Stats & Info: Jose Bautista

ESPN HR Tracker derby dream team

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

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

American League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National League

Giancarlo Stanton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Davis joins Ruth & Belle in 50-40 club

September, 14, 2013
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagestChris Davis is only the second Orioles player to hit 50 homers in a season.
Chris Davis isn't just having an MVP-caliber season. He's having the type of season we've only seen twice previously in major league history.

Davis hit his 50th home run of the season Friday, joining Babe Ruth (1921) and Albert Belle (1995) as the only players in MLB history with 50 home runs and 40 doubles in a season.

Davis is the first player with 50 homers in a season since Jose Bautista in 2010, and the first left-handed batter to do so since Prince Fielder in 2007.

Only six other lefties have posted 50 homers in a season for an AL team –- Ruth, Ken Griffey Jr., David Ortiz, Jim Thome, Brady Anderson and Roger Maris.

Davis tied Anderson for the Orioles franchise record for homers in a season.

Home runs by Davis have usually led to wins for the Orioles. The Orioles are 30-17 in games in which Davis has a homer this season, including 3-0 when he has multiple home runs. They are 47-52 in all other games.

Similarly, the Orioles are 48-26 when Davis has an RBI, including 21-10 when he has multiple RBIs, but only 29-43 when he fails to drive in a run.

Davis has had a spectacular season, but does he deserve the AL MVP award?

His power numbers suggest he does, but consider this: Davis doesn't even have the most Wins Above Replacement on his own team. Entering Friday, Manny Machado (6.6) had a slight edge over Davis (6.5) in WAR. Davis ranked sixth in the AL among hitters, also trailing Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera.

Bautista now getting results on hard-hits

May, 12, 2013
Pitching may have been the story of the day over the weekend, but also notable Sunday was that Jose Bautista's bat showed just the kind of power that the Toronto Blue Jays are looking for.

Bautista had his first multi-homer game of the season (his first since last June 19th) in the Blue Jays win over the Boston Red Sox, for their second straight win at Fenway Park.

Though Bautista is hitting only .246 this season, his other two slashline numbers (a .360 on-base percentage and .544 slugging percentage) are impressive. He only has 28 hits this season, but 16 are for extra bases.

Bautista is starting to heat up. He hit only .200 with an .836 OPS and 23 percent strikeout rate in April, but is hitting .333 with a 1.017 OPS and an 11 percent strikeout rate in May.

For the most part, pitchers have come to realize this and are pitching him more carefully. He’s drawn 10 walks this month after drawing 11 in April.

Bautista has been more selective. In his last 53 plate appearances, he’s only swung at 16 percent of pitches out of the strike zone.

In April, that chase rate was closer to one of every four pitches outside the zone.

What has been consistent for Bautista is that he has been hitting the ball hard. Except now his hard-hit balls are going either over the fence, or finding spots where fielders are unable to make plays.

One of the stats our data providers provide us is “hard-hit average” – in other words: how often is the player making solid contact. The judgment is subjective, but is based on careful video review and follow-up discussion to attempt to unify opinions.

Bautista had a .253 hard-hit average in April and a .262 hard-hit average in May.

But Bautista was only 12-for-19 when getting credited with a hard-hit ball in April. In May, he's 10-for-10.

He ranks eighth in the majors for the season with a .256 hard-hit average, one point behind Edwin Encarnacion, whose batting average has also been a bit low (.231) this season.

But keep this in mind as we watch what Bautista (and Encarnacion) do moving forward. The six hitters currently above them in hard-hit average (as noted in the chart on the right) are all hitting .290 or better.
Dan Braunstein and Justin Havens contributed research to this post

Arencibia's long blast powers Blue Jays

April, 4, 2013
In the first two games of the Blue Jays-Indians series, the two teams combined to score a total of 10 runs. On Thursday night, they reached that total before the sixth inning was over.

Toronto avoided its fourth 0-3 start in franchise history with a wild 10-8 win over Cleveland. The game saw two ties and three lead changes before the Blue Jays pulled away in the final innings.

Six different players went deep, combining for seven total homers among the two teams, the most combined homers in a game in this short season. Eight of the first nine runs scored came via the longball, and a homer was hit in five of the nine innings played.

The Blue Jays hit five of those homers – it is just the second time in franchise history they hit five longballs in one of their first three games of the season. The only other time it happened was in 2001.

Who Went Deep
J.P. Arencibia was the star for Toronto with his seventh career multi-homer game. That breaks a tie with Ernie Whitt for the most games with at least two home runs by a Blue Jays catcher.

Arencibia’s second-inning homer traveled a career-long 460 feet, matching Justin Upton (on April 1) for the longest home run hit this season. His second home run in the sixth inning came off an 88-mph sinker. Arencibia had only one homer in 49 career at-bats ending in sinkers before launching that pitch over the fence.

Arencibia, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI, had only one hit in seven at-bats prior to Thursday night. He had whiffed on nearly half of his swings in the first two games (6 of 13), striking out three times.

Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus also hit homers for Toronto. Bautista has now gone deep in consecutive games for the first time since last June.

Encarnacion turned on a high fastball in the fifth inning for his first homer of the season. Last year Encarnacion struggled against pitches in the upper third of the zone or above, with only six hits in 44 at-bats (.136) and just one home run.

Rasmus’ home run off righty Cody Allen was his first hit of the season, after 10 straight hitless at-bats. It came on a 95-mph fastball over the plate. Rasmus last year slugged .621 on fastballs of at least 95 mph vs right-handed pitchers, the eighth-best rate among AL hitters.

Top stats to know: Blue Jays

February, 25, 2013

USA TODAY SportsThe Blue Jays have plenty of new faces-- among them Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle
With Baseball Tonight visiting Toronto Blue Jays spring training camp today, here’s a look at notable “Stats to Know” about the team that was among baseball’s busiest this offseason.

Postseason Drought
The Blue Jays have not been to the postseason since 1993. The only AL team with a longer playoff drought is the Royals, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985. The Blue Jays also don’t have a 90-win season since that championship year. Every other team in the AL East has at least two since then.

New Starters Mean WAR
The Blue Jays starting rotation will likely feature three new pitchers-- R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle.

The three have combined for 47 Wins Above Replacement over the last four seasons. Each of the three ranks in the top 17 among pitchers. Johnson rates the highest-- seventh-best, with 19.1 Wins Above Replacement.

Reyes Kickstarts Lineup
Likely leadoff hitter Jose Reyes will look to fill a significant hole for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s leadoff hitters had a .294 on-base percentage and .650 OPS last season, each of which ranked fifth-worst in the majors.

Shifty Infield
The Blue Jays were among the most frequent users of defensive shifts in 2012. Baseball Info Solutions credited them with 12 Defensive Runs Saved due to shift usage last season, the highest such total in the majors.

One of the most integral players in their defense is third baseman Brett Lawrie, who led major league third basemen last season with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.

Edwin Loves the Outer-Half
Edwin Encarnacion had a breakout season with 42 home runs in 2012. Encarnacion had 27 home runs against pitches that were on the outer-half of the plate (or off the plate), a rate of one for every 55 pitches seen.

From 2009 to 2011, Encarnacion had 26 homers on outer-half pitches, a rate of one for every 108 pitches seen.

A Lethal Power/Speed Combo
The Blue Jays have a chance to finish in the top of the league in both power and speed. Toronto owns three prolific base stealers in Rajai Davis, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio who rank 3rd, 6th and 13th respectively in stolen bases the last 3 seasons.

The team also features two of the most prominent power hitters in baseball as measured by Isolated Power. Jose Bautista (.286) and Edwin Encarnacion (.277) ranked 4th and 5th in the MLB by that metric last season (min. 350 PA), the only pair of teammates in the top 10.

Morrow's Continued Progress
While his ‘breakout’ season was cut short due to injury, it looked like Brandon Morrow took a significant step forward in 2012. He also seemed to make a key adjustment – pitching down in the zone rather than up in the zone, decreasing his strikeouts but increasing his effectiveness.
It was a game of comebacks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, as the Baltimore Orioles outlasted the Detroit Tigers 8-6 in 13 innings.

It was the fourth time this season that the Orioles played at least 13 innings. That’s the most in the majors, and Baltimore is a perfect 4-0 in such games this season.

The O’s are 10-2 in extra innings this season, the most wins in the majors. Since the start of the 2010 season, the Orioles have 31 extra-inning victories, also tops in MLB. The Cincinnati Reds, who beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings Saturday, are third on the list with 27.

The hero was Taylor Teagarden, who made his Orioles debut by entering the game as a defensive replacement in the 11th inning. Teagarden’s two-run homer provided the winning margin and was his first career walk-off hit.

Teagarden bailed out Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who allowed a season-high three runs in picking up his second blown save of the season. Entering the game, Johnson had allowed only five runs in 37⅓ innings.

J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones also got into the action with game-tying hits in extra innings. Jones tied the game in the 11th and leads the majors with four game-tying or go-ahead hits in extra innings this year. Hardy hit a solo homer in the 13th, the first time in his career that he has tied a game by going deep after the ninth inning.

There have been nine home runs hit in the 13th inning or later in the majors this season, and the Orioles have four of them.

That offset the efforts of Quintin Berry, who was in line to be the hero for the Tigers. After picking up his first career game-tying ninth-inning hit to force extra innings, he got his second career extra-inning go-ahead hit in the 13th.

Diamond Dust
• The hero in Cincinnati was less of a surprise. Ryan Ludwick hit his fifth career walk-off home run as the Reds downed the Cardinals 3-2 in 10 innings.

• The Atlanta Braves rallied late to cost R.A. Dickey the win, but he has made 15 straight starts without a loss. That’s the fourth-best streak in New York Mets history. Tom Seaver (1969-70), Dwight Gooden (1985) and Johan Santana (2008-09) all have 18-game streaks without a loss.

• Andrew McCutchen homered in three straight games for the first time in his career. Since he hit his first long-ball of the season on May 8, only Jose Bautista has more home runs.

Derby champ Fielder goes the distance

July, 10, 2012

John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty ImagesPrince Fielder hit the four longest homers of the night to capture his second HR Derby crown.
After hitting just five home runs in the first round of Monday’s Home Run Derby, Prince Fielder looked like he might not even advance to the next round. Fast forward to night’s end and he was the one holding his second derby title.

In his fourth appearance at the event, Fielder bested Jose Bautista 12-7 in the finals to become just the second player to ever win multiple derbies. Ken Griffey Jr. was a three-time champion.

For the Detroit Tigers first baseman, it was more than merely putting the ball in the stands. Fielder put on a show for the Kansas City crowd, blasting one towering drive after another with his uppercut swing. Not surprisingly, those massive cuts resulted in some eye-popping distances.

Fielder hit the four longest shots of the 82 hit in the evening, crushing two balls that traveled 476 feet and also hitting home runs of 464 and 461 feet. In total, Fielder smashed 28 homers with 10 measuring at least 440 feet. On the night, his home runs had an average distance of 432.3 feet “actual” feet.

The slugger’s early struggles did not prevent him from catching fire in the second round, when his 11 blasts outpaced competitors Carlos Beltran, Mark Trumbo and Bautista. He then went on to clobber 12 home runs in the finals, tied for the most ever in the closing round with Robinson Cano, who did so last year.

Seven of the last eight winners have been left-handed batters, including the last 5 champions: Cano, David Ortiz, Justin Morneau and Fielder’s pair.

Cano’s attempt to defend his title Monday night did not go well. The New York Yankees second baseman and captain of the AL squad failed to hit a home run, joining Brandon Inge, Jason Bay, Bret Boone and Troy Glaus as the only players in the last 15 years to go homerless in the derby. In doing so, Cano became the first defending champion to come up with no home runs.

While Cano received plenty of negative reaction from the fans in K.C. for not choosing any Royals to participate in the derby, the crowd was fully behind Fielder, who has just 15 home runs in his first season with the Tigers. The lefty moved into fifth place all-time in derby homers with 63.

Matt Kemp’s NL squad did not have a chance of hanging with Fielder; his 28 homers were more than the four National Leaguers combined. The AL has won the event the last five years that the two leagues have competed head-to-head (1992, 1993, 1994, 2011, 2012).

In quality and quantity, Fielder owned the night.
This is the Home Run Derby edition of our Home Run Tracker awards, focusing on the eight players competing in the Derby on Monday night. The awards are for home runs hit in the first half of the regular season.

All information goes back to the 2006 season, the first year of the ESPN Home Run Tracker Database.

NO DOUBTER -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the longest true distance

Carlos Beltran
Winner: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (464 feet)

Beltran hit an Ian Kennedy pitch 464 feet on May 8, his longest since Sept. 28, 2007, when he hit one 466 feet. Of the eight participants, Beltran is the only one to eclipse the 460-foot mark this season.

WALL SCRAPER -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the shortest true distance

Winner: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (340 feet)

Bautista’s home run off Dillon Gee on May 20 had a true distance of 340 feet. Bautista has the two shortest homers of the eight participants and is the only one to hit a home run fewer than 350 feet. He does have two homers of more than 450 feet, as well, so not all of his are short ones.

Mark Trumbo
MASHER -- Given to the player with the greatest average home run distance

Winner: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Trumbo’s 22 home runs have averaged 419.5 feet, the best in all of baseball (min. 10 home runs). Eighteen of his 22 home runs went farther than 400 feet, including two that went farther than 450.

MOONSHOT -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the highest apex (Apex: the maximum vertical height a ball reaches during its flight)

Winner: Trumbo (151 feet)

On June 10, Mark Trumbo hit a 364-foot home run with an apex of 151 feet, the fifth highest of the season; no other participant has a homer with an apex higher than 140 feet.

Carlos Gonzalez
LINER -- Given to the player who hit the home run with the lowest apex

Winner: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (46 feet).

Gonzalez and Robinson Cano each had a 46-foot apex home run, but Gonzalez wins the tiebreaker because his left the park in 3.15 seconds compared to Cano’s 3.44. Gonzalez won this award on April 29 in extra innings off Frank Francisco.

FASTBALL -- Given to the player whose home run had the fastest speed off the bat

Jose Bautista
Winner: Bautista (117.5 mph)

Giancarlo Stanton originally had this award before his knee injury forced him out of the Derby, when his 462-foot home run had a speed off the bat of 122.4 mph on May 21, breaking the left-field scoreboard at Marlins Park. With Stanton out, Bautista takes his second award when his 430-foot home run on May 16 had a speed off the bat of 117.5 mph.

MOTHER NATURE -- Given to the player who hit the most climate-impacted home run

Winner: Beltran

At Kauffman Stadium off Jonathan Sanchez on June 24, Beltran hit a 386-foot home run aided 50 feet by a 13 mph wind. If those same wind conditions exist Monday, the Derby will be quite an event.

Bautista, Trumbo best AL choices for derby

July, 9, 2012
Here is a breakdown of the American League players in the Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 ET) field as well as players not in the field who merit consideration based on analysis from information provided by ESPN Home Run Tracker. Click here to check out our National League breakdown.

Of the 64 home runs hit at Kauffman Stadium this season, 24 have gone to left field (37.5 percent). The average home run distance there is 413.0 feet, second only to Coors Field in Colorado (414.2 feet). The participants likely to have the most success Monday night will have power to left field and have a high average home run distance.

Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista
Bautista is tied for the league lead in home runs with 27, 19 of which have gone to left field. He has two 450-foot home runs, tied for the most in the field with Mark Trumbo.

Prince Fielder
At first glance, Fielder doesn’t look like an ideal candidate. He has only 15 home runs, none of which have gone to left field. However, all but one of his homers would have been out of Kauffman Stadium and he averages 411.7 feet per home run.

Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo
Trumbo averages 419.5 feet per home run, the best in baseball (min. 15 home runs). Ten of his 22 home runs have gone to left field, he has two of more than 450 feet and only four have failed to travel 400 feet. In addition, 17 of his homers would have left Kauffman Stadium.

Robinson Cano
Thirteen of Cano’s 20 home runs would have been out of Kauffman Stadium, but he does not have a homer of more than 450 feet and only one homer went to left field.

Other AL players who are not in the field but warrant consideration:

Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton
Hamilton ruled himself out early on, but he averages 416.2 feet per home run, second to Trumbo, and 19 of his 27 homers would have been out of Kauffman Stadium. His 469-foot blast off Mark Melancon on April 17 is tied for fifth longest this season.

David Ortiz
Fifteen of his 22 home runs would have left Kauffman, but he doesn’t have a 450-foot homer this year, averages slightly more than 400 feet per home run (403.8) and only two of his home runs went to left field. Ortiz declined an invitation.

Adam Dunn
Adam Dunn
Twenty of his 25 home runs would have been out of Kauffman Stadium, the most in the majors. Dunn averages 412.3 feet per home run, which is fifth best in baseball (min. 15 home runs), and has 18 homers of more than 400 feet.

Adam Jones
Although he averages fewer than 400 feet per home run (398.3), 12 of his 20 home runs have gone to left field and 15 would have been homers in Kansas City.

Edwin Encarnacion
Could have been considered had he made the All-Star team. Encarnacion’s average home run distance is 412.5 feet, the third best in baseball (min. 15 home runs). In addition, 16 of his 23 homers would have been out of Kauffman Stadium.

Lincecum goes offspeed to finish off sweep

June, 27, 2012

US PresswireTim Lincecum tossed seven scoreless innings as the Giants completed a historic sweep of the Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers now have company atop the NL West after the San Francisco Giants swept their in-state rivals to move into a tie for the division lead.

The Giants held the Dodgers without a run in each of the three games, marking the first time the Giants swept a series with three shutouts since April 1954 over the Philadelphia Phillies. It was also the first time the Giants have held the Dodgers scoreless over three straight games in franchise history.

It is the first time ever that the Dodgers have been shut out in a series sweep of three-or-more games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The three consecutive scoreless games matches the longest such streak by a Dodgers team in the last 100 years, most recently done in 2007.

The Dodgers have not enjoyed their recent visits to the Bay area. The Giants sweep comes just a week after the Dodgers were swept by the Oakland Athletics across the bay. The Dodgers were outscored 24-2 in losing all six games.

The Giants are also the third team in the Divisional Era (since 1969) to throw a shutout in each game of a three-game series sweep versus an opponent that was in first place at the start of the series, according to Elias.

The others to do this were the 1974 Baltimore Orioles over the first-place Boston Red Sox, and the 2010 New York Mets over the first-place Phillies.

Tim Lincecum had perhaps his best start of the season, throwing seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to snap a career-worst 10-start winless streak. Lincecum relied on his offspeed pitches to put away the Dodgers, throwing his fastball just 41 percent of the time, his second-lowest rate this season.

The Dodgers were 2-for-14 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with an offspeed pitch, and missed on 17-of-33 swings against an offspeed pitch. It is the first time this season an opponent has missed on over half its swings against Lincecum's offspeed offerings.

Around the Diamond
• The Mets snapped their four-game losing streak and avoided a series sweep by the Chicago Cubs with a 17-1 blowout win. The 16-run differential matched the second-biggest margin of victory in Mets history.

Four different Mets had at least four RBI, matching the most players with four-or-more RBI in a single game since RBI became official in 1920. It had been done three times previously and most recently by the Texas Rangers in a 30-3 win over the Orioles in 2007.

• Jose Bautista hit his major-league-leading 13th homer in June in the Toronto Blue Jays’ loss to the Red Sox, setting the franchise record for homers in a month. The last player to hit at least 13 home runs in June was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998.

• The New York Yankees completed a sweep of the Cleveland Indians, but lost Andy Pettitte for at least six weeks after he was hit by a line drive and broke his fibula. Pettitte’s 3.22 ERA is the best among the Yankee starting pitchers this season. It is also his second-best season ERA as Yankee, behind a 2.88 mark in 1997.

US Presswire/ESPN Stats & InfoDuring his 16-game hit streak, Josh Hamilton was 25-for-59 with 10 home runs.
Baseball’s 16th season of interleague play is under way with celebrations of natural rivalries -- Cubs against White Sox, Orioles against Nationals, A’s against Giants among others -- and in one instance a chance for National League fans to get a load of Josh Hamilton.

The Texas Rangers will travel down I-45 and give Houston Astros fans a look at baseball’s hottest hitter.

Hamilton already has the second-highest career batting average in interleague games, but also comes into this series on a historic tear.

Hamilton’s 16-game hit streak came to an end on Thursday when his day off ended early against Oakland. He pinch-hit and ended up 0-for-2 in a loss to the Athletics, but Hamilton still leads the American League in home runs, RBIs and batting average.

Hamilton’s hitting streak included a week, from May 7-13, that might have been as impressive as any in history.

He hit .467 with nine home runs and 18 RBI and an OPS of 1.963. His week included the 16th four-home run game in baseball history, and his nine home runs for the week matched the combined total hit that week by last season’s nine leading home run hitters: Jose Bautista 3, Curtis Granderson 2, Giancarlo Stanton 2, Dan Uggla 1 and Prince Fielder 1.

Texas and Houston meet each season in home-and-home series in interleague play (competing for the Silver Boot trophy), so the Astros have experienced Hamilton’s bat. Over the past three seasons against Houston pitching, Hamilton is 26-for-65 (.400) with four home runs and 13 RBI.

Breaking down Hamilton's homer barrage

May, 12, 2012

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJosh Hamilton tied an MLB record with his 18th homer in the Rangers' 34th game Saturday.
Josh Hamilton homered for the ninth time in his past six games Saturday, sending C.J. Wilson’s 80 mph curveball into the right-field seats in the sixth inning of the Texas Rangers' 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

One key to Hamilton’s power surge has been his ability hit breaking balls out of the yard. After Saturday, Hamilton now has seven home runs on breaking balls this season, already his most in any season since joining the Rangers in 2008.

Hamilton is hitting .420 against breaking balls in 2012, a dramatic increase over his .260 average against such pitches a year ago. And his slugging percentage against curveballs and sliders is .860, dwarfing his 2011 mark of .468.

Hamilton’s sudden ability to smash breaking balls has helped him get off to one of the best starts to a season in major league history.

His 18 homers have tied Cy Williams of the 1923 Phillies for the most all-time through 34 team games. And with nine home runs in his past six games, Hamilton is just one shy of the MLB record for homers in a six-game span set by Frank Howard with 10 in 1968, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Hamilton’s 18 home runs this season are five more than the entire San Diego Padres team and one fewer than the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins.

Hamilton will look to continue his record run Sunday night against Jered Weaver and the Angels on ESPN. Hamilton has 34 career at-bats against Weaver, his second most against any pitcher, but just one home run.

Elsewhere in the majors Saturday:

• 2011 home run champ Jose Bautista hit his 10th career home run at Target Field in just his 10th game at the park. Only four players, all Twins, have more HR at Target Field since it opened in 2010. According to Elias, Bautista is the first player to hit 10 HR in his first 10 games in a ballpark since Shawn Green at Miller Park from 2001 to 2004.

• Roy Halladay took the loss after allowing seven hits and two runs in seven innings as the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the Padres. The Phillies have now lost each of Halladay’s past five starts. That ties the longest losing streak for a team in Roy Halladay starts, matching the Toronto Blue Jays' five-game losing streak in Halladay starts in 1999.

• The Boston Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians 4-1 for their second straight home win following a six-game losing streak at Fenway Park. It’s the first time the Red Sox have won back-to-back home games since April 13-15.

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp is the fifth player in history to hit at least 12 home runs before May 1.

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 April.

Power Surge: (Player with highest combined HR distance)
2011 Winner: Jose Bautista
March/April Winner: Matt Kemp
Kemp is off to a torrid start, with 12 home runs that have traveled a true distance of 4,802 feet. That’s a longer true distances than the Padres, who have hit 11 home runs, and the Cubs, who have hit the fewest HR (9) entering May. Kemp's 12 home runs are two shy of the record set by Albert Pujols in 2006 and Alex Rodriguez in 2007 for the most home runs by April 30.

No Doubter (Longest true distance)
2011 Winner: Prince Fielder (486 feet)
March/April Winner: Travis Hafner (481 feet)
On April 15, Cleveland’s DH hit a home run of the Royals Luis Mendoza, the longest HR of his career. Hafner’s previous long was 454 feet in 2006. The 481-foot shot is the longest HR by an Indian since the beginning of our database (2006).

Wall-Scraper (Shortest true distance)
2011 Winner: Asdrubal Cabrera (320 feet)
March/April Winner: B.J. Upton (323 feet)
On April 24, Upton hit a home run off Ervin Santana that hit off the left-field foul pole. Chris Iannetta hit a 324-foot HR off Phil Hughes, the only other player this season to hit a home run less than 345 feet.

Moonshot: (Highest Apex - maximum vertical height a ball reaches)
2011 Winner: Mark Reynolds (161 feet)
March/April Winner: Todd Helton (162 feet)
On April 14, Helton hit a walk-off home run off J.J. Putz. The ball hung in the air for 6.92 seconds, the highest apex HR since Alex Rodriguez reached 169 feet on Sept 11, 2009.

Liner: (Lowest Apex)
2011 Winner: Carlos Peguero (39 feet, twice)
March/April Winners: Curtis Granderson/Luke Scott (49 feet)
Ervin Santana, who gave up the shortest HR of the month, also gave up the lowest apex. On April 13, Santana served up a 349-foot solo shot to Granderson that had an apex of 49 feet. Scott matched Granderson with a 387-foot laser off Mark Lowe, which also never got higher than 49 feet off the ground.

Mother Nature: (Most climate-impacted HR)
2011 Winner: Luke Scott
March/April Winner: Miguel Cabrera
Even the best need help from time to time. On April 26, Cabrera hit a 382-foot home run off Hector Noesi, but a 15 mph wind gust helped the ball carry an extra 62 feet. Without the wind, it would have been a routine fly out.

Server: (Pitcher who allowed the greatest cumulative distance)
2011 Winner: Bronson Arroyo
March/April Winner: Ervin Santana
In addition to giving up the shortest and the lowest apex home runs, Santana’s 10 home runs allowed traveled a total distance of 3,844 feet.

Launching Pad: (Greatest cumulative distance in one stadium)
2011 Winner: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
March/April Winner: Rogers Centre
Thirty-eight HR have been hit in Rogers Centre thus far, with a total distance of 15,072 feet. Chase Field in Arizona finished second, totaling 12,803 feet. Conversely, only six HR were hit at AT&T Park in April.

Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
At 3-0, Yu Darvish has a chance to be the first rookier starting pitcher in 10 years to go 4-0 in April.

(The Toronto Blue Jays host the Texas Rangers, Monday at 7 ET on ESPN.)

The Texas Rangers are still an offensive force, leading the majors in hits, runs, batting average, slugging and total bases.

The Rangers are also fourth in ERA and WHIP, thanks in large part to their bullpen. Texas’ relievers have a 2.05 ERA, struck out 54 and walked four, and opponents are hitting just .197.

As good as the Rangers' bullpen has been, rookie starting pitcher Yu Darvish has been almost as impressive.

Darvish is 3-0 and has an 0.89 ERA in his last three starts. The Rangers have won all four of his starts, and have given him an average of 7.3 runs of support per start.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1957 (when the first official rules for rookie status were implemented) only five rookie starting pitchers were 4-0 or better in April: 1968 Jerry Koosman (4-0), 1977 Jerry Garvin (4-0), 1981 Fernando Valenzuela (5-0), 1996 Mike Grace (4-0) and 2002 Kazuhisa Ishii (5-0).

Darvish has six different pitches and has thrown each of them at least 24 times. He throws fewer than half his pitches in the strike zone, and opponents are just 4-for-29 (.138) on pitches out of the zone.

However, Darvish has had some control issues. He's walked 15 batters, which is tied for fourth in MLB, and has walked at least four batters in three of his four starts.

Darvish has not allowed a home run -- only four pitchers have thrown more pitches without allowing a home run this season. In Toronto, he’ll get his first look at Jose Bautista, who has hit 97 home runs since the start of 2010.

Bautista has three HR in 2012, but overall is off to a much slower start than last season.

He’s hitting .190 and slugging .329. Last April, Bautista hit .366 and slugged .780. The good news is that in his breakout season in 2010, Bautista hit .213 and slugged .427 in the first month of the season.

One reason for his down numbers can be attributed to bad luck on balls in play (BABIP). His BABIP is .179, much lower than his .309 average last season.

His line-drive percent is down as well from 18 percent last season to 10 percent in 2012, and his groundball percent is up slightly (37 percent last season to 40 percent in 2012).

Bautista's power is down because he’s hitting fewer balls in the air, and far fewer of those balls are leaving the ballpark or even going for extra-base hits.

Also, don't be surprised if Bautista sees a lot of off-speed pitches from Darvish, who throws fastballs less than 50 percent of the time. Bautista is hitting .167 on off-speed stuff, down more than 100 points from last season (.284 with 15 home runs).

Choice matchup: slider vs. cutter

April, 11, 2012

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Roy Halladay celebrates after throwing a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, 2010.
The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies continue their three-game series tonight (ESPN2, 7 ET). This will be the first game for the Marlins without manager Ozzie Guillén, who was suspended five games by the team for his comments regarding his respect for Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. This is the first time Guillén has been suspended in his managerial career. Joey Cora will make his managerial debut in the interim.

Starting Pitchers
Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay have started against each other four times, with Johnson’s teams winning three of the four games. Since Halladay joined the Phillies in 2010, they have faced off three times, with both pitchers going at least seven innings. In those games, a grand total of six runs were scored – and one perfect game was thrown (by Halladay).

The key for Johnson tonight will be how he commands his slider. Last season, opponents were 5-for-68 (.074) on at-bats ending in his slider. The league average was .217. Right-handed hitters were just 2-for-40 (.050) against the slider, with Albert Pujols and Justin Turner recording the only hits.

However, in his first outing this season, Johnson had trouble commanding the slider and allowed two hits off the pitch, both to David Frese.

In his first start this season, Halladay recorded the win over the Pittsburgh Pirates after throwing eight innings, allowing two hits, no earned runs and striking out five. The key to his success against the Pirates was his cutter, which has become his main weapon of choice. In that outing, Halladay threw only seven regular fastballs among the 92 pitches he threw.

Key Stat
The Phillies offense has been anemic to start the season. Their four extra-base hits are the fewest in the majors and no team but the Minnesota Twins have scored fewer than the Phillies’ 2.0 runs per game. Not since 1997 have the Phillies scored as few as eight runs in their first four games of the season. Philadelphia finished 68-94 that season and in last place in the NL East.

Player to Watch
Giancarlo Stanton has yet to hit a home run this season after hitting a career-high 34 last year. Overall, Stanton improved across the board in 2011, compared to his rookie year. He cut his strikeouts down, increased his walk rate from the league average to better than 83 percent of the league, all while increasing his power output. His 5.7 Wins Above Replacement, according the Baseball-Reference, ranked second among MLB rightfielders (Jose Bautista, 8.5).

Interesting Fact
Stanton’s full name is a sonorous mouthful: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. He is not Italian, and Giancarlo is not a family name – his parents just liked it. In school, Stanton, a California native, went by Giancarlo until the fifth grade.

Will Cohen contributed to this post