MLB Notebook: Brantley mixing power with speed
Cleveland outfielder in rare company with his combination of OPS and steals
From 1951 (when the National League started tracking caught-stealing numbers) through 2013, there were four Major League players to reach the All-Star break with at least a .900 OPS and at least 10 steals with a perfect stolen-base percentage.
Athletics rookie Mitchell Page was the first to do this, as part of his remarkable 1977 campaign. Almost two decades later, the Blue Jays' Paul Molitor (1994) and the Dodgers' Raul Mondesi ('95) did it in back-to-back seasons. The Phillies' Chase Utley added his name to the roll call in 2008, but since then, no one has joined the club.
That has a chance to change in 2014, as three players currently own the necessary numbers to join the quartet. Two of the candidates won't cause much of a stir, as Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen have recently made baseball diamonds their personal playgrounds.
However, those two are joined by a third player who might indeed surprise: Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, who will be headed to Minnesota soon for his first All-Star Game, and who takes a .920 OPS, 37 extra-base hits, 174 total bases, a near one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a flawless record of steal attempts into the final days before the Midsummer Classic.
Brantley doing it all for Indians
Brantley drove in three runs on two doubles and a home run to play a starring role in the Indians' 5-3 win over the Yankees.
The 27-year-old is batting .328 with 60 RBIs on the season, and he has also collected 10 steals. Over the previous 10 seasons, there have been six players to enter the All-Star break with at least 60 RBIs, at least 10 steals and a batting average of at least .320: Derrek Lee in 2005, Lance Berkman in '08, Albert Pujols in '09, Hanley Ramirez in '09, Ryan Braun in '11 and McCutchen in '12.
Roberto Alomar, in 1999, was the only Indians player in franchise history to accomplish this.
Altuve, Springer a dynamic duo for Astros
In the Astros' 8-3 victory over the Rangers, Jose Altuve had two hits and two steals and George Springer hit his 18th home run of the year.
Altuve has eight multihit games with at least two steals this season -- the most for any player through his team's first 92 games since Roger Cedeno had nine in 1999. Since 1914, those eight through 92 games tie Altuve with seven others for the 10th most. The Cardinals' Lou Brock (12 in 1974) and Tigers' Ty Cobb (11 in 1915) had the most in each league.
Altuve matched Carlos Beltran's franchise record (set in 2004) with his 28th straight steal without being caught. He is now batting .341 with 41 stolen bases on the season. There have been three players in the All-Star era to reach the All-Star break with at least 40 stolen bases and a batting average of at least .340:
• Joe Morgan: .345 with 40 steals in 1975
• Rickey Henderson: .357 with 41 steals in 1985
• Kenny Lofton: .378 with 45 steals in 1994
Springer's 18 home runs tie him with Zeke Bonura (1934), Frank Robinson ('56), George Scott ('66) and Alvin Davis ('84) for the fourth most from a first-year player by the All-Star break. His 18 homers are also the third most ever for an Astros rookie, behind Berkman's 21 in 2000 and Glenn Davis' 20 in 1985.
Hamilton on a tear at the plate and on the bases
The Reds swept a doubleheader from the Cubs, winning 4-2 in the first game and then getting a walk-off single from Billy Hamilton in the second contest. Hamilton had multihit games in each of the contests, stealing two bases in the first win and adding a triple to his walk-off hit in the nightcap.
Hamilton's 37 steals are the most for a Reds player by the All-Star break since Deion Sanders had 41 in 1997, and they represent the sixth-highest total for any Reds player in the first half during the All-Star era.
Since the start of June, Hamilton's 45 hits place him among the top-10 in the Majors, with his teammate Todd Frazier (46) having a place among this collection as well. The full top-10: Altuve and Adrian Beltre (49), Casey McGehee , Adam Jones, McCutchen and Brock Holt (48), Frazier (46), Hunter Pence, Hamilton and Brantley (45).
Abreu in elite rookie company
The White Sox defeated the Red Sox, 8-3, with Jose Abreu collecting a pair of doubles in a three-hit night. Through 91 team games, Abreu is tied for third in the American League with 47 extra-base hits and ranks fourth in the league with 187 total bases. The AL rookie records for those categories are 89 extra-base hits by Hal Trosky in 1934, and 374 total bases by Trosky in '34 and Tony Oliva in '64. Trosky had 54 extra-base hits and 222 total bases through 91 team games in 1934, while Oliva had 218 total bases through 91 team games in '64.
Rookie, veteran lead Mets
Making his 11th career appearance, right-hander Jacob deGrom fanned 11 over seven innings in a no-walk, no-run outing that saw his Mets defeat the Braves, 8-3.
There have been two other pitchers since 1914 to have a game with at least 11 K's, no walks and no runs allowed this early into a career. Kerry Wood's one-hit shutout with 20 K's came in his fifth career appearance on May 6, 1998, and on July 1, 2007, Tim Lincecum fanned 12 in seven innings of three-hit ball in his 11th career game.
In the Mets' victory, Curtis Granderson hit his 27th career leadoff home run and finished the night with two hits, an RBI and two runs scored. Granderson's 27 career leadoff home runs tie him with Johnny Damon for the 19th most in history.
As a whole, Mets leadoff hitters own a .716 OPS -- eighth among NL teams. In 14 starts in the slot, Granderson has a .996 OPS. The Mets went 7-7 in those 14 starts.
Here and there
• The Royals lost to the Rays, 4-3, despite getting a four-hit, one-walk night from leadoff hitter Lorenzo Cain. Since 1914, teams are 1,628-364 when their leadoff hitter reaches safely at least five times in a game that does not go to extra innings.
• In the Yankees' loss to the Indians, Jacoby Ellsbury stole a pair of bases and is now 25-for-29 (86.2 percent) in attempts this season. Four Yankees in the All-Star era have reached the break with least 25 steals and a SB percentage of at least 86.0: Mickey Rivers in 1976 (25-for-29), Henderson in '85 (41-for-44), Chuck Knoblauch in 2001 (26-for-30) and Alfonso Soriano in '03 (25-for-29).
• In topping the Giants, 6-1, the Athletics won their sixth straight to complete an undefeated six-game homestand. With the victory, Oakland improved to 57-33. From 1996-2013, 18 teams won at least 57 of their first 90 games, with 15 of the 18 going on to reach the postseason.