Articles By Charlie Miller
Maybe the third baseman was rushed through the Pirates’ system, or maybe he’s been a little slow to develop, but the Pirates have been rewarded for their patience with the young slugger. The second overall pick in 2008 is tied for the NL lead in homers and is fourth in RBIs. If the Bucs can hang on and win the NL Central, Alvarez will be a key component.
The Boston righthander was 9-0 through his first 12 starts. But a neck strain and bursa sac inflammation have sidelined him since June 8. Boston’s chances increase dramatically with a healthy Buchholz in the rotation for the playoffs.
The best hitter on the planet in the middle of the lineup for the Tigers is the No. 1 factor in how far Detroit can advance this season. The Tigers need Miggy completely healthy in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Drama (lack of)
The only drama in the NL may be which of the three NL Central teams — the Pirates, Cardinals or Reds — will win the division and which two will be left to play in the wild-card game.
There is very little postseason experience — and even less proven success — among NL starting pitchers likely to earn starts this October. A.J. Burnett of the Pirates has the most starts (7, all with the Yankees) and a 5.87 ERA. The Braves’ starters have one start in the postseason combined. The only two starters with postseason success are Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, with four starts and four saves in the playoffs and a 2.48 ERA over 32.2 innings; and the Reds’ Mike Leake, who had a terrific start last season against the Giants.
Opponents may choose to pitch around Cabrera, leaving Fielder as the focal point of Detroit’s lineup. The big man struggled at a .173 clip in the postseason last year with only one extra-base hit. He’s been a valuable protector for Cabrera in the regular season, but how he performs in the playoffs could determine the Tigers’ fate.
The Pirates’ closer was almost perfect for the first three months of the season, but his injury has forced Pittsburgh to shuffle its bullpen. So far, there have been few problems as Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson and Vin Mazzaro have taken up the slack. But the Pirates have a much better shot at winning the NL Central with their closer healthy. He’s beginning to make a few rehab appearances in the minor leagues, hopeful that he can return to Pittsburgh by mid-September.
The Braves’ offense took off when Heyward was moved to the leadoff spot, and Atlanta has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since. But Heyward was hit in the face with a pitch on Aug. 21, causing him to be out until late in the season. His healthy return will be critical for the Braves once the playoffs begin.
In one of the most significant trades at the deadline, the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Red Sox anticipating the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias will not provide pop to match Peralta, but his defense is terrific.
The Dodgers’ starting pitching has been terrific, and the lineup has been hitting on all cylinders. If there is an Achilles heel for Los Angeles, it would be the bullpen. Jansen closed just 78 percent of his opportunities last season, and allowed 33 percent of inherited runners to score. He’s been much better this season, however, closing 88 percent of his opportunities and allowing just 14 percent of inherited runners to cross the plate.
The most dominant pitcher in the majors this season must continue to confound hitters in the playoffs. The lefty carries a career 5.87 ERA in the postseason, and he needs to be the shutdown ace in order for the Dodgers to win a series — or more.
Throughout his career, there has been little doubt as to Liriano’s immense talent. But his inconsistency has confounded pitching coaches over the years. Right now, he’s the Pirates’ ace, but if he falters, the Pirates’ dream of postseason success could fade with him.
Myers has anchored the Rays’ lineup from the cleanup spot. Since early July, he’s batting .339, and when he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he doesn’t have an RBI, the team is 18-22 (in games he plays).
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 38 saves in 40 chances. But he’s walked 10 in his last 13 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.
Boston’s rebound from last season’s debacle has been remarkable. And Ortiz has been right in the middle of the turnaround. He leads the team in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs. Yeah, he’s sort of a key to the Red Sox hopes.
Puig’s energy and all-out style are fun to watch, yet can be exasperating for his manager because of careless mistakes and spotty concentration. But when he’s on his game, he is a scary figure in the batter’s box. The Dodgers need him to be on.
While the official Quality Start statistic is among the most meaningless, it is critical that teams’ starting pitching get deep into games to save bullpen arms down the stretch. As we saw two years ago in Atlanta, tired bullpens can be disasters late in the season.
Anything baseball can do to ensure that the right calls are made is welcome.
The Rangers’ best run producer (at the time of his suspension), Nelson Cruz, is currently suspended, as is shortstop Jhonny Peralta of Detroit. The Tigers reacted well and added shortstop Jose Iglesias, improving their defense. Texas has managed to improve its offensive numbers without Cruz, but the lineup is not nearly as intimidating with the right fielder missing.
I know the Twins’ elimination number is less than 20 with almost a month to play. But no team will have more say in more pennant races than the Twins. Minnesota has seven games against the A’s and the Rays visit Target Field for three. The Twins will spend the final week hosting the Tigers (3) and the Indians (4).
Since becoming the team’s full-time closer in late June, Boston’s Uehara is 3-0 with 15 saves in 17 chances with an 0.29 ERA. He has 41 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.
Max Scherzer is getting most of the attention in Detroit (and rightfully so) with his 19-1 record. But the horse manager Jim Leyland will lean on in the postseason is Verlander.
He’s been there before. Twice in fact. He’s been to within a strike of winning the World Series. Twice in fact. Last season ended too soon for the Rangers’ manager, and he is determined to have his troops ready for October. Not letting the AL West title slip away like last season is the first order of business.
Boston called up its top prospect in mid-August, and he will be a key for the Red Sox. Shortstop Stephen Drew is batting under .250, and the Sox need an offensive spark from the position. Bogaerts has made three starts at shortstop and two at third. He’s hitting .316 but has just one extra-base hit.
In St. Louis, fans know him by one name. The off-the-charts defensive catcher has proven to be one of the best hitters in the NL this season. Certain to receive serious MVP consideration, Yadier Molina is the most indispensable position player in the pennant race. The Cardinals can ill-afford for him to miss a beat.
One of the best defensive second basemen in the big leagues, Zobrist has also made starts in left, right and short. He’s also hit in each of the first five spots in the batting order. He is the heart and soul of the Rays’ lineup.
The Pirates are over powering the Cardinals, Scherzer can’t finish, but he sure can win, the Rangers are road warriors, the Rays are road weary, the Tigers dominate the Tribe and Craig Kimbrel is good, really good. Explore these facts and more amazing MLB stats from the week of Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
18 Home runs hit by Pittsburgh off St. Louis pitching this season
In contrast, the Cardinals have taken Pittsburgh pitchers out of the yard just three times in the 16 meetings so far this season.
0 Complete games for Max Scherzer of Detroit this season
With one more win, Scherzer could become just the third pitcher in history to win 20 games in a season without completing a start. The only two pitchers to accomplish that are Mike Mussina in 2008 and Roger Clemens in 2001, both with the Yankees.
0.93 ERA for the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo in his last three starts
Gallardo, who has struggled most of the season, has risen to the occasion recently. Those three games just happened to have been against Cincinnati (two) and Pittsburgh, two teams battling for a division title.
50-1 Milwaukee’s record when leading after eight innings
A 6-5 loss to the Angels last Saturday was the club’s first such setback when leading after eight innings. Prior to that loss, the Brewers were the only team this season perfect with a lead going into the final frame.
13-3 Texas’ road record in August
The Texas Rangers finished the month of August with 20 wins, which was just the fourth month in franchise history with as many as 20 wins. The club was especially good on the road, including sweeps over the Angels, Astros and Mariners.
1.33 Dodgers’ ERA last week
As impressive as last week was for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, the last five weeks have been even more impressive in that they have been able to sustain such a high level. Since July 26, covering 35 games, the Dodgers are 28-7 with their pitchers carrying a 1.87 ERA. Opponents are batting just .215 during that time. Think any National League team wants to face that staff in the playoffs?
2,500 Career hits for Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies
The total ranks 96th on the all-time list and is the third-most among active players behind Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki.
0-9 Tampa Bay record outside the Eastern Time Zone in second half
The Rays just don’t travel well, especially long distances. Since the All-Star break, the Rays are 10-3 on the road when playing on Eastern Time. But they’re 0-1 in the Central Time zone, 0-2 on Mountain Time and 0-6 on the West Coast. Not good if you’re chasing a playoff spot.
18 Runs allowed by the Rockies to the Reds in three games
Giving up six runs a game is not good, but it’s not horrible. So what’s the big deal? The Rockies won two of three.
9 Years since Seattle finished ahead of the Angels
You have to go back to 2003 to find the last time the Mariners were looking down at the Angels in the AL West standings. As of Sunday, the Angels were a game and a half ahead of the Mariners.
15-4 Detroit’s record vs. the Indians
The 15 wins mark the most for the Tigers over the Indians since 1960 when the teams met 22 times. It’s also a far cry from the 12-game Cleveland sweep in 1996.
.218 Philadelphia’s batting average since the All-Star break
The Phillies own the lowest batting average in the majors in the second half, which is directly related to…
-117 Philadelphia’s run differential, worst in the National League
Over the weekend, the Phillies dropped below the Miami Marlins in run differential in the National League. The Phillies entered the All-Star break at an even 48-48, with some thought of climbing into the pennant race. Since then, the team is 14-27 with a -72 run differential.
5.1 Perfect innings for Craig Kimbrel
Last week, the Braves closer tossed 5.1 innings without allowing a hit or walk. He notched three saves and a win along the way. For the season, he has 81 strikeouts and 48 hits and walks combined. His WHIP is an impressive 0.847 to go with his 0.95 ERA.
11/10 RBIs/Runs for Shane Victorino last week
The Boston outfielder began the week with a 3-for-3, four-run, 7-RBI, two-homer performance in a big win over Baltimore. His hot hitting continued as he batted .435 for the week with 11 RBIs, 10 runs and six extra-base hits.
The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.
.167 Opponents batting average vs. Boston last week
The Boston pitchers were especially stingy last week, and it wasn’t like they were facing struggling offenses. Well, maybe half of the time they were. Boston squared off with the Dodgers and Giants on the West Coast last week and quieted the bats for both teams.
6.1 Runs per game the Rangers have averaged since losing Nelson Cruz
It was reasonable to assume that the Rangers’ production would suffer when their top run producer was suspended. But, perhaps, this incident has galvanized the clubhouse and inspired players to step up. In the 112 games prior to the right fielder’s suspension, the Rangers averaged 4.3 runs per game and batted .261. In the 18 games since the suspension, Texas is scoring 6.1 runs a game and batting .270.
.341 Tigers batting average over last eight games
Much like the Rangers with Nelson Cruz, the Detroit Tigers haven’t missed a beat offensively with the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. And with Jose Iglesias now patrolling shortstop, the Tigers are much better defensively. Over the past eight games, Detroit is batting .341 as a team with 11 home runs and 48 runs.
7 Runs scored by San Diego in Tyson Ross’s last six starts
The Padres’ young starter has been pitching well, but hasn’t received very much support. Since joining the rotation July 23, Ross has made seven starts going 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. Opponents are batting just .189, yet to figure out his devastating slider. However, the Padres’ batters aren’t exactly doing much better. After scoring six runs in Ross’s start on July 23, the team has scored a total of seven runs in his last six outings.
0.32 Koji Uehara’s ERA since becoming Boston’s closer
The hard-throwing Uehara became the team’s full-time closer in late June, and since then, Uehara is 3-0 with 12 saves in 14 chances with an 0.32 ERA. He has 37 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.
29 Runs allowed by the White Sox over their last nine games
Fortunately for the White Sox the Astros joined the American League this season, because that’s the only team keeping Chicago from being the worst club in the league. But over the past nine games, the pitching staff has been stellar, giving up a total of only 29 runs. Consequently, the team won eight of nine.
.529 Batting average for Houston catcher Jason Castro last week
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.
0.69 ERA for Miami’s Jose Fernandez last week
While the Marlins continue to scuffle through a rough season, Fernandez remains one of the few bright spots on the team. The young righthander won both of his starts last week. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 to finish the week with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA.
1 Career postseason start combined for the Atlanta pitching staff
Kris Medlen started for Atlanta in last year’s wild card game with St. Louis. That is the lone postseason start that any of the current Braves’ starters can claim. Injured veteran Tim Hudson is no stranger to the playoffs, but he is out for the season with a broken ankle.
17-5 Rays record when Wil Myers drives in a run
In games the young outfielder starts, the Rays fare much better when the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate has at least one RBI. When he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he starts and doesn’t drive home a run, the Rays are 17-16.
9 Walks for Joe Nathan in his last 11 innings
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The Texas closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 37 saves in 39 chances. But he’s walked nine in his last 11 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.
85 Total bases for Will Venable since the All-Star break
The San Diego outfielder is leading the majors with 85 total bases since the break. Last season, Venable’s teammate Chase Headley won the National League RBI crown with a torrid second half for the Padres.
13 Wins for the Cubs in interleague play
Chicago leads the NL with 13 wins against American Leaguers, and is done with interleague play with just seven losses. With a record of 12-5, the Pirates are second and have three interleague games remaining at Texas.
11 Extra-base hits for the Braves in their last seven games
After a hot August, the Braves’ bats are beginning to cool down a bit, especially in the power department. The lack of production is putting more pressure on the pitching staff, which has up until this point, pretty much delivered.
40 Stolen bases for Rajai Davis of Toronto
He doesn’t lead the majors, but with only 256 at-bats, Davis could become just the eighth player in history to finish a season with 40 or more stolen bases in fewer than 300 at-bats. Otis Nixon and Alex Cole were the last men to do it, both in 1990.
.186 Dan Uggla’s batting average this season
The Braves’ second baseman recently underwent Lasik surgery to improve his vision. Apparently, the Braves suggested the procedure back in spring training, but Uggla refused. Both the player and the team believe his batting average should improve along with his vision. He’s the only player with enough qualifying at-bats hitting below .210.
13 Consecutive games the Cardinals play the Pirates and Reds
This is certainly a critical stretch for the Redbirds. St. Louis entered the 13-game slate tied with Pittsburgh and 2.5 games ahead of the Reds. All three NL Central contenders have an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack over the next two weeks.
20 Magic number for the Atlanta Braves
The Braves’ magic number continues to creep down, and we’re guessing they’ll clinch the NL East on Sept. 14 at home against San Diego.
No matter where you stand on the issue of counting Ichiro’s 4,000 hits, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the man’s talent and accomplishments. With an approach that makes hitting coaches across the country cringe, the hitting machine is blessed with incredible hand-eye coordination and athletic ability.
He swings at pitches that seem unhittable — even pitches that bounce — and yet he owns more hits during his time in America than anyone, and it’s not even close.
Ichiro is not only a hitter, but a complete player. He’s won 10 Gold gloves, has 10 years of 30 or more stolen bases and few runners dare test his throwing arm from right field. He will be a member of the Hall of Fame one day, most certainly on the first ballot.
Here are a few Ichiro numbers to chew on:
Ichiro By the Numbers
4,000 Total number of hits combined in his 22-year career in Japan and the U.S.
375 More hits for Ichiro than any other major league player during his tenure in the big leagues. Albert Pujols is second with 2,347.
10 200-hit seasons in the majors for Ichiro, tied with Pete Rose for most all-time.
1 Rank all-time in hits for any player for any 13-year period with 2,722. That is 64 more than Pete Rose had from 1968-80, which ranks second.
262 Most hits in any season in the majors, accomplished by Ichiro in 2004.
1, 252 Runs scored in Ichiro’s career, which ranks fourth among all players from 2001-13.
4,922 Combined hits and walks for Ichiro in Japan and the United States. That would rank ninth all-time behind Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Carl Yastrzemski, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Pretty good company.
.320 Ichiro’s career batting average, which ranks third during his career among players with 7,000 plate appearances behind Miguel Cabrera and Pujols.
470 Stolen bases for Ichiro, which is second behind only Juan Pierre during Ichiro’s career.
7 Offensive categories in which Ichiro ranks first in Seattle Mariners history, including: batting average, at-bats, hits, stolen bases, triples, singles and intentional walks. He ranks second in runs, third in total bases and doubles.
1,278 Hits over nine seasons in Japan.
2,722 Hits in the Major Leagues in the U.S., which ranks No. 59 all-time.
Clayton Kershaw continues to dominate, the Dodgers are good, the Astros are bad and Alfonso Soriano has been really hot. These facts and more amazing stats from last week in baseball.
1.23 Clayton Kershaw’s ERA in August
The Dodgers’ lefty was sporting an ERA below 2.00 heading into the month and has improved his ERA from 1.87 to 1.80 in three starts this month.
42 Wins for the Los Angeles Dodgers since June 21
The Dodgers continue to run roughshod over the National League. The hottest team in baseball has but nine losses against 42 wins since June 21.
41 Wins for the Houston Astros all season
Houston fans can take solace that as of Sunday, the Astros were 1.5 games ahead of last season’s pace on August 18.
10 Winless starts for Cole Hamels of six or more innings and two runs or less
This hasn’t exactly been a memorable season for Hamels or the Philadelphia Phillies. The lefthander has pitched in some tough luck and suffered through some paltry run support.
0.24 ERA for Craig Kimbrel over his last 37 appearances
During that time, the Atlanta Braves’ closer is 29-for-29 in saves with 56 strikeouts and 33 hits and walks combined. Opponents are batting .150 with a .431 OPS.
0.658 Career WHIP for Andrew Albers
The Minnesota rookie has plowed through major league hitters like Little Leaguers since his recent call-up. In three career starts, the 27-year-old Canadian is 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA. In 24.1 innings, he’s allowed just 14 hits and two walks.
15-13 San Diego’s record against best NL teams
The Padres seem to play their best against the best. The five National League teams in line for playoff spots — Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Cincinnati — have had trouble shaking the Padres, who have a cumulative winning mark vs. those five opponents.
.682 Alfonso Soriano’s batting average over five-game span last week
The prodigal Yankee began the week 0-for-3 and ended with an 0-for-6, but in between he smashed AL pitching at a 15-for-22 (.682) clip with five home runs and 18 RBIs over a five-game span. In only 21 games in pinstripes this season, Soriano is tied for fifth on the team in homers and seventh in RBIs.
3 Players in history with 10 hits, four homers and 14 RBIs in three games
Last week Soriano was otherworldly hot for the Yankees. Among his recent accomplishments was becoming just the third player in history with 10 or more hits, four or more home runs and 14-plus RBIs in a three-game span. You may remember that Shawn Green did that with the Dodgers in May 2002. But kudos if you knew that Hal Trosky pulled that off with the Indians in September 1936, a year in which he led the AL with 162 RBIs.
3 Teams with losing records to all four division rivals
For just about every team in the majors fans can point to some positive silver lining with a winning record over some other team. Yes, Miami has whipped up on the Mets and Houston seems to own the Angels this season. But three teams — both Chicago clubs and the Los Angeles Angels — own losing records to all four division rivals so far this season. Two other teams are perilously close to joining this club. The Mets somehow have managed to split their 14 games with the NL-best Atlanta Braves, while the Dodgers, of all teams, have losing records to three of the their four division foes and a 6-6 mark against their most hated rival, the San Francisco Giants.
12 Consecutive winless starts for Jerome Williams
Very little has gone right for manager Mike Scioscia and the Los Angeles Angels this season. After underachieving last year, the Halos are 7.5 games worse at the same point this season. Among the notable troubles have been a potential season-ending injury to Albert Pujols last month and Mike Trout’s recent hamstring injury. Starter Jerome Williams now owns the longest string of games started without a win — now at 12 starts. His last win came on June 12 in Baltimore.
.395 Batting average of Tampa Bay’s left side last week
Shorstop Yunel Escobar and third baseman Evan Longoria were raking last week. The left side of the Rays’ infield combined to bat .395 with eight extra-base hits.
56.2 Innings since Hiroki Kuroda has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any starting pitcher.
56.0 Innings since Luis Avilan has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any relief pitcher.
12 Games ahead of last year’s pace for Boston
The Red Sox suffered through a dismal season in 2012 finishing in last place in the American League East. This summer has been a breath of fresh air in Beantown with the Sox 12 games better than at this point last year.
17.5 Games behind last year’s pace for the White Sox
Robins Ventura’s team probably overachieved last season, leading the American League Central late in the season. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction this season on the South Side in Chicago. The White Sox are 17.5 gmaes worse than at this time last year.
24 Braves Magic Number
It doesn’t happen often that you can start talking about magic numbers in mid-August, but the Braves could be closing in on clinching by Labor Day.
Oakland’s Josh Reddick goes on a binge in Toronto, Mo blows up, the Brewers can’t win on Thursdays and Clayton Kershaw can’t lose when he gets four runs. These numbers and more, in this edition of amazing MLB stats for the week of August 5-11.
5 Home runs for Josh Reddick in two days
Prior traveling to Toronto last weekend, Josh Reddick of the A’s had just five home runs in 276 at-bats this season. It’s also the number of home runs he hit over the course of eight plate appearances on Friday and Saturday. He came into the series with the Blue Jays batting .203 with a .326 slugging percentage. He hit three homers on Friday and two on Saturday.
.182 Braves’ opponents’ batting average last week
Atlanta pitching limited the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins to an average of 5.7 hits and 2.3 runs per game. The Braves scored one run total in their two losses.
.299 Boston’s opponents’ batting average last week
The Red Sox pitchers were considerably easier to solve than Atlanta’s last week. The Astros and Royals enjoyed batting against the Sox to the tune of a .299 average. Boston lost four of seven games on the road trip to Houston and Kansas City. The Astros plated 10 runs in a game won by Boston, and the Royals socked 16 hits in a Kansas City win.
21 Years since the Royals or the Tigers had a better record than the Yankees
You have to go all the way back to 1991 to find a season in which Detroit or Kansas City finished with a better record than the Yankees. The string ties the Braves, who have finished better than the Pirates for 21 years as well. As of Sunday, the Braves were a game ahead of the Pirates, but the Yankees trailed the Tigers by seven games and the Royals by 2.5.
27-29 Cardinals’ record since June 7
Since early June, the Redbirds have been terribly mediocre. With a 27-29 record over that span, the Cardinals have seen a four-game lead in the tough NL Central turn into a three-game deficit.
3 Consecutive blown saves by Mariano Rivera
The best closer the game has ever seen finally blew three consecutive games. The first on Wednesday at Chicago when he coughed up a one-run lead after allowing a double to Gordon Beckham and single to Adam Dunn in a game the White Sox would eventually win in 12 innings. On Friday in the Bronx, a two-out, two-run homer by Miguel Cabrera cost Rivera the save, but at least the Yankees won in the 10th on a Brett Gardner single. On Sunday, it was Cabrera again who victimized the closer. Rivera gave up solo shots to Cabrera and Victor Martinez to tie the game. Again, it was Gardner who bailed out Rivera with his second walk-off hit, this one a home run, in three days.
6-7 Blue Jays’ record when scoring five or more runs since the break
The Toronto offense has not been the Blue Jays’ problem since the All-Star break. In 13 games the Jays have plated five runs, usually enough to win for most teams. But in those games, the Jays have won six and lost seven.
18-33 Angels’ record vs. AL West teams
The Angels haven’t competed well within their own division this season, and that can’t make owner Arte Moreno very happy. Outside the AL West, the Angels are 35-31, but can’t seem to shake their closest rivals. Los Angeles has lost the last nine games within its division.
32 Days since the Phillies had a save
The last save for the Philadelphia Phillies came on July 11, the week before the All-Star Game. The Phillies are 7-18 during that stretch and produced just two save opportunities during that time, both resulting in blown saves by Jonathan Papelbon.
1-10 Record for the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday
While there is really no explanation, the Brewers own the worst record on any single day in the majors this season.
49-0 Clayton Kershaw’s career record with four runs of support
The Dodgers’ ace recently lowered his major league-best ERA to 1.88. And you would think with that miniscule number, his win-loss mark would be a bit better than 11-7. But he doesn’t exactly receive the best run support in the league, and it doesn’t take much. When he gets four or more runs in his career, he’s 49-0.
1 Game in the standings gained by St. Louis over the weekend
While the Redbirds were losing two of three at home to the rival Chicago Cubs, the NL Central-leading Pirates were getting swept at Colorado. So there was a little silver lining under the arch.
Mike Trout continues to wow fans in Anaheim, the Braves are once again the hottest team in baseball, J-Hey sparks Atlanta, lefties can't beat the Indians, Pedro Alvarez kills the Cardinals and A-Rod's financial loss. These and other fantastic facts are part of our amazing baseball stats for the week of July 29-August 4.
.719 Mike Trout OBP last week
Opponents could not kept the Angels’ All-Star outfielder off base last week. Trout batted .500 and drew 13 walks.
2 10-game winning streaks for Atlanta this season
The Atlanta Braves ended the weekend with a 10-game winning streak, their second this season. During the first streak in April, pitching ruled the day. The Braves batted .270 and scored 52 runs during that streak and the Braves’ staff posted a 1.48 ERA. During the most recent streak, the hitters posted a .299 average and scored 66 runs while the pitchers’ ERA rose to 2.30.
11 Consecutive wins for Cleveland when opposing a lefty
The Indians are 23-14 this season in games started by an opposing lefthander. The Tribe have won the last 11 games with the last loss coming on June 23 when Pedro Hernandez of Minnesota beat Cleveland 5-3.
8 Consecutive losses for St. Louis when the Cardinals don’t score 13
It’s been all-or-nothing for the Cardinals’ hitters of late. The Redbirds have lost eight of their last 11 and scored three runs just once in those eight losses. The three wins were courtesy of 13, 13 and 15 runs.
.217 Oakland batting average vs. Texas over the weekend
Just as the two teams battled down the stretch last season, the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers are locked in a tight fight for the AL West title this season. The A’s ended the weekend three games up on the Rangers, but the Texas pitchers quieted the Oakland lineup during the three-game series over the weekend, holding the A’s hitters to a .217 average.
0 Games gained by Kansas City after winning nine of 10
The Royals have been red hot lately, winning nine of 10 games. The problem for manager Ned Yost and his troops is that both teams the Royals are chasing in the AL Central — the Tigers and Indians — have also won nine of 10.
10 Games changed in the NL West since July 7
On July 7, the Diamondbacks held a 4.5-game lead over the surging Dodgers in the NL West. Since then, Arizona hitters have struggled, batting just .237. The D-backs ended Sunday 5.5 games behind the Dodgers and fading fast. Going back to June 22, the difference is 15 games.
12 Runs scored by Jason Heyward last week
The Braves’ outfielder was moved to the top of the batting order prior to last week, and immediately began producing dividends. He parlayed a .469 OBP into 12 runs last week to lead the majors and spark the Braves’ offense during their current double-digit winning streak.
32 RBIs for Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates against St. Louis over the last two seasons
Since the beginning of last season, the Pirates’ third baseman has torched St. Louis pitching like no one else. No other player has more than 13 during that time. Considering his struggles to find consistency, it’s arguable that the St. Louis pitching staff is solely responsible for keeping the 2013 All-Star in the big leagues.
.171 Opponents batting average against the Pirates with the bases loaded
The Pirates’ pitchers have allowed just 13 hits — 10 singles and three doubles — with the bases loaded this season in 76 at-bats. The .171 average with the bases full is the lowest in the majors this season.
.363 Opponents batting average against the Giants with the bases loaded
On the opposite end, the Giants’ pitchers have given up 33 hits in 91 at-bats, including eight doubles, a triple and three grand slams.
2.46 Atlanta’s bullpen ERA this season
Led by closer Craig Kimbrel, the Braves’ bullpen has been the best in the majors this season.
10-15 Cincinnati’s record vs. Pittsburgh and St. Louis
The NL Central will most likely be determined by head-to-head games among the three contenders, which is as it should be. The Reds are trailing in that category with just 10 wins against 15 losses to their rivals. The Cardinals are an even 11-11 while the division-leading Pirates are 14-9.
5 Home runs by Kansas City clean-up hitters this season
With only five long balls from the clean-up spot, the Royals own the lowest total in the majors. The Royals’ No. 4 batters also have the fewest RBIs with 44.
33.5 Million dollars Alex Rodriguez stands to lose during his suspension
If Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension holds up, the Yankees’ infielder will lose his $25 million salary for 2014 and almost $8.5 million for the 49 games he will miss this season. A-Rod is scheduled to begin serving his suspension on Thursday, August 8, but all signs indicate that he will appeal and continue to play during that process.
3.8 Million dollars Ryan Braun stands to lose during his suspension
By accepting a 65-game suspension this season, the Milwaukee outfielder will forfeit close to four million dollars in salary this season. If his suspension had carried into next season, his forfeiture would have been much greater due to his higher salary.
5 Times Josh Hamilton has driven in Albert Pujols this season
Certainly, the Angels envisioned much more production from their two superstars when Hamilton was signed over the winter. The plan was to bat Hamilton fourth behind Pujols. Now with the first baseman/designated hitter injured and likely out for the season, the total may not improve.
30-59 Miami Marlins record when Jose Fernandez doesn’t start
The worst team in the National League is really bad when their ace, Jose Fernandez, doesn’t take the hill. The young righthander is supposedly on an innings limit, so he has a limited number of starts left this season. When he starts, the Marlins are 13-8 (.619), which is the equivalent of a 100-win season. In games started by everyone else, the Marlins are 30-59 (.337), or the equivalent of a 107-loss season.
Last season the most impactful trades didn’t seem that impressive when they were announced. But the additions of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro by San Francisco shifted the balance of power toward the Giants in the NL West and eventually led to a World Series championship. Often it’s the little things that seem to matter most, like solid defense, eating innings and clubhouse unity.
The frenzy at the trade deadline last Wednesday never really materialized, but there were a handful of significant trades over the past few weeks that could affect the 2013 pennant races.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox weren’t shy about giving up some prospects, but were steadfast in holding on to rising star Xander Bogaerts, a 20-year-old shortstop expected to contribute next season. Boston acquired a major addition to the rotation with Jake Peavy. The former Cy Young winner usually keeps his teams in games and logs innings, taking pressure off the bullpen. He has some health questions, and the likelihood that he could miss some starts is higher than the Sox would like. But if he makes 10 starts for Boston, the Red Sox are much more likely to fend off Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Matt Thornton, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a separate deal, deepens the Red Sox bullpen.
With the impending suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers took a preemptive strike in trading for Jose Iglesias from Boston. The defensive whiz will immediately upgrade the Tigers’ defense up the middle, and the former Cuban star hasn’t been too shabby with the bat. Detroit has enough offense to withstand the loss of Peralta’s bat, and Iglesias improves the defense. Avisail Garcia is a rising star, but the Tigers need to ensure their position in the playoffs this season, so this deal makes a ton of sense. Other than the Peralta potential situation, the Tigers’ glaring need all season has been bullpen help. Problem solved with the addition of Jose Veras from Houston. Veras has been the lone bright spot in Houston this season with 19 saves.
Like their brethren on the South Side, the Cubs aren’t expecting to seriously contend this season or next. So the Cubs are building their farm system with an eye toward sustaining success through the second half of this decade. The Cubs’ return for Scott Feldman and Matt Garza brought good value for the future, and they were able to unload Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano.
Chicago White Sox
Clearly the White Sox are not going anywhere in 2013, and with an aging roster and the rise of Cleveland and Kansas City, even 2014 may not hold high hopes. So stocking the system with players like Garcia, who should be immediately useful in the big leagues, and prospects Francelis Montas, a 20-year-old flamethrower, J.B. Wendelken, another highly touted pitcher, and infielder Cleuluis Rondon, the White Sox have a brighter future than they did a few days ago. Brandon Jacobs was acquired from Boston in the Thornton deal earlier.
The season is quickly slipping away from the D-Men. I had the Diamondbacks in the Jake Peavy pool, so that didn’t work out too well. The pitching staff is not too bad, especially if Trevor Cahill can come back and be productive soon. Left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher was acquired from San Diego along with minor leaguer Matt Stites, a closer at Double-A, for Ian Kennedy. While this helps the bullpen, offensively the D-backs need lots of help. Paul Goldschmidt has twice as many homers and RBIs as any teammate. He must have some help. Arizona did not improve its roster enough to come back and catch the Dodgers.
The acquisitions of Scott Feldman and Bud Norris boost the rotation, and Francisco Rodriguez adds experienced depth to the bullpen, but the club really could use some pop at DH and protection for Chris Davis. The Orioles are 0-for-11 after an intentional walk to Davis, and don’t think teams don’t notice trends like that. The slugger will be avoided more and more as the season goes along. If rookie Henry Urrutia can fill that role as DH/Davis protector, then the Orioles will have played their hand well. If not, Buck Showlater will be left wishing he had a few more weapons in his arsenal.
Reports that the Rangers were willing to listen on any player speak to how desperate the team is to improve its offense, especially in light of the impending suspension of right fielder and best run producer Nelson Cruz. The team's slugging percentage dropped to .362 in June. The acquisition of Matt Garza gives the Rangers a respectable 1-2-3 punch with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Garza. But the Rangers need offense badly, and that’s with Cruz in the lineup.
With Andrew McCutchen warming up and Pedro Alvarez finally becoming the power threat the Pirates envisioned when they made him the No. 2 overall selection in 2006, the offense is not bad. But for the season the Bucs are batting just .243 with a .390 slugging percentage. A hitter like Justin Morneau or even Marlon Byrd could have been helpful. But the biggest problem could be the bullpen. Clint Hurdle’s plan was working perfectly with Mark Melancon setting up closer Jason Grilli, who was near perfect. But with Grilli out for what could be an extended time, all the roles have shifted and Pittsburgh may begin to let a few close games slip away without additional help.
New York Yankees
With the Orioles adding two starting pitchers and Francisco Rodriguez, the Red Sox bolstering their rotation and even the Rays strengthening their bullpen, the Yankees didn’t do much to address some dire needs. Yes, bringing Alfonso Soriano back was a positive step, but there was nothing done to beef up the pitching staff or find a right-handed hitting first baseman, to say nothing of the gaping hole at third base. The Yankees have gotten just five home runs from the hot corner this season, or the same number the Cubs have gotten from their pitching staff.
The Cardinals’ bats go silent in Atlanta, Jeter returns with a homer, Chris Sale’s tough luck continues and Colorado just can’t win three in a row. These fantastic figures and more amazing MLB stats for the week of July 22-28.
1-8 Record for Chris Sale since the beginning of June
During that time, the tough-luck lefty of the White Sox owns a 2.84 ERA, 1.096 WHIP and opponents are batting just .232.
66 Shutouts by lefthanders against the Red Sox at Fenway Park
In the 102-year history of Fenway Park, there have been just 66 complete game shutouts by left-handed pitchers against the Sox. Matt Moore of the Rays is the latest lefty to shut down the Sox in Boston after his gem last Monday night.
7 Remaining games for Atlanta against winning teams
The Atlanta Braves have 57 games remianing this season, but only seven of them will be against teams that currently have a winning record. The Braves will face the Cardinals — a team they just swept — four times in St. Louis, and Cleveland three times at home.
10 RBIs for Michael Bourn over his last four games
Batting in the leadoff spot for Cleveland, Michael Bourn has been an RBI machine recently.
28 Games the New York Yankees went without a right-handed home run
From June 26-July 27, the Bronx Bombers hit a scant 10 home runs, all of them by left-handed hitters. Robinson Cano led the charge with five, Lyle Overbay hit three and Ichiro Suzuki connected twice. On Sunday, right-handed batters Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano both swatted long balls to break the month-long drought.
13:0 Jose Fernandez’s strikeout:walk ratio vs. Pirates
Last week, the Marlins’ young ace won two games and was devastating to Pittsburgh hitters. In eight innings against the Bucs, he whiffed 13 without walking a batter.
5 Saves for Steve Cishek
Last week, the Miami Marlins closer was busy holding leads for the Fish, something of a rarity this season. Not that Cishek hasn’t been able to hold leads, it’s just that his teammates have given him so few leads to hold. Going into last week the closer had 17 saves. In five appearances last week, he added five to his total.
.154 Cardinals’ batting average in weekend series at Atlanta
St. Louis brought the league’s best offense into Atlanta over the weekend and left with a bat rack full of termites. Atlanta pitchers held St. Louis hitters to a .154 average and just three runs in the three games. Cardinals batters whiffed 22 times and walked three times, grounding into as many double plays (3) as runs.
0.36 Max Scherzer’s WHIP last week
The big righthander tossed two gems last week logging 14 innings and allowing just five hits and no walks for a 0.36 WHIP. He struck out 12 batters and is now 15-1 on the season with a 3.01 ERA.
.196 Indians’ opponents’ batting average last week
The Cleveland pitching staff held opponents to a .196 average and .289 slugging last week, which included two shutouts over Texas.
48 Games since Colorado won three in a row
The Rockies haven’t managed to win three games in succession since way back in May. Tyler Chatwood pitched six shutout innings and the Rockies roughed up Tim Lincecum to win three in a row to improve to 27-21 on the season. Since then, the Rox have won back-to-back games seven times, yet failed to win a third. The drought is the longest current stretch in the majors.
.199 Phillies’ batting average last week
The Philadelphia hitters struggled mightily last week during the trip to St. Louis and Detroit. They batted just .199 with only eight extra-base hits and 10 runs in the six games, all losses.
Erik Bedard willingly leaves a no-hitter, the Marlins can’t score and Brandon Phillips emerges as the best lineup protection in the game. These stats and more in this edition of Amazing MLB Stats for the week of July 15-21.
0 Hits allowed by Erik Bedard in 6.1 innings against the Mariners
Houston Manager Bo Porter lifted Bedard after issuing a walk in the seventh inning. Few pitchers are removed in the midst of a no-hitter, but Porter’s explanation was simple: “He told me too.” It seems that Bedard didn’t have a hankering to top 110 pitches, no matter the situation. At the time he left the game, he had thrown 109 pitches.
.857 Brandon Phillips’ batting average following an intentional walk to Joey Votto
It seems the best personal protector in the majors resides in Cincinnati, not Detroit. The Tigers’ Prince Fielder is 5-for-11 with nine RBIs and an intentional walk following an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera, but that isn’t in Phillips’ territory. Phillips is 6-for-7 with a walk, HBP, three sacrifice flies and 11 RBIs, including two walk-offs.
.000 Batting average of the Orioles following an intentional pass to Chris Davis
On the other hand, Davis gets no protection in Baltimore. He’s received 10 intentional walks this season, and Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy have combined to go 0-for-9 with a walk. That would make Davis’ assault on the all-time American League season home run record a bit tough if teams continue to pitch around the slugger.
37 Consecutive innings in which the Marlins have been shut out
The Miami Marlins’ offense has been non-existent since before the All-Star break. The Nationals held the Fish scoreless in the final six innings prior to the break. Over the weekend, the Brewers’ staff shut out the Marlins three times, the finale going 13 innings.
250 Wins for Buck Showalter as manager for each of four different teams
Recently, Showalter became just the fourth manager to win as many 250 games with a quartet of teams. He won 319 games as the manager at Texas, 313 as the Yankees’ skipper, 250 with Arizona, and now 252 with Baltimore. He joins Joe Torre, Gene Mauch and Dick Williams in the select group. Torre accomplished that with five different teams.
96 RBIs for the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera
Through Detroit’s first 97 games, Cabrera has averaged close to an RBI per game. With four more RBIs, Cabrera will become the 17th player in history with 10 100-RBI seasons. Alex Rodriguez owns the record with 14.
3 No-hitters at the hands of the Lansing Lugnuts
The Lugnuts, the Single-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, have been the victims of three no-hitters this season. The most recent came at the hands of Victor Sanchez of Clinton (Mariners affiliate) in a 1-0 loss. On April 14, Kyle Schepel of South Bend (Diamondbacks) blanked the Lugnuts over seven innings as part of a doubleheader. Four Bowling Green (Rays) pitchers combined to hold the Lugnuts hitless on June 21 at Bowling Green.
17 Runs allowed by Atlanta in three games to AL’s worst offense
One would think that the lowest-scoring team in the American League would be a happy sight for the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. Well, not so fast. The Sox torched Atlanta pitching for 17 runs over the weekend, taking two of three in the interleague series.
1 Hit needed to plate four runs and win by Seattle
After Bedard was lifted in the tilt with Seattle, the Mariners tallied just one hit but managed four runs in the win over Houston.
As news broke yesterday of Ryan Braun’s suspension, I am reminded that when cheating and performance-enhancing drugs are involved, there are many more losers than winners. The fans, the Brewers’ organization, MLB, the Players Association, Braun’s teammates, his opponents, Braun and his family — and even Aaron Rodgers — are all losers in this scenario.
While this is a step in the right direction, and potentially a sizeable step, this is not a win for Major League Baseball. Just as pennant fever is beginning to catch on in cities around the country, fans are reminded of a sordid underbelly of professional sports. And now fans must question how rampant PED use is in MLB. Fans have been told that the game is cleaner than it has been since the 1980s, and we want to believe that, but now there is doubt.
I do believe the game is much cleaner now, and that a vast majority of players want to continue vigorous efforts to rid the sport of PEDs. I believe the process is working. But as we’ve seen from this entire Biogenesis affair, there is still much work to do. As has always been the case — and will unfortunately always be the case — there’s more money in cheating than there is in testing, so for MLB, like the Olympics, cycling, the NFL and other governing bodies, the chase will never end.
I don’t think Braun received due punishment. I think he got off light. However, I understand why MLB is interested in quickly resolving this latest PED issue.
Neither MLB nor Braun has presented any evidence to me (shocker). So any evaluation on my part is a bit presumptive. Having said that, if Braun is guilty of PED use — and by accepting this penalty it is reasonable to assume that he is indeed guilty — a 65-game suspension right now is letting him off too easy.
So why would MLB agree to such a light sentence?
A quick and absolute resolution is good for MLB. Lingering questions and doubt cloud an already murky issue. MLB is likely willing to shorten suspensions in exchange for speedy resolutions.
This first domino in the Biogenesis case will be the standard for the remainder of MLB’s cases against other players. From the physical evidence collected from Biogenesis and, perhaps, the information provided by Tony Bosch, a former employee, MLB had enough to convince Braun that the situation could be worse. Now Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and others face similar dilemmas. How hard do they fight these allegations?
So, with one suspension in the books, MLB can move quickly to close this ugly chapter before the 2013 pennant races heat up, which is what this time of year should be about.
But here’s why this punishment is not enough. Here’s why I don’t feel sorry for Ryan Braun.
Braun will lose close to $3.5 million, a little more than a third of a season’s worth of stats, the trust of the fans, his reputation, and likely any chance of a legacy as one of the great hitters in the game. But let’s take a look at what Braun has left in his wake along the way.
With what will be a 65-game suspension, Braun will forfeit close to $3.5 million, which is his salary for 65 games. That’s not a small sum. However, he cheated and lied his way into a long-term contract that guarantees him close to $120 million through 2020. No suspension for drug use can void that deal. So, $3.5 million is a pittance to pay. A few years ago, the Brewers’ organization with limited resources, could not afford to pay two superstars like Braun and Prince Fielder. The Brewers chose Braun and this is the thanks they get?
So, why would Braun accept a suspension without a fight that costs him more than $3 million? Because it could be that he doesn’t want to fight a losing battle. Or it could be that risking a longer suspension that would drag into next season would cost him even more. This season, Braun loses about $52,400 per game. Beginning next season the tab grows to about $61,700 per game. Besides, aside from the money, this season is a loss already for the Brewers, and with a nagging wrist injury, Braun would be able to return healthy, rested and fresh for spring training. So the time and money lost could be much worse.
He has tarnished his reputation. But if we remember his last altercation with MLB over illicit substance use, Braun’s defense was based on the handling of his specimen. The outfielder and his camp called into question the integrity of the collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr., attempting to tarnish his reputation. There is no sympathy here for anyone who chooses to unfairly question another’s integrity merely in the name of self-preservation.
Braun has lost the trust of baseball fans in Milwaukee and across the country. Poor guy. Again, it’s difficult to feel bad for a guy who accepted the 2011 NL MVP award at the BBWAA dinner with the following statements: “I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity. I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been done with that respect and appreciation in mind. And that is why I’m so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight.”
And what about that 2011 MVP award? How would you expect Matt Kemp to react? Braun is not being asked to give that trophy back. And how do the members of the Arizona Diamondbacks that season feel? Braun, after testing positive to grossly inflated testosterone levels at the end of the season, was allowed to play in the postseason and batted .500 in the five games vs. Arizona. Do any of those guys feel cheated? You bet they do.
So, 65 games during a season going nowhere in Milwaukee and $3.5 million just doesn’t seem like much to pay for robbing baseball, lying to teammates and fans, challenging an innocent man’s integrity and building a career based on a lie.
The Rays’ pitching is stingy, the Mariners’ bats get lively, a Brew Crew starter finally completes a game, the Pirates finally answer the A’s and Tim Lincecum finds his groove with a no-no. These notable numbers and more from the week of July 8-14.
3 Complete games by the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching staff last week
The Rays' starters completed more games last week than starters of 18 teams have all season.
8:1 Strikeout:Walk ratio of the Rays’ pitching staff last week
The Rays are challenging the Red Sox in the AL East having won 17 of their last 21 and 14 of 16. The pitching dominated the Twins and Astros last week with 64 strikeouts and just eight walks. Rookie Chris Archer made two starts and logged 15 innings without issuing a free pass.
418 Games played by the Milwaukee Brewers between complete games
Milwaukee starting pitchers have taken the hill in 418 games — including 11 in the postseason — without throwing a complete game. Wily Peralta notched the first complete game of his career and the first for the Brewers since Yovani Gallardo tossed a two-hit shutout of the Braves on April 5, 2011. The game was also the first that Peralta’s mom, Miledy Peralta, saw her son pitch in person as a professional.
16-3 Pirates record when scoring two or more runs since June 16
Pittsburgh’s pitching has been dynamite over the past month. It doesn’t take much from the offense for the Bucs to pull out a win. Since the middle of June, whenever the lineup has mustered as much as two runs, the Pirates’ pitching makes it stand up — at least 16 of the past 19 times.
34 Home wins for Tampa Bay
That total is the most in baseball, but the Rays’ 21-22 road record leaves them with the third-best record in the American League, and fifth-best overall. If the Rays don’t win the AL East, it could be important that they host the wild card game rather than go on the road.
.524 Seattle Mariners’ slugging percentage last week
The mark led the majors as the Mariners put up 48 runs over seven games. The team batted .310 with 19 doubles and 11 home runs. The pitching staff wasn’t quite up to the task, which led to a 4-3 record. The Mariners have now homered in 22 consecutive games, raising their slugging percentage from .378 to .401 over that stretch.
74 Starts between complete games for Tim Lincecum
For more than two seasons, the former Cy Young winner has struggled with velocity and command. But last Saturday, The Freak finally put it all together and no-hit the San Diego Padres. Lincecum broke a string of 74 starts without finishing what he started.
24-14 Philadelphia’s record within the NL East
The Phillies own the best record in games within their division. They have just three NL East games (Mets) prior to the trade deadline. All but four of the Phillies’ September games are within their division, which may give them confidence they can win the division this season.
+127 St. Louis Cardinals’ run differential
The Redbirds ended the first half with a +127 run differential, easily the best in the majors. Only three other teams in the majors have a run differential more than half that of St. Louis (Boston +91, Detroit +89 and Atlanta +78).
2 Players in history with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs prior to the All-Star break
Both Chris Davis of Baltimore and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera accomplished that this season.
11-1 Oakland’s all-time record vs. Pittsburgh
Since Interleague play began in 1997, no team has dominated another across league lines like the Oakland A’s have owned the Pittsburgh Pirates. The teams have rarely met, but when they got together prior to this season, it was all Oakland. The A’s swept three-game series in 2002, ’04 and ’10 before taking the first two of the three-game set this year. But lefthander Francisco Liriano helped the Pirates break the string by leading Pittsburgh to a 5-0 win on July 10, giving the Pirates a 1-11 record against the A’s.
.488 Allen Craig’s batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs
The highest average in any one season in the 2000s with a minimum of 60 plate appearances is .472 by Ichiro Suzuki with Seattle in 2004. At .475, Miguel Cabrera of Detroit also has a chance to top Ichiro’s mark this season.
9 Extra-base hits in last nine games for the Yankees
The Yankees have been anything but the Bronx bombers of late. Over the past nine games, they’ve managed just five doubles and four home runs. All nine games were played at Yankees Stadium, typically a hitter-friendly park for the home team.
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (St. Louis Cardinals) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Tomorrow, MLB will announce the 2013 All-Star teams, and undoubtedly there will be some questions. Anytime you have fans electing players, there’s an overwhelming element of popularity, not necessarily performance. Players have their say as well, with the ability to select a few of the reserves, then the managers — Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Jim Leyland of Detroit — will fill out the enormous rosters of 33 players. I’m pretty sure I’ll disagree with the fans, who will elect the starting lineups, and most likely will disagree with the managers who select the reserves. After that process, and the rosters are announced on Saturday, fans once again will have the opportunity to make the final 34th selection for both teams.
That’s right. There are 34 players on each All-Star roster. So before we get to my selections, let’s think about that number 34. Of that number, 13 will be pitchers. That leaves 21 position players. If you took the two best players at each position, that accounts for only 16 spots, so if the fans totally screw up and elect a player who is not one of the best two at his position, there is room to cover that mistake, if the managers so choose. And inevitably, there will be the teams that have no true deserving All-Stars, like maybe Houston, Miami and the Cubs, for example. With 21 position players and 13 pitchers, I think there are enough roster spots available to cover that as well.
It’s time to end the argument about having every team represented costing deserving players All-Star recognition. Maybe some players are more deserving, but if players are not one of the best two at their respective position, they have no real argument in my mind. If you take away the rule that every team must be represented, then among the next dominoes to fall should be shrinking the roster to 28 and taking away the fans’ vote.
I like having the fans select the starting lineups. I like having every team represented. I don’t like tying anything about the All-Star Game to where World Series games are played, which is an ill-conceived idea.
But I’ll step off of the soapbox for now. Here are the players who would receive my vote:
(starting lineup and batting order)
LF Mike Trout, Los Angeles
The rising superstar isn’t having quite the season he put together last year, but he’s the best outfielder in the AL.
2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston
There are several reasons the Red Sox quickly erased their struggles from a year ago, but Pedroia has had the biggest impact.
3B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
There is currently no Cabrera-Trout debate for MVP this season — it’s all Miggy, who has 85 RBIs through the Tigers’ first 84 games.
1B Chris Davis, Baltimore
Actually, the MVP debate may be Davis-Cabrera, if there is a debate. Baltimore’s first baseman leads the majors with 32 home runs.
CF Adam Jones, Baltimore
Acquired in a heist from Seattle for pitcher Erik Bedard, Jones has played at an All-Star caliber level for the past five seasons in Baltimore.
DH David Ortiz, Boston
Big Papi is the best DH alive, perhaps in history. He’s been in the top 10 in the AL in average, homers and RBIs for most of the first half.
RF Nelson Cruz, Texas
The Rangers’ right fielder makes the starting lineup because of his ability to hit in the clutch.
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota
OK, maybe his contract is becoming an albatross for Minnesota, but Mauer can still hit and is solid behind the plate.
SS Jhonny Peralta, Detroit
The candidates at shortstop are few in the American League, but Peralta deserves to start even in a crowded field. Only Cabrera has a higher average on the AL Central leaders.
P Max Scherzer, Detroit
Most fans outside Detroit recognize the name Verlander much more quickly, but Scherzer is the Tigers’ best starter with a 13-0 record.
Sal Perez, C, Kansas City
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Toronto
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Los Angeles
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland
Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland
Manny Machado, 3B, Baltimore
J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore
Torii Hunter, OF, Detroit
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston
Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto
Clay Buchholz, P, Boston
Hisashi Iwakuma, P, Seattle
Felix Hernandez, P, Seattle
Chris Sale, P, Chicago
Bartolo Colon, P, Oakland
Yu Darvish, P, Texas
Justin Masterson, P, Cleveland
Glen Perkins, P, Minnesota
Mariano Rivera, P, New York
Joe Nathan, P, Texas
Jim Johnson, P, Baltimore
Grant Balfour, P, Oakland
(starting lineup and batting order)
LF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
CarGo is on the short list of MVP candidates in the NL. His production could suffer without Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup for the Rockies.
CF Andrew McCutchen Pittsburgh
Beyond Gonzalez, there are about six outfielders with equal arguments to start. But McCutchen makes the Pirates go and plays terrific defense.
DH Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Many players believe Votto is the best pure hitter in the game.
1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
The NL RBI leader deserves the start ahead of Votto at first this season, but maybe never again.
3B David Wright, New York
Quickly becoming Mr. Met in New York. The hometown fans will love seeing their superstar at the hot corner on the 16th.
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Widely considered the best defensive catcher in the majors, Yadi leads the NL in batting and has 45 RBIs. The Cardinals’ leader sits atop the MVP list for the first half.
2B Matt Carpenter, St. Louis
Having never played second in the minors, and with just 18 innings at the position prior to this season, Carpenter leads all NL second basemen in batting average, runs, extra-base hits and OPS.
RF Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee
Surprise! The outfielder representing the Brew Crew is not named Braun.
SS Sean Segura, Milwaukee
In all fairness, Tulowitzki of Colorado deserves to be the All-Star shortstop, having put together a brilliant first half. But being able to take the field is important for an All-Star and Segura is having a stellar season for the Brewers.
P Matt Harvey, New York
Maybe Adam Wainwright is more deserving to start but not by much. But I can’t resist having the Mets’ youngster throw the first pitch in the midsummer classic in his home ballpark.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco
Allen Craig, 1B, St. Louis
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego
Gerardo Parra, OF, Arizona
Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati
Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia
Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado
Carlos Beltran, OF, St. Louis
Adam Wainwright, P, St. Louis
Clayton Kershaw, P, Los Angeles
Cliff Lee, P, Philadelphia
Patrick Corbin, P, Arizona
Jordan Zimmermann, P, Washington
Travis Wood, P, Chicago
Jose Fernandez, P, Miami
Jason Grilli, P, Pittsburgh
Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta
Edward Mujica, P, St. Louis
Jonathan Papelbon, P, Philadelphia
Aroldis Chapman, P, Cincinnati
Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis goes off, no one steals on the Dodgers and Cardinals, Chris Davis is still crushing it and Brandon Phillips loves the bases loaded. These and more amazing MLB stats for the week of June 24-30.
.606 Jason Kipnis’ OBP last week
In addition to batting .478 for the week, the Indians' Kipnis drew eight walks to boost his on-base percentage to .606. He scored nine runs and drove home 10.
.459 Batting average for a Cabrera in June
But it wasn’t Miguel. It was shortstop Everth of San Diego before he injured a hamstring and missed a couple of weeks. The mark was the highest average in the majors for the month.
0 Stolen Bases allowed by the Dodgers
Last week, there were just four stolen base attempts against the Dodgers and none were successful. Ben Revere — otherwise successful 80 percent of the time — was caught twice, Jimmy Rollins — successful 87 percent of the time since 2005 — was nabbed, as was Gregor Blanco of the Giants. Pitcher Stephen Fife was on the mound for three of the attempts, and A.J. Ellis was behind the plate for three.
0 Stolen Base attempts against the Cardinals
Last week, no one even tried to run on St. Louis. In June, the Cardinals allowed just two stolen bases in four attempts.
7 Times a player has finished June with 31 or more home runs
Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles homered twice on June 29 and once on June 30 to finish June with a total of 31 home runs. Barry Bonds has the highest mark with 39 in 2001. Ken Griffey Jr. is the only player to accomplish it twice.
5 Teams Without a 3-Game winning Streak in June
The St. Louis Cardinals claimed the majors’ best record throughout the month of June, but they were among the five teams that never put together a winning streak of more than two games in the entire month. The Mets, Rockies, Giants and Mariners were the others.
12-0 Record for Kansas City in June when the lineup produces four runs
The Royals’ pitchers have shown that they don’t need much support. Last month, when the offense produced four runs, it resulted in a W. The Royals were a disappointing 4-5 when the pitchers allowed exactly three runs.
.299 June batting average for the Boston Red Sox
It was the best in the majors for the month, which helped the Sox increase their lead in the AL East.
.225 June batting average for the New York Yankees
Better than only the lowly Houston Astros, the lack of hitting caused the Yankees to slip to fourth place in the AL East.
7 Hits with the bases loaded for Brandon Phillips of Cincinnati this season
In nine at-bats with the bases full this season, Phillips has six singles, a home run and 15 RBIs.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
The A’s are hot, the Yankees and Rangers’ bats are not. Competition in the NL West is getting tight and Dustin Pedroia is tough with two. These and more amazing MLB stats are here from the week of June 10-16.
22-7 Oakland A’s record since May 15
The A’s have been smoking hot since the middle of May. With a 22-7 mark from May 16-June 16, the A’s own the best record in the majors during that time, three games better than the next-best mark of the Braves.
.000 Opponents batting average off of Johnny Cueto with the bases loaded
This isn’t that small of a sample. It’s over the past three seasons. Batters are 0-for-29 with three walks against the Reds’ righthander with the bases full.
8-2-3 W-L-T in road series for St. Louis this season
The Cardinals finally lost a road series for the first time since the opening set at Arizona. And it wasn’t to the division rival Reds, or the NL East-leading Braves, or even one of the contenders in the West. The Redbirds’ road series loss came at the hand of the worst team in baseball, the Miami Marlins.
.333 Dustin Pedroia’s batting average with an 0-2 count
That number includes the past two seasons. Not surprisingly, it is the highest among all players with as many as 50 plate appearances down 0-2.
24 Runs scored by the Yankees in their last nine games
Maybe the New Yorkers are missing Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and — dare we say — Alex Rodriguez — a little bit.
8 Runs scored by the Rangers over six games
Not to be outdone by the Yankees’ pathetic offense, the Rangers hitters took a vacation as well. During a recent six-game skid, Texas was outscored 34-8.
2 Games separating four teams in the NL West
After a few hiccups by division leader Arizona, and a torrid streak by the Padres, the NL West has become a cluster of four contenders. With Colorado losing Troy Tulowitzki for a significant period, the Rockies may struggle to stay in the hunt. With Yasiel Puig doing his thing and Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp set to rejoin the Dodgers’ lineup soon, it may be too early to count the Dodgers out, making this a five team free-for-all in September.
5 San Diego pitchers with saves over a 10-day period
From June 6-15, the Padres won seven games, using five pitchers to get six saves. Lefty Eric Stults didn’t need relief help in a two-hit, 2-1 win over Arizona. But the other wins required bullpen assistance as Brad Boxberger, Dale Thayer and Nick Vincent each notched their first saves of the season. The saves were the first in the careers of both Boxberger and Vincent. Long-time setup man Luke Gregerson notched a pair of saves over this stretch before closer Huston Street returned from the DL to his familiar role and adding a save.
.444 Anthony Rendon’s June batting average
The Washington Nationals’ highly touted prospect has been swinging a hot bat this month. Too bad his teammates haven’t joined the hit parade. They have combined to hit just .216 in June.
5.54 First-inning ERA for Shelby Miller
If hitters are going to get to the Cardinals’ young righthander, they better erupt early. Miller’s ERA is a robust 5.54 in the first inning, then drops to a miniscule 1.58 afterwards. Opponents are batting .357 in the first frame, then just .175 after he settles in.
30 Games since San Francisco has won three in a row (and counting)
You have to flip the calendar all the way back to May 12 to find the last three-game winning streak by the Giants. That was 30 games ago. Since then, the defending champs are 12-18.
.211 Aggregate batting average of White Sox 4-5-6 hitters
Typically, the heart of the batting order is expected to produce runs and set the tone for a team’s offensive punch. Guess this is why the Sox have dropped to last place.
0-for-3 Mets bullpen in save opps in June
I’m not sure what is more startling about this. The fact that the Mets are 0-for save opportunities, or that they have just three chances this month.
1 Games in June in which the Royals have allowed more than three runs
The Kansas City pitching staff has buckled down and been downright nasty this month. Only once in their first 15 games have the Royals allowed more than three runs. That is the definition of keeping your team in the game and giving yourself a chance to win. The Royals are 11-4 in those games.
.500 OBP of Yasiel Puig through his first 13 games
The rookie outfielder continues to provide amazing stats with each game. Once Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez join the youngster in the lineup regularly, the Dodgers just may battle back into contention.
2.91 Astros ERA in June
Sure, we’re only half way through the month, but after a 5.55 ERA in April followed by a 5.06 number in May, Houston fans should celebrate any ERA under 4.00 at this point.
.389 Adam Dunn’s batting average last week
With that huge week, the Big Donkey raised his season average from .165 to .189, or still about 96 points below his weight.
11-15 Record for the Texas Rangers without Ian Kinsler
The Rangers’ second baseman returned last week after being out of the starting lineup for 26 games. Kinsler made his last start on May 16, before returning over the weekend. The Rangers were 27-14 prior to his injury.
5 Key number of runs for the Pirates
In June, when the Bucs plate five runs or more, they are 5-0. If the pitching staff coughs up five or more, not good. The Pirates are 0-6 when giving up five or more runs in June.
3-9 New York Mets record in June, worst in the majors
4-11 Texas Rangers record in June, worst in the AL
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Puigmania hits Los Angeles, the Redbirds finally win in extras, Cleveland can't win on the road and is Howie Kendrick really the Angels' best hitter? These and more amazing stats from the week of June 3-9.
13 Hits for Yasiel Puig in his first seven games
Not since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 has a rookie for the Dodgers taken the baseball world by storm like Puig. The rookie totaled 13 hits in just seven games, including four homers and 10 RBIs. That is the most hits for any Dodger in his first six games since 1900. Puig’s accomplishments include four home runs, two outfield assists and 10 RBIs.
.042 Starlin Castro’s June batting average
The Cubs’ shortstop began the month in a 1-for-24 slump. In seven games, he scored three runs and his only hit was a double. His OBP is a sparkling .179 due to a couple of HBPs, but he’s slugging just .083.
1 Extra-inning win for St. Louis in 2013
The Cardinals may have the best record in baseball, but when opponents take them into extra frames the Redbirds struggle. It wasn’t until this past Sunday when the Cards plated seven runs in the 10th inning at Cincinnati that the club won its first extra-inning game this season in five tries.
11 Consecutive road losses for the Indians
Just as manager Terry Francona had his troops charging into contention, the Indians have played miserably on the road. After defeating the Red Sox at Fenway on May 23, the Tribe has dropped three at Boston, two at Cincinnati, three at Yankee Stadium and three at Detroit. Cleveland was outscored 67-35 in those games.
19 Runs allowed by the Braves in their last nine games
Atlanta pitching has been especially stingy of late. The staff has allowed more than three runs just twice over the past 12 games. The Braves are 8-4 in those games.
20-8 Oakland’s record within its division
In order to win a division title, teams must play well against their rivals. The A’s ended the week with the best intradivision mark in baseball.
.542 Howie Kendrick’s batting average last week
The Angels’ second baseman now leads the club with a .317 average for the season and has more total bases then teammates Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and more RBIs than Hamilton.
11-6 Nationals record in one-run games
Where would the Nats be without a little luck in winning tight games? Washington hitters are struggling and the pitching is keeping the team afloat, especially in close games. The Nationals are the best team in the NL in one-run games.
.184 Pirates batting average last week
The Bucs’ hitters didn’t enjoy the road trip to Atlanta and Chicago at all. Pittsburgh bats were held to a .184 average as the team lost four of six and fell farther behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.
3 Most runs allowed in a game in June by Kansas City
The Royals began the month on a 6-2 tear led by a stingy pitching staff. No opponent has managed more than three runs in any game in June as the Royals have outscored foes 29-15 through the first eight games of the month.
3-10 White Sox record since Memorial Day weekend
Over the holiday weekend, the White Sox swept the Marlins and celebrated reaching the .500 mark for the first time since April 10 when the team was 4-4. Since then, the team has slumped and lost 10 of 13 and sunk to the bottom of the AL Central.
2 Number of batters Adam Wainwright has faced with the bases loaded
In 96 innings, Wainwright has faced just two hitters in a bases-loaded jam. He retired them both.
0 RBIs for Andre Ethier since May 20
The Dodgers’ right fielder last drove in a run on May 20 and is batting .150 with three extra-base hits since then.
1 Day spent above .500 by the Phillies
Last Thursday, the Phillies defeated the Brewers 5-1 to extend their winning streak to five games and push their record above .500 at 31-30. The excitement didn’t last long as the Phils dropped three in a row to the Brew Crew over the weekend.
8 Stolen bases by Everth Cabrera last week
The speedy shortstop for San Diego hit .485 with a .514 OBP last week and stole eight bags, getting caught just once. He managed to score only three runs as the Padres lost four of seven.
.431 Paul Goldschmidt’s average with runners in scoring position
The Diamondbacks’ first baseman, who leads the National League with 58 RBIs, is batting just .283 without ducks on the pond.
.199 Red Sox and Orioles combined batting average vs. each other this season
The two AL East rivals will meet for an important four-game series this weekend. They’ve met just once for a three-game set in early April in Boston this season. During that series the pitchers ruled the day. The two teams combined to hit .199.
6 Pitches into the career of Curtis Partch when he gave up a grand slam
It took seven seasons, 210 games and 702.1 innings in the minor leagues before Curtis Partch reached the major leagues with Cincinnati. The right-handed reliever made his major league debut on Sunday against St. Louis. But in all of his wisdom, Reds manager Dusty Baker decided that facing Matt Holliday in the 10th inning with the bases loaded and one out would be an appropriate spot for Partch to get his feet wet.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)