"Wow Stats" for every NBA Playoff series

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant has the fourth-highest postseason scoring average in NBA history.
The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday. Before they do, here’s a stat you should know on each of the eight first-round series.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (8) Dallas Mavericks

• 29: The Spurs and Mavericks have played 29 playoff games dating back to the 2000-01 season, one behind the Spurs and Lakers for the most playoff games between two teams in that time. Dallas and San Antonio are separated by just 33 points over those 29 meetings, just over one point per game.

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (7) Memphis Grizzlies
• 28.6: Kevin Durant is averaging 28.6 points per game in his playoff career. In NBA history, the only players with a higher playoff scoring average are Michael Jordan (33.4), Allen Iverson (29.7) and Jerry West (29.1).

(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs (6) Golden State Warriors
• 484: The “Splash Brothers”, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, have combined for 484 3-pointers this season, the most by a pair of teammates in a single NBA season. Whose record did they break? Their own (483 last season).

(4) Houston Rockets vs (5) Portland Trail Blazers
• 45.6: The Blazers allowed 45.6 points in the paint per game this season, the worst of any playoff team. Houston’s Dwight Howard averaged 13.1 paint points per game this season, fifth-most in the league.

(1) Indiana Pacers vs (8) Atlanta Hawks
• .480: Both teams went 12-13 in their final 25 games for a .480 winning percentage. Only two teams in NBA history were under .500 in their final 25 games and went on to win the NBA championship: the 1957-58 Hawks and 1994-95 Rockets.

(2) Miami Heat vs (7) Charlotte Bobcats
• 15: The Heat and Bobcats have met 15 times since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces before the 2010-11 season. Miami has won all 15. In that same time, Miami is 14-0 against the Raptors, a possible opponent in the next round.

(3) Toronto Raptors vs (6) Brooklyn Nets
• 2 and 3: On the morning of January 1st, the Raptors and Nets both had a losing record. Since then, however, they’ve been two of the Eastern Conference’s best. The Nets have the second-best win percentage since January 1 (.667), the Raptors are third (.642).

(4) Chicago Bulls vs (5) Washington Wizards
• 7.8: Nobody dominated the ball like John Wall this season. He averaged 7.8 minutes of possession per game, most in the league. That’s roughly 16 percent of a regulation game.

Picking the most clutch in NBA playoffs

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
With the NBA playoffs starting Saturday, we’re bound to see tight games and pressure-packed situations. The question then becomes, whose hands do you want the ball in?

The top chart above shows each playoff team’s leader in clutch-time usage percentage this season, along with his true shooting percentage (which weighs three-point field goals greater and accounts for free throw shooting). Clutch-time is defined as situations in which the game is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

The bottom chart shows each of those 16 players’ overall Player Efficiency Rating along with his PER in clutch-time situations.

Kevin Durant less efficient
Kevin Durant
First, no playoff team leans more on a player in clutch time than the Oklahoma City Thunder do with Kevin Durant. He’s the only one of the 16 who has a clutch-time usage percentage over 40 percent, and Durant’s is nearing 46 percent. However, his efficiency numbers drop off in crunch-time, as his PER drops from nearly 30 in all situations to just over 25 in crunch-time. That's still above league average, but it's below average among these 16 "go-to" guys.

His main opponent for league MVP, LeBron James, increases his already-high efficiency numbers in crunch-time, despite the Miami Heat leaning on him heavily.

Harden: Mister Clutch?
James Harden
Watch out for the Houston Rockets and James Harden. Harden has the highest clutch-time efficiency rating of the 16 players, with the second-highest usage rate. Mike Conley also ups his performance in crunch-time, which could put the Thunder on upset alert if the Memphis Grizzlies point guard gets hot late in their series.

Sticking with the Western Conference, Stephen Curry has hit all 31 of his crunch-time free throws this year, but has shot just 28 percent from 3-point range for the Golden State Warriors in those situations.

Who could struggle
Despite the Brooklyn Nets second-half surge, their clutch-time leader, Joe Johnson, is the worst of the 16 team leaders in terms of PER. LaMarcus Aldridge has also struggled in crunch-time for the Portland Trail Blazers, with an effective field goal percentage of 33 percent.

One of the main takeaways is that the crunch-time leader for the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks is not former NBA season and Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, but instead Monta Ellis, who has taken possessions at a slightly-higher rate than Nowitzki.

A rare matchup of point guards

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsThe Warriors-Clippers series could be decided at the point guard spot.
The NBA playoffs kick off Saturday afternoon and one of the more intriguing first round matchups will take place in Los Angeles.

The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers have already exchanged pre-series barbs making it clear the two teams are not fond of one another. But this series should be just as entertaining on the court, as it features two of the league’s best point guards – Chris Paul and Stephen Curry.

Elite point guards
Paul and Curry both averaged at least 19 points and eight assists per game this season.

The last time two point guards faced off in the playoffs with such averages? The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that it was in 1991.

That would be Magic Johnson and Tim Hardaway. The two faced off in the 1991 Western Conference Semifinals, with the Lakers winning the series four games to one.

And the point guards did not disappoint. In game two of that series, the Warriors won 125-124 with Hardaway totaling 28 points, 14 assists and eight steals. Johnson? Well he put up 44 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the loss.

Postseason form
Curry and Paul have stepped their games up during the playoffs.

Last postseason, Curry averaged 23.4 points per game and 8.1 assists, while making 3.5 three-pointers per game. That is the third-highest single postseason average all-time (minimum five games in that postseason).

Most memorable was Curry’s 44-point, 11-assist performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Spurs last season.

Paul, on the other hand, is one of two players all-time with averages of 20 points and nine assists per game in the playoffs (Deron Williams).

Inside the matchup
There are a few key spots in which this matchup could be determined.

Curry averages an NBA-high 10.3 pull-up shots per game, shooting 43.6 percent on such shots according to NBA.com player tracking.

Turnovers, however, have been an issue for Curry. He was tied for the league-lead, averaging 3.8 turnovers per game this season. That bodes well for Paul, as he led the NBA averaging 2.5 steals per game. In fact, during their first meeting this season, Curry committed 11 turnovers and Paul had six steals.

This season Paul averaged an NBA-best 8.8 points per game as the pick-and-roll ball handler. That could be a way in which Paul could exploit Curry’s defense. For example, in Game 5 of the 2013 Western Conference semifinals, the Spurs made 11-of-16 shots and scored 30 points when Curry was the on-ball defender.

Future outlook: Knicks, Lakers, Celtics

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
This season marked the first time in NBA history that the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics all failed to make it to the postseason.

So where does each franchise go from here?

New York Knicks
The Knicks’ win percentage dropped from .659 last season to .451 in 2013-14.

They only have $31.8M in guaranteed contracts next season but that does not include Carmelo Anthony ($23.3M), Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.4M) or Andrea Bargnani ($11.5M). All 3 players have early-termination options (it’s the player’s option to opt out), but it's a virtual certainty that Stoudemire will remain with the Knicks as no team in the open market would pay anywhere near that number. Bargnani staying in New York seems highly likely as well.

If Carmelo leaves this summer, the Knicks would still likely be over the projected salary cap of $62.9M in 2014-15, but they likely wouldn’t be a taxpaying team.

The result? Their best tool would likely be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. In 2014-15, that exception allows teams to sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.305M.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers’ .329 win percentage was their second worst in franchise history and worst since moving to Los Angeles. The Lakers’ 55 losses were their most in franchise history.

Mike D’Antoni's first full season as a NBA head coach came with the Phoenix Suns back in 2004-05. In four full seasons in Phoenix, he guided the team to a .707 win percentage and two Conference Finals appearances. In six combined seasons with the Knicks (four) and Lakers (two), he’s posted a .425 win percentage while failing to win a playoff game.

Kobe Bryant signed a two-year contract extension for $48.5M in November, maintaining his status of the highest-paid player in the league. This summer looms large for the Lakers, who currently have just three guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for a total of $34.1M.

The projected salary cap for next season is $62.9M and the Lakers could gain around an additional $6.5M in space by using the stretch-provision on Steve Nash (he would be released and his $9.7M contract would be spread over three seasons).

Note: the only Lakers player that has a player option for next season is Nick Young ($1.2M).

Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ .305 win percentage was their third worst in a single season in franchise history.

The only other instance in which both the Celtics and Lakers missed the postseason in the same year came in 1993-94. Following that season was the only year in which both teams had lottery picks (the lottery era dates back to 1985; Celtics took Eric Montross ninth and the Lakers selected Eddie Jones tenth).

Looking ahead to the 2014 draft, the Celtics will have two first-round picks – their own lottery selection and the Nets (17th or 18th overall). it is important to note that Boston also receives a 1st-round pick in 2015 from Philadelphia should that pick fall outside of the lottery (15-30).

The Celtics have $44.7M in guaranteed contracts on the books for 2014-15. The projected salary cap line is $62.9M. While they will have a little wiggle room this offseason, it looks like Danny Ainge has his eyes set on the summer of 2015 as Gerald Wallace’s $10.1M contract is the only guaranteed money Boston has on its books in 2015-16. The only player that could bump that number up significantly is Jeff Green, who has a $9.2M player option in the final year of his contract.

Each win stranger for Rangers

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
The Texas Rangers are living a charmed life in the early part of the 2014 season.

They’re 8-7 this season despite being outscored by nine runs, and they’ve already managed a majors-best four walk-off wins, the latest being a bizarre 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

The game lived up to its billing as a great pitcher’s duel between aces Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners lost on a combination of mishaps, the first being the inability of Brad Miller to convert a potential forceout for the final out of the game. Miller entered the day with solid defensive numbers -- three defensive runs saved for the season.

The next was a wild pitch by closer Fernando Rodney, who has averaged a wild pitch about every 19 innings for his career. His wild pitch Wednesday allowed the tying run to score.

Leonys Martin then won the game with his third walk-off hit in the past eight months, a bloop single to left field that gave reliever Pedro Figueroa his first big league win.

The Rangers went from having two outs and nobody on, a situation in which their win probability was about 4 percent, to an unlikely victory.

The Rangers continue to win despite not hitting home runs. They entered the day with only seven, which ranked 14th in the American League, and did not add to that total on Wednesday.

For the Mariners, it was another in a long line of wasted starts by their starting pitchers.

Last season, they lost 12 games in which a starter went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer (the most in the majors since the 1986 Montreal Expos lost 13). It was their first such defeat in 2014.

Hernandez has now made 17 starts in the last five seasons in which he went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer. That’s the most in the majors in that span. Ex-Mariner Cliff Lee kept pace with his 13th on Wednesday for the Philadelphia Phillies, tying him with Jered Weaver for the second-most such starts.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
The Rangers are the first team with four walk-off wins by April 16 since the 2000 Kansas City Royals.

More than a few coaches on hot seat

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
What NBA coaches are on the hot seat heading into this offseason? The numbers would point to more than a few. (all stats are entering Wednesday night)

Mike Woodson, New York Knicks
The Knicks win percentage dropped from .659 last season to .444 this season. It was the fifth-largest drop by a team this season.

The Knicks were one of the worst defensive teams in the league this season, allowing 106.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 24th, a far cry both from last season, when they ranked 16th, and in the 24 games under Woodson during the 2011-12 season, in which they ranked fourth.

Mike D’Antoni, Los Angeles Lakers
D’Antoni has another year on his contract ($4M guaranteed in 2014-15), but the Lakers have a team option for the following season.

D’Antoni’s first full season as a NBA head coach came with the Suns in 2004-05. In four full seasons in Phoenix, he guided the team to a .707 win percentage and two Conference Finals appearances. In six combined seasons with the Knicks (4) and Lakers (2), he’s posted a .424 win percentage while failing to win a playoff game. D’Antoni has a .431 win percentage with the Lakers, the worst by any coach in franchise history (minimum 100 games).

The Lakers will finish with their second-worst win percentage in franchise history - and it's their worst since moving to Los Angeles- surpassed only by the 1957-58 team (.264), and will set a team single-season record for losses.

The Lakers allowed 108.1 points per 100 possessions this season, third-most in the league.

Larry Drew, Milwaukee Bucks
In Larry Drew’s first season in Milwaukee, the Bucks posted a win percentage that ranks by far the worst in franchise history. Their win percentage dropped by more than any team in the NBA.

They became just the fifth team in NBA history to go an entire season without consecutive wins.

Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers
This was Mike Brown’s first season with a sub .500 record in his seven seasons as a head coach.

According to Vegas win totals, the Cavaliers over/under entering the season was 40.5. Entering the final night of the regular season, the Cavaliers were 32-49.

Since LeBron James left for South Beach in the summer of 2010, the Cavaliers have posted a league-worst .309 win percentage and have yet to make it back to the playoffs.

Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans
In his first season as a NBA head coach in 2010-11, Williams guided New Orleans to a 46-36 record.

But Chris Paul was traded prior to the start of the following season and while the Pelicans continue to improve, they haven’t reached the .500 mark since.

Jacque Vaughn, Orlando Magic
In 2 seasons, Jacque Vaughn has compiled the worst win percentage of any coach in the 25-year history of the Magic franchise (minimum 50 games as head coach).

Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz
Corbin took over for Jerry Sloan for the final 28 games of the 2010-11 season.

He’s failed to win a playoff game in his first stint as a NBA head coach, getting swept by the Spurs in his only appearance back in 2011-12. After two seasons with winning records, the Jazz winning percentage dropped by more than 200 points from last season to this season.

Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have missed the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons, the longest active drought in the NBA.

While injuries to Kevin Love are often referred to when it comes to the Timberwolves struggles, they are still below .500 with Love in the lineup over the last three seasons (Adelman’s tenure as coach).

Top stats to know: Quest for the cup

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff begins Wednesday night. The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to be the first repeat Stanley Cup Champions since the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back cups in 1997 & 1998.

Here are some of the top stats to know as the Quest for the Cup gets underway.

• The Blackhawks led the NHL in goals during the 2013-14 regular season with 267, but recent history suggests that the Stanley Cup won’t make its way back to Chicago. The team that has led the NHL in goals during the regular season has not won the Stanley Cup since the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins (led NHL with 343 goals that season).

Since the 2002-03 season, six defending Cup Champions have lost in the first Round (previously called Conference Quarterfinals) of the playoffs and a seventh missed the playoffs entirely (Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07).

• The Penguins have eight players on their roster with at least 80 games of playoff experience. Only two Columbus Blue Jackets players have played more than 30 career postseason games (Nathan Horton with 43 & Brandon Dubinsky with 31).

The league’s leading scorer during the regular season was Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby with 104 points. Since the 1987-88 season, only three players have led the league in scoring and won a Stanley Cup in the same campaign, two of which played for Pittsburgh.

• The Boston Bruins won the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy, the second time that they have claimed that award (other time was in 1989-90).

Since the Presidents’ Trophy was first awarded in 1985-86, eight teams have won it and the Stanley Cup in the same season. However, the Blackhawks won both trophies last season.

On the flip side, six Presidents’ Trophy winners have been eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Vancouver Canucks last season.

• The Montreal Canadiens are the only Canadian-based franchise in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is the first time since 1973 that just one Canadian team made the playoffs. That year, the Canadiens were that lone Canadian representative as well and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

In addition, it has been 21 years since a Canadian-based team last won the Stanley Cup (Montreal beating the Los Angeles Kings in the 1993 Cup Final). Since then, Canadian teams have reached and lost in the Cup Final five times, with four of those series going the full seven games.

Other notes

• The Red Wings are making their 23rd consecutive postseason appearance, the longest active streak of its kind in the four major professional sports.

• Three teams are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after long absences. The Dallas Stars are making their first appearance since 2008, the Columbus Blue Jackets are back for the first time since 2009, and the Colorado Avalanche are back in the postseason for the first time since 2010.

Top stats to know: The surging Grizzlies

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
The Memphis Grizzlies will be making their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. Last season, they made it to the Western Conference Finals, their best finish in franchise history.

How important is it for the Grizzlies to win tonight against the Dallas Mavericks and avoid a first-round matchup with the Spurs by taking the No. 7 seed?

Memphis went 0-4 against San Antonio during the regular season. The Grizzlies went 1-3 against the Thunder and 2-1 against the Clippers.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that there have been 55 instances in which a team was swept 4-0 or worse in the regular season and then went on to face that opponent in the postseason. The team that swept the regular-season series went on to win 51 of those 55 postseason meetings.

What else do you need to know about the Grizzlies, who rank among the NBA’s hottest teams?

The Grizzlies are 0-3 against the Mavericks this season, losing by an average of 13.4 PPG. Dallas is averaging 31.3 free throw attempts per game over the three games, 10.6 more than the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies have won 13 consecutive home games, tied for their longest single-season streak in franchise history (won 13 straight last season). Prior to this streak, the Grizzlies were just 13-14 at home for the season.

Nine coaches made their NBA head-coaching debut this season. Dave Joerger’s .605 win percentage is the best among those nine rookie head coaches. Dating back to 1950-51, only three rookie head coaches won a title: George Senesky with the 195-56 Warriors, Paul Westhead with the 1979-80 Lakers and Pat Riley with the 1981-82 Lakers.

In addition to Joerger – rookie head coaches Jason Kidd, Steve Clifford and Mike Budenholzer will be in the playoffs.

The Grizzlies entered Jan. 1 in 12th place in the Western Conference with a 13-17 record but have gone 36-15 since that date, tied for the 3rd-best record in the NBA. In that time, their opponents’ points per game has dropped from 97.2 to 92.8.

The Grizzlies are allowing just 100.0 points per 100 possessions, third- fewest in the league dating back to Jan. 1.

Memphis was allowing 105.5 points per 100 possessions through Dec. 31st, which ranked 25th in that category.

A big reason why Memphis had to dig itself out of a hole was the Grizzlies were without Marc Gasol for much of the first half of the season. Gasol missed 23 straight games spanning Nov. 25 to Jan. 12 and the Grizzlies went just 10-13.

Gasol is also averaging 3.6 assists per game this season, 2nd most in the NBA among centers behind Joakim Noah (5.4).

The Grizzlies play at the slowest pace in the league, averaging just 92.3 possessions per 48 minutes. They aren’t too wrapped up in the 3-point craze as a league-high 83.0 percent of their attempts come from 2-point range.

Memphis is averaging 47.5 points in the paint per game, fourth-most in the NBA. The Grizzlies are outscoring opponents by a league-leading 8.9 points in the paint per game.

It’s important to get out in transition against Memphis. The Grizzlies allow 1.14 points per play in transition, ranking 21st in that category – while they only yield 0.89 points per play in the half-court, seventh-best in the league.

Masahiro Tanaka missing bats early

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

Masahiro Tanaka kept the ball away from lefty hitters in his first two starts.
Today marks start no. 3 for Masahiro Tanaka, as he’ll face the Chicago Cubs at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka completed seven innings in each of his first two Major League starts with a 1-0 record, a 3.21 ERA and a strikeout per nine rate north of 11.5. Let's take a look at just how good Tanaka has been:

Historical context
Tanaka struck out eight Blue Jays and recorded a win in his MLB debut. He followed that up with 10 strikeouts against the Orioles. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka's 18 strikeouts are the most for any pitcher in his first two starts with the Yankees.

If Tanaka strikes out eight or more Cubs Wednesday, he will join Stephen Strasburg as the only pitchers in the last 100 years to strike out eight or more batters in each of his first three Major League starts.

Tanaka faces the Cubs Wednesday, who rank 25th in strikeout percentage this season at 24.1 percent.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka is also going for the following:
- Most strikeouts in first three appearances as a Yankee (27 by Bob Turley in 1955)
- Most strikeouts in first three career appearances, with all three coming as a Yankee (25 by Al Leiter in 1987)
- Most strikeouts in first three career appearances in AL history (25 by Leiter in 1987 and Chris Archer in 2012)

Pitch type
Of his 198 pitches on the season, Tanaka has thrown 95 fastballs, 43 splitters, 42 sliders, 13 curveballs and five cutters. Hiroki Kuroda is the only qualified starter who has thrown a higher percentage of splitters than Tanaka's 21.7 percent. However, no one has missed more bats with the splitter than Tanaka (15).

Part of why Tanaka's splitter has been so successful early on is the velocity. With an average velocity of 87.1 miles per hour, Tanaka's splitter is 4.6 miles per hour slower than his fastball. That is the smallest difference among 12 starters who have thrown 10 or more splitters in 2014.

The fastball and splitter may look similar coming out of Tanaka's hand, but the difference in vertical drop between the two pitches has been extreme.

Tanaka's fastball is dropping at an average of 11.6 feet per second when it crosses the plate, right around the league average of 12.0 feet per second.

Tanaka's splitter averages a drop of 17.0 feet per second as it crosses the plate. His 5.4 feet per second difference in vertical break between fastball and splitter ranks second behind Tim Hudson.

Pitch location
In the image atop this article, the hot zone on the right comes from Tanaka keeping his splitter down for batters on both sides and his fastball down and away to lefties. The one near the upper left corner of the strike zone (from pitcher's perspective) is partially due to Tanaka leaving a few sliders up in the zone to righties.

Hitters have made Tanaka pay on the few pitches he has left up in the zone. Tanaka has only left two splitters up and Melky Cabrera hit one of those 400 feet for a home run. Tanaka left an 83 mph slider up to the Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop and that one landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium for a 407 foot home run.

The pitch sequence in Adam Jones’ second at-bat on April 9 represents the best we have seen from Tanaka in terms of location. Tanaka kept all seven pitches in the at-bat down or below the zone.

The first three pitches were all fastballs that went away, in and away. The heaters got Tanaka ahead in the count 1-2 and they were followed by a slider low and away, a splitter in the dirt and another slider low and away. Tanaka went back to the splitter in a 2-2 count and recorded the strikeout on a swing and miss from Jones.

Fielder finally gets ahold of one

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
It took until the 14th game of the season for Prince Fielder to hit the kind of home run that Texas Rangers fans had been waiting for.
Prince Fielder
Fielder had not homered in his previous 30 games (including postseason) entering the day, but he had a 446-foot shot Tuesday in the Rangers' win over the Seattle Mariners.

It was the longest home run for Fielder since May 10, when he hit a 460-foot home run against Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians.

There had not been much positive to say about Fielder prior to this game. He entered the day ranked tied for last in the American League in Wins Above Replacement through the season’s first two weeks.

Historically, April has been a good month for Fielder. He hit .300 or better in April in each of the previous three seasons. But he's not headed that way to start 2014.

He hasn’t completely fixed things
Fielder had been in a funk since joining the Rangers. He entered this series with the Mariners with seven hits in 47 at bats. He’s now 3-for-7 in the past two games.

One of the issues attached to Fielder’s struggles were that he has been unable to get hits on pitches outside the strike zone.

In the previous three seasons, Fielder averaged 47 hits per season against pitches that were out of the zone. This season, he has managed only two such hits and the outs are piling up.

His two strikeouts swinging Tuesday gave him 17 outs against out-of-the-zone pitches this season. Typically, Fielder’s ratio of outs to hits on these pitches is 3-to-1. This season, it’s 17-to-2.

Better days to come
One potentially positive indicator for Fielder would be this: He’s 4-for-9 this season when he hits a ball that our hit classification system rates as “hard-hit.”

A typical major leaguer gets hits on 70 percent of his hard-hit balls. Fielder has been at about 65 percent the past couple of seasons, so 4-for-9 is a little below expectation.

Looking ahead
Fielder will face Felix Hernandez on Wednesday night in the day’s premier matchup (Yu Darvish will pitch for the Rangers).

Fielder is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts against Hernandez. But a lot of Rangers have had good days against Hernandez in the past.

Hernandez is 12-20 against the Rangers, by far his most losses versus any team (next-most: 13 versus Angels).

Against all odds: HR for Uggla, W for Avilan

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
The reports of Dan Uggla’s baseball departure were perhaps a tad premature.

One of the kookiest games of the 2014 season had a goofy conclusion, with Uggla hitting a grand slam in the ninth inning against fill-in closer Jake Diekman to give the Atlanta Braves a 9-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Dan Uggla
This is the same Uggla whom ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield was suggesting the Braves cut earlier in the afternoon, one who closed the 2013 season by going 13-for-his-last-120 and then opened 2014 with a slight upgrade to 8-for-41, giving him a .130 batting average over a 52-game stretch.

But Uggla has done this sort of thing against the Phillies before. Phillies fans remember well another go-ahead grand slam he hit -- this one a walk-off shot against Tom Gordon on June 11, 2008.

The odds were a little longer for this one against Diekmann. Uggla was 1-for-his-past-45 against left-handed pitching entering that at-bat.

The home run increased the Braves chances of winning by 51 percent (per historical data available at Fangraphs.com), making it the second-most-valuable home run of the season, trailing only Alexei Ramirez's walk-off home run on Sunday (a 71 percent increase).

What else made this such a weird game?

The one thing stranger than Uggla’s homer was the line for winning pitcher Luis Avilan, who allowed five earned runs in one inning, an eighth inning in which the Phillies got a clutch three-run home run from Domonic Brown (who hadn’t hit a homer against a lefty since Aug. 7, 2013).

Avilan was awarded the win. He became the first pitcher to be credited with a win despite allowing at least five earned runs while pitching an inning or fewer since Jack Knott of the 1934 St. Louis Browns against the Philadelphia Athletics.

Knott got the win because the official scorer didn’t have a choice -- Knott allowed five runs to the Athletics in the top of the ninth and was the last man on the mound when the inning ended. The Browns scored six in their half of the ninth to win.

Top stats to know: Athletics at Angels

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
The Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels face off in part two of an ESPN doubleheader Monday night (read about part one here). Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Oakland’s economical pitching
The Athletics are going with a very low-budget starting rotation this season as they’ve spent only $11.3 million on their five starters. Only the Marlins ($3.2 million) have spent less.

Scott Kazmir accounts for $9 million of the starting pitching budget. The next highest paid starter, Jesse Chavez ($775,000), starts Monday night.

Chavez, a 42nd-round pick in 2002, is now pitching for his seventh major league team, and he seems to have found a groove early this season.

In 13 innings pitched, Chavez has posted a 1.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts and only two walks (6.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio). He has done most of the damage with his cutter.

Chavez has thrown his cutter on nearly 37 percent of his pitches, second only to Travis Wood (44 percent, min. 2 starts). Opponents have gone 4-for-24 (.174) against the pitch with eight strikeouts and no extra-base hits in 2014. The Angels have struggled against cutters so far this season, batting .160 against those pitches.

A more aggressive Mike Trout
Mike Trout mentioned this past offseason he wanted to be more aggressive early in the count. While the sample is small, so far he’s staying true to his word.

Trout has increased his swing percentage on the first pitch by 47 percent, which has led to him doubling his chase percentage against the first pitch as well.

Trout hasn’t put many of these balls in play (just 1-for-3), but falling behind early hasn’t been a detriment. Trout is batting .346 this season after falling behind in the count 0-1.

Josh Donaldson’s early slump
Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .222 through the first dozen games. The biggest difference for Donaldson is in his strikeout and walk totals. He’s struck out 15 times and walked only once this season, after 110 strikeouts and 76 walks in 2013.

An early issue for Donaldson has been the inside pitch. He’s 3-for-22 (.136) against pitches thrown to the inner third of the plate or off the inside corner this season, after hitting .330 against those pitches last season.

Hector Santiago’s fastball a concern
Hector Santiago pitches tonight for the Angels. He has posted a 7.71 ERA in his first two starts, both losses.

Opponents have posted a .346/.485/.577 slash line against Santiago’s fastball this season, which is compounded by Santiago throwing the pitch 74 percent of the time. Against Santiago’s other pitches opponents have hit .250 with a .500 OPS.
The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies kick off an ESPN doubleheader on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET with Ervin Santana pitching against Roberto Hernandez. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be tracking from that matchup.

Santana coming off a gem
Santana threw eight scoreless innings against the New York Mets in his first game with the Braves, the third pitcher to do that since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966 (Greg Maddux in 1993 and Derek Lowe in 2009).

Santana was able to beat the Mets by pounding the strike zone. His first 20 pitches all went for strikes, and 74 percent of his pitches overall went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.

Santana may want to bring that rate down against the Phillies though. The Phillies are batting .312 on pitches in the strike zone this season, fifth best in the majors.

Justin Upton is red hot
Justin Upton has four home runs in his last four games after hitting one in his first at-bat on Sunday.

Upton has four straight games with multiple hits and multiple runs scored, matching the Braves modern-era record previously set by Bobby Thomson (1956), Javy Lopez (2003) and Andruw Jones (2003).

There isn’t much you can throw past Upton these days. He has a pair of home runs on fastballs and a pair on changeups in the last four days (one vs Jenrry Mejia and one against Gio Gonzalez). He’s also a combined 9 for 10 against those pitches in that stretch.

Hernandez’s changeup could prove a challenge for Upton. He had eight strikeouts with his changeup in his last start. Only nine other pitchers have eight strikeouts with a changeup on the season.

So is Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman has been as hot for the whole season as Upton has been the last four days. Freeman enters this game hitting .443 with four home runs. He has as many home runs as he does strikeouts and enters with a nine-game hitting streak.

The Phillies have been able to keep Freeman in the ballpark for the most part. He has only five home runs and a .388 slugging percentage for his career against them.

And lest we forget Chase Utley
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is hitting .500 after going 3 for 4 with the go-ahead home run on Sunday afternoon.

Utley’s 15-game hitting streak dating back to last season is the third-longest of his career. He had a 35-gamer in 2006 and a 19-gamer in 2007.

Utley has been hitting the ball hard consistently. Inside Edge, which tracks how often balls are hard-hit, has Utley leading the majors with a .325 hard-hit average (13 of 40 balls classified as hard-hit).

Upton finishes off a crushing weekend

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13

Justin Upton is averaging 422 feet on his home runs this season.
Atlanta Braves right fielder Justin Upton homered Sunday in his first at-bat for his fourth home run in his past four games.

Upton has four straight games with multiple hits and multiple runs scored, matching the Braves' modern-era record previously set by Bobby Thomson (1956), Javy Lopez (2003) and Andruw Jones (2003).

Upton’s surge has been reminiscent of how he fared in the opening month of last season, when he led all of baseball with 12 home runs.

His work was the biggest key in why the Braves swept the Nationals three straight games over the weekend. They’ve now won five of six from the Nationals this season.

How he’s hitting
There isn’t much you can throw past Upton these days. He has a pair of home runs on changeups in the last four days (one versus Jenrry Mejia and one against Gio Gonzalez on Sunday). Monday night will be a matchup of strength versus strength, as Phillies starter Roberto Hernandez had eight strikeouts with his changeup in his last start.

Trying to throw one by him may not work either. Upton also has six hits and two walks in his past 10 plate appearances ending with fastballs.

How do you get Upton out?
Upton's strength is hitting the pitch in the lower half of the strike zone. He's 15-for-34 with two homers against pitches in that area this season.

Upton is 2-for-10 with six strikeouts and a 45 percent miss rate (percentage of swings missed) on pitches in the upper half of the strike zone or above, in line with the .200 batting average he posted on those pitches last season.

The one risk in pitching Upton up there is that he does have power against those pitches. Since the start of last season, he's averaged a homer every 37.5 swings against them, compared to one every 47.5 swings against lower-half pitches.

Bubba Watson does it again

April, 13, 2014
Apr 13

David Cannon/Getty ImagesBubba Watson was in command of his swing all weekend.
Two out of three wasn’t bad for Bubba Watson, who won the Masters on Sunday, edging out Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt.

Watson is the ninth player in Masters history to win twice in a three-year span. He became the third player since 2000 to win two Masters in a three-year stretch, joining Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Watson is the third player in the last five years to win multiple majors, along with Mickelson and Rory McIlroy

Watson and Mickelson are the only left-handed golfers to win multiple major championships.

This was Watson’s sixth start in a Masters, tying him with Jimmy Demaret and Arnold Palmer for the second-fewest needed for multiple Masters wins. Only Horton Smith (three starts) needed fewer.

Watson shot a final-round 69. Both times Watson broke par in the final round at the Masters, he won the tournament. Twenty-two of the past 23 champions have broken par in the final round, all except Trevor Immelman in 2008.

How Watson won
Watson fared the same on par-5s at this Masters as he did when he won two years ago -- eight shots under par, which also happened to be his winning score this year.

Watson also limited his bogeys. His nine this year matched his 2012 total.

After needing 33 putts in Saturday's third round (he shot 74), Watson needed only 25 putts on Sunday (69) and didn't have a three-putt.

His 25 putts were tied for third-fewest in the field on Sunday.

The runners-up
Spieth came up three shots short in his bid to become the youngest Masters winner, though he is the youngest in Masters history to finish runner-up or tied for second. Spieth played the last 11 holes on Sunday at 3-over.

Blixt became the first golfer to play under par in each of his first four career rounds at the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller did so in his 1979 victory. Blixt joined Jesper Parnevik, Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth as Swedish golfers to finish as runners-up in majors.