Some Baseball Stuff

Five fun baseball stats from 2013 to impress your friends:

1. The league is hitting .184 against Clayton Kershaw this year.

That’s one … eighty … four. To give you a little perspective:

-- The league hit .184 against Bob Gibson in 1968 when he had a 1.12 ERA.

-- The league hit .186 against Mike Scott in 1986 when he seemed about as unhittable as anyone.
-- The league hit .189 against Vida Blue in 1971 when he won the MVP Award.

-- The league hit .193 against Ron Guidry in 1978, when he had his extraordinary 25-3, 1.74 ERA season.
-- The league hit .201 against Dwight Gooden in 1985, when he had the season of his generation.
-- The league hit .203 against Nolan Ryan in 1973, when he threw two no-hitters.
-- The league hit .205 against Sandy Koufax in 1966, when he went 27-5 with a 1.73 ERA.

-- The league hit .206 against Greg Maddux in 1994 when he had a 1.56 ERA.

Not that batting average against is a particularly great statistic. But it’s interesting. Kershaw’s .184 average would be the ninth lowest total since 1950. The Top 8 have pitchers you would expect (Pedro in 2000, Koufax in ’65, Ryan twice), players you might expect (Luis Tiant and Dave McNally in that crazy pitching season of 1968), and a couple of fun ones (Sid Fernandez in 1985 was thoroughly unhittable, Hideo Nomo in 1995).

2. According to Fangraphs, Mike Trout (6.1) passed Miguel Cabrera (6.0) in WAR.

And here we go again. So far, Cabrera maintains a WAR lead over Trout according to Baseball Reference (5.6 to 4.8) but -- and I’ve been telling friends this for a while -- I think Trout will once again have a decent lead over Cabrera in WAR when the season ends. It feels inevitable to me because (and no, I don’t want to get this argument started again) I think Trout is just a better player than Cabrera. He’s not a better hitter than Cabrera, nobody is as good a hitter as Cabrera right now, but Trout is a spectacular hitter, and he’s a much faster base runner, and to the eye he’s a much more valuable defensive player. I say, “to the eye” because right now Baseball Reference has Trout as a pretty severe defensive liability, which is why he’s still trailing Cabrera in WAR.*

*Right now, the Fielding Bible -- who I think do a great job of measuring defense -- has Cabrera playing brutal third base (minus-10 runs saved), which, I have to be honest, is how he usually looks to me when I watch him play. But the Bible also shows Trout playing pretty poor defense this year (minus-12 when you count his time in left and center) and that doesn’t really match my eye. But I don’t see either of them enough, nor do I trust my eye enough, to disagree with the numbers. I do think by year’s end the defensive numbers will give Trout the edge, which is why I think he will lead in WAR. But I could be wrong on that.

I predicted that Cabrera would win the Triple Crown again, and even though he has been passed by Chris Davis in RBIs for the moment, I still think that will happen. And I still think Mike Trout will have the higher WAR. And I still think that Cabrera will once again get the MVP Award. And I still think commenters on this blog and others will have a lot to talk about.

3. The Reds’ Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto are both on pace to reach base more than 300 times this year.

The last team to have teammates reach base 300-plus times? The 1999 New York Yankees, with Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams. Before that, it was the 1997 Houston Astros with the Hall of Fame waiters Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. And before that you have to back to the 1930s.

4. Chris Davis is slugging .701 at the moment.

Only 35 players have slugged .700 in baseball history and a lot of them were named Ruth and Bonds. Nobody slugged .700 in a full season between 1956 (Mickey Mantle’s triple crown year; Ted Williams did it the next year in 98 games) and 1996 (Mark McGwire that year … Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Jeff Bagwell all slugged .700 in 1994, the strike season).

Barry Bonds, in case you want to get angry, slugged .700 or better FOUR SEASON IN A ROW.

Babe Ruth, in case you want to be wowed, slugged .700 or better NINE TIMES IN 12 SEASONS.

5. Adam Wainwright has 137 strikeouts and 17 walks.

It’s not QUITE the insane strikeout-to-walk ratio he had a few weeks ago, but it’s still 8-to-1, which would rank as one of the 10 best ratios among starters in baseball history.

Let’s just say this: Adam Wainwright has had some tough luck when it comes to recognition in his career. The guy led the league in wins in 2009 with a sparkling 2.63 ERA and had the misfortune of coming up at a time when many of us realized how pointless the win statistic is -- he lost the Cy Young to 15-game winner Tim Lincecum (who I think had the better year, but go with me on this).

In 2010, Wainwright won 20 games, was second in ERA, pitched 230 innings … and lost the Cy Young to a fabulous season from Roy Halladay.

This year, he’s leading the league in wins, he has this preposterously good strikeout-to-walk ratio, he leads at the moment in starts, complete games, shutouts and innings pitched … and because the aforementioned Clayton Kershaw is having another season for the ages and Matt Harvey is basically doing a spine-chilling impersonation of Tom Seaver, Wainwright will probably not win the Cy Young Award again this year. Timing, it seems, is everything.