home runs (9). His 4.7 Wins Above Replacement ranked sixth among all center fielders last season and tied for sixth among Padres outfielders in the Wild Card era.

Despite the success, Maybin’s offensive numbers suffered from hitting in the cavernous Petco Park, which consistently ranks in the bottom-third of the Majors in home runs hit and runs scored according to ESPN’s Park Factors. He batted .231 at home last year compared to .294 on the road, and there was an even bigger discrepancy in his slugging percentage (.324 to .457).

But while his home park punishes his surface-level offensive numbers, it is that same home park that represents one of the reasons Maybin is so valuable to the Padres - centerfield defense. Few parks are as spacious in the outfield as Petco, and Maybin's ability to track down batted balls represented a significant portion of his value in 2011.

Baseball Info Solutions has worked to upgrade its defensive analysis, a re-tooling that will be unveiled in The Fielding Bible III. Suffice it to say, the adjusted defensive metrics suggest Maybin was one of the premier defensive players at his position in 2011 - he ranked tied for third in Defensive Runs Saved.

While Maybin's defensive value is evident and his offense progressed, the latter still has significant room for growth. Most notably, Maybin's issues with changeups provide a clear area for potential improvement.

Maybin chased almost 39 percent of soft pitches (changeups, sliders, curveballs) low and away out of the strike zone and had only two hits on 239 such pitches in 2011. That .038 BA ranked 131st out of 145 qualified hitters. Specific to the changeup, Maybin ranked among the bottom of the league in batting average, OPS and strikeout rate against that pitch over the last three seasons combined.

He did, however, improve against the changeup from 2010 to 2011 - he raised his batting average (.091 to .197) and his OPS (.182 to .505), while reducing his strikeout rate (46 percent to 27 percent). Maybin - and the Padres - hope the trend continues in 2012.

Evan Longoria's amazing season continues

September, 29, 2011

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
Evan Longoria celebrates with teammates after hitting the game-winning HR (his second of the night) as the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League Wild Card berth.

Evan Longoria had a heck of a season for a guy who finished the year with a .244 batting average for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Boston Red Sox may have collapsed, but Longoria was as responsible for carrying his team as any player has been all season.

Longoria’s second home run of the game Wednesday night – a walk-off with one out in the 12th inning against the New York Yankees that gave Tampa an 8-7 win and the AL Wild Card berth – was his fourth career walk-off HR and second of this season. Longoria's HR is the sixth game-ending HR in MLB history which clinched a postseason berth, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Here’s a closer look Longoria’s 2011 season:

• All 31 of his HR hit came with the score tied, or within four runs, one way or the other.

• The last 10 home runs he hit during the regular season either tied a game, gave the Rays a lead, extended a lead of one or two runs, or cut a deficit to a run.

• Longoria had four home runs in the eighth inning or later that either tied a game or put the Rays ahead. Only two players in MLB had more -- Jose Bautista with six, and Jay Bruce with five.

• In the two-week stretch from September 15 to the end of the season, Longoria faced a two-strike situation 32 times. He reached nine times via hit and seven times via walk, giving him a two-strike on-base percentage of .500 (MLB average for the season was .247). He also reached base via error once.

• Despite missing 29 games, Longoria entered the final day of the season fifth in the major leagues in Defensive Runs Saved among third basemen with 12.

A chronology of some of Longoria's biggest moments down the stretch:

September 15-18 - Longoria was 6-for-15 with two home runs and seven RBI as the Rays won three of four games in Fenway Park from the Red Sox. In the game the Rays lost, Longoria homered, singled, walked twice, and made an amazing catch on a Dustin Pedroia line drive that turned into a double play in the seventh inning, with the Rays down a run.

September 27 - With the Rays down 3-2 in the sixth inning against the Yankees, and the bases loaded with nobody out, Longoria starts a 5-4-3 triple play to get the Rays out of a jam.

Then, in the seventh inning, facing an 0-2 count, Longoria fouls off three pitches (including two well out of the strike zone) and works out a walk from Rafael Soriano. The next batter, Matt Joyce, hits a home run that propels the Rays to a 5-3 win.

September 28 - Longoria helps the Rays rally from a 7-0 deficit. He hits a three-run home run to cut the lead to 7-6 in the eighth inning. Then, he hits a walk-off home run to win the game and clinch the wild card in the 12th inning.
The NL Central race couldn't be much tighter with four teams separated by only three games heading into Tuesday, when the Cincinnati Reds visit the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals.

Jaime Garcia is on the hill for the Cardinals, which could not be much worse news for the Reds. Garcia has been lights out at home this season, going 4-1 with an 0.88 ERA in seven starts.

We're just halfway through the season, but it's worth noting that no pitcher has finished with a sub-1.00 ERA at home for an entire season since Sandy Koufax (0.85) in the 1964 campaign.

Opponents are batting only .173 against Garcia at Busch Stadium while compiling a paltry .218 slugging percentage. On the road those numbers balloon up to a .326 batting average and a .470 slugging percentage.

Garcia's key to success at home has been his fastball. Opponents are batting .225 in at-bats ending in a fastball when Garcia pitches in St. Louis and hitting .419 elsewhere. At home he has not allowed a single home run in 71 at-bats ending in fastballs, but has given up four long balls in 86 such at-bats on the road.

The lefty faces one of his toughest tests this season in a Reds lineup that has killed left-handed pitching.

Cincinnati ranks first in the National League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging against southpaws.

Last year's NL MVP, Joey Votto is among the Reds players to tear apart lefties this season, compiling a .372 batting average and .616 slugging percentage, second on the team in both categories behind Jonny Gomes.

It will be interesting to see how Garcia attacks Votto, who has been devastating against fastballs versus left-handed pitchers. He's hitting .512 in at-bats ending with that pitch, second highest in the majors among players with a minimum of 50 such plate appearances.

Reds slugger Jay Bruce was 12-for-24, with four home runs against lefties in May, but faltered in June. He was just 5-for-34 (.147) and did not homer.

Bruce is just one home run shy of matching Johnny Bench (87) for the fourth most all-time by a Reds player in his first four MLB seasons. With 14 more home runs he would join Frank Robinson (134) and Adam Dunn (118) as the only Reds players with 100 home runs in their first four MLB seasons.

News came out on Monday that the Cardinals may enjoy the return of their MVP Albert Pujols ahead of schedule. Along with Lance Berkman that would give the Cardinals a duo that has tormented the Reds. Pujols has more hits (219) and runs scored (142) against the Reds than any active player.

Berkman has more hits (175), home runs (50), RBIs (139) and runs scored (127) against Cincinnati than any other team he has faced. Berkman ranks in the top three among all active players versus the Reds in each of those categories.

He has also fared well against Reds starter Edinson Volquez, reaching base eight times in 13 plate appearances, reaching on a walk five times.