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Launch angles — October 28, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: World Series-Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB season lasts half the year, and it can be hard for the average fan to keep up. That’s where we come in. Every day during the 2017 regular season, Beyond the Box Score will be recapping all the biggest action from the previous day — with a sabermetric slant, of course — and looking ahead to what today will bring.

Yesterday’s biggest play

Yuli Gurriel draws first blood — +.110 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

After the utter insanity of Game 2, most neutral fans — such as myself — were probably hoping for an equally chaotic Game 3. That didn’t happen, as the Astros scored early and never trailed en route to a 5-3 win and a 2-1 World Series lead.

This game nevertheless had some thrilling moments. In the top of the second, Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish faced off with Houston’s Gurriel, who came into the game slashing .333/.385/.479 in the postseason. After catching the Cuban slugger looking at a cutter for strike one, the Japanese ace missed with his next two pitches to fall behind 2-1. His next offering caught too much of the plate, and Gurriel didn’t miss:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The first of four runs the Astros would put on the board in this frame, Gurriel’s blast traveled 379 feet — good distance, although not the best in this game (more on that in a second). It opened the floodgates, allowing Houston to open up a comfortable lead and chase Darvish in the second inning.

Of course, Gurriel tarnished this swing with his racist bullshit in the dugout afterward. It doesn’t take the run away, obviously, and it probably won’t result in a suspension during the series, but it does turn away the aforementioned neutral fans, who thought the ‘Stros were chic yet now feel uneasy about backing them. Both Houston and L.A. can hit dingers; only one of them (to our knowledge, at least) has a guy who makes fun of opponents for who they are.

Yesterday’s best game score

Brad Peacock — 64*

Game Score was developed by Bill James as a quick way to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance. The score begins at 50, with points added for outs and strikeouts, and subtracted for walks, hits, and runs. A score of 70 is very good; a score of 90 is outstanding.

GIF via MLB.com

Neither starter in this game was particularly noteworthy — Darvish, as noted, recorded just five outs total, and Lance McCullers couldn’t make it out of the sixth. Thus, I decided to give Peacock the top spot (noting, with the asterisk, that his place is somewhat illegitimate).

Working in relief of McCullers, Peacock was firing on all cylinders. Although he allowed the two runners he inherited to score — and, really, you’re in a tough spot if you come in with men on second and third and one out — he locked down after that. Of the 12 batters Peacock faced, four struck out, four flied out, three grounded out, and one reached base (on a free pass). Houston couldn’t have asked for much more.

During the regular season — in which he broke out at age 29 — Peacock relied heavily on his slider and his other secondary pitches to put hitters away; overall, 51.3 percent of the pitches he threw were fastballs. But against Los Angeles, he ratcheted up the heat, firing two- and four-seamers for 47 of his 53 pitches. Those fastballs were all over the place, too:

Image via Baseball Savant

Still, that recipe worked out pretty well for Peacock. Thirty-two of those 47 heaters went for strikes — nine of them looking, six swinging — and they accounted for all seven balls in play against him. Sure, he has a devastating breaking ball, but if you know the fastball is what’s working, why mess with success?

Yesterday’s biggest home run longest fly ball

George Springer — 408 feet

GIF via MLB.com

This, you might have noticed, is not how things typically work here at Launch Angles. Since Gurriel’s tater was the sole ball to leave the park last night, it would normally take this spot by default. But I’ve decided to switch things up, because (in no particular order):

  • Gurriel seems like an asshole
  • There’s not much more to be said about his home run
  • This was a really weird play and it bears mentioning

How weird, you ask? This weird:

After Gurriel led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, Dave Roberts tried to play the matchup game. The bottom of the Houston lineup featured two lefties (Josh Reddick and Brian McCann) and a switch-hitter who’s better from the left side (Marwin Gonzalez). With an intentional walk to Evan Gattis, Roberts hoped Tony Cingrani could take care of business against the rest and end the threat.

Well, Cingrani got two-thirds of the way there — he got Reddick and Gonzalez to pop up for easy outs — but McCann legged out an infield hit to load the bases with two outs. As the lineup turned over, Roberts went to his bullpen again, bringing in the right-handed Ross Stripling to face Springer.

That’s when the weird stuff started. Here’s Petriello again with more context:

With a 2-1 count, Yasmani Grandal called for the pitch up and in. Stripling missed his spot badly, leaving a middle-middle 92-mph fastball for Springer to square up. Even with an awful process, though, the righty managed to get out of it. I wonder what he was thinking after that?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

SABRy tidbits

  • Full disclosure: Due to my hectic school/work schedule, I’ve watched most of the MLB playoffs while working out at the gym. Since the TVs there don’t have the sound on, that means I’ve been spared from listening to that one Hyundai ad where they sing that one Neil Diamond song. With that said, Grant Brisbee’s ranking of the worst commercials this postseason is definitely correct in putting that spot at the top.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Alex Wood (3.31 projected ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (3.93 projected ERA)

This Game 4 matchup should be an interesting one. Wood and Morton had some success before 2017, but they’ve both reached another level this year — the former through a number of small tweaks, the latter by just throwing harder. All three games in this series have been decided by two runs or fewer, and with this duo on the mound tonight, that trend will probably continue.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.