July 27, 2010
Each week, Big League Stew stat doctor Alex Remington will bring you a few baseball numbers you need to know.
The number of bunt singles that Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar(notes) has amassed, most in the majors for 2010. The speedy Aybar is having a bit of a down season — after busting out with a .776 OPS last year, the 26-year-old has slumped to a .712 mark this year. Since his power has vanished, he's been relying on his legs more than ever and has already set a personal best with 15 steals. He hasn't been a good hitter this year, but he certainly has continued being resourceful. (He also led the majors with 18 bunt singles in 2009.)
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The Texas Rangers' American League-leading sacrifice bunt total, behind 12 National League teams but ahead of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Arizona. You might not expect such a powerful team to rely so heavily on the bunt, but the Rangers' bunt attack is paced by major league leader and All-Star Elvis Andrus(notes), who has 13. Andrus is the Rangers' leadoff hitter, but he also has the fifth-lowest slugging percentage in the major leagues, so it's no surprise that he plays small ball. With a seven-game lead in the AL West, the third-most runs scored in the majors, and Cliff Lee(notes) atop their rotation, the Rangers are sitting pretty.
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The number of different hitting categories in which Miguel Cabrera(notes) is leading the majors: doubles (33), RBI (88), slugging percentage (.647) and OPS (1.067). Meanwhile, he trails AL batting average leader Josh Hamilton(notes) by just a few points, and home run leader Jose Bautista(notes) by four taters, but as long as he stays healthy he'll have a good chance to contend for the Triple Crown all year. Right now, the 27-year-old Detroit Tiger is the best hitter in his league, and perhaps in all of baseball.
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The batting average of opponents against San Diego Padres pitcher Mat Latos(notes), best among all major league starting pitchers. Latos just got back from being DL'ed for a sneeze, and he picked right back up where he started, earning his 11th win with a six-inning, two-run effort against the Pirates. Though he didn't make it on the All-Star squad this year, Latos has been one of the best pitchers in baseball all season. But isn't quite as good as he's pitched, as he's benefited from his cavernous home park and an unsustainably low BABIP. Sooner or later, he won't lead the majors in BABIP any more — and the Padres will soon find another reason to shut him down to save his innings for the stretch run. He'll still be one of the best pitchers in the majors, though.
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The number of people who have successfully stolen a base off the Mets' Jonathon Niese(notes) this season. Niese has been one of the Mets' most pleasant surprises this year, along with the resurgent R.A. Dickey(notes). But Dickey's knuckleball is easy to run on, as seven of nine steal attempts have been successful against him. Meanwhile, the Mets have caught each one of the three men to attempt a steal against Niese: Joey Votto(notes), Austin Jackson(notes) and Nyjer Morgan(notes). (Backup catcher Henry Blanco(notes) caught Votto, regular catcher Rod Barajas(notes) caught Morgan, and Niese picked off Jackson.) He's the only pitcher with more than 80 innings thrown to not allow a stolen base.
Remarkably, this is actually Barajas' worst season at catching base-stealers. He's only thrown out four of 27 runners, less than half his career total of 33 percent. So he's thrown out 100 percent of attempted base-stealers during Niese's starts, and 8 percent of attempted basestealers during all other starts. Thieves, beware!
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The number of home runs allowed by Dan Haren(notes), the highest total in either league. However, Haren also leads the majors with 149 strikeouts. So he has a chance to lead his league in both strikeouts and home runs allowed, something that has happened exactly twice in the last 60 years, both to Hall of Fame pitchers. (Jim Bunning did it in 1959, and Robin Roberts did it in 1954.)
Haren is having a truly weird season, as he's been racking up the Ks but getting pounded whenever hitters make contact. The rebuilding Diamondbacks may have sold low, but Haren put up a 4.60 ERA as the ace of their staff, and they likely saw him as one more thing that went wrong with their unfortunate season. The Angels have picked up one of the best strikeout machines in all of baseball. But can he keep the ball in the park when batters make contact?
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Cliff Lee's awe-inspiring strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lee has 101 strikeouts and just seven walks on the season, which is just so cool that it defies description and can't be talked about enough. If the season ended today, it would be the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of all time and by a wide margin. The current leader is Bret Saberhagen, who struck out 143 and walked just 13 for the New York Mets in the strike-shortened 1994. Third, fourth and fifth place are held by Curt Schilling(notes), Pedro Martinez(notes) and Greg Maddux(notes), as you might expect, the three best strikeout/control pitchers of their generation.
But none of those three ever had a season with 10 times as many strikeouts as walks. Put simply: No pitcher has ever commanded the strike zone like Cliff Lee is doing right now. Right now, he could probably throw a strike with a blindfold on. I'm being totally serious.