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Launch angles — April 12, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-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

Michael Brantley drives home the game winning run in extras — +.434 WPA

Michael Brantley missed all but 11 games in 2016 with a frustrating shoulder injury. That Cleveland made it to the World Series last season without arguably their best hitter is remarkable, and his return makes their lineup more dangerous than ever.

On Tuesday, Brantley reminded everyone how skilled he is with the bat as he drove a 98 mph fastball away down the left field line to score Francisco Lindor from first base. White Sox reliever Tommy Kahnle brought the heat for all six pitches of the at-bat, as not one offering dropped below 97 mph. To his credit, the pitches were located well; nothing was left over the heart of the plate, everything was up or away.

Unfortunately for Mr. Kahnle, Brantley is an exceedingly adept hitter and was able to just “go with” — as they say — the fourth straight pitch he saw on the outer half to punch it down the opposite field line. Velocity is great, but a smart hitter can adjust if that’s all he’s seeing. Welcome back, Michael Brantley.

Chart via Brooks Baseball

Yesterday’s best game score

Matt Boyd — 76

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.

That swing from Miguel Sano was ugly, but in a beautiful way. It was one of those swings where the hitter realizes halfway though that they’ve made a terrible mistake. At the end of the gif you can see Sano shake his head in what we can only assume is a show of both frustration and acceptance of defeat.

Sano was not the only victim of a Matt Boyd changeup on Tuesday afternoon. The pitch generated thirteen whiffs and proved his most effective weapon en route to six innings of one hit ball. He walked two and struck out six.

It was a significant improvement over Boyd’s first start against the White Sox that saw him last just 2 13 innings and allow five earned runs. Looking at the particulars of his pitches there was a clear difference in stuff from start one to start two; Boyd saw increased velocity and horizontal movement in all his pitches against the Twins on Tuesday.

This will be something to monitor going forward with regard to Boyd’s arsenal. Was he just amped up to make his home debut and able to reach back for a little something extra, or was his stuff lacking in his first start of the season? Time will tell, but for now let’s just enjoy another gif of Boyd dropping a curveball on poor, unsuspecting Byron Buxton.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Charlie Blackmon — 458 feet

In an effort to demonstrate that pitch speed has little impact on the exit velocity and distance traveled of a batted ball, Charlie Blackmon took this 77.8 mph slider from Jered Weaver 458 feet to dead center, where it now lives amongst the Coors Field trees. It was the fastest pitch he saw during the at-bat.

It’s easy to poke fun at Weaver’s velocity — or lack thereof (zing!) — but it has to be jarring for a hitter to face him at first. Compared to the rest of baseball’s continually increasing velocity he’s a truly unique pitcher; the problem for Weaver is that once a professional major league baseball player gets a look at his stuff, adjustments can be made quickly.

Jered Weaver - Times Through The Order (2016)

Time Through The Order K% FIP wOBA
Time Through The Order K% FIP wOBA
1st Time 19.7% 4.22 .314
2nd Time 11.9% 4.82 .354
3rd Time 7.5% 8.45 .441
Data via FanGraphs

Blackmon faced Weaver three times on Tuesday. In the first inning he grounded out, in the third inning he popped out, and in the sixth inning he launched a baseball into orbit. That third time through the order will get you, especially if you’re facing a hitter as good as Blackmon and throwing him strictly sub-80 mph breaking balls over the plate.

Charlie Blackmon was ready for that slider on the inner half. He had plenty of time to prepare.

Chart via Baseball Savant

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Max Scherzer (3.08 projected ERA) vs. Mike Leake (4.15 projected ERA)

Once again Max Scherzer forces his way into the best pitching matchup by being scheduled to start on the same day as most other club’s fourth and fifth starters. Well, that and the fact that he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. In his first start of the season against the Phillies, Scherzer went 6 23 innings, allowed two runs, two walks, and struck out seven. An unspectacular but solid effort to begin 2017 for the reigning NL Cy Young award winner.

His counterpart on Wednesday, Mike Leake, is coming off a stellar first start that saw him go eight innings while allowing just one earned run, one walk, and striking out six. This performance earned him the prestigious “Best Game Score” award in the April 8th edition of this very column. While no doubt still riding the high of his Beyond The Box Score victory, Leake will look to continue his early season success against Scherzer and the Nationals.

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Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrchrisanders.