In every baseball season, unexplainable situations and statistics occur. Despite all that we know and understand about the game, including all the advances we can attribute to sabermetrics, the human element still has a way of intruding on the actual outcomes of the ballgames. Large sums of money are paid to athletes both for what they have accomplished and for what a hopeful team expects them to accomplish in the future. Obviously, the best laid plans…well, you know how it goes.
Having said that, here are some weird numbers I’ve noticed as I’ve researched the 2014 season to this point. Of course, the season is still young — we’re only a quarter of the way through it — and some of these players and teams will revert back to their norms, but the fact remains that odd and fascinating things have been happening all over baseball this season.
Prince Fielder, who has hit 288 home runs in his career and has a career slugging percentage of .522, has “slugged” just .360 this season, 95 points lower than Mets second baseman Danny Murphy, who is slugging a career high .455. Fielder has three homers and 16 RBI. Murphy has three homers and 17 RBI.
Francisco “K-Rod Rodriguez has recorded 17 saves in the 42 games the Brewers have played this season, meaning he has saved a game in 40% of the games they’ve played. In 2008, when the set the Major League record for saves in a season with 62, he recorded a save in 38% of the Angels 162 games. So basically, K-Rod is on pace to break his own single-season save record.
Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon is on pace to steal 100 bases this year. No one has stolen a hundred bases in a season since Vince Coleman last did it for the Cardinals in 1987.
Averaging 7.6 strikeouts per walk this season, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon has the best K/ BB ratio of his career (38 strikeouts against just five walks.) Yet, by almost every other measure, he’s having one of his very worst seasons thus far: 2-5, 5.84 ERA in eight starts, 1.439 WHIP, ERA+ of 58. Perhaps one really can be too careful.
Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, who over the past five seasons hit 25, 29, 28, 33 and 27 homers, is on pace to hit four this year, as many as Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
With a record of 6-0, and an ERA of 2.17, Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is off to a fantastic start. He also leads the A.L. with an 0.914 WHIP. Oddly, though, batters are hitting .318 against his four-seam fastball, and a robust .326 against his two-seam fastball. But they are hitting just .172 against his slider, and only .141 off his splitter.
Through nine starts, Red pitcher Johnny Cueto has an ERA of 1.25 and a batting average against of .135. In all of Major League history, no pitcher has ever had an ERA that low and an opponent batting average that low through the first nine starts of a season.
The Cubs entire bullpen as recorded just four saves this season. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Rays closer Grant Balfour recorded two in one day.
Is it time to start paying closer attention to the season Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is putting together? As I type this, he is currently batting .398 with an on-base percentage of .503, and a slugging percentage of .767. Tulo leads the N.L. in batting, of course, and also in home runs, with 12. Not only does he have a chance to become the first N.L. player to win the Triple Crown since Ducky Medwick in 1937, but he may become the first player since Tony Gwynn batted .394 twenty-years ago in 1994. Could even a .400 batting average be within his reach?
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, 23-years old, has now logged exactly 600 MLB plate appearances. Try as I might, I was unable to find any player from previous generations of batters whose stats through their first 600 plate appearances were truly comparable to Puig’s. He has hit 27 homers, and has posted a triple slash line of .323 /.400/.549. Puig’s career OPS+ is 165.
One player I did research who also got off to a nice start to his career homered 31 times in his first 675 plate appearances (a rate roughly similar to Puig’s), and posted a triple slash line of .327 / .436 / .609, while playing his home games in a friendlier hitter’s park than Puig’s Dodgers Stadium. His career OPS+ through his first 149 games (Puig has played 141) was 160, a bit lower than Puig’s 165. The other player’s name? Ted Williams.
As far as I can tell, Brewers outfielder Khris Davis has drawn fewer walks per 150 plate appearances than any other player in the Majors this season. So far, he has drawn just three walks in 152 plate appearances, down even from last season’s 11 walks in 153 plate appearances. Clearly, the man likes to swing the bat. On a visceral level, there’s something to be said for a man who takes his chances, who won’t be cheated, and who isn’t satisfied with a mere trot down to first base. “Felt wrong not to swing.” -Merrill Hess (Joaquin Phoenix), from the movie, “Signs.”
The Mets tenth-highest paid player this season is, (are you ready for this?), Bobby Bonilla! Bonilla hasn’t worn the uniform of any MLB team for the past 13 years. Bonilla, now 51-years old, will continue to be paid one million dollars per year by the Mets (1.19, to be exact), through the year 2035. He will be 72-years old when they stop sending him checks. The Mets could have bought him out for 5.9 million in the year 2000, but failed to do so. On the back of such improbably horrible decisions are legacies made.
If there are any other oddities you’d like to share with me, by all means, please do so.