Stats & Info: Cleveland Indians

Top stats to know: Top 2013 managers

November, 12, 2013

Awards season continued on Tuesday with Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona taking Manager of the Year honors. Though each has had a considerable amount of success in the past, it marked the first time winning the award for both of them.

And both shared the common thread of coaxing major improvement from their teams to get them into the playoffs in 2013.

Clint Hurdle
Hurdle became the second Pirates manager to win the award, joining Jim Leyland who won in 1990 and 1992, the latter being the last time the Pirates made the postseason prior to 2013.

As the image above notes, the Pirates have increased their win total (and win percentage) in each of Hurdle’s three seasons. That’s their longest streak since a three-year run from 1986 to 1988.

The Pirates outscored their opponents this season, 634-577. The difference in their runs scored/runs allowed is typical of an 88-win team, historically speaking (by what's known in the sabermetric world as “Pythagorean Win-Loss record”). The Pirates exceeded their Pythagorean expectation by six wins, tied with the Yankees for the second-best in the majors. Only the Phillies (who had 73 wins when their Pythagorean expectation was 66) exceeded their expectation by more wins.

The Pirates won this season on the strength of their pitching and defense. Their pitching staff ranked third in the majors in ERA and first in fewest home runs allowed, and their defense third in Defensive Runs Saved. The Pirates improved in the latter stat from -25 Defensive Runs Saved in 2012 (which rated 24th) to 77 in 2013.

Terry Francona
Francona became the third manager to win the AL award in his first season with a team, joining Joe Torre (1996 Yankees) and Jim Leyland (2006 Tigers). He is the second Indians manager to win the award, along with Eric Wedge in 2007. Coincidentally, Francona was then the manager of the Red Sox, who beat Wedge’s Indians in the ALCS that season.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Francona has had a winning record in his last nine seasons as a manager. He joined Bobby Cox (15 straight) and Torre (14 straight) as the only managers with such a streak in the last 25 seasons.

The Indians' 24-win improvement from 2012 to 2013 ranked second best in the American League, trailing only the Red Sox (who improved by 28 wins). Boston's manager, John Farrell, finished second in the voting.

The Indians won with offense, scoring half a run more per game than in 2012.

They went from 13th in the American League in that stat to 4th.

Their pitching staff, which ranked last in the AL with a 4.78 ERA in 2012 dropped that by nearly a full run to 3.82 (which ranked seventh).

Did You Know?
Farrell not winning the award extended a streak of eight straight years in which the World Series-winning manager did not win his league’s manager of the year award. The last to win both in a season was Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox in 2005.

Rays, Cobb find a way to escape

October, 3, 2013
The Tampa Bay Rays continued their survive-and-advance run this week by beating the Cleveland Indians 4-0 to advance to the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays have won on the road in Toronto, Texas and now Cleveland to keep their season going. The past two wins have been fueled by great work from their starting pitchers.

This marked the second time in Rays history that they won a win-or-go-home postseason game. The other was Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS when they beat the Red Sox, a team managed by current Indians manager Terry Francona.

The Indians have now been eliminated from postseason play at home four times. This was the first time since 1999, when they lost to the Red Sox in Game 5 of the ALDS when Pedro Martinez beat them with six hitless innings of relief.

How Cobb won
Rays starter Alex Cobb became the third Rays pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in a postseason start, joining Scott Kazmir (2008 ALCS) and Matt Moore (2011 ALDS). Moore pitched in the only other Rays postseason shutout -- Game 1 against the Texas Rangers.

He’s the fifth starter or reliever on any team to do so in a winner-take-all postseason game since baseball went to three rounds of playoffs in 1995. The others are Tom Glavine (1996 Braves), Martinez (1999 Red Sox against the Indians), Chris Carpenter (2011 Cardinals) and Justin Verlander (2012 Tigers).

But it wasn’t easy.

Cobb escaped jam after jam by getting outs with two pitches -- a curveball that he threw 35 times, more than any other start in his career, and a changeup that got him four inning-ending outs.

Cobb made 20 pitches with a man on third base and did not allow the ball to be hit in the air. He got groundouts from Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis and struck out Michael Bourn.

Cobb ranked third in the majors with a 57 percent ground ball rate this season.

Cobb is now 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 10 starts since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 15.

Inside the at-bat: Delmon Young’s home run
Delmon Young’s home run against Danny Salazar accounted for the Rays’ first run.

Young has nine postseason home runs over the past three seasons, the most of anyone in the majors.

Of Young's nine career postseason home runs, five have now come on the first pitch.

Young has the highest career first-pitch swing rate (45 percent) of any active player.

He's a career .350 hitter on the first pitch (.267 on all other counts).

Remember, too, that Young has the game-winning RBI in each of his team’s past five postseason wins. He had the game-winning RBI in all four games against the Yankees in last year's ALCS.

Stat of the Day
The Indians managed nine hits in being shut out. That’s one hit shy of the most by a team that didn’t score in a nine-inning postseason elimination game.

The only other instance happened 70 years ago, when the Cardinals managed 10 hits but were shut out while being knocked out in the World Series by the Yankees.

Stats to know: Rays vs Indians

October, 2, 2013

The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians, two of the hottest teams in the majors the last two weeks, will go head-to-head tonight in the AL Wild Card Game (8 p.m. ET, ESPN Radio), with the winner advancing to face the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series.

The matchup
The Rays won four of the six meetings during the regular season. All six of the games had a similar theme -- one team both pitched and hit great.

Each of the six games were decided by four runs or more, with four of the games ending in shutouts (two for each team).

The hitter that fared best for the Indians was Carlos Santana, who was 9-for-22 with a homer and two doubles. He has a .333/.438/.515 slashline in 80 plate appearances against the Rays over the last three seasons, and is 3-for-7 with a walk against Rays starter Alex Cobb.

The Rays best hitter, Evan Longoria, doesn’t have a great history in Cleveland. He’s hitting .175 with 21 strikeouts in 63 at-bats in his career there, his worst batting average at any American League ballpark. But his teammate Ben Zobrist has been good there. He has a .288/.389/.559 slashline in 72 plate appearances in that park over the same span.

Indians asking a rookie to come up big
The Indians will start Danny Salazar, whose career consists of 10 major-league starts, only one of which involved him throwing 90 pitches or more.

Salazar’s strength is his swing-and-miss capability, particularly with a fastball that averages 96 mph, best among AL pitchers who started at least 10 games this season.

Salazar induced misses on 31 percent of the swings against him and struck out 31 percent of the hitters he faced, the second-best rates in the majors in both of those stats (Yu Darvish edged him out).

The one issue that could lead to a brief outing is that 25 percent of the balls that were put in play against him were line drives. That’s the highest rate of any pitcher with at least 10 starts in 2013.

Cobb’s comeback continues
Cobb missed two months after getting hit in the head with a line drive, but since he’s returned to the majors he’s been one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Cobb is 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA since his return.

The key for Cobb since his return is a curveball that has been an impact pitch.

In his last four starts, Cobb has averaged about 28 curveballs per game. The pitch has netted him 21 outs and yielded only four baserunners.

That could come into play against a hitter like Nick Swisher, who misses offspeed pitches from right-handed pitchers more frequently than any other left-handed hitter.

Defensive players to watch: Yan Gomes and Michael Bourn
Indians catcher Yan Gomes is capable of thwarting any potential baserunning attempts by the Rays. He caught 18 of 47 runners attempting to steal during the regular seasons, a 38 percent caught-stealing rate that ranked third-best in the majors, trailing only Yadier Molina and A.J. Ellis. Gomes also picked off four baserunners, one shy of the major-league lead (Chris Iannetta).

Gomes has also proven himself to be a very capable hitter. He hit .294 with an .826 OPS for the season. The Indians were 51-34 when he started behind the plate, and 41-36 when he didn’t.

The other key for the Indians up the middle is whether Michael Bourn, who has been hampered by injuries, starts in centerfield. Bourn has 30 defensive runs saved over the last three seasons (though only three in 2013). His potential replacement, Drew Stubbs, has -5 defensive runs saved in center field in that same time period.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
The Indians won 10 straight games to close the regular season. They are the sixth team to win 10 or more in a row to close the season since 1900. But only one of those went on to win the World Series -- the 1970 Baltimore Orioles.

Breaking down chances for AL wild card

September, 23, 2013

Jason Miller/Getty Images
The Indians enter the season's final week with a 1 1/2-game lead for the second AL wild card spot.

All together, six teams are still mathematically in the mix for the two American League wild card spots. The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians sit atop the bunch, with the Rays a half-game ahead of the Indians for the top spot.

Here’s a reason to be optimistic, and not so optimistic, about those six clubs down the stretch. Also included is their percentages to make the postseason based on mathematical modeling by

Tampa Bay Rays (86-69) – 87% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: The Rays close with a pair of three-game series against the Yankees and Blue Jays. Rays starting pitchers have an ERA under 3.00 against five teams this season, and the Yankees and Jays are among those teams.

• Reason to feel nervous: Each of the Rays' final six games are on the road. Tampa is 36-39 on the road this season, 16th in all of the MLB and third-worst among teams currently with a winning record.

Cleveland Indians (86-70) – 81% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: The Indians' final six games are against the White Sox and Twins, teams they’ve beaten up on this year. They are 23-8 against those two opponents and 63-62 against all other teams.

• Reason to feel nervous: The power has disappeared for the Indians lately. In their last seven games, they’ve hit just four home runs (no more than one in a game) while slugging just .380.

Texas Rangers (84-71) – 30% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: Much like the Indians, the schedule sets up well for Texas. Their remaining seven games are against the Astros and Angels, who they are 25-6 against this year. Against all other teams, they’re under .500 (59-65).

• Reason to feel nervous: The Rangers are 5-15 in September, the second-worst mark in the MLB behind only the White Sox, who have the third-worst overall record in the majors.

Kansas City Royals (82-73) – 1% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: Although a long shot to make the playoffs, the Royals can lean on their bullpen down the stretch. Their 2.54 bullpen ERA is the best in the American League, and second-best in the majors behind the Braves (2.46).

• Reason to feel nervous: K.C. closes the season with a three-game road series against the White Sox. The Royals have averaged just 2.6 runs per game with a .215 batting average against the Pale Hose this season.

New York Yankees (82-74) - <1% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: If the Yankees can stay alive, they’ll close the season with three against the team with the worst record in the majors: the Astros. This season, the Astros have played 12 teams that currently have winning records, and have losing records against all 12, with an 18-70 combined record.

• Reason to feel nervous: With an elimination number of three, the Yankees will have to survive a three-game series with the Rays starting Tuesday. In their last seven games against the Rays, Yankees starting pitching has gone 0-5, with a 6.05 ERA and a .311 opponents’ batting average.

Baltimore Orioles (81-74) - <1% chance to make playoffs
• Reason to feel good: The Baltimore bullpen has been solid against their final two opponents. They allowed no runs in 7.2 IP in their last series against the Blue Jays, and no runs in their last four games (13.1 IP) against the Red Sox.

• Reason to feel nervous: If the Orioles stay alive, they close with three against the Red Sox. In their last eight games vs Boston, they’ve hit just .183, scoring 2.5 runs per game.

AL Wild Card race heating up in final stretch

September, 21, 2013
With nine days left in the regular season, the American League wild-card race is heating up.

The Tampa Bay Rays lead the Cleveland Indians by a half-game for the first wild card, while the Indians lead the Texas Rangers by a half-game for the second wild card. Those three teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, as the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals are 2 games behind the Indians, and the New York Yankees are a half-game behind the Orioles and Royals.

What have you done for me lately?
After losing 13 of 17 from August 25 to September 11, the Rays righted the ship and have won six of their last nine games. That includes a pair of walk-off wins in extra innings in their last three games.

The Indians have been trending in the right direction in September. They’re 13-6 this month after trailing the second wild card -– the Rays at the time -– by 4 games entering September. The Indians are trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007, when they lost in seven games to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.

Entering September, the Rangers were two games ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West. The Rangers were 3 games ahead of the next-closest wild card team –- the Rays. But the Rangers are 4-14 in September, on the verge of a potential collapse. They haven’t strung together consecutive wins since August 26-28. The Rangers are trying to reach the playoffs in four straight seasons for the first time in franchise history.

What’s ahead?
The Rays have three home games left against the Orioles, followed by a pair of three-game road series against the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.

The Indians certainly have the easiest schedule remaining based on opponent win percentage. The Indians, who face a pair of last-place teams and a fourth-place team, have two home games against the Houston Astros, followed by two home games against the Chicago White Sox, and then a four-game road series with the Minnesota Twins.

The Rangers have two more crucial road games at Kansas City, a three-game home series with the Astros, and they end the season with a four-game home stand against the Los Angeles Angels.

Other MLB notes from Friday
Alex Rodriguez hit his 24th career grand slam, breaking a tie with Lou Gehrig for the most grand slams in Major League history.

Alfonso Soriano is the third player in Major League history with at least 16 home runs for an American League team and a National League team in the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The others were Manny Ramirez in 2008 and Mark McGwire in 1997.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had won 163 straight games when leading by three or more runs in the ninth inning or later. They hadn’t lost a game in that situation since July 2009, according to Elias. But the Pirates blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds, snapping their streak.

Indians offense struggles in sweep

August, 30, 2013
The Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, dropping Cleveland to 12-14 for the month of August. This is a quick look inside the sweep, followed by a look at the Indians playoff chances after getting swept.

Indians lost on offense
The Indians managed just three runs over the three-game series against the Braves. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Indians had not scored 3 runs over the course of a three-game series since August 20-22, 2010.

This is indicative of a larger trend for the Indians, who have scored an American League-worst 3.4 runs per game in the month of August. The struggles for the Tribe only begin there, as they also rank last in the AL in batting average and slugging percentage in August.

Nick Swisher epitomized the Indians lineup this series, going 2-12 including 0-4 with three strikeouts on Thursday. Swisher struck out looking on a fastball over the plate in his third at-bat, his 32nd strikeout looking this season. He had 35 strikeouts looking all of last season.

Effect of sweep on playoff chances
The Indians missed out on a chance to gain ground on the Oakland Athletics, who lost Thursday and currently hold the second Wild Card spot in the American League. As a result of the sweep, Cleveland dropped two games in the Wild Card standings and got leapfrogged by the Orioles as well.

The Indians have not made the playoffs since 2007 and will need to finish strong in September in order to make it this season. This may not bode well for them, as they are under .500 in September since they last made the playoffs.

Fernandez keeps Indians off balance

August, 3, 2013
Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald/Getty ImagesJose Fernandez has 27 strikeouts in his last two starts.
Jose Fernandez is quickly emerging as one of the most impressive young pitchers in Major League Baseball.

After striking out 13 batters with no walks in eight innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his previous start, Fernandez struck out 14 batters with one walk in eight innings against the Cleveland Indians on Friday.

Fernandez is the first pitcher with consecutive 13-strikeout games since Randy Johnson in 2004. He’s the first pitcher age 21 or younger with multiple 13-strikeout games in a season since Kerry Wood had five such games in 1998.

Not only is Fernandez striking out batters at a high rate, but he’s doing so without walking many batters. He’s the first pitcher with consecutive games of at least 13 strikeouts and one or fewer walks since Curt Schilling in 2002.

Fernandez is the fifth pitcher age 21 or younger with consecutive 13-strikeout games in the modern era (since 1900), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s the fourth-youngest pitcher with consecutive 13-strikeout games. Only Dwight Gooden in 1984, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Jose Rijo in 1986 were younger.

How did Fernandez dominate the Indians?

• Fernandez registered 22 of his 24 outs via strikeout (14) or ground ball (8). He's the first pitcher in the last two seasons to go at least eight innings and get just two or fewer of his outs in the air.

• Despite his fastball averaging 95.5 mph (his second-fastest this season), Fernandez threw a season-high 50 percent offspeed pitches. He recorded a season-best 18 outs on those offspeed pitches, including 13 strikeouts.

• Fernandez's breaking balls, in particular, were dominant. Twelve of his 14 strikeouts came on his curveball or slider, tied for the most by any pitcher in the last five seasons.

• Fernandez had success getting Indians hitters to expand their strike zone, particularly with two strikes. He threw 13 two-strike pitches out of the zone and Indians hitters missed on all nine they swung at. His nine strikeouts out of the zone were one shy of the most in baseball this season.

How the Indians are creeping up on Tigers

July, 5, 2013

US PresswireJason Kipnis and the Indians have been the AL's best team the last few weeks
The Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers on Friday in the opener of a four-game series at Progressive Field. Earlier this week, the Indians took over sole possession of first place in the AL Central for the first time since early May. But thanks to three straight Tigers wins and back-to-back losses by the Tribe, Detroit comes in with a 1.5-game lead in the division.

Of course, it’s still just a fraction of the 5.5-game lead Tigers held on June 11. How have the Indians been able to go an AL-best 15-7 since that day and close the gap in the Central?

The Indians have scored nearly 41 percent of their runs with two outs this season. Their 169 runs scored with two outs are the most in the American League and second-most league wide (Cardinals - 174). The Tribe leads MLB in two-out slugging percentage (.433) and ranks second in two-out OPS (.767).

Offseason additions like Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs were meant to improve overall team speed, and it’s paid off. The Indians’ 64 stolen bases are tied for fourth in MLB and no team has more than their 20 stolen bases since June 11. It’s a dramatic improvement for a team that ranked 12th in stolen bases in 2012. Cleveland baserunners have also gone first to third or scored on a single 61 times this season, most in MLB.

The Indians are 18-8 (.750) in one-run games (best in baseball), and are the only team that has yet to lose an extra-inning game (5-0). Meanwhile, the Tigers are just 9-12 in one-run games and have gone 2-9 in extra innings, the most extra-inning losses in baseball.

Justin Masterson has been one of Cleveland’s best starters during its run and he gets the ball on Friday. In four starts since June 11, Masterson is 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA and the Indians have won three of those four games. In his last start, Masterson shut out the White Sox with eight strikeouts and just one walk. It was his major-league best third shutout of the season

Masterson, primarily a sinker-baller, has thrown 28 percent sliders this season after doing so just 19 percent of the time in 2012. His .091 opponents’ batting average against his slider is the lowest among qualified starting pitchers. He’ll be tested on Friday, however, as Detroit has the highest OPS (.783) and the most home runs (21) against sliders this season.

Jason Kipnis
After hitting .189 through May 1, Jason Kipnis has hit .340 since (sixth in MLB over span) including an AL-best .419 during the month of June. His efforts earned him player of the month honors, the first Indian to win the award since Shin-Soo Choo in September of 2008. He’s riding a career-long 15-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 35 straight games. It’s the longest on-base streak by a member of the Indians since Victor Martinez reached in 45 straight during a stretch spanning the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Kernels: Friday fun

June, 30, 2013

Steve Mitchell/Getty Images
Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey is one player who had a good day on Friday.

This week's theme is "Friday."

In the 16-game slate from June 28, all of this happened (and more).

The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox played a rainout-induced doubleheader starting at 4:10 CT.

• The White Sox opened with five runs off Trevor Bauer, who threw 49 pitches and didn't get out of the inning. It was one shy of the season high (Ian Kennedy threw 50 in an inning on June 6). Bauer was the first pitcher to leave a doubleheader in the first inning of the first game since Rolando Arrojo of Boston on Sept. 21, 2000.

• Seven Indians had at least 2 RBIs, the first time they'd done that in exactly 63 years. Larry Doby, Al Rosen and Ray Boone contributed to an 18-2 blowout of the St. Louis Browns on June 28, 1950.

• Brian Omogrosso surrendered nine runs in 2.1 innings and took the loss. No White Sox reliever had allowed nine in a game since Scott Eyre against the Red Sox on June 26, 1999. They hadn't had a reliever do it in less than three innings since George Payne allowed nine to the Yankees on July 17, 1920.

• Final score of Game 1: 19-10. The 29 combined runs were the most in a game this season. The Indians have scored 19 twice this season, the second such time in their history they've scored 19 or more runs twice in a season (1923).

• Turnabout is fair play. On Sept. 2, 2001, also at Comiskey Park, the White Sox beat the Indians 19-10. Catcher Tim Laker played the role of Casper Wells, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

• Only one other Cleveland team has played a 19-10 game in MLB history. That also was in Chicago, but it was not the Indians. It was the Cleveland Spiders, who lost by that score to the NL's White Stockings (who later became the Cubs) on Sept. 19, 1889.

• With a brief rain delay between games, the second game, which the Indians won 9-8, didn't end until 1:06 a.m. According to Elias, the combined game times of 7 hours, 53 minutes set a record for the longest 18-inning doubleheader in major-league history.

• The Indians hadn't scored 28 runs in a day since June 18, 1950, when they swept a pair from the Philadelphia Athletics, 7-0 and 21-2.

Elsewhere around the Majors on Friday

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 16-1, their most runs ever at Dodger Stadium. They did win 19-10 – there’s that score again! — in the L.A. Coliseum in 1961.It was their second-largest margin of victory against the Dodgers franchise. The Phillies beat the then-Brooklyn Bridegrooms 22-5 at Eastern Park on April 24, 1894.

Phillies right fielder Delmon Young drove in six runs on two singles, a double and a groundout. Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, only one other Phillies hitter has driven in six runs in a game without a homer: shortstop Granny Hamner, who had two doubles and a single with seven RBI against the Cardinals on July 17, 1948.

A few hours after Bauer’s 49-pitch inning for Cleveland, St. Louis Cardinals starter Trevor Miller threw 51 pitches in the second inning against Oakland -- also only getting two outs before being relieved. Miller’s high-water mark would stand for only one day before Wade Davis of the Royals threw 53 pitches in a five-run first inning against Minnesota on Saturday.

The New York Mets' Matt Harvey struck out 11 Nationals and walked zero. It was his third game this season going seven innings with no walks and double-digit strikeouts. That leads the majors. Harvey hasn’t won any of them. He was in line on Friday until the bullpen gave up five runs. The last pitcher to have three such games in a season without a win was Vida Blue, who had two 11-inning no-decisions and a 1-0 complete-game loss for Oakland in 1971.

Indians surge back into AL Central race

June, 27, 2013
Just two weeks ago the Cleveland Indians appeared headed for another collapse after a strong start to the season.

They had fallen to 30-33 following a loss to the Rangers on June 10, extending their season-high losing streak to eight games as Scott Kazmir was rocked for four runs in six innings pitched.

But the Windians have turned it around since then, winning 10 of their last 14 games after a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. They are 40-37 and have closed the gap on the Detroit Tigers to 2 games in the AL Central race.

It’s fitting that Kazmir was on the mound for tonight’s win, throwing his best start of the season as he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

He finished with seven strong innings of one-hit, one-run ball for his first career start with at least seven innings pitched and one hit or fewer allowed.

Kazmir did a great job finishing off the Orioles batters, retiring all 10 that went to a two-strike count. Prior to this start, he had allowed a .250 batting average with two strikes, which was the third-highest mark in the majors.

He kept the ball away from the Orioles potent lineup, throwing a season-high 59 percent of his pitches on the outer third of the strike zone or just off the outside corner. Those 46 pitches netted him 14 outs with zero baserunners allowed.

The player who broke up Kazmir’s no-no was Manny Machado, with his MLB-best 36th double of the season.

The double came off a fastball from the southpaw on the inner third of the plate. Machado was just 2-for-17 (.118) in at-bats ending in an inside fastball from lefties prior to that hit.

Machado’s 36 doubles are already the most for an Orioles player before the All-Star break and the most by any AL player in the first half of the season since Edgar Martinez had 42 in 1996.

If Machado plays in every game the rest of the season he would finish with 73 doubles, which would shatter the major-league record of 67 doubles set by Earl Webb in the 1931 season.

Machado is chasing a record that has appeared to be unbreakable in recent years. The last players to even reach 60 doubles in a season were Joe Medwick and Charlie Gehringer in 1936.

Santana, Cano are powered 'up' this season

June, 3, 2013

Elsa/Getty Images
Carlos Santana (left, wearing mask) leads the Indians against Robinson Cano and the Yankees.
Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana and New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano are 11th and 12th in the American League, respectively, in OPS this season.

Their teams square off on Monday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 ET).

They’ve both had success on pitches up in the zone but in different ways. Santana is hitting 140 points higher with an OPS that is almost 340 points higher on pitchers in the upper half of the strike zone.

He’s also taken advantage of being ahead in the count, hitting .553 with a 1.749 OPS in hitters’ counts (1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1) this season (.178/.420 in pitchers’ counts). His OBP of .696 when he’s ahead in the count leads all American League hitters.

Cano’s batting average and OPS are higher against pitches in the upper half, but he gets most of his power against pitches in the lower half of the strike zone, where he’s hit 11 of his 14 home runs this season.

Take a look at his hot zones at the bottom of the page to see the difference.

He’s gone back and forth this season between the 2-hole and the 3-hole in the lineup, but he’s clearly been better hitting second, as you can see in the chart on the right.

Mastering the slider
Indians starter Justin Masterson is holding opponents to an .063 batting average against his slider, the lowest against any starting pitcher with at least 100 sliders thrown this season.

The league-average starting pitcher gets a whiff on 31 percent of swings against sliders. Masterson gets whiffs on 43 percent of swings against his slider, and his 48 strikeouts with the pitch are the third-most in the majors.

When he throws it at least 83 MPH, opponents are hitting just .030 with a .114 OPS. Those numbers are .231 and .795 against sliders below 83 MPH.

And he has the ability to ramp up the velocity -- on both his slider and his fastball -- as he gets closer to a strikeout.

Did you know?
• Yankees starter Andy Pettitte is one win away from 250 for his career. He would be the 47th pitcher to reach the 250 win plateau. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 23 pitchers have earned their 250th career win in the past 70 years, but only five had fewer losses at the time of their 250th win than Pettitte entering tonight: Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver.

Mariano Rivera
• Mariano Rivera hasn’t walked an Indians batter since July 14, 2002. That was arguably his worst career outing, when he gave up six runs (his most as a reliever) on five hits in 2/3 of an inning, blowing the save in dramatic fashion when Bill Selby hit a walk-off home run against him.

• Rivera has gone 24 straight games against the Indians without walking a batter, which is tied with the Royals for his longest active streak against any team. The longest walk-less streak in his career is against the Blue Jays, a 30-game streak from 2006-10.

• Rivera has a 3.16 ERA at Progressive Field, his second-highest at any AL ballpark, behind Angel Stadium (3.26).

Robinson Cano is hitting pitches up in the zone for a high average, but his power is coming against pitches in the lower half.

Francona, versatile Indians return to Boston

May, 23, 2013
Terry Francona returns to Boston on Thursday as manager of the Cleveland Indians to begin a four-game series against his former team. Francona managed the Boston Red Sox to two World Series championships (2004 and 2007), the first of which broke an 86-year championship drought. This will be his first time back at Fenway Park as an opposing manager since being let go.

This isn’t the first time “Tito” has managed against the Sox at Fenway, however. The last time was on July 17, 1999, when Francona was with the Phillies, who won 11-3 thanks to Doug Glanville’s 4-for-6, three-run night.

Are the Sox on the rebound?
Francona recorded 744 wins as Red Sox manager, the second most in franchise history, and posted a winning record in each of his eight seasons at the helm.

While the Red Sox organization seems to have righted the ship in 2013, there’s no question that the Red Sox have been less successful since Francona’s departure.

Between 2004 and 2011 the Red Sox had a .574 win percentage and made five postseason appearances, winning two championships. Over the past two seasons Boston has a .464 win percentage and has not made the postseason since 2009.

Francona’s Windians
Cleveland has been winning in a variety of ways this season and enters the series with the Red Sox at 26-19, one-half game ahead in the AL Central.

Francona’s Indians rank first in MLB in extra-inning wins and have the best record in one-run games. However, it’s worth noting that Cleveland’s hot start is not particularly “new."

In each of the past three seasons the Indians have found themselves leading the AL Central through 45 games.

What is the difference with this season’s Indians squad compared to last season?

The pitching rotation has certainly improved. Cleveland’s starters own a 4.51 ERA currently, compared to 5.25 last season, which ranked 28th in MLB. The Cleveland rotation is striking out batters at a rate of 20.9 percent compared to 15.3 percent of the time last season.

Also, the Indians are showing that they have big time power at the plate. Cleveland had 37 home runs through 45 games last season, compared to 62 already this season, the most in MLB. The Indians have not led the league in home runs since 1995.

The offseason acquisitions that Cleveland made have been paying dividends early on. One of them is Mark Reynolds, who leads the team with 12 HR, and his 37 RBI are sixth most in the league.

Tough road ahead
The Indians entered their two-game series against Detroit with a 26-17 record, having won 18 of their previous 22 games.

After being swept by the Tigers, it does not get any easier for the Indians, as their next 23 games are against teams who currently have a record of .500 or better, including the Red Sox.

Cleveland is 18-8 with an ERA of 3.48 against teams that are below .500 this season. Against teams with a .500 record or better, they are 8-11 with an 4.95 ERA.

Cano extra-base binge has Yankees winning

April, 10, 2013
AP Photo/Tony DejakRobinson Cano looks to become the first player in the modern era with three extra-base hits in three straight games.
The New York Yankees look to get over .500 for the first time this season when they visit the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 ET, ESPN2).

After not topping four runs in any of their first five games, the Yankees have scored 32 runs in their past three games, including double-digit outputs in each of the first two games of the series.

Cano leads the charge
Robinson Cano is 7-for-10 in the series after going 6-for-63 in his previous 15 games dating to the start of last year’s postseason.

Cano is the first major league player with at least three extra-base hits in consecutive games since 2005 –- also by Cano. The only other Yankee to accomplish the feat was Lou Gehrig in 1936.

If he can get three extra-base hits Wednesday, the Elias Sports Bureau confirms that he would be the first player in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) with three extra-base hits in three straight games.

Bronx Bombers
Coming into the season, one of the big questions for the Yankees was where the power would come from. Nine of their top 10 home run hitters from 2012 are either on the disabled list or no longer with the team.

That hasn’t stopped this year’s squad, which is tied for the major league lead with 15 home runs, including eight in the first two games of the series.

Newcomers Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner have each hit two home runs and hit at least .333 in the first eight games.

Last season the Yankees led MLB with 48.4 percent of their runs scoring on home runs. This year’s pace is slightly higher -- 49.0 percent -- but is only sixth in the majors so far.

Cleveland’s free-agency plunge
After spending $117 million in free agency this offseason, the Indians are off to a disappointing 3-5 start and are in last place in the AL Central.

Cleveland’s free-agent commitment was the third highest in the majors, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, who combined to spend $335 million in the offseason.

The team’s spending was not only high relative to league standards, but unprecedented for Cleveland. In the previous three offseasons, the Indians combined to spend just more than $12 million on free agents.

Indians pitching struggles
The Indians have yet to name a starter for Wednesday’s game after projected starter Brett Myers pitched in relief Tuesday. But the entire staff has had trouble throwing strikes so far this season.

Cleveland pitchers have thrown strikes on only 60 percent of their pitches and walked 11 percent of the batters they’ve faced. Both numbers are worst in the majors.

The Yankees' home run onslaught is also likely to continue Wednesday. The Indians allow 2.0 home runs per nine innings, the highest rate in the majors.

Reynolds, Jimenez show their capabilities

April, 4, 2013
The Cleveland Indians have had a nice first two games to start the season, winning twice over a Toronto Blue Jays team that had been heralded throughout baseball for its offseason moves.

On Wednesday, the keys to their victory were two players who've had flashes of greatness in the past, but whose recent history had been lacking in such.

Maybe this will be the start of something better for them. Let’s take a look at Wednesday’s stars.

Reynolds goes long distance
Mark Reynolds
Though he’d missed on 10 of his first 19 swings this season and done little else with the ones on which he made contact, new Indians slugger Mark Reynolds didn’t get cheated on swing number 20.

That one resulted in a 457-foot homer, into the far reaches of the Rogers Centre, which gave the Indians their second straight win over the Blue Jays.

It was the longest home run for Reynolds since August 7, 2011, when he hit a 463-foot home run off Ricky Romero.

The Indians learned Wednesday that Reynolds is still capable of the prodigious blast. His 10 home runs of 450 feet or longer since the start of the 2009 season are tied for fourth-most in baseball, three behind leader Justin Upton, who hit a 460-foot homer in his Braves debut.

He wasn’t the only all-or-nothing player to come up big for the Indians on Wednesday.

Jimenez gets Jays to chase
Ubaldo Jimenez
Though he earned a no-decision, Ubaldo Jimenez allowed one run, three hits and two walks in six innings against a powerful Blue Jays lineup.

Jimenez only had two starts in all of 2012 in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed five or fewer baserunners. He also struggled mightily against the AL East, going 2-5 with 34 earned runs allowed in 42⅓ innings.

What worked for Jimenez on Wednesday was the ability to get Blue Jays hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone. Their 20 swings on 59 out-of-zone pitches resulted in five outs and no hits.

Last season, Jimenez got chases at a considerably lower rate. In fact, his 21.6 percent chase rate was the worst in the majors last season. That rate would have produced seven fewer swings then Jimenez got.

Jimenez only had one start all last season with a chase rate as good as the one he had Wednesday night, a six-inning, no-run effort against the Tigers.

Jimenez’s chase rate often coincides with his success on the mound. Since the start of 2011, he’s had 13 starts in which he’s gotten hitters to chase at least 30 percent of his pitches. In those starts, his ERA is a very solid 2.99

Berkman, Myers may still have something

January, 6, 2013

Rob Carr/Getty ImagesLance Berkman mashes right-handed pitching. The Rangers rememeber that well.
Each week, ESPN Stats & Information looks at notable MLB offseason moves. This week's review focuses on Lance Berkman and Brett Myers.

Rangers reportedly agree to terms with Lance Berkman
Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said his team was looking for a DH and Berkman would seem to fit the role well. He reportedly agreed to terms with the team on a one-year deal on Saturday.

A limited sampling shows that Berkman did handle the role well when asked to do so in the past.

Berkman was a .323 hitter with a .909 OPS and six home runs in 39 games (130 at-bats) as a designated hitter in interleague play for the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, and a stint in the AL with the New York Yankees.

He was also 8-for-21 with a home run in six starts in that spot in the postseason, including the middle three games of the 2011 World Series against the Rangers.

Three other nuggets of note on Berkman:

1--ESPN Insider contributor Jason Martinez projects that the Rangers will usually hit Berkman fifth behind Adrian Beltre.

In 2011, his last healthy season, Berkman had his best year in the No. 5 spot, hitting .320 with a 1.013 OPS and 18 home runs in 81 games. He hit .276 with an .888 OPS and 13 home runs in 64 games in other spots in the order.

2--Berkman has historically shredded right-handed pitching. His 1.007 OPS against righties ranks third-best among active players, trailing only Jim Thome and Todd Helton. Berkman had a .998 OPS against righties in 2011.

3-- One thing that separates Berkman from his peers is his strike-zone judgment.

Over the past four seasons, he’s chased only 21 percent of pitches out of the strike zone (about one of every five), which ranks in the top five percent of major leaguers.

If a pitch is in the strike zone, Berkman will hack. Only 24 percent of the pitches Berkman took were called strikes, the 10th-best rate in baseball in that same span (minimum 1,000 plate appearances).
--Mark Simon

Indians sign Brett Myers, plan to move him back to rotation
Brett Myers signed with the Cleveland Indians this past week, where he'll be slotted into the rotation after spending last year in the bullpen for the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.

Myers may not be an ace but he does give the Indians something they lacked last year: consistent innings. In his most recent season as a starter in 2011, Myers averaged 6.5 innings per start, tied for 11th in the NL. In 2010, he was even more durable, with the fifth-highest innings-per-start average (6.8).

The Indians got just 913 ⅔ innings from their rotation last year, ranking 27th in the majors. The only Indians pitcher last year to average at least six innings per start was Justin Masterson (6.1).

In 2010, Myers pitched at least six innings in each of his first 32 starts. The last Indians pitcher with a streak like that was Gaylord Perry, who had 33 straight starts of six-innings-or-more spanning the 1972-73 seasons.

Myers logged a 4.46 ERA in 2011 and a major issue was the 30 home runs he allowed. He gave up a homer every eight flyballs, matching his homer-to-flyball rate over the past four seasons, and a potentially troubling trend for him.

However, it's worth noting that Myers will be moving from hitter-friendly parks (Minute Maid and U.S. Cellular) to a pitcher-friendly park (Progressive Field) that ranked 20th in home run park factor in 2012. The 140 home runs hit in Progressive Field last season were third-fewest in any AL park.

-- Katie Sharp