Rays-Yanks opener, and a couple other game notes

As it was in the end, so it shall be in the beginning: The Rays walked off winners against the Yankees today, putting themselves six games ahead of last year’s pace. Carlos Pena celebrated his return to the Trop by bookending the pinstripe aces, with a “take-that!” slam off Sabathia in the 1st and a sacks-full bingle in the 9th off Mariano Rivera.

Watch our great game long enough and you’re liable to see just about everything, even an Opening Day Mo-blow. This was the 16th year that Rivera was available to pitch in the opener (he was hurt in April 2003 and was a May callup in ’95), the 6th time he’s gotten into the game, the 4th time he’s had a save chance, and the first time he blew the save. It’s also the first time the Bombers lost when he pitched in the opener.

  • The last time Mariano allowed an Opening Day run, or even a hit, was in 2000. Why, that’s so long ago, the Angels still played in Anaheim….
  • Today’s game snapped his streak of 27 straight saves converted against the Rays, dating back to August 16, 2005 — and that was the only save he’d ever blown against them in 61 tries.
  • The 2 intentional walks Mo gave today matched his total for all of last year. It’s just the second time he’s ever issued back-to-back IBBs — and the last time, he actually worked out of it.
  • Number of times per year that Mariano allowed 5+ baserunners in a game, going back through the past 6 years: 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1.
  • Number of times he’d ever done it while getting 1 out or less: 1.

What else, what else….

– I’ve already said my piece about CC’s 1st-inning misadventures.

– How many years can a reliever hang on while posting an ERA that starts with “4”? Rays’ winning pitcher Fernando Rodney has a 5-year streak going. Of the 318 active pitchers with 30+ games each of the last 5 years, Rodney is the only one who hasn’t had a single sub-4 ERA. Yet the Rays signed him for a guaranteed $2 million this year … and he set down the Yankees 1-2-3 in the 9th.

David Robertson, who hasn’t allowed a run since last August, worked out of his own no-out, 3rd-and-1st jam in the 8th by fanning the side, with a little help from Jose Molina‘s 2-strike foul squeeze attempt.

  • There are three ways to strike out — swinging, looking, and bunting — and Robertson notched one of each in the 8th inning. I am not counting as a separate category “batter abandons attempt to hit,” a la John Kruk vs. Randy Johnson, but Robertson may rack up some of those before he’s done. When his breaking ball is on, he’s untouchable.

– With 3 hits and 2 walks, Evan Longoria reached in all 5 trips, a personal first.

Ben Zobrist who tied the game with a triple in the 9th, started in RF, then moved to 2B in the 8th. It’s the 55th time he’s played OF and 2B in the same game. The unofficial record is 76, by … can you guess?

In other games:

Carlos Beltran is one of those modern hitters who rarely swing on 3-0; he had just 29 career ABs resolved on a 3-0 count. Until today, when he tied the game in the 3rd with a 3-and-0 bomb that touched off the Cardinals’ 4-HR barrage off Yovani Gallardo. that sent the St. Louis Orphans to an 11-5 win. Matt Holliday hit the next pitch out to left (he’s connected in three straight regular-season games off the Brewers’ ace), and after a walk, David Freese banged the 3rd tater of the inning.

  • Counting last year’s postseason (he was MVP of both the NLCS and the WS), Freese has 26 RBI in his last 20 games, batting .411 with 6 HRs and .7895 SLG.
  • The last time STL hit 4 rountrippers in a regular-season game was last Sept. 1, also off Gallardo; those are the only times Gallardo has ever allowed more than 2 HRs.

Jake Arrieta matched a personal best with 7 scoreless innings and Nick Markakis drove in 3 with a HR and triple as Baltimore doubled up Minnesota, 4-2. Markakis is trying to reverse a 3-year slide in slugging that reached a career low .406 last year. Brian Roberts was not in the Opening Day lineup for the first time since 2003.

  • Jim Johnson, the AL’s most valuable reliever outside of the Bronx last year, earned the save. Johnson converted all 7 September save tries scorelessly after unofficially inheriting the job from Kevin Gregg, and finished with 3.2 WAR and a 2.67 ERA in 91 IP.

– Play-by-play head-scratcher: ESPN’s account of Rockies @ Astros says that Eric Young stole second base and scored on the catcher’s throwing error. Come again? The pitch-by-pitch clears it up: The steal and the error were separate plays. Young induced the error with a sweet deke on catcher Jason Castro: he went halfway on a pitch in the dirt but stopped and leaned back toward 2B, provoking the rookie’s throw, then spun on a dime and broke for third. When the throw sailed into CF, Young scored the go-ahead run standing up. That’s a nice game impact for a pinch-runner.

  • It’s also the first time @EYJr has ever scored as a PR; in his 8 prior games in that role, he swiped 3 bags in 4 tries, but was always stranded.

– It only took Adam Dunn three trips to the plate to fill out his first Three-True-Outcomes Bingo card, but Michael Young broke the 6th-inning tie by singling in Josh Hamilton, and the Rangers began their second AL title defense with a 3-2 win over the visiting White Sox.

– As expected, every Angel except Albert got a hit, while Jered Weaver stunned the crowd with 8 scoreless innings and 10 Ks in their 5-0 win over the Royals.

  • Last year, KC rookie relievers Aaron Crow and Greg Holland didn’t allow a run over their first 13 games (15.1 IP) and 9 games (12.2 IP), respectively. Tonight, Crow fanned the side in the 7th (including Pujols on 3 pitches), but in the 8th they combined to allow 5 runs on 6 hits.
  • Mark Trumbo’s Hot Corner Extravaganza got off to a rocky start with a pair of errors. There are wags who say that a workplace with an average employee salary of $3.4 million is no place for on-the-job training, and Trumbo’s entire professional experience at third base came this spring training. But since these forced 3B conversions usually go so well — think Dave Kingman — why worry?

What did you see?

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51 Comments on "Rays-Yanks opener, and a couple other game notes"

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Hartvig
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John- Great stuff as always.

As far as playing OF and second base in the same game?

I’m gonna go with an old favorite of mine, Tony Phillips.

koma
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Phillips played 73 games at 2B and OF in the same game

and the winner is…

…Skip Schumaker

AlbaNate
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I’ve really missed your wrap-ups over the off season John. Glad to see you’re back doing them.

Doug
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In other action: The Dodgers blanked the Padres 6-0 on an impressive outing by starter Chad Billingsley who allowed just 3 hits and struck out 11, including twice striking out the side. His shutout bid was abandoned after 108 pitches, and a 1 out bases empty single in the 9th. Andre Ethier had a double, a triple and 4 RBI to lead the Dodger attack. The D-Backs got to Tim Lincecum early with two first inning HRs and Arizona hung on for a 5-4 win over the Giants as J.J. Putz, after allowing a run on a Pablo Sandoval double,… Read more »
Neil L.
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Doug, thanks for drawing Ethier’s big night to my attention. I would have missed that.

What Ethier’s opening game exploits made me think of was how many good hitting performances there were in season starters. Carlos Pena, Nick Markakis, Ian Kinsler, even J.P. Arencibia in the 16th inning.

Don’t pitchers traditionally have the edge over batters in the cool-weather early going?

Neil L.
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John, I’m sitting here and am shaking my head in awe. You have buried so many statistical nuggets in that gold mine of a post that I could spend hours looking into the individual gems. Alright, alright …. so you put your pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us, but great job. 🙂 How do you put together a piece so detailed in such a short amount of time? I have to go over some of the points in more detail in order to respond intelligently but I gotta quibble with you about one… Read more »
kds
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According to “The Dickson Baseball Dictionary”, the original definition of “bingle”, dating to before 1900, was a base hit of any kind. Sometime around the middle of the century its use became restricted to singles only. The term implied that the hit was not “cheap”, like a bunt or an infield single.

Neil L.
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kds, I stand corrected! I’ve learned something about baseball lingo. I shouldn’t have doubted JA’s use of words for a nanosecond.

Neil L.
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JA, 3 IBB dialled up by Joe Girardi! And in a 9-inning game to boot. I wonder what managers hold the record for most IBB’s in a season? Since 1990, managers of teams have ordered up 3 or more IBB 393 times in a 9-inning game. The record of these teams in those games is 37 wins and 356 losses, a cool 0.104 winning percentage. http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/shareit/eDmXF Surprisingly, restricting the search to AL games only in the same time period with the same criteria, gives 246 incidences of which 55 were wins, a 0.278 winning percentage. (I would have thought that… Read more »
MikeD
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Hmmm, the difference between the two leagues is interesting. Not only is the AL winning a higher percentage (although still quite poor) of those games, but they are deploying the strategy much more frequently than the NL. If I read your numbers correctly, AL managers have issued 3 or more IBB in a game approximately 68% more frequently than NL managers, 246 times vs. 147. So the NL’s winning percentage in those games Oh, wait. Something is wrong here. How can your first data point showing only 37 wins for both leagues be correct, when the AL-only run shows 55… Read more »
Neil L.
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Hmm…. let me re-check that. The math does not compute. Thanks, Mike.

MikeD
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I was about to calculate the NL’s winning % in those games, figuring it had to be horrifically low, which is when I realized something was off, either on the orginal data or in my reading.

Be interested to see the new numbers.

Neil L.
Guest

You are so gracious, JA. I was indeed working on the correction but I’m not nearly as fast as you with the PI. You’ve done it all.

Neil L.
Guest

JA @24,

Not that it changes the overall conclusions, but did you restrict to nine innings or less? I am still getting some different numbers from my PI searches. I would like to know, for my own benefit, what filters I am setting incorrectly.

Either way you cut it, 3 IBB in one game does not correlate well with winning, even allowing for the cause-effect connection.

MikeD
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JA and Neil, thanks. While I know John’s new numbers weren’t restricted to 9 innings, it does at least make more sense. The winning percentage league wise is pretty much identical. The one thing that leaps out is the AL (pitching) vs. NL with a .346 W%, but it’s such a small number of games that it’s probably meaningless.

Neil L.
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Mike D @33,
What team do you bleed for or are you a totally dispassioniate baseball watcher?

MikeD
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Neil, ask a simple question, but you’re going to get a long answer. I can never use the word “dispassionate” when talking about my love of baseball. There is nothing dispassionate about my affair with baseball, but I understand what you’re asking. You will see a heavy NY team and Yankees influence from me. I follow both NY teams, for a reason I’ll explain in a second, but the Yankees are #1, yet they weren’t my first team. And I didn’t become a Yankees fan because of their winning ways. I became a fan as a kid during their moribund… Read more »
Neil L.
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Mike @39, I am humbled by your reply. May I wait a little bit to be as forthcoming as you were.

One of the interesting things about baseball commenters in here is the demographic.

I will not try to guess your age, but to be weaned on Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts you have to have born within a certain window.

Anyway, more later.

MikeD
Guest

JA @36, I did consider that, and was going to mention it, but figured the number of games was too small, yet I do think it’s playing into the results.

MikeD
Guest

@40, Neil L, don’t worry about being as forthcoming, or as some people might call it, verbose! I could have simply answered with one team’s name, but my path to fandom was a bit more nuanced as a kid back in the 70s. I’m guessing most became fans of a specific team based on where they were born, or their parents fandom. Outside of places like Chicago and NY, most cities have one team.

Voomo Zanzibar
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@39
“Approachable Grandfather” is exactly how to describe Scooter. He was almost the same age as my own grandpa, who I got to see maybe once every three weeks. But I got to listen to Phil Rizzuto two hours a night 100+ times a year.

The most endearing broadcast Homer of all time.

Neil L.
Guest

Found my mistake with the PI. It had to do with setting the league for the pitcher’s team, the opponent’s league and excluding interleague play.

More to come, but the original data didn’t completly make sense.

Neil L.
Guest

JA, a very good question about Fernando Rodney. Your nightly re-cap prompted me to pull up his player page. He’s not a lefty reliever and he’s had steady employment despite the inflated ERA.

I guess he’s trading on the fumes of his 2009 campaign with Detroit, although it is interesting that his ERA+ in two of those five years you refer to was over 100.

WHIP is not good for a reliever, though. How did he bedazzle the Tampa Bay front office?

Neil L.
Guest

“Carlos Beltran is one of those modern hitters who rarely swing on 3-0….”

JA, are you saying that major league hitters always have the green light on a 3-0 count? It is not totally up to them whether they swing or not.

We will never know as observers, based on the outcome of the plate appearance, what percentage of the times it was a take sign as opposed to a hit away.

Bill Chuck
Guest
Neil L.
Guest

Bill, I also checked your site and dug (sorry, a sixties’ word) your analysis of the Tampa-New York game. Your data on the IBB is really interesting.

Until now, the term Billy-ball always conjured up images of either Billy Martin or Billy Bean. Very nice site.

Where do your rooting loyalities lie, or will you reveal that?

Dave V.
Guest
Something happened in tonight’s Yanks–Rays game, which I wonder whether it has ever happened in an MLB game before… Matt Joyce was the #9 hitter in Friday’s opener. He had a Golden Sombrero (0 for 4 with 4 K’s). Then in tonight’s game, he batted in the cleanup spot. Can the PI be used to see if any hitter ever batted 9th, struck out at least 4 times in said game and then in the following game, batted 4th? I wonder how many times a player has even went from 9th to 4th period, even without the 4 K’s? Joe… Read more »
bstar
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Great observation about the defensive positioning, Dave. I’ve mentioned this before, but the Rays have led the AL in UZR ratings for the last two years and seem to be well ahead of the curve on where to place their fielders.

MikeD
Guest
I mentioned this in the new Lobby section. The Rays keep pushing defensive positioning to previously unexplored places every year, and based on what I’ve seen so far (granted, two games), they’ve taken it to yet another level this season. Extreme shifts against RH’d hitters, and shifts that change from AB to AB against the same hitter based on, I guess, either the situation or the type of pitcher. I don’t know if they might get burnt by this eventually, but it’ll be interesting to watch. The real question is how long before other teams start adopting the same tactics.… Read more »
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