Welcome to this week's edition of ‘Marty's Musings, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the past week Major League Baseball. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the prior week and the upcoming matchups to watch, identifying numbers that are generally not found in a standard box score.
This past week we saw several first place swaps, an unlikely American League West team continue to roll and a couple teams that were expected to contend that are hampered by terrible defense. It's this week's installment of ‘Marty's Musings'.
Here are this week's ‘Numbers Beyond the Box Score':
2.5 - Nationals lead in the National League East over the Mets. The Mets had an 8.5-game lead over Washington just a few short weeks ago, and were in first place in the East by 4.5 games on May 1. Since then however, their record is 8-13 and David Wright just got diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that could potentially derail the injury-plagued third baseman's career.
2 - Players left in Major League Baseball who played for the Montreal Expos. The Montreal connections are become fewer as time passes by and more players retire, and this week it was Bruce Chen. The journeyman Chen played for 11 teams in his 17 year career including a partial season in Montreal. With Chen's retirement, only Maicer Izturis and Bartolo Colon can harken back the days of Youppi! and old Olympic Stadium.
543 - The third base to second base to first base triple play turned by the Astros on Saturday. The Tigers were leading 2-1 in the game when Ian Kinsler hit a sharp ground ball to Jonathan Villar who started the turn. The Astros are 29-16 and sit in first place in the American League West 6.5 games over the Angels.
.228 - Houston's team batting average. Speaking of the Astros, Houston is dead last in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage (.300). They are relying primarily on the long ball and lead the Majors in home runs with 64 home runs but their free swinging ways also have caused them to strike out a quarter of their plate appearances. The Astros are the embodiment of the new age ‘strikeouts don't matter' mantra, and it will be interesting to see if they have long term success, particularly compared to the Central-leading Royals who take an entirely different approach at the plate.
19 - Strikeouts for Corey Kluber in his last 17 innings. I tagged Kluber v. Sale as a ‘Must Watch', and boy did that game deliver. Kluber went the distance, giving up only one run on five hits. He struck out 12 and walked only one in the complete game. The reigning Cy Young champ has been devastating hitters his last three games; he has 37 strikeouts and one walk in his last 25 innings.
14.8 - Swinging strike rate of Danny Salazar. Salazar leads the American League in swings and misses, along with a 2.43 xFIP. His 17.5 percent home run to fly ball rate is bound to come down, and Salazar looks to be finally putting together the season the Indians have been waiting for. Per Brooks Baseball, he has cut down on his fastball usage from 70 to 56 percent, and has doubled his slider offerings. Salazar could be a sleeper Cy Young candidate, but he'll have to battle through an atrocious Cleveland defense.
-22.5 - Oakland Athletics' positional adjusted UZR based on FanGraphs Defensive metrics. It has been a nightmare for Oakland since the fabled 2014 American League wildcard game. The A's are in last place in the West with an abysmal 16-30 record and don't look like they're even going to sniff contention this year. It's a curious fall from grace for a team that has garnered at least 88 wins and three playoff appearances the last three seasons.
5 - Number of strikeouts for the Cardinals' Randal Grichuk in Monday's 2-1, 14 inning loss to the Mets. It was a forgettable game for Grichuk who struck out twice against Matt Harvey and Alex Torres and once against Jeurys Familia. To emphasize how times have changed, Joe DiMaggio struck out 13 times in 139 games in 1941. Those days, even for MLB's stars, are well behind us.
1.22 - Earned run average for the Tigers in the month of May through Sunday. It appeared the Tigers finally have some traction out of the ‘pen, but their May FIP is 3.10 and their xFIP is 3.47. Their bullpen issues were on display again Sunday; the Tigers relief corps gave up five runs in 3.1 innings. As Detroit chases the Royals they'll have to keep outpacing their underlying numbers. They currently sit 3 games out of first place behind a red-hot Kansas City team.
6 - Consecutive games of double-digit strikeouts for the Colorado Rockies between Thursday May 14th and last Tuesday. Colorado is only the 11th team in the last 100 years to K 10 or more times in half a dozen straight games. 2015 is turning into another stagnant, frustrating season. The Rockies are in dead last in the National League West and have only won seven games at home all season. To add insult to injury, the weather in Denver has been horrendous, including May snowfalls and numerous rain delays.
What to Watch
Monday, May 25
Tanner Roark (WAS) v. Tsuyoshi Wada (CHC)
The ‘Free Tanner Roark' movement has something to celebrate, as Washington's sixth starter and bullpen commodity makes his first start of the season. Roark threw nearly 200 innings with a 2.85 ERA in 2014, but has taken a seat to the formidable Nat's rotation. The Cubs, meanwhile, will get tested against a fiery DC team led by the clear N.L. MVP candidate, Bryce Harper. Wada has only started one game so far this year and has struck out nine of the 19 total batters he's faced.
Wednesday, May 27
Gerrit Cole (PIT) v. TBD (MIA)
Gerrit Cole is the leading candidate for the National League Cy Young and all of his starts have become must-see tv. Against the Mets over the weekend, Cole nearly went the distance, striking out ten and walking only one in 8.1 innings. Miami is in some disarray currently, but the Cole / Stanton matchup is certainly intriguing.
Wednesday, May 27
Felix Hernandez (SEA) v. Chris Archer (TB)
Another Wednesday matinee, King Felix goes up against the first-place Rays. Felix has been excellent this year, striking out a quarter of the batters he faces. Despite an inflated home run to fly ball rate of nearly 20 percent, his ERA is a pristine 2.19, which is pretty much in line with his 2.72 xFIP. Chris Archer looks to continue his breakout 2015 against the M's. Archer has a better k-rate than Felix (29 percent) and has not given up many long balls. He's been a welcome attraction in Tampa, where bad pitcher news seems to arrive on a weekly basis.
Wednesday, May 27
Max Scherzer (WAS) v. Jon Lester (CHC)
The two top free agent pitchers of the offseason square off against one another for the first time this season. Lester's first base throwing issues seem to have subsided for the time being, and Max Scherzer is probably the biggest current threat to Gerrit Cole's Cy Young run. The free-swinging Cubs could potentially strike out 15 times in this game and still keep it close.
Friday, May 29
Mike Bolsinger (LAD) v. John Lackey (STL)
Mike Bolsinger is currently the most searched name on FanGraphs thanks to a phenomenal start for the Dodgers. He has a 0.71 ERA after starting four games for LA, but faces the best team in the National League next weekend. Despite coming into the week under .500 for their last ten games, LA is still in first place. John Lackey continues to make his league minimum contract look like one of the best bargains in all of baseball. Lackey's 84 ERA- has been a welcome addition to the Cardinals rotation.
Saturday, May 30
Tom Kohler (MIA) v. Matt Harvey (NYM)
Harvey is looking to rebound from a terrible start against the PIrates over the weekend when he only went four innings giving up two home runs and seven earned runs. It was Harvey's first setback of the season and a good start against Miami could put that start in the rear-view mirror. This series is also a good opportunity for the Mets to beat up on a dysfunctional divisional foe and keep pace with the Nats.