First Pitch 07/05/13: Todd and Joey edition

USA TODAY Sports

This column is, in many ways, the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest of blogging. Just shove all of this food (information) into your mouth (brain) and try not to hurl.

Here's hoping you're enjoying a day off from work, or school, or whatever. If not, well, perhaps you're not reaching maximum productivity -- kind of like Starlin Castro. America! Rock, flag and eagle!

One Quick Thing -- Todd Helton and Joey Votto

If you ever look up who leads all active players in on-base percentage, you probably won't be surprised to see offensive machine Joey Votto atop the list -- sporting a .417 on-base percentage. But tied, or slightly lower, depending on how you round, is another National League first baseman: Todd Helton. He's got a .417 OBP too.

I'd guess it's because of the place he plays (Denver), combined with the fact that he's not been much of an elite player since nearly 2007, but Helton was Votto before Votto was Votto. If you're like me (let's hope you're not), you're probably obsessed with Joey Votto's extreme plate discipline, and his uncanny ability to draw a walk. Votto has a 14.2% walk rate over the span of his career.

Todd Helton has a 14.3% career walk rate! That's actually better than Votto, and this is a guy who has gone through a decline phase as well. He also posted 360 home runs over his career (thus far), which you'd have to imagine is more than Votto will probably gather up given his current pace. In a way, Helton is a proto-Votto (Protto?).

I'm not sure if Todd Helton is a Hall of Famer -- he's one of those stat lines that is thrown off by his time at Mile High and Coors Field. I mean, his career .318/.417/.542 triple-slash line sounds phenomenal in a vacuum, but you worry about those park adjustments. But even when you look at wRC+ -- 133 over his career -- you're not so sure. Jeff Bagwell's wRC+ is 149 for his career, and he hasn't made the Hall. Votto's wRC+ is a hefty 156. The Hall of Stats says sure, he's a Hall of Famer.

I dunno. But one way or another, we probably don't talk about Todd Helton enough these days. With a Hall of Fame induction -- or even another season in the bigs -- hardly a sure thing, and his career winding all the way down, maybe it's worth it to go back and explore his career a bit more before he calls it quits.

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 07/04/13

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Brewers 5, Nationals 8

The first game of the day was also the first game back from injury for Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. It looked like he hasn't missed a beat, hitting the game-winning three-run home run in the seventh inning and going three-for-five. Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth both had three singles and a walk for the Nats, while starter Taylor Jordan gave up two runs and struck out three in five and two-thirds innings. Drew Storen ate it again, giving up three runs on two homers in his inning of work.

For the Brew Crew, Carlos Gomez and why is this guy still in the league? Yuniesky Betancourt were the homer hitters off of Storen. Jean Segura played well again, offering two singles, a walk, and two stolen bases. In the minus column, Donovan Hand wasn't great as a starter (three runs, six hits, three walks over five innings), and Juan Francisco made two errors.

More on the Brewers at: Brew Crew Ball More on the Nationals at: Federal Baseball

Phillies 6, Pirates 4

Cole Hamels pitched awfully well for the Phillies, shoving in seven innings. He struck out eight, walked none, and gave up just two runs. Though he didn't factor into the run-scoring for the Phillies, Chase Utley had the team's only extra-base hits with a double and triple.

Like the Phillies, the Pirates couldn't muster up many extra-base hits; only Jose Tabata's double registered for the Bucs. And Gerrit Cole may have lost the game, but he didn't look awful. He went five and one-third innings, struck out five, and gave up eight hits and three runs.

More on the Phillies at: The Good Phight More on the Pirates at: Bucs Dugout

Tigers 11, Blue Jays 1

I guess one might say that there's nothing more American than Justin Verlander and the Tigers beating the crap out of MLB's only non-U.S. team on Independence Day. While Verlander had a typical Verlander line: seven scoreless innings where only five baserunners reached and he struck out five. Meanwhile, the Tigers' bats were loud -- nearly every team regular got an extra-base hit, and that was without Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. Austin Jackson went yard, and also added three singles and a walk.

On the Toronto side, the Esmil Rogers experience got dark in a hurry, and the Jays couldn't manage an extra-base hit. Adam Lind struck out three times, Colby Rasmus made an error, and the only Jay to score was team punching bag Josh Thole.

More on the Tigers at: Bless You Boys More on the Blue Jays at: Bluebird Banter

Padres 2, Red Sox 8

Things are looking pretty rough in San Diego these days, and one of the team's bright spots -- Eric Stults -- didn't look so great in this debacle. The Sox got to Stults early, behind doubles by Dustin Pedroia , Shane Victorino and Jose Iglesias and a homer by Brandon Snyder. Then the Sox got to reliever Tyson Ross, who gave up three runs on six hits in less than two innings. And finally, the Sox got to Burch Smith, with a Jacoby Ellsbury homer.

What was positive for the Padres? Well, Jesus Guzman went three-for-three with a double and a walk. Will Venable reached base three times. And the Padres don't have to play the Red Sox any more.

More on the Padres at: Gaslamp Ball More on the Red Sox at: Over The Monster

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Marlins 4, Braves 3

Break up the Marlins! Donovan Solano gave his team a lift with a run-scoring pinch-hit single in the ninth inning off Craig Kimbrel, giving the Fish the win and the series against the NL East-leading Braves. And when his team needed him, Giancarlo Stanton delivered -- with a diving catch on a Dan Uggla liner in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the game. On offense, Logan Morrison delivered a double, and also posted his third walk of the night in the ninth so that Solano could drive him in. Marcell Ozuna homered, stole a base, and added a single for good measure.

On the Atlanta tip, Julio Teheran stayed solid, throwing seven innings with three runs, six hits and seven strikeouts. Jason Heyward and Brian McCann doubled, and Freddie Freeman's timely first-inning double drove in two runs.

More on the Marlins at: Fish Stripes More on the Braves at: Talking Chop

Giants X, Reds X - Game Postponed

This is a serious bummer for Reds fans who wanted to see their team stomp the Giants again, and probably less of a bummer for Giants fans. Still, any postponed game is a letdown. Rain is stupid. No makeup date announced.

More on the Giants at: McCovey Chronicles More on the Reds at: Red Reporter

Diamondbacks 5, Mets 4

If your idea of a great Independence Day is spending six hours at the ballpark, then this was the game for you. This back-and-forth, 15-inning affair was relatively quiet until extra frames, where the Diamondbacks couldn't score a run for a while without the Mets coming back to respond in the bottom of the same inning. In the 13th, Cody Ross drew a critical bases-loaded walk to give the Snakes the lead, but then Anthony Recker hit a solo shot for the Mets to tie it. One inning later, a Martin Prado single plated another run, but Kirk Nieuwenhuis took Chaz Roe deep to tie it back up.

Finally, in the 15th, Chad Pennington was able drive in Gerardo Parra to give the D'backs another run. With two outs and runners on second and third, D'backs reliever Brad Ziegler was able to get Kirk Nieuwenhuis to ground out and finally, mercifully, end the game.

Ian Kennedy had a sharp start for the Diamondbacks, with seven innings, eight strikeouts, and just two runs given up. Wil Nieves had four hits including a double, and Tony Campana stroked three hits. While Campana is fast, he also froze on the basepaths TWICE during this game, and was TOOTBLAN*. Oh, and Gerardo Parra hit a clean BUNT DOUBLE, which is as wild as it gets.

Anthony Recker was probably the Mets' MVP on the day, with his homer and a phenomenal tag to save a run in the thirteenth.despite only going 1-for-7. David Wright also added a double and two walks, and starter Dillon Gee went seven strong with seven strikeouts.

More on the Diamondbacks at: AZ Snake Pit More on the Mets at: Amazin' Avenue

Mariners 4, Rangers 5

Adrian Beltre took it to his former team with two home runs in this AL West showdown. Martin Perez was effective, I suppose, in his return to the majors; he gave up eight hits and walked two, but he only gave up one run in his five-plus innings of work.

On the Mariners' end, Hisashi Iwakuma saw his pristine ERA rise a little bit with four runs given up over six innings of work, and Nick Franklin made another error at second base, his sixth on the season. But Raul Ibanez cannot be denied, as he hit his 21st bomb of the season as part of a four-hit showing. And Justin Smoak was hit-or-miss, stroking two hits, but striking out three times.

More on the Mariners at: Lookout Landing More on the Rangers at: Lone Star Ball

Orioles 2, White Sox 3

The Orioles really couldn't muster up much offense at all against a wicked Jose Quintana outing, and the Sox rode a walk-off Adam Dunn homer into the sunset. Quintana's outing was everything a team could have asked for: seven shutout innings, 11 strikeouts, two hits and a walk. It was Nate Jones in relief who put the game at risk, not Quintana.

Zach Britton was no slouch for the Orioles either, with seven solid innings of his own. But when the offensive core of Manny Machado, Adam Jones and cHRris Davis combines to go 1-for-11 with six strikeouts, you can't expect your team to win.

More on the Orioles at: Camden Chat More on the White Sox at: South Side Sox

Indians 7, Royals 10

With 17 combined runs and four dingers, this game provided the Independence Day offensive fireworks. The Royals burned just a bit brighter, riding bombs from Lorenzo Cain, George Kottaras and Eric Hosmer to the win. Cain's homer was a grand slam, the first of his career, while Hosmer has been red-hot in the summer, with eight of his homers in June and July.

For the Tribe, Michael Brantley had four hits from the cleanup slot, and Drew Stubbs had a homer from the nine-hole. But neither starter in this game -- James Shields nor Ubaldo Jimenez -- had a game they'd like to remember. They combined to give up nine runs on 12 hits in a little over 10 innings. Yeesh.

More on the Indians at: Let's Go Tribe More on the Royals at: Royals Review

Yankees 9, Twins 5

Yet again, the Yankees battered the Twins to sweep the four-game series. The Yankees absolutely wrecked rookie starter Kyle Gibson. Ichiro Suzuki was a homer short of the cycle, Vernon Wells reached base three times, and Travis Hafner lodged two doubles and a single for the Bombers.

On the Minnesota side, Justin Morneau -- possibly auditioning for a Yankee trade this July -- blasted two solo home runs. Aaron Hicks stole a base! Chris Parmelee sacrificed his body to make an amazing, flip-over-the-railing grab in foul territory. That's it. Better luck tomorrow.

More on the Yankees at: Pinstriped Bible More on the Twins at: Twinkie Town

Photo credit: Bob Levey

Rays 7, Astros 5

Sure, it wasn't a 15-inning affair like what happened in Flushing, but the Rays and Astros went to extras to decide the last game of this four-game set. Yunel Escobar was the hero for the Rays, doubling to drive in the first go-ahead run, then scoring another on a wild pitch. Desmond Jennings racked up two doubles and a single as well, as the team ran up the score. Rookie starter Chris Archer didn't look bad -- he gave up two runs on two hits and three walks in six innings, which beats the hell out of many of his other starts this season.

Brett Wallace raised his wRC+ from 8 to 61 on the heels of a two-homer performance, with an extra single tossed in for good measure. Other than that, Brandon Barnes had two walks and single with two stolen bases. He also fell down running up the dumb-as-hell wholly unnecessary Tal's Hill in center field. The Astros are still the Astros so, yeah. Not awesome.

More on the Rays at: DRays Bay More on the Astros at: The Crawfish Boxes

Dodgers 5, Rockies 9

Michael Cuddyer is like Hansel -- he's so hot right now. He slugged a homer, hit a double, and drew a walk en route to the Rockies' four-run drubbing of the Dodgers. Most of the Rockies' hitters had at least one hit (except for Nolan Arenado) in support of Jhoulys Chacin, who wasn't at his most effective, but still took the win. Chacin gave up four runs on nine hits and three walks in five and two-thirds innings of work.

Adrian Gonzalez went deep, but also added three additional hits in five plate appearances. Matt Kemp, who appears to be heating back up, also knocked a homer and singled. Also, Brandon League isn't throwing any better in his new "low-leverage" role -- he gave up two runs on two hits and a walk, in only one-third of an inning of work.

More on the Dodgers at: True Blue LA More on the Rockies at: Purple Row

Cardinals 5, Angels 6

Albert Pujols was finally able to get the best of his old team, finally collecting a hit and watching his new team trounce the Cardinals. Mark Trumbo and Josh Hamilton each hit authoritative homers to power the Los Angeles offense of Anaheim, with Hamilton's tying the game in the ninth and setting up the game-winning single by Erick Aybar.

On the Cardinals' side, the normally untouchable Adam Wainwright gave up four runs over eight-plus innings, and he only struck out three. And Edward Mujica finally recorded a meltdown, a blown save and a loss -- the first time the Cardinals' closer has done any of those three things this season. Allen Craig went yard, and Daniel Descalso went 3-for-4 with a double.

More on the Cardinals at: Viva El Birdos More on the Angels at: Halos Heaven

Cubs 0, Athletics 1

Dan Straily was called up from Triple-A to completely wreck the Chicago Cubs today. For realsies. Straily threw one-hit ball over seven innings, striking out six and walking three. And Travis Wood was pretty sharp too, giving up three hits over six innings with five strikeouts. It was reliever Matt Guerrier, acquired in the Carlos Marmol deal, who gave up the only run of the game on a walk, a single, and a passed ball by Wellington Castillo.

There's literally nothing worthwhile to talk about in terms of offense from this game. Better luck next time, guys.

More on the Cubs at: Bleed Cubbie Blue More on the Athletics at: Athletics Nation

Lineouts

  • This year's No. 1 overall amateur draft pick, Mark Appel, should make his professional debut today! The Astros are stocking up on "hope," which is very cool, but it might be nice for the team to see some "good" as well.
  • Carlos Marmol cleared waivers and will report to the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque. Side note: I literally cannot think of New Mexico now without thinking of Breaking Bad, so expect any information on Marmol to be even more confusing than usual going forward.
  • Derek Jeter is apparently getting close to a rehab assignment. That's great and everything, but A-Rod is already rehabbing. You'd think Jeter could follow Alex's example and work a little harder so he could get back to his team. (Note: This sentence was brought to you by silly narratives. Narratives! When data won't do on it's own.)

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Puig Watch

Opposing Starter: Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies

Daily Stat Line: 1-for-5 with a single and a strikeout

2013 Season Stat Line: .430/.455/.719 -- 8 HR -- 230 wRC+

Today's Puig Status: Near-mint condition.

So that's it! Don't forget to follow up with feedback, and we'll see you tomorrow!

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @bgrosnick.

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