David Sabino
Tuesday April 15th, 2008

Week two found the Orioles and Marlins in first place, the Tigers and Yankees in last and a slew of statistical curiosities to write about in this installment of Diamond Digits.

Perhaps the new-found favorable exchange rate for the Canadian dollar also translates to stolen bases. From 2003 through 2007 the Blue Jays stole a total of 289 bases, ranking them 29th out of 30 teams. During that span the highest Toronto ever placed in steals was a tie for 17th, in 2005, when Alex Rios topped the club with 14 swipes. In 2003 they were dead last with just 37 thefts, and last year were 27th with just 57. That's why it's such a surprise to see the Jays at the north end of this season's stolen base leader board. The Jays, who've been slowed by Moneyball's no-steal philosophy in the recent past, entered this week with 12 steals, behind only the Angels. Toronto didn't reach the 12-steals mark last year until May 2 in the 27th game of the year. In the unlikely event that Toronto keeps up this pace they'd steal 175 bases, which would rank third in team history and would've placed them second overall to the Mets (200), and 31 bags ahead of the second ranked Orioles last season.

Who is the hardest big league pitcher to hit a home run off of right now? I bet you didn't say Washington's Saul Rivera, but the slight 30-year old right hander hasn't been taken deep in close to a calendar year. Rivera has pitched 95 2/3 innings without giving up a gopher ball and is the only pitcher to throw at least 50 innings since last April 25 without allowing a home run. Of the others who have thrown at least 95 innings in that span, Florida's Sergio Mitre has surrendered the next fewest home runs with seven in 137 2/3 innings.

Rangers outfielder Milton Bradley is in his ninth major league season and has a .273 career average, which made it all the more curious when he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of Sunday's extra-inning tilt with an 0 for 10 career mark as a pinch hitter. Normally a regular, Bradley finally broke through with a single to raise his career pinch hitting average to .091.

Bradley's not alone in his futility while hitting in the pinch; the worst active pinch-hitter is Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson, who is 0 for 15 with four walks. Other names of note who are hitless in their pinch hitting careers are reigning MVPs Jimmy Rollins (10 plate appearances) and Alex Rodriguez (8 PA); All Star catcher Russell Martin (8 PA), Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (8 PA) and most curiously, Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano (9 PA). These other big bats haven't been shut down completely but are nearly as poor when coming off the bench as they are great when playing as a regular: Lance Berkman (3 for 39, .077), Ichiro Suzuki (1 for 11, .091), Carl Crawford (1 for 11, .091), Jeff Kent (3 for 31, .097), and Vladimir Guerrero (1 for 10, .100).

For the record, the best active hitters with at least six career pinch hit at bats are Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson (11 for 23, .478), Cleveland's Victor Martinez (9 for 21) and Atlanta's Mark Kotsay (23 for 56, .411).

Rockies leftfielder Matt Holliday started off slowly this year but moved right back into his role as one of the NL's most feared sluggers. In six games last week, Holliday posted a .480 average, .519 on-base percentage, .880 slugging percentage, two home runs, 10 RBIs (including four games with multiple RBIs) and six runs scored while striking out just three times in 26 plate appearances. He raised his season averages from .182/.280/.364 to a much more Holliday-like .340/.404/.638.

Perhaps the David Ortiz jersey buried by a Red Sox-fan in the new Yankee Stadium backfired this week. In 21 plate appearances the Red Sox DH accounted for 21 outs, and that's while reaching base four times on walks. Big Papi struck out five times and grounded into four of his major league-leading five double plays. Ortiz didn't drive in a run all week, was the only player in the majors with at least 20 plate appearances with no hits and saw his season averages plunge all the way down to .070/.231/.140.

Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal smacked a leadoff home run on Saturday night, the 21st such clout of his career and his ninth in a Dodgers uniform. That placed Furcal, in just this third season in Dodger Blue, in a tie with Junior Gilliam for third place on the franchise leadoff home run list, one behind Johnny Fredrick's 10 and 19 off the pace set by longtime second baseman Davey Lopes. It also moved Furcal one ahead of baseball's alltime home run king, Barry Bonds, who hit 20 home runs as a leadoff hitter early in his career with the Pirates.

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