Top 7 — The Indians have three hitters who rank in the top six in pitches per plate appearance in MLB. Jason Kipnis is third with 4.3 per plate appearances, Carlos Santana is fifth with 4.28, and Mark Reynolds is in sixth place with 4.27. The Minnesota Twins’ Josh Willingham is second with 4.35 and the Boston Red Sox’s Mike Napoli is first by a wide margin at 4.51.
8th or 9th? — General baseball wisdom tells you to save your best relief pitcher for the ninth inning and your second-best reliever for the eighth. That’s not about to change, but looking at what part of the lineup comes up in the eighth, maybe it should. Throughout his career, the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera has faced the No. 8 hitter in a lineup 531 times, but the No. 3 hitter only 402 times. Trevor Hoffman’s discrepancy isn’t quite as severe (512-456) but follows the same pattern.
11.2 — Last season, teams averaged 11.2 base runners per game. That means the setup man (Vinnie Pestano for the Indians) is more likely to face the middle of a team’s lineup in the eighth inning than the closer (Chris Perez) is in the ninth.
Don’t K — As Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated pointed out, there’s a fairly strong correlation between what teams are winning and what teams are putting the ball in play as opposed to taking a strikeout. He writes, “Entering Thursday, the four best teams at putting the ball in play (the ones with the lowest strikeout percentage) were Texas, San Francisco, Baltimore and Detroit — all winning teams, with three of them in first place. ... Extend it further, and you find that nine of the 10 best teams at putting the ball in play had winning records, including five of the six first-place teams.” Atlanta is the outlier in that division-leading group. The Braves have a second-worst 415 strikeouts this season. The Indians have 382.
WAR Update — The two players who sent WAR (wins above replacement) onto the national stage as a viable measurement of talent last season are again shooting up the leaderboards. Not surpsingly, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera has taken over first place and by a fairly wide margin at 3.2. Mike Trout, WAR’s poster child, is now in sixth place with a 2.5 WAR. The top player for the Indians is Santana, who holds a 1.8. Nick Swisher is right behind him at 1.7.
— Ryan Lewis