One on One: Nothing But The Stats
After the last two weeks when we let our eyes do the talking, it is back to the numbers here at Baseball Analysts. For those of you that pegged Edgardo Alfonzo and Victor Diaz to each have an OPS over 1.000, take a bow. On the other hand, some of us thought Andruw Jones' hot Spring Training might produce a little more than a .182/.244/.312 line.
Before regression to the mean kicks in, we thought it would be fun to point out several early season outliers. Rich begins with a look at the group with big numbers in April, citing some breakouts; some overachievers; and some plain, old superstars...
There's no need to look beyond Clint Barmes to realize how much Coors Field helps hitters. The rookie shortstop's on-base plus slugging average at home (1.383) is nearly two times his OPS on the road (.723).
To Vinny Castilla's credit, the Washington Nationals third baseman is hitting at home (.367/.441/.767) and on the road (.353/.389/.529) despite not having played a single game at Coors Field this year.
Did you think Miguel Tejada's 150 runs batted in were a fluke last year? Well, he has 25 RBI in 22 games in 2005. I know it is (really) early, but I still find it interesting that Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Hack Wilson are the only players ever to knock in 150 or more runs in consecutive seasons. Gehrig and Ruth each turned the trick three years in a row. Of note, these historical seasons were all turned in from 1929-1937.
If Tejada drives home 100 runs in 2005, he will tie Alex Rodriguez at six for the most consecutive years of reaching the century mark while playing shortstop. A 25-HR season will give the 2002 AL MVP six in a row, tying A-Rod and Cal Ripken, for second place one season behind Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.
Except for a downtick in 2003, Tejada's HR/AB ratio has gone up every year since his rookie season in 1997. The ironman shortstop is working on his fifth straight campaign of playing in every game and has played 159 or more games every year since 1999.
Speaking of A-Rod, where does one start and stop in talking about his accomplishiments? He is on pace to reach 400 career home runs before the age of 30. By comparison, Barry Bonds had only 259 homers at the end of the year in which he turned 30. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth had 342 and 309 dingers, respectively, at that same age.
With his three home runs on Tuesday night, Rodriguez has now hit seven on the year but that is only good for a five-way tie with Paul Konerko, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Brian Roberts. Which player looks out of place in this group? Roberts, who had hit just 12 HR in over 1,500 at bats going into 2005, has already gone deep two more times than his previous career high.
Middle infielders Roberts and Tejada are the main reasons Baltimore is leading MLB in runs, hits, home runs, total bases, batting average, slugging average, and OPS.
Turning to pitching, Roger Clemens has only given up one run in 28 innings this year. The Rocket has seven Cy Young Awards, the same number of MVPs in Barry Bonds' trophy case. If Roger were to win another Cy Young, he could retire in peace and say "Eight is Enough."
Minnesota's 5.25:1 strikeout/walk ratio is more than two times better than any other AL team and almost twice the next best team in the majors. Thanks to Clemens (32/6), the Houston Astros are leading the NL at 2.86:1. According to the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, the Arizona Diamondbacks staff in 2002 had the highest K/BB season of all-time (3.10). The Sandy Koufax-led Dodgers of 1966 are the only other team with a better than 3.0 ratio.
Lastly, what do you make of the trends in ESPN's Juice Box? Improved pitching, weaker hitting, the lack of Barry Bonds influencing the numbers, insignificant, or just too doggone early to tell?
2002 2003 2004 2005 Homers/Game 1.043 1.071 1.123 .951 Runs/Game 4.618 4.728 4.814 4.632 Doubles/Game 1.793 1.816 1.837 1.734 Slugging Avg .417 .422 .428 .411
As Rich sees the cup half full across the Major League statistical landscape, Bryan sees it a little more half empty. He'll take you through the errors, inept hitting and awful pitching happening across the Majors...
While this statistic was first brought to my attention by the guys over at Metsgeek, I find it amazing that Mike Piazza has thrown out just one baserunner in 21 attempts this year. You think he will be hitting the road to the land of the DH in 2006?
It might be best for Mr. Piazza to call it a career after this season because his legacy as the best-hitting catcher of all-time is becoming a bit tarnished. His OPS could be on the decline for the sixth straight year: 1.012, .957, .903, .860, .806, .746.
In fact, this seems to be an easy year for basestealers. Jason Kendall, Paul Lo Duca, A.J. Pierzynski, Victor Martinez, Jason Phillips, John Buck and Mike Matheny have a combined CS% of just 18.7%. It seems as if Mike Barrett and Ivan Rodriguez are the only people throwing anyone out.
Speaking of bad defense, there are currently four players with five errors this season: Alfonso Soriano, Jose Valentin, Julio Lugo and Jhonny Peralta. While the three veterans have taken over 130 innings each to compile five, Peralta has played in less than 115. He's also not inspiring a lot of faith in Major League Equivalencies (MLEs). After hitting .323/.382/.489 in AAA last year, his OPS is just .633 this year.
Peralta is combining to make a pretty awful left side, as Aaron Boone has the worst average of qualifying Major League hitters at .129. Although half of the recovering third baseman's hits are of the extra-base variety, eight hits in 62 at-bats speaks for itself. Please Eric Wedge, go with Casey Blake and Alex Cora.
While Boone has the lowest average, he is not one of the two hitters sporting an OPS below .400. All-Star Jack Wilson is hitting just .157 and has one lone double in the extra-base hit column. Even worse is Yadier Molina, who in 56 at-bats this season has eight hits, one extra-base hit, and one walk.
Even after outdueling Roy Oswalt on Monday for his first win of the season, Oliver Perez still has allowed the highest OPS of qualifing pitchers (.926). Six homers and 18 walks in 26.2 innings will do that, which is not what the Bucs want to see from someone they considered signing to a long-term extension this winter.
With Perez leading the way, Pittsburgh is one of six teams that has allowed opposing hitters to have an OPS higher than .800. Can anyone name the other five? Colorado is easy, Tampa Bay wouldn't be hard to guess, and Philly and Cincy both play in tiny stadiums. But the Yankees? Yuck.
To continue the trend of Pittsburgh's awfulness, Matt Lawton has the lowest batting average against southpaws. At an .095 clip, Lawton continues to prove he should be platooned. Since 2002, the 7.75 million dollar man has hit lefties to the tune of a .681 OPS.
The worst against right-handers? Well, it is battle within the Oakland A's right now, as Charles Thomas (.000 in 22 AB) is handily holding off Eric Byrnes (.065 in 31 AB). This is surprising for Thomas, a left-handed batter who had six times more AB against righties last year. For Byrnes this is nothing new, who since 2002 has an OPS far inferior against right-handers (.746) than lefties (.904).
Byrnes and Thomas are just two players struggling in the horrendous A's offense that has left Blez pretty disgusted. A win against the scorching White Sox on Tuesday saw Oakland end a team scoreless streak at 26 innings. You have to feel for Joe Blanton, my Rookie of the Year choice, who has a 1.75 ERA in four starts, but no wins thanks to awful run support.
So there you have it, a brief look at the good and bad statistics in the Majors. Can Baltimore stay this hot but Oakland this cold? Will Barmes and Castilla slow down while Cleveland's left side catch up? Could Mike Piazza throw out Rich stealing third? Statistical oddities are part of baseball, but with clubs just about one-eighth through the season, expect some of the sample size numbers to get ironed out in due time.