Stats & Info: Victor Martinez

MLB Second Half Preview

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Víctor Martínez has nearly as many home runs (21) as strikeouts (23) for the first place Detroit Tigers
The 2014 All-Star break is over and regular season baseball continues Friday night.

Here are a few of the top statistical storylines for the second half of the season.

Can Victor Martinez finish with more HR than K?

Víctor Martínez has 21 home runs and 23 strikeouts on the year. If Martínez finishes the season with more home runs than strikeouts, he would be the first qualified player to accomplish that feat since Barry Bonds in 2004 (45 HR, 41 K). George Brett’s 1980 season is the only other one since 1960 with more home runs than strikeouts (24 HR, 22 K).

For more recent context, 11 other players have hit 20 or more home runs in 2014. The average strikeout total among those players is 74. Giancarlo Stanton has the same number of home runs as Martínez but 82 more strikeouts (105).

National League Cy Young race

The debate over who should start for the National League in the All-Star game was settled when manager Mike Matheny chose Adam Wainwright over Clayton Kershaw.

But if Kershaw’s last eight starts are any indication (8-0 with a 0.74 ERA), the race for the NL Cy Young award is just heating up.

The chart on the right shows how close the race has been to this point. Among the 114 pitchers who have made at least 14 starts, Kershaw and Wainwright each rank in the top-5 in ERA, WHIP and opponent OPS.

American League rookies chasing history

Jose Abreu leads all of baseball in home runs with 29 entering the second half. George Springer has 19 home runs since being called up two weeks into the season by the Houston Astros.

The only rookie to hit 40 home runs in a season was Mark McGwire, who set the rookie record with 49 in 1987.

O’s and A’s in first place

The Baltimore Orioles are in first place at the All-Star break for just the second time in the last 25 seasons. The last time was 1997 when the O’s went on to win the AL East and lose in the ALCS.

The Oakland Athletics have the best record in Major League Baseball at the All-Star break for the second time in franchise history. The only other time was 1988. The A’s lost 4-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series that year.

Top stats to know: Rays at Tigers

July, 4, 2014
Jul 4

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsVictor Martinez’s 21 home runs this season are only four short of his career high (25 in 2007).
The Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers play the second game of their four-game series tonight (7 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN). We take a look at some of the things the broadcast crew will talk about.

Rays' offense on the rebound?
Tampa Bay is averaging only 3.76 runs per game this season, which ranks 26th in MLB and 14th in the AL. Since scoring 4.96 runs per game in 2009, Tampa’s scoring has gone down every season.

Tampa Bay’s offense has been especially anemic on the road this season. But the Rays are 6-2 on their current road trip and the offense appears to be making some progress.

Pitching matchup
Alex Cobb takes the ball for the Rays. He started the season off strong with a 1.89 ERA over his first three starts but has been inconsistent since coming off the DL in late May (5.16 ERA in eight starts). While Cobb has been up and down at times, he has the fourth-highest ground-ball rate in the American League (56.5 percent).

Expect to see plenty of changeups from Cobb. He throws it 32 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the majors (with a minimum of 10 starts). Miguel Cabrera is hitting .412 against changeups this season, the third-highest rate in the AL.

For the Tigers, Drew Smyly looks to bounce back from the shortest start of his career. He allowed four runs and eight hits in only 2 1/3 innings Sunday against the Astros. Smyly had pitched well before that with a 1.44 ERA in his previous four starts.

Hail to Victor
Since July 1 last season, Victor Martinez leads the majors in hitting (.347). He already has 21 home runs this season, just four short of his career high (25 in 2007).

Despite the power, Martinez has the lowest swing-and-miss rate in baseball this season (8.2 percent). He is one of five hitters to miss on less than 10 percent of swings this season, and the other four have combined for six home runs.

Longoria lacking power
Evan Longoria has seen his power numbers fall off this season. His 10 homers would be his fewest before the All-Star break in any first half in which he played at least 25 games.

His slugging percentage has dropped to a career-low .390, which ranks 108th among 167 qualified hitters. Notable players with a higher slugging percentage include light-hitting speedsters Dee Gordon (.412), Alcides Escobar (.410) and Billy Hamilton (.400).

Power by Scherzer, bats too much for Rays

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
Thanks to Max Scherzer and an early power display, the Detroit Tigers opened up a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays with an 8-1 win.

Scherzer dominates
Max Scherzer fell three outs short of the second complete game of his career, but he might have been even more dominant than he was in his shutout on May 12.

Scherzer allowed only two hits and one walk in his eight innings. It was only the second time in his career that he allowed three or fewer baserunners while recording at least 21 outs. He had an identical line – 8 IP, 2 H, ER, BB, 7 K – against the Cleveland Indians last May.

He did it with a much more effective fastball than over the last month. While posting a 4.81 ERA in June, he threw fastballs at least half the time in every game and 27 percent of his heaters were up in the zone. On Thursday, under half of his pitches were fastballs and on 19 percent were up.

Due to the better location, opposing hitters were only 1-for-14 with four strikeouts against his heater. During June, opponents hit .263 against his fastball.

It was Scherzer’s fourth straight win against the Rays after going 0-2 in his first three starts against Tampa Bay.

It was over when...
The Tigers scored five runs in the first inning. The Rays have been held to four or fewer runs in each of their last 19 meetings against Detroit.

According to Elias, that’s the longest streak in the American League since 1996-98, when the New York Yankees held the Toronto Blue Jays to four or fewer runs in 23 straight meetings.

Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter all hit home runs in the first inning. The Tigers are just the sixth team to hit three homers in an inning this season and the second to do so in the first (the other is the Los Angeles Angels on April 13 against the New York Mets).

Top stats to know: Tigers at Red Sox

May, 18, 2014
May 18
The Detroit Tigers go for the sweep of the Boston Red Sox as they look to extend their winning streak to six games on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 p.m., ESPN).

The Tigers have outscored the Red Sox 7-1 in the series and have the 2013 American League ERA champ returning to the mound tonight. Here are some of the storylines Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Buster Olney will be talking about on our telecast.

Inside the Pitching Matchup: Sanchez vs. Peavy
Anibal Sanchez has gone from a solid midrotation starter with the Marlins to front-line caliber with the Tigers. His ERA, which was 3.70 from 2010 to 2012, dropped to 2.63 combining 2013 and 2014, with a strikeout rate that increased from 21 percent to 27 percent of hitters faced.

What has changed about Sanchez’s profile? He is throwing his devastating changeup more often than he used to, increasing its use from 15 times per 100 pitches (2010 to 2012) to 23 times per 100 pitches (2013 and 2014).

Red Sox starter Jake Peavy has had his share of struggles this season, and the primary reason for this has been something uncharacteristic -- wildness. Peavy leads AL starting pitchers with a 13 percent walk rate this season.

Star Watch: Ortiz vs. Cabrera
What should we be watching out for from two of the game’s premier power hitters in David Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera this evening?

With Ortiz, watch how Sanchez pitches him. If Sanchez throws him a pitch on the outer half of the plate, he’s living dangerously. Ortiz has a .364 batting average (best in the majors) over the past three seasons in at-bats that end with an outer-half pitch.

With Cabrera in the middle of a potent Tigers lineup, see how the Red Sox approach the situation should they face him with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Over the past three seasons, Cabrera is hitting .444 (56-for-126) with 15 homers in that scenario. Even when opponents try to avoid him, they can’t. He is 19-for-49 in those situations when the at-bat ends with a pitch out of the strike zone.

Red-Hot: Victor Martinez
Tigers DH Martinez got off to a slow start last season but has been one of the best hitters in the game over the past 11 months. Martinez’s .357 batting average since July 1 is the best in the majors over that span.

Martinez has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, with six home runs in 74 at-bats. He is 3-for-9 in this series, but the damage could be far worse. He has recorded six balls that our hit classification system charted as “hard-hit.”

What makes Martinez so challenging is that he is extraordinarily difficult to strike out. He has fanned in only 6 percent of his plate appearances this season, the lowest rate among any hitter currently qualified for the batting title.

Kernels of wisdom: MLB week in review

August, 12, 2013
The Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie went single-double-triple in Monday's 3-1 win over Seattle, becoming the first Toronto hitter this season to even have a triple and a double in one game. Had he also homered, Lawrie would have recorded the Jays' first cycle since Jeff Frye on August 17, 2001.

In Tuesday's game, the Astros didn't need to steal any bases (although they did have two). The Red Sox-- specifically catcher Ryan Lavarnway-- were giving away bases.

Handling knuckleballer Steven Wright's first career start, Lavarnway was charged with four passed balls in the first inning alone, tying the major league record for one inning. It's happened twice before in the modern era, and also with knuckleballers: On August 22, 1987, the Rangers' Geno Petralli committed four while catching Charlie Hough; and on September 10, 1954, the Giants' Ray Katt did it while trying to catch Hoyt Wilhelm.

AP Photo/ElsaMatt Harvey threw his 1st career shutout on Wednesday against the Rockies.

Matt Harvey, on the other hand, threw his first career shutout (and first complete game) on Wednesday, holding the Rockies to four singles as the Mets won 5-0. He also went through a start without walking a single batter, the eighth time this season he’s done that. Only Bartolo Colon and Hisashi Iwakuma (with 10 each) have more walk-less starts this season, of any length.

Harvey also threw nine scoreless innings with zero walks against the White Sox on May 7, but got neither a decision nor a complete game because the Mets didn't score either and the game went to extras. Clayton Kershaw and Chris Archer are the only other pitchers with multiple such games this season.

He's the first Mets pitcher to have multiple starts of 8+ scoreless, walk-less innings since Jason Isringhausen in 1995; and the first with a pair of NINE-inning games since Craig Swan in 1979.

Thursday's limited slate brought us a matchup between Detroit and Cleveland at Progressive Field. Although the outcome wasn't in much doubt when the Tigers took an 8-0 lead after 3˝ innings, the notable part of the boxscore was that both cleanup hitters (Prince Fielder and Asdrubal Cabrera) had two doubles and two runs driven in.

Strangely, it's only the second game in the past 20 years where BOTH cleanup hitters have had at least two doubles and two RBI. The other occurred when Fielder "teamed up" with the Rangers' Adrian Beltre to do it on May 19.

On Friday the Tigers had their 12-game winning streak (which matched their longest since 1934) on the line against the Yankees and Mariano Rivera. The Tigers, however, countered with Miguel Cabrera, who launched his 34th home run of the year - but first in the ninth inning or later - to tie the game.

It was only the second homer Rivera allowed to the Tigers in a save situation. Bobby Higginson hit the other way back on July 6, 1999.

In Sunday's finale between the Tigers and Yankees, the visitors from Motown trailed by two runs after eight innings. Enter Rivera. Enter Cabrera.

Same result as Friday as Cabrera hit his 36th home run of the season. By doing so, he became the first player ever to homer off Rivera in consecutive at-bats, and one of just five players to have multiple homers against Rivera.

Later that inning, Victor Martinez hit a solo homer to tie the game, handing Rivera his third consecutive blown save. Something he had never done in his career to that point.

Rivera was still officially the pitcher of record when Brett Gardner hit his first career walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning. This was the 18th time Rivera has won a game after blowing a save, and the first since August 13, 2007.

Martinez finds power, Scherzer reduces his

June, 22, 2013

Victor Martinez has an abundance of hard-hit line-drive and flyouts in 2013.

For one of the few times this season, Tigers DH Victor Martinez got what he’d deem an appropriate reward for hitting the ball hard.

Martinez upped his average to .231 with a night that featured two hits, including a grand slam in a rout of the Red Sox. Martinez had five RBI for the game, the most he’s had in any game with the Tigers.

Martinez was snakebit by hard-hit outs early this season, as we’ve previously detailed here. And that has continued to carry over through the season's first couple months.

To recount: One of our data providers categorizes batted balls into three groups- hard-hit, medium-hit and soft-hit.

Of his first 48 “hard-hit” balls this season, Martinez recorded 25 hits and two home runs.

The average major leaguer gets hits on about 70 percent of his hard-hit balls, a rate Martinez basically achieved from 2009 to 2011 (68 percent).

But this year, he was a bit below that figure early in the season, whether it be due to factors such as bad luck, the ability of outfielders to chase down his long fly balls, or his inability upon return from injury to muscle the ball out of the park.

Only two of the first 43 hard-hit balls Martinez hit in the air went over the fence. But the grand slam made it four out of his last 10 leaving the yard.

If Martinez can get going right, he’ll add another major threat to the Tigers lineup. And he’s one who can make contact. He misses on only 11 percent of his swings. That’s the fifth-lowest rate among the AL’s batting-title qualifiers.

But Martinez is not completely removed from his hard-hit woes. His final at-bat produced a fly ball that looked like it would be a sure double, if not for a running catch by Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nava.

Scherzer 11-0
If Martinez’s season has been one of imperfection, Max Scherzer's has been one of near-perfection. He improved to 11-0 with his win on Saturday night. The Tigers haven’t had a pitcher start a season 11-0 in more than 100 years. George Mullin was the last to do so in 1909.

After allowing two runs and three hits in the 1st inning, Scherzer would settle down and allow only three hits the rest of the way. He threw 76 percent fastballs in the first inning – and allowed two hits with the pitch – but threw only 52 percent fastballs the rest of the way (one hit allowed).

With seven lefties in the Red Sox lineup, Scherzer threw a career-high 31 percent changeups. He kept 70 percent of his changeups down in the zone, his second highest percentage this season.

Scherzer became the first starter to begin a season 11-0 since Roger Clemens in 1997.

Scherzer had at least six strikeouts for the 15th straight start to begin the season.

That’s tied for the fourth-longest streak in the majors since 1900.

The longer runs are all going to take a while to reach. Randy Johnson had a streak of 35 straight in 1999 and another of 23 in 2000.

Sandwiched between those is the longest AL streak- 29 starts to start the season by Pedro Martinez in 2000.

Top stats to know: Detroit Tigers

March, 8, 2013

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesMiguel Cabrera became the 1st Triple Crown winner in baseball since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

The Detroit Tigers started slow in 2012, posting a 26-32 record before finishing the year with 88 wins and a playoff berth. Their postseason run came to a sudden halt, however, at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. But the most memorable aspect of Detroit's season was the performance of Miguel Cabrera, who claimed the Triple Crown and the AL MVP.

Cabrera finished with 44 HR, 139 RBI and a .330 BA. Over the past 70 years, only two players had reached all three of those in a season: Manny Ramirez in 1999 and Todd Helton in 2001. Before that, other players to compile those numbers: Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Hack Wilson.

Born in Venezuela, Cabrera was the 1st Hispanic player ever to win the Triple Crown and also the 1st Triple Crown winner ever to be born outside of the U.S.

But Detroit will be relying on more than just his stellar play this season. A look at some others who should make an impact:

Austin Jackson

Outfielder Austin Jackson took a big step forward last season, posting an .856 OPS after recording a combined .718 OPS in 2010 and 2011. He's also striking out less frequently, with a strikeout rate of 21.7 percent last season compared to 26.1 in 2010 and 2011 combined.

He's also a considerable asset on defense. Among outfielders since 2010, Jackson's +47 in regards to defensive runs saved is behind only Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward in the majors.

Jackson had an all-around strong season, with a Wins Above Replacement of 5.2. As you can see by the table to the right, that was among the best at his position last year. At just 26 years old, he should be a major contributor for years to come.

Victor Martinez

DH Victor Martinez missed the entire 2012 season recovering from a knee injury, and his return this year could come as a huge boost. Martinez had six seasons with a .300 BA and .800 OPS from 2005-11, tied for the most in the majors during that span.

His 720 RBI between 2004 and 2011 also ranked 7th in the American League in that span.
Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli were the stars -- both offensively and defensively -- as the Texas Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3 in 11 innings. The Rangers are one win away from their second straight World Series appearance.

Elias tells us it’s the sixth outfield assist at home plate to preserve a tie in the eighth inning or later in postseason history. The last one that was part of a double play came in the 1975 World Series.

Elias also says that Napoli is the first player since both leagues began recording caught stealings in 1951 to throw out a runner attempting to steal and drive in the game-winning run in the same postseason game, both in extra innings.

Here's how it unfolded.

Cruz to Napoli in the eighth inning
Nelson Cruz
The Rangers intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera with one out and nobody on base, and Victor Martinez followed with a single to put runners at first and third for Delmon Young. It was only the 10th free pass in postseason history with nobody on -- and the previous nine all came with two outs.

When Young lifted a fly ball to right field, Cruz threw a one-hop strike to the plate. Cabrera plowed into Napoli, who held on to the ball to preserve the tie and end the inning.

There were only three intentional walks with nobody on base this year during the regular season, and none of the on-deck hitters were the caliber of Martinez. Chris Coghlan, Geovany Soto and Adam Lind were the on-deck hitters in the three regular-season instances, which all came with two outs.

Mike Napoli
Napoli in the 10th inning
The game went to extra innings and in the 10th, the speedy Austin Jackson -- a career 81 percent base-stealer -- was hit by a pitch with one out. Napoli, who had thrown out 36 percent of would-be base stealers during the regular season, threw Jackson out attempting to steal second base and the game eventually headed to the 11th.

Napoli then Cruz in the 11th inning
The Tigers intentionally walked Adrian Beltre with one out and a runner on second to get to Napoli. The Rangers catcher grounded into double plays in 11 percent of his opportunities this season, right in line with the American League average. Jose Valverde, who was on the mound, recorded double plays in just seven percent of his chances.

Napoli singled in the go-ahead run and Cruz followed with a three-run home run, his 10th of his postseason career and fourth of the series.

Two of them have come in the 11th inning where Cruz has done nearly all of his damage.

He’s the first player with two extra-inning home runs in the same postseason series and only the fourth ever with two in the a postseason career. He’s got 10 homers in 24 postseason games -- only Carlos Beltran had more in 24 games or got to 10 faster (according to Elias).

Tigers continue Game 3 success

October, 12, 2011
The Detroit Tigers won for the seventh time in their last nine postseason home games to cut their ALCS deficit against the Texas Rangers to two games to one.

The Tigers tied a team single-game postseason record with three home runs. They hadn’t hit that many home runs in a postseason game since Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. Victor Martinez (fourth career postseason homer), Jhonny Peralta (third career LCS home run) and Miguel Cabrera (sixth career postseason home run) all found the seats for the home team.

The Tigers have won eight of their last nine Game 3s, and are 5-0 all-time in Game 3 of the ALCS. They went on to win two of the previous four series, but they lost both series when they won Game 3 after losing the first two games of the series.

Colby Lewis entered the game with a 4-0 record in five postseason starts and hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a game. The Tigers handed Lewis his first postseason loss, as he allowed a postseason career high in runs (4) and hits (8).

Austin Jackson entered the game with three hits in 25 postseason at-bats. He went 3-for-5, matching the most by a Tigers centerfielder in a postseason game. The others were Hall of Famer Sam Crawford (twice), Doc Cramer (twice) and Curtis Granderson.

Yorvit Torrealba had just three at-bats in the Rangers first six postseason games, but replaced Mike Napoli behind the plate Tuesday. He became the first catcher to get three hits without recording an out in a postseason game since A.J. Pierzynski in 2005.

Doug Fister went 7⅓ innings to pick up his second win of the postseason. That’s an average day at the park for Fister. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he pitched at least seven innings and allowed two-or-fewer runs in seven of the 10 starts he made for the Tigers during the regular season after making his debut with the team on August 3rd.

The Tigers still have a tough road to climb. Only 13 of 71 teams that lost the first two games in a best-of-seven series have come back to win the series.

No replacing Cabrera's presence in lineup

February, 24, 2011
Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said it's manager Jim Leyland's decision to determine when Miguel Cabrera will be ready to play for the Detroit Tigers.

It's hard to imagine a player meaning more to a playoff-contending team than Cabrera.

Miguel Cabrera
He’s coming off the best season of his career in a number of categories including home runs (38), walks (89) and slugging percentage (.622). He hit .328 and led the American League in RBI (126), on-base percentage (.420) and adjusted OPS+ (179), according to Baseball Reference. He also led the Tigers in runs (111), doubles (45), walks (89) and total bases (341).

On top of all that, he was clutch. In 96 plate appearances in late and close situations, Cabrera hit .367 with eight home runs, a .479 on-base percentage and a .737 slugging percentage. The rest of the team hit .265 with a .340 on-base percentage in such situations. (Baseball Reference defines late and close situations as plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.)

Despite Cabrera’s numbers, the Tigers were just eighth in the American League in runs scored. And as good as he was last season, the Tigers didn’t have enough firepower around him, which was evident when Magglio Ordonez broke his ankle. In the 58 games after Ordonez's injury, Cabrera was intentionally walked an astounding 23 of his league-leading 32 times. Without protection, opposing pitchers had little incentive to pitch to Cabrera. That’s a big reason the Tigers added Victor Martinez, a career .300 hitter with 43 home runs over the past two seasons.

However, neither Ordonez nor Martinez can come close to matching Cabrera’s production.

Since 2004, only four players have driven in at least 100 runs each year: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Cabrera. Of those four players, Cabrera is the only one who is still in his 20s. (He’ll be 27 on Opening Day.) He’s also been durable, playing at least 150 games every season since 2004.

Trying to measure just how important he was to the Tigers last season, using the statistic win probability added is helpful. (WPA measures how a player increases or decreases a team’s chance of winning based on his offensive contributions, particularly in high-leverage situations.) Cabrera led the majors with a 7.42 WPA, according to FanGraphs. That means the Tigers won more than seven games last year by having him in the lineup.

Last year, nobody else in Detroit’s lineup was higher than 1.56 (Ordonez).

So, while Leyland will decide when Cabrera's ready to return, Cabrera himself may be the key to Detroit's season.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
A move from catcher to DH is coming for Victor Martinez as part of his signing with the Detroit Tigers.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Tigers signing of Victor Martinez and how his performance compared to that of Tigers catchers. But recent comments from general manager Dave Dombrowski indicate that he'll be used primarily as a DH.

That makes sense. According to Baseball Info Solutions, Martinez has cost his teams 47 runs combined during his career. In 2010, he allowed 99 stolen bases, while throwing out just 21 percent of base runners.

In the last three seasons, the Tigers production from their DHs has been limited, just as it has been from their catchers. In 2008 and 2009, their Wins Above Replacement (based on a weighted version of on-base average) totaled 0.3 and though that number jumped to 1.9 in 2010, it ranked about average (sixth-best) in the American League.

Over the last three seasons, Tigers DHs rank next-to-last in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. So Martinez will be a huge upgrade there and his defense is a non-factor.

If Martinez isn’t catching who is? Due to Gerald Laird’s inability to hit (.207 BA, .263 OBP in 2010), highly-praised second-year man Alex Avila should see more time.

The most noteworthy stat for him in 2010: He threw out 32 percent of runners attempting to steal, fifth-best among the 31 players who caught 250 or more innings in 2010.
--Derek Czenczelewski

Huff winded by season's end?
While Aubrey Huff's 2010 season was very good, he regressed in the latter part of the year, suggesting the San Francisco Giants may have committed $22 million for two years on the basis of a very good first four months, for a team that happened to win the World Series.

What caused it?

Huff's biggest issue at the end of last season was that he had a lot of trouble with breaking pitches thrown by left-handers. The drop-offs were stark across Huff's entire stat line. From April-July, he swung and missed at about one of every four breaking pitches from a lefty. The rest of the season, he missed at one of every three.

When Huff made contact, the results were weak. His slugging percentage against those pitches from August 1 on was .278, nearly a 400-point drop from earlier in the year.

But the good version of Huff showed up again at just the right time. Huff got the biggest hit of the season against a slider from Braves' left-hander Mike Dunn, singling with two outs in the ninth inning to tie Game 3 of the NLDS. Turns out it may have been worth more than just a postseason win.
--Justin Havens and Mark Simon

Garland's durability covers potential issue
Jon Garland's ability to eat innings continues to allow him to find work, his latest employment coming from a one-year contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, Garland continues to walk a very fine line. Among pitchers with at least 700 innings over the last four seasons, Garland's strikeout-to-walk rate of 1.64 is third-worst in baseball.

The Dodgers did pick up a durable pitcher, one who had a 1.71 ERA in Dodgers Stadium in three starts there in 2009. Garland and Chicago White Sox starter Mark Buehrle are the only two pitchers to throw 190 innings or more in each of the last nine seasons.
--Justin Havens

Put Down Your Dukes
While Garland may have pitched better than his peripheral numbers, new Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zach Duke pitched worse. The traditional stats say that Duke ranked last in 2010 among NL pitchers in ERA, opponents batting average and OPS.

However, a closer look at his peripherals (strikeout/walk rate, groundball rate, contact percentage, chase percentage, first-pitch strike percentage) reveal that he was a similar pitcher to the one that had a 4.06 ERA in 2009.

What changed from 2009 to 2010 that caused an ERA spike?

A .347 BABIP that was the highest in the NL and 51 points higher than his 2009 BABIP did significant damage. Duke had the fourth-highest home run rate (1.42), his percentage of flyballs that were home runs was 13.7, highest in the NL and significantly higher than his career rate of 10 percent.

Perhaps the most telling stat that indicates Duke can only improve is his 2010 xFIP of 4.48 –- an ERA-like metric based on strikeouts, walks and a normalized home run per flyball rate –- that was not far from his career mark of 4.40 and the 4.31 he posted in 2009.
--Katie Sharp
Victor Martinez
Catcher Victor Martinez and the Detroit Tigers have reached agreement on a four-year, $50 million contract. Martinez has hit just .225 with a .671 OPS in 196 career plate appearances at Comerica Park.

Those are both Martinez's lowest marks among the 14 ballparks where he has had at least 75 plate appearances. Last season in two games there he was 0-for-9 with two strikeouts in 10 at-bats.

The Tigers have struggled for production from their catchers in the past two seasons, ranking no better than 26th in the majors in hitting, slugging, on-base percentage and OPS. Martinez’s 187 RBIs the past two years lead all major league catchers, and his .302 average and 43 home runs are both second in the big leagues in that span.

Martinez is a career .300 hitter, reaching that mark in five of the past six seasons. He also ranks sixth in baseball history in batting average among catchers with at least 4,000 plate appearances.

The Tigers are getting a lot of things in their newly-signed catcher, but one thing they are not receiving is a strong defensive catcher.

Last season, Martinez threw out only 14.7 percent of baserunners attempting to steal, which was the sixth-lowest rate in the major leagues among qualified catchers. That was actually an improvement from 2009, when he threw out only 12.5 percent.

The deal is the second-largest free-agent contract in terms of both total dollars and average annual value given to a catcher. Only Jorge Posada's current four-year, $52.4 million deal with the New York Yankees is larger.
Ubaldo Jimenez set a Colorado Rockies' single-season record with his 18th win of the season. Jimenez also became the first starting pitcher this season to win a game in which he allowed 4+ runs and 6+ walks. Entering Monday, starting pitchers were 0-for-21 with five no-decisions in games in which they allowed 4+ runs and 6+ walks this season. He's the third Rockies starter ever to win a game in which he allowed 4+ runs and 6+ walks, joining Pedro Astacio (1998) and Bobby M. Jones (1999).

Staying with the Rockies, since August 23, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are hitting a combined .441 (41-for-93). The rest of the team his hitting just .241.
Boston Red Sox rookie Ryan Kalish has two grand slams this season in six plate appearances with the bases loaded. Some notable players who have fewer than two career grand slams: Derek Jeter (1), Prince Fielder (1), Victor Martinez (1) and Mark Reynolds (0).

Speaking of rookies, the Washington Nationals' Danny Espinosa has 10 RBI in his first five career games. That ties an MLB record since RBI became official in 1920. In 1951, Jack Merson also had 10 RBI in his first five career games.

Matt Capps saved his 10th game on Monday with the Minnesota Twins. And with 26 saves for the Nationals earlier this season, Capps is the fourth player with at least 10 saves in each league in the same season (since saves became an official stat in 1969). The three other pitchers: Bob Wickman in 2006 with the Cleveland and Atlanta; Octavio Dotel in 2004 with Houston and Oakland; and Wickman in 2000 with Milwaukee and Cleveland.

The Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Oswalt won his fifth straight start on Monday. He's had 11 win streaks (all as a starter) of at least five games in his career. Since his rookie season in 2001, the only pitcher with more 5+ win streaks is Roy Halladay (12).

Bruce almighty from top of the order

August, 27, 2010
Jay Bruce hit three home runs from the lead-off spot in the Cincinnati Reds' 7-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Bruce joins Pete Rose (1978 against the New York Mets) as the second player in franchise history to hit three home runs in a game from the top of the order. Bruce is the first lead-off hitter with a three HR-game against the Cubs since Davey Lopes in 1974. Entering Friday, Bruce had four home runs in 106 plate appearances when batting first.

As for the Cubs, this was the third time this season they allowed a player to hit three home runs in a game: Albert Pujols and Drew Stubbs are the other two.

So you might think the Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista is a one-year wonder? Not necessarily. Since last September, Bautista has hit more home runs than anyone in baseball.

Jon Lester (7 IP, 2 H, 10 K) is now 4-0 in six career starts at Tropicana Field. Also, he now owns the last four instances of a Boston Red Sox starter to throw at least seven innings with two hits or fewer and at least 10 strikeouts.

Victor Martinez became the first player to hit two home runs in a game off the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price.

A.J. Burnett (3⅓ IP, 9 R against the Chicago White Sox) has now allowed nine runs in a game three times in his 12-year career … and all three of them have come as a member of the New York Yankees. Burnett has also allowed 23 first-inning runs this season, which is more than what he gave up over the previous three years combined (20).

The Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton set a single-season franchise record by recording his 24th three-hit game of 2010. He breaks the previous mark held by Ivan Rodriguez (1997) and Mickey Rivers (1980).

From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard has now strukc out 1,000 times in 843 career games. That's the second-fewest games to 1,000 K in MLB history. (Rob Deer reached 1,000 in 828 career games.)

Quality (and quantity) starts from A's

August, 27, 2010

The Oakland Athletics, sporting a major league-best 2.60 ERA since the All-Star break, have 18 straight quality starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest such streak by an American League team since the New York Yankees also had an 18-game streak in 1981. The next longest streak in MLB was the Braves' 21-start streak in 1997.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford has 33 consecutive steals against the Boston Red Sox. It's the longest streak of successful steals against one team since Vince Coleman had 34 against Houston from 1986 to 1990.

• Jon Lester, 2-5 since the All-Star break, is unbeaten on the road in his career against the Tampa Bay Rays (3-0 in five starts).

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Rays' David Price looks to become the second AL pitcher to win 16 games this season (NYY CC Sabathia, 17-5) as he takes on the Red Sox. Since Tampa Bay's inaugural season in 1998, the Rays and the Pirates are the only teams that have not had a pitcher with 16 wins in one season.

• There are four Red Sox who have at least five career at-bats against Price, and they’re all struggling mightily against him. Marco Scutaro, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell are a combined 4-for-29 (.138 BA) against Price.

• One reason why the Cleveland Indians' Josh Tomlin is winless in his last four starts (0-3)? The Indians have scored two runs or fewer in all four games.

• The Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Oswalt is 73-25 in his career after the All-Star Break, including a 31-7 record in the month of August. He’s 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA in five starts since joining the Phillies.

• The San Diego Padres' Mat Latos has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 straight starts (the most in a season in team history), and three earned runs or fewer in 19 straight starts (1.69 ERA over that stretch).
• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum has struggled mightily in August with an 8.38 ERA. (It’s the highest ERA in a calendar month in his career.) He’s allowed at least four earned runs in each of his last three starts -- his longest previous streak of starts surrendering four earned runs or more was two.

• Once again, the Yankees' A.J. Burnett has not been able to back up a strong month. After going 3-1 in five starts with a 2.00 ERA in July, Burnett’s 0-3 with an ERA over six in four August starts.

• The Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver has struck out four batters or fewer in each of his last two starts. In his first 25 starts, Weaver struck out four batters or fewer in just one start.