Stats & Info: Vernon Wells

Wednesday's wild card story: Clutch hits

September, 19, 2013
There were three highly entertaining games on Wednesday night that played a significant role in the AL Wild Card race. While the Kansas City Royals- Cleveland Indians game was decided early, the contests between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers would come down to pivotal late-game matchups.

Orioles vs. Red Sox
Key at-bat: Chris Davis vs. Franklin Morales

Situation: Tied in the 12th inning; bases loaded, two outs.
Chris Davis

Davis entered 2-for-his-last-15 against left-handed pitching and he was facing a pitcher who had retired the last 11 left-handed hitters he faced.

But Davis got a hanging curveball on a 1-2 count and was able to ground it just past Dustin Pedroia for a two-run single. Davis has now gotten three straight hits against Morales.

He was fortunate to sneak that one just by the diving Pedroia. The Red Sox second baseman leads major leaguers at that position with 17 Defensive Runs Saved.

Yankees vs. Blue Jays
Key at-bat: Vernon Wells vs. Steve Delabar

Situation: Yankees down a run in the eighth inning, second and third, one out.
Vernon Wells
The Blue Jays probably felt pretty good with reliable All-Star Steve Delabar trying to protect a three run lead in the eighth inning, but Delabar has been rather shaky lately. Right-handed hitters, who were 17-for-84 with 30 strikeouts against him prior to the All-Star Break, entered this at-bat 11 for their last 30 against him.

Wells has had trouble with right-handed pitching all season, hitting .210 against righties entering Thursday. But down in the count 0-1, he was able to drill a line-drive double to plate the tying and go-ahead runs.

It gave Wells’ his first multi-hit game since August 13 against the Angels.

Rays vs. Rangers
Key at-bat: David DeJesus vs. Joe Nathan

Situation: Rangers up a run in the 11th inning, man on second, two outs.
David DeJesus

Nathan was a strike away from putting the Rangers a game ahead of the Rays in the AL Wild Card chase, but he couldn’t sneak strike three by DeJesus.

Nathan may end up kicking himself for his pitch choice—-a curveball that hung in the upper-half of the strike zone, one DeJesus was able to ground past Nathan for the game-tying hit.

The curve is Nathan’s third option in two-strike situations (like this one). He typically throws it about 14 percent of the time (his other pitches are split between fastballs and sliders).

The Rays would win in the 12th with Nathan out of the game, on a game-winning hit by Desmond Jennings.

The other key to the comeback was Freddy Guzman’s stolen base, which put him in scoring position. Guzman was making his first appearance in a game since appearing for the Yankees in the 2009 ALCS.

Guzman is on the Rays’ roster for his speed. He had 73 steals in 82 attempts in 99 games in the Mexican League prior to joining the Rays.

Yanks, Sabathia try to reverse trend vs Rays

April, 22, 2013

AP Photo/Brian BlancoCC Sabathia has struggled against the Rays since joining the Yankees, going 3-8 in 18 starts.
Tropicana Field has not been a very welcoming host to the New York Yankees and CC Sabathia, but tonight New York has a chance to start reversing that trend when they take on the Tampa Bay Rays (7 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN) in the first game of a three-game set.

New York went 2-7 at Tampa Bay last season and is 9-18 over the last three years at Tropicana Field. From 2007-09, the Yankees won 15 of the 27 games played in Florida against the Rays.

Pitching Matchup
CC Sabathia will take the mound tonight looking to reverse his fortune against the Rays on the road. The Yankees are just 6-12 in Sabathia’s last 18 starts against Tampa Bay, and just 1-7 in his eight starts at Tropicana Field since he joined the team in 2009!

Sabathia has gotten off to a good start this season, going 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sabathia has never won more than three games in April in his previous 12 career seasons. He won three in April for the Cleveland Indians in 2007 and three of the Yankees in both 2010 and 2012. For all other months combined, he’s won at least four games 20 times.

Opposing Sabathia will be Matt Moore, who is 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA in three starts this season. His fastball has been great this season (he averages 92 MPH on that pitch), but his offspeed pitches have been even better.

However, he’ll have to be careful throwing changeups to Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells, who are hitting .556 (ninth) and .500 (11th) against changeups, respectively, this season.

Offensive Comparison
So far in the early going, these two teams could not be further apart in terms of offensive production. Despite missing Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees offense keeps humming, and hitting home runs. New York ranks in the top five in baseball in slugging percentage (.467, 2nd), batting average (.273, 3rd), and OBP (.339, 5th).

With all the power the Yankees are missing – nine of their top 10 home run hitters from last season are not on the roster – power was expected to be at a premium. However, they have already hit 27 home runs so far this season, good for third-best in the majors.

As for the Rays, they are at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to offense this season. Part of it is due to an incredibly low batting average on balls in play (.260, last in the majors).

Stat of the Game
Evan Longoria is 14-for-39 (.359) with three doubles and five home runs against Sabathia. That is Longoria’s most home runs against any pitcher and only Alfonso Soriano (six) has hit more home runs against Sabathia than Longoria (Jermaine Dye has also hit five home runs against Sabathia).

Cano extra-base binge has Yankees winning

April, 10, 2013
AP Photo/Tony DejakRobinson Cano looks to become the first player in the modern era with three extra-base hits in three straight games.
The New York Yankees look to get over .500 for the first time this season when they visit the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN2).

After not topping four runs in any of their first five games, the Yankees have scored 32 runs in their past three games, including double-digit outputs in each of the first two games of the series.

Cano leads the charge
Robinson Cano is 7-for-10 in the series after going 6-for-63 in his previous 15 games dating to the start of last year’s postseason.

Cano is the first major league player with at least three extra-base hits in consecutive games since 2005 –- also by Cano. The only other Yankee to accomplish the feat was Lou Gehrig in 1936.

If he can get three extra-base hits Wednesday, the Elias Sports Bureau confirms that he would be the first player in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) with three extra-base hits in three straight games.

Bronx Bombers
Coming into the season, one of the big questions for the Yankees was where the power would come from. Nine of their top 10 home run hitters from 2012 are either on the disabled list or no longer with the team.

That hasn’t stopped this year’s squad, which is tied for the major league lead with 15 home runs, including eight in the first two games of the series.

Newcomers Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner have each hit two home runs and hit at least .333 in the first eight games.

Last season the Yankees led MLB with 48.4 percent of their runs scoring on home runs. This year’s pace is slightly higher -- 49.0 percent -- but is only sixth in the majors so far.

Cleveland’s free-agency plunge
After spending $117 million in free agency this offseason, the Indians are off to a disappointing 3-5 start and are in last place in the AL Central.

Cleveland’s free-agent commitment was the third highest in the majors, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, who combined to spend $335 million in the offseason.

The team’s spending was not only high relative to league standards, but unprecedented for Cleveland. In the previous three offseasons, the Indians combined to spend just more than $12 million on free agents.

Indians pitching struggles
The Indians have yet to name a starter for Wednesday’s game after projected starter Brett Myers pitched in relief Tuesday. But the entire staff has had trouble throwing strikes so far this season.

Cleveland pitchers have thrown strikes on only 60 percent of their pitches and walked 11 percent of the batters they’ve faced. Both numbers are worst in the majors.

The Yankees' home run onslaught is also likely to continue Wednesday. The Indians allow 2.0 home runs per nine innings, the highest rate in the majors.

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.

Hellickson’s cutter key to success

April, 25, 2012

AP Photo/Steve NesiusJeremy Hellickson has gone away from his change and curveball this season to a new cutter, throwing it for a strike rate of 71.4 percent.
The Tampa Bay Rays play host to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the middle game of a three-game set tonight (ESPN2, 7 ET). The two teams are moving in opposite directions – the Rays have won five of six, while the Angels have lost five of seven.

What’s Wrong with the Angels?
The Angels have stumbled out of the gate, falling to 6-11 to start the season after their 5-0 loss Tuesday night. The Angels are in last place in the AL West, already 7.5 games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers. So what’s not working for LA?

• Scored 3.9 runs per game, 10th in the AL.

• Drawn a walk about once every 15 plate appearances, the 12th ranked walk rate in the AL in front of only the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles.

• Correspondingly, the Angels have a team .304 on-base percentage, 11th in the AL.

• Have hit an AL-low 11 home runs so far this year.

What’s Wrong with Albert Pujols?
Pujols has stumbled out of the gate in his first season with the Angels. After going 0-for-4 Tuesday night, he is homerless in his last 23 regular-season games dating back to last season, the second longest streak in his career (went 26 straight homerless games in 2011).

Pujols is also in danger of going hitless in five straight games. He’s done that just once before in his career – September of his 2001 rookie season!

Last season, Pujols batted .301 in at-bats ending with a curveball or slider, a mark that ranked 10th-best in the majors. He chased only 23 percent of those pitches out of the zone – better than the league average of 31 percent.

This season, Pujols has batted only .091 in at-bats ending with curves and sliders. He already has seven strikeouts on those pitches and he’s chased a whopping 58 percent of curves and sliders out of the zone.

Pitching Matchup
C.J. Wilson is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 40 career innings pitched against the Rays. Current Tampa Bay players have hit just .139 in their careers against Wilson with just three extra base hits. And four current Rays regulars are hitless in their careers against Wilson.

• B.J. Upton: 0-for-17, 8 K
• Desmond Jennings: 0-for-10, 3 K
• Jose Molina: 0-for-10, 3 K
• Carlos Pena: 0-for-8, 1 K

Jeremy Hellickson has seen his strikeout rate drop progressively in each season of his career so far (8.2 in 2010; 5.6 in 2011; 4.2 so far this season).

Last year in his only start against the Angels, he took the loss but struck out a season-high 10 batters in 5⅔ innings, including three strikeouts each of Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.

Before this season, Hellickson’s two most effective out pitches were his curveball and changeup. He got to the most swings and misses on these pitches and hitters chased over 40 percent of his changeups out of the zone.

However, so far this season, Hellickson has curtailed the use of his two most effective pitches in favor of a new cutter.

He’s thrown the cutter for a strike at a high rate, but he’s also allowed a .953 OPS on at-bats ending with the pitch, the worst results of any of his pitches this season.

Stat of the Game
Evan Longoria has continued on a tear he began starting last September. Since then, Longoria is batting .309 with a .451 on-base percentage, ranking him third in the majors over that span, trailing only Miguel Cabrera (.470) and Matt Kemp (.456). In addition, his 1.036 OPS is fourth highest in the AL since last September.

Fallen Angels: a history of costly mistakes

July, 3, 2011
The Los Angeles Dodgers visit the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN, 8 ET).

Last month, the Angels released Scott Kazmir and ate the remaining $9.5 million on his contract. It's another chapter in a run of very expensive acquisitions that have not played out well for the Angels.

While the pattern started before GM Tony Reagins took over, the situation has worsened since. To see how unsuccessful the moves have been we can look at dollars spent per wins above replacement (WAR).

Gary Matthews Jr. -- Offseason prior to 2007 (free agency)
Contract: five years, $50 million (2007-11)
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Matthews Jr.
Matthews was both the first in the run of bad acquisitions and looked to be easily the worst until the Vernon Wells trade. The Angels bit on Matthews’ career year with the Rangers in 2006, which was both out of line with his career and oddly timed given his age. The Angels released Scott Kazmir with part of a season left on his deal; they released Matthews Jr. with two full seasons left on his deal. In the three seasons he did play for the Angels, he contributed production below replacement value. For the cost of $50M, Matthews Jr. provided a robust minus-0.5 wins above replacement. Net result: $50M for minus-0.5 WAR.

Scott Kazmir -- Midway through 2009 season (via trade with Rays)
Contract: $22.5 remaining at time of trade (2010-11, 2012 buyout)
Scott Kazmir
Kazmir was effective for the Angels in 2009, going 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts. Unfortunately, the wheels came off after that, as Kazmir’s velocity declined and his effectiveness went with it. In 2010 and 2011, Kazmir combined to go 9-15 with a 6.17 ERA in 151 ⅔ IP. Between 2010 and 2011, the Angels paid Kazmir $20M and received below replacement level production. Net result: $22.5M for minus-1.0 WAR. **Excludes 2009 partial season given difficulties in parsing out split-season WAR.**

Fernando Rodney -- Offseason prior to 2010
Contract: two years, $11 million (2010-11)
Fernando Rodney
This contract is obviously still going, but Rodney has been a mix of ineffective and unavailable during his tenure with the Angels. Rodney contributed just 0.3 WAR during his 2010 season and, in his brief time in 2011, went backward, contributing minus-0.1 WAR. While Rodney still has time to turn around this particular season, it’s almost certain he’s not going to be able to turn around the value of the contract. More than 40 percent through this season, the Angels have paid him approximately $8M of the $11M he’s owed. Net result: $8M for 0.2 WAR.

Vernon Wells -- Offseason prior to 2011
Contract: $81M remaining on contract at time of trade
Vernon Wells
Even though he possessed a contract that was largely considered unmovable within baseball, the Angels welcomed Wells -- a player clearly on the downslope of his career -- and almost the entirety of his contract. He’s owed $23M in 2011 and $21M in each season from 2012 to 2014. The Blue Jays chipped in only $5M to facilitate the deal.

Not only did the acquisition of Wells result in $80M worth of dead weight, it also blocked the team’s best prospect -- arguably the best prospect in baseball -- Mike Trout. Wells has posted a .212/.244/.385 line this season, good for minus-0.3 WAR. There are three full seasons left on this deal, but they’ve already paid him approximately $10M and received below replacement level production. Net result: $10M for minus-0.3 WAR.

The Angels have spent approximately $90 million on players who have actually provided a net negative contribution (relative to replacement level).

Given that teams usually spend somewhere around $4-5 million per marginal win on the open market, the idea of paying more than $90 million for negative wins is almost unfathomable.

The most eye-opening angle is that the team still owes Wells more than $70 million, which means there’s a good chance this below-replacement-level bill could ultimately exceed $150 million. Or, in other words, approximately the Florida Marlins' team payrolls from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 … combined.

Angels have yet to solve Sox in 2011

May, 4, 2011
(What you need to know for tonight’s Angels-Red Sox game at 7 ET on ESPN.)

This series between the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox is the last time they will play this season, and Los Angeles probably can’t wait to get out of Boston. Since 1987 -- the year after the Red Sox erased a 3-1 deficit in the 1986 ALCS -- the Angels are 49-82 at Fenway Park.

After taking nine of 10 from the Angels last season, Boston this season is 6-0 against them. In those 16 games, the Red Sox have outscored the Angels 104-49.

The Angels do have the second-best road record in the American League behind the Tampa Bay Rays, but have allowed 16 runs to the Red Sox in the first two games of this four-game series.

On Tuesday, Angels hitters struck out 12 times. They lead the American League with 234. That’s very unusual for a Mike Scioscia managed-team. Since Scioscia took over as Angels manager in 2000, they’ve struck out the fewest times of any team in baseball, and have ranked in the top half of the American League at avoiding strikeouts in each of the last 10 seasons. The only season they ranked in the top five for most strikeouts was in 2000, Scioscia’s first season.

Vernon Wells, who’s struck out 24 times this season, is still hitting under .200 (.176) with just two home runs.

Why has Wells struggled thus far? He’s not chasing or swinging at more pitches this season, but he’s missing more pitches. Last season, Wells’ miss percentage was 20.7 percent. This year it’s 24.6 percent. He’s also hitting just .163 against right-handed pitching this season after hitting .291 against righties last season.

Perhaps Josh Beckett, who’s on the mound tonight for the Red Sox, is just what Wells needs to break out of his season-long slump. In 41 at-bats against Beckett, Wells has hit five home runs -- but only one in his last 30 at-bats.
Josh Beckett

Beckett will be pitching for the first time in a week. Boston has lost Beckett’s last four regular-season starts against the Angels in Fenway Park. In those starts, he’s 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA

Boston started 2-10, but has rebounded to go 12-5, and starting pitching has been key. In the first 12 games, Boston's starters had a 6.71 ERA and allowed 14 home runs, both of which were worst in the American League through April 15. In their last 17 games, the starters have a AL-best 1.86 ERA and have allowed just six home runs.

With Beckett on the mound, will Jason Varitek be behind the plate? If so, don’t expect him to have much success at the plate against Angels starter Ervin Santana (1-for-15 lifetime). The only active pitcher Varitek has faced at least 15 times and fared worse against is Santana’s teammate, Joel Pineiro (0-for-16).

In fact, the Red Sox have received very little offensive production from their catchers. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Varitek have combined to hit .167 with no home runs and seven RBI.

While Varitek has struggled against Santana, Carl Crawford has not. He’s 10-for-31 against Santana, and Crawford is showing signs of putting his bad start behind him.

Although Crawford is starting to hit (6-for-11 in May), Boston still is not hitting when it counts. The Red Sox rank 12th in the American League in batting with runners in scoring position (.225), and seventh in the league with the bases loaded (.267).
Today’s Trivia: On Monday, the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver looks to become the first American League pitcher since Zack Greinke in 2009 to win each of his first six starts. Who was the last American League pitcher to lose each of his first six starts in a season?

Jered Weaver
Weaver is off to one of the hottest starts in the American League, but there are several others who are not:

• The New York Yankees' Brett Gardner is hitting .140, which ranks last among 187 qualifying hitters. He’s 0-for-21 with 10 strikeouts on at-bats ending in an off-speed pitch.

• Gardner’s teammate Nick Swisher is 4-for-43 (.093) against right-handed pitches, a year after hitting a career-best .285 with 25 home runs against them.

• As a member of the Washington Nationals last season, Adam Dunn hit .314 with 24 home runs on at-bats ending in a fastball. In his first season in the American League, Dunn’s hitting .067 with two hits in 30 at-bats.

• The Chicago White Sox's Alex Rios is hitless in his last 20 at-bats, and has seen his batting average drop to .160. Last season, on pitches down the middle, Rios hit .392. This season? 1-for-12 (.083).

• The Angels Vernon Wells is 1-for-29 (.034) with two strikes in the count.

• Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury already has struck out looking 11 times this season, tied for the most in the majors.

• The Oakland Athletics' Daric Barton is 0-for-19 this season on pitches located up in the strike zone or above the strike zone. Last season, he hit .315 (34-108) on those pitches.

• With a 29.4 swing percent, Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana has been swinging at fewer pitches than anyone else in the league. (He was at 38.7 last season.) But the bigger discrepancy is his swing percent at pitches in the strike zone. Last season it was 61.9. In 2011, it’s just 47.2, fifth lowest in the majors.

Sunday was Derek Jeter’s first four-hit game before the month of May since April 9, 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Jeter now has 36 four-hit games in his career, tied for third among Yankees in the Live Ball era (since 1920). Lou Gehrig has the most with 53 followed by Earle Combs’ 37.

Staying with the Yankees, A.J. Burnett is 8-0 in the month of April as a member of the Yankees, and 18-24 after April. The Yankees will be facing Phil Humber tonight at Yankee Stadium. Opponents are hitting just .061 (2-33) against Humber’s off-speed pitches this season.

Trivia Answer: In 2007, Jered’s brother Jeff Weaver was 0-6 after six starts for the Seattle Mariners.
Today’s Trivia: Can you name the only two players with 50+ home runs for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees?

Quick Hits: Let’s take a look at some fast facts regarding the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and what the fresh faces might mean for 2011.

• The Red Sox and Yankees have split the season series 9-9 in each of the past three seasons. That includes 2009 when the Red Sox took the first eight games against New York.

• Joe Girardi took over in 2008, so that makes him an even 27-27 against Boston while with New York. Including the postseason, Terry Francona is 67-69 against the Yankees as Boston manager.

• According to Elias, this will be the 28th time that the Red Sox have had their home opener against the Yankees. Boston has won the last six and in 14-13 overall.

• The last time the Red Sox faced the Yankees while on a six-game losing streak. According to Elias, it was in the midst of a nine-game streak in 2001. The last time the Red Sox snapped a six-game losing streak against the Yankees? May 1998.

• Mark Teixeira hit eight home runs against the Red Sox last season. That’s the most by a Yankees hitter since Mickey Mantle clubbed nine in 1958. Oddly, Teixeira hit just .237 against Boston in 2010.
Adrian Gonzalez

• Adrian Gonzalez has never beaten the Yankees, though he’s only had had three chances. Friday is also the Fenway Park debut for the hitter who has the most opposite field home runs in the majors since 2008.

• By contrast, Carl Crawford has almost a full season of data against New York. With a .301 lifetime average, he has 171 hits in 138 games. Among active players, only Manny Ramirez and Vernon Wells have more hits against New York, who is actually tied with David Ortiz for third. In 2005, Crawford tallied 35 hits against the Yankees, the first person to do that since Dale Mitchell in 1952.

• Since 2009, Dan Wheeler has made 10 appearances against the Yankees, but only lasted 5⅓ innings while allowing six home runs. His ERA in that span? 20.25. The Yankees are hitting .467 with a 1.634 OPS.

• It looks like Dennys Reyes won’t quite get to experience the rivalry, as he was designated for assignment Friday. If this is it for Reyes in a Boston uniform, he will go down as the only pitcher in Red Sox history with more hit batsmen (2) than innings pitched (1⅔).

• Russell Martin has faced the Red Sox in three games, and is just 1-for-11 (.091).
Rafael Soriano

• Rafael Soriano has been excellent against the Red Sox in his career with a 2.61 ERA and .178 opponent batting average. He had five saves against Boston last season, the most for a pitcher since Francisco Rodriguez in 2008.

Trivia Answer: Johnny Damon and Mike Stanley are the only players with 50+ HR with both the Yankees and Red Sox. Babe Ruth? He only had 49 homers with Boston.

How Napoli could've helped Angels bullpen

January, 26, 2011
Mike Napoli
The Los Angeles Angels didn’t make any moves Tuesday, yet the team’s offseason managed to become even more bizarre.

Last week, the Angels traded catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder/DH Juan Rivera to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Vernon Wells. As the trade was almost entirely about dumping salary for the Blue Jays, the inclusion of Napoli and Rivera can be viewed as a throw-in from the Angels side to help mitigate the impending payroll increase.

That trade has been analyzed by many, but it became even more perplexing Tuesday.

Why? Because on Tuesday, Toronto traded Napoli to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco. While neither of those names is front-page material, it relates directly to the core issues: the Angels undervaluing Napoli, and their offseason-long pursuit of relief pitching.

On December 2, 2010, the Angels signed Hisanori Takahashi to a two-year, $8 million deal. Ten days later, they signed Scott Downs to a three-year, $15 million contract. Clearly, the bullpen was an area in which the Angels were looking to invest.

While Downs has been a consistently good reliever, and Takahashi showed the ability in his first major-league season last year, Francisco has also shown that ability.

Rather than committing multiple years to multiple relievers, the Angels could have used a commodity (Napoli) to acquire a high-strikeout pitcher for the back end of the bullpen (Francisco). While Downs is solid, predicting reliever performance two or three years down the line is difficult.

The Angels would have been on the hook for just one year with Francisco instead of multiple years for Downs and Takahashi, not to mention at a lower yearly rate.

To make matters worse, the Angels surrendered a second-round pick in this year’s MLB Draft to the Blue Jays when they signed Downs.

So, while the Wells trade made headlines, the peripheral moves have been filled with questions.

Francisco has equaled Downs in Wins Above Replacement the last three seasons (3.6), while posting a significantly higher strikeout rate per nine innings (10.6 to 7.5).

Although both Downs and Takahashi might have been effective last season, it’s an issue of efficiency. The Angels spent $23 million on free agent relievers, when Napoli could have been moved to acquire a much less expensive reliever of similar value.
Our regular statistical survey on some of the notable baseball moves from the past week

What are the biggest areas to watch for new Tampa Bay Rays DH Manny Ramirez in 2011?

Two things to track, based on the data provided to us by Inside Edge (which does video review for every major league pitch) are his performance against breaking pitches, and his production against pitches that are thrown in areas in which he has a history of driving the ball.

The biggest area of decline for Ramirez has been in how he fared when a right-handed pitcher threw him a curveball or slider.

Last season, Ramirez missed on 49 percent of the swings he took against those pitches from right-handers, a significant jump from how frequently he missed in each of the prior three seasons (28 percent in 2007, 34 percent in 2008, 35 percent in 2009).

That led to him hitting .140 in at-bats that ended with a breaking ball from a righty, a figure 86 points below league average and 96 points below what he’d done in 2009.

One particular area of the strike zone Ramirez struggled with was on pitches located in the middle of the plate, and those that came middle-in.

Inside Edge charts a stat, “Well-Hit Average,” a rating based primarily on line drives and deep outfield fly balls. From 2005 to 2009, Ramirez’s Well-Hit Average on pitches charted by Inside Edge was .199 on pitches over the middle of the plate, and .114 against pitches that were middle-in. Both of those are significantly better than league average.

In 2010, those numbers dipped to .127 and .075 respectively, partly explaining the struggles he had last season.
-- Derek Czenczelewski

Damon, Pavano contracts in perspective
At the moment, Johnny Damon’s $5.25 million salary makes the highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay Rays for 2011. He’s the only player on the team slated to earn at least $5 million next season.

A search of Cot’s Baseball Contracts shows that every team has at least one player earning at least $5 million in 2011.

The Royals are the only team without a player whose base salary is $5 million, but newly-signed Billy Butler’s $3 million salary and $2 million signing bonus put that deal at the $5 million mark for this season.

The two-year, $16.5 million contract that Carl Pavano inked with the Minnesota Twins is nearly an unprecedented free agent signing for the franchise.

Not only is it just the third multi-year free agent contract given to a pitcher by the team, but it’s also only the second time that Minnesota has spent at least $10 million on a free agent pitcher over the last 20 offseasons.

In 1995 the team handed Rick Aguilera a three-year $9 million contract , its longest for a pitcher and their only previous multi-year deal.

In 2004 the Twins gave Brad Radke a two-year, $18 million dollar deal, its largest contract given to a free agent pitcher.
-- Katie Sharp

Boyer suited for ROOGY role
Over the last few years, statisticians have referred to left-handed specialists as LOOGYs (left-handed one-out guys). Now, we’ve begun to see the term ROOGY (for right-handers) tossed around a little bit. The pitcher for whom it may be the best fit is recently-signed New York Mets reliever, Blaine Boyer.

Right-handed hitters hit .198 against him last season. Left-handed hitters drilled him for a .352 opponents batting average. Among those who faced at least 100 hitters from each side of the plate, no pitcher last season had a wider gap in opponents batting average between righties and lefties than Boyer did, 154 points.

The pitcher on the opposite end of the spectrum was Angels righty Scot Shields. Right-handed hitters batted .333 against him. Left-handers hit just .172, an unusual 161-point difference for a right-handed pitcher.
-- Mark Simon

Angels may feel 'left' out with Wells

January, 21, 2011
Frustrated in their attempts to sign a big-ticket free agent, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are on the verge of a major pickup, outfielder Vernon Wells, but he’s one who may hurt them statistically in one significant area.

Vernon Wells
The Angels may have weakened their lineup against left-handed pitching, against which they hit .243 in 2010, fourth-worst among major league teams. They also hurt themselves against lefties by dealing catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays -- a team that had the lowest batting average in the majors against southpaws last season (.215).

Of the 96 right-handed hitters with at least 250 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in the last two seasons, Wells’ .619 OPS ranks second-worst, trailing only Brendan Ryan. His .201 batting average against lefties in that span is the worst in baseball.

Yet Wells’ numbers against right-handed pitching are pretty good -- a .285 batting average and .822 OPS over the last two seasons.

The difference in Wells’ splits vs left-handed and right-handed pitching, in both batting average and slugging percentage, is the greatest for any right-handed hitter in baseball.

The Angels felt it was worth the risk to pick up a player who ranked in the top 10 in the American League in extra-base hits, home runs, and slugging percentage last season.

It’s also possible that Wells could revert to the form that made him a quality hitter against lefties. From 2005 to 2008, he had a .331 batting average and .924 OPS against left-handed pitching.

The biggest issue that has led to Wells’ decline in that area has been his struggles with breaking pitches. We can break that down with our Inside Edge video scouting data.

While many right-handed hitters mash a curve or slider from a lefty, Wells struggles to get hits against that pitch. In 2007 and 2008, Wells got hits on 13 and 14 percent of his swings against breaking balls from lefties, respectively. Over the last two seasons, those numbers dropped dramatically, to four percent of swings in 2009 and eight percent in 2010.

Last season, Wells missed on 41 percent of the swings he took at lefties’ breaking balls. That’s a huge jump from the 27 percent rate he maintained in both 2008 and 2009.

Wells won’t be able to get any tutelage from Napoli, who is one of the best in baseball at hitting left-handed pitching. His .966 OPS against southpaws last season rated fourth-best in the American League. But Napoli is headed eastward, to the Rogers Centre, a ballpark that might allow him to boost those totals even further.

That’s another factor that may concern Wells and his new team. Last season, he hit .321 and averaged a home run every 14.5 at-bats at home, but just .227 with a homer nearly half as often in road contests.
With each home run, the Toronto Blue Jays seem to tie or break a statistical mark.
In a 5-4 loss on Saturday to the Minnesota Twins, Edwin Encarnacion hit his 20th home run of the season. He's the seventh Blue Jay this season with at least 20 HR: Jose Bautista (54), Vernon Wells (31), Aaron Hill (26), Adam Lind (22), Lyle Overbay and John Buck, each with 20. (Alex Gonzalez hit 17 HR with Toronto before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves, and he has six HR with the Braves.)

Seven players with at least 20 home runs ties the MLB single-season record, set by four other teams - 2009 Yankees, 2005 Rangers, 2000 Blue Jays and 1996 Orioles.

Encarnacion's home run was a two-run shot, giving him 50 RBI this season. If he finishes with 20 HR and 50 RBI, he would be the 18th player since 1900 with at least 20 HR and 50 RBI or fewer in a season with 350 plate appearances. Only two players since 2000 have had 20 HR, 50 RBI or fewer in a season with at least 350 plate appearances: The Pittsburgh Pirates' Garrett Jones in 2009 (21 HR, 44 RBI), and Jeremy Giambi in 2002 with the Oakland Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies (20-45).

Also in Saturday's game, Bautista drew his 100th walk of the season. He's the 14th player in history with 50 home runs and 100 walks in a season, and the first since Ryan Howard and David Ortiz in 2006. Bautista is the first right-handed American-League hitter with 50 HR, 100 BB in a season since Mark McGwire in 1996.

The Blue Jays now have 255 HR this season, two shy of the 1996 Baltimore Orioles for third-most HR in a single season.
Today’s Trivia: To go with 21 wins, Roy Halladay now has 219 strikeouts and just 30 walks. Who is the only pitcher since 1900 with a season of at least 21 wins and 200 strikeouts with 30 or fewer walks?

Quick Hits: Don’t be surprised if the AL Cy Young is determined on Tuesday, as CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and David Price all take the hill. Basking in a 5-0 September, Halladay likely locked up the NL award on Monday. But let’s revisit the AL battle, which also has a pair of Red Sox quietly tapping on the door.

Hernandez• As strong as all of his other numbers are, could Felix possibly win the award with a losing record? He enters today 12-12. The worst winning percentage for a starter who won the Cy Young was .600. That was Gaylord Perry in 1972 when he went 24-16.

• Hernandez has a 2.31 ERA, but there’s a decent chance he ends up with a losing record. The last AL pitcher with 30+ starts and an ERA that low to post a losing record? Dutch Leonard went 16-17 despite a 2.17 ERA for the 1917 Red Sox. Since then, the closest thing would be Joe Horlen (12-14, 2.37 ERA) for the ’68 White Sox.

• Sabathia goes for his 21st win on Tuesday. He is 10-1 combined against the Indians, Orioles and Mariners – the teams with the three worst records in the AL.

• How important is run support? Sabathia is 19-2 when the Yankees score three or more runs and just 1-5 otherwise. Hernandez is 10-2 with three or more runs of support and just 2-10 with fewer.

• Since August 1, King Felix is just 5-4 despite a 1.22 ERA. Sabathia is 7-4 with a 3.46 ERA.

Price• Price and Sabathia both have six no decisions this season. In his, Price has a 2.70 ERA and the Rays have offered up a total of eight runs while he was in the game. In other words, his no decisions are the result of a lack of support. Meanwhile, Sabathia has a 4.03 ERA in his six no decisions, with a total of 29 runs scored while on the mound.

• While the above may point to Price over Sabathia, factor this in as well. In his 12 losses, the Mariners have scored a total of seven runs while Hernandez was in the game. His last five losses? They have not scored a single run while he was still in the game.

• Jon Lester is 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA in September with another start scheduled for Thursday. If finishing strong is a factor in the award, consider this: With a win and six strikeouts, Lester would be just the third AL pitcher over the last 50 years to go 6-0 with 50 strikeouts in September/October. The others? Nolan Ryan in 1973 and Jim Kaat in 1967.

• Also in line for one more start, Clay Buchholz could – rather quietly – post 18 wins and an ERA under 2.30. Since 1975, only nine AL pitchers have posted those numbers. Six won the Cy Young. Randy Johnson lost out in 1997 to another pitcher with those qualifications (Roger Clemens). The other two were both Red Sox: Pedro Martinez (2002) and Clemens (1990).

Today’s Leaderboard
Hernandez makes his final road start of the season. His 2.55 road ERA is the third best in the AL, but he has just a 4-8 record to show for it. In those eight losses, the Mariners have provided just four runs while he was in the game. Meanwhile, the top two road ERAs belong to Red Sox, neither of whom have had trouble picking up wins.

Key Matchups
• With their postseason hopes dwindling, the Rockies face a familiar foe on Tuesday in Hiroki Kuroda. In possibly his last start with the Dodgers, Kuroda comes into the game with a 3.27 ERA. However, take out the 5.64 ERA from three starts against Colorado and it would fall to 2.95. It’s not CarGo or Tulo doing the most damage against Kuroda. Rather, Seth Smith has been his nemesis with six hits in 11 at-bats.

Sabathia• Sabathia is looking for his 21st win. Jose Bautista seeks his 53rd home run. So who has the better shot? Sabathia hasn’t faced the Blue Jays in 2010, but is 8-3 lifetime against the Jays and 4-1 in Toronto. He’s owned Vernon Wells (.194) and Aaron Hill (.158). Bautista is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts against Sabathia. But in a sense, these two have never met. That is to say it was a different Bautista given that their most recent meeting was in May 2009

Trivia Answer: In 1904, Cy Young went 26-16 with 200 strikeouts and 29 walks. Of course, his miniscule walk total came in 380 innings.
Today’s Trivia: With all the talk of Triple Crown races, Rodrigo Lopez’s chase is flying under the radar. He’s allowed the most home runs (32) and runs (111) of any pitcher in the majors, while opponents are hitting .287 against him (ninth worst). Who was the last pitcher to achieve the MLB Triple Frown - being worst in the majors all three categories?

GONZALEZQuick Hits: Over his last nine games, Carlos Gonzalez is hitting .515 with five home runs, 13 runs batted in and 12 extra-base hits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that nine-game stretch has only been equaled by three players over the last 40 years. Gonzalez is so hot he can just step up to the plate and get a hit. Consider this great note from Kenny Kendrena of Inside Edge: Gonzalez went 3-for-4 Wednesday night while seeing only five pitches. Elvis Andrus is the only other player in 2010 to pick up three hits on a night where he saw only five pitches. Here are some other fun notes on pitches seen via STATS LLC and Inside Edge:
• If Gonzalez and Andrus represent the successful end of the one-pitch spectrum, Alex Avila stands on the opposite side. On August 4, he went 0-for-3 on three pitches including a GIDP.

Vernon Wells leads the majors with 111 at-bats lasting only one pitch. He won’t reach Lance Johnson status though. In 1995 and 1996, Johnson had 168 AB ending on the first pitch, most of any player over the last 20 years.

• On the flip side is Daric Barton, who has seen 125 full counts this season. He has 50 walks compared to 20 strikeouts.

Rickie Weeks has been hit by the first pitch six times. That’s the most in the majors, but still just half of Craig Biggio’s total of 12.

Austin Jackson has seen 10 of his plate appearances last 10 pitches or more. That’s one more than Ichiro Suzuki for most in the majors. Amazingly for a player with 139 K, only one of those plate appearances ended in a strikeout.

• The league batting average is .259. But on a 0-0 count it jumps to .334 thanks in part to the impossibility of striking out. Just don’t tell that to Tigers rookies Scott Sizemore and Will Rhymes. They are a combined 0-for-31 in one-pitch at-bats.

• How about Chris Snyder? He’s hitting .722 (13-for-18) on the first pitch, and just .181 on at-bats that go beyond a 0-0 count.

Mike Pelfrey has suffered through the most 10-pitch plate appearances with 10.

Jose Mijares has held opponents hitless in 17 full-count at-bats, issuing only two walks. Contrast that with Dustin Nippert, against whom hitters are 14-for-23 (.609) in full counts. They are hitting just .267 in all other counts.

Today’s Leaderboard: Skip Schumaker has 19 home runs, but enters September having never homered in that month. His 297 plate appearances without a homer in September are the most of any active player. Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa can probably sympathize. He never hit a home run in 1,566 September plate appearances.

Key Matchups: There are 102 players who have faced Johan Santana at least 20 times. With a .533 batting average against the Mets ace, no one can top Matt Diaz’s success. He has a hit in all 10 games in which he’s faced Santana, and is 16-for-30 overall. But is it possible Johan finally figured him out? He fanned Diaz in each of their last two meetings, after having done so just once in the first 29.

On the other side of that Braves-Mets matchup, we have David Wright and Tim Hudson. Wright has struck out about once every five at-bats over the course of his career. This season, it’s a career-worst one per 3.5 AB. The strikeouts haven’t been a problem against Hudson though. In 49 at-bats, he has just three strikeouts – or one per 16.3 AB. Hudson last struck him out in 2007. That’s not to say Wright’s had success against Hudson. He’s just a .204 hitter with only one extra-base hit against Hudson.

Trivia Answer: In 2000, Jose Lima allowed 48 home runs and 152 runs, while opponents hit .313. All three were worst in the majors, giving him the most recent Triple Frown.