Articles By Charlie Miller
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (St. Louis Cardinals) and worst (Miami Marlins) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
1. Cardinals Plated seven 10th-inning runs Sunday for first extra-inning win.
2. Red Sox Only four games left in June vs. losing teams.
3. Braves Given up 19 runs over their last nine games.
4. Rangers Nelson Cruz is batting. 367 with RISP and two outs.
5. A’s At 20-8, A’s have majors’ best intradivision record.
6. Reds Should spruce up record vs. Cubs and Brewers this week.
7. Pirates Bucs batted just .184 last week.
8. Yankees Still don’t seem to be missing any superstars.
9. Diamondbacks Patrick Corbin: 9-0, 1.98; rest of rotation: 13-21, 4.91.
10. Tigers Swept Cleveland to build their biggest lead of the season.
11. Orioles Important four-game series with Red Sox this weekend.
12. Rays Have won nine of 10 against NL foes.
13. Rockies Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are best 1-2 punch in NL.
14. Giants Buster Posey leads National Leaguers in All-Star votes.
15. Nationals 11-6 record is best NL mark for one-run games.
16. Phillies Spent one day over .500 this season — last Thursday.
17. Padres Everth Cabrera stole eight bases last week.
18. Indians Lost 11 straight (and counting) road games.
19. Angels Howie Kendrick hit .542 for the week.
20. Royals Opponents yet to score more than three runs in a game in June.
21. White Sox 3-10 since reaching .500 on Memorial Day weekend.
22. Twins Bullpen owns 1.14 WHIP and 2.93 ERA.
23. Mariners Jesus Montero batting .250, playing first base since demotion.
24. Dodgers Andre Ethier’s last RBI came on May 20.
25. Blue Jays Jose Reyes’ return on the horizon.
26. Brewers Where would this team be without the late signing of Kyle Lohse?
27. Cubs Starlin Castro mired in a 1-for-24 slump.
28. Mets Taken seven of eight vs. AL teams.
29. Astros Lucas Harrell looks like a real ace.
30. Marlins Play six of next nine vs. division leaders.
AL Player of the Week
Brett Gardner, New York
The fleet outfielder had the best week of his season with 13 hits last week. The Yankees won six of seven and Gardner batted .520 with a home run, five runs and six extra-base hits. He capped the week with three hits on Saturday and four on Sunday.
AL Pitcher of the Week
David Phelps, New York
The righthander was inserted into the starting rotation in May, and the Yanks have won six of his eight starts, including two last week. Phelps tossed six shutout innings against Cleveland, then allowed only one run over six frames in a 2-1 win at Seattle.
NL Player of the Week
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles
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.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Kris Medlen, Atlanta
The Braves and their fans carried high expectations of Medlen into this season after his terrific showing in 2012. In starts against Pittsburgh and the Dodgers last week, Medlen gave up just one run — which was unearned — over 13.2 innings to earn two wins. He also socked the first home run of his career.
Dom Brown finally goes off for the Phillies, Nationals can’t support their pitchers and the Tigers and Pirates struggled for runs. Another installment of some amazing numbers from MLB for the week of May 27-June 2.
7 Home Runs by Domonic Brown last week
The long-time, seemingly underachieving, prospect of the Phillies finally had a breakout month. After a .233-3-11 April with a .681 OPS, Brown responded to hit .319-13-29 with a 1.055 OPS over his next 30 games. Could the Phillies finally have the next anchor of their lineup?
17-13 Nationals record when they allow 1, 2 or 3 runs
The pitchers in Washington are getting the job done, it’s just that the team has a little trouble giving them any runs to work with. They are 7-1 when allowing just one run. But that drops to 7-6 when giving up two, and only 3-6 when allowing three runs. Put in layman’s terms, the Nats could maintain a 2.00 ERA and win about 92 games at this rate.
5 Pitchers who made six starts in May with a sub-2.00 ERA
Lefties Cliff Lee of Philadelphia, Jeff Locke of Pittsburgh, Mike Minor of Atlanta and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers joined righty Stephen Strasburg of Washington to comprise the quintet of hurlers with six starts and an ERA below 2.00 in May. The aggregate record of the group is 14-3 with 13 no-decisions in their 30 starts in May.
11-5 Phillies record vs. Mets and Marlins
With a three-game set against Miami this week, the Phillies have an opportunity to improve that mark. They are 16-25 against everyone else, including 2-4 vs. the Braves and Nationals, their other two NL East rivals.
5 Straight wins for the Astros
Houston finished the week with a five-game winning steak, including a sweep of the Angels in Los Angeles, but remains four games behind next-to-last in the AL.
14 Hits for Chris Davis last week
Lest you believe that Davis’s start this season is somewhat of a fluke, his bat has yet to cool off for the Orioles. He produced 14 hits last week, including four that left the park, and scored a majors-best 10 runs in leading Baltimore to a 5-2 mark for the week.
0-4 Record in May for James Shields
The Kansas City Royals’ righthander was winless in May despite a 1.08 WHIP and 2.92 ERA in his five starts.
3-1 Record in May for Jason Hammel
The Baltimore Orioles’ righthander won three games in May despite a 1.70 WHIP and 6.44 ERA in his five starts.
3 Singles by the Pirates to start an inning but didn’t score
On May 30, the Pirates touched Detroit pitcher Doug Fister for three singles without plating a run in the bottom of the fourth. Neil Walker singled, then was caught stealing. Andrew McCutchen and Garret Jones followed with base knocks before Russell Martin whiffed and Travis Snider flied out to left. No big deal, but…
4 Singles to start the fifth by the Tigers without scoring
The next inning, the Tigers did the Bucs one better. After the speed-challenged Matt Tuiasosopo and Bryan Pena opened with singles, Avisail Garcia lined a single to right and Travis Snider gunned out Tuiasosopo at the plate while holding Pena on second. Pitcher Doug Fister singled, but Pena was held at third. Two ground balls later, and Pittsburgh hurler Jeff Locke was safely out of the inning. Oh, the Pirates won 1-0 in 11 innings.
0 Shutouts by the Brewers this season
The Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup is formidable, but the pitching staff? Well, it’s pretty bad. The Brew Crew is the only staff in baseball without a shutout this season.
5 Walk-off losses this season for the Brewers and Marlins
Milwaukee and Miami lead the majors in being walked-off.
19 Home runs in 169 at-bats for David Ortiz when playing first base since 2005
While the debate over the DH rages, Ortiz continues to produce whether DHing in American League parks or manning first base in NL parks.
8 First inning run support for St. Louis pitchers’ debuts
Three youngsters made their major league debuts in the St. Louis rotation in May, and the Cardinals’ offense staked each to a lead after the first inning. The offense produced three first-inning runs for John Gast against the Mets on May 14. Tyler Lyons was also given a three spot against San Diego on May 22. Then Michael Wacha, the most heralded prospect of the three, was given a pair of runs against the Royals on May 30.
.409-6-21 Average, home runs and RBIs for Wil Myers in last 10 games at Triple-A Durham
The Rays would love to avoid Myers earning Super 2 status with extra service this season, but it’s time to give the prospect a call. Over his last 10 games at Triple-A Durham, he’s batting .409 with six home runs and 21 RBIs.
.433 OBP for Matt Carpenter since being moved to the leadoff
St. Louis manager moved Carpenter to the leadoff spot permanently on May 2 and the former TCU standout is batting .339 with 21 runs in 27 games. He has started at second, third, first and right field during that stretch, and St. Louis is 19-8.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Only hard-core baseball junkies are familiar with these names now, but in a few years all baseball fans will recognize these stars. Here’s a brief look at stars of the future who have yet to make their debuts in the major leagues.
Taijuan Walker, Seattle
With above-average fastball, curve and change, Walker is clearly a future starter, but he must harness control issues. Through 10 starts at Double-A Jackson, opponents are batting just .190, but he has issued 27 walks in 59 innings.
Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
Acquired from the Giants for Carlos Beltran, the righthander possesses a fastball that nears triple digits. Fine-tuning his command and breaking pitches will get him to the majors, and that isn’t far away. In nine starts and 48.1 innings at Triple-A Las Vegas, he has 49 whiffs and allowed only 45 hits.
Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (pictured)
Last season, his first in pro ball, he progressed from High-A to Triple-A where he made one start. In 10 starts at Triple-A this season, opponents are hitting just .207. Cole owns a major-league ready fastball and curve. He’ll be in Pittsburgh by August.
Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh
Pitching at Double-A this season, Taillon’s fastball will reach the upper 90s. He has 63 punchouts in 55.2 innings this season with a 2.19 ERA. As soon as he develops other pitches, he’ll join the
Pirates’ rotation, which should be in 2014.
Danny Hultzen, Seattle
The second-best left-handed prospect shined in his first four starts at Triple-A but hasn’t pitched since mid-April due to a rotator cuff problem. Red flag.
Archie Bradley, Arizona
After five tremendous starts at Single-A, Bradley has been even better at Double-A this season with a 0.69 ERA in five outings. He turns 21 in August and is on a fast track to the big leagues, although the Diamondbacks are adamant about not rushing him.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay
With a fastball that reaches 98 and a tight slider, Archer could end up in the bullpen. Tampa Bay is his third organization and he’ll be 25 before the season ends.
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Obtained in the R.A. Dickey trade over the winter, Syndergaard hasn’t disappointed the Mets. In nine starts at High-A Port St. Lucie, the 6'6" righthander has 52 strikeouts in 50.2 innings and has given up just one home run.
Jonathan Singleton, Houston
Long considered a top prospect in Philadelphia, Singleton is currently serving a suspension for a drug violation. He’s probably better suited for DH.
Keon Barnum, Chicago White Sox
The strong 20-year-old has prodigious power. The question will be whether he can develop consistency at the plate.
Kolten Wong, St. Louis
Nothing about Wong will wow you except that he is a ballplayer. Speed, bat and glove are all just a tad above average, but his instincts, will and work ethic should land him a job in the majors and keep him there a long time.
Delino DeShields, Jr., Houston
Speed is his greatest asset, and the son of the former major leaguer has solid makeup and athleticism. He projects as a sturdy leadoff hitter and if his defense doesn’t cut it at second, he’ll make a solid center fielder.
Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore
Originally a shortstop, Schoop can play all over the infield. Second base seems to be where the Orioles need him most.
Nick Franklin, Seattle
Originally a shortstop, Franklin has split time at both middle infield positions this season. In 2010, he had 23 homers and 25 steals at Single-A Clinton.
Miguel Sano, Minnesota
Sano turned 20 a few weeks ago and is tearing up the Florida State League with a .354 average and 23 extra-base hits including 11 homers in his first 40 games.
Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (pictured)
A few years ago, Lindor was the youngest player in the Futures Game. He’s considered the best defensive shortstop in the minors, and is batting .331 at Single-A.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
While not as refined at the plate as Lindor, Baez has more power. It will be interesting to see who eventually moves to third base, Baez or current Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston
If Jose Iglesias ever blossoms for Boston, Bogaerts could move to third, shifting Will Middlebrooks to first.
Carlos Correa, Houston
His glove is well ahead of his bat, but his .410 OBP this season at Single-A isn’t too shabby.
Addison Russell, Oakland
He’s scuffling at .189 this season, but hit .369 across three levels in 2012.
Hak-Ju Lee, Tampa Bay
In the midst of a breakout season at the plate for Triple-A Durham, Lee suffered torn knee ligaments and will miss the remainder of the year.
Oscar Taveras, St. Louis
Without question, Taveras is the highest-prized prospect not yet called up to the big leagues. The Cardinals’ expectation is that he will be a regular in the Redbirds’ outfield next season.
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Outside of Jurickson Profar, Myers has received more attention than anyone in the minors this season. Only a matter of time before he’s helping Evan Longoria carry the Rays’ offense.
Christian Yelich, Miami
The 21-year-old has 20 extra-base hits, 23 runs and 23 RBIs in his first 26 games at Double-A.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota
Twins fans have been dreaming of an outfield that includes Buxton and Aaron Hicks. Buxton is still a few years away, and Hicks has appeared overmatched so far this season.
Nick Castellanos, Detroit
Originally a third baseman, he moved to the outfield this season, which is his quickest track to Detroit. Castellanos is a pure hitter with developing power.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati
Most fans are familiar with his 155 steals last season. But in his first foray into Triple-A, he’s struggled at the plate with a .228 average and .286 OBP.
Bubba Starling, Kansas City
Drafted in 2011, Starling chose the Royals over the opportunity to play quarterback at Nebraska. He hasn’t exactly exploded onto the scene, hitting just .213 this season at Single-A.
Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are excited about the young outfielder, currently hitting .296 and slugging .528 at Single-A Daytona.
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed to a seven-year, $42 million deal out of Cuba last year, Puig has raw power and gave the Dodgers a glimpse during spring training just how good he can be.
Mike Zunino, Seattle (pictured)
The third overall pick in 2012 progressed quickly up to Double-A last season hitting .333 in 15 games. Success hasn’t come as easy at Triple-A this season, but the Mariners are convinced he is their long-term solution behind the plate.
Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
Multiple knee injuries have prevented d’Arnaud from being in the bigs already. His forte is his bat with some power. He’s worked diligently to improve his throwing. The Mets would love to see him completely healthy and in New York in 2014.
Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
He won’t turn 21 until December and has serious power. He hasn’t mastered the nuances behind the plate, but he has a terrific arm. He’s currently hitting .279 at High-A Tampa.
Austin Hedges, San Diego
The Padres spent $3 million on their 2011 second-round pick believing he would be a long-term solution behind the plate. Defensively he has all the tools to be one of the best. His bat will probably never grade as high as his glove, but he has 11 walks and only 11 whiffs so far this season at High-A
Lake Elsinore, which lifts his OBP.
Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta
The Panama native’s prowess behind the plate and outstanding throwing arm may alone be enough for him to replace Brian McCann by 2015. If he improves his plate discipline, that could happen sooner.
Each week, Athlon Sports highlights the most important, intriguing and bizarre stats in baseball.
Matt Cain is giving up bombs, Ryan Howard is wilting in the clutch, James Shields has little to show for his efforts and the consistent Joey Votto just keeps hitting. Here’s this week’s Amazing Stats for May 13-19.
2 Games Braves played with best lineup
Atlanta is in first place in the NL East, but the club has played just two games — last Friday and Saturday — with what manager Fredi Gonzalez expected to be his best eight in the field. Catcher Brian McCann has been recovering from shoulder surgery, and right fielder Jason Heyward missed some time after an appendectomy. The Braves won both games.
.050 Ryan Howard’s batting average with RISP, two outs
Entering this season, Howard carried a career .268 average with runners in scoring position with two outs. So far in 2013, he’s 1-for-20.
3 Teams still perfect this season when leading after six innings
The Texas Rangers blew their first save of the season over the weekend against the Tigers, but won the game anyway to go to 23-0 when leading after six innings. The Yankees (21-0) and Cleveland (19-0) are the other two teams. Coincidence that all three reside in first place?
13 Home runs allowed by Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants this season
The total leads the majors and is four more than Cain gave up in all of 2010, when he logged more than 220 innings.
22 Percent of the Dodgers’ RBIs driven in by Adrian Gonzalez
Earlier this season, Carl Crawford was responsible for an inordinate high percentage of the Dodgers’ runs. Now Gonzalez shows a similar high percentage of the team’s RBIs. It’s time for Matt Kemp to step up and contribute to the offense.
2 Players to hit three homers in a loss twice since 2000
Players have hit three home runs in a losing cause a total of 16 times since 2000. Two players have done it twice. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers did it for the second time last Sunday night. Sammy Sosa did it twice in 2001.
.583 Joey Votto batting average for the week
Quietly and consistently, the Reds’ first baseman shows why he is the best hitter in the National League. He hit .583 last week with a pair of home runs, five RBIs and seven runs. He drew five walks to go with his 14 hits over the six games.
.193 Batting average of leadoff No. 1 hitters against Kansas City
Leadoff hitters haven’t fared well against the Royals’ pitching this season. This average is 32 points lower than the next best (Pittsburgh, .225). The Royals are also the only team yet to give up a home run to the first batter in the lineup.
2 First batters of any inning to score off Yu Darvish
Going into his start against the Tigers last Thursday night, Yu Darvish of Texas had not allowed the first batter of any inning to score this season. In fact, just 10 of 53 had even made it the first 90 feet. That changed in the third inning when Don Kelly of Detroit homered off of the Texas righthander. Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta led off the fourth inning with a homer as well. Now 12 of 61 have reached base safely, and just two have scored.
16 Scoreless innings for Justin Masterson last week
The Cleveland ace pitched a complete game shutout over the Yankees and followed up with seven shutout innings in a 6-0 win over Seattle. For the week, he threw 16 innings, gave up seven hits, five walks and struck out 20. The surging Indians have won eight of Masterson’s 10 starts this season, scoring a total of three runs in the two losses. Masterson is working on a scoreless innings streak of 19.1 innings.
.509 Miguel Cabrera’s batting average with runners in scoring position
With two outs and RISP, Miggy’s average jumps to .600. It’s no wonder he’s a candidate to win a second Triple Crown this season.
.077 Martin Prado’s batting average with runners in scoring position
Among batters with as many as 35 ABs this season, Prado owns the lowest average. But it’s still early and this is a relatively small sample size, so expect this number to climb. The Diamondbacks are in first place despite this deficiency.
5 Starts of 8+ innings and three or less runs for James Shields
Kansas City’s James Shields continues to get saddled with tough losses. He’s gone eight innings in his last three starts, given up a total of five runs (four earned) and is 0-2 during that time. Shields has pitched eight innings or more five times this season, giving up three runs or less each start. For his efforts, the team has rewarded him with an 0-3 record in those games.
2 St. Louis Cardinals batting .400+ with RISP
There are a scant nine hitters with as many as 35 ABs batting .400 with runners in scoring position. Matt Holliday of St. Louis ended the week at .444. Teammate Allen Craig stood at an even .400. The Cardinals are the only team with two at or above the .400 mark.
14-9 Baltimore’s road record this season
The Orioles ended the week as the only team with a winning record on the road and a losing mark at home (9-11).
15 Times since 2010 Jaime Garcia has left a game with a lead, but didn’t win
The St. Louis lefthander has had the toughest luck of any pitcher in baseball since 2010 with his bullpen holding leads. He’s left with a lead 15 times, only to see the advantage — along with his win — disappear.
.149 Opponents batting average vs. Matt Harvey
The young New York Mets’ ace has held hitters to a .149 average, the best in the majors this season.
.369 Opponents batting average vs. Vance Worley and Joe Blanton
Hitters are feasting on Worley and Blanton this season.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Texas Rangers) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
1. Rangers—Texas survived first blown save and three HRs by Miggy.
2. Cardinals—Young pitchers must step up to replaced injured starters.
3. Yankees—In first place in tough division despite numerous injuries.
4. Red Sox—Would like to have Justin Masterson-Victor Martinez trade back.
5. Reds—Johnny Cueto’s return improves an already strong rotation.
6. Pirates—Tied for second-best record in NL.
7. Giants—Lost four games in which they’ve scored six runs or more.
8. Braves—First time all season best lineup on the field together.
9. Nationals—Sputtering offense has scored just nine runs in last six losses.
10. Indians—Won 17 of 21, but can starting pitching hold up?
11. Rays—Injury to David Price could be devastating to surging Rays.
12. Tigers—Starting pitchers did not enjoy trip to Texas.
13. Diamondbacks—Won nine of 13 to bolt back into first place.
14. Rockies—Plated 31 runs while taking three of four from Giants.
15. Orioles—Winning road record (14-9), losing at home (9-11).
16. A’s—Won three one-run games in sweep over Royals.
17. Phillies—Ryan Howard: .050 with runners in scoring position, 2 outs.
18. Padres—Won 15 of last 20 when not playing at Tampa Bay.
19. Royals—Leadoff hitters are batting just .190 off K.C. pitching.
20. Mariners—No. 9 hitters batting an NL-esque .151.
21. Twins—Tough tests at Atlanta and Detroit this week.
22. White Sox—Offense begins and ends with Alex Rios.
23. Cubs—Would Cubs really consider a move from Wrigley?
24. Mets—David Wright/Daniel Murphy: .307; rest of team: .209.
25. Blue Jays—Batted .303 last week, but team ERA was 5.02.
26. Dodgers—Adrian Gonzalez has 22 percent of team’s RBIs.
27. Angels—This lack of winning isn’t what Albert Pujols signed up for.
28. Brewers—Lineup is too good to be this bad.
29. Marlins—Suffered four three-game sweeps this season.
30. Astros—Thankfully, Houston and Miami will not meet in 2013.
Al Player of the Week
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Miggy continues to separate himself from the rest of the league, much like Barry Bonds did 10 years ago. With four hits, including three home runs, Cabrera raised his major-league leading batting average to .387. He batted .429 with seven RBIs and seven runs for the week.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Justin Masterson, Cleveland
The surging Indians have won eight of Masterson’s 10 starts this season, scoring a total of three runs in the two losses. The new Cleveland ace pitched a complete game shutout over the Yankees last week, and followed up with seven shutout innings in a 6-0 win over Seattle. For the week, he threw 16 innings, gave up seven hits, five walks and struck out 20.
NL Player of the Week
Joey Votto, Cincinnati
Quietly and consistently, the Reds’ first baseman shows why he is the best hitter in the National League. He hit .583 last week with a pair of home runs, five RBIs and seven runs. He drew five walks to go with his 14 hits over the six games.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati
After a complete game win over Miami, Bailey tossed seven shutout innings at Philadelphia in the Reds’ 3-2 loss. Over his 16 innings last week, Bailey allowed 11 hits, a walk and struck out 13.
Cincinnati can win only against bad teams, Dee Gordon is fast, the Texas bullpen is good and the Astros may have trouble when they play at Texas. Here are these and other amazing stats from the week of May 6-12.
27 Retired Rockies in order by Shelby Miller
The young St. Louis righthander made just one start last week, but what an outing it was. Miller allowed a leadoff single to Eric Young in the first inning, then retired the next 27 Rockies in order. Obviously, he doesn’t get credit for a perfect game, and the one-hitter was the first shutout of his career.
23-4 Giants outscored Braves by 19 over the weekend
After the Braves defeated the Giants 6-3 behind the pitching of Julio Teheran on Thursday night, the rest of the weekend series shaped up for three pitching duels. Matt Cain and Tim Hudson on Friday, Madison Bumgarner vs. Paul Maholm on Saturday with Tim Lincecum and Kris Medlen going on Sunday. However, the Giants’ pitchers were the only arms doing any dueling. San Francisco bashed Atlanta pitching as the Giants outscored the Braves 23-4 in the final three games.
1 Time this season Josh Hamilton has driven home Albert Pujols
When Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno signed former MVP Josh Hamilton last winter for $125 million over the next five seasons, just a year after signing Albert Pujols to a record deal, he probably expected a little more. Fans were excited, too about the prospects of Hamilton hitting cleanup behind Pujols. But through Sunday, Hamilton had driven in Pujols just once this season.
5-11 Atlanta Braves record in their last 16 road games
During that stretch, the Braves’ ERA has ballooned to 5.52. In the team’s first seven away games this season, the club was 7-0 with a 1.41 ERA.
11.2 Seconds it took Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon to score from first
Gordon, on first after a single to right, was off and running on a double by Nick Punto off the Diamondbacks’ Wade Miley. Gordon, whose father was known as Flash, raced around the bases in 11.2 seconds as timed by the media.
4 Fewest home losses, and road wins for any team
The Texas Rangers have lost just four games at home this season, the fewest in the majors. Their Texas brethren in Houston have won just four road games, also the fewest in the big leagues this season. The Astros have yet to visit their division rival this season with nine games to play at Texas.
6-13 Cincinnati’s record against winning teams
The Reds are feasting on the downtrodden this season. The Reds ended the week with a 16-3 record against losing teams, and just 6-13 vs. winning teams. Beginning this week, the Reds’ next 12 games are against losers.
19-3 Detroit’s record when scoring 4+ runs
When the Tigers score three runs or less, their pitchers have little hope. The team is 1-12 when scoring fewer than four runs. Strangely enough, the Tigers have yet to score exactly five runs in a game this season.
15, 10 Home runs and stolen bases by the Blue Jays
Last week the Toronto Blue Jays dominated the power/speed categories. The Jays led the majors with 15 long balls and 10 swipes.
.600 Joe Mauer’s OBP last week
The Twins’ catcher, batting in the No. 2 hole, is batting .465 in May with a .574 OBP. He has scored 13 in the last 11 games.
0 Blown saves by the Texas Rangers
The Texas bullpen has been charged with closing out 12 games and remains the only team in baseball with a perfect record. Texas relievers have been called on a combined 28 times with the game on the line, and each time the pitcher has done his job. Joe Nathan gets most of the ink with his 11 saves. Michael Kirkman has one save, Derek Lowe has one hold and Joe Ortiz has two. However, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers have done much of the heavy lifting. Ross has stranded all 15 runners he has inherited. Scheppers has inherited just three, but left them all on base.
31 RBIs for Brandon Phillips and Troy Tulowitzki this season
The Reds’ second baseman and Rockies’ shortstop are tied atop the National League with 31 RBIs. No middle infielder has led the senior circuit in ribbies since the great Ernie Banks in 1959 when he drove home 143 during the second of his back-to-back MVP campaigns.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Texas Rangers) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Last night, Adam Rosales of Oakland launched an apparent game-tying home run in the ninth inning at Cleveland only to have it ruled a double by the umpiring crew. After reviewing the call via replay, the umpiring crew, led by Angel Hernandez, emerged and held Rosales at second base.
MLB, slow to enter the digital age and catch up to the wonders of instant replay with the ability to right wrongs called on the field, still has much work to do to with its replay system.
It’s pretty clear that the three umpires reviewing the play were the only people who believe the ball hit the outfield wall. I’ve watched replays of the Oakland broadcast, the Cleveland broadcast and heard replays of both teams’ radio calls, and every announcer involved felt it was clearly a home run. In every replay I saw it appeared the ball hit the dark railing beyond the wall, clearly above the yellow line marking the top of the outfield fence. I’ve yet to see or hear any reports of anyone saying, “Good call, that ball hit the wall.” And I’m sure we won’t.
So how did Hernandez and his crew miss that? Good question. If you want to give the umpires the benefit of a doubt, there have been complaints from the arbiters in the past that they don’t have access to all the angles that fans see at home. Why that might be the case is unclear, unacceptable and certainly something that should be rectified immediately. But in this case, I’m not sure what angles might be inconclusive. The ball hit the railing. It changed direction above the wall. Unless the umpires were viewing replays on a black and white, 14-inch, non-HD monitor, I don’t understand how they could reach their conclusion.
Now we don’t know that the outcome would have been different. Had the home run counted, the game would have been tied with the A’s batting in the ninth inning. At any rate, this was a pivotal call. And MLB must get these calls right.
MLB’s replay system failed. The system didn’t just fail the A’s, but all of baseball. If the system in place can’t guarantee the right call in this situation, then how do we expect any calls to be right?
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
There's never a shortage for cool numbers in baseball. Cleanup hitters struggle, a former utilityman goes off and some dude who's never closed games before is perfect. Go figure (which is what we've been doing).
1.150 Bryce Harper’s OPS for April
At age 20, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals led the National League with a 1.150 OPS in April, becoming the youngest player to lead the NL in OPS after April since 1965 when Ed Kranepool of the Mets batted .418 with a 1.161 OPS. In case you’re wondering, the New York first baseman ended the season at .253/.675.
12 Saves in 12 attempts for closer Jason Grilli of the Pirates
The 36-year-old righthander had just five saves at the major league level and three in the minors — in his career — prior to closing games for Pittsburgh this season.
16 Home runs for Boston at Toronto this season
In six games at Toronto this season, the Red Sox have clubbed 16 homers. Boston bats have been much quieter in their other 25 games totaling just 17 clouts.
.591 Ryan Raburn’s batting average for the week
The former Detroit utilityman has found a home in right field in Cleveland. Last week, Raburn hit .591 with two four-hit games, a three-hit game and a two-hit game. He homered twice in back-to-back games for his only four long balls of the season. During the week, he raised his season batting average from .214 to .344.
.188 Batting average for Milwaukee cleanup hitters this season
After losing Prince Fielder to free agency prior to last season, the Brewers enlisted third baseman Aramis Ramirez to hit cleanup and protect Ryan Braun in the lineup. Ramirez responded well last season. But the third baseman has spent most of this season on the DL and the Brewers have found no suitable replacement behind Braun.
8 RBIs by the Mets’ Ike Davis this season
It’s not for the lack of opportunity, Davis has come to bat with 37 runners in scoring position this season. He’s 4-for-27 with 13 Ks with ducks on the pond.
12 Stolen base attempts for St. Louis in 2013
These are not your father’s St. Louis Cardinals. The running Redbirds of the 1980s made the stolen base fashionable as Whiteyball turned the Cardinals into one of the best clubs throughout the decade. With just 12 stolen base attempts this season, St. Louis ranks last in the majors. At least the 83 percent success rate is tied for sixth. Two players have more steals than the entire Cardinals team.
14 Strikeouts for Yu Darvish vs Boston
In his last start, Darvish whiffed 14 Boston batters over seven innings. It was the second time this season that the young righthander has struck out 14. He punched out 14 Astros during the first week of the season. Darvish is only the second Texas Rangers pitcher to strike out at least 14 batters in one game twice. The other? Nolan Ryan, of course, who did it seven times.
11 Come-from-behind wins for Kansas City this season
In those 11 comeback wins, 10 different players have driven home the winning run.
6 Pinch-hit home runs for Jordany Valdespin
Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets has six home runs in 59 career pinch-hitting appearances. The extra outfielder has four homers in 212 non-pinch-hitting plate appearances.
6 Consecutive seasons St. Louis has ended April in first place
The Cardinals’ conversion rate over the past five years for completing the season in first place is just 20 percent.
37.2 Innings pitched by the Oakland bullpen last week
The busy bullpen logged more innings than the starters last week. Of course, it didn’t help that the A’s and Angels played 19 innings on Monday. The starters threw 35.1 innings.
4 and 1 Saves and Wins for Sergio Romo of San Francisco last week
San Francisco’s closer made five appearances last week and notched four saves and a win. He retired 15 of the 18 batters he faced, allowing just three singles. His durability and reliability permit Bruce Bochy to manage games cautiously to the Giants’ advantage.
11 Wins by the Yankees of less than three runs
The Yankees are not afraid to play close games. And why not with Mariano Rivera lurking in the bullpen. Of the Yankees’ first 18 wins, five of them have been one-run games and six of the wins were by two runs.
6 Catcher Interference calls this season
Of the six catcher interference calls in the majors this season, D-backs hitters have been the beneficiaries three times. Can you coach that?
.182 Phillies batting average last week
The Phils surprisingly managed to win two of six games last week with the worst batting average in the majors for the week. Philadelphia defeated Miami twice, but was shutout twice, once by the Marlins and once at Cleveland.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Texas Rangers) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
At the end of the season, the major awards voters will evaluate players in their own way, with a variety of definitions applied to the word “Valuable” in Most Valuable Player. There are the Sabermetricians who will argue each player’s effect on his team winning, commonly using the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stats. Traditionalists will focus on raw stats that can be calculated without logarithms. But what about the players that teams can ill-afford to lose, the truly indispensable? Some of the players mentioned below will get MVP consideration, others will not. But at this point in the season, these are the 15 most indispensable players.
Each week during the 2013 MLB season, we highlight the most important, intriguing and bizarre stats in baseball.
.516 David Ortiz’s Batting Average
Big Papi is back and the Red Sox are loving it. Already in first place in the AL East, Boston received a lift when Ortiz returned recently. He’s hit safely in all eight games he’s played batting .516 and driving in 11 runs. Dating to last July 2, the slugger has a 20-game hitting streak and is batting .471 during the stretch with a .743 slugging percentage and .558 OBP.
39 Strikeouts by Braves hitters during weekend at Detroit
The Tigers swept the Braves and Detroit pitchers dominated Atlanta hitters. Led by Anibal Sanchez’s 17 whiffs — a single-game franchise record — on Friday night, the Tigers’ pitchers held Atlanta to a .186 average and just five walks in the series.
37:1 Strikeout-to-walk ratio for Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals’ ace set a modern record with 35 strikeouts to start the season before issuing his first walk. Through the week, he had four wins, 37 Ks and just one walk. Not since the dead ball era has a pitcher won 20 games and finished the season with more wins than walks.
.177 Yankees shortstops’ batting average
Just how much do the Yankees miss Derek Jeter? This season Yankee shortstops are batting a combined .177 with just one home run, seven RBIs and seven runs. Last season at the end of April, Jeter was hitting .389 with four homers, 13 RBIs and 16 runs.
12 Homers for the Marlins and Justin Upton
Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins ended his home run drought over the weekend with a clout on Saturday and two on Sunday. Those were his first homers of the season and tied the Marlins with Justin Upton of the Braves with 12 this season.
.151 Cubs batting average with RISP
There must be something about Chicago this season. The White Sox own the lowest mark in the American League at .188.
9 Saves for Mariano Rivera
With three saves last week, Rivera has nine this season. Only once (2011) in his Hall of Fame career has Rivera had nine saves in April prior to this season. The Sandman just keeps going and going and going.
.143 Combined batting average for Adam LaRoche, Adam Dunn and B.J. Upton
The trio will make a combined $37 million this season. They are currently batting a combined .143 with 11 homers and 24 RBIs. The home run and RBI totals would rank second and fourth in the majors, respectively.
34 At-bats with RISP for Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera
Last season’s American League Triple Crown winner is batting .500 with 23 RBIs in those situations. With two outs and runners in scoring position, his average jumps to .615.
14 At-bats with RISP for Paul Konerko of the White Sox
Like Cabrera, Chicago’s first baseman is batting .500 in those situations, but has just 11 RBIs.
.198 Kansas City cleanup hitters batting average
The Royals are one of the most improved teams in the majors this season. While most teams expect their cleanup hitters to produce runs, especially with the long ball, the Royals are getting very little production. At the end of the week, No. 4 hitters for K.C. were hitting .198 with no home runs and just six RBIs.
0 Home runs by cleanup hitters against Detroit pitchers
Through 24 games, Detroit pitchers have given up 12 home runs, but none of them were hit by opposing cleanup hitters in their 88 at-bats.
5 Home runs for Brandon Crawford
Not Buster Posey or Pablo Sandoval, and not even Hunter Pence was leading the Giants in home runs by week’s end. It was shortstop and No. 8 hitter Brandon Crawford who led the Giants with five homers. Crawford had just seven career homers coming into this season.
1.54 ERA for Matt Harvey
The Mets’ Harvey is 4-0, and lest you think this might have something to do with pitcher-friendly Citi Field, the rest of the Mets’ staff is 6-13 with a 4.88 ERA.
3.14 ERA of the Chicago Cubs rotation
While this speaks well for the Cubs’ starters, their 5-12 record speaks volumes about the Cubs’ anemic offense.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
The Chicago White Sox finally passed Joey Votto in the Walk Chase, but there remain some amazing digits from the Week of April 15-21.
8-of-9 Batters struck out by Greg Holland
After a rough couple of weeks to begin the season, Kansas City closer Greg Holland was absolutely lights out last week. In three appearances, he faced nine batters and struck out eight to notch three saves for the surging Royals.
10 RBIs for Boston’s Mike Napoli
First baseman Mike Napoli is more than earning his $5 million salary so far this season. Last week, he drove home 10 runs in seven games as the Red Sox went 5-2 to move into first place in the AL East. For good measure, Napoli bookended that week with two RBIs on the Sunday before and five ribbies the Monday after for 17 RBIs over a nine-game span from April 14-22. He now leads the AL in RBIs.
6.28 ERA for the Yankees’ fourth and fifth starters
How important are fourth and fifth starters? Presumably a team’s fourth starter will take the mound as many times as its ace. And the No. 5 man only a few less. The Yankees are cruising when CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda take the hill. The trio is a combined 8-3 with a 2.69 ERA. Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are not pulling their weight just yet. The two are 1-3 with a 6.28 ERA.
.322 Batting average for Baltimore’s first five hitters
Managers expect the top of the lineup to produce runs. They expect the 1-2 hitters to get on base, be able to run and set the table for the run producers at the 3-4-5 spots in the order. The Orioles are meeting all of Buck Showalter’s expectations in that regard. None of the Orioles’ AL East brethren is close to Baltimore’s .322 average. Boston is the next best at .285.
.114 Batting average for Baltimore’s last four hitters
But a successful lineup must have depth. And Baltimore doesn’t. The Orioles are getting very little production from the bottom of the order.
.179 Batting average for Mets cleanup hitters
The Mets’ No. 4 hitters, primarily Ike Davis, are batting just .179. But the news isn’t all bad, the cleanup hitters have produced 12 RBIs, which equates to about 114 over a full season.
27.8 Percent of Dodgers runs scored by Carl Crawford
The former All-Star appears to be returning to form. He’s batting .338 with a .427 OBP and has scored 15 runs (tied for 10th in MLB). His teammates are having trouble touching all the bases. Only the Marlins (43) have scored fewer runs than the Dodgers (54) this season. Just two other players — Austin Jackson of Detroit (23.8) and Desmond Jennings of Tampa Bay (20.5) — have scored more than 20 percent of their teams’ runs.
.232 Pirates batting average
It’s not that the Bucs are the worst hitting team in the majors, there are six teams with lower batting averages. It’s just that, as of the end of the week, the Pirates had outscored their opponents 68-66 in spite of their offensive inadequacies.
4 Hitters below .210
Four Twins with enough qualifying at-bats are hitting below .210. That’s right four. The Braves are the only other team with as many as three below the .210 line and six teams have none. Bottoming out for the Twinkies is rookie Aaron Hicks at .059.
9 Run support for Felix Hernandez – Total
King Felix has toed the rubber for the Mariners four times this season and the offense has produced very little for the ace. Seattle has managed nine runs in the four games. Although Hernandez had a 2.51 ERA, his record stood at 1-2.
.222-2-8 Batting average, home runs, RBIs for Josh Hamilton
The Angels’ right fielder signed a 5-year, $133 million deal over the winter, but has yet to hit his stride with his new team in Anaheim. But let’s wait until May 5 to judge Hamilton too harshly. Last May 4, Albert Pujols’s line looked rather dismal as well at .194-0-5. The Angels were 10-17 at that point last season.
.383/.179 Detroit’s Austin Jackson’s batting averages in the Tigers’ wins and losses
Yes, the Tigers have last season’s Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, who is off to a terrific start this season, and Torii Hunter, who has found happiness to the tune of a .390 batting average, in the lineup. But the Tigers go as their leadoff man goes. In Detroit’s nine wins, Jackson is batting .383 and has scored 15 runs. In the nine losses, he stands at .179 with only four runs.
200 Career wins for Roy Halladay of the Phillies
He joins Andy Pettitte as the only active pitchers with at least 200 wins. But Tim Hudson of the Braves is scheduled to go for No. 200 on Wednesday at Colorado. CC Sabathia of the Yankees is just six wins away from the milestone.
.149 On-base percentage for Jeff Keppinger
Keppinger has yet to draw a walk this season in 74 plate appearances. With a .153 batting average and two sacrifice flies, Keppinger of the White Sox is the only player of the 189 with enough qualifying at-bats with a higher batting average than OBP.
9 Games the Miami Marlins have plated fewer than two runs
Through 19 games the team is on pace for 77 games with fewer than two runs. The most in a season in the 2000s for any team is 45 by the 2011 San Diego Padres.
7 Players with more home runs than the Marlins
Three of those hitters — Justin Upton, Bryce Harper and John Buck — call the NL East home.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
It’s tough to gauge just which rookies will emerge this season. Some players—like the Rays’ Wil Myers—are expected to become stars, but the Rays haven’t called Myers up from Durham yet. Others, such as Evan Gattis of the Braves, have an excellent opportunity to show what they can do now, but once regular catcher Brian McCann returns from injury, Gattis’ playing time will all but disappear.
Just two weeks into the season, the sample size is small, but it’s fun to dissect a few notable numbers from the early going. Here are a few from the week of April 8-14.
20 Walks for Joey Votto
The former MVP of the Reds is on pace for 270 walks this season. He has drawn a walk in every game this season save one. In that lone game, he was 3-for-4. But we know that 12 games is a small sample size, and at some point NL pitchers will find a way to pitch to him. Perhaps even more remarkable than Votto’s 20 walks is that the entire White Sox team has but 16. I guess patience at the plate isn’t such a virtue on the South Side of Chicago.
1.82 ERA for the Atlanta Braves
At the end of two weeks, the Atlanta pitching staff has been downright filthy, clearly the main reason the Braves are off to such a hot start. With an ERA of 1.82, the Braves are so much better than the season’s standard. Only three other teams have an ERA below 3.00.
0 Home runs hit last week by teams from Florida
The Tampa Bay Rays have just five home runs on the season, and didn’t go yard last week as they went 1-4 with one rainout (thankfully). It wasn’t any better in South Florida. The Marlins scored just six runs in six games against the Braves and Phillies, winning one and losing five.
2.78 ERA for Miami starting pitchers
Just how bad is the run support in Miami? Bad enough that a few starters may need to be put on suicide watch. The rotation has a respectable combined ERA of 2.78. Their won-loss record is a combined 1-6.
20.1 Paul Maholm scoreless innings
Prior to this season, Paul Maholm owned a 66-84 record in 216 career starts and a 4.26 ERA, primarily with the Pirates. He has averaged 9.6 hits per nine innings and 5.7 strikeouts. This season he has yet to allow a run in 20.1 innings and has found a strikeout pitch. He’s whiffing batters at a rate of 8.9 per nine innings and allowing just 4.9 hits. The lefthander ended the week with 14.2 shutout innings over the Braves’ division rivals Miami and Washington, both games on the road.
39 Scoreless innings for St. Louis pitchers
The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff recently put together a streak of 39 scoreless innings. A stretch that included a shutout over division favorite Cincinnati and two whitewashes of Milwaukee.
33 Scoreless innings for Milwaukee hitters
Ryan Braun broke the string with a two-run homer off of St. Louis reliever Trevor Rosenthal, a clout that also ended the Cardinals’ scoreless streak.
6.09 Bullpen ERA in St. Louis
Just how badly do the Cardinals miss closer Jason Motte? The reliever is out with an elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery and the shakeup in the St. Louis bullpen hasn’t yielded great results. The starters are certainly carrying their load with a 1.82 ERA and a combined 7-2 record as of Sunday. The bullpen? Well, that’s been sketchy. Relievers have combined for a 6.09 ERA, three losses, no wins and four blown saves in six opportunities.
1.67 Home ERA for Colorado pitchers
It seems that it may not be too tough to pitch in the thin air of Denver after all. Or maybe it has to do with cold — dare we say, frigid — air. It’s a small sample, but in 27 innings at Coors Field, the Colorado staff has allowed just 24 hits and five earned runs. Jhoulys Chacin, Jeff Francis and Jon Garland all chipped in with a quality start and the bullpen allowed just one run in 8.1 innings. On the road, they seem to be more themselves with a 4.92 ERA.
.632 Prince Fielder’s batting average for the week
The hottest hitter in the majors over the past week collected 12 knocks in six games, leading the majors with 11 RBIs over that span. He batted .632 with nine walks and just two whiffs. He finished the week with a .527 OBP and .833 slugging percentage.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Today, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, honoring the man who broke baseball's color barrier amid tough circumstances in 1947. Perhaps no other man had such a far-reaching effect on the game, and especially future players. But Robinson’s influential life stretched far beyond the game of baseball.
And while Robinson was the first, there were others who came closely behind. Men who endured insults, humiliation and ridicule as well as Robinson, but persevered so that other players previously denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues could enjoy that privilege.
There were few signs in 1947 that this “experiment” by Dodgers owner Branch Rickey would not be a success. So why did it take other teams so long to catch on?
After Robinson had played three complete seasons, just four of the 16 major league teams were integrated. When Robinson was a seven-year veteran, only half of the major league teams had followed the Dodgers’ lead.
Robinson retired after a 10-year career at the end of 1956, and the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox had yet to enlist a player of color at the major league level. It wasn’t until midseason 1959—12 years after Robinson’s debut, and more than two years after his retirement—that Pumpsie Green took the field for the Boston Red Sox, the last team to hold out.
Every April 15, MLB reminds us of some dark times in our nation’s history. But after the heroic stances by Robinson and others, the game—and our country—are much better.
How Each Team Integrated
Jackie Robinson—Brooklyn Dodgers, NL—April 15, 1947
The multi-sport star out of UCLA played first base and hit second for the Dodgers. In his debut, he scored the go-ahead run in the Brooklyn’s 5-3 win over the Boston Braves.
Larry Doby—Cleveland Indians, AL—July 5, 1947
The Hall of Famer struck out as a pinch-hitter at Chicago in his first appearance. Unlike, Robinson, Doby didn’t make a single start in the 29 games of his first season in 1947.
Hank Thompson—St. Louis Browns, AL—July 17, 1947; New York Giants, NL—July 8, 1949
Was 0-4 with an error at second base in his debut with St. Louis. Two years later, he became the first African-American to play for the Giants leading off in the same game that Monte Irvin pinch-hit.
Monte Irvin—New York Giants, NL—July 8, 1949
Drew a walk as a pinch-hitter in his first game, struck out as a pinch-hitter in his second game.
Sam Jethroe—Boston Braves, NL—April 18, 1950
Whiffed in his first at-bat, but later drove in the go-ahead run and homered in his debut, a game in which Hank Thompson of the Giants also went deep.
Minnie Minoso—Chicago White Sox, AL—May 1, 1951
The Cuban Comet made his debut with Cleveland in 1949 and was traded to the White Sox after eight games in 1951. He was 2-4 in each of his first two games with the Sox.
Bob Trice—Philadelphia Athletics, AL—September 13, 1953
Threw eight innings and didn’t walk anyone, but gave up five runs on eight hits including two homers in the loss to St. Louis. Don Larsen earned the win and took Trice deep in the eighth inning.
Ernie Banks—Chicago Cubs, NL—September 17, 1953
Mr. Cub went hitless and made an error in his debut, but drove in two runs in a win over the Cardinals in the next game. Soon became an all-time favorite in Chicago sports.
Curt Roberts—Pittsburgh Pirates, NL—April 13, 1954
The second baseman tripled off Robin Roberts in his first at-bat. Fluent in Spanish, he is credited with helping Roberto Clemente adjust to life in the majors.
Tom Alston—St. Louis Cardinals, NL—April 13, 1954
Thomas Edison Alston appeared in 66 games for St. Louis in 1954, but just 25 games total over the next three seasons. He was hitless in four trips in his debut.
Nino Escalera—Cincinnati Reds, NL—April 17, 1954
The Puerto Rican singled as a pinch-hitter one batter before Chuck Harmon was called on to bat for the pitcher.
Chuck Harmon—Cincinnati Reds, NL—April 17, 1954
Popped out to first in his debut, but played in 289 major league games, mostly at third base.
Carlos Paula—Washington Senators, AL—September 6, 1954
Struck out in his first at-bat, but doubled in a pair of runs his next time up.
Elston Howard—New York Yankees, AL—April 14, 1955
Howard entered the second game of the season in left field late in the game and singled home Mickey Mantle in his first at-bat. The 1963 AL MVP averaged .296-17-74 from 1958-64 and earned two Gold Gloves.
John Kennedy—Philadelphia Phillies, NL—April 22, 1957
Kennedy pinch-ran for Solly Hemus in his debut. The shortstop played in just five games in the majors, three of them as a pinch-runner.
Ozzie Virgil, Sr.—Detroit Tigers, AL—June 6, 1958
After debuting with the Giants in 1956, Virgil was traded to Detroit in January 1958. He was called up from the minors and was the regular third baseman for a couple of months. He hit safely in his first eight games with the Tigers.
Pumpsie Green—Boston Red Sox, AL—July 21, 1959
Pinch-ran for Vic Wertz in the eighth inning of his debut, finishing the game at shortstop. He had no chances in the field and was on deck when the game ended. He started at second the following day and essentially became the regular second baseman for the remainder of the season.
Baseball is a numbers game. Always has been. Always will be. And here are a few notable numbers for the opening week of the season: March 31-April 7.
15 Earned runs allowed last Sunday by reigning Cy Young winners
David Price and R.A. Dickey dominated last season and won the 2012 Cy Young awards. Neither was himself last Sunday though. After teammates Alex Cobb and Matt Moore shut down the Indians the two previous games, the Tribe took it out on Price. The lefthander lasted just five innings and surrendered 10 hits and three walks while giving up eight runs. Dickey’s story is similar in that the team he faced was shut out the day before as well. J.A. Happ and three relievers shut out Boston, but Dickey’s knuckler was doing very little dancing on Sunday. He gave up eight runs — seven earned — on 10 hits and two walks before he was lifted with two out in the fifth.
17 RBIs for Baltimore’s Chris Davis
It took the Baltimore DH just four games to reach 17 ribbies. Last season, the first player to drive in that many was Andre Ethier, who reached the mark on April 17 in the Dodgers’ 11th game. His teammate, Matt Kemp, drove in his 17th the following day. Nick Swisher was the first in the American League with 17 RBIs last season. He did so on April 21 in the Yankees’ 15 contest. Josh Hamilton, then of the Rangers, was the only other player to drive in 17 in his team’s first 17 games.
.099 Batting average for the Pittsburgh Pirates infield
First baseman Gaby Sanchez (.063), second baseman Neil Walker (.100), third baseman Pedro Alvarez (.091) and Clint Barmes (.154) are a combined 7-for-71 with three RBIs and only two extra-base hits, both doubles by Barmes. As a team, the Pirates ended the week batting .119 with one home run. They scored just eight runs in their first six games. No wonder why they finished the week 1-5.
69 Win/save combinations for Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera
The two 40-somethings have been toiling in pinstripes for what seems like forever. Actually, it goes back only to 1996 when Mo’s first career save was a win for starter Pettitte. The total of 69 is the most all-time and does not include the 11 postseason win/save combinations for the pair of likely Hall of Famers.
14.05 Combined ERA for five aces last Sunday
It wasn’t just the reigning Cy Young winners who were knocked around last Sunday. In addition to David Price and R.A. Dickey, Matt Cain, Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels struggled as well. The quintet allowed 38 earned runs in just 24.1 innings.
26 Consecutive batters retired by Yu Darvish
Darvish, the emerging ace of the Texas Rangers mowed through the Houston lineup for eight innings before allowing a hit to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez to fall one batter short of a perfect game.
16 Scoreless innings by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw
While some aces were getting beaten up in their second starts, Kershaw picked up where he left off on Opening Day. In the opener, Kershaw tossed a complete game shutout over San Francisco and helped himself with a home run in the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie. For an encore, he threw seven shutout frames in a win against Pittsburgh.
0-17 Dodgers infielder Luis Cruz goes 0-for-the week
Luis Cruz, filling in for the injured Hanley Ramirez, struggled through a forgettable week. Of the 204 players with enough qualifying plate appearances, Cruz is the only one hitless. He walked once and whiffed four times.
.500 Batting average for Jed Lowrie
The sandwich-round pick of the Boston Red Sox (45th overall) in 2005 was traded to Houston along with Kyle Weiland for Mark Melancon prior to last season. This spring, he was dealt to Oakland with Fernando Rodriguez for Max Stassi, Chis Carter and Brad Peacock. The Oakland shortstop has reached safely in all seven games for the A’s with three three-hit games and a 1.000 slugging percentage.
12 Players with 12 (or more) consecutive Opening Day starts
Most fans could get pretty close to naming the dozen players with a dozen straight starts to open the season. Todd Helton leads the list with 16. Torii Hunter has made 15 straight OD starts with Minnesota, the Angels and this season with the Tigers. Aramis Ramirez, primarily with the Cubs but dating to his days in Pittsburgh, has 14 straight. Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Placido Polanco, Albert Pujols and Jimmy Rollins have 13 in a row. Adrian Beltre, Adam Dunn, Alfonso Soriano and — perhaps the most surprising — Vernon Wells have 12 each.
16 Consecutive Opening Day starts by Todd Helton
The Rockies’ first baseman has indicated that 2013 would be his final season. He carries the longest consecutive Opening Day starting streak at 16. Amazingly, he and Andres Galarraga are the only two players in history to start at first base for Colorado on Opening Day.
27 All-Star appearances among current Tigers
All 10 players in Detroit’s Opening Day lineup claim at least one All-Star honor. Led by Miguel Cabrera’s seven and Justin Verlander’s five, the Tigers’ opening lineup totals 27 All-Star appearances, the most of any team’s Opening Day lineup.
10 All-Star appearances by Ichiro
New York Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki is the only player who started Opening Day for any team with 10 All-Star Games to his credit. All 10 appearances were made wearing a Seattle uniform.
+2 Games over .500 for the AL Central
Only one division in the American League played winning baseball during the season’s first week — and it wasn’t the vaunted AL East. The AL Central finished four games over the breakeven mark with the other two divisions each two games under.
Now that baseball is back in full swing, we started thinking about the future. And there’s nothing more fun than projecting where today’s baseball stars will be playing three years from now, and predicting who the best players in each league will be. So here goes. The 2016 All-Star teams.
CF—Mike Trout—Los Angeles
The game’s brightest superstar is the leading vote-getter.
The newest wave of young shortstops hasn’t overtaken Reyes just yet.
With Baltimore the likely host of the 2016 game, Jones will receive the loudest ovation.
The old vet is still punishing pitchers.
3B—Evan Longoria—Tampa Bay
Longoria wins the closest vote in years, edging Robinson Cano who has just made the switch to third base.
Prince edges King Albert who is showing serious signs of decline.
C—Sal Perez—Kansas City
Defensively and offensively, the best catcher in the AL.
It's taken a while, but Jackson makes his first All-Star start.
Yes, Profar really is that good.
SP—David Price—Tampa Bay
The leap here is that Price is still pitching for the Rays in 2016. The assumption is that he and Longoria help usher in a new stadium that year.
Managers always seem to pick an old vet as a lifetime achievement award.
The rising star will soon be a perennial All-Star.
1B—Albert Pujols—Los Angeles
Still a machine, just not quite as efficient.
The Astros must have a representative and Altuve cost Elvis Andrus a spot.
The lone Red Sox is deserving in his own right.
3B—Robinson Cano—New York
He’s still getting used to third defensively, but his bat never takes a day off.
Although Cleveland has toyed with moving him to second, he can still pick it at short and is surprisingly the lone Indian.
Manny Machado and Alcides Escobar were shunned in favor of the second-year player.
OF—Wil Myers—Tampa Bay
Myers has given Tampa Bay fans — all 23,000 of them — a reason to cheer for three and half years now.
OF—Bubba Starling—Kansas City
Even after a stellar rookie season, Starling occasionally appears overmatched.
Twins fans most favorite player since Kirby Puckett.
No longer sees much time in the outfield, but one of the most feared hitters in the league.
OF—Alex Gordon—Kansas City
Fans in K.C. believe teammate Billy Butler was a better choice.
OF—Mason Williams—New York
The youngster has taken New York by storm.
The Rangers’ ace led the AL in wins in 2015.
King Felix cruising toward 200 career wins.
Anderson is one of the few players who missed the old stadium in Oakland. The new park is not nearly as pitcher-friendly.
He doesn’t hit triple digits in the ninth inning any longer, but hitters still ask for a day off when he pitches.
After two years of struggling with injuries, Sale is back in ace form.
Baltimore fans would love to see Bundy start the game.
The Brazilian is quickly becoming an ace in Chicago.
Best closer in the AL.
P—Taylor Guerrieri—Tampa Bay
Devastating curveball keeps hitters off balance.
P—David Robertson—New York
He’s very good, but he’s also following the legendary Mo Rivera. Not an enviable situation.
Introducing the leading vote getter in the NL, second only to Mike Trout of the Angels.
The anchor of the Pirates lineup will have finally led the club to a winning record by 2016.
Another batting title and MVP trophy would be good guesses for the face of the Reds.
Still one of the premier hitters in the NL.
C—Buster Posey—San Francisco
The only question will be how many MVPs Posey will have by the 2016 game.
Okay, so the chances of Stanton still residing in Miami in 2016 are slim, but he’ll be a good option for the manager’s choice for DH anyway.
3B—David Wright—New York
Anthony Rendon’s numbers will overshadow Wright’s, but the fans will vote for the New York veteran one more season to give him the start.
With few choices at the position, the veteran wins the fans vote.
With no real stars at the position, fans have begun to fall in love with Segura in Milwaukee.
No manager can resist calling on Strasburg to start the game now that there are no innings limit for the kid.
C—Yadier Molina—St. Louis
The Cardinals backstop makes his final appearance in an All-Star Game.
Without Posey in the league, Montero may have an All-Star start or two by then.
The rising star in Colorado moves from third to first for 2016.
His power and average will steadily rise every season for the next several years.
1B—Allen Craig—St. Louis
The hitting machine can’t seem to stay healthy enough to become the premier first baseman in the NL.
Moved off of short by Javier Baez, Castro will struggle at third before finding a home at second.
Ryan Zimmerman was moved to first base to accommodate Rendon who quickly becomes the best third baseman in the league.
Controversy: The NL manager shuns Andrelton Simmons of the Braves in favor of Cozart. (Obviously Tony La Russa has not returned.)
OF—Jedd Gyorko—San Diego
Youngster Christian Yelich of Miami may have a better argument, but the Padres must be represented.
Justin upstages his brother in Atlanta.
The veteran Rockie is still putting up big numbers at Coors Field.
Two-thirds of the Braves outfield will be represented.
OF—Oscar Tavares—St. Louis
The brightest rising star in the NL makes the team, but doesn’t get in the game.
P—Matt Cain—San Francisco
Cain is the unquestioned leader of the best staff in the NL.
P—Madison Bumgarner—San Francisco
The lefty is part of one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball.
P—Clayton Kershaw—Los Angeles
Now completely over a hip injury, Kershaw remains a Cy Young candidate.
Many fans would argue that Skaggs has better numbers than Strasburg and deserved to start. But his time will come.
P—Adam Wainwright—St. Louis
There are maybe four or five pitchers that deserve this spot, but the manager’s choice is the veteran from St. Louis.
P—Shelby Miller—St. Louis
The new ace of the Cardinals.
The Phillies have turned into an old, mediocre team, but Hamels is still nasty.
P—Zack Wheeler—New York
Fruits of the Mets rebuilding project are fully mature.
Still the best closer in the league. His career may rival Mariano Rivera’s without the postseason glory, of course.
We see him as an All-Star whether starting or finishing.
He piles up saves and his resume looks good at All-Star time.
Nicknames and baseball players just seem to go together like bat and ball. For as long as young boys and men have been batting baseballs around, they have given each other descriptive nicknames for facial features, deformed body parts, the way they played the game, hair color and, the most popular, shortening their surnames. In fact, some players with nicknames were given nicknames for their nicknames.
Here are the 50 best—and often very politically incorrect—nicknames in baseball history.
50. Don Mossi
Ears (also The Sphinx)
Perhaps you had to see Mossi to really appreciate the name. In Ball Four, Jim Bouton said Mossi “looked like a cab going down the street with its doors open.”
49. Ernie Lombardi
Not to allow Mossi and his ears steal all the thunder, the catcher who was also known as the world’s slowest human had a beak of monumental proportions. But the catcher hit his way into the Hall of Fame.
48. Nick Cullop
Cullop spent 23 years in the minors, hit 420 home runs and had 2,670 hits, both minor league records when he retired.
47. Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown
Known more commonly as Three Finger Brown than by Mordecai, Brown capitalized on losing most of his index finger in a childhood farming accident. Apparently that helped him throw a devastating curveball described by Ty Cobb as the toughest in baseball.
46. Don Zimmer
Despite the success for the Red Sox in the late 1970s, Zim is blamed for the team’s collapse in 1978, ultimately losing a playoff game at Fenway Park (commonly known as the Bucky Dent game). Because of this, lefthander Bill Lee, with whom Zimmer often sparred, gave him the name Gerbil.
45. Bill Lee
And speaking of Lee, it wasn’t as though he was a mental giant himself. The lefthander’s outrageous, often irreverent personality and his fearless rhetoric earned him the name Spaceman, allegedly, from John Kennedy (the Red Sox utility infielder, not the former President). Just being left-handed in Boston was probably enough.
44. Jim Grant
Grant, who became one of the most successful African-American pitchers in the 1960s, was the roommate of his boyhood idol Larry Doby when he first came to Cleveland. It was the veteran Doby who dubbed him “Mudcat”, saying that he was “ugly as a Mississippi mudcat.”
43. Jim Hunter
Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finely often seemed more interested in flashy P.R. than winning baseball games. Evidently, this nickname was a product of the PR-conscious Finley more than any angling the Hall of Fame pitcher might have done in his home state of North Carolina.
42. Randy Johnson
Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Former Expos teammate — yes, Johnson was originally a member of the Expos — Tim Raines once collided with him during batting practice, looked up at the 6’10” hurler and proclaimed, “You’re a big unit.”
41. Mark Fidrych
The affable righthander enjoyed talking to the baseball while on the mound and manicuring the mound on his hands and knees between innings. But it was because of his resemblance to Big Bird of Sesame Street fame that Fidrych was given his name.
40. Marc Rzepczynski
Some surnames scream for nicknames, like Yastrzemski with Yaz, and Mazeroski with Maz. But there are few names that could earn more points in the famous word game than this lefthander’s.
39. Doug Gwosdz
Ancestors of the former catcher of the San Diego Padres must have misspelled this name somewhere down the line. But as astute teammates surmised, his jersey resembled those charts hanging on walls in optometrists’ offices.
38. Johnny Dickshot
First of all, that is his real name. And secondly, he referred to himself as the “ugliest man in baseball.” So, we have no qualms about Dickshot making the list.
37. Luke Appling
Old Aches and Pains
Dubbed by teammates, it’s unclear whether the name was given in jest. But it is clear that Appling didn’t mind complaining about the physical demands of the job all the way to the Hall of Fame.
36. Roger Bresnahan
The Duke of Tralee
Nothing really unusual about this name; after all many players were named in honor of their hometowns. Earl Averill was the Duke of Snohomish after his hometown in Washington. But, Bresnahan was from Toledo. For some reason he enjoyed telling folks he was born in Tralee, Ireland.
35. Bob Feller
Taking the American League by storm as a teenager led to this nickname as well as The Heater from Van Meter (Iowa).
34. Edward Charles Ford
The Chairman of the Board
Well known as Whitey because of hair color, the lefty dominated the American League for 16 seasons as a member of the Yankees. As a tribute to his calm, cool demeanor in tough situations, he became known as the Chairman of the Board.
33. Leon Allen Goslin
Several sources agree on how Goslin acquired his name. Evidently, he waved his arms as he chased fly balls, had a long neck, and was not the most graceful player.
32. Willie Mays
Say Hey Kid
There is no definitive agreement on how Mays acquired this classic name.
31. Mickey Mantle
The Commerce Comet
Mantle, a star athlete from Commerce, Oklahoma, was offered a football scholarship by the University of Oklahoma, but wisely chose baseball.
30. Joe Medwick
Ducky-Wucky (also Muscles)
According to Baseball-Reference.com, fans called Medwick Ducky-Wucky more than merely Ducky, presumably because of his gait, or perhaps the way he swam. Teammates, seemingly out of self-preservation, never called him Ducky-Wucky, but chose instead the name, Muscles.
29. Brooks Robinson
If you ever saw Brooksie do his work around the hot corner, you would quickly understand the moniker. Teammate Lee May once quipped, “Very nice (play)...where do they plug Mr. Hoover in?”
28. Aloysius Harry Simmons
With an exaggerated stride toward third base. Bucketfoot Al bashed major league pitching at a .334 clip on his way to the Hall of Fame.
27. Lynn Nolan Ryan
No one readily admits giving him the name, but any hitter who stood in the box against Ryan is keenly aware of what the name means.
26. Darrell Evans
One look at the famous puppet and a glance at the power-hitting lefty, and you’ll know why.
25. Dennis Boyd
Born in Mississippi (where beer may be referred to as oil), the colorful righthander carried the nickname on to the major leagues.
24. Johnny Lee Odom
Reportedly, a classmate in grade school thought Odom’s face looked like the moon. Really?
23. Frank Thomas
Given to Thomas by White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson. Thomas put the big hurt on American League pitching for 19 years.
22. Garry Maddox
Minister of Defense
If you watched Maddox patrol center field for the Phillies in the 1970s, you immediately get the name.
21. Mike Hargrove
Human Rain Delay
And you think Nomar Garciaparra invented the step-out-of-the-box-and-adjust-your-batting-gloves routine. Nope. Seasons changed between pitches when he was at bat.
20. Daniel Joseph Staub
Le Grand Orange
Known as Rusty by the Texans while with the Colt .45s, he became Le Grand Orange in Montreal as a member of the original Expos.
19. Jimmy Wynn
His small stature and powerful bat led to this moniker.
18. Steve Balboni
Presumably, Balboni was given the name because of his propensity to hit home runs. It may also be noted that a double meaning could be bye-bye, as in “He gone” back to the dugout because of his propensity to strike out.
17. Joakim Soria
When the Royals’ closer took the mound, it was usually lights out for the opponent’s offense. He has since requested another, less violent name.
16. Frank Howard
The Capital Punisher
While playing in the nation’s capital, Howard punished AL pitching for 237 home runs in seven seasons, twice leading the league with 44, and finishing second in 1969 with 48.
15. Carl Pavano
After signing a four-year, $38 million deal with the Yankees prior to the 2005 season, Pavano made just nine starts in four seasons, going 3-3 with a 5.00 ERA.
14. Lawrence Peter Berra
Evidently when Berra sat with arms and legs crossed a friend suggested he looked like a Hindu yogi. Now the term Yogi is associated with malaprops more than Hindu.
13. Mariano Rivera
Good night batters.
12. Rickey Henderson
Man of Steal
One look at his stats and you understand this one: 1,406 career steals and a record 130 in 1982.
11. Shane Victorino
The Flyin’ Hawaiian
Victorino plays the game with endless energy and spunk, but his heritage rules the day.
10. Vince Coleman
Vincent Van Go
A true artist of the stolen base.
9. Ken Reitz
Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon marveled at how the St. Louis third baseman could pick up everything.
8. Pablo Sandoval
Kung Fu Panda
The loveable Giant Panda.
7. Fred McGriff
One of ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman’s nicknames that actually stuck. Thanks McGruff, the cartoon Crime Dog.
6. Kenny Rogers
“Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser. The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”
5. Jose Bautista
Bautista was terrific as Joey Bats in “The Hitman” on YouTube. He’s been even better as himself for the Blue Jays.
4. Harry Davis
Poor Davis lost his job as Detroit first baseman to some kid name Hank Greenberg in 1933.
3. Ron Cey
Playing for Tommy Lasorda in the minor leagues must have had its pros and cons. Having your manager dub you Penguin because of your awkward running style would probably fall on the con side.
2. William Ellsworth Hoy
As if anyone needed reminding, here’s a clear indicator of just how far political correctness has come in 100 years. William Ellsworth Hoy lost his hearing and ability to speak as a result of childhood meningitis. At only 5’4”, he was difficult to strike out and was the first player to hit a grand slam in the American League. He died in 1961, just five months shy of his 100th birthday.
1. George Herman Ruth
Babe (also the Bambino, Sultan of Swat, The King of Sting, The Colossus of Clout)
Babe was the only major leaguer large enough for five larger than life nicknames.
The 2013 Major League Baseball season kicks off on Sunday night with the Astros taking on the Rangers. Before the first pitch, here are 101 stats to know for the 2013 season.
101 Stats to Kick Off the 2013 Major League Baseball Season
Players elected by the BBWAA for Hall of Fame induction in 1950, as was the case in 2013. There were 48 players on the ballot in 1950 that would eventually gain election to the Hall.
Number of times a team has overcome a 3-games-to-0 deficit to win a postseason series. The Boston Red Sox mounted the historical comeback over the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.
Hits by Joel Youngblood off two Hall of Fame pitchers (Fergie Jenkins and Steve Carlton) for two teams (Montreal Expos and New York Mets) in two cities (Chicago and Philadelphia) in the same day. On August 4, 1982, Youngblood started in center field and batting third for the Mets at Chicago in an afternoon game and singled in two runs in the third inning off Jenkins. He was replaced by Mookie Wilson in center in the middle of the fourth inning when it was learned he had been traded to the Montreal Expos. He hopped a flight to Philadelphia and arrived during the game. He was inserted in right field for Jerry White in the sixth inning and caught a fly ball to end the inning. In the top of the seventh, he singled off Carlton. The well-traveled Youngblood was on deck when the game ended with the Phillies ahead 5-4.
The number worn on the back of Babe Ruth’s uniform. The Yankees introduced uniform numbers in 1929.
Consecutive MVP awards won by Barry Bonds from 2001-04, becoming the only player to win more than two in a row.
Members of the original Hall of Fame class in 1936. Ty Cobb received the most votes (222), followed by a tie between Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth (215). Christy Mathewson (205) and Walter Johnson (189) were the two pitchers elected. Cy Young was named on just 49.1 percent of the ballots, Lou Gehrig 22.6 percent and Jimmie Foxx 9.3 percent.
Stan the Man Musial made this number famous in St. Louis. Among his many gaudy stats, are 1,815 hits on the road and 1,815 hits at home.
Modern record for hits in a nine-inning game. Rennie Stennett of the Pirates pasted Cubs pitching for seven safeties on Sept. 16, 1975 at Wrigley Field. The Pirates’ leadoff hitter had four singles, two doubles and a triple in the Pirates’ 22-0 thrashing in Chicago. After Stennett’s eighth-inning triple, future New York Yankees All-Star Willie Randolph pinch-ran for him. Stennett led off the game with a double off of Rick Reuschel and ended his day with a triple off of Paul Reuschel.
Different pitchers to lead the Rays in saves over the past eight seasons. With Fernando Rodney back this season, the string is likely to be broken.
Players sent to the plate in the 1976 World Series by Reds manager Sparky Anderson. With the DH used for every game that year, Anderson used the same lineup for all four games and used no pinch-hitters in the Reds’ sweep of the Yankees.
John Tudor in 1985 was the last pitcher to throw 10 shutouts in one season.
Home runs for Babe Ruth for the world champion Red Sox in 1918, which led the American League. That was the first of 12 home run titles for the Babe.
Batting titles for Ty Cobb.
Times Lou Gehrig posted 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs in the same season, the most all-time.
Walk-off losses in the postseason by the New York Yankees.
Full seasons in which Joe McCarthy managed the New York Yankees. During his tenure, the Yanks won eight pennants, winning seven World Series, and finished second four times.
Retired numbers by the New York Yankees, the most of any franchise. This number includes the No. 42, retired across all of baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson. It counts the No. 8 just once, although it is retired in honor of both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Age of Bob Feller when he made his first major league start in 1936. He tossed a complete game against the St. Louis Browns giving up six hits, four walks, one earned run with 15 strikeouts for the win.
World Series home runs for Mickey Mantle, the most all-time.
Wins by rookie Mark “The Bird” Fidrych for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, a season in which he captured the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.
Consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, setting the all-time record for any North American major team sport.
Consecutive losses by the Baltimore Orioles to begin the season in 1988.
Games started in the World Series by Whitey Ford, most all-time.
Grand slams hit by Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez, the most all-time.
Appearances by Mariano Rivera in the World Series.
Hits by Lou Brock in the 1967-68 World Series. The total is the most ever in back-to-back World Series.
Consecutive games won by the New York Giants in 1916, the longest winning streak in history. From Sept. 7-Sept. 30, the Giants didn’t lose a game, but gained just 8.5 games in the standings before finishing the season in fourth place. Lefty Tyler of the Boston Braves pitched a complete game to end the streak.
Wins for Steve Carlton of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1972. The team won just 59 games that season giving Lefty more than 45 percent of his team’s wins.
Times Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera grounded into a double play in 2012, which led the majors.
Wins for the Baltimore Orioles in one-run games in 2012. Their 29-9 record (.763) is the best all-time.
Home runs hit by Albert Pujols after May 5 last season. The slugger began the season by hitting just .217 with no homers and four RBIs in April. After taking a day of on May 5, he homered the next day and proceeded to put together a Pujols-esque season.
Wins for Lefty Grove of the Philadelphia A’s in 1931 and Detroit’s Denny McLain in 1968, the highest win total in the live ball era (since 1920).
Postseason doubles for Derek Jeter, most all-time.
Miles between the high schools where reigning Cy Young winners R.A. Dickey (Montgomery Bell Academy, Nashville, Tenn.) and David Price (Blackman High School, Murfreesboro, Tenn.) attended. It is the closest of any two Cy Young winners from the same season.
Hitting streak by Dom DiMaggio of the Boston Red Sox in 1949.
Strikeouts by Bob Gibson (27 IP) in the 1968 World Series.
At-bats by Jimmy Collins in the 1903 World Series. It’s the most ever in a Fall Classic and was established in the first World Series ever played.
Number retired in honor of Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel by both the Yankees and the Mets.
Saves by John Hiller of the Tigers in 1973, just two years after suffering a career-threatening heart attack at age 28. The total led the majors and was the record for saves in a season until 1983.
Number retired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in honor of Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella, whose career was cut short due to an auto accident, which left him paralyzed.
Appearances in the World Series by the New York Yankees, by far the most of any franchise.
Wins by Jack Chesbro of the Yankees in 1904, the highest total since 1900.
Number universally retired by MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson.
Age of Nolan Ryan when he won his 11th strikeout title. In 1990, he struck out 232, the most in the American league a year after whiffing 301.
Consecutive game hitting streak for Pete Rose in 1978 to tie Wee Willie Keeler for the National League record. Rose hit .385 during the streak and raised his average from .267 to .316.
Over the 104 years since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, the team has had 45 winning records, finished .500 twice and posted 57 losing seasons.
Earned runs allowed by the San Francisco Giants in 16 postseason games in 2012.
Hank Aaron’s career-best home run season, which came in 1971. The total has been eclipsed 72 times, 28 of those before Aaron retired in 1976.
Road wins for the Washington Nationals in 2012, most in the majors.
Home runs hit in the regular season by Babe Ruth in ballparks still in use today. Ruth hit 48 home runs at Fenway Park and one at Wrigley Field.
World Series games played by Frankie Frisch, eighth all-time, but the most by anyone who never played with the Yankees.
Seldom-used uniform number may possibly be retired by five franchises some day. It is already retired by San Diego in honor of closer Trevor Hoffman. It is highly likely to be retired in Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki) and likely by Arizona (Randy Johnson). The Cardinals (Willie McGee) and Yankees (Bernie Williams) have yet to issue the number since those players retired.
Last season, the San Diego Padres, according to Elias, became the only team since at least 1900 to have three catchers start as many as 52 games. Nick Hundley started 56 times, John Baker and Yasmani Grandal 52 each.
Hits by Cincinnati pitchers last season, most in the majors.
Home runs by Babe Ruth in 1920, smashing the record of 29 that Ruth had set the year before. The total of 54 was eclipsed by just one team in all of baseball that season (other than the Yankees), the Philadelphia Phillies.
Wins for the Houston Astros in 2012, a franchise low including the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994.
Consecutive games in which Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees hit safely in 1941. Interestingly, during that same stretch from May 15 to July 16, Ted Williams of the Red Sox outhit Joe D .412 to .408 with a better on-base percentage (.540 to .463) and OPS (1.224 to 1.181).
Road home runs hit by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, the lowest total in baseball.
Home runs needed by Oakland A’s hitters to reach 12,000 in franchise history. Getting their start in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics, the franchise also played in Kansas City from 1955-67 before relocating to Oakland in 1968. Entering this season, only eight other franchises (New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies) have hit 12,000 or more home runs. The Baltimore Orioles will also reach this milestone this season and should do so before the A's, as the O's need just eight round-trippers to reach 12,000.
Consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Orel Hershiser to end the 1988 season. The streak including five complete games in September and 10 shutout innings in his last start, which the Dodgers eventually lost 2-1 in 16 innings.
Extra innings played by Baltimore last season.
Number of games last season that Tampa Bay pitchers struck out 10 or more batters breaking the record of 57 set by the Cubs in 2003.
Number of players drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996, two years before the club fielded its first major league team.
Fewest regular-season wins ever for a World Series winner. The Los Angeles Dodgers won just 63 games in 1981, a season shortened by almost 40 percent to a players strike.
Years since the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series. It is the second-longest drought in baseball behind the 104 years that Cubs fans have been waiting.
Average number of wins for the Kansas City Athletics during their last seven years in the Midwest before moving to Oakland in 1968.
Wins for the Cincinnati Reds in 1981, the most in the National League. However, the Reds were not one of the four teams in the playoffs that season. The St. Louis Cardinals also had the best winning percentage in the National League East, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs that season due to the split-season format forced by the players strike.
All-time record number of doubles in a season set by Earl Webb in 1931.
Wins needed by Josh Beckett, Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wolf to reach 200 for their careers.
Runs scored by the San Francisco Giants in 16 postseason games in 2012.
Home runs hit by Mark McGwire in 1998 to break the 37-year-old record of 61 held by Roger Maris.
Hits in World Series play by Yogi Berra, most all-time.
Highest uniform number retired for a player. The Chicago White Sox retired No. 72 in honor of Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk.
Home runs for Barry Bonds in 2001, setting a new record for home runs in a season.
Wins for the Orioles last season against no losses when leading after seven innings.
World Series games played by Yogi Berra, the most all-time.
2013 will be the 76th season since a player in the National League won a triple crown. In 1937, Joe Medwick for St. Louis was the last National Leaguer to accomplish this. Joey Votto, Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun seem to be the likeliest candidates to break the string with Carlos Gonzalez, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and perhaps Bryce Harper having outside shots.
Points Alex Rios’ batting average increased from 2011 to 2012 (.227 to .304)
Stolen bases by Jose Reyes in 2007, the most of any player in the 1990s and 2000s.
Percent of the seasons that the New York Yankees have finished above .500. In 112 seasons, the Yanks have posted 89 winning seasons and finished at an even .500 once.
Hits Colorado first baseman Todd Helton needs to reach the 2,500 mark in his career. That would make Helton just the 7th player in major league history to have 2,500 hits, 1,300 runs, 500 doubles, 350 home runs, 1,300 RBIs, a batting average of .300 or better and more walks than strikeouts in their career. The others are Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, Chipper Jones, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
Wins by Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer in 1971 for the Baltimore Orioles. That was the last time a team had four 20-game winners.
Players with 250 home runs for one club. There are 10 Yankees who have hit as many as 250 homers in pinstripes. Arizona, Washington, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Miami have none.
Fewest regular-season wins ever for a world champion in a season not cut short due to a labor dispute or war. The St. Louis Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs in 2006 with an 83-78 record.
Home runs for Curtis Granderson over the past two seasons. No other player has more than 74.
Runs scored by Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels last season. It was the first time in his 12-year career than the All-Star first baseman had scored fewer than 99 in a season.
Years between World Series wins for the Red Sox. Boston won in 1918 then suffered through 86 years before winning again in 2004.
Wins needed by the Los Angeles Angels this season to end the season above .500 for the history of the franchise. The last time the team was above .500 was after their first game in history on April 11, 1961.
Years between World Series wins for the White Sox. Chicago won in 1917 then suffered through 88 years before winning again in 2005.
Years since Washington, D.C. celebrated a World Series win. The old Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) defeated the New York Giants in seven games in 1924. It was Tom Zachary, not the great Walter Johnson, who won two games. Goose Goslin and Bucky Harris combined to drive in more than half of the Senators’ runs.
The number of shutouts that Roy Halladay needs to tie Walter Johnson for the most all-time. Halladay is the active leader with 20.
Tim Raines received 91 more votes (297 to 206) than Barry Bonds in the most recent Hall of Fame balloting.
Runs Derek Jeter needs this season to pass Babe Ruth as the all-time leader in New York Yankees' franchise history.
Plate appearances at the Triple-A level for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout before his call-up last April. He was batting .403 with a .467 OBP and had four doubles, five triples, a homer and scored 21 runs in 20 games with Salt Lake.
Wins for Babe Ruth as a pitcher.
Average number of wins for the Oakland A’s from 1971-75 during which they won five AL West titles and three straight World Series.
Doubles for Alex Gordon of Kansas City over the past two seasons, the most in the majors.
Average number of wins for the New York Yankees over the last 17 years. (1996-2012)
Wins by the Washington Nationals last season establishing a new high-water mark for the franchise surpassing the 95 wins by the 1979 Expos.
Hits needed by Alex Rodriguez to become the 29th member of the 3,000-hit club.
Wins for the Amazin’ New York Mets in 1969 after finishing in ninth or 10th place the previous seven years.
The 2013 MLB season is almost here. Texas and Houston will get things started on Sunday night as the Astros play their first-ever game as an American League team. That's not the only change baseball fans will have to get used to this season as interleague play will take place year-round, starting with the Los Angeles Angels opening their season in Cincinnati.
In the American League alone, many players, notably Josh Hamilton, Torii Hunter, James Shields and Nick Swisher will be in a different uniform this season, while others like Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes and Shane Victorino are switching leagues entirely. There also is another crop of up-and-coming players that everyone will be watching to see if any of them can have the same type of impact that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper had on their respective teams last season.
Related: 2013 NL Predictions
2013 American League Predictions
1. New York
2. Tampa Bay (Wild Card)
The Toronto Blue Jays made the biggest splash of the offseason and the AL East with the additions of shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitchers R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Robinson Cano anchors the injury-riddled Yankees’ lineup. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will begin the season on the disabled list. Tampa Bay has, by far, the best pitching, maybe in either league. The rotation, led by Cy Young winner David Price, and the bullpen, led by Fernando Rodney, are deep and talented. While the Blue Jays added some key components, especially in the rotation, the bullpen has questions. The Orioles found magic in extra-innings and close games last season. They probably won’t go 29-9 in one-run games again. Boston is now the team left out of contention.
3. Kansas City
Last season there was no debate over the favorite in the AL Central. The Tigers made the experts sweat a little falling behind by six games in June, but managed to eke out a division title, taking over first place for good with eight games to play. Triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera returns as does Prince Fielder, ace Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez, who missed last season with a knee injury. Cleveland with new manager Terry Francona should be better, but still not at Detroit’s level. Kansas City now has a respectable rotation but is still dependent on youngsters developing in the bullpen. The White Sox clearly overachieved last season and were in contention until the final week of the season. The Twins are still attempting to develop young pitchers. Kyle Gibson may be the team’s next ace, but he’ll begin this season in Triple-A.
1. Los Angeles
2. Texas (Wild Card)
The Los Angeles Angels continued to up the ante in the AL West by signing Josh Hamilton a year after inking Albert Pujols. With those two former MVPs and leadoff hitter Mike Trout, the Angels clearly have the best lineup in the division. However, the Angels’ bullpen was among the worst in the majors last season. Texas will miss long-time linchpin Michael Young and Hamilton even though Adrian Beltre is among the best hitters in the league. Lest we forget, it was the Oakland A’s who won the AL West last season. There were some smoke and mirrors along with stingy pitching and the emergence of Yoenis Cespedes. Seattle has made a financial commitment to ace Felix Hernandez, but the M’s are easily a notch below the leaders. The Houston Astros join the AL at the lowest point in franchise history.
Detroit over Los Angeles
Detroit over Washington
1. Robinson Cano, Yankees
2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
3. Evan Longoria, Rays
4. Albert Pujols, Angels
5. Adam Jones, Orioles
6. Mike Trout, Angels
7. Prince Fielder, Tigers
8. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
9. Yoenis Cespedes, A's
10. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers
2. David Price, Rays
3. Jared Weaver, Angels
4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
5. Yu Darvish, Rangers
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Wil Myers, Rays
2. Jurickson Profar, Rangers
3. Dylan Bundy, Orioles
The Rockies will try to rise from the ruins of a 98-loss season, the worst in franchise history, and steer a new course under manager Walt Weiss. A popular, heady shortstop for four seasons with the Rockies and later a special assistant to general manager Dan O’Dowd for seven years, Weiss was coaching a high school baseball team in the Denver area when the Rockies reached out to him after manager Jim Tracy surprisingly resigned and walked away from $1.4 million. Tracy saw his job being marginalized when Bill Geivett was given the title of senior vice president of major league operations in August with a desk in a conference room adjacent to Tracy’s office. Those dynamics won’t deter Weiss, eager for the opportunity and in no position to quibble about workplace conditions having never coached or managed at the professional level. Weiss will bring honesty and toughness to his new role and will try to create an environment where the players respect and trust each other and, consequently, the greater good reigns. Chemistry, esprit de corps and a harmonious clubhouse matter, of course, but the Rockies need better starting pitching to make any meaningful progress. The Rockies’ 5.22 ERA was the worst in the majors. Their starters went 29–68 with a big-league high 5.81 ERA last season and at Coors Field were 17–33 with a 6.70 ERA. The Rockies rotation should be healthier and hence better this season. But the depth is questionable, and notable improvement is needed from young starters Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood.
Injuries marred last season for lefthander Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio, which forced the Rockies to rely too heavily on inexperienced youngsters. De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2011, finally returned to the Rockies last September but went 0–2 with a 9.28 ERA in three starts and was understandably inconsistent. After his August return, Chacin pitched well in his final nine starts, but that was after spending more than three-and-a-half months on the disabled list with an irritated nerve in his pectoral muscle. Nicasio, who is less experienced than De La Rosa or Chacin, suffered a season-ending knee injury in early June. Lefthander Jeff Francis, 32, is a veteran who provides depth at the back of the rotation but must have precise location at this point to succeed. With none of the youngsters seizing the fifth spot, the Rockies turned to veteran Jo Garland, who spent most of the spring with Seattle. Almost immediately after his release from the Mariners, Colorado pounced. He brings a badly needed veteran presence. Josh Outman, Pomeranz, Friedrich and Chatwood will contend for a spot in the rotation at some point this season.
As protection against a decline by closer Rafael Betancourt, who will turn 38 in late April, the Rockies acquired Wilton Lopez, who will give the team another late-inning weapon and help Matt Belisle and lefthander Rex Brothers in the setup role. Lefthander Adam Ottavino should have a significant role in middle relief and veteran Chris Volstad will eat innings in long relief.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hits cleanup and can make a huge impact on offense and defense, provided he can stay on the field. That wasn’t the case last year. Tulowitzki played only 47 games, none after May 30 due to a strained left groin that required surgery. A healthy Tulowitzki can go a long way toward improving the Rockies’ defense, which was shaky last season, particularly on the left side of the infield. Josh Rutledge made an immediate offensive impact when called up from Double-A Tulsa to play shortstop at the All-Star break but then tailed off. He also made seven starts at second base, where he will play with Tulowitzki back.
First baseman Todd Helton, who turns 40 in August, is expected back for his final season after playing in only 69 games due to a labrum tear in his right hip that eventually required season-ending surgery in August. If he’s healthy, the Rockies can count on Helton for stellar defense and a decent on-base percentage but not much run production at this point. Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson both hit better than .300 last season but provide little power and ordinary defense (at best) at third base. Newcomer Ryan Wheeler will challenge for playing time at third as well.
Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez is a plus defender and a solid No. 3 hitter who still had a very productive season despite not having Tulowitzki protecting him for the final four months. Center fielder Dexter Fowler had a breakthrough season on offense, hitting .300 with a .389 on-base percentage and 42 extra-base hits, and has the plus range needed in expansive Coors Field. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer, limited to two starts after July 31 by a right oblique strain, was terrific as advertised in the clubhouse but did not produce as much as expected on the field.
Wilin Rosario had a superb rookie season on offense, setting club records for a catcher with 28 homers and 71 RBIs, but his receiving skills were very shoddy as he led big-league catchers in passed balls (21) and errors (13). Rosario played more than expected because of injuries to Ramon Hernandez, who turns 37 in May and is now a $3.2 million backup.
Tyler Colvin can play all three outfield positions and first base, where he and Cuddyer can spell Helton. Colvin hits for power — 18 homers and an .858 OPS last year — but strikes out too often (117 times, or once every 3.6 at-bats last year). Eric Young Jr. has worked hard to become an acceptable corner outfielder who can make a difference offensively with his speed and energy. Injuries limited Hernandez to 52 games, including 45 starts at catcher, where he has declined. Reid Brignac can play multiple positions, but doesn’t have much pop in his bat.
The Rockies showed a willingness to experiment, instituting two notable changes last year, one short-lived. With an eye toward overcoming the inherent challenges at Coors Field, the Rockies switched to a four-man rotation with a limit of 75-80 pitches in mid-June. However, they abandoned that plan two months later because the pitchers, too cognizant of pitch counts, were not efficient and were able to do less work between starts. And on Aug. 1, Geivett was given the title of senior vice president of major league operations. O’Dowd retains final say over trades but will focus more on scouting and player development. The Rockies have had little success developing starting pitchers they’ve drafted, a reason Mark Wiley was hired to oversee pitching throughout the organization.
Injuries last season enabled several young position players to gain experience. But of that group, only Rosario at catcher seems to be a future everyday player capable of making an impact, and that’s provided his defense improves markedly. The young starting pitchers were generally overmatched and looked to scouts like future No. 4 or No. 5 starters. Weiss seems capable of growing into the job of manager. But this offseason the Rockies have been outspent and outmaneuvered by their NL West foes. This team can improve with better health, particularly from starting pitchers De La Rosa, Chacin and Nicasio. But how much of a load can those three shoulder as they come back from injuries? A breakthrough from a young starter would help. Regardless, the rotation lacks certainty, making another losing season likely.
CF Dexter Fowler (S)
Hit .315 with .395 OPS and .462 slugging percentage right-handed and .293/.387/.479 left-handed.
2B Josh Rutledge (R)
Third-round pick in 2010 showed some decent power in his first season in the big leagues.
LF Carlos Gonzalez (L)
Hit .330 with 17 homers before All-Star break and .261 with five homers after the break.
SS Troy Tulowitzki (R)
On a nine-game hitting streak, was 14-for-36 (.389) with four homers and four doubles when his season ended May 30.
RF Michael Cuddyer (R)
Despite the benefits of Coors Field, his .317 OBP was his lowest for any season spent primarily in the majors.
1B Todd Helton (L)
Played in a career-low 69 games due to a hip problem that required season-ending surgery Aug. 10.
C Wilin Rosario (R)
.530 slugging was highest by rookie catcher in majors since Mike Piazza (.561) set all-time rookie catcher mark in 1993.
3B Chris Nelson (R)
OPS was .881 in 180 at-bats after All-Star break compared to .733 in 165 at-bats before break.
OF Tyler Colvin (L)
Played all three outfield positions and first base and hit everywhere in the lineup except eighth and ninth.
OF Eric Young Jr. (S)
Hit .420 with three homers and 15 runs scored in 19 games before season-ending rib muscle injury Aug. 19.
C Ramon Hernandez (R)
Hit four homers in 49 at-bats through April 27 and one homer in final 135 at-bats rest of season.
3B Jordan Pacheco (R)
First NL rookie to finish in top five in batting since Greg Gross (third) and Bill Madlock (fifth) in 1974.
UT Reid Brignac (L)
Hit just .185 in 270 at-bats over the past two seasons with Tampa Bay.
RH Jhoulys Chacin
Came off DL on Aug. 21 and went 3–2 with 2.84 ERA in final nine starts.
LH Jorge De La Rosa
Made first of three starts for Rockies on Sept. 20 following slow comeback from June 2011 Tommy John surgery.
RH Juan Nicasio
Struck out 54 in 59 innings pitched prior to injury to his kneecap in 2012.
LH Jeff Francis
Went 3–2 with 4.97 ERA in first 10 starts and 3–5 with 6.06 ERA in final 14.
RH Jon Garland
Veteran spent almost all of spring training with Seattle before his release and immediate signing with the Rockies.
RH Rafael Betancourt (Closer)
In first full season as closer, blew seven saves but finished with 31, tied for fourth-highest total in club history.
RH Wilton Lopez
Went 10-for-12 in save opportunities while serving as the Astros’ closer in final two months of 2012.
LH Rex Brothers
Led the Rockies with eight wins and an average of 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings.
RH Matt Belisle
Wore down after All-Star break with 6.21 ERA and .317 opponents batting average.
RH Adam Ottavino
Finished third on the team with 81 strikeouts, trailing only reliever Rex Brothers and starter Drew Pomeranz (83).
RH Edgmer Escalona
He struggled in 22 games last season, but is out of options and had a strong spring.
RH Chris Volstad
With 123 starts and only one relief appearance in his career, he’ll begin the season as the long man.
General manager Kevin Towers was at his wheeler-dealer best again this offseason, and his acquisitions should return the Diamondbacks to contention in the NL West, the division they won in 2011 in his first full season on the job. Towers believes in pitching, and he added key pieces to the starting rotation and the back end of the bullpen, his area of greatest expertise. He also added offensive firepower and clubhouse chemistry in free agents Cody Ross, Eric Chavez, Eric Hinske, and trade acquisition Martin Prado. Combined with the holdovers, the D-backs appear to have all the ingredients for a bounce-back year.
Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley comprise the front three, with newcomer Brandon McCarthy penciled in as 3b. Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs, prospects obtained from the Los Angeles Angels in the Dan Haren 2010 deadline deal, and Randall Delgado acquired over the winter from Atlanta in the Justin Upton trade, competed for the fifth spot. Currently Corbin stands as the winner, although getting Skaggs regular starts at Triple-A is not a bad thing. Kennedy was fourth in the NL Cy Young Award balloting when he went 21–4 in 2011, but he lost some command of his fastball at times last season and fell to 15–12 as his ERA jumped from 2.88 to 4.02. Kennedy’s typical season probably lies somewhere in between. He has logged more than 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, and when he pounds the strike zone, his fastball-changeup combination can be very effective. Cahill also got to 200 innings in his first season with the D-backs and finished strong, winning four of his last five starts. Miley, the only lefthander in the top four, was the surprise of 2012, starting in the bullpen and finishing as a top candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Miley commanded the strike zone — he averaged 1.7 walks per nine innings — and got early contact. McCarthy signed a two-year, $15.5 million free-agent deal shortly after the Winter Meetings. Like Cahill the year before, McCarthy will face the challenges of moving from a pitcher’s park in Oakland to a hitter’s park in Chase Field. McCarthy reinvented himself two years ago by throwing more two-seam fastballs, and that approach should play well in his new home. Corbin, Skaggs and Delgado should be fixtures in the rotation in the near future.
This is the strongest area of the team, and with it the D-backs should be able to shorten a lot of games. It starts at the very back with righthanders J.J. Putz, Heath Bell and David Hernandez. All three have closed games in pressure situations. Bell, who had three 40-plus save seasons in San Diego from 2009-11, was acquired in a three-team trade with Miami and Oakland early in the offseason. The pecking order entering spring training is set — Bell in the seventh inning, Hernandez in the eighth and Putz in the ninth. Putz lost some velocity when he toyed with a cut fastball early last season, but he junked that after six weeks and dominated from then on, finishing with 32 saves and a 2.82 ERA. Hernandez has 15 saves since joining the D-backs’ bullpen in 2011 as another Towers find and averaged 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings with his fastball/slider combination last season. Bell struggled after signing a $27 million free-agent deal with Miami, but the D-backs believe a change of scenery and a reunion with Towers will help. Strike-throwing submariner Brad Ziegler had the best season of his career in 2012, and his arm angle gives righties fit. Newcomers Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds will give the D-backs two lefthanders for the first time in, well, forever. Sipp enjoyed good success against lefties in Cleveland last season. Long reliever Josh Collmenter pounds the strike zone with a high-80s mph fastball, a high-70s mph changeup and guts galore.
Aaron Hill may be the best two-way second baseman in the NL. He won the 2012 Silver Slugger Award by hitting a career-high .302 with 26 home runs and also showed great range on the fast track at Chase Field — especially to his right, where he made play after play on balls hit up the middle. Cliff Pennington was acquired from Oakland in the three-team trade that also landed Bell, and will open the season at shortstop.
Paul Goldschmidt took another step forward in his first full season in the majors in 2012, developing into the kind of guy a franchise could build around. With the bluest of blue-collar attitudes, Goldschmidt hit .286 with 20 home runs, 43 doubles and 82 RBIs while playing a solid first base. He has power to all fields, and it would not be a surprise to see more of those doubles turn into homers as he continues to learn pitchers and counts. As tough as it was to trade Upton, getting a player like Prado should pay huge dividends. He can play several positions well having started at four different positions at one point last season in four consecutive games. He is a proven .300 hitter and terrific in the clubhouse.
Jason Kubel led the D-backs with 30 homers and 90 RBIs in his first season in Arizona, and his 14 outfield assists also led the team. Ross, who was the NLCS MVP with San Francisco in 2010, signed a three-year $26 million free-agent deal to add an experienced hand in center field after the trade of Chris Young to Oakland. Gerardo Parra, who spent much of 2012 as the fourth outfielder returns as a starter. The former Gold Glove winner has a tremendous arm in right field and can be disruptive on the base paths.
Miguel Montero signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension two months into 2012, and the big-money deal already appears to be a bargain for the D-backs. Montero followed his All-Star 2011 season by hitting .286 with 15 home runs and 88 RBIs. His bat is hardly his only weapon. Montero threw out 42 percent of the runners who attempted to steal on him last season, and his 41 percent success rate is the best in the majors the last two years. He is an upbeat clubhouse presence, and when he talks, pitchers listen.
Towers made a concerted effort to improve this area and signed several of the players he targeted, including left-handed bats Chavez and Hinske and reserve catcher Wil Nieves. Chavez and Hinske provide quality pinch-hit and designated hitter options, and Chavez could be part of a platoon, playing third base and allowing Prado to move to the outfield on occasion. All three bring the clubhouse presence that Towers has made a priority during his tenure. Willie Bloomquist was the starting shortstop on the 2011 NL West title team, and he can play just about anywhere after seeing his first career action at third base in 2012. He’ll nurse a oblique injury to start the season. Outfielder Tony Campana can’t seem to land a starting gig, but in limited action last year, the left-handed hitting speedster swiped a team-high 30 bases for the Cubs.
Managing partner Ken Kendrick and president/CEO Derrick Hall have opened the purse strings, green-lighting a $95 million budget for the 40-man roster, a number Towers reached when he signed Ross. Towers must feel like he won the lottery — his budgets in San Diego were routinely half of what he has this season. The D-backs had their largest attendance in the last four years in 2012, but that is less a driving force on the increased payroll than a determination to put a winning product on the field.
The under-appreciated NL West will only get more difficult, with the Giants building on the momentum of two World Series championships in the last three seasons and the Dodgers now able to spend freely under new management and a new TV deal. The D-backs under manager Kirk Gibson will never give an inch, however, and they believe they have the nucleus to reprise 2011, when they won 94 games and the division.
CF Cody Ross (R)
The MVP of the 2010 NLCS with the Giants, he is back in the NL after a year with the dysfunctional Red Sox. A strained calf may keep him on the shelf for the first week of the season.
3B Martin Prado (R)
Career .295 hitter has carried an average of .300 or better in four of the last five seasons.
2B Aaron Hill (R)
A perfect fit in Chase Field, Hill set a career high with 76 extra-base hits in his first full season in Arizona.
C Miguel Montero (L)
Has blossomed into one of the elite two-way catchers in the game with regular use the last two seasons.
1B Paul Goldschmidt (R)
All you need to know about his acuity — he tagged up from first and took second on a 45-foot foul-out to the catcher.
LF Jason Kubel (L)
He had a triple-double — 30 homers, 90 RBIs, 14 outfield assists — in his first season with the D-backs.
RF Gerardo Parra (L)
A 2011 Gold Glove winner owns one of the best arms in baseball.
SS Cliff Pennington (S)
He had 58 stolen bases in three seasons as an Oakland regular; can play both middle infield positions.
3B Eric Chavez (L)
Hit 16 home runs in part-time duty with the Yankees last season and made playoff starts ahead of A-Rod.
UT Eric Hinske (L)
Valuable member of four playoff teams — the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees and Braves.
UT Willie Bloomquist (R)
Always in high gear; the D-backs see him as a perfect handyman at three infield spots and as a pinch-hitter/runner. An oblique strain will cost him at least a week and could be more serious.
C Wil Nieves (R)
A quality defender and clubhouse presence; his two-month stint in 2012 earned him a return date.
OF Tony Campana (L)
A basestealing wonder who can’t seem to find a place in the starting lineup. May be pushed aside when promising rookie Adam Eaton is ready to return from elbow sprain he sustained in spring training.
RH Ian Kennedy
The top winner in the National League with 36 victories the last two seasons (21 and 15).
RH Trevor Cahill
Already with 53 victories in 128 starts, Cahill does not turn 25 until early in spring training.
RH Brandon McCarthy
Back to full function after suffering a brain contusion and skull fracture when struck by a line drive Sept. 5.
LH Wade Miley
Turned the corner in his first full season in 2012 by throwing strikes and pitching to contact.
LH Patrick Corbin
Used both in the bullpen and the rotation in his rookie season, averaged only 2.1 walks per nine innings.
RH J.J. Putz (Closer)
Was his dominant self the final four-plus months of 2012; has 77 saves and a 2.48 ERA in two seasons in Arizona.
RH David Hernandez
A mid-90s fastball and a slurvey breaking ball he can throw in the 80-85 mph range give hitters pause.
RH Heath Bell
Jerked around in Miami when his closer’s role was taken away early; a return to the NL West should help.
RH Brad Ziegler
Continued to holds righties at bay and made a sharp improvement in success against lefties in 2011.
LH Tony Sipp
A workhorse who had 202 appearances and 51 holds the last three seasons in Cleveland.
LH Matt Reynolds
After 144 appearances the last two seasons in Colorado, should benefit from a change of venue.
RH Josh Collmenter
He brings an 87-mph fastball, a 73-mph changeup and a Michigan woods full of smarts and guts.