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Launch angles — October 30, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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

José Altuve ties the game at 7 — +.184 cWPA

This is the biggest play of the 2017 postseason thus far, in terms of championship win probability. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, and a three-run deficit in favor of the Dodgers, things were not looking good for the Astros. Altuve’s dinger took the Dodgers from 70 percent favorites to win the entire series back down to 50 percent, and that’s before you account for the fact that the set-up for this dinger came off the consensus greatest pitcher of our era. This was an incredible play and moment.

And yet. Even though the numbers say this was the most impactful moment of the game, my gut (and probably yours) can identify at least three or four crazier moments from this game. Carlos Correa hit another home run a couple innings later, a two-run shot that put the Astros up 11–8 and seemed like it had locked the game up. Yasiel Puig hit a two-run homer of his own to cut that deficit to one, with a one-handed slap of a swing that should never have sent a ball out. And, of course, there was the walk-off single by Alex Bregman in the bottom of the 10th. When Altuve hit this home run, the game was barely half over. There were too many insane, leap-off-the-couch-screaming moments in this game to even keep track of.

But whether this was the most exciting moment of the game or not, one thing is for sure: José Altuve has owned this postseason. In 72 PAs, he’s hitting .344/.417/.703, with just thirteen strikeouts, ten walks, and seven home runs. He’s coming off a MVP-caliber season that may also have yielded the actual hardware, and has somehomw elevated his game from that incredible regular-season level. And, of course, Altuve has done all that while facing the best teams and pitching baseball has to offer. Whatever the outcome of this World Series, one of the takeaways of these playoffs has to be the full-blown superstardom of the diminutive second baseman.

Yesterday’s best pitching performance

Joe Musgrove — ending the game in the 10th

Lordy, but we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this choice. Most 13–12 contests don’t feature much outstanding pitching, but this game seems to stand out for its dearth of choices for this category. Combined, the Dodgers and Astros sent 14 pitchers to the mound; ten of those pitchers allowed one or more runs to score. “Well great, just choose one of the remaining four.” Not so fast; three of those four pitchers threw more than an inning, making it extremely silly to highlight their performances. That leaves the clutch but uninspiring 10th inning thrown by Musgrove, with no walks, no strikeouts, one hit, and no runs.

Now, to be fair, given the context of last night’s game, that inning looked nigh-superhuman. Every frame seemed to have some bonkers result, so a clean inning should not be disdained. But there isn’t too much to highlight. Musgrove threw just nine pitches. He induced no whiffs, and just one grounder. I’m trying really hard to find a way I can make this outing look worthy other than simply pointing at the scoreboard, and I don’t think I can.

It doesn’t matter though. You didn’t come here to read about the pitching performances from last night’s game; you came for the crazy comebacks and towering dingers. Nobody is still reading this section, probably, so I’ll just go ahead and let it die quietly.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

George Springer — 448 feet

This was a good home run. We’ve had our fair share of dingers in this slot of the recap that were technically the biggest home run of the prior night, but not “big” in any real sense of the word. This is not one of those, however, as George Springer hit a rocket out of Minute Maid Park, a blast that very well could have made this slot on any given regular season day as well.

Basically nobody thought Brandon Morrow belonged in this game at this moment. (Or nobody but Dave Roberts, apparently.) Morrow was pitching in his third straight game with no rest between outings, the first time in his career he’d done that, and he looked completely gassed. He threw just six pitches, and in that span, gave up: a home run to Springer, a single to Bregman, a double to Altuve, and another home run to Correa. In six pitches! The Dodgers went from 60 percent favorites to win the entire World Series to 30 percent underdogs. In six pitches. That is remarkable, for all the wrong reasons.

The pitch to Springer, the first pitch of the inning from Morrow, was a straight, 95mph fastball that sat belt-high in the middle of the zone. This result was not a surprise, given the pitch that was thrown. Last night was the third straight game between these two teams, and with neither starter going deep, both bullpens were taxed, so you can kind of understand why Roberts felt like he had to go with Morrow at some point. That said, I would not be surprised if his World Series was over at this point.

SABRy tidbits

  • The possibility of changes to the composition of the baseball has been the hottest of hot topics this season. But the World Series has taken it to a whole new level, as Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter reports that many players and coaches on both sides think the World Series ball is slicker than the normal baseball, making sliders in particular less effective and more vulnerable. I was inclined to dismiss it as an overreaction to a small sample size at first, but the numbers are pretty surprising: 252 sliders total in the World Series, 36 whiffs (14.3 percent), and four home runs (1.6 percent), compared to regular season rates of 16.2 percent and 0.8 percent respectively. That’s not enough to make me conclude that this is definitely a real thing, but it’s certainly enough to make me pay attention.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Justin Verlander (3.79 projected ERA) vs. Rich Hill (3.51 projected ERA)

The Dodgers now find themselves in a spot where they need to win both of the next two games. The Astros have the advantage, certainly, but now need to take one of the next two home games off the Dodgers, itself no easy task. These two pitchers are both excellent, but both teams are necessarily going to be ready to make adjustments at a moment’s notice. If game five was any indication, game six should be a doozy.