David Sabino
Thursday April 3rd, 2008

For the debut installment of Diamond Digits let's look at some curious statistical feats from 2007 and some early-season oddities for 2008.

Manny Ramirez's rigorous offseason training program immediately paid dividends in Boston's two-game series in Japan. Ramirez collected three hits in nine at bats, including one home run and five RBIs and posted an .889 slugging percentage. This is a great sign for Ramirez who rededicated himself over the winter after his worst season as a major leaguer. He's already well on his way to smashing last season's sluggish start when he hit .202 with only three home runs and 13 RBIs in March and April.

In Tokyo, one of the world's most hi-tech cities, Red Sox captain Jason Varitek showed no juice, taking an old fashioned collar in the two-game series and striking out six times in eight at-bats. Luckily for Boston, their captain gets a few more exhibition games to hammer out his troubling lack of contact.

How good was Padres pitching last season? Bud Black's 2007 staff became the first team since the 1992 Braves to total 20 shutouts in a year. But while those Braves got 14 complete game shutouts from Tom Glavine (5), John Smoltz (3), Steve Avery (2), Charlie Liebrandt (2), Mike Bielecki (1) and Pete Smith (1), the '07 Pads didn't have a single pitcher go the distance in a shutout, becoming the first staff in history to reach 20 shutouts without a complete game blanking. The Padres lone complete game of any sort was provided by Greg Maddux, who had a shutout for 8 1/3 innings on May 14 until a Ken Griffey Jr. sacrifice fly gave Cincinnati it's only run in a 5-1 loss. It was Maddux's 109th complete game of his career but his first since 2005, a span of 42 starts.

Managers facing the new-look Rays take heed. Don't pitch to Carlos Pena during daylight hours. Of Pena's team-record 46 home runs last season, 22 were hit in day games and 24 were hit at night. That seems to be an even split until you realize that his daytime output came in just 141 at bats, compared to 349 at bats at night. In fact Pena's 6.41 daytime at-bats per home run ratio was of historic proportions. In baseball history only Barry Bonds in 2001 (5.88; 26 HR in 153 at bats) and Mark McGwire in 2000 (6.15; 13 HR in 80 at bats) had better seasons of power production under the sun.

The prevailing school of thought is that for the Yankees to compete in the AL East, rookie Ian Kennedy must win close to 15 games. The last Yankee rookie to win as many as 15 games in a season was Ron Guidry, who was 16-7 (albeit in just nine starts) for the 1977 World Series champs. Since then the best output for a Bronx neophyte has been the 12 wins that both Andy Pettitte (1995) and El Duque Hernandez (1998) won for their respective postseason teams.

Apparently Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez has rediscovered his power stroke this spring. Rodriguez hit just 11 home runs all of last season (and only four at Comerica Park), but popped a Major League-leading eight round-trippers in 53 Grapefruit League at bats. During the 2007 season it took him 272 at bats to reach eight home runs.

Ken Griffey Jr. will reach the most glamorous milestone of 2008 once he hits his seventh home run of the season and becomes the sixth member of the 600-home run club, but that probably won't come for at least a few weeks. Griffey, currently 20th on the alltime RBI list with 1,701, needs to drive in just two runs to pass Reggie Jackson for sole possession of 19th on that list. He didn't make any progress in the season's first two games, going a combined 0-for-7 against the Diamondbacks. That shouldn't be too big a surprise. In his career Griffey is a combined 0 for 12 with no RBIs against Arizona's top two starters, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, who started those two games for the D-Backs.

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