Stats & Info: Troy Tulowitzki

Top stats to know: 2014 Home Run Derby

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14

Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsYoenis Céspedes looks to be the 1st back-to-back-winner since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1998 and 1999.
The 2014 Gillette Home Run Derby gets going at 8 p.m. ET from Target Field in Minnesota (ESPN and WatchESPN).

The competition features some new rules this season.

Five players from each league bat in the opening round, with seven outs instead of 10. The player who hits the most home runs from each league gets a bye to the third round. The two players with the next-most home runs go head-to-head in the second round. The head-to-head winners will face their league's top seed in the third round, with the winners from each league going against each other in the final round.

Here's a look at the numbers for each of the 10 participants.

Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista will captain the American League team. The last four Home Run Derby champs have been from the American League. The last NL winner was Prince Fielder in 2009. Bautista was the runner up to Fielder in 2012 when Fielder was a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Bautista is a huge fan of Target Field. He has a .966 slugging percentage and 11 home runs in 59 at-bats there.

A player’s home run park percentage is the percentage of stadiums at which a home run would have gone over the fence under calm conditions (70 degrees Fahrenheit, no wind). Of the 31 players to hit at least 15 home runs in the first half, Bautista has the highest home run park percentage, 94.7 percent (meaning on average, his home runs would have been out of 30 of the 32 parks).

Yoenis Céspedes, Oakland Athletics
Céspedes, the defending champion, is looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Ken Griffey Jr. won in 1998 and 1999.

Céspedes hit a total of 32 home runs in last year’s Home Run Derby, which was eight more than any other contestant.

Target Field has a shorter power-alley in left center field than last year’s host park, Citi Field (377 feet versus 385 feet), though it does have a slightly longer distance to the foul pole (339 feet versus 335 feet). Twenty-six of Cespedes’ 32 home runs in last year’s Home Run Derby were hit to the left of center field.

Cespedes has not shown the power he showed in 2013. Last season, he averaged 403 feet per home run. This season, he’s averaging 383.5 feet per homer.

Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Donaldson has 20 home runs this season, with 15 coming on the inner half of the plate, or off the inside corner.

Donaldson would be expected to pull the ball on Monday night, but he has very good opposite-field power. His seven home runs to the opposite field are one shy of Nelson Cruz for the major-league lead.

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins
Dozier will be trying to join Ryne Sandberg as the only players to win the Home Run Derby in their home ballpark. Sandberg did so in the early days of the event, in 1990.

Dozier’s home runs have a distinct characteristic. He likes to hit them on pitches up at his shoulders and above. His six home runs on pitches above the top of the strike zone are twice as many as anyone else in the majors.

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
In contrast to Dozier, Jones likes the ball low. Eleven of his 16 home runs (69 percent)have come against pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone or below. The only player in the majors with more such home runs is Mike Trout with 16.

Jones is trying to become the first Orioles player to win the Home Run Derby since Miguel Tejada in 2004.

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Tulowitzki finished tied for the NL lead with 21 home runs in the first half, with 14 of them coming at Coors Field.

He’s trying to become the first Rockies player to win the Home Run Derby.

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds
Frazier has already matched his career high for home runs in a season with his 19 at the All-Star Break. Though he’ll likely take aim for left field at Target Field, he might poke a few out to the deepest parts of the park. Frazier has seven home runs to straightaway center field this season. Only Carlos Gomez (eight) has more.

Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies
Morneau is the only left-handed hitter in this year’s Home Run Derby.

Seven of the past nine and 14 of the past 18 Home Run Derby winners have been left-handed hitters. The only right-handed hitter to win in the last six Derby's is last year’s winner, Yoenis Céspedes of the Oakland Athletics.

Morneau is very familiar with Target Field from his time with the Minnesota Twins. His 20 home runs there are second-most by a left-handed hitter, trailing Jim Thome’s 24.

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Puig hit 12 home runs in the first half, but he hit them pretty far, averaging 417.3 feet per home run (fourth-best in the majors).

Puig’s shortest home run of the first half was 390 feet, making him one of two players to hit 10 home runs and have all of them calculated at 390 feet or more (Jay Bruce is the other).

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Stanton averaged 423.8 feet per home run in the first half, the best of anyone in baseball with at least 10 home runs.
He also led in average speed off bat (109.5 miles per hour), 425-foot home runs (nine) and 450-foot home runs (five).

Stanton’s 484-foot home run on April 4 is the second-longest home run of the year (Mike Trout, 489 feet on June 27 is the longest).

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.

Dominant Rockies: Tulo, Arenado, Lyles

May, 6, 2014
May 6

Troy Tulowitzki is almost impossible to get out at home.
Sunday we told you what’s to like about the San Francisco Giants as they try to unseat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

This time, we’ll tell you what’s to like most about the Colorado Rockies, or the three things to like most from Monday’s rout of the Texas Rangers.

Troy Tulowitzki is in a zone
On the day shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was named NL player of the month and NL player of the week, he added two more home runs to his ledger, giving him nine for the season.
Troy Tulowitzki
More amazingly, he was able to raise his batting average at Coors Field this season from .591 to .596 and raise his RBI total to 21 in 14 games. He’s now 28-for-47 at home, including 15-for-18(!) with four home runs with men on base.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the .596 batting average is the highest by any player in his first 14 home games of a season (minimum 40 plate appearances) in baseball's modern era (since 1900).

Tulowitzki has taken 91 swings at home this season. They’ve resulted in 28 hits and as many extra-base hits (12) as swings and misses.

Nolan Arenado is, too
It would seem odd that a player with a 25-game hitting streak isn’t the hottest hitter on his team, but that’s the case for third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Arenado pulled to within two games of the Rockies' record for longest hitting streak (held by Michael Cuddyer), extending his streak to 25 games with a second-inning home run.
Nolan Arenado

Arenado is hitting .354 (35-for-99) during the hitting streak. Perhaps more impressive is that he has a higher batting average on the road this season (.338) than he has at Coors Field (.290).

Monday’s home run came on a 93 mph pitch in the lower half of the strike zone from Martin Perez.

Arenado already has three homers on lower-half pitches this season. He had only four on the 1,019 pitches he saw in that area in 2013.

Jordan Lyles solves Coors Field
Rockies starter Jordan Lyles had his third straight really good start at home, allowing two runs in eight innings. He’s now 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA in three home starts in 2014.
Jordan Lyles

Lyles is the second pitcher in Rockies history to start his time with the team with three straight home starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer in at least six innings pitched, joining Joe Kennedy (2004).

Lyles has tamed the ballpark by inducing ground balls. He has nearly identical ground-ball rates at home (54 percent) and on the road (53 percent). Opponents are 3-for-36 when hitting a grounder against him at Coors Field this season, including 1-for-13 in each of his past two starts.

Top stats to know: 2013 All-Star Game

July, 16, 2013
The National League and American League will meet in the All-Star Game for the 84th time on Tuesday night at 8 ET. Let's run through some of the notable storylines for this game.

Statistical overview
The NL leads the all-time series 43-38-2 and has won the past three games, but the AL won the previous seven. The winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series, which is meaningful when you consider that teams with home-field advantage have won 22 of the past 27 World Series.

The NL has claimed both the All-Star Game and the World Series title in each of the past three years. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, should the NL win both again this year, it would tie the record (the NL also did it from 1979 to 1982).

The past five All-Star Games have been relatively low scoring, with the leagues combining for 32 runs. The AL has managed only two runs combined in the past three games, hitting a combined .189.

The NL will try for its longest All-Star Game winning streak since winning 11 straight from 1972 to 1982.

AL lineup: mashers galore
The AL has the advantage on paper in terms of offensive firepower in its starting lineup, with the top two home run hitters in the sport hitting cleanup and third in Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera.

The NL starting lineup features seven batters with .300-or-better batting averages to the AL's six. But the AL has the advantage in home runs, 185-136, featuring six hitters with at least 19 homers this season.

Starting pitching matchup: Scherzer vs. Harvey
The starting pitchers Tuesday night will be Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers and Matt Harvey of the New York Mets.

Harvey, who at 24 will be the youngest pitcher to start the All-Star Game since 23-year-old Dwight Gooden in 1988, will hope to fare better than the last pitcher to start the All-Star Game in his home ballpark. As a member of the Houston Astros, Roger Clemens allowed six runs to the American League in the first inning of the 2004 All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park.

Scherzer has a statistical connection to Clemens as well. He was the first pitcher to start a season 13-0 or better since Clemens did in 1986. Clemens started and won the All-Star Game that year, taking home MVP honors for his three perfect innings en route to a win in the Astrodome.

Harvey (7-2) and Scherzer (13-1) have a combined .870 winning percentage this season. According to Elias, it's the third-highest percentage for opposing starters in an All-Star Game. Randy Johnson and David Wells combined for an .879 winning percentage in 2000, while Johnson and Hideo Nomo had a combined .882 percentage in 1995.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Harvey has 29 career starts on his résumé, the fewest of any All-Star Game starter since Nomo (13) in 1995.

For more on the pitching matchup, check out our post from Monday afternoon.

Rivera’s last All-Star Game
Mariano Rivera was named to his 13th All-Star Game, the second most for any pitcher in major league history, trailing only Warren Spahn’s 17.

Rivera has actually appeared in eight All-Star Games. The only pitcher with more appearances is Clemens with 10.

Rivera has four All-Star Game saves, the most all time (one more than Dennis Eckersley), with his last coming in 2009. Rivera’s All-Star Game ERA is 0.00, with one unearned run allowed in eight innings. The only pitcher with more career All-Star innings and no earned runs allowed is Mel Harder with 13.

Rivera is tied with Derek Jeter and Joe DiMaggio for the third-most selections in Yankees history. Only Mickey Mantle (20) and Yogi Berra (18) have more.

Show them the money, watch them get hurt

August, 20, 2012

AP Photo/Kevin CaseyAlex Rodriguez is one of a host of players with large contracts who got hurt this season

This isn’t necessarily the best time to be a big-money player. Carl Crawford’s decision to have season-ending Tommy John surgery is the latest in a run of significant injuries to players with $100 million contracts.

Let’s run through the list:

Carl Crawford After signing a $142 million contract in the 2010-11 offseason, Crawford was a disappointment in his first season with the Boston Red Sox. He then missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury, came back, but has since decided to have Tommy John Surgery and will miss the remainder of 2012.

Ryan Howard-- The Philadelphia Phillies signed Howard to a $125 million contract extension in 2010, though the deal didn’t kick in until this season. Howard’s contributions this year were stalled by an Achilles injury suffered while making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s played in just 35 games this season.

Matt Kemp-- Kemp signed an 8-year $160 million contract that began this season, but has had to battle through a pair of hamstring injuries. He’s had a fantastic follow-up season to his 2011 campaign, but has only played in 70 games.

Alex Rodriguez-- Rodriguez played only 99 games last season for the Yankees due to injuries. This season, in his 94th game, he suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez.

CC Sabathia-- Sabathia had a season and a vesting option added on to his massive contract this offseason, but has since fallen victim to the injury bug. He is expected to return from his second DL stint of the season on Friday, but has battled both a groin and elblow injury.

Johan Santana-- Santana proved to be worth the $137.5 million early into his contract with the Mets. But he then had to miss all of 2011 with a shoulder injury. He returned to throw a no-hitter in 2012, but has been greatly ineffective in the latter part of the season.

One stint on the DL doesn’t appear to have cured him and there is talk that the Mets could shut him down for the remainder of 2012 in the near-future.

Troy Tulowitzki-- Tulowitzki signed a 7-year deal worth more than $130 million with the Colorado Rockies after the 2010 season. This season, he’s been limited to 47 games by a groin injury and hasn’t played since May 30.

Joey Votto-- After signing a $225 million extension with the Reds this year (it kicks in in 2014), Votto got through 86 games before being forced to the sidelines with a torn meniscus. He has yet to return.

Vernon Wells--A thumb injury in mid-May sent Wells to the sidelines and he didn’t return for more than two months. Wells, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal that runs through 2014, is hitting just .222.

Jayson Werth-- Werth got a 7-year $126 million deal in the 2010-11 offseason, but was a disappointment with the Washington Nationals in 2011. Werth broke his wrist trying to make a catch in May and missed nearly half a season’s worth of games. He is hitting .389 since his return on August 2.

Has Albert Pujols hit rock bottom?

May, 5, 2012

Kim Klement/US PresswireAlbert Pujols has no home runs in 108 at bats this season.
By now, everyone knows Albert Pujols is struggling. It’s not news. On the heels of a $240 million contract, he’s having the worst start to a season in his career.

But he may be sitting at rock bottom right now. For the first time this season, Pujols was not in the Angels' starting lineup on Saturday. And it was due to a managerial decision, not an injury.

Pujols was hitting .296 (16-for-54) with four RBIs, seven doubles, a .333 OBP and a .426 slugging percentage through April 19. Considering he also had no homers, those numbers weren’t very good, but they weren’t awful.

But since April 20, Pujols has really gone downhill. During that span, he’s hitting .093 (5-for-54) with one RBI, one extra-base hit, a .140 OBP and a .111 slugging percentage.

Since April 20, Pujols has the worst batting average, OBP and slugging percentage in baseball.

Pujols has gone 37 regular-season games (27 this year, final 10 last year) without a multi-RBI game, the longest streak of his career. His previous longest streak was 27 games in 2002.

And we all know about how Pujols has no homers in 108 at bats this season, the longest single-season streak of his career. Mike Trout hit his first homer of the season for the Angels on Saturday. He now has one more homer than Pujols in more than 100 fewer at-bats this year.

Much of Pujols’ struggles this season can be attributed to his inability to hit offspeed pitches. He’s hitting .114 this season (5-for-44) against changeups, curveballs and sliders with zero extra-base hits and two RBIs.

Pujols is chasing 46 percent of offspeed pitches thrown to him outside of the strike zone this season.

Troy Tulowitzki committed his seventh error of the season in the Rockies' 26th game. He committed six errors all of last season in 140 games.

Adam Dunn's home run had a true distance of 438 feet, the longest home run given up by Jose Valverde since the start of the 2006 season. Valverde blew his second save of the season after not blowing any last season.

The Red Sox have lost nine of their past 10 games at Fenway Park. It’s the first time they’ve lost nine of 10 games at Fenway Park since 1994, when they lost 12 straight home games in June that year.

Historical look at ESPN 500 Top 10 players

April, 3, 2012

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Albert Pujols was voted by a panel of ESPN MLB writers, analysts and contributors as the best player in Major League Baseball heading into the 2012 season.
Wondering why those who are in the top 10 were picked in those spots? Here are some numbers to know about each of the top 10 players in the ESPN 500.

Albert Pujols –- Pujols is in very elite company. He’s one of six players to hit 400 career home runs and bat at least .325. The other five: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Pujols’ 445 home runs through his first 11 seasons are the most all-time through a player’s initial 11 years in the majors.

Roy Halladay
Roy Halladay -- Halladay has 170 wins and a 2.97 ERA, averaging almost 210 innings per year over the last 10 seasons. The last pitcher to average 17 wins and 200 innings a season, over a 10-season span, and do so with a sub-3.00 ERA was Greg Maddux from 1995 to 2004.

Miguel Cabrera -- Cabrera has led the American League in at least two significant offensive categories in three of the last four seasons. Cabrera’s .977 OPS over the last six seasons trails only Albert Pujols in that span.

Justin Verlander -– Verlander won both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011, the first pitcher to win both since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the first starter to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986. Over the last three seasons, Verlander leads the majors in wins (61) and strikeouts (738) and is third in opponents BA (.221).

Felix Hernandez -- Hernandez and Roy Halladay are the only two pitchers to average 240 innings per season over the last three seasons, and his ERA, when adjusted for ballpark, ranks second to Halladay in that span as well.

Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun –- Braun has led all major league outfielders in batting average (.318), RBI (328), runs (323) and doubles (122) over the last three seasons. The 2007 NL Rookie the Year and 2011 NL MVP has hit 161 HR in his first five seasons, the 10th-most by a player in his first five seasons.

Clayton Kershaw –- Kershaw is second to Roy Halladay among National League starters in both wins and ERA, but leads in strikeouts and opponent batting average over the last two seasons.

Troy Tulowitzki -- Over the last three seasons, Tulowitzki has 89 home runs, 34 more than any other player whose primary position is shortstop. His OPS+ of 134 also tops all shortstops in that span. Tulowitzki also ranks third among shortstops over the last three seasons in Defensive Runs Saved.

Tim Lincecum –- Since making his debut in May of 2007, Lincecum has struck out at least 10 batters in a game 31 times, the most in the majors over that span. His 977 strikeouts over the last four years is tops among all pitchers.

Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano -- Cano has led major-league second baseman in both slugging percentage and OPS in each of the last two seasons. This season, he will likely break the Yankees record for career home runs as a second baseman, a mark currently held by Tony Lazzeri (147- eight more than Cano) that has stood for more than half a century.

Matt Wieters getting it 'right' at the plate

March, 29, 2012

Matt Wieters' ability to hit from the right side of the plate improved dramaticaly from 2010 to 2011.

After a 2008 season in which Matt Wieters hit .355/.454/.600 in high-A ball and AA, many were ready to anoint him as baseball’s next great catcher.

Baseball Prospectus' system PECOTA projected him for a .311/.395/.544 line for the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, a line that would have been historic for a 23-year-old catcher in his first major-league season.
Matt Wieters

Wieters didn’t perform to that level early in his career, with a Baseball Prospectus article at the beginning of 2011 naming him one of the 50 most disappointing prospects of all time, despite not even being 25 years old.

He broke out in 2011, and now is 69th in’s ranking of the top 500 players.

Wieters earned his first All-Star appearance and won his first Gold Glove in 2011. He also won Baseball Info Solutions’ Fielding Bible Award as the game’s top defensive catcher. BIS credited Wieters with 14 Defensive Runs Saved, five more than any other catcher. He also led the American League by throwing out 37 percent of base runners attempting to steal.

At the plate, Wieters started slow but hit 12 home runs in the final two months of 2011, and finished with 22. He was the second catcher, 25 years of age or younger, to hit more than 20 home runs and throw out base runners at a rate higher than the league average in the last 25 seasons. According to Fangraphs, Wieters was worth 5.0 Wins Above Replacement in 2011, the most for a catcher who played at least 65 games.

Wieters, a switch-hitter, took a massive step forward from the right side of the plate last season. His OPS from that side jumped from .561 in 2010 to 1.120 in 2011. He hit half of his home runs last season from the right side of the plate in just over a quarter of his plate appearances.

Against left-handed pitching, in which all but four of his plate appearances from the right side came, Wieters’ OPS ranked third among 226 players who had at least 100 appearances against lefties, with his slugging percentage ranking second.

Of note is Wieters’ .459 difference in OPS against lefties and righties; that’s by far the largest by any hitter who accumulated at least 400 plate appearances last season.

Much of Wieters’ improvement as a right-handed hitter can be attributed to more success against off-speed pitches. His .786 slugging percentage against off-speed pitches from left-handed pitchers was by the far the best among the 119 hitters who saw at least 200 such pitches. Troy Tulowitzki ranked second at .695.

Nationals lock up hot corner-stone

February, 26, 2012
Earlier today, the Washington Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract extension. The contract reportedly includes an option for a seventh year that would keep Zimmerman in Washington through 2020, if exercised. There are several angles for potential analysis, centering around both the historical place of the contract as well as Zimmerman’s own performance.
Ryan Zimmerman


Angle No. 1: The Contract

Zimmerman’s agreement with the Nationals immediately became the second-largest contract issued in franchise history, falling short only of the free-agent commitment the team made to outfielder Jayson Werth last offseason. When one considers the two years and $26 million that is remaining on his current contract, the Nationals owe Zimmerman $126 million through 2019. With the agreement, Zimmerman becomes one of just six players to be locked up through at least 2019, joining Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp.

The average annual value of the contract works out to $16.7 million, the second-most of any third baseman, behind only Alex Rodriguez, inching past the $16 million average of Adrian Beltre’s recent deal with the Texas Rangers. It is also the third-most lucrative extension signed by a player from the 2005 MLB draft class, behind only Tulowitzki and Braun.

All told, the Nationals have now committed $126 million to Zimmerman starting in 2012. That is the 10th-most money owed to any player in baseball by any team starting this upcoming season.

Angle No. 2: The Performance

Six full seasons into his MLB career, Zimmerman has produced several elite seasons, while also having several seasons marred by injury. There is little question that when he is healthy, he is capable of producing borderline MVP-caliber seasons.

Since the start of the 2006 season -- Zimmerman’s first full year in the majors -- he ranks 11th among all position players in Wins Above Replacement, ahead of such notable large-contract recipients as Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes. He ranks third among third basemen in WAR, behind Rodriguez and David Wright. Much of that value is derived from his defense – according to Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved, Zimmerman ranks third among all position players since 2007 with 73 runs saved and has finished in the top three among third basemen in the category in four of the last five seasons.

He has also produced some of the greatest seasons in Nationals/Expos franchise history. His 2009 and 2010 seasons rank second and fifth, respectively, in franchise history, with his 2009 mark of 7.3 WAR ranking behind only Vladimir Guerrero's 2002 season (7.6) and tied with Tim Raines in 1985 and Gary Carter in 1984.

But while Zimmerman has displayed the ability to be an impact player at times, he’s struggled to do so consistently. 2011 was the second season in the last four that was noticeably impacted by injuries, as Zimmerman played in only 101 games. The injury issues may have had an impact on his performance; between 2009-10, he produced an average line of .299 BA, .893 OPS, 29 home runs and 96 RBI. In 2011, his OPS dropped nearly 100 points to .798, while he hit just 12 home runs. Specifically, Zimmerman has experienced a decline in his power output since 2009, with a corresponding increase in the rate at which he’s hitting balls on the ground.

Presumably, Zimmerman has provided the Nationals with everything they expected when they made him the fourth overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, as he ranks first in the entire draft class in Wins Above Replacement to this point, ahead of the likes of Tulowitzki, Braun and Justin Upton. But the value of the extension will be based on Zimmerman’s ability to stay on the field and reverse the downward trend in his power output.

It also raises the question of what the Nationals plan to do with third basemen Anthony Rendon, the sixth overall pick from the 2011 draft, to whom Washington gave the ninth-highest major league contract in draft history. But that is an issue for another day. For now, the Nationals locked up the franchise’s best player through 2019 and did so at a total cost of less than they paid Jayson Werth last offseason.

NL East slides, NL West rises in rankings

September, 2, 2011
The previous edition of the ESPN Stats & Information Divisional Power Rankings discussed the close race between the AL East and NL East for divisional supremacy. Through July 31, the NL East had outperformed the AL East in two of the categories that we measure (non-divisional win percentage and strength of schedule) and was comparable in the other two. After four months of baseball, the NL East trailed the AL East by 4.2 points and appeared to be rising to the top.

Despite strong months by the Philadelphia Phillies (18-7) and the Atlanta Braves (17-9), the NL East slid in the rankings in August and now trails the AL East by 12.4 points. Its slide was a result of poor performances by the bottom of the division, resulting in a .481 win percentage against non-divisional opponents in the month of August.

Specifically, the Florida Marlins lost 14 of 17 games that they played against teams outside of the NL East in August (lowest win percentage outside of the division of any team in MLB). The Washington Nationals (6-11) and New York Mets (4-9) also struggled in non-divisional August games.

Injuries to top NL East performers Jose Reyes and Brian McCann hurt the NL East in the player ratings, while the ascension of NL West players such as Clayton Kershaw and Troy Tulowitzki helped the NL West jump into third place in the rankings. San Francisco had a rough month, dropping out of first place in the division and going 9-15 outside of the NL West, but the rest of the division had a successful month.

Every team in the division besides San Francisco rose by at least three positions in the Power Rankings since the last release of these rankings, largely because they all posted winning records outside of the division in August.

The Milwaukee Brewers were unstoppable in August (21-7) and helped the NL Central climb 2.8 more points. Look for the Brewers in a National League divisional showdown as Philadelphia travels to Milwaukee on September 8 for a four-game series. Other inter-divisional matchups to keep an eye on are Texas at Boston beginning September 2 (Boston took three of four last month in Arlington) and Atlanta at St. Louis beginning September 9.

The Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals play the rubber match of their three-game series in St. Louis at 8 ET on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

The Rockies probably would prefer the game take place on a different day of the week -- Colorado is 2-16 (.125) on Sundays and 53-48 (1.10) the rest of the week, and has been outscored 99-43 in the 16 losses.

The Rockies have lost 16 straight games on Sunday, tied with the 1960 Phillies for the longest single-season losing streak on Sundays since 1900.

On the mound

The Rockies send Esmil Rogers to the mound on his 26th birthday. Rogers is 5-1 with a 4.91 ERA as a starter this season (six starts).

Esmil Rogers
Rogers has pitched well on the road as a starter in his career. This year he is 4-0 with a 3.33 ERA and .276 opp BA in four road starts (1-1, 9.35 ERA and .351 opp BA in two home starts).

None of the past 11 pitchers to start a game on their birthday have won. These 11 pitchers are a combined 0-8. The last starting pitcher to win on his birthday was Randy Wells -- Aug. 28, 2010, for the Cubs against the Reds.

The Cardinals counter with Edwin Jackson. Since being traded to St. Louis, Jackson is 1-2 and has allowed 11 earned runs and 27 hits.

Jackson has struggled against the Rockies in his career. He has allowed at least five earned runs in each of his five starts against them and has never pitched more than five innings in any of those starts.

His 17.28 ERA against the Rockies is the WORST by any active pitcher against a team (minimum five starts). The next-worst is Jose Contreras, with a 9.79 ERA facing Texas.


Matt Holliday was a key part of the Rockies' run to the World Series in 2007, winning the National League Championship Series MVP that year. Since leaving the team, he’s had a lot of success against them.

He’s hitting .378 (17-for-45) and slugging .644 with a 1.106 OPS, including three doubles and three home runs against the Rockies in his career. His .378 BA and 1.106 OPS are both his second best against any team he’s had at least 50 PA against.

Troy Tulowitzki is hitting .388 with 17 HR in wins (54 games), and just .220 with six HRs in losses (60 games). That’s the highest batting average in wins on the team and the second-lowest batting average in losses among the regulars (min. 300 PA).

Stat of the game

In the 63 games without at least one of their core players (Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols), the Cardinals average 4.3 runs per game and hit .257, and are 34-29. In the 55 games where the three players are all in the starting lineup, they average 5.2 runs per game and are hitting .284, and are 29-26.

Brewers following "The Tulo Way"

April, 21, 2011
Ryan Braun
On Thursday the Milwaukee Brewers announced they have signed franchise cornerstone outfielder Ryan Braun to a five-year, $105 million extension. While the terms of the deal -- $21 million per season -- seem quite reasonable given the spending we saw this offseason, a distinction is important: this is an extension, not a new contract. Braun was already under contract through the 2015 season -- a full five seasons into the future.

The Brewers decided that this was the best approach for them -- extending Braun before he even sniffed the free-agent market. This decision and contract are remarkably similar to what the Colorado Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki did this past offseason. At the time, Tulowitzki was locked up through the 2014 season (assuming the Rockies exercised the club option), yet the team decided to extend the player anyway.

Perhaps this is a reflection of small-market teams feeling that it’s better for them to lock up these players well in advance to essentially ensure they remain with the franchise for life. Even if it means both overpaying on the back end and exposing the team to massive risk in the player’s decline phase.

As you can see to the right, the Braun and Tulowitzki contracts are remarkably similar. Both players are signed through 2020 with club options for 2021 and both will make around $15 million per season. On the field, the two players have very similar career wins above replacement numbers and had similar number of years left on their previous deals when they were ripped up.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues with some other young stars. Players with deals like Braun and Tulowitzki's original contracts like Evan Longoria, Justin Upton and Hanley Ramirez are locked up well into the future. But the recent moves of the Rockies and Brewers show that it’s never too early to commit long term (very long term) to your star players.
The New York Mets and Colorado Rockies got the day started at high noon with a rare single-admission afternoon doubleheader. The Mets struck first in each game, but the Rockies rallied both times to take the double-dip and sweep the four-game series at Citi Field, improving to an MLB-best 10-2.

The Mets have now lost five straight games and have held at least a two-run lead in each of them. Over these five games, the Mets' team ERA is 5.94 and their bullpen ERA is 6.48. It is just the second sweep by the Rockies of the Mets in a series of three-games-or-more in New York in franchise history. The only other time came in 1994.

Troy Tulowitzki went 10-for-16 with four homers and eight RBI in the four-game series with New York. He is the first player to go deep in each game of a series of at least four games against the Mets. The Elias Sports Bureau also tells us that Tulo is the first player to attain each of those stats in one series since Vladimir Guerrero went 12-for-17 with five homers and nine RBI for the Angels in a four-game series against the Rangers in 2004.

Cliff Lee had a forgettable start to the season, allowing nine runs in 10⅓ innings over his first two outings. Lee was back in vintage form on Thursday night, though, tossing a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and just one walk against the Washington Nationals. He is the first Philadelphia Phillies pitcher to throw a shutout with at least 12 strikeouts and three hits or fewer since Curt Schilling in 1996.

This was the second night in a row that a Philadelphia pitcher threw a complete game, following Roy Halladay’s 59th career complete game Wednesday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Phillies hadn't gotten consecutive complete games since Paul Byrd and Curt Schilling did it May 11-12, 1999 at St. Louis.

The Tampa Bay Rays got their first home win of the season in dramatic fashion as Johnny Damon hit his sixth career walk-off homer in the 10th inning off Minnesota Twins reliever Matt Capps. Damon has now hit a walk-off home run with the Rays, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox and Royals. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Damon is the first player in MLB history to hit a walk-off homer with five different teams.

Another AL East team also walked off with a win Thursday night as the New York Yankees swept their rain-shortened series with the Baltimore Orioles thanks to a game-ending sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher. Swisher is the first Yankee to hit a walk-off sacrifice fly since Ruben Sierra in June 2004 against the Padres. Alex Rodriguez continued his march up all-time RBI list too, moving into sole possession of 11th place with an RBI in the sixth inning.
Today’s Trivia: Monday is the 50th anniversary of the first game in Los Angeles Angels history. Can you name the two players with the most games played for the Angels who never made an appearance for another franchise?

After beating the New York Yankees Sunday on ESPN, the Boston Red Sox will try and win two in a row for the first time this season when they host the Tampa Bay Rays at 7 ET on ESPN.

Jeremy Hellickson
Jeremy Hellickson will face Daisuke Matsuzaka in tonight's game. Hitters leading off an inning are just 6-for-41 (.146) with a walk against Hellickson, including 0-for-6 in his first start of the season. Compare that to Matsuzaka, who allows leadoff hitters to reach base 36 percent of the time.

Offensively, the Rays are struggling and have received very little production from the position once manned by Carlos Pena. Since the start of last season, Rays first basemen are hitting just .186. They hit .194 in 2009, but at least they drew 109 walks. This year, in nine games, their first basemen have drawn none.

With three straight three-hit games, Dustin Pedroia is one player who's swinging a hot bat for Boston. Only four Red Sox in the last 50 years have had at least three hits in four straight games: 2005 Edgar Renteria; 1992 Jody Reed; 1984 Wade Boggs; and 1974 Carlton Fisk.

Elsewhere around MLB:
• The Florida Marlins' Chris Coghlan didn’t record his first extra-base hit until his 104th at-bat of 2010. Despite hitting just .200 this season, he’s tied for the National League lead with five doubles.

• Prince Fielder is 10-for-16 (.625) in two-strike counts, and 4-for-19 (.211) in all other situations. Last season, Fielder hit .182 in two-strike counts.

• A big reason behind Jorge Posada’s .138 batting average? He has a .059 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Last season the league average was .300.

• Jonny Gomes leads the majors with 12 walks, almost one-third his season total from 2010 (39). He picked up his 12th walk last season on May 28.

• Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera already has four game-winning RBI, two fewer than in 2010.

• The Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki is 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and 6-for-18 in all other situations.

• Opponents are a combined 0-22 against Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum with runners in scoring position.

Trivia Answer: Tim Salmon (1,672) and Gary DiSarcina (1,086) have played the most games for the Angels without appearing for another franchise.

-- Mark Simon contributed to this report
Troy Tulowitzki
The Colorado Rockies have announced that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has signed a contract extension through 2020. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, with this deal, he is guaranteed to make $157.75 million over the next ten years.

Tulowitzki won his first Rawlings Gold Glove this season after being the overall Web Gem champion, and finished fifth in the National League MVP voting for the second straight year. He established career highs in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, posting a .949 OPS that was eighth-best in the major leagues.

And he became just the fourth National League shortstop since 1901 to post a .300 batting average with 25 home runs and an OPS of .900, joining Hanley Ramirez (twice), Rich Aurilia and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks (twice).

Over the past two seasons, Tulowitzki has been the most productive shortstop in baseball. His OPS of .939 is more than 30 points higher than any other shortstop's in the league over the past two years. Ramirez is the only other SS in baseball in that span with an OPS even over .800.

According to the advanced metric Wins Above Replacement, Tulowitzki has been the best shortstop in the league the past two seasons and the sixth-best position player in all of baseball. He’s been good for almost two wins more than Ramirez, who is second, and third among shortstops is Derek Jeter, who is also looking for a new deal this offseason.

And the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that among players who have played 75 percent of their games at shortstop, with a minimum of 50 career games, Tulowitzki’s .857 OPS ranks fourth in major league history.