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MLB Notebook: Shutout or bust for Alvarez

Each of Marlins starter's three wins in '14 have come when blanking opposition

Once upon a time, there was a right-handed pitcher who went by the memorable name Buttons Briggs.

This hurler -- with the given name of Herbert Theodore Briggs -- made 20 appearances (all starts) in 1905, and in those 20 outings he recorded eight victories. Five of those victories came when Briggs went the distance and allowed no runs, giving him a fairly unbalanced ratio of shutouts to victories. Or, one might say, an historically unbalanced ratio.

Since Buttons in that 1905 campaign, only one other full-time starter has completed a season with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title and finished the year with shutouts representing more than 60 percent of his victory total. That was the much more familiar Fernando Valenzuela, who had eight shutouts in his 13-win season in 1981.

This information might not be very relevant by the time the 2014 season concludes, but it does seem noteworthy in early June, as Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez currently sports three victories on the season, with all three coming when he went the distance and finished with no runs allowed.

Alvarez notches third shutout of 2014
The Marlins defeated the Rays 1-0, behind Alvarez's third shutout of the year -- an eight-hit, no-walk, five-strikeout performance that brought the right-hander his third win.

Alvarez was the first pitcher since Edwin Jackson on July 16, 2011, to have a shutout while allowing at least eight hits, and he was the first to do it in a 1-0 game since Al Leiter on Sept. 23, 2003.

Alvarez threw only 88 pitches in the shutout. Dating back to 1998, has no record of any other shutout involving as many as eight hits allowed and as few as 88 pitches. On April 8, 2000, David Wells threw a nine-hit shutout on 89 pitches.

Alvarez leads the Majors with his three shutouts and is pitching in his age-24 season. Over the past 20 seasons, Alvarez is the third pitcher to have three shutouts through 58 team games. In 2010, Roy Halladay had three through Philadelphia's first 58 games, and in '12, Brandon Morrow had three through the Blue Jays' first 58 contests.

Over the past 30 seasons, Alvarez is just the fourth pitcher to be younger than 25 and have at least three shutouts through his team's first 58 games. Dwight Gooden did this in 1988 as a 23-year-old, as did 23-year-old Tom Glavine in '89, and 23-year-old Ramon Martinez in '91.

The most recent pitcher to be in his age-24 season or younger and finish the year leading the Majors in shutouts was Marlins lefty Dontrelle Willis (with five) in 2005, and before Willis, it was Athletics southpaw Mark Mulder (with four) in '01. The most recent right-hander to do this was Boston's Roger Clemens (with seven) in 1987.

The past four times Alvarez has recorded a win, he has thrown a shutout (this streak dates back to his no-hitter in the final game of the Marlins' 2013 season). The most recent pitcher to author such a streak was the Mets' David Cone in April-May, 1992. That season, Cone was 4-1 with the four shutouts over a six-start stretch, with the other, non-shutout starts seeing him allow eight earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. The most recent pitcher to have a streak lasting longer than four in a row was Orel Hershiser in '88, with five.

Young Xander in elite company
In his team's 5-3 loss to the Indians, Red Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run, and he now owns an .859 OPS for the season, which currently calculates to a 137 OPS+.

Over the past 50 seasons, there have been very few non-outfielders to be in their age-21 or younger season (like Bogaerts) and post an OPS+ of at least 125 while qualifying for the batting title:

• Joe Morgan (age-21 season) in 1965: full-time second baseman with a 131 OPS+
• Johnny Bench (21) in 1969: full-time catcher with a 129 OPS+
• Richie Hebner (21) in 1969: full-time third baseman with a 127 OPS+
• Bob Horner (21) in 1979: primary third, first baseman with a 135 OPS+
Alex Rodriguez (20) in 1996: full-time shortstop with a 161 OPS+
Albert Pujols (21) in 2001: more than half of his starts at first base or base, with a 157 OPS+

Moss keeps rolling
Brandon Moss hit a pair of homers -- including a go-ahead blast in the top of the 10th inning -- and helped the Athletics to a 5-2, 10-inning win over the Yankees.

Since the start of the 2012 season, Moss has hit 66 home runs in 1,018 plate appearances, giving him the second-best homer percentage (6.48 percent) among all players who have come to the plate at least 1,000 times for this span. Only Chris Davis, at 6.56 percent, is ahead of Oakland's slugger.

 Moss currently holds the sixth-best OPS+ (153) among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since the start of 2012. The men ahead of him: Miguel Cabrera (172), Mike Trout (171), Joey Votto (160), Andrew McCutchen (159), and David Ortiz (158).

Cruz and Jones power O's
Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer to help the Orioles to an 8-3 victory over the Rangers. Cruz's 21 dingers through 56 team games tie him for the 15th most for any AL player, and make him the only player in franchise history to have that many through 56 contests. Babe Ruth (1928), Jimmie Foxx ('32), and Ken Griffey, Jr. ('97) share the mark for the most at this point, each hitting 25.

In Baltimore's win, Adam Jones went 4-for-5 and hit his seventh home run while drawing no walks. For the season, Jones is batting .294 with five walks in 246 plate appearances, moving his walk percentage dangerously close to less than two percent (he's at 2.03 percent). There have been five players in the modern era to have a season in which they qualified for the batting title, hit at least .300 and drew a walk in fewer than two percent of their plate appearances:

• Candy LaChance: .303 in 1901 with a 1.24 walk percentage
• Erve Beck: .301 in 1902 with a 1.93 walk percentage
• Bert Griffith: .308 in 1922 with a 1.46 walk percentage
• Hi Myers: .317 in 1922 with a 1.98 walk percentage
• Shawon Dunston: .300 in 1997 with a 1.57 walk percentage

Here and there
• The Indians notched their fifth straight win and improve to 20-11 at home. Cleveland owns the American League's best home winning percentage. Outfielder Michael Brantley, who was 1-for-4 with an RBI single in this victory, has been a significant contributor to his club's success at Progressive Field, tying for the second-most hits at home and tying for the sixth-most home RBIs while also claiming the eighth highest home-OPS (.940) for any player with at least 120 plate appearances in the split.

Jon Singleton, 22, homered in his Major League debut, helping the Astros to a 7-2 victory over the Angels. Singleton was the fourth player for the franchise to hit a long ball in his first big league game, and he was the youngest of the four. The previous three: 24-year-old Ken Caminiti in 1987, 26-year-old Dave Matranga in 2003 and 28-year-old Mark Saccomanno in '08. Matranga and Saccomanno went deep in their first plate appearances, both as pinch-hitters.

Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions.

Henderson Alvarez, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Brantley, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Brandon Moss, Jon Singleton