Stats & Info: Nyjer Morgan

The Milwaukee Brewers entered Friday’s winner-take-all game just 1-5 when in position to clinch a postseason series. They did not let history dictate their future overcoming the Arizona Diamondbacks in extra innings.

The last time the Brewers won a postseason series was October 10, 1982. Nyjer Morgan, who had the game-winning RBI Friday, was two years old. His RBI single in the 10th inning was the first walk-off hit by a Brewer in a postseason game. Morgan is the 11th player with a walk-off hit in a winner-take-all game and first to do it since Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Another key storyline was the play of battery-mates Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy. Gallardo allowed one earned run in six innings to move his career ERA versus the Diamondbacks to 1.23. That’s the lowest of any pitcher against the Diamondbacks in the history of their franchise (regular season and postseason).

Although Gallardo didn’t have the high strikeout total he did in his previous four starts (45 K), he was able to utilize his fastball and curveball enough to get the job done. Gallardo's fastball averaged 93.5 MPH, which was tied for his highest in a start this season. He used his curveball more than usual as he threw it 27 percent of the time in Game 5 compared to 20 percent in Game 1. It proved to be an effective pitch as 23 of his 30 curveballs were down in the zone and hitters were just 1 for 8 with two strikeouts in at-bats ending in curveballs.

Lucroy helped his pitcher, especially when receiving the curveball, recording 10 catcher blocks according to Baseball Info Solutions data. That's tied for his eighth-most in a game this season. Not an unusual stat as Lucroy ranked second among MLB catchers in blocks during the regular season.

The Diamondbacks failed to become the first National League team to come back from a 2-0 division series deficit. They lose two straight starts made by Ian Kennedy for the first time since June 27 to July 3. Overall, the team scored only seven runs in three games in Milwaukee, all losses. That's compared to 18 in their two wins in Arizona. They have now lost seven of their last nine postseason games.

Did you know:
The Brewers and Detroit Tigers (who advanced Thursday) are the first two teams ever to win a postseason series 3-2, where the score in the deciding game was also 3-2.

The art of stealing a base

July, 4, 2010
Last season Nyjer Morgan and Chone Figgins tied for the league lead in caught stealing. Both players put up identical stolen base stats, each going 42-for-59 on the season. While Figgins has cleaned up his act on the base paths, Morgan has not.

Figgins’ improvement in stolen bases has been staggering. According to Baseball Prospectus, Figgins had an EqSBR of -3.35 last season. EqSBR is a measure of ”theoretical runs contributed by a baserunner or baserunners above what would be expected given the number and quality of their baserunning opportunities” so in a nutshell, Figgins was doing more bad than good when he ran. In fact, out of the 846 players Prospectus had listed for the stat last year, Figgins was ranked 841. This season? Figgins leads all of major league baseball in EqSBR at 2.97 and he is 23-for-27 in stolen base attempts.

So how is Figgins cutting down on the caught stealing numbers?

It appears he’s just trying harder. There isn’t much difference in when Figgins is stealing or who he is stealing against (righty/lefty), just how he is doing in certain situations, most notably when in the inning:

Figgins was 23-for-38 with less than two outs last year. This year, he’s 17-for-20. He has only been caught three times combined the past two seasons with two outs. For a player who has only been “out-caught” by Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo in the 2000s, this change is a pretty notable turn of events.

Nyjer Morgan, on the other hand, continues to struggle on the base paths against both left and right-handed pitchers. Morgan has already been caught 12 times. Statistically, there really isn’t much of a difference in his stolen base attempts. Morgan isn’t running significantly more or less against left-handed pitchers, or on certain pitch counts, or on certain outs. He’s just doing more of the same and according to his -2.99 EqSBR this season (662 out of 663), he’s probably costing the Nationals runs.

A few other stolen base trends through June…
-- Rajai Davis has 26 stolen bases so far this season. On six of those steals, the catcher has committed a throwing error. Last season, Jacoby Ellsbury stole 70 bases and on those 70 successes, there were seven throwing errors committed.

-- Carl Crawford isn’t a fan of running against left-handers. Only 11.4 percent of his attempts this season are against southpaws, which is right on par with his 11.8 percentage from 2009. What’s interesting though is that Crawford currently hasn’t attempted a steal against a lefty in 23 straight attempts (19-for-23, 82.6 percent), with the last one coming on May 16th (a success against Cliff Lee). This matches Crawford’s streak of 23 straight against lefties in 2009 (23-for-23 over that stretch).

BIS: Ranking the worst outfielders

June, 24, 2010
Rewind to the first week of the season, when the San Diego Padres visited their NL West rivals the Colorado Rockies. With nobody out and Padres shortstop David Eckstein on first in the top of the 14th inning, Adrian Gonzalez hit a fly ball to deep right field.

Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe, who is not known for his defense, couldn't get to the ball in time and failed to cut it off before it trickled to the wall. Knowing that Eckstein represented the potential winning run, Hawpe came up gunning for home but overthrew the first cutoff man (Melvin Mora). The ball bounced twice before reaching Todd Helton, but it was too late to nab Eckstein, whose run made the difference in the game.

Doug Glanville writes Thursday about outfield defensive fundamentals, drawing on his own experiences from high school through his nine-year big league career. The University of Pennsylvania alumnus emphasized hitting the cutoff man and getting the ball in quickly to prevent runners from advancing extra bases. These fundamental defensive plays go unnoticed by most fans but are often just as important as the offensive highlights, Glanville says.

Unnoticed no longer. Baseball Info Solutions tracks these sorts of unheralded defensive plays as part of our defensive misplays (DM) and good fielding plays (GFP) records. We track 54 types of defensive misplays, and 28 different good fielding plays. For example, BIS marks missing the cutoff man as “DM 47” or taking a bad route to a fly ball as “DM 26,” both examples that Glanville cites.

On the flip side, there are things a fielder does that we don’t always expect, and we record those, too. For example, when an outfielder cuts a ball off in the gap and thus prevents runners from advancing extra bases, he gets a “GFP 22.” Using this data, we can accurately determine the best fielders in baseball.

Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer is the 2010 leader in GFPs that prevent extra bases. He has cut the ball off or gotten it back in quickly to hold the runners at their bases seven times this season. Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu is the anti-Cuddyer, with a league-leading five defensive misplays on extra-base attempts.

As you might expect, youngsters are particularly prone to mental errors. Sophomore Colby Rasmus leads all outfielders with seven defensive misplays on throws. In fact, every outfielder with at least six throwing DMs is under age 30. We’ll expect each of these players to make fewer mistakes with more experience and coaching, as Glanville did as his career progressed.

We don’t have to rely solely on GFPs and DMs to tell us who’s doing all the little things right. Adam Jones, whom Glanville mentions as an example of a fielder who takes good angles to cut balls off in the gap, has thrown out three runners in extra-base situations already this season. Additionally, runners have taken the extra base just 41 percent of the time off Jones (21-for-51), tying him with B.J. Upton as the lowest rate among regular center fielders this season.

Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan has thrown out six extra-base seekers, tops in the league so far. BIS estimates that he’s saved five runs defensively with his throwing arm so far this season, also the best in baseball. Although he’s having a hard time reproducing his rookie of the year season offensively, Coghlan is finding a way, albeit with less fanfare, to help his team on the other side of the ball.

Ben Jedlovec is a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions.

1st Pitch: On pace for (obscure) history

June, 14, 2010
Quick Hits: With the exception of the Phillies, every team now has 100 or fewer games remaining in the season. As the season draws on, several players are on pace to make rather obscure history. Here are some to keep an eye on:
  • Ichiro Suzuki is on pace for 226 hits but only 72 runs scored. The fewest runs scored for a player with 200+ hits was 67 by George Sisler. However, the fewest runs for a player with 225+ hits is 88 by... Ichiro in 2009.
  • Ryan Theriot is on pace for 185 hits, but only 12 doubles. Since 1900, there have only been three players with 185 or more hits and 12 or fewer doubles. Jesse Burkett (1900), Ginger Beaumont (1904) and Maury Wills (1967).
  • Jose Bautista is on pace for just 83 extra-base hits and 45 singles. The most extra-base hits for a player with 45 or fewer singles in 66 by Carlos Pena in 2009. No other player has had a season with 60.
  • Prince Fielder is on pace for 30 home runs and just 61 RBI. The fewest RBI for a player with 30+ HR is 64, done by both Rob Deer (1992) and Felix Mantilla (1964).
  • Denard Span and Carl Crawford share the AL triples lead with only four. That just puts them on pace for 10. The last full season in which no AL player had 10 triples was 1972 when Carlton Fisk and Joe Rudi shared the league lead with nine.
  • Nyjer Morgan is on pace for 30 stolen bases, but also 25 caught stealings. Since 1950, the most CS for a player with 30 or fewer steals was 24 by Garry Templeton in 1977.
  • Billy Butler is on pace to ground into 43 double plays. Since being tracked by both leagues in 1940, Jim Rice holds the record with 36 in 1984. Only six players have had 30 doubles and 30 GIDPs in a season, but Butler would be the first with 40 of each.
Today’s Trivia: Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols will be in opposing dugouts for just the 7th time (not including All-Star Games) on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball. Both won their league’s Rookie of the Year in 2001 and have been destroying the record books since. Pujols holds the record for home runs in a player’s first 10 seasons, while Ichiro holds that distinction for hits. Who holds the record for most RBI in his first 10 seasons?

Today’s Leaderboard: Jon Garland takes the mound against the Blue Jays while sporting the league’s best ERA at home. Garland has a 1.15 ERA at home compared to 4.39 away from Petco. Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright brings his 1.62 home ERA up against the Mariners.

Key Matchups: A nine-year veteran of the AL, Jon Garland is 11-2 all-time against the Blue Jays. His team has won 13 of his last 15 starts against Toronto. Garland saw a lot of John Buck as AL Central rivals. Buck picked up only one hit in his first 12 at-bats against Garland, but since then, he is hitting .363 with four doubles in 24 at-bats.

Adam Wainwright is looking to extend his record streak of 20 straight quality starts at home. He’ll face the Mariners for the first time in his career. However, opponents have posted six straight quality starts against the Mariners, who have only exceeded 4 runs once in their last 14 games.

Trivia Answer: Joe DiMaggio had 1,277 RBI in his first 10 seasons, two more than Al Simmons. Pujols is currently 102 RBI behind Ted Williams for third on the list.

1st Pitch: What's wrong with the O's?

June, 4, 2010
Quick Hits: The Orioles parted ways with Dave Trembley today. Let’s take a look at what else they’ll need to fix in order to become competitive again.
  • Their starting pitchers are 9-27 with a 4.91 ERA, 4th worst in the majors.
  • They’ve converted nine of 19 save opportunities (47.4 percent), worst in the majors.
  • They’re 6-21 against their own division this season.
  • They’re batting a league-worst .217 with runners in scoring position.
  • They’ve scored just 3.3 runs per game, worst in the AL.
Today’s Trivia: Today is the 36th anniversary of 10-Cent Beer Night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. In the lineup that day for the Rangers were three future managers. One of them was Toby Harrah, who coached half of a season with the Rangers after replacing Bobby Valentine in 1992. The other two led their teams to World Series appearances in the 1990s. Can you name them?

Today’s Leaderboard: One of the only players getting the job done for the Orioles this season has been Jeremy Guthrie. One of the keys to his success has been battling back when he falls behind in the count. In three-ball counts, batters have a .400 OBP against Guthrie – the lowest in the majors.

Key Matchups: David Eckstein may be one of the most unlikely players to have success against Roy Halladay, but he is batting .407 with a .926 OPS in his career against the Phillies’ ace.

Nyjer Morgan is 5-10 in his career against Aaron Harang. In each of his last two games against Harang, both in 2009, Morgan led off the game with a hit.

Trivia Answer: Jim Fregosi, who led the Phillies to the 1993 World Series, started at first base. Mike Hargrove, who led the Indians to the World Series in 1995 and 1997, entered the game in the 5th inning at first base.

What's in a steal? 2010 SB trends emerging

April, 24, 2010
Speed might play the biggest role when it comes to stealing bases, but that doesn’t mean players don’t have their special tendencies. For example, Derek Jeter was 14-for-14 when attempting to steal on the first pitch last season, while Ichiro Suzuki made only three attempts in that situation. Everyone is different, so what are some of the interesting trends popping up so far in 2010?

Michael Bourn
Bourn, like the Houston Astros, got off to a slow start in 2010. Bourn stole 61 bases in 73 attempts last year (83.6 percent), but through April 18 he was only 1-for-2. That all changed when the Astros hosted the Florida Marlins, and Bourn got to face his favorite catcher.

In 2009, Bourn went 7-for-7 in steal attempts with John Baker behind the plate. Although they play in different divisions, Bourn attempted more steals against Baker than any other catcher in the league. (Josh Bard faced the second-most attempts from Bourn with five.)

So it should come as no surprise that in a three-game series against the Marlins, Bourn went 4-for-4 in stolen-base attempts ... all with Baker catching.

Rajai Davis
Last season, Davis was an equal-opportunity stealer, running on left-handers almost as often as he did right-handers. Of his 2009 attempts, 41.5 percent were against lefties, which was the highest percentage of the 40-plus stolen-base club . So far in 2010, that trend is continuing.

Davis is a perfect 8-for-8 in steal attempts in 2010, and four of them have been against lefties.

One other fun trend with Davis: Last year the A’s went 26-12 (.684) in games in which Davis stole a base. This year they are 6-1 (.857) when Davis steals a base. Since 2009, they are a combined 53-81 (.396) when he doesn’t record a steal.

Nyjer Morgan
In 2009, Morgan tied for the league lead with Chone Figgins in times caught stealing, as each was caught 17 times in 59 attempts. Morgan is 4-for-7 in steal attempts this season, and he’s second only to Matt Kemp in times caught stealing (four times). Perhaps Morgan should rethink his approach a bit.

Last year Morgan was 7-for-12 (58.3 percent) when stealing against lefties and 35-for-47 (74.5 percent) when stealing against right-handed pitchers. In 2010, Morgan is just 1-for-3 (33.3 percent) against lefties and 3-for-4 (75.0 percent) against righties.

Carl Crawford
In 2009, only 11.8 percent of all of Crawford’s stolen-base attempts came against lefties. Considering he was just 4-for-9 (44.4 percent) in those situations, it’s probably a good thing he chose to run primarily against righties. This season, though, Crawford is getting a little more aggressive.

Crawford is 7-for-8 on the whole this season and is already 2-for-3 against lefties. Last year, Crawford didn’t take his third steal attempt against a lefty until June 6.

On Friday, Tim Kurkjian discussed how steals of third base are becoming more and more common. No one better exemplifies that than Crawford, who has already stolen third base successfully on all three of his attempts this season. Last season, he didn't steal third base for the third time until July 8. He was 5-for-9 when stealing third base in 2009, and that made only up 11.8 percent of his attempts and 8.3 percent of his successes.

One2Watch4: Angels IF Erick Aybar

March, 24, 2010
Erick Aybar is on the move...

After hitting primarily in the second and ninth spot in the order last season, Aybar is slated to replace Chone Figgins at the top of the lineup – which makes him One2Watch4 in 2010. So what can Halos fans expect from Aybar in the leadoff spot this season?

One key part of Aybar’s offensive toolbox is his ability to lay down bunts. Last season he led all major league players with 18 bunt hits.

Aybar’s overall speed and baserunning smarts will also be an asset once he reaches base from the leadoff spot. According to, Aybar advanced an extra base (more than one base on a single and more than two bases on a double) 62% of the time when possible, which ranked fourth among players with at least 550 plate appearances last season.However, there are several areas of Aybar’s approach at the plate that do not fit the typical high-walk, patient, disciplined profile of a leadoff guy:

" Aybar walked in just 5.4 percent of his plate appearances, the 17th-worse mark in the majors. The guy he’s replacing – Figgins – walked in 17.9 percent of his plate appearances, the 17th-BEST mark in the majors.

" Aybar saw just 3.47 pitches per plate appearance, the 16th-lowest rate in the majors. Not surprisingly, Figgins was one of the most patient hitters in the league, with 4.21 pitches seen per plate appearance, the 11th-BEST rate in MLB.

" Aybar swung at 36.3 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, the 5th-highest rate in the majors.

" Finally, Aybar’s first-pitch strike percentage of 65.3 percent was the highest in the majors last season.

Yet, don’t give up hope, all you SoCal halo fans out there. While Aybar chases a lot of pitches and often finds himself behind in the count, he’s proven to be resilient in those situations:

" Aybar makes contact on a whopping 79.7 percent of those pitches chased out of the zone, which ranks eighth in MLB.

" Aybar had a batting average of .314 after 0-1 counts, the 5th-best mark in the majors in those situations.

If Aybar can continue to use his speed to get on base and advance on the basepaths, while also improving his discipline and patience at the plate, he’ll be One2Watch4 as the Angels' new and exciting leadoff batter in 2010.

The gift of the Rajai

March, 24, 2010
Rickey Henderson was known to say some…interesting…things throughout his career.

"I wish they had told me (about steroids). My God, could you imagine Rickey on 'roids? Oh, baby, look out!"

"Speeches and me don't get along sometimes. It is kind of like putting a tie too tight on my neck. I'm going to do whatever feels right."

And my personal favorite, when Rickey called Padres GM Kevin Towers looking for a job:

"Kevin, this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball."

But when Rickey Henderson declared that A’s outfielder Rajai Davis could steal 75-80 bases this year, nobody laughed. Instead, many wondered if he could.

Davis’ big hold-up is getting on base and getting playing time and since he’s slated to start this year, the latter might not be an issue. The big question is this:

If given the opportunity, should he even try?

Davis is a career 77.5 percent base stealer (93-120) and in 2009 he was successful 77.4 percent of the time. Of the players with 40+ steals last year, Davis ranked fourth in percentage behind Jacoby Ellsbury (85.4%), Michael Bourn (83.6%) and Carl Crawford (78.9%). However, Davis’ percentage could have been even better if it weren’t for a risky tendency.

Davis’ no-fear attitude on the base paths make a quest for 75 steals more of a likelihood given the opportunity, but the risk is obviously there. So is the risk worth it?

Davis scored 18 times after stealing a base last year and while each steal might not have directly contributed to the run, for our purposes, let’s just assume they did. Davis got caught 12 times in 2009, so right there you can see his successes slightly outweigh his failures.

To get more analytical, Davis ranked 6th in EqSBR (Equivalent Stolen Base Runs) in 2009 at 2.63. According to Baseball Prospectus, EqSBR is defined as the number of theoretical runs contributed by a baserunner above what would be expected given the number and quality of their baserunning opportunities. Ellsbury led EqSBR in 2009 with a 7.06 rating and Figgins, the reigning caught stealing co-champ, had an EqSBR of -3.35.

And while the following might be circumstantial evidence, it is pretty interesting. In 2009, the A’s went 27-12 (.692) when Davis stole a base and 48-75 (.390) when he didn’t.

So should Davis try to live up to Rickey’s expectations? As long as he can keep the positives from outweighing the negatives, then yes. If those caught stealing numbers start to add up though, Davis should probably rethink his tendencies, particularly running against lefties.