Welcome to the debut of Notable Numerals. After writing the Streaking in the Park column for the past several months, we re-evaluated and determined Notable Numerals would be a more interesting column for me to write and hopefully for you guys to read. Every Tuesday, I will seek out numbers and statistics to evaluate the league, its teams and players. The numbers will range from odd to impressive and will enhance your baseball viewing pleasure. I must give props to the Alex Remington’s column “The Numbers” for giving me the inspiration for this concept. Since the debut of this column happens to fall on the day of the 2010 All-Star Game, today’s edition will be All-Star themed, both past and present. Enjoy!
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Players from the AL East on the AL All-Star Game roster. The AL roster consists of 42 players, including those who are on the DL and unable to play, making the AL East responsible for 52% of the team. The depth of talent and level of play coming from the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox is more fuel for MLB’s potential plan to shuffle the divisions and create more balanced divisions, but is fun to watch for now. Although I am a fan of the AL East, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays are 4th in the division and have a better record than 11 other teams across baseball.
For the past few decades, the AL East has been the most dominate division in baseball, accounting for 12 of the last 17 pennant winners and 9 of the past 17 World Series titles. This season, the top 3 teams in the division (Yankees, Rays and Red Sox) have over 50 wins and hold 3 of the 4 best records in the game. This makes it difficult for other AL teams, because in order to make the playoffs, a team must win their division. The wild card team is almost always coming from the East.
The NL is not nearly as lopsided this year, with the division breakdown of 13 in the East, 15 in the Central and 11 in the West. A balance isn’t always a good thing, just ask the NL All-Star team. The NL hasn’t won the All-Star Game since 1996, but still hold a slim 40-38-2 lead in the overall series since its inception in 1933. The NL has a long way to go if it hopes to shed the title ‘B League’. Is this the year for the NL to finally break their losing streak?
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The highest single game slugging percentage in the history of the All-Star Game, set by David Ortiz in 2004. The 2004 season was a magical one for the Boston Red Sox, as they finally snapped their 86-year World Series title drought, but months before, David Ortiz was setting records at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Ortiz came to the plate 3 times in that game, walking twice and crushing a 2-run dinger, as his AL squad won 9-4. His 4.000 slugging percentage entered him into the record books, even though the game MVP went to Alfonso Soriano, then of the Texas Rangers.
What does the highest slugging percentage in the history of the All-Star Game mean? Absolutely nothing, but I found it fascinating that with all the power hitters who have played in the Mid-Summer Classic and all those players who have homered in the game, no one could beat Ortiz’s slugging percentage. The other connection is that this year Ortiz will be once again participating in the All-Star Game (and Home Run Derby), after a 2 year hiatus. The break comes after 4 straight appearances from 2004-2007 and comes after a horrible beginning of the season for the big slugger.
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Home runs for Jose Bautista at the All-Star break. What is the connection with the 2010 All-Star festivities you ask? Bautista was not invited to participate in the 2010 Home Run Derby, even though his 24 home runs are best in the majors. Bautista did get the nod to be a reserve for the AL club, but to invite Vernon Wells, his teammate in Toronto, who had 19 home runs in the 1st half of the season and not Bautista seems wrong. I understand Bautista hit .237 and Wells hit .319, but this is a home run hitting contest, not a competition for the highest batting average.
The bigger story may be the surprise power from the Blue Jays outfielder. In the previous 4 years, Bautista has seen significant playing time and his home run high for a season was 16. He has always had some pop, but to leap from 13 home runs in 113 games last year to 24 in 88 games so far this year is mind-blowing and makes him deserving of a chance to participate in the Derby. As revenge for being snubbed, I would love to see Bautista hit a bomb Tuesday night.
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The record for total homeruns hit in a Home Run Derby, set by Bobby Abreu in 2005. The derby was held at Comerica Park in Detroit and Abreu nearly shattered the previous high of 27 homeruns total in the first round with 24. The only person to approach his record was Josh Hamilton in 2008, when he said goodbye to the old Yankee Stadium with a record 28 homeruns in the first round. Apparently for Hamilton, he over-exerted himself early and hit only 7 total bombs in the final 2 rounds.
The Derby has grown into a focal point of the All-Star festivities since it debuted in 1985. Being able to watch the stars of the game joke around and hit bombs while many of the other All-Star players and their families look on is fun for the fans and players alike. The fear for participants however, is the dreaded post-Home Run Derby slump that has stricken down many great hitters. Adjusting your swing to just hit jack after jack can lead to swing issues and other problems entering the 2nd half of the season.
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The number of total home runs hit in every All-Star Game since 1933. This number shouldn’t surprise me, but does because it works out to an average of over 2 home runs every year. There have been 3 6-home run games (1951, 1954, 1971) and on the other end of the spectrum, there have been 15 games with no homeruns, the most recent being last year’s game (2009). Of those 175 bombs, 21 have been game tying, 59 have been go-ahead and 3 have been walk-off jacks.
If you are looking to predict who will hit home runs in this year’s game, look no further than the 5th spot in the batting order or the starting left fielder. What is the connection between those 2? The most home runs in the history of the All-Star Game have come from the 5th spot in the batting order and the most home runs by position have come from left fielders. Of the 175 home runs, 29 have come from the 5th spot in the order and left fielders have hit 32, 8 more than any other position. So if I am Joe Girardi or Charlie Manuel, I am putting my starting left fielder in the 5th spot in the order to double my pleasure, double my fun and have the best shot at generating power.