Stats & Info: Jose Altuve

Kernels: 2B ... or not 2B (lots of doubles!)

September, 15, 2013
Back in June we did a whole post on triples. So it's only fitting that we also devote one to interesting and unusual stats about the week in doubles before the season's out.

• In a week with several more high-scoring games, two teams-- the Houston Astros on Tuesday and the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday-- each hit eight doubles in a game to tie the big-league season high. It was the first time Houston had eight two-baggers in a game in a decade (September 12, 2003 versus Atlanta), and just the second time any team had done it at Safeco Field (the Twins on April 17, 2007).

• In addition to hitting two of those doubles, Jose Altuve also stole three bases, including two swipes of third. Only 10 players in the past 50 years have had two doubles and three steals in a game; the others include Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter, Tim Raines and Lou Brock.

• That Wednesday game for the Athletics was a lopsided 18-3 win over the Minnesota Twins that saw Oakland's first double-digit inning since June 18, 2000. (It was also the first score of exactly 18 this season, filling in every number from 0 to 20.) The Athletics became the first team to hit eight doubles in Target Field's four-season history. The Orioles, earlier this season, had been the only team to hit seven.

• Robinson Cano of the Yankees, on Friday, was one of three players this week to have three doubles in one game. Cano has had four three-double games for the Yankees, the first being May 30, 2007. Since then only two other Yankees have even done it once: Jorge Posada in 2008 and Mark Teixeira in 2011.

• Twins catcher Josmil Pinto has made the most of his September callup; he had seven hits in his first 10 at-bats and is still hitting ,405 over his 11-game major-league career. In Monday's win over the Angels, Pinto became the first Minnesota hitter with three doubles since another catcher, Joe Mauer, in August 2009.

Pinto also became the first player with a three-double game in his first 10 career appearances since Nick Evans of the Mets did it in his debut on May 24, 2008. The only other catcher in the live-ball era with that distinction is Tim Spehr of the Royals (July 28, 1991).

• Mark Trumbo of the Angels also hit three doubles in Tuesday's win over Toronto. He added a homer and a single for his first career five-hit game. He's just the second batter in Angels history with a homer and three doubles in a game. Juan Rivera in September 2008 was the other.

Behind cleanup hitter Trumbo, Josh Hamilton and Chris Iannetta also each had three hits with at least one homer and two RBI in that game. They're the first 4-5-6 hitters to do that in the same game since Brian Jordan, John Mabry, and Gary Gaetti teamed up for the Cardinals against the Cubs on July 12, 1996.

Thanks to hits behind him, Trumbo also scored on all five trips around the bases. Only two other players in the live-ball era have posted a homer, three doubles, and five runs scored in one game. They are Dodger great Steve Garvey (1977) and HOF'er Willie Stargell for the Pirates in a 20-10 outburst against the Braves on August 1, 1970.

• Two players on Saturday reached the 50-double plateau for the season. Manny Machado of the Orioles now stands six shy of the team record of 56, set by Brian Roberts in 2009. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter won't approach Joe Medwick's mark of 64 in 1936, but he has joined some elite company. Since the team joined the NL in 1892, the only other Cardinals with 50 doubles in a season are Medwick, Enos Slaughter, Albert Pujols, and Stan Musial.

And Machado's teammate, Chris Davis, hit his 50th home run on Friday night to tie franchise record owned by Brady Anderson. But Davis also hit his 40th and 41st doubles this week, becoming just the third hitter ever to have a season with 50 homers and 40 doubles. The others are Albert Belle (1995) and Babe Ruth (1921).

Kernels: Astros just can't win

July, 21, 2013
It was an eventful return to the diamond from the All-Star Break for major-league teams, though one in particular had a very noteworthy weekend.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights from the weekend that was, with each note sharing the bond of tying back to the Houston Astros.

Weirdest feat of the week
The weirdest team hitting performance of the week-- maybe of the decade-- belongs to the Seattle Mariners and the pitcher who faced them on Saturday, Erik Bedard.

Bedard, who went 6 1/3 innings without allowing a hit, walked five.Jose Cisnero came on in relief and gave up a Michael Saunders double for the Mariners' only hit of the game.

So Bedard's final line: 6 1/3 innings, zero hits, three runs-- but only one earned because of passed balls-- and 10 strikeouts.

Only one pitcher in the last 20 years had lost a game where his outing lasted six or more innings and did not yield a base hit. That was Jered Weaver, who threw the first six frames of the Angels' combined 1-0 no-hit loss to the Dodgers on June 28, 2008.

The last starter to allow three runs without giving up a hit was then-Tiger Dontrelle Willis on June 4, 2009. He walked five Red Sox and hit one before leaving in the 3rd inning.

No Astros starter had ever done it.

Elias confirms that the only two other pitchers in modern history to give up three runs on zero hits, in an outing that lasted at least six innings, are Rube Benton (1914 Reds vs Cardinals) and Andy Hawkins (1990 Yankees at White Sox). Hawkins allowed four runs and no hits in eight innings in a 4-0 loss.

Bedard is the first pitcher in the live-ball era to have an outing (any length) with 10 strikeouts, zero hits, and a loss.

Now about that Saunders double:

That was the Mariners' only hit of the game. They've been held to exactly one hit 17 times in their history, but Saturday was only the third time they had won such a game.

And that means their final linescore (runs-hits-errors) for the contest was 4-1-0, the first such line in major-league history.

There have been 45 teams since 1920 to win a game where they had just one base hit (there are a lot of 1-0 victories in that bunch). Until Saturday, none of them had struck out more than 11 times. The Mariners struck out 15 times on Saturday.

But that wasn’t the only Astros oddity …
Brandon Barnes recorded the season's second cycle on Friday night (joining Mike Trout's on May 21), the eighth in Astros history, and their first since Luke Scott did it on July 28, 2006. He also scored three runs and drove in two.

Barnes got the hardest parts out of the way first, going homer-triple-single-double in his first four plate appearances. Only one other player in the past 17 years has done the cycle in that order: George Kottaras of the Brewers two seasons ago. Before that, it was John Valentin in 1996. He's also the first player named Brandon ever to hit for the cycle.

For good measure, Barnes added an infield single in the 9th inning, giving him the first five-hit game to include a cycle since B.J. Upton against the Yankees in 2009.

But ultimately, despite Barnes' efforts, the Astros lost the game 10-7. And only one player in Astros history had ever had five hits and three runs in a loss-- Joe Morgan in 1965.

The long (and short) of it
On Sunday, Caleb Gindl's first major-league homer was also the only run of the game as the Brewers defeated the Marlins 1-0 in 13 innings. Gindl's was the first "slide-off" (a nod to Bernie Brewer's famous descent) for Milwaukee this season. Nine teams remain without a walk-off homer in 2013.

It was the first 1-0 game to be won via walk-off homer since Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays hit one in the 11th against Boston on September 5, 2011.

Elias noted that Gindl is the third player in the last 30 years whose first career homer was a walk-off in the 13th inning or later, joining Mark McLemore (1987 Angels) and Bobby Smith (1998 Rays).

And here's our Astros tie-in: Gindl is listed at 5-foot-7. He's the second-shortest player in MLB to hit a home run this season, taller only than Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (5-foot-5).

He’s also the shortest player in Brewers history to homer, supplanting 5-foot-8 Mike Felder, Ron Theobold, Curt Motton and Roberto Pena.

The Brewers swept the Marlins over the weekend, holding them scoreless in all three games. The Marlins’ scoreless streak of 37 innings and the Brewers’ 35 innings of scoreless pitching, are records for both franchises.

How Josh Hamilton helps, and hurts, a team

November, 27, 2012
As with most things related to Josh Hamilton, there are two sides. And as one of the most fascinating free agents in history, both of those sides will undoubtedly be scrutinized.
Josh Hamilton
What cannot be debated is that since Hamilton’s arrival, the Texas Rangers have been a much better team than before his arrival.

Not all of that can or should be attributed to Hamilton himself; however, it’s not a coincidence that the Rangers’ offensive production ticked up noticeably in the five years he’s been with the club (2008-12) compared to the five years before the Rangers’ trade with the Cincinnati Reds that brought Hamilton to Texas.

How can we quantify the impact made by Hamilton?

From 2003-07, the Rangers team OPS was .781, they averaged 5.2 runs per game and about 1.3 home runs per game. From 2008-12 – the “Hamilton era” – the Rangers team OPS was .783, they averaged 5.1 runs per game and about 1.2 home runs per game. In other words, the Rangers offense simply remained steady after the arrival of Hamilton.

Not exactly.

When one compares the Rangers production to the major-league average over the two five-year spans, it becomes clear just how much better the Rangers’ offense was with Hamilton.

The Rangers’ run scoring went from about 9 percent above the league average to more 14 percent above league average. Similarly impressive advances were made in the team batting average and OPS (see chart).

Clearly, the departure of Hamilton would have a distinct impact on the Rangers’ offense.

After all, when you look at strictly offensive performance from 2012, Hamilton’s +4.4 offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR) -- which removes the defensive component from WAR – was the second-best mark on the Rangers behind Adrian Beltre.

In a vacuum, that production could have been the difference between the Rangers making and missing the postseason. His offensive production would be missed.

But, there’s always another side with Hamilton, and in this case it’s his defense. Despite producing 4.4 oWAR in 2012, Hamilton’s net WAR production was a relatively modest 3.4.

Why? Because Hamilton was a net negative on defense, costing his team more than a win with his glove.

To compound the issue, most of Hamilton’s worst defensive work was done while he was producing his worst offensive stretch of the season.

From Aug. 1 through the end of the regular season, Hamilton produced a Minus-9 Defensive Runs Saved mark, compared to being nearly league-average from the beginning of the year through July (-1 DRS).

Only four players -- Pedro Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Nelson -- were worse over the final two months.

Which is why Hamilton’s departure, while it would undoubtedly impact the offense, may not hurt the Rangers all that much overall. Craig Gentry, a cheap and ready-made outfield replacement, produced +2.8 WAR in 2012 on the back of some outstanding defensive work.

And while it might seem impossible that a player who hit one home runs in 269 plate appearances could be a replacement for Hamilton, who hit 43 home runs, the numbers suggest it would far less of a net loss for the Rangers than one would initially think.

That’s why there are always two sides to everything Josh Hamilton. In this case, we’re not talking about on the field versus off the field, but rather in the batter’s box versus in the outfield.

Fresh faces in the spotlight tonight in KC

July, 10, 2012

US PresswireThe 83rd MLB All-Star Game will be played tonight in Kansas City.
The stars of the AL and NL battle for league bragging rights tonight in the 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

The National League leads the all-time series 42-38-2 and has won the past two matchups. The last time the NL won three All-Star games in a row was 1994-96.

This will be the 10th time that the game has decided homefield advantage in the World Series. How important is homefield advantage in the Fall Classic?

Since 1985, the team with homefield advantage has won 21 of 26 World Series. Also, the last nine times the World Series has gone to a Game 7, the home team has won each time. In fact, the last road team to win a Game 7 was the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

A record five rookies were selected to the All-Star game this year: Ryan Cook, Yu Darvish, Bryce Harper, Wade Miley and Mike Trout. Nineteen players age 25 or younger were selected to play in the game, the most since 1967, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Harper is the youngest position player ever selected to the All-Star Game, and just the third 19-year-old. Both Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller were selected as teenagers, but only Gooden appeared in the game.

Harper and Trout will be the fourth and fifth non-pitchers under the age of 21 to play in the All-Star game in the last 35 seasons. The last player to do it was Alex Rodriguez in 1996.

Stephen Strasburg is the fifth pitcher selected No. 1 in the MLB Draft to be chosen as an All-Star. David Price is the only other former No. 1 pick and All-Star that came from the last 20 drafts.

Justin Verlander gets the starting nod for the AL, becoming the first Detroit Tigers pitcher to start the All-Star Game since Kenny Rogers in 2006. He joins Jim Palmer (1977) as the only AL pitchers to start the All-Star Game after winning the Cy Young Award the previous season, according to Elias.

Justin Verlander
Verlander leads the AL in innings, complete games and is tied for the lead in strikeouts. He has thrown 31 pitches this season at 100 MPH or faster; the rest of the major-league starters have thrown 21.

Matt Cain will take the ball first for the NL, becoming the seventh different San Francisco Giants pitcher to start the All-Star game. The list includes two Hall of Famers (Juan Marichal and Carl Hubbell) and his current teammate Tim Lincecum, among others.

Matt Cain
Cain, who ranks second in the NL in WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio, threw the first perfect game in Giants history last month. Elias says the only other pitcher to start an All-Star game after throwing a perfect game earlier in the season was David Wells in 1998.

There has only been one grand slam hit in All-Star Game history. Fred Lynn took Atlee Hammaker deep with the bases loaded in the third inning of the 1983 game.