Stats & Info: Yasiel Puig

Top stats to know: 2014 Home Run Derby

July, 14, 2014

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).

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Mets

May, 21, 2014
The New York Mets host the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of a three-game set tonight (7 ET, ESPN). Here are some of the key storylines we will be following on "Wednesday Night Baseball."

Puig on a tear
Yasiel Puig has reached base safely in 21 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in the majors behind Robinson Cano (27 games).

In that span, Puig is hitting .400, with 7 home runs, 26 RBIs and 12 walks.

Puig’s improved plate discipline is a major difference between this season and last. He has lowered his chase percentage more than any player in the league, and that percentage has decreased in every month of his career.

As a result, his walk percentage has gone up and his strikeout percentage has decreased from 2013 to this season.

Ryu returns
Hyun-Jin Ryu returns to the Dodgers' rotation after missing more than three weeks with shoulder inflammation. Before his injury, Ryu had a strong start to the season, allowing zero runs in four of his first five starts, which is one behind Adam Wainwright for the most scoreless starts in the majors this season.

Ryu’s ERA in 2014 and for his career is 3.00, which is the fifth-best by a left-handed starter since the start of last season.

His arrival, coupled with the return of Clayton Kershaw last week, puts the Dodgers' rotation at full strength and takes some pressure off their bullpen, which has thrown 158 innings, the most of any National League team this season.

This has started to take its toll, as their bullpen ERA this month is 5.03, third-worst in the majors.

DeGrom follows debut
Jacob deGrom was a hard-luck loser in his MLB debut on May 15, allowing one run in seven innings against the Yankees. He was the first Mets starter to lose his major league debut despite allowing only one run since Ron Darling on Sept. 6, 1983, against the Phillies.

DeGrom, who played both third base and shortstop in college, singled in his first career plate appearance, becoming the first Mets pitcher to get a hit this season after they started 0-for-64, a modern-day record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The rest of the Mets' pitching staff has yet to get a hit this season, going 0-for-71.

HR of the night: Puig goes beyond range

April, 1, 2014

Yasiel Puig looked more like the 2013 version of himself on Tuesday night.

Puig hit a 392-foot homer against Ian Kennedy in the top of the first inning, giving Zack Greinke the run support he would need in a 3-2 win.

The image atop the article shows where the pitch was. It was in a location that is extraordinarily difficult for a right-handed batter to hit a home run against.

Since the start of last season, only five righties homered against a pitch thrown to that approximate spot. The others are Placido Polanco, Jose Altuve, Alcides Escobar and Alberto Callaspo.

Righties miss on one-third of their swings against pitches to that area. Puig’s two swings on pitches to that location both resulted in misses, one against a 94-mph fastball from Homer Bailey, the other against a 95-mph pitch from Edwin Jackson.

But Ian Kennedy’s 93-mph offering was just right for him. Puig had success against inside pitches from right-handers early last season, with 34 hits on the first 299 he saw on the inner-third of the plate, or off the inside corner.

Tuesday's homer was his eighth hit on 178 inside pitches thrown to him since then.

It was the 20th home run of Puig’s career. Six of them have come against the Padres, including ones of 447 and 443 feet last season.

Top stats to know: Dodgers vs D-backs

March, 21, 2014
Paul Goldschmidt was a very tough hitter to get out in 2013.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will open the 2014 baseball season at 4 a.m. eastern in the first major league baseball game played in Australia. This weekend's game dates of March 22 and 23 are the earliest in MLB history, beating the 2008 Tokyo series

There are plenty of intriguing statistical storylines for this contest. Let’s run down a few of them.

For openers
The Diamondbacks have won seven straight Opening Day Games, tied with the Seattle Mariners for baseball’s longest current Opening Day winning streak.

The Dodgers have won three straight season openers, winning last year in memorable fashion when Clayton Kershaw pitched a shutout and hit a go-ahead home run in eighth inning to snap a scoreless tie against the San Francisco Giants.

Kershaw will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start for the Dodgers. The only pitcher in franchise history with a longer streak is Don Sutton, who started on Opening Day seven years in a row for the Dodgers from 1972-78.

Kershaw is 2-0 in three Opening Day starts, with 19 innings pitched and no runs allowed. He is coming off a rough spring training, however, going 0-3 with a 9.20 ERA in 14⅔ innings pitched.

Kershaw has pitched well against the Diamondbacks the last two seasons, but with little to show for it. He’s made seven starts against them in that span, but is 1-4, albeit with a 2.31 ERA.

Wade Miley will get the start for the Diamondbacks in place of injured lefty Patrick Corbin. Miley will be only the second lefty to start a season opener for the Diamondbacks, joining Randy Johnson, who started six.

Miley is 3-1 with a 3.59 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Dodgers.

Matchup to Watch: Goldschmidt versus Kershaw
Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt emerged as a star last season, ranking among the National League’s best hitters.

But Kershaw has given Goldschmidt a lot of trouble.

Goldschmidt is 2 for 20 with nine strikeouts against Kershaw, though he did homer against the Dodgers ace last season. The pitch that gives Goldschmidt trouble is Kershaw’s slider. Seven of his nine strikeouts have come against that pitch.

Kershaw will try to keep the ball down against Goldschmidt, whose hot spot is the upper-third of the strike zone and above.

Goldschmidt hit 17 home runs against pitches to that area. No one else in the majors had more than 11.

What can Puig do for an encore?
Dodgers rightfielder Yasiel Puig made a huge impact in his rookie season, hitting .319 with 19 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 104 games.

The Dodgers fortunes turned with the recall of Puig from the minor leagues last season. They went 64-32 in his 96 starts, 28-38 in all other games.

Whether Puig goes through a sophomore slump may depend on if he cuts down on his swings and misses. His 35 percent miss rate ranked sixth-highest among those with at least 300 plate appearances last season.

Did You Know?
Australia has produced 28 major league players. Among the most notable are current Tampa Bay Rays closer Grant Balfour and former Milwaukee Brewers infielder Dave Nilsson, who hit 105 home runs in eight seasons from 1992 to 1999.

Four native Australians played in the majors last season: Peter Moylan, Liam Hendricks, Travis Blackley and Balfour.

Top stats to know: Rookie awards preview

November, 10, 2013

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig provided the offensive spark the Dodgers needed at the time of his recall.
Awards season begins Monday with the announcement of the National League and American League Rookie of the Year winners.

Though there weren’t any rookies who performed at the level that Mike Trout did a year ago, there were still a number of notable performances.

Fernandez, Puig top this rookie class
Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig are the three finalists for NL Rookie of the Year. The award should come down to Fernandez versus Puig.

Fernandez had one of the best seasons by a rookie starter in a long time, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. He led the league in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (5.8).

Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA was the best by a rookie who qualified for the ERA title in a non-strike season since Stan Bahnsen had a 2.05 ERA for the New York Yankees and Jerry Koosman had a 2.08 ERA for the New York Mets in 1968 (which was known as The Year of the Pitcher).

Fernandez got his ERA down that low via a strong finish. He had an NL-best 1.50 ERA from June 1 through the end of the season.

His season was slightly better than that of Miller, who had 15 wins and a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts with the Cardinals. Miller’s 15 wins were the most by a rookie pitcher in 2013, one more than Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Teheran.

Puig made his debut on June 3 and made a huge impact on the Dodgers' lineup. The Dodgers, after a 23-32 start, were 69-38 from that day forward.

Puig led rookie position players with a .319 batting average, .925 OPS and 5.0 WAR (wins above replacement). He didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, but if you lower the minimum to 400 plate appearances, he ranked 10th among all players in the majors with a .925 OPS.

Puig is trying to become the Dodgers' first Rookie of the Year winner since Todd Hollandsworth in 1996. Hollandsworth’s win capped five straight Rookie of the Year selections for the Dodgers.

Myers, Archer going head-to-head
Rays outfielder Wil Myers and starting pitcher Chris Archer are two of the three AL finalists.

Each is trying to become the third Rays player to win the award, joining Evan Longoria in 2008 and Jeremy Hellickson in 2011.

Myers had the highest OPS (.831) by a wide margin among the 13 AL rookies with at least 250 plate appearances. The next highest was Brad Miller of the Seattle Mariners (.737).

Myers closed the season strong, hitting .323 with four home runs, 12 doubles, 14 RBIs and 19 runs scored in his last 26 games in helping the Rays make their playoff push.

The Rays went 14-9 in Archer’s 23 starts, in which he was 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA. He was at his best in three starts against one of the Rays' division rivals, the Yankees, going 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings against them. He was the first rookie to beat the Yankees three times in a season since Kevin Brown did so for the Texas Rangers in 1989.

Archer would be the fourth rookie pitcher to win the AL award in the past five seasons, joining Andrew Bailey (2009 Athletics), Neftali Feliz (2010 Rangers) and Hellickson.

Iglesias steady at shortstop
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias provided flash with his defense (winning the "Baseball Tonight" Web Gem of the Year award) and performed respectably on offense, hitting .303. He was one of only two rookies with at least 250 plate appearances to hit .300 this season, along with Puig.

If Iglesias won, he would be the first Rookie of the Year winner to play for two teams in the same season.

Did you know?
If either Archer or Myers wins the AL award and Fernandez wins the NL award, it would be the first time that two teams from the same state produced Rookie of the Year winners since 1993, when the winners were Mike Piazza of the Dodgers and Tim Salmon of the Angels.

Ryu stacks Cards deck with soft stuff

October, 15, 2013
With the Los Angeles Dodgers having lost starts by Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw and their offense lacking any punch, they needed a pitcher capable of putting up a lot of zeroes against the St. Louis Cardinals.

They had the right man for the task on Monday night and after a 3-0 win in Game 3, they now trail the NLCS 2-games-to-1.

Ryu dominates
Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed only three hits to earn the win.
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ryu became the fourth pitcher in Dodgers history to throw at least seven scoreless innings and allow three hits or fewer in a postseason start. The other three are Don Drysdale (1963 World Series against the Yankees), Sandy Koufax (1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins) and current ESPN broadcaster Orel Hershiser (1988 World Series against the Athletics).

Ryu threw only 48 fastballs among his 108 pitches (44 percent), a rate well below his 54 percent fastball usage this season.

His other 60 pitches were offspeed, including 34 changeups (he had a season-high usage rate of 32 percent with the pitch). That netted him six outs (including Jon Jay’s fly-ball double play) and yielded no baserunners.

Ryu was also tough deep in counts, retiring 14 of the 16 hitters against whom he got a two-strike count. In his previous two starts, he allowed seven two-strike hits and a pair of two-strike walks, but only retired 10 of the batters he faced.

The Cardinals are hitting .134 (13-for-97) through the first three games. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is the lowest batting average for any team through the first three games of an LCS since that round began in 1969.

It surpassed the .155 by the 1969 Twins against the Orioles in what was a three-game Orioles sweep.

Puig’s bounceback
Yasiel Puig bounced back from his golden sombrero (four strikeouts in four plate appearances) in Game 2 to go 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI.

This was the second time this postseason that a player had a Golden Sombrero then came back later in the series with a key hit.

Austin Jackson had a four-strikeout game in Game 2 of the ALDS for the Tigers against the Athletics, but came back to have the go-ahead hit in the Tigers' win in Game 4 of that series.

Hanley’s OK
Hanley Ramirez played with a fractured rib after missing Game 2 and came through with an RBI hit.

Ramirez is hitting .455 with seven RBIs in six postseason games. The Dodgers are 55-28 combined in the regular season and postseason when he starts this season, 41-45 when he doesn’t.

Jay’s misplays
Jay continues to have a bad run of defensive misplays in center field. He had a multitude of issues in Game 3 most notably a double that fell between him and Carlos Beltran in a two-run fourth-inning and two plays in which he got a glove on a ball, but couldn't make the catch.

Jay previously had trouble in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Pirates, when he misplayed a Pedro Alvarez double in the second inning and in Game 1 of the NLCS when he took a bad angle trying to get to Mark Ellis’ 10th-inning triple.

Jay was charged with -10 Defensive Runs Saved in 2013, tied for fourth-worst among centerfielders.

He wasn't the only culprit. Baseball Info Solutions, a video-scouting service that tracks every play in every game, credited the Cardinals with nine Defensive Misplays & Errors, tied for the most by any team in any postseason game in the last eight postseasons.

Tough loss for Wainwright
Adam Wainwright allowed two runs in seven innings in suffering his first career postseason loss (he’s now 4-1 for his career).

Wainwright joined Bob Gibson as the only Cardinals pitchers to have four straight postseason starts of seven innings or more, allowing two runs or fewer.

Top stats to know: Dodgers vs. Braves

October, 3, 2013

AP PhotosKris Medlan and Clayton Kershaw will get the starting nods for the Braves and Dodgers in Game 1.
Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves begins tonight from Turner Field (8:37 ET/ESPN Radio).

The only other postseason meeting between these clubs was in the 1996 NLDS, which the Braves won 3-0.

Here are a few storylines to watch.

1. The Braves won the season series 5-2 and come into postseason play having won three of their last four overall. Atlanta has won 25 of its last 35 home games, but has not fared so well at Turner Field in the postseason lately.

Atlanta has lost three straight and 16 of its last 21 postseason games played in front of its home crowd, dating back to 1999.

The Dodgers clinched a playoff berth on Sept. 19. That might explain why they went 4-9 to finish the season (including losses in four of their last five games).

Los Angeles was the first team to win a division title after being at least 12 games under .500 at any point in the season since the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays.

In the playoffs, the Dodgers have lost three straight and 26 of their last 36 road games.

2. Braves starter Kris Medlen enters the postseason on a roll, going 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA in his last six starts.

He made two excellent starts against the Dodgers early in the season, allowing one run and seven hits in 13⅔ innings pitched.

3. One of the leading candidates for the National League Cy Young Award, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, will pitch for the Dodgers.

The Braves went an NL-best 25-16 in games in which the opposing starter was left-handed.

Kershaw has not recorded a decision in four career starts vs. the Braves, but does have a 2.45 ERA (he has not faced them since Sept. 4, 2011).

For the season, Kershaw sported a league-low 1.83 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first postseason start by the ERA champion has not been stellar recently.

There have been 13 ERA-title winners to start a postseason game since 1999, going a combined 2-8 with a 4.29 ERA in those starts. The only two with a win were Johan Santana in 2004 for the Minnesota Twins and Jason Schmidt in 2003 for the San Francisco Giants.

4. Matchups to watch in this game include these two:

Hanley Ramirez vs.Kris Medlen: Ramirez is the only player on the Dodgers roster who has homered against Medlen. He’s 5-for-9 against him, though the two haven’t faced each other since the 2010 season.

Justin Upton vs. Clayton Kershaw: Upton and Kershaw did not face each other during the 2013 season, but they have plenty of matchup experience from Upton’s time with the Diamondbacks.

Upton is 3-for-29 with nine strikeouts against Kershaw, though he does have a single, double and triple in his last 11 at-bats against him.

5. Misc Notes
* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Braves’ Justin and B.J. Upton will be the first set of brothers to play in a postseason game as teammates since the Molinas (Jose and Bengie) did so for the Angels in 2005.

The only pair of brothers to play in a playoff game for the Braves was Tommie and Hank Aaron in 1969. Both played in the second game of a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets in the NLCS.

* Yasiel Puig went 8-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs in four games against the Braves this season.

* Puig’s teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, however, didn’t have as much luck, hitting only .130 (3-for-23) in seven games against Atlanta in 2013.

How do you pitch to Yasiel Puig?

October, 3, 2013
For each of the eight remaining postseason teams, the Stats & Information team will offer a look at a key hitter and use Next-Level data to analyze how he might best be approached by opposing pitchers.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers called up Yasiel Puig on June 3, they were 23-32 (.418) and 8.5 games back in the NL West. From that point forward, they went 69-38 (.645) and won the division by 11 games.

While Puig certainly wasn’t the only reason for the turnaround – a healthy Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez were among the others – Puig developed into an impact player and helped carry the Dodgers to the postseason.

But how do you pitch to him? Let’s take a look at three keys.

Be careful early in the count
Puig’s first career HR came on the first pitch of his seventh at-bat, setting the tone for what would be one of the game’s most aggressive – and successful – hitters early in the count.

When Puig sees a first-pitch strike, he swings 68 percent of the time; only two hitters (Freddie Freeman and Carlos Gomez) swung at such pitches more often since Puig debuted.

Puig hit .551 with a 1.642 OPS on the first pitch, the third-highest OPS in the last 25 seasons behind Jim Edmonds in 2004 and Gary Sheffield in 2000. Puig’s nine first-pitch home runs ranked fourth in baseball, even though he didn't debut until June.

With so much success on the first pitch, it’s no surprise that the deeper the pitcher is able to get in the count against Puig, the more the advantage swings his way. This is the case for most hitters, but the difference is even more pronounced with Puig, as seen in the chart to the right.

He’s superman on the first two pitches and essentially a league-average hitter from the third pitch on.

Lefties: go upstairs
As with most right-handed hitters, Puig hit better against left-handed pitching (.340/.419/.583) than right-handed pitching (.312/.381/.516).

Left-handers worked Puig inside unlike any righty in baseball, throwing him a MLB-high 48 percent pitches on the inner third or further inside.

Puig found success on these pitches when he put the ball in play, hitting .333 and slugging .583. However, he also missed on about a third of his swings.

The area Puig is most vulnerable to left-handed pitching is up in the zone. He hit just .238 against pitches in that location without a single extra-base hit. He also swung and missed more than any righty in baseball from the time he debuted.

Righties: get him to chase
Puig showed the ability to handle everything righties threw at him during his rookie year. He hit .352 against fastballs (2/4-seam), .360 against changeups and splitters and even .270 against breaking balls, well above the major-league average of .216 in righty versus righty situations.

Where he struggled at times was with his approach, showing a tendency to expand the strike zone. His chase rate (35 percent) was 12th highest among right-handed hitters after his debut.

He showed even more of a tendency to go after breaking balls, chasing 48 percent of those that fell out of the zone (fourth-highest among right-handed hitters).

Puig made pitchers pay when they weren’t able to locate those breaking pitches. He hit a major-league-best .406 on breaking balls in the zone but .098 on those out of the zone, missing on 73 percent of swings against those pitches.

That makes him susceptible to someone like Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who loves to get hitters out on sliders off the plate.

Puig versus Kimbrel will also be a must-watch matchup in this regard: If Kimbrel leaves a slider off the plate, Puig could crush it. He hit eight home runs against sliders from righties. The only players with more were Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera, who each had nine.

Key stats to know: Dodgers' NL West title

September, 19, 2013

Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesHanley Ramirez has been an offensive catalyst throughout 2013.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were not in any sort of position to anticipate being the first major-league team to clinch a playoff spot just a few months ago.

But a remarkable turnaround propelled them to their first NL West title since 2009.

Nearly unbeatable
The Dodgers are now 58-23 after their 30-42 start.

They've played at a 116-win pace in their last 81 games.

The 116 is notable because 116 is the MLB record for wins in a season, shared by the 1906 Cubs (in the 154-game scheduled and 2001 Mariners (in the 162-game schedule).

Spotlight Performer: Hanley Ramirez
Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw have gotten much of the attention this season, but it was appropriate that Hanley Ramirez had such a big game in the division clincher, with a pair of home runs.

The Dodgers are 49-24 in Ramirez’s 73 starts this season. Ramirez has the highest batting average (.351) and slugging percentage (.656) of anyone with at least 300 plate appearances this season. Our video-review data has him registering a “hard-hit ball” in 30 percent of his at-bats, also the best in the majors.

Ramirez is currently hitting .351 with 20 homers. If he can maintain a .350 batting average, he’d be the first shortstop to hit at least .350 with 20 homers in a season since current ESPN baseball analyst (and former Dodger) Nomar Garciaparra in 2000.

Unsung hero
The Dodgers have also been a much better team when Mark Ellis has been next to Ramirez playing second base. They are 65-35 when Ellis plays. The key isn’t his offensive performance, but his defense.

Ellis has been credited with 11 Defensive Runs Saved in a little over 900 innings at the position. All of the others to play second base for the Dodgers this season have combined for -13 Defensive Runs Saved.

Circle These Wins
What were the most prominent wins of the 2013 season?

Opening Day would be one—when the Dodgers beat the Giants 4-0 behind both the arm and the bat of Clayton Kershaw, who pitched a shutout and hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.

But the Dodgers didn’t really take off until the arrival of Puig. In Puig’s second game on June 4, he became the second player in major-league history with a two-homer, five-RBI game within the first two games of his career. The other was Dino Restelli for the 1949 Pirates.

The most dramatic among many dramatic comebacks during the 42-8 stretch that put the Dodgers in prime position was a 7-6 win over the Rays on August 9, a game won with four runs in the bottom of the ninth against Rays closer Fernando Rodney (who committed the game-ending error).

Another would come five days later against the Mets, when Andre Ethier hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning and Adrian Gonzalez drove in Puig with a game-winning double in the 12th.

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
The Elias Sports Bureau noted that this is the earliest the Dodgers have clinched a postseason berth by calendar date since the Brooklyn Dodgers clinched the National League title on September 8, 1955. The Dodgers went on to defeat the Yankees 4-3 in the World Series.

The Dodgers are the fifth team in the Divisional Era (since 1969) to win a division in a season in which they were at least 12 games under .500 at one point.

The others are the 1974 Pirates (14 under), 1973 Mets (13), 1981 Royals (13), and the 1989 Blue Jays (12).

The Dodgers are the third team in major-league history to be in last place on July 1 and win their division, joining the 1973 Mets and 1995 Mariners.

The Dodgers were 47-47 at the All-Star Break, becoming just the sixth team in the Wild Card Era to win a division title after entering the break with a non-winning record. None of the previous five teams went on to make the World Series.

Top things to know: Dodgers at D'Backs

September, 18, 2013

Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsDon Mattingly has the Dodgers on the verge of a 3rd division title in the last 6 years.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks play the third game of a four-game series in Phoenix tonight (10 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Arizona needs only one win in the next two days to win the season series for the third straight year.

Here are a few storylines you might hear about during the broadcast.

1. The Dodgers magic number to clinch first place in the NL West is two, meaning they can clinch with a win tonight.

This would be LA’s third division title in the last six years. However, in each of the last two instances (2008, 2009) the Dodgers were eliminated in the NLCS by the Philadelphia Phillies.

2. The Dodgers have overcome a number of injuries this season. In fact, they’ve used the DL 25 times, more than any other team in the Senior Circuit.

Matt Kemp made his first start off the DL Tuesday night and posted his first four-hit, three-RBI game since Sept. 26, 2012. This was also the fifth such game of his career (four have come against NL West opponents).

3. Paul Goldschmidt has belted five home runs and 18 RBIs off Dodgers pitching this season. His RBIs are tied with Colorado's Michael Cuddyer and San Francisco's Hunter Pence for the most among all players against Los Angeles this season.

In addition, Goldschmidt is riding a seven-game hitting streak that has seen him hit .566 (15-for-27) with nine RBIs.

4. The Diamondbacks have won their share of dramatic games this season. Arizona has 16 extra-inning wins, most by an NL team since the 1999 Atlanta Braves (17) and their 13 walk-off wins are a club record.

Misc. Notes
• Yasiel Puig is hitting .554 on the first pitch of an at-bat this season, the highest average in the majors (minimum 50 plate appearances).

• Arizona’s Didi Gregorius has had a solid rookie season. Among NL rookies, only Yasiel Puig (.401 to .328) has posted a higher OBP (minimum 300 at-bats).

• Opponents are hitting .071 (4-for-56) with runners in scoring position this season against Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen.

Top things to know: D-backs at Dodgers

September, 11, 2013

Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesHyun-Jin Ryu is the seventh Asian-born pitcher to debut for the Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers look for the three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second game of this week’s "Wednesday Night Baseball" doubleheader (10 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). Here are four storylines the broadcast crew will talk about.

1. The Dodgers have lost just 12 games since the All-Star break. The 1954 Indians had the fewest losses of any team after the break with 16.

This is a bit misleading though, as the All-Star break came relatively late in the season this year.

However, the Dodgers still have a shot at the best overall win percentage after the break. To do that, they’d need to finish at least 15-3 to break the 1954 Indians' mark.

2. The Diamondbacks have been one of the most exciting teams in baseball this season, having played in a number of dramatic games. Tuesday night they missed out on an opportunity to win their 17th extra-inning game, which would have been the most by an NL team since the 1999 Braves.

In addition, Arizona’s .620 win percentage in one-run games this season trails only the Yankees (.625 win percentage).

3. L.A.'s starting pitcher tonight, Hyun-Jin Ryu, has been much more effective at home (7-2, 2.07 ERA) than on the road (6-3, 4.05 ERA) this season.

Ryu's most effective pitch to righties has been his changeup, which he's made them swing and miss on one-third of the times he's thrown it.

In addition, right-handed batters have chased his changeup out of the zone more often than any of his other pitches.

4. Strong starting pitching powered the Diamondbacks in the early part of the season. Arizona was six games over .500 through May, but the production of its starters dropped off in a major way beginning in June.

Through May, Arizona was 30-24 and the starting five posted a 3.74 ERA. Since then, the Diamondbacks are 42-48 and the starters have posted a 4.35 ERA, 27th in the majors over that span.

Other Notable Notes
• Yasiel Puig is hitting a major league-high .567 on the first pitch of an at-bat.

• Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .426 in 14 games against the Diamondbacks this season, including an active 13-game hitting streak against them.

• Paul Goldschmidt, who’s second in the NL with 31 home runs, is batting .257 over a season-high 19-game homerless drought.

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Reds

September, 8, 2013
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonClayton Kershaw has many different ways to get hitters out.

The Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers meet with the Reds trying for a series sweep on "Sunday Night Baseball" at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN). Here’s a look at five statistical storylines our broadcast crew will surely be talking about.

1. Despite a three-game losing streak, the Dodgers are 36-11 since the All-Star break. If they can maintain that pace, it would be the fourth-best second-half winning percentage by a team since the All-Star Game began in 1933. After a 30-42 start, the Dodgers are 53-16 in their past 69 games. Their starting pitchers entered Sunday with a 3.09 ERA, best in the majors. The Reds rank second with a 3.37 ERA.

2. Clayton Kershaw enters Sunday night with a 1.89 ERA, which would be the lowest by an NL lefty since Sandy Koufax’s 1.73 in 1966.

Kershaw could be only the fifth pitcher to lead his league in ERA in three straight seasons (the first since Greg Maddux from 1993 to 1995) and only the third to lead the majors in three straight seasons (joining Maddux and Hall of Famer Lefty Grove, 1929 to 1931).

Kershaw is the only pitcher in the majors with at least 60 strikeouts on three different pitch types (69 slider, 68 curveball, 63 fastball).

Kershaw is coming off his worst start of the season. In his first start of September, he allowed more earned runs (five) than he did in five starts in August combined (four).

3. Reds starter Homer Bailey is 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA in his past seven starts. Bailey enters this start with back-to-back outings of seven innings pitched and no earned runs allowed. The last Reds pitcher with three straight such outings was Jim Maloney in 1968.

4. The Kershaw-Joey Votto matchup should be a good one. Lefties are hitting an NL-low .159 against Kershaw this season. Votto is 5-for-20 against Kershaw with 11 strikeouts, his most against any pitcher. He’s also one of four left-handed hitters to hit a pair of homers against Kershsaw. (The others are Adam Dunn, Carlos Gonzalez and Brad Hawpe.)

5. Each team has a rookie doing something notable from a historical perspective. Yasiel Puig is currently hitting .347. Over the past 80 years, the only players 22 or younger to finish a season with a batting average higher than that (minimum 300 plate appearances) are Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez and Stan Musial.

Meanwhile, the Reds now have a unique offensive weapon in Billy Hamilton, who stole 75 bases in the minor leagues this season. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Hamilton, who has not yet come to the plate in a major league game, is the first player in the modern era (since 1900) to record a stolen base in each of his first four major league games.

5 Stats to know: Red Sox at Dodgers

August, 25, 2013

Getty ImagesWill the Red Sox or Dodgers be celebrating a win Sunday night at Chavez Ravine?
The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers play the rubber game of their three-game series on "Sunday Night Baseball" at 8 ET on ESPN.

Here's a look at some of the stats our broadcast crew of Dan Shulman, Curt Schilling, John Kruk and Buster Olney will be talking about Sunday night.

1. Today is the one-year anniversary of the blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox in which the Red Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four minor leaguers.

2. The Dodgers have turned their season around over the last two months. Through June 21, they were 30-42 and 9.5 games back in the NL West. Since then they have gone an MLB-best 46-11 and lead the NL West by 9.5 games.

They haven’t dropped a series since losing two of three at Pittsburgh June 14-16, going 14-0-4 since. The 18-series unbeaten streak -- which is on the line Sunday night -- is a franchise record and the longest in a single season by any team since the 2002 Atlanta Braves went undefeated in 22 straight series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

3. Yasiel Puig doesn’t waste any time at the plate when he sees a pitch he thinks he can hit.

Puig swings at the first pitch in almost half of his at-bats and is hitting .600 when putting the first pitch in play.

However, it’s literally hit or miss for Puig on the first pitch. Since his debut on June 3, no player has more first-pitch hits (30) or first-pitch missed swings (47) than Puig.

4. The Red Sox are looking to become just the seventh team since the current divisional format began in 1995, and the first in the AL since the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, to go from worst-to-first in their division.

This would be the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox won their division/league the year after finishing in last place.

5. Jake Peavy is on the mound for Boston. Peavy, however, is no stranger to Chavez Ravine, having played for the San Diego Padres in the first seven-plus seasons of his career. Peavy is 13-2 with a 2.27 ERA in 24 career starts versus the Dodgers.

According to Elias, Peavy has the highest win percentage versus the Dodgers of any pitcher in major league history with at least 15 decisions against the team.

Puig's all-or-nothing approach worthwhile

August, 20, 2013

AP Photo/Lynne SladkyYasiel Puig is the center of attention for the Dodgers.

A week ago, we noted the potency of Miguel Cabrera when he made contact on the first pitch of a plate appearance.

But Yasiel Puig might be even better than Cabrera.

On a night when he showed up late and came off the bench, Puig homered on the first pitch of his eighth-inning at-bat Tuesday to give the Los Angeles Dodgers another win, this one against the Miami Marlins.

Since his call-up, Puig is 29-for-46 with five home runs in first-pitch situations. No other player can rival his .630 batting average in those situations, and the only two with better slugging percentages than Puig’s 1.109 are two of the game’s top sluggers: Chris Davis and Evan Longoria.

This was another first-pitch hit against a lefty, Marlins reliever Dan Jennings. Puig is now 8-for-11 with two doubles, a triple and two homers in the first pitch of an at-bat against a left-handed pitcher.

It is admittedly very much an all-or-nothing proposition for Puig, who has missed on 34 percent of his swings in the first pitch of a plate appearance. That rate also was topped by only two players at the time we wrote this -- Pedro Alvarez and Dan Uggla.

The all-or-nothing aspect to Puig’s game seems to be true at bat and in the field. Baseball Info Solutions, which tracks defensive data for major league teams and media, had credited Puig with 25 Good Fielding Plays (think plays that would likely merit a Web Gem nomination) entering Tuesday, the most of any outfielder in the major leagues since Puig’s debut June 3.

Of those 25, 20 came on plays on which Puig either made a difficult catch or got to a ball quickly to prevent a baserunner from taking an extra base.

But Puig also was credited with 22 Defensive Misplays & Errors, also the most in the majors in that span. His most common miscues were six offline or unnecessary throws, allowing a runner to take an extra base, and four instances in which he mishandled a base hit, allowing either the hitter or another runner to advance.

Puig does have eight Defensive Runs Saved this season, the combination of turning batted balls into outs at a high rate and the value of his throwing arm when it comes to deterring baserunner advancement.

Just like with his offense, the bad stats can be frustrating, but they are outweighed by the good ones.

Dodgers have no answers for Fernandez

August, 19, 2013

Steve Mitchell/Getty ImagesWith his win over the Dodgers on Monday, Jose Fernandez is 6-0 in his past eight home starts.
Two rookie of the year candidates were going in different directions on Monday in Miami.

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig is having a great rookie season, but he's been streaky most recently.

After hitting .383 from Aug. 1-14, Puig is hitless in his past 11 at-bats and 2-for-17 in his past four games.

And, on Monday, Puig and the Dodgers ran into Miami Marlins' rookie Jose Fernandez, who might be Puig's stiffest competition for National League Rookie of the Year.

Fernandez pitched six innings and allowed one earned run, his seventh straight start allowing two earned runs or fewer. Since June 1, Fernandez has a major league-best 1.64 ERA and has allowed more than two runs once in 14 starts.

Fernandez improved to 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA at home this season, and the Marlins have now won each of his past eight starts at Marlins Park.

Fernandez was opposed by yet another NL Rookie of the Year candidate in Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lost for the first time since June 19. In fact, the Dodgers were 9-0 in in Ryu's previous nine starts.

Dodger bats have gone somewhat cold in the past two games on the heels of their record-setting 42-8 stretch. They have scored exactly two runs in each of their past two games -- the first time they've scored two runs or fewer in consecutive games since July 25-26. Los Angeles is also 1-12 with runners in scoring position in its past two games, including 0-8 on Monday.

The Dodgers have now lost back-to-back games for the first time in two months (June 20-21). Over that span, every other team in baseball has had a two-game losing streak, and 20 teams have had a losing streak of at least five games.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers will try to avoid losing their third in a row for the first time since June 10.