Saturday game notes

Matt Kemp smacked 2-run HRs in the 1st and 2nd innings as the Dodgers improved baseball’s best record to 8-1, their best start since 1981. Of course, they’ve only played San Diego and Pittsburgh so far. Kemp leads the majors with 5 HRs & 15 RBI and has a 1.458 OPS.

Edwin Jackson‘s 92-pitch 2-hitter set a personal best with an 87 Game Score. Jackson, who had never before gone as many as 8 innings on less than 99 pitches, and who tossed 70 balls in his 2010 no-hitter, threw just 25 balls to 30 batters and didn’t have a 3-ball count until the 8th inning, when he issued his only walk.

  • It was the 5th straight Nats game allowing 2 runs or less and lowered their team ERA to 1.82, with 1 HR allowed. Their starters have a 1.75 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 4.23 SO/BB ratio.
  • More importantly, first-place Washington is now 7-2, matching the best start in Nats/Expos history. The last time they started 7-2 was 1981, which was also the team’s only playoff appearance.

The Orioles are alone in first place after their second straight comeback win in Toronto.

  • It’s not how you start…. The O’s sat in first place at 6-2 in 2011, 2009 and 2008, but didn’t reach 70 wins in any season.

The Marlins may be learning the maxim every fantasy baseball player learns sooner or later: Never pay for saves. A corollary says, shun 34-year-olds with declining K rates. Miami signed Heath Bell for a guaranteed 3 years and $24 million, even though his K rate last year lunged to 7.3 SO/9, after averaging 9.8 from 2007-10. Saturday’s blowup was Bell’s second blown save in as many tries. He’s faced 21 batters over 3 innings, allowing 8 hits and 3 walks, with just 2 strikeouts. Bell allowed 4 hits in both blown saves; that’s as many 4-hit games as in his full three years as the Padres’ closer combined.

Protecting a 2-1 lead, Craig Kimbrel loaded the bases with 1 out, then slipped free with a couple of strikeouts. It was his first save ever when allowing 3+ baserunners; he’d allowed a total of 35 baserunners in his 50 prior saves.

After sitting out three games with a broken pinkie, David Wright deemed himself fit to hit Saturday, then proved it by planting some ivy on the first pitch he saw, keying New York’s second straight win in Philadelphia. Wright added a pair of singles and is now 10 for 17 with 4 walks and just 1 strikeout (4 below the SO pace of his past 3 seasons). This is the earliest the Mets have won a series in Philly since 1987.

Rangers 6, Twins 2: Despite losing their top starter to free agency, Texas leads the AL with a 2.22 ERA. In 40 years in Texas, their lowest season ERA was 3.31 in 1983, when they led the junior circuit; they haven’t finished better than 3rd in ERA since then.

Giants 4, Pirates 3: On the day they learned that The Beard may be out for the year, San Francisco leveled their record with their third straight win. The decisive run scored on an error by Clint Barmes, the 2009-11 dWAR leader among middle infielders. Pittsburgh surpassed 2 runs for just the second time in eight games, but still lost their 5th straight. The Bucs are hitting .180 with 8 walks and are 5 for 41 with RISP; they’ve had the bases loaded just twice.

Phil Hughes (beaten up by the Angels today) was named an All-Star in 2010 after an 11-2 first half. In 29 starts since then, Hughes is 11-11 with a 5.65 ERA, averaging less than 5-1/3 IP per start.

When a 2-out HR in the 9th turns defeat into victory … now, that’s what I call a walk-off. (And as a special parting gift, here’s a bonus squeeze play.)


Saturday game notes — 23 Comments

  1. JA, thank you sparing the hapless Toronto bullpen, a supposed strength this season, in your mention of the Orioles victory.

    Feeling sorry for myself over the Blue Jays four blown saves in their first 8 games, I decided to do a little digging to see how rare it was to blow four or more saves in a team’s first 8 games.

    Since the process involved eyeballing a lot of lists generated by the Play-Index, I only searched back to 1990, a span of time consisting of 668 team seasons, including 2012.

    To my surprise it has occurred 11 times for a rate of 1.6 %. So sixteen times in every thousand seasons, a team could be expected to blow saves in half of their first 8 games. Leading the way was the heart-breaking 2005 Texas squad, who blew a mind-boggling 5 saves in 8 games to open the season.

    The offending relievers for the Rangers were Francisco Cordero with two and Nick Regilio, Doug Brocail and Brian Shouse with one each.

    The other 10 teams whose bullpens staggered out of the gate were, of course the 2012 Blue Jays, the 1999 Dbacks, the 2003 Cardinals, the 2001 Phillies, the 2010 Royals, the 1994 and 2005 Rockies, the 2006 Braves, the 1994 Reds and the 1995 Orioles

    Here is the list of the teams and their records in the games where they blew saves.

    Cincinnati 1994 3-0, with a tie!!
    Atlanta 2006 3-1
    Philadelphia 2001 3-1
    St. Louis 2003 2-2
    Texas 2005 2-3
    Arizona 1994 1-3
    Colorado 2005 1-3
    Kansas City 2010 1-3
    Baltimore 1995 0-4
    Colorado 1994 0-4
    Toronto 2012 0-4

    The Blue Jays have “accomplished” something really rare. They have blown saves in half of their first 8 games and managed to lose them all!! This has happened 3 times in the last 668 team seasons, a rate of 0.45 %. The equivalent of forty five times in ten thousand seasons.

    The lists used to generate the data are below. Have a look.

    If you lower the bar to only 3 or more blown saves in the first 8 games, then 58 teams make the list, an additional 47 to the 11 above. Interestingly the Cardinals appear on this expanded list 5 times and the Orioles 4 times since 1990.

    As you have pointed out to me in another post, JA, this only uses the MLB-version of a blown save as occurring in the late innings.

    • Oops! Toronto won their season opener! :-(

      Oh well. It’s not so bad after all. I should have double checked before hitting submit. ~red face~

    • I looked at the previous 11 teams with 4 blown saves of WPA -0.100 or worse within their first 8 games. Here are their final records:

      1999 D-backs, 100-62
      1990 Giants, 85-77
      1973 Astros, 82-80
      1995 Orioles, 80-82*
      2005 Rangers, 79-83
      1976 Cubs, 75-87
      1990 Brewers, 74-88
      1994 Rockies, 73-89*
      1974 Mets, 71-91
      2010 Royals, 67-95
      2005 Rockies, 67-95

      Average: 78-84
      *Projected from 71-73 and 53-64, respectively.

      • JA, an interesting reply. Thank you. You are bringing the whole traditional save vs positve-reliever-WPA back to life again.

        So the moral of the story is ….. it is difficult to survive a heartbreaking start from your bullpen?

        How far back did you search, JA? Some of your found seasons, match the traditional blown save criteria.

      • How does a blown save stack up against The Fangraphs “meltdown”?

        You are talking about a reliever WPA of -0.100 or worse? Why not just set it to the opposite of a shutdown, WPA <= -0.060?

  2. The Indians mashed for a second straight game, shredding both Jonathan Sanchez and his “lamb to the slaughter” replacement Tim Collins. Will Johnny Damon be able to crack this juggernaut lineup?

    For the second time in as many nights, the Tribe had at least 5 starters with nary a zero in their batting line, something they last did on Apr 18-19, 2006 against Baltimore. Last time they did it 3 games in a row was May 10-12, 2000 against Minnesota and Kansas City.

    Oh, and Casey Kotchman is off the trifecta snide with a HR and two walks.

    • Actually I’d say it’s 3 games in a row since they scored 6 runs in the game before that (a 10-6 loss). According to ESPN, they’ve homered in each of their first 7 games which is the 4th longest season opening stretch since 1918 (not sure if that factoid is specific to the Indians or to all teams).

  3. Jesus Montero, who swatted 4 HRs in only 61 AB, in his first season for the Yankees last year, got his first dinger for Seattle who blanked the As 4-0 behind 8 innnings of 5-hit ball by Hector Noesi, the other player the Mariners received with Montero in the Michael Pineda deal.

    Noesi’s 8 IP tonght, in his 4th career start, are more than he pitched in total in his prior 3 starts.

    • Going into the game Montero was almost a member of the “imperfect trifecta” club. The only thing keeping him out is that his OBP was actually lower than his BA.

      • Was first time Seattle-ites got to see Montero’s homerun trot too. Kind a strange, loping/lunging/lurching stride that reminded me of Fisk. Hopefully thats a good sign.

  4. “This is the earliest the Mets have won a series in Philly since 1987.”

    1987 was a very good year for the Mets, JA. (As if you don’t know) They had the league’s best offense, but came up just short to the Cardinals. What are the feelings among the Mets’ faithful this year? Are they singing I’m A Believer or Don’t Stop Believin’?

    How long will the NL East stay topsy-turvy? The Phils are looking vulnerable in the early going.

    • Mets fans are happy with the start but wary, a bit ironical in their expressions of pleasure, as might be expected.

      Was there a Madoff curse? The Mets had the best record in the NL East, and the fourth best record in the najors, over the four-year period from 2005 through 2008 (.551 winning percentage). Then Bernie Madoff was arrested after the 2008 season, and the Mets played .465 ball over the 2009-2011 period. Then near the end of spring training this year, the Wilpons settled with the Madoff trustee, agreeing to pay back a pile of money into the fund for Madoff’s victims. Has karma been restored?

      The Mets will try to get to 5 games over .500 this afternoon. The team hasn’t been five over .500 since July 19, 2010.

      • “Has karma been restored?”

        I think that would require a public admission from the Wilpons that they knew, suspected, or were willfully indifferent to the possibility that Madoff was running a scam.

        • Personally, I don’t think the Wilpons had any suspicion as to what was really going on, any more than the SEC, or scores of other sophisticated men, women and organizations who were invested with Madoff. The degree to which the Wilpon family was personally invested with him to the end does not suggest to me any awareness that it was a scam.

          But we’ll never know for sure now that the matter has been settled without a trial. The bottom line is they have agreed to repay a fair estimate of their net profits from the scheme, which is, it seems to me, about as much as you can ask. Turn the page and win some games.

          • Birtelcom, I think there is much good in the sentiments you expressed. And by all means, let’s win some games.

            At the same time, I think it would be naive to look at those who invested very large sums with Madoff and treat the mere fact of their investment as evidence that they thought he was 100% legitimate.

            To find Madoff’s major investors complicit in his wrongdoing, it is not necessary to show that they knew his business was a complete Ponzi scheme. Obviously, few people would go for such a high-risk investment. But I’ll bet that some of them privately assumed Madoff was trading on inside information, and we know that lots of otherwise upstanding folks will go along with that.

            The rates of return that Madoff seemed to produce for many investors over a long period should arouse suspicion. I think many of them simply didn’t want to know how the sausage was made.

            As for the SEC missing the boat, I can but chuckle. If they didn’t know or care about the outrageously risky and duplicitous practices of a large chunk of the banking industry, why would we expect them to notice one guy?

          • Birt:
            I believe one SEC investigator said and reported Madoff was running a scam at $2 billion, $5 billion and $20 billion; however, those reports fell on deaf ears.
            For the Wilpons to offer Bobby Bonilla $20,000,0000 deferred (for ten years) in lieu of his final salary of $5.8 million says volumes about their “anticipated” returns on money invested with Mad Bernie.
            For them to take the recent “deal” offered at 50% of the original asking/tag on their obligations to the “plaintifs”, says an awful lt about what their attorneys think

          • Paul E @16, I had no idea the whole Mets/Madoff/Wilpons issue was so opaque.

            From a distance I thought, clearly simplistically, that it was always a clear-cut, good-guy, bad-guy issue. Madoff = bad guy, Mets/Wilpons = good guys.

            I know this discussion is far from the on-diamond play, but ……

      • “Has karma been restored?”

        I love your sense of humor, birtelcom, or it your sense of justice? :-)

        You and JA are of like mind about the Mets’ tangled ownership saga.

  5. Most HRs in Dodgers’ first 9 games of a season:
    6 Wally Moon (1961)
    5 Andy Pafko (1951), Carl Furillo (1955), Mark Grudzielanek (2001), Matt Kemp (2012)

    Mike Schmidt is the all-time through-nine-games leader across all teams, with eight homers in the Phillies’ first nine games in 1976. Schmidt’s total was helped along by four in one game in the fifth game of the season (an 18-16 win in 10 innings for the Phils at Wrigley). Mike had 11 homers through 12 games that season, but only 27 more the rest of the way.

    • birtelcom, very nice catch. Matt Kemp is raking and he is a large part of the Dodgers hot start.

      Mark Grudzielanek on the all-time Dodgers hot-start list?

    • “only 27 more”?

      My, we certainly have become accustomed to the run context of the 90s and 00s.

      Schmidt’s mere 27 HR’s after that 12th game were enough to give him the major league HR title with 38. Even if he’d gone homerless in his first 12 games, he still would have been tied for 6th in the majors and 5th in the NL. In the AL that year, only Nettles had more than 27 homers for the whole year at 32.

      • Nettles is a good name to bring up here as a reminder of how early season HR stats and rates can be misleading.

        In 1974, Nettles hit 11 HRs for the month of April, tieing Willie Stargell for the MLB record most HRs in that month, a record Schmidt would also tie in 1976 (since broken by Griffey Jr.). Yet after hitting eleven in April, Nettles would go on to only hit 22 for the entire year. Yet his HR pace that season was even more crazy, kind of a bookend year. He hit another seven in September, so eighteen of his 22 HRs were hit in April and September, with only four HRs coming during the four months between, May to September. He played a 155 games that season, so the splits were not impacted by lost time from injury.

        Nettles would lead the league in HRs in 1976, following that up with his high-water mark of thirty-seven in ’77. Yet during a career in which he hit 390 HRs, he more offen than not would hit between 20-27 HRs a season at his peak. His 1974 as a whole looks like a normal Graig Nettles season. His path to that very normal season, however, was quite unnormal. Something to keep in mind with Kemp.

        • I would have guessed the same thing – that a bunch of homers early on wouldn’t necessarily be a reliable predictor for the season. But, the results in my Matt Kemp post today seem to paint a different story.

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