Now, Kiss and Make Up: Oakland A’s Become Jealous of Detroit’s Kiss of Death

Al Alburquerque has a name that belongs in comic books.  The alliteration just seems so perfectly made-up that he should be fighting Peter Parker.  Of course, that ignores reality as Al is a real person, as is Mister Alexander.

What also ignores reality is that false “outrage” that the Oakland Athletics have over Alburquerque’s on-the-mound gesture during Game 2 of the ALDS.  And, it ignores the realities of the A’s own antics.

Let’s start with the event.  Top of the ninth; two outs; game tied at four; runners on the corners.  Al Alburquerque is in for one batter — Yoenis Cespedes.  Alburquerque delivers a 1-1 pitch that Cespedes weakly taps back to the mound.  Our hero corals the ball, in the heat of the bottom gives the ball a little peck on the cheek, and underhands it over to first for the final out of the inning.  Alburquerque is later delivered the win after Don Kelly drives in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

Awesome time!  Except for the A’s.

They were fuming over the affair, calling it “immature” and “unprofessional.”  Jonny Gomes even reference the mythical baseball gods, apparently hoping that Odin will show up in Oakland and take care of Alburquerque.

DAMN YOU, ALBURQUERQUE!!!  DAMN YOU FOR SULLYING THE PURE AND HOLY GAME OF BASEBALL!!!!

Yeah, mythical baseball gods that must write the mythical “unwritten rules” of baseball.  I suppose every spring, a giant bunny rabbit shows up in Florida and Arizona to deliver baskets of baseballs for all the pious baseball players.  Well, everyone except Alburquerque…who i guess is on the “naughty list” now.  Or at least on the Wikipedia naughty list:

I guess the need for “maturity” only extends to baseball players and not to fans.

Wait a minute?  Baseball gods?  Unwritten rules?  Who is immature and unprofessional!?

Alburquerque’s reaction, while perhaps unusual, differ none from a reliever wiping his forehead or deeply exhaling after getting out of a tough jam.  It is no different than Joba Chamberlain fist pumps; no different than the entire team jumping out of the dugout after a mid-inning home run; no different than tossing one’s helmet in the air before pouncing onto home plate following a walk-off shot.

It’s called emotion!  And baseball is very finicky when it comes to expressions of it.  How long can a batter admire his towering home run?  How deep does a pitcher’s fist pump go when recording a big out?  How hard must a high-five connect after a diving catch in the outfield?  Maybe if someone wrote these down, we could all understand how far to go.  Then again, some rules are written down and there is still ambiguity.

Like the Aroldis Roll, that the kiss was uncommon is what signals it out.  But, he was caught up in the emotion of a very tight, very hard-fought game.  The out was huge.  And, Alburquerque “simply had an instant reaction to the moment.” It is like in soccer when a goalkeeper gives the goalpost some affection after a shot clanks off of the wood…even though the game is not over yet.

Of course, that is soccer [or futbal].  This is baseball, a subjectively emotionless, “mature,” and oftentimes boring game.  And it is made even more boring by these attempts to suck the emotion — the true human element — out of the game.  We have previously railed against the lack of emotion in baseball.

But, apparently, some things are okay:

This is okay…unless he kisses his bat.

Nothing to see here…move along, people!

Assholes and elbows.

Just playing paper, rock, scissors…tis all!

Not sure if the baseball gods would approve of this.

Acting mature and professional.

Yeah.  Kind of strange to see.  Such an outcry over showing emotion from a team that also shows a lot of emotion.  Irony?  No.  Hypocrisy?  Absolutely.

The A’s have been showing “emotion” and, to paraphrase Josh Reddick, acting “unprofessional” and “immature” all year.  But, they had no problem with it then.  Now that someone — or some team — is turning it back on them, it is simply “unprofessional” and displeasing to the baseball gods.

Go back just a couple of weeks ago to 22 September.  The A’s were playing the New York Yankees.  After scoring four runs off of three homers in the top of the 13th inning, the A’s began celebrating in the dugout, at least according to Yankees’ first baseman Eric Chavez.  Chavez called the antics “high school-ish” and “unprofessional.”

Wow!  That sounds familiar!  Jonny Gomes responded by trying to claim that the players were “playing the game to have fun.”  Again, when your team acts a fool, it’s just rookies trying to have fun (though, Gomes, Balfour, Crisp, and Reddick are NOT rookies…and while Cespedes is a rookie, his life experiences living in Cuba should have “matured” him more).  When the other team does it, it is smiting the baseball gods!

Remember when A-Rod soiled Dallas Braden’s mound?  Hell, I liked that he was willing to get pissed off.  But, it was, once again, another of those “unwritten rules.”  But it was the A’s becoming upset at someone else breaking those secret rules.  Seems like Animal Farm is the norm.

The A’s are down 2-0 in the series.  They have more important things to worry about than Al Alburquerque making out with the baseball.  Try worrying leaving 31 runners on base (15 as a team) and 3 for 10 with runners in scoring position.  Try worrying about the heart of the order — Cespedes, Brandon Moss, and Reddick — going a combined 5 for 22 (0.227) over the two games.  And try worrying about the deficit you face that is completely unrelated to Alburquerque’s emotions.

After all, it was only a kiss; it was only a kiss!

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Kansas City Rub: Stats for 2012 All-Stars at Kauffman Stadium…and Beyond

[NOTE: if you want to access the stats for All-Stars at Kauffman Stadium, or their post-break stats, jump to the end of the article and download the Excel files].

Last year, we posted an article that outlined historical stats of the all-stars participating in the 2011 “Midsummer Classic” at Chase Field in Arizona.  It was a short-lived, yet moderate success.

This season, we’ve decided to do the same thing with respect to the home of the Kansas City Royals — beautiful Kauffman Stadium.  And it is a beautiful stadium…it is just not on ESPN often (unless, of course, the Yankees or Red Sox are playing there).

But, we’ve also decided to take it a step forward.  You see, looking at stats at Kauffman Stadium is going to be biased towards American League players (just as Chase Field stats are towards National League players) because Kauffman is an AL stadium.  So, in addition to Kauffman stats, we will also examine post-All Star break stats in order to see which All-Stars will flourish in the second half of the season…and which will falter.

First…Kauffman Stadium:

STATISTICS at KAUFFMAN STADIUM

  • American League

First, two things to note.  (1) Billy Butler is the lone Royals representative.  His 386 games and 1437 at-bats is second only to former Royal and current NL All-Star Carlos Beltran.  So, Butler has the largest AL sample (though not necessarily the best).  (2) Rookie Mike Trout has yet to play at Kansas City and therefore has no stats.

Of the 20 “qualified” players, Texas Rangers’ Adrian Beltre has the best batting average (0.366), doing so in 112 at-bats over 29 games.  He is followed by Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, and New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano.

At the other end, Baltimore Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters has the worst batting average (0.139 in 36 at-bats), followed be Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox, Mike Napoli of the Rangers, new-AL player Prince Fielder of the Tigers, and the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler.

  1. Adrian Beltre (0.366 in 112 at-bats)
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera (0.361 in 169 at-bats)
  3. Miguel Cabrera (0.352 in 162 at-bats)
  4. Joe Mauer (0.351 in 191 at-bats)
  5. Robinson Cano (0.322 in 115 at-bats)
  6. Derek Jeter (0.320 in 278 at-bats)
  7. Mark Trumbo (0.320 in 25 at-bats)
  8. Billy Butler (0.314 in 1437 at-bats)
  9. Curtis Granderson (0.288 in 198 at-bats)
  10. Josh Hamilton (0.265 in 49 at-bats)

Because home runs would logically occur more often with those with more chances, let’s look at slugging percentage.  Here, three of the players with the best batting averages — Miguel Cabrera (0.593…first), Beltre (0.589…second), and Asdrubral Cabrera (0.527…fourth) — reappear.  The bottom see familiar names (Wieters, Dunn, Fielder), as well as Rangers’ teammates Josh Hamilton and Elvis Andrus.

  1. M. Cabrera (0.593)
  2. Beltre (0.589)
  3. Granderson (0.535)
  4. A. Cabrera (0.527)
  5. Trumbo (0.520)

As for the other stats, Butler naturally has the most home runs (48), followed by Paul Konerko (16) and Granderson (10).  The inclusion of Konerko and Granderson make sense consider the former plays in the AL Central with the Chicago White Sox (same division as the Royals) while the latter used to play for the AL Central Detroit Tigers.  Konerko is also second in RBIs (70) and runs (49) at Kauffman, while Mauer (Twins are also in the AL Central) is third in RBIs (41); Jeter is third in runs scores (44).

In terms of pitching, only Yu Darvish of the Rangers has yet to pitch in Kansas City.  Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price and Oakland Athletics’ reliever Ryan Cook both have only one appearance at Kauffman Stadium…both in relief.

As for players with more than one appearance, Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson sports a 0.00 ERA in four appearances, including two saves and one win.  He also has the best WHIP (0.77) and lowest batting average against (0.118).  Justin Verlander of the Tigers has the most wins (13), losses (9), complete games (2), innings pitched (88.1), walks (26), strikeouts (78), and has the only shutout among AL pitchers.  Rangers’ closer Joe Nathan — a former member of the Twins — has the most saves (18), blown saves (4), and surrendered the most home runs (3).  Orioles closer Jim Johnson has the worst ERA among AL pitchers — 7.45 in 9.2 innings.

  • National League

Again, lack of games played by NL teams in Kansas City is going to play a role in the stats.  Only Beltran and Melky Cabrera have significant experience in the AL — both were once members of the Royals, while Cabrera also played for the Yankees.

For others, stats are significantly affected by one good series in KC…or one bad series. Additionally, only 13 of the 21 NL All-Stars have played at Kauffman Stadium.  The list of those that have not played include Chipper Jones.  What is amazing about the fact that Jones has not played in Kansas City is that the nineteen-year veteran has played in every current MLB stadium, with the exception of Kauffman Stadium!  That will, of course, change come Tuesday, albeit in an exhibition game.

Four of the five best batting averages for NL All-Stars have had fewer than 45 at-bats.  The Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro (0.417) and thirteen-year veteran Rafael Furcal, currently with the St. Louis Cardinals (0.300) have only played three games at Kauffman Stadium.  The other two — David Freese and Matt Holliday — also play for the Cardinals, a team that annually plays the Royals in an interdivisional rivalry.  The fifth best batting average belongs to former Royal Beltran, who is also currently with the Cardinals.  Bryan LaHair of the Cubs and Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies are the only two NL All-Stars with plate appearances at Kauffman to not have a hit [both have only played in one game at KC].

  1. Starlin Castro (0.417 in 12 at-bats)
  2. David Freese (0.364 in 22 at-bats)
  3. Matt Holliday (0.357 in 42 at-bats)
  4. Rafael Furcal (0.300 in 10 at-bats)
  5. Carlos Beltran (0.299 in 1568 at-bats)
  6. Melky Cabrera (0.289 in 370 at-bats)
  7. Ryan Braun (0.286 in 14 at-bats)
  8. Carlos Ruiz (0.250 in 4 at-bats)
  9. Jay Bruce (0.182 in 11 at-bats)
  10. Dan Uggla (0.182 in 11 at-bats)

In terms of slugging percentage, familiar names once again creep to the top, with Holliday (0.643…first) and Beltran (0.491…fourth) in the top five.  The bottom will obviously include Gonzalez and LaHair.

  1. Holliday (0.643)
  2. Braun (0.500)
  3. Ruiz (0.500)
  4. Beltran (0.491)
  5. Cabrera (0.424)

Excluding the two players to have played for Kansas City — Beltran (61 HRs; 276 RBIs) and Cabrera (8 HRs; 49 RBIs) — Holliday has the most home runs (3) and RBIs (11).  And while Holliday also has the most “non-Royal” runs scored (10), his Cardinal teammate Furcal has an impressive five runs scored (fourth-most) in only 10 at-bats.

NL pitching performances at Kauffman Stadium are also rare as only seven have actually pitched there, three of which doing so only once (Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants; Lance Lynn of the Cardinals; and Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks).  Those with multiple appearances have all done so with American League teams (R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets, Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals, Jonathan Papelbon of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Huston Street of the San Diego Padres).  Of these five, Papelbon has the “best” ERA at 3.52.  The other four have ERAs over 5.00!!!  Lynn has the worst overall ERA (10.13), though in only one appearance (5.1 innings).  Gonzalez has the most strikeouts (15), walks (11), wins (2), and losses (2), as well as innings pitched (20).  Papelbon (3) and Street (1) are the only NL pitchers with saves at Kauffman Stadium.

POST ALL-STAR BREAK STATS of ALL-STARS

  • American League

To be more straight forward, we will just list the stats with a few comments.  Here are the top five best batting averages after the All-Star break:

  1. Joe Mauer (0.323)
  2. Robinson Cano (0.322)
  3. Derek Jeter (0.321)
  4. Miguel Cabrera (0.318)
  5. Josh Hamilton (0.313)

And the bottom five:

  1. Mike Trout (0.228)
  2. Mark Trumbo (0.236)
  3. Jose Bautista (0.238)
  4. Adam Dunn (0.241)
  5. Adam Jones (0.259)

It is fair to note that Trout has only appeared in 37 games after the break, while Trumbo has appeared in 73 games.

If we look at other numbers, David Ortiz has the most post-All-Star home runs (197), RBIs (627), and walks (497), while Derek Jeter has the most runs scored (866) and hits (1482).  Jeter also has the most post-break stolen bases (797).  But these numbers are reflective of the long careers of these two players.  What if we break it down by game or by at-bat? If we do it that way, Prince Fielder has the best home run average, hitting one out every 15.2 at-bats in post-All-Star games.  This is followed by Mike Napoli (15.5), David Ortiz (15.8), Adam Dunn (16.98), and Jose Bautista (17.9).  Those with post-break power outages include Elvis Andrus (one home run every 151.4 at-bats), Asdrubal Cabrera (44.6), Joe Mauer (43.2), Derek Jeter (40.5), and Adam Jones (29).  Miguel Cabrera has the best RBI rate (one RBI for every 4.9 at-bats), while Jeter has the best run scored rate (one per 5.3 at-bats).

Adam Dunn has an interesting average, as he has the best walk rate (one for every 5.2 at-bats), but the worst strikeout rate (one for every 3.1 at-bats).  The best strikeout rate belongs to Mauer (9.62) while the worst walk rate is Mark Trumbo’s 25.8.  Finally, Elvis Andrus has the best stolen base rate (once every 5.4 games).

As for pitchers, Chris Sale has the best ERA (2.02) and WHIP (0.93), though those numbers are derived from his time as a reliever.  It will be interesting to see how his numbers hold now that he is a starter for the White Sox.  The best ERA from a player with previous post-break starting experience is Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners (3.19); David Price has the best WHIP (1.18).  Worst starter is Matt Harrison (4.65 ERA; 1.47 WHIP).  The best reliever (other than Sale) is Chris Perez (2.65 ERA) and Joe Nathan (1.05 WHIP).  Worst reliever is Ryan Cook (7.04 ERA; 2.48 WHIP), though that is from his one season pitching with the Diamondbacks.

As for averages, Justin Verlander has the best strikeout rate (6.2 per game) while Chris Sale has the best walk rate (0.4 per game).  Of course, Sale’s numbers are once again explained by his previous role as a relieve pitcher (former reliever-turned starter C.J. Wilson also has a low walk rate).  If we take away Sale and Wilson, Harrison has the lowest walk rate (1.3).  Among relievers, Jim Johnson has the best strikeout and walk rates.  C.J. Wilson has the best win rate among starters (67 percent of his starts turn into wins), with Jared Weaver sporting the worst (42 percent).  Nathan has the best save rate per game appearance (48 percent).

All of these numbers exclude Yu Darvish, who has yet to pitch post-break in the MLB.

  • National League

Again, just the stats first; best batting average…

  1. Ryan Braun (0.318)
  2. Matt Holliday (0.316)*
  3. Pablo Sandoval (0.316)*
  4. Starlin Castro (0.314)
  5. Chipper Jones (0.312)
* – Holliday’s average is slightly better than Sandoval’s average.

And the bottom five batting averages:

  1. Bryan LaHair (0.262)^
  2. Andrew McCrutchen (0.262)^
  3. Dan Uggla (0.263)
  4. Jay Bruce (0.264)
  5. Buster Posey (0.273)

^ – LaHair’s batting average is slightly worse than that of McCrutchen.

Not surprisingly, Chipper Jones has the most post-break home runs (209), RBIs (690), runs scored (717), hits (1188), walks (656) and strikeouts (583).  Carlos Beltran has the most stolen bases (144), followed closely by Rafael Furcal (140).  But, the same warning above applies here; more season equal more stats! Looking at averages, Jay Bruce has the best home run average (one homer every 16.2 at-bats), followed by Ryan Braun (16.5), Carlos Gonzalez (17.61), Dan Uggla (17.64), and Joey Votto (17.8).  Matt Holliday has the best RBI rate (one RBI every 5.0 at-bats), while Gonzalez has the best runs scored average (once per 5.2 at-bats).  Speedsters Michael Bourn (one homer every 242 post-break at-bats) and Jose Altuve (one RBI every 18.4; one run scored per 8.5 at-bats) are at the bottom of the list.

Like Yu Darvish, Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper has no post-break experience and is therefore not included here.

Turning to pitchers, Lance Lynn has the best ERA among starters (2.03), though he achieved this as a reliever last season (he was promoted to starter this season).  Among previous starters, Clayton Kershaw has the best post-break ERA (2.53) while Stephen Strasburg has the best WHIP (0.95).  Wade Miley has the worst post-break ERA (4.50).  R.A. Dickey has the second-worst ERA (4.40), which he will hope to avoid following that trend this season.  Gio Gonzalez has the worst WHIP (1.42).

Among relievers, Craig Kimbrel has a stellar 1.25 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, achieved last season.  Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer Joel Hanrahan has the worst ERA for relievers (3.65).

Finally, in terms of averages, Kershaw has the best strikeout rate (6.2 per game).  In fact, Matt Cain, Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, and Strasburg all have averages over 5 strikeouts per game after the All-Star Game.  The best reliever K-rate belongs to Craig Kimbrel (1.8 per game).  Best starter walk rate is Stephen Strasburg (0.8 per game), though former reliever Lynn is slightly better (0.7 per game).  Street has the best walk rate for relievers (0.28 per game).

Lastly, Miley has the best win percentage in terms of starts (winning 57 percent of his starts), followed by Gonzalez (44 percent).  Though, it is worth noting that Papelbon has a 400 percent win rate per start, but many of those wins come from his role as a reliever rather than his actual three starts.  The worst win rate belongs to Strasburg (30 percent).  The best save rate belongs to Papelbon (48 percent of appearances).

So, there you go.  Below are Excel files containing the All-Stars and their stats.  Omitted are those players with injuries and will not participate in the All-Star Game.  While our stats are derived from other sources (namely Yahoo! Sports), we would appreciate credit if you choose to use the files and organized stats below.

All Stars at Kauffman Stadium

Post All Stars

NOTE: there are different tabs in each file.  The tab that is active upon opening has a drop-down menu (“Player”) where you can quickly pull up the stats for a given player — either Batter or Pitcher.  These are sorted by League, as well.  The other tabs just list the players in alphabetical order with their respective stats.

Chasing a Dream: Historical Stats for the 2011 MLB All-Stars at Chase Field

This blog entry derived out of search entries that directed some people to ‘Uncle Popov.’  Those curious folks were interested in batting averages at Chase Field, home to tonight’s 2011 MLB All-Star Game.  So, thanks curious cats!

It is difficult to get excited about a game that is an exhibition, no matter how many times Major League Baseball (and their advertisers) tells us that “this one counts.”  No, it is still an exhibition game.

What really counts for MLB is that a lot of people will watch the overhyped exhibition game.  And while it is an exhibition, many people are interested in seeing how batters and pitchers that do not normal face each other will do once the game begins, such as Roy Halladay versus Jose Bautista.

Playing in a different park is also worth noting.  The All-Star Game gives MLB a chance to showcase its stadiums; sometimes it is a well-known stadium (as in 2008 at [old] Yankee Stadium) and sometimes it is not that well-known, as in this year’s game at Chase Field in Arizona.

Chase Field has been the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks since its inception in 1998.  It has hosted college football games, a World Series, and now will host its first All-Star Game.  Given that it has been around for over 13 seasons, most players — including many of the All-Stars in tonight’s game — have played at Chase Field.

So, how have they done at the stadium formerly known as BankOne Ballpark?  Well, a few things to keep in mind as there are several factors in determining how often a player actually plays in Phoenix.  First and most obvious, members of the Diamondbacks have the most appearances.  This is typically followed by other NL West teams, then other National League teams, any American League players that have played either with Arizona or in the NL (see Jose Valverde and Carlos Quentin, for example), and lastly the rest of the American League.

In other words, the sampling is going to be varied.  Nevertheless…

  • NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STARS

Hunter Pence has the highest batting average of all NL players, going 0.364 in 55 career at-bats, with three homers and 11 RBIs.  He is also 2-for-4 in stolen bases and has struck out 12 times.  Of the non-Diamondback players, St. Louis’s Lance Berkman has the most home runs with 13 (far behind D’back Justin Upton’s 47), as well as the most RBIs (38).  Los Angeles Dodger Andre Ethier has the most at-bats for a non-D’back (168), while Berkman is second among players not in the NL West (139).

The worst batting average at Chase Field for an NL player is Andrew McCutchen (0.200 in 30 at-bats) and starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (0.200 in 130 at-bats).  Only one player has never hit a home run at Chase (Chicago Cubs phenom Starlin Castro).  And in terms of the two hometown players, Justin Upton ranks eighth in Chase Field batting average (0.305), while catcher Miguel Montero is batting 0.271, good for 15th out of the 21 position players.

Here is a look at the stats for the starting lineup for the National League (in batting order):

  1. Rickie Weeks (Brewers, 2B) – 0.345; two HRs; five RBIs in 55 at-bats
  2. Carlos Beltran (Mets, DH) – 0.286; seven HRs; 18 RBIs in 70 at-bats
  3. Matt Kemp (Dodgers, CF) – 0.306; five HRs; 14 RBIs in 124 at-bats
  4. Prince Fielder (Brewers, 1B) – 0.288; four HRs; ten RBIs in 66 at-bats
  5. Brian McCann (Braves, C) – 0.265; one HR; 13 RBIs in 68 at-bats
  6. Lance Berkman (Cardinals, RF) – 0.302; 13 HRs; 38 RBIs in 139 at-bats
  7. Matt Holliday (Cardinals, LF) – 0.281; four HRs; 22 RBIs in 167 at-bats
  8. Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies, SS) – 0.200; five HRs; 14 RBIs in 130 at-bats
  9. Scott Rolen (Reds, 3B) – 0.256; six HRs; 23 RBIs in 125 at-bats

In terms of pitchers, there are no Diamondback pitchers on the roster.  Nevertheless, in terms of ERA, Atlanta Braves reliever Jonny Venters tops everyone with 0.00 ERA in three games.  However, he is only 1-0 in those three games, blowing two saves and allowing three unearned runs in his four innings at Chase Field.  He is followed by San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, who is posting a 1.62 ERA in 16.2 innings with 15 saves (only one blown save), 21 strikeouts and an NL All-Star best 0.167 batting average against.

The best starter has been Ryan Vogelsong, who is 2-1 in Phoenix with a 1.69 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 16 innings.  The NL starter Roy Halladay only has one start at Chase Field, getting the win going six innings while giving up three runs (4.50 ERA) and striking out four.  Tim Lincecum has the most wins (3), Kevin Correia has the most losses (6) and strikeouts (48), and Heath Bell has the most holds (4).

The worst pitcher at Chase Field is Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel (13.50 ERA with one loss and one blown save), followed by Cliff Lee (5.14 ERA in seven innings) and Jair Jurrjens (5.09 ERA in three games).

  • AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STARS

The American League hitters provide fewer numbers.  In fact, five players — Jacoby Ellsbury, Howie Kendrick, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Wieters, and starting catcher Alex Avila have never played at Chase Field.

Nevertheless, among those that have walked out onto Chase Field, Josh Hamilton has the best batting average, hitting 0.429 with two home runs and three RBIs in seven at-bats (three games).  Final vote-winner Paul Konerko is second with a 0.409 batting average.  In 22 at-bats over nine games, Konerko has five home runs and seven RBIs, scoring seven runs himself.  Third is Miguel Cabrera (0.393 batting average).

The AL player with the most at bats at Chase Field is former D’back Quentin, who in 209 at-bats is batting 0.287 with eight homers and 44 RBIs (the latter is the most for any AL player).  Starting third-basemen Adrian Beltre has the most at-bats (193) for any AL player never affiliated with Arizona, going 0.275 with ten home runs and 29 RBIs.

The worst batting average at Chase is Matt Joyce, who in six at-bats is batting 0.167.  He does have one home run, but that is his only hit.  He is followed by Michael Cuddyer (0.190 in 21 at-bats) and Kevin Youkilis (0.222 in nine at-bats). Robinson Cano has the fourth-worst batting average in Phoenix, going 0.250.  Ironically, the 2011 Home Run Derby champion also has zero career home runs at Chase Field.  He joins Youkilis, Michael Young and David Ortiz as the only AL-players to not hit a home run at Chase Field.

Here are the stats for the AL-starters, again in batting order:

  1. Curtis Granderson (Yankees, CF) – 0.273; one HR; three RBIs in 22 at-bats
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians, SS) – 0.385; one HR; three RBIs in 13 at-bats
  3. Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox, 1B) – 0.314; 13 HRs; 37 RBIs in 169 at-bats
  4. Jose Bautista (Blue Jays, RF) – 0.265; two HRs; six RBIs in 34 at-bats
  5. Josh Hamilton (Rangers, LF) – 0.429; two HRs; three RBIs in seven at-bats
  6. Adrian Beltre (Rangers, 3B) – 0.275; ten HRs; 29 RBIs in 193 at-bats
  7. David Ortiz (Red Sox, DH) – 0.286; zero HRs; zero RBIs in seven at-bats
  8. Robinson Cano (Yankees, 2B) – 0.250; zero HRs; one RBI in 12 at-bats
  9. Alex Avila (Tigers, C) – never played at Chase Field

Pitching stats are scarce for the AL pitchers, as only six — Josh Beckett, Jered Weaver, David Robertson, Jose Valverde, Chris Perez, and C.J. Wilson — have actually pitched at Chase Field.  Three of those six players (Beckett, Valverde, and Perez) pitched in the National League at one time.

Obviously former Diamondback Valverde will have the most games played (138), most wins (seven), most losses (nine), and most saves (51).  Perez and Wilson are the only AL pitchers with a save (one) at Chase Field, while Valverde [during his days as a set-up man] is the only pitcher with any holds (nine).

Wilson has the best ERA (0.00), which was accomplished in 2.1 innings while allowing two hits.  Beckett has four career starts at Chase Field, going 1-2 in those games while accumulating an AL-worst 5.16 ERA.  The AL starter Jered Weaver has only one appearance, going six innings and giving up three runs (4.50 ERA) on four hits (0.182 batting average against) while picking up the win.

So, there you have it!  The stats for the players in the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.  Happy now?

America’s Pastime: Baseball on the Fourth of July, 2002-2010

Ah, Independence Day!  The day we celebrate the Fresh Prince, Lone Starr, and Cousin Eddie defeating those nasty aliens by watching people cram hot dog franks and watered-down buns into their faces!

Wait, that’s not right.  Let’s try this again!

Ah, the Fourth of July!  The day we celebrate our freedom from the evil British.  And what better way to do it than to play America’s pastime — baseball!

Okay, I know that football has replaced baseball as our “pastime.”  But who cares!?  Baseball is still the sport of summer and fits in nicely with the Fourth [if only Major League Baseball could just move the All-Star Game to the Fourth…but that’ll never happen].  So, let’s celebrate that by looking at the last ten Fourth of July’s in order to give praise to the players who brought the fireworks!

First, let’s take a look at the top teams over the last ten years.  In ten games, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best record going 8-2 on the Fourth.  They are followed by the Texas Rangers (7-3), who have the best run differential (33) and the most runs scored (80).  The Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners are tied with the Rangers with seven wins, thus rounding out the top five.

The bottom five?  Start with the Detroit Tigers, who are 2-9 on the Fourth since 2002 (they played a double-header in 2005 against the Cleveland Indians).  The Chicago Cubs (2-8) have the same number of losses as the Tigers, but also have the worst run differential (-41) and fewest runs score (24).  The remainder of the bottom five are tied at 3-7 — Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and San Francisco Giants.  The Toronto Blue Jays also only have three wins, but played one fewer game [day off in 2005]; thus they are 3-6.  The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have given up the most runs on the Fourth (73).

The teams that has hosted the most Fourth of July games are the Atlanta Braves and the Rangers (8).  While the Washington Nationals franchise (including the Montreal Expos) is tied with four other teams with seven hosted Fourth games, the Nationals themselves (minus Expos’ history) has the highest percentage of hosted games at 85.7 percent (six of seven).  The Blue Jays are the only team NOT to host a July Fourth game over the study period.

The Indians and the Cardinals have the best home winning percentage among teams with a minimum of five home games (5-1) while the Giants are the worst (1-4).  The best road team [minimum five road games] is the Mariners (5-2); the worst are the Royals and Indians (both are 0-5).

~~Ready for some real fireworks?~~

Now, what about players?  Well, unlike teams, this is a bit trickier because not every player has played in every Fourth of July game over the past ten seasons.  In fact, of the 1012 players who recorded an at-bat over the study period, only ten played on all ten Independence Days.  Those players are as follows (in order of batting average):

  • Lance Berkman – 0.353
  • Derek Jeter 0.333
  • Derrek Lee – 0.324
  • Adam Kennedy – 0.294
  • Adam Dunn – 0.289
  • Ichiro Suzuki – 0.275
  • Pat Burrell – 0.233
  • Carlos Lee – 0.216
  • Johnny Damon – 0.216
  • Edgar Renteria – 0.128

Of players to play in at least five Fourth of July games, Garrett Atkins has the highest batting average (0.556 in five games).  He had ten hits, driving in ten runs and drawing three walks.  He also belted three home runs.  Rickie Weeks has perhaps the worst Independence Day batting average, going 1 for 23 (0.043) in six games with zero RBIs and 11 strikeouts.  I write “perhaps” because pitcher Branden Looper is hitless in seven games, but only five at-bats (and he is a pitcher); catcher Ronny Paulino is also hitless (0 for 14) but has only played in four Fourth games.

Torii Hunter has scored the most runs (ten in eight games), while Carl Crawford and Manny Ramirez have the most RBIs with 11 (done in eight and five games respectively).  Mark Teixeira has the most hits with 15 (in eight games; a 0.500 batting average), while Travis Hafner has six home runs, the most on the Fourth.  Jim Edmonds (in seven games) and Alex Gonzalez (in nine games) have the most strikeouts with 12; Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, and Mark Ellis have drawn the most walks (eight).

In terms of pitchers, Mark Buerle has thrown the most innings (26.2 in four games), while the aforementioned Looper has appeared in the most games (seven games with 18 innings).  Kazuhisa Ishii has the most strikeouts (21 in 17.1 innings pitched), with Kerry Wood issuing the most walks (12 in 11 innings); ironically Ishii is second in walks with ten (tied with Joel Pinero).  Cory Lidle is among a host of players with zero walks allowed, but he has done so over 15 innings.

~~Rockets red glarin'!~~

Earned Run Average (ERA) is also a tough one because a ton of relievers have a 0.00 ERA.  The pitcher with most innings pitched with both a 0.00 ERA and a 0.00 WHIP is Alex Herrera, who pitched all of two innings in 2003 against the Twins.  The most innings pitched with a 0.00 ERA is Brian Duensing (9.2 innings in two games), while relievers Jason Isringhausen and Kyle Farnsworth have the most games played with a perfect ERA (five games).  On the opposite end, several relievers never finished an inning, while Keith Foulke has a wonderful 450.00 ERA in 0.1 innings pitched (over two games).  In 2008, Greg Reynolds for Colorado Rockies had perhaps the worst game for a starting pitcher on the Fourth, going a mere 1.1 innings while giving up SEVEN earned runs (that’s a 57.27 ERA); Colorado would end up winning the game against the Florida Marlins by a score of 18-17!

Derek Lowe has the most wins on the Fourth of July, going 3-1, but with a 7.99 ERA!  Must be good run support!  Nine players are a perfect 2-0, including Ben Sheets, Chris Carpenter, and reliever Heath Bell.  John Lackey has the most losses (0-3), while six other players are 0-2, including Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and David Price.  Isringhausen has four saves, double the next closest pitcher (actually the next ten closest); Alan Embree has the most holds with three.  Heath Bell is the only pitcher with at least one save, one hold, and one win.  Roberto Hernandez is the only pitcher with two blown saves, although there are 38 others with one blown save.

Finally, there are eight players with a complete game on July Fourth (see below).  Mark Mulder and Johnny Cueto are the only two to take a loss in a complete game (although Cueto’s was actually only eight innings).  Randy Johnson had ten strikeouts in his complete game (only two runs allowed; one earned run); Adam Wainwright had nine K’s while only giving up one run.  There were two shutouts — Ryan Franklin pitching for the Mariners in 2006, and Duensing this season for the Twins against the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • Brian Duensing (shutout)
  • Ryan Franklin (shutout)
  • Johnny Cueto (loss)
  • Scott Elarton (win)
  • Randy Johnson (win)
  • Mark Mulder (loss)
  • Roy Oswalt (win)
  • Adam Wainwright (win)

Does all of this mean that Duensing and Berkman are Fourth of July superstar patriots?  Nah!  What all of this really means is that baseball is full of useless stats.  But that is the American way, yeah?  Filling your time with mundane facts and stats.  I guess baseball really is America’s pastime…

…at least until the NFL lockout ends!

Papel-conned!: Jonathan Papelbon and the Ridiculous Nature of MLB Suspensions

In a game against the Oakland Athletics on 4 June, Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon was ejected from the game after arguing with umpire Tony Randazzo over the latter’s strike zone.  The more egregious error for Papelbon was bumping into Randazzo, a major no-no in baseball.  Three days later, Major League Baseball suspended Boston’s stellar closer for three games.  As is typical for baseball suspensions, Papelbon appealed and on 17 June the suspension was reduced to two games.

The entire damn thing is a farce!  Follow me here.

Papelbon was ejected on a Saturday; suspended on a Tuesday and immediately appealed; then he continued to play for nearly two weeks before a decision was reached on his appeal; finally, the suspension was reduced to two games.  It is not surprising that the appeal allowed Boston to have their closer for always important divisional series against the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays.  The two-game suspension that began yesterday will cover part of an interleague series with the Milwaukee Brewers.  In other words, Papelbon violates MLB rules, gets to keep pitching and has two saves during that time (in which the Red Sox went 8-1), and then finally has he suspension “served” for a measly two games.

Let me be clear about two things.  First, I know that all leagues have to protect their officiating crews.  You do not want players ignoring referees or batter taking swings at home plate umpires.  But I do think that there is overprotection sometimes (like censorship on criticizing officials) and “making contact” rules when it is barely a bump.  Again, I know that you cannot allow for players to constantly question the authority of the umpires.  But Randazzo’s strike zone was inconsistent, especially at the end of that game, and Papelbon was rightly criticizing it.  Hell, he was actually arguing a “strike” (that looked outside and should have been a ball).  How often do you see a pitcher complain about a strike he threw?  So actually, I think the suspension is too severe because Randazzo was the one initiating the incident and the “bump” was barely one at all.

Second, this is not solely about Papelbon or the Red Sox.  This is more about how ridiculous it is to suspend a relief pitcher for only a couple of games.  I am not claiming that Papelbon deserves more games added to his suspension (see above).  But how effective can a three-game or two-game suspension be for a relief pitcher?

Thus, what I am calling into question is the entire suspension (and appeals) process.  Two games?  Really?  Out of 162?  So 1.2 percent of the “possible” games for Papelbon to play?  And he might not even appear in those two games.  A reliever, in particular a closer, may get into about 70 games total; he may have between 50-60 save opportunities.  That means that most closers get into less than half of his team’s games!  Thus, there is a good chance that during a two-game suspension a closer would not be used.  Thus, it is barely punishment at all, especially given that the Red Sox have capable relievers who can serve as a fill-in closer (namely Daniel Bard).

The appeals process, while necessary for “justice,” is also ridiculous.  Yes, players need to have their voices heard.  But it took three days to hand down a decision.  Could MLB not speak with Papelbon during that time?  The Red Sox even had an off-day; certainly they could have set something up.  Even without the off-day, MLB and Papelbon could have met; if corporate calls you in for a meeting, you go!  Have a meeting, hear all sides, then render a decision.  While an appeals process is good for ensuring that you get a fair shake, having it go on for two weeks is ridiculous.  Had a meeting taken place, the appeals process should be quick because most of the evidence — including the player’s “testimony” — was submitted previously.

All this goes for any player in Major League Baseball.  While I may not agree that a suspension is warranted  here, it was given and considering it was originally only three games (again, a small proportion of games played), suck it up and take your medicine.

Yet, Papelbon, like so many other baseball players, worked the system and got a minor penalty minimized even more.  That he thinks that the new penalty is “fair” and that he will accept his punishment is laughable.  Here is his quote following the sentence reduction:

I had to own up to it and I did.

No you did not!!  Just like other players, you did not “own up to it”; you complained that it was too much and you did not do anything wrong.  So you appealed, which is certainly your right but that is not “owning up to it.”  That is saying that MLB is wrong to suspend you for that long, or maybe they are even wrong for suspending you at all.  Red Sox manager Terry Francona followed up Papelbon’s quote with this:

We got one game knocked off.  I wish we would have gotten two, just because we like him pitching, but we’ll get it over with.  Take your medicine and get it over with.

Take your medicine?  The dosage was three-games and Papelbon only took two-games!!!!  Everyone is pretending that Papelbon is manning up and taking his punishment, but (1) it is much lighter than before, and (2) at this point he has not choice; he must take it.

~A no-game suspension? Hell yeah!~

Again, it is not about Papelbon so much — it could be him or San Francisco Giants’ closer Brian Wilson — but how ridiculous a two-game suspension is in baseball, especially for a pitcher.  That is was reduced from three-games is just as ridiculous.  Yes, I know that leagues will often throw out an initial number only to reduce it later.  This is done because the leagues, be it MLB or the NFL, know that an appeal is coming so they usually throw out a higher number in anticipation of the appeal; then they will get it to the number they may really want [i.e., the lower number].  Still, this suspension will hardly affect the Red Sox; hell they already won the first game of the two-game suspension and they did not even need a closer.

Allow me to use Papelbon as the example of why this suspension is virtually meaningless (and why appealing a three-game suspension is equally meaningless for a relief pitcher).

As noted above, most top-notch relieve pitchers get into less than half of his team’s games.  Thus the likelihood that Papelbon or any reliever would be called upon to pitch in three consecutive games is quite low.  So far this season, Papelbon has pitched in 28 games, but only done so in back-to-back days (i.e. no days rest) six times.*  He has only pitched three days in a row once this season.  However, he has only recorded three saves coming off of no days of rest, which interestingly enough came during the one time he pitched three days in a row.

But throughout his career, pitching on back-to-back days is not common.  Since becoming the Red Sox’s full-time closer in 2006, Papelbon has pitched on no days rest 78 times (including the postseason).  He has pitched three days in a row only 12 times in his career, with five of those occurring in 2006.  That means that he has only pitched on back-to-back days 21.5 percent of his 362 games, and back-to-back-to-back games 3.3 percent of the time.

It does not stop there as those are just appearance numbers.  As for saves on no rest, Papelbon has 56 saves in those situations, which is 15.5 percent of his appearances or 27.9 percent of his saves; a slight plurality of his saves comes off of one day’s rest.  He has only recorded back-to-back saves 35 times (or 70 saves, 34.8 percent), and closed games three days in a row 5 times (or 15 saves, 7.5 percent).  Additionally, four of those five three-in-a-row saves occurred in his first two seasons; that he had that situation occur this season is actually an anomaly.

So what does this mean?  Basically that a three-game suspension is virtually meaningless to a relief pitcher, especially a closer.  While playing on back-to-back days is not entirely uncommon for a player like Papelbon, it is not the norm either.  And coming into the game three consecutive days is extremely unlikely.  In other words, it was not likely that Papelbon was going to be called upon in all three games missed; or in the two games missed after the suspension reduction.  If it were still a three game suspension, he might have missed two games because Francona would more times than not go with someone else IF he had a save situation three games in a row.  With two games, certainly Papelbon’s role could be called upon in both games, but it is just as likely that a closer would be needed in only one of the two…and possibly in neither game.

Ergo, a two- or three-game suspension for a relief pitcher is usually in name only as it is unlikely that player would be called upon two or even three games in a row.  It is no different than MLB giving starting pitchers a five-game suspension knowing that they will only miss one start and therefore one game.  Given that a closer was not needed in last night’s game and that the one used in tonight’s game came from the Brewers’ dugout (Axford notched his 19th save), Papelbon’s initial three-game suspension is turning out to not be a suspension at all.

* – NOTE: this stat is only counting back-to-back days and therefore pitching on zero days of rest.  it is not necessarily back-to-back games and thus it is possible that Papelbon has more back-to-back saves than indicated here.

UPDSR In-Depth: Morosi’s got a crystal ball

Look at my awesome crystal ball

Hi all, Jubbo here and oh shit have we got a good one today.

So Jon Paul Morosi, a “writer” for MSN/Fox/whatever, wrote something the other day and its shockingly bad. Let’s take a closer look at it why don’t we?

(EDIT: I can’t get the link to work, its supposed to be the ‘something’ up there. Its no doubt the fault of some shithead in our IT Dept. here at Uncle Popov Towers. If you want to C & P —-> http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/it-is-not-chicago-cubs-year-051111)

Voodooed postseasons notwithstanding, the Chicago Cubs have offered their fans some pleasant summer memories over the past century or so.

Whoa. Strap in and hold on folks, we’re starting out strong! The Cubs have had some good seasons in their history. Who knew?

Take 2007, for instance. The Cubs were 8 1/2 games back in late June, with a losing record, before rallying to win the division. That was Lou Piniella’s first season at Addison and Clark, and all seemed possible.

Listen man, its Clark and Addison. Clark then Addison, every single time. Do you say “jelly and peanut butter sandwich” or “The Cubs lost 0-3? I don’t know if you fuck everything up like that or not but the rest of us sure as hell don’t.

It’s not often that the Cubs can point to history as a reason for optimism. This is one such case. If it happened four years ago — despite Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano scuffling in the dugout — then why not now?

Wait, I thought you just said “the Chicago Cubs have offered their fans some pleasant summer memories over the past century or so.” And that isn’t even the stupidest part about this paragraph. You want Z to go off again in the dugout like he did back in 2007 2010? Yeah douche bag, you remember last year when Z lost it and cursed everyone within earshot out like some crazed goddamn lunatic? Did that ignite anything at all? This is all just so stupid and contrived.

But this isn’t The Year.

THERE IT IS! THAT BOLD PROCLAMATION!

The Cubs have talented, likable players.

False, all of it. Who exactly is talented (other than Starlin Castro) and who is likable (other than Marlon Byrd)? And I challenge you to name a single player (OK, maybe Starlin there too) much less multiple players who are both talented and likable.

As a group, though, they are not inspiring. Nor do they have a better overall roster than the St. Louis Cardinals, despite an 11-4 triumph over their archrival Wednesday night.

Well I had no damn clue about any of this. Did anyone else? I mean, I didn’t before Morosi dropped all this knowledge on us from high above.

This type of shit helps!!!

They have a chance to contend in the National League Central because, in this division, a decent lineup and capable pitchers will do that for you. They could finish better than .500.

No they don’t and no they won’t. They’ll be “contending” for 4th, just like they were last year (they finished 5th). And if they dump a couple players like they should (cough…Byrd…chortle) they’ll actually be worse than they already are, which is really saying something.

Teams that rank near the bottom of the league in the game’s essential skills — namely, scoring and preventing runs — tend not to win titles. Right now the Cubs are one of those teams.

OK, this one was written by a 3rd grader, right? I mean, surely… Uh, let me see —-> I got it, some 3rd grader from Wilmette tweeted this to him and Morosi promised to use it in one of his “articles.” OK, maybe a 4th grader since two “-‘s” were used. Ugh.

When play began Wednesday, the Cubs ranked 13th among the 16 National League teams in runs scored and 14th in fewest runs allowed. If that makes them sound like a fourth-place club, it’s because that is what they are — one game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yeah, he flirted with it up there when he used little Johnny from Wilmette’s paragraph, but here comes Morosi’s stat bombing in earnest. Yeah, those are pretty shitty stats that lead me and my alcohol-soaked brain to believe that…

This is not a bad team.

Wait, what?!? No, no this is very much a BAD TEAM.

But it is a confusing one. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry pointed out that his team has the league’s second-highest overall batting average but the second-lowest average with runners in scoring position. Huh? “That means the lineup’s doing a pretty good job of getting on,” Hendry said. “We’re just not getting them in. Let’s hope it gets contagious the other way.”

Did you watch any of the 2010 Cubs JP Morosi? I mean, any of them? 1 damn game? This was their problem for the entirety of last season. RISP = guaranteed outs. This shit isn’t news.

It was that way Wednesday. Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook lost his command after a 53-minute rain delay, and the Cubs responded with a six-run third inning. They went 7 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They rapped five extra-base hits. They looked terrific. But blowouts can deceive.

So it took an hour long rain delay for the Cub’s bats to wake up? No. The Cardinals got Dusty’d sending Westbrook back out there. They’re lucky his arm didn’t fall off.

I still wonder who will drive in runs when it matters most.

I sure as hell don’t because I’ve already seen this team and I already know the freaking answer: no one will. You seem to assume that runs are going to be driven in at all. In reality, bad baseball teams don’t drive in runs with a whole lot of regularity. That’s the way its always been. Who’s going to drive in runs? Everyone will sporadically. However, not one player on this POS team will see 80 RBI’s on the back of his baseball card next year.

Aramis Ramirez used to be that guy. He finished with 100 RBI or more six times from 2001 through 2008. Very quietly, he was one of the best clutch hitters in baseball for the better part of the past decade.

And very quietly since 2008 he’s sucked ass. It might have a little something to do with him tearing his shoulder apart diving for a ground ball in Milwaukee in May of 2009. Do you not remember how poorly he started last season? (No because you didn’t watch any Cubs baseball in 2010) Or it may just be that he’s (gasp!) on the decline as a professional baseball player. How many guys follow up their first decade being “one of the best clutch hitters in baseball” with a second decade of being one of the best clutch hitters in baseball? Answer —> not many.

But because of injuries and a steady decline in power, he averaged 74 RBI during the past two seasons. This year he’s again on track for 70. As a cleanup hitter, that’s simply not enough. (By the way, this is why the Cubs need Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder next year. Let’s agree to revisit that subject in November, OK?)

OK, so he notes injuries (He’s had them his whole career essentialy and/or been out of shape). And no dipshit, 70 RBI’s isn’t enough from your #4 hitter. That’s a big reason why the Cubs suck ass. And what the hell does the last part even mean? Everyone knows the Cubs need a long term solution at first. I’m not revisiting shit with you in Novermber, OK?

Ramirez’s drop in production would be less of an issue if the Cubs had a true slugger in the No. 3 spot. But they don’t. As of Wednesday morning, their No. 3 hitters ranked next to last in the majors with a .576 OPS. Yes. Next to last.

So hitting at the 3 spot is the problem now? Is that what we’re going with? Or is this in addition to ARam?

Marlon Byrd has been the Cubs’ primary third hitter, with a brief (unsuccessful) interlude by the brilliant and frustrating Starlin Castro. He batted seventh and sixth during the past two games, suggesting the Cubs won’t rush to put the 21-year-old back into a role that demands steady run production. More than anything, the Cubs want Castro to swing at strikes. First things first, you know.

No wait, Marlon Byrd’s the problem? Good god, the negatives with this team seem to be mounting. Are you sure this team can contend? And don’t bring Starlin into this. He’s one of the few (only?) guys in that clubhouse who will still be in it 5 years down the road.

** Morosi rambles on for a little bit here saying essentially that Byrd isn’t a power hitter (no shit) and that Alfonso Soriano is overpaid (no fucking shit). **

The Cubs’ best hope is that Carlos Peña turns into a middle-of-the-order monster. He did it with Tampa Bay, reaching the 100-RBI mark in ’07, ’08 and ’09. He had a two-hit, two-RBI game Wednesday. Still, I wonder whether there is a reason the Cubs have not attempted to use him in the No. 3 or No. 4 spot.

Holy shit, now he’s getting in the flow. So Carlos Pena isn’t a problem but a potential SOLUTION !?! Oh dear. Let’s revisit Carlos Pena’s 2011 season in November, OK? Ugh

I know it’s early. I know it’s been cold. But it’s been early and cold for the Cardinals, too, and their 3-4-5 has been devastating — even if Pujols doesn’t look like Pujols quite yet. The Cubs’ rotation will pitch better than it has, yet we can’t say that it will give them any discernible advantage over the Cardinals, Reds or Brewers. They’re all about the same.

Wait a minute… (I just ran to the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up.) So in the Central, not only is St. Louis good but Cincy and Milwaukee are too? But the Cubs can still compete with all of them? Are you sure? Because I think you’re actually too stupid to realize that you’re doing a fairly decent job of, which is… oh fuck it, you get it… I think.

It should be noted that Quade’s positivity has been, and will be, an excellent influence on this team. He has talked with his players about the importance of maintaining their usual approach at the plate in RBI situations. He doesn’t want failures with men in scoring position to affect their defensive play, as it may have in Tuesday’s loss. Hitters are taking extra batting practice, trying to swing their way out of it, a sign that they are responding well to a first-year manager.

“The video room is like a bakery on Sunday,” the manager said. “This group works.”

Jesus, a bakery on Sunday? What does that mean? And does it have anything to do with Jeff Baker? I’m thinking the video room is more like a bakery on Tuesday if you know what I mean… (You don’t)

Yet it will take much more than effort for the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. As a fan of the game and owner of a sympathetic heart, I hope that it happens someday. But it won’t be in 2011.

And mercifully, it ends. And in true hack fashion, he vaguely alludes to something from the next to last paragraph to close out his miserable piece and kind of clumsily brings it all to a close. But just to make sure, he reminds us all that the Cubs are not going to win the World Series this year.

Well no shit asshole.

First-Pitch Swinging: Best First-Pitch Hitters in MLB (2010)

It is a bit delayed as I meant to post this before the season got underway.  But, better late than never.

Continuing the theme of odd-statistics in the stat-driven sport of baseball, I decided to look at the best hitters of 0-0 counts.  When one thinks of current players that are swinging away at first pitches, one person that tends to jump out if Vlad Guerrero.  While he is top ten, he is not the best first-pitch hitter in baseball…at least in 2010.  So let’s take a look and found out which players waste little time getting to work.

The stats used again come from ESPN.com, which does a good job of providing a ton of situational stats by teams, thereby making it easier to acquire and sort.  Like the Uncle Popov Top 23 for college football, I made up my own formula and it is probably flawed.  But, it gave me a method to decipher who was the best hitter on an 0-0 count.  Similar to how I created a “qualified” category for the road-home splits, I took the top ten players by at-bats (for an 0-0 count) per team and weeded out the remainder.  Then, I grouped each of the First-Pitch qualifiers by league -AL and NL.

From here, I did two rankings on a number of statistical categories, including hits, runs, HRs, RBIs, batting average, OPS, etc.  The first ranking is the player’s statistical rank among all of his AL or NL peers (depending on the league).  The second ranking is the player’s statistical rank among his (qualified) teammates.  For example, Ichiro Suzuki ranks 15th in the AL for first-pitch doubles, but first in that category among the Seattle Mariners.

Once I had the ranks for each, I average each ranking (league and team) and then added the two numbers to get a “ranking score.”  The lower the ranking, the better the first-pitch hitter.  Well, roughly.

One thing to keep in mind — the stats collecting are from when players put the 0-0 pitch in play.  Obviously every batter faces an 0-0 pitch.  However, statistics are calculated based on that pitch being put into play.  As you will see below, the most at-bats where a first-pitch was put into play comes from Vernon Wells, who in total had 590 at-bats; this means that he had an 0-0 count 590 times.  However, of those 590 first pitches Wells put 133 into play (22.5 percent of the time).  The statistics seen here come from the times when the ball is put into play, which in the case of Wells was 22.5 percent of the time.  Make sense?  If not, read it again!

Now, here are the best first-pitch hitters by league:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

5. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers) – 19.7

4. Delmon Young (Minnesota Twins) – 19.5

3. Justin Morneau (Minnesota Twins) – 16.0

2. Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay Rays) – 14.8

1. Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers) – 9.6

  • It makes sense that a Ranger is tops here as Texas had the best average rank (3.125) of any team in the Majors, with three Rangers in the top ten (the other two are Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton).  In other words, they are free-swinging in DFW!  Cruz batted 0.484 with six homers, 20 RBIs, nine doubles and even one triple.  He put the first pitch into play 15.5 percent of the time and 27.7 percent of his home runs occurred on the first pitch; he hit more home runs on the first pitch than any other count.  Swing away, Cruz; swing away.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

5. Geovany Soto (Chicago Cubs) – 20.5

4. Kelly Johnson (Arizona Diamondbacks) – 19.8

3. Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee Brewers) – 17.3

2. Corey Hart (Milwaukee Brewers) – 16.5

1. Colby Rasmus (St. Louis Cardinals) – 11.2

  • Rasmus batted a crazy 0.477 on the first pitch, which ranked 11th among National League batters.  He also jacked eight home runs and drove in 19 runs off the 0-0 pitch, the former being tied for second in the National League.  Rasmus put 14 percent of first pitches into play.  His eight first-pitch home runs accounted for 34.8 percent of all of his home runs (like Cruz, a plurality of his home runs occurred on the first pitch).  All of this despite the fact that the Cardinals are middle-of-the-pack in the NL in terms of 0-0 pitches.

And now, for some other stats related to first-pitch situations.

MOST FIRST-PITCH AT-BATS (putting ball in play):

  • American League: Vernon Wells (TOR) – 133 at-bats
  • National League: Carlos Lee (HOU) and Pablo Sandoval (SF) – 100 at-bats

MOST FIRST-PITCH DOUBLES:

  • American League: Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 12 doubles
  • National League: Marlon Byrd (CHC) – 13 doubles

MOST FIRST-PITCH TRIPLES:

  • American League: Carl Crawford (TB) – four triples
  • National League: Dexter Fowler (COL) – four triples

MOST FIRST-PITCH HOME RUNS:

  • American League: Vladimir Guerrero (TEX) – 10 home runs
  • National League: Carlos Gonzalez (COL) – 9 home runs

MOST FIRST-PITCH RBIs:

  • American League: Vladimir Guerrero (TEX) – 39 RBIs
  • National League: Corey Hart (MIL) – 28 RBIs

BEST FIRST-PITCH BATTING AVERAGE:

  • American League: Jim Thome (MIN) – 0.577
  • National League: Kelly Johnson (ARZ) – 0.551

BEST FIRST-PITCH SLUGGING PERCENTAGE:

  • American League: Jim Thome (MIN) – 1.500
  • National League: Geovany Soto (CHC) – 1.156

FIRST-PITCH TEAM BATTING AVERAGES (American League):

  1. Minnesota Twins – 0.375
  2. Baltimore Orioles – 0.365
  3. Texas Rangers – 0.353
  4. Tampa Bay Rays – 0.344
  5. Boston Red Sox – 0.343
  6. Cleveland Indians – 0.341
  7. Oakland Athletics – 0.336
  8. Detroit Tigers – 0.334
  9. New York Yankees – 0.320
  10. Toronto Blue Jays – 0.313
  11. Kansas City Royals – 0.310
  12. Seattle Mariners – 0.305
  13. Los Angeles Angels – 0.294
  14. Chicago White Sox – 0.293

FIRST-PITCH TEAM BATTING AVERAGES (National League):

  1. Colorado Rockies – 0.385
  2. San Diego Padres – 0.366
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks – 0.360
  4. Florida Marlins – 0.354
  5. Milwaukee Brewers – 0.349
  6. New York Mets – 0.345
  7. Chicago Cubs – 0.338
  8. Pittsburgh Pirates – 0.338
  9. San Francisco Giants – 0.334
  10. Cincinnati Reds – 0.333
  11. Los Angeles Dodgers – 0.331
  12. St. Louis Cardinals – 0.320
  13. Washington Nationals – 0.320
  14. Atlanta Braves – 0.315
  15. Philadelphia Phillies – 0.308
  16. Houston Astros – 0.295

———-FILES———-

American League stats

National league stats

~~NOTE: the above files are in .docx format and may not open in older versions of Microsoft Word.  All photos taken from Daylife, with both coming via Getty Images…big ups!~~

Home Away from Home: Best Road Performances in Baseball for 2010 (MLB)

With Opening Day 2011 rapidly approaching, I decided to keep the statistical review of the 2010 season in Major League Baseball going.  Today, I want to look at the home/away splits for both leagues.  I am primarily interested in how well a player hits away from his home park.

To do this, I took the top ten players (in terms of number of at-bats) for every team for both home games and away games.  This break meant that road at-bats ranged from 344 (Ichiro Suzuki) to 94 (Jed Lowrie).  Because there was such a great disparity, I opted to then take that list and for each league and for each split stat I made a cut — top 100 at-bats (per split stat) for the AL and top 110 for NL — that put the minimum at-bats around 175 for home games and 160 for away games.

Making the cut did alter the original list somewhat.  For example, using the top 10 per team, John Jaso of the Tampa Bay Rays had the greatest positive batting average disparity between away and home games (+ 0.102).  However, when I used a “qualifying” cut-off, the leader for said stat becomes Erick Aybar of the Los Angeles Angels (+ 0.073), who would have been number four in the other list.

All stats were taken from MLB.com and then placed into an Excel spreadsheet.  I then subtracted the away numbers from the home numbers to get the disparity between the two split stats.  Any player with a positive number demonstrates a better performance on the road than at home; any player with a negative number demonstrates a poorer performance on the road than at home.

And now…the numbers.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

HIGHER AWAY BATTING AVERAGE

5. Matt LaPorta (Cleveland): +0.045

4. Mark Ellis (Oakland): +0.053

3. Juan Rivera (Los Angeles): +0.060

2. Torii Hunter (Los Angeles): +0.061

1. Erick Aybar (Los Angeles): +0.073

  • Away batting average: 0.287
  • Home batting average: 0.214
  • Best Division Park: Oakland Coliseum (0.341)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Dodgers Stadium (0.400)

MORE AWAY HOME RUNS

3t. Joe Mauer (Minnesota): +7

3t. Juan Rivera (Los Angeles): +7

3t. Torii Hunter (Los Angeles): +7

2. Daric Barton (Oakland): +8

1. Delmon Young (Minnesota): +9

  • Home runs hit on the road: 15
  • Home runs hit at home: 6
  • Best Division Park: Kauffman Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field (2)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Angel Stadium, Camden Yards, and Rogers Center (2)

MORE AWAY RBIs

5. Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay): +18

4. Mark Ellis (Oakland): +19

3. Juan Rivera (Los Angeles): +20

2. B.J. Upton (Tampa Bay): +22

1. Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay): +33

  • Runs batted in on the road: 54
  • Runs batted in at home: 21
  • Best Division Park: Fenway Park (10)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Angel Stadium (5)

MORE AWAY WALKS DRAWN

3t. Jorge Posada (New York): +9

3t. Scott Podsednik (Kansas City): +9

3t. Torii Hunter (Los Angeles): +9

2. Rajai Davis (Oakland): +12

1. Johnny Damon (Detroit): +13

  • Walks drawn on the road: 41
  • Walks drawn at home: 28
  • Best Division Park: Progressive Field (8)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Rangers Ballpark (6)

MORE AWAY BASES STOLEN

5t. Franklin Gutierrez (Seattle): +7

5t. Brett Gardner (New York): +7

4. Johnny Damon (Detroit): +9

3. Rajai Davis (Oakland): +10

2. Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay): +13

1. Alex Rios (Chicago): +14

  • Bases stolen on the road: 24
  • Bases stolen at home: 10
  • Best Division Park: Progressive Field (4)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Rangers Ballpark (4)

———-

LOWER AWAY BATTING AVERAGE

5. Brandon Inge (Detroit): -0.082

4. Jorge Posada (New York): -0.083

3. Vernon Wells (Toronto): -0.096

2. Nelson Cruz (Texas): -0.104

1. Luke Scott (Baltimore): -0.110

FEWER AWAY HOME RUNS

5t. Michael Young (Texas): -11

5t. Vernon Wells (Toronto): -11

5t. Luke Scott (Baltimore): -11

3t. Jose Bautista (Toronto): -12

3t. Carlos Quentin (Chicago): -12

1t. Josh Hamilton (Texas): -14

1t. Paul Konerko (Chicago): -14

FEWER AWAY RBIs

5t. Mark Teixeria (New York): -20

5t. Luke Scott (Baltimore): -20

4. Kurt Suzuki (Oakland): -21

3. Vernon Wells (Toronto): -24

1t. Robinson Cano (New York): -25

1t. Miguel Tejada (Baltimore): -25

FEWER AWAY WALKS DRAWN

4t. Aaron Hill (Toronto): -13

4t. Mark Teixeria (New York): -13

3. Paul Konerko (Chicago): -14

2. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit): -15

1. Ian Kinsler (Texas): -16

FEWER AWAY BASES STOLEN

3t. Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle): -6

3t. Juan Pierre (Chicago): -6

3t. Bobby Abreu (Los Angeles): -6

2. Brennan Boesch (Detroit): -7

1. B.J. Upton (Tampa Bay): -8

NATIONAL LEAGUE

HIGHER AWAY BATTING AVERAGE

5. Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia): +0.053

4. David Eckstein (San Diego): +0.056

3. Colby Rasmus (St. Louis): +0.058

2. Ryan Braun (Milwaukee): +0.070

1. Buster Posey (San Francisco): +0.093

  • Away batting average: 0.351
  • Home batting average: 0.258
  • Best Division Park: Chase Field (.440)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Miller Park (.600)

MORE AWAY HOME RUNS

5t. Omar Infante (Atlanta): +6

5t. Ian Stewart (Colorado): +6

5t. Buster Posey (San Francisco): +6

3t. Martin Prado (Atlanta): +7

3t. Ryan Zimmerman (Washington): +7

2. Albert Pujols (St. Louis): +8

1. Adrian Gonzalez (San Diego): +9

  • Home runs hit on the road: 20
  • Home runs hit at home: 11
  • Best Division Park: Chase Field and Coors Field (3)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Citizens Bank Park (3)

MORE AWAY RBIs

4t. Brian McCann (Atlanta): +13

4t. Juan Uribe (San Francisco): +13

4t. Matt Kemp (Los Angeles): +13

4t. Justin Upton (Arizona): +13

3. Casey Blake (Los Angeles): +14

2. Will Venable (San Diego): +15

1. Adrian Gonzalez (San Diego): +17

  • Runs batted in on the road: 59
  • Runs batted in at home: 42
  • Best Division Park: Coors Field (8)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Citizens Bank Park (6)

MORE AWAY WALKS DRAWN

5t. Jonny Gomes (Cincinnati): +9

5t. Alfonso Soriano (Chicago): +9

5t. Joey Votto (Cincinnati): +9

3t. Martin Prado (Atlanta): +10

3t. Alcides Escobar (Milwaukee): +10

2. Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia): +12

1. Jason Heyward (Atlanta): +13

  • Walks drawn on the road: 52
  • Walks drawn at home: 39
  • Best Division Park: Sun Life Stadium (10)
  • Best Non-Division Park: PNC Park (5)

MORE AWAY BASES STOLEN

5. Five tied with +5

4. Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado): +6

3. Joey Votto (Cincinnati): +8

2. Justin Upton (Arizona): +8

1. Nyjer Morgan (Washington): +10

  • Bases stolen on the road: 22
  • Bases stolen at home: 12
  • Best Division Park: Sun Life Stadium (3)
  • Best Non-Division Park: Great American (3)

———-

LOWER AWAY BATTING AVERAGE

5. Cody Ross (Florida): -0.088

4. Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado): -0.091

3. Dexter Fowler (Colorado): -0.102

2. Miguel Olivo (Colorado): -0.107

1. Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco): -0.122

FEWER AWAY HOME RUNS

5. Jayson Werth (Philadelphia ): -9

4. Mark Reynolds (Arizona): -10

3. Jay Bruce (Cincinnati): -13

2. Chris Young (Arizona): -13

1. Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado): -18

FEWER AWAY RBIs

4t. Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado): -23

4t. Aramis Ramirez (Chicago): -23

3. Kelly Johnson (Arizona): -25

2. Miguel Olivo (Colorado): -26

1. Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado): -35

FEWER AWAY WALKS DRAWN

4t. Casey Blake (Los Angeles): -14

4t. Stephen Drew (Arizona): -14

3. Starlin Castro (Chicago): -15

2. David Wright (New York): -21

1. Matt Holliday (St. Louis): -23

FEWER AWAY BASES STOLEN

5t. Orlando Cabrera (Cincinnati): -5

5t. Matt Kemp (Los Angeles): -5

3t. Chris Young (Arizona): -6

3t. Andres Torres (San Francisco): -6

2. Angel Pagan (New York): -7

1. Albert Pujols (St. Louis): -10

Comin’ For That Number Two Spot: Best Second Batters of 2010

Last season, we decided to honor an oft-overlooked batter in baseball’s batting lineups — the two-hole.  Lead-off hitters and power hitters are well-known, but the person batting second is just as important, if not more so, than other batters.  He is the link between the typically speedy, contact-hitting lead-off hitter and the big muscles batting third, fourth and fifth.  The number-two guy sets the table; moving over runners when he needs to and getting on base to help pad the RBI numbers for the power guys.

While that article last season did not flood our site with hits, we do see regular traffic and interest in the top batters in the two-hole.  So we decided to go ahead and examine the same type of hitters over the 2010 season.

For full disclosure, we only examined one batter from each of the 30 MLB teams.  To choose that player, we chose the player who batted second in a plurality of his team’s games.  So, while Shin-soo Choo had a better batting average while in the two-hole, Asdrubal Cabrera batted second in more games.  Additionally, we did not look at some stats such as stolen bases, total base, or sabermetric measures such as isolated power.

Now, before we list the top five from each League, here is a look at the top players based on statistics.

American League (players)

  • Batting Average: Nick Markakis, Baltimore (.316)
  • Doubles: Dustin Pedroia, Boston (12.45 at bats per double)
  • Triples:Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay (58.29 at bats per triple)
  • Home Runs: Nick Swisher, New York Yankees (19.7 at bats per HR)
  • RBIs: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay (7.03 at bats per RBI)
  • Runs Created: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay (6.61 per 27 outs)
  • On-Base Percentage: Daric Barton, Oakland (.402)
  • Strike Outs: Jason Kendall, Kansas City (9.54 at bats per Ks)
  • Walks: Daric Barton, Oakland (1.16 walks per strikeout)

National League (players)

  • Batting Average: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (.343)
  • Doubles: Angel Pagan, New York Mets (12.82 at bats per double)
  • Triples: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (33.2 at bats per triple)
  • Home Runs: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (13.92 at bats per HR)
  • RBIs: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (5.06 at bats per RBI)
  • Runs Created: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (8.52 per 27 outs)
  • On-Base Percentage: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (.409)
  • Strike Outs: Jeff Keppinger, Houston (14.26 at bats per Ks)
  • Walks: Jeff Keppinger, Houston (1.37 walks per strikeout)

American League (teams)

  • Batting Average: Texas Rangers (.287)
  • Doubles: Los Angeles Angels (47)
  • Triples: Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays (8)
  • Home Runs: Toronto Blue Jays (30)
  • RBIs: Texas Rangers (99)
  • Runs Created: Oakland Athletics (6.16 per 27 outs)
  • On-Base Percentage: Oakland Athletics (.396)
  • Strike Outs: Kansas City Royals (82)
  • Walks: Oakland Athletics (115)

National League (teams)

  • Batting Average: Florida Marlins (.302)
  • Doubles: Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers (44)
  • Triples: Colorado Rockies (9)
  • Home Runs: Milwaukee Brewers (19)
  • RBIs: Milwaukee Brewers (83)
  • Runs Created: Florida Marlins (6.09 per 27 outs)
  • On-Base Percentage: Atlanta Braves (.373)
  • Strike Outs: Houston Astros (71)
  • Walks: Atlanta Braves (83)

And now, the top five number two hitters from 2010.  This is not a definitive list and is solely based on our opinion related to numbers.  Some stats (like home runs and RBIs) are normalized to games played for better comparison.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Daric Barton (big ups to AP, via DayLife)

5. Nick Markakis, Baltimore. First in batting average, second in on-base percentage and runs created.  He is top five in runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and pitches per plate appearance.  Would rank first on our list had it not been for the fact that he grounds into a lot of double plays (2.8 percent of all at bats) and does not sacrifice much.

4. Johnny Damon, Detroit. Second in doubles, walks per plate appearance, and extra-base hits.  Top five in runs scored, triples, on-base percentage, runs scored, walk/strikeout ratio, and pitches per plate appearance.  Does a good job of staying out of the double play, but does not sacrifice much.  Repeat from 2009.

3. Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay. Tops in triples, RBIs, and runs created.  Second in batting average.  Third in slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, and extra base hits.  Excellent speed to stay out of the double play.  Does strike out a bit too much.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston. Tops in doubles and extra base hits.  Second in runs scored, on-base plus slugging, walks per strikeout, and pitches faced.  Third in batting average, on-base percentage, and runs created.  Top five in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, and walks per plate appearance.  Does ground into the double play a bit much (2.2 percent of all at-bats), but will sacrifice a fly ball for the good of the team (six total in 2010).  Interesting to see where in the lineup Boston plays Crawford and Pedroia.  Dustin is also a repeat from 2009 (he was also second last year on our list).

1. Daric Barton, Oakland.  Perhaps unknown amongst the casual fan (much like Maicer Izturis last season), but the A’s first baseman is our choice for the best number two hitter in 2010.  A lot of it has to do with consistency, but also leading in what could be deemed “important” two-hole categories.  Barton was number one in on-base percentage (and third in all of baseball; not just batting second), walks per plate appearance, walk/strikeout ratio, and pitches faced per plate appearance.  Beyond batting second, he was also number one in walks drawn (110, 108 of which were drawn batting second).  He was top five in doubles, triples, OPS, and runs created.    He was also tied for fourth among all batters in sacrifice hits (12).  Sacrifices and walks are important in moving runners and helping to pad the RBI numbers of the big boys, thus making Daric Barton an obvious choice for top AL number two hitter in 2010.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Kelly Johnson (big ups to Getty Images, via DayLife)

5. Angel Pagan, New York Mets. Tops in doubles and top five in triples, RBIs, batting average, OPS, and extra base hits.  Did not draw many walks and his walk/strikeout ratio was poor (12th out of 16).  Decent sacrifice numbers and okay at staying out of the double play.

4. Ian Desmond, Washington. Second in doubles and runs created.  Third in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS.  Top five in on-base percentage and extra base hits.  Among all qualified NL batters, was second in sacrifice hits (9).  But he was middle of the pack in terms of strikeout numbers and drew the second fewest walks per plate appearance.

3. Jason Heyward, Atlanta. Tops in walks per plate appearance and pitches per plate appearance (i.e. excellent plate discipline).  Second in walks per strikeouts and on-base percentage.  Third in runs created.  Top five in home runs and OPS.  Despite high number of walks, also struck out quite a bit (maybe not-so excellent plate discipline) and batting average was 11th in the National League.  Also, not asked to sacrifice much (no fault of his own) and did hit into 13 double plays.

2. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers. Number one in runs scored, home runs, RBIs, and extra-base hits.  Number two in slugging percentage, OPS, walks per plate appearance.  Top five in triples, runs creates and pitches per plate appearance.  Nine sacrifice flys (good), but 14 GIDPs (bad).  Batting average was second worst in the NL (.251, tied with Dexter Fowler of Colorado).

1. Kelly Johnson, Arizona.  Yes, Kelly Johnson was tied with Kemp with the first at-bats in the two-hole (42), but his normalized numbers speak volumes.  First in batting average, triples, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and runs created.  He was second in home runs, pitches per plate appearance, and extra-base hits.  Third in runs scored and RBIs.  And fourth in walks per plate appearance.  He did hit into a fairly high number of double plays (12 total) and did not sacrifice as much as someone like David Eckstein (three versus Eckstein’s 12 [tops among NL second hitters]).  But the consistency is key.  Additionally, Johnson batted .343 in the two-hole (tops among all qualifiers).  When Johnson batted third for the Diamondbacks, his average was .265; when leading off the batting order he was .267.  Johnson thrived in that second batter position and therefore is deserve of being the top two-hole hitter for the National League.

————————————————————

Here are the stats organized by teams.  These are the total stats for each player and not the normalized stats used to determine the arbitrary rankings.

American League

TEAM NAME GP H AB R 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP
BAL Nick Markakis 58 75 237 38 15 2 8 30 22 38 0.316 0.373
TB Carl Crawford 101 122 408 78 24 7 12 58 34 72 0.299 0.353
BOS Dustin Pedroia 68 80 274 49 22 1 9 36 33 35 0.292 0.369
CHW Omar Vizquel 74 80 277 28 6 1 2 27 30 36 0.289 0.359
TEX Michael Young 155 185 647 98 35 3 21 91 50 111 0.286 0.333
OAK Daric Barton 149 148 529 78 33 5 10 56 108 93 0.280 0.402
NYY Nick Swisher 82 92 335 48 17 1 17 47 38 72 0.275 0.348
CLE Asdrubal Cabrera 59 64 235 23 10 0 2 22 17 38 0.272 0.331
DET Johnny Damon 87 92 339 58 27 3 6 30 48 55 0.271 0.362
MIN Orlando Hudson 126 133 497 80 24 5 6 37 50 87 0.268 0.338
LAA Howard Kendrick 74 84 316 31 22 3 2 30 12 44 0.266 0.295
SEA Chone Figgins 157 151 590 61 21 2 1 34 72 113 0.256 0.337
KC Jason Kendall 70 63 267 27 8 0 0 26 23 28 0.236 0.298
TOR Aaron Hill 61 45 241 31 10 0 11 30 28 38 0.187 0.278

National League

TEAM NAME GP H AB R 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP
ARZ Kelly Johnson 42 57 166 30 7 5 8 23 18 34 0.343 0.409
ATL Jason Heyward 100 109 388 59 23 4 9 39 65 85 0.281 0.393
CHC Starlin Castro 71 91 296 37 20 1 2 20 10 38 0.307 0.342
CIN Orlando Cabrera 68 82 275 39 20 0 4 28 15 27 0.298 0.333
COL Dexter Fowler 61 59 235 35 8 6 2 17 29 51 0.251 0.333
FLA Gaby Sanchez 68 84 279 38 15 2 10 35 20 46 0.301 0.349
HOU Jeff Keppinger 99 107 385 43 26 0 4 40 37 27 0.278 0.340
LAD Matt Kemp 42 42 167 36 8 2 12 33 24 44 0.251 0.342
MIL Corey Hart 86 105 361 61 26 2 13 62 20 97 0.291 0.332
NYM Angel Pagan 54 68 218 28 17 3 4 29 14 29 0.312 0.350
PHI Placido Polanco 106 138 456 70 23 2 5 43 28 39 0.303 0.346
PIT Jose Tabata 66 85 259 40 12 4 2 23 17 34 0.328 0.373
SD David Eckstein 85 93 342 38 21 0 1 23 19 25 0.272 0.323
SF Freddy Sanchez 95 105 379 49 18 1 6 41 28 57 0.277 0.328
STL Jon Jay 49 53 179 33 13 1 0 11 19 30 0.296 0.368
WAS Ian Desmond 46 60 184 24 14 2 4 19 8 30 0.326 0.359

Texas Rangers Should Learn a Lesson from the Rays

In the 2008 American League Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays (sans Devil) rolled in on an improbable run and faced the defending champions Boston Red Sox.

The Rays dropped Game One at home before coming back to take Game Two.  The series shifted to Boston and Fenway Park where certainly the young and inexperienced Rays would wilt under pressure.

Well, Games Three and Four were blowout wins for the Rays and things looked to be in control during Game Five.  Up 7-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox pushed across four in that frame, three more in the bottom of the eighth, and then…

~~JD Drew…what a dick!~~

Makes me want to puke.  Here is the AP highlight, since that is not the best video.  I remember Chip Caray’s disgusting comment, “We’re going to Tampa!!”  Actually, St. Pete, you dumb fuck!

The game went back to Tampa Bay [different from Tampa], where Boston forced Game Seven before the Rays won and went to the World Series.

Ah, I remember that like it was yesterday.

Speaking of yesterday, history repeated itself…somewhat.

The Texas Rangers won Game Four of the ALCS by pulling away and eventually blowing out the New York Yankees to pull within a game of the World Series.  But the whole thing is eerily familiar.

Like the Rays, the Rangers are relative playoff novices.  Although the Rangers had been to playoffs before (unlike the Rays in 2008), the Rangers had never advanced in the playoffs.  What is interesting is that in the 2008 ALDS, the Rays beat the Chicago White Sox — a team that had recently made the World Series (in 2005, winning it all).  In the 2010 ALDS, the Rangers beat the Rays — a team that had recently made the World Series (in 2008, but losing to the Philadelphia Phillies).

Like the Rays, the Rangers lost Game One to the defending World Series New York Yankees.  This was also a home loss for Texas; just like what happened to Tampa Bay.

Like the Rays, the Rangers bounced back and took Game Two.  The series then shifted to the home of the defending champs.

Like the Rays, the Rangers took Games Three and Four decisively.  In 2008, Tampa Bay pulled away late.  In 2010, the Rangers pulled away late (both times in the final two innings).

And like the Rays, the Rangers enter Game Five with the momentum and a chance to dwindle the list of teams to never make the World Series to two (if the Rangers win today, only the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals [Montreal Expos] would have never won a pennant).

But hopefully the Rangers have learned from the Rays’ trial.  While Tampa Bay would eventually win the American League pennant, Texas does not want this to get that far.

So, when the first pitch from CC Sabathia is thrown in a little less than an hour, the Rangers want — check that…NEED to jump on him.  They need to keep the foot on the peddle and on the necks of the Evil Empire.  They want to turn Manhattan bars into boring places for the remainder of October, send Jeter and A-Rod out to the golf courses, and cause Yankee fans to start up even more “Fire Girardi” blogs.

Because baseball history has shown that if you give a team just a sliver of hope, a leak can turn into a flood.

Ask the Rays.

Or, if you need a more disastrous example, ask the guys in pinstripes, circa 2004.