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Launch angles — April 26, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels
Can’t touch the MVP.
Kirby Lee-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

Mike Trout provides quality baseball at low, low prices — +.443 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

As a baseball fan, I go back and forth on whether I like extra innings. On the one hand, they can keep me up later than I’d planned, messing with my schedule and distracting me from my responsibilities. On the other hand… well, those aren’t really bad things. Plus, the added frames mean, in classic baseball parlance, “free baseball” — you paid for a ticket to see nine innings, but you get even more for the same price!

Like all baseball fans (outside Texas, Los Angeles, and Seattle, that is), I don’t go back and forth when it comes to Trout. He’s great at pretty much everything — and at age 25, he’s already a major-league veteran. The Athletics were the victims of that veteran savvy on Tuesday, as Trout ensured the Angels would have an opportunity to win (which they did).

With no runs on the board through nine innings, the Halos and A’s went to extras. In the top of the 10th, Josh Phegley (yeah, I had to look him up, too) smacked a long ball off Jose Alvarez (I didn’t even bother with this guy). Oakland didn’t score after that, but by the middle of the inning, it still had an 81.5 percent chance of victory.

Then Santiago Casilla fell behind 2-0, and tried to come back over the plate:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Trout’s oppo taco knotted the score at one run apiece, and in the next inning, Kole Calhoun gave the Angels the walk-off win.

MLB has other stars, but there’s only one Trout. On a day when Trea Turner hit for the cycle, Eric Thames set the Brewers record for April homers, and Chris Coghlan did his best Jerome Simpson impression, Trout still stole the show. He’s the greatest player on earth right now, and he won’t let anyone else come for his throne (that includes you, Shohei Otani).

Yesterday’s best game score

Jesse Hahn — 88

GIF via MLB.com

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.

Before the game went to extra innings, though, fans in Anaheim watched nine scoreless frames. J.C. Ramirez rolled for the Angels, allowing two hits and two walks over seven innings, but Hahn went toe-to-toe with him, giving up one hit and two walks in eight innings of work.

From 2014 to 2016, Hahn threw a four-seam fastball 26.2 percent of the time, supporting his sinker, which he used 39.9 percent of the time. In four starts this year, he’s thrown two four-seamers — total. The sinker has accounted for 66.0 percent of his pitches, and on Tuesday, it was clear why he made that switch: 13 of the 18 balls put in play against him stayed on the ground.

With that said, the sinker isn’t Hahn’s out pitch. Following yesterday’s start, Hahn has thrown 61 curveballs this year, and 24.6 percent of them have induced a whiff. That, in clinical terms, is pretty damn good. That slow bender pairs with a deceptive change to give Hahn a pair of potent secondary offerings.

During the aforementioned three years, Hahn got consistently worse, and it didn’t seem to make much sense. Now, he’s back on the right track — after mowing down the Angels, he has a 2.08 ERA and 2.94 FIP in 26 innings. Plus, he has the Eno Sarris Seal of Approval:

Two-plus years after they dealt for him, the Athletics have to like what they’re seeing out of Hahn. While he’s not an ace by any stretch of the imagination, his sinker-curve mix should make him a solid starter. And hey — a fanbase always appreciates a dominant performance against a division rival.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Paul Goldschmidt — 438 feet

GIF via MLB.com

This GIF is nice — it has the numbers and all — but the angle just doesn’t capture the magnificence of this dinger. Let’s try another:

GIF via MLB.com

Theeeeeere we go.

2016 was something of a down year for Goldy. After three straight seasons with an ISO in the .240s, he slid to .192 last season, dropping his wRC+ from 158 to 134. The Diamondbacks wanted to contend, and they expected him to be an MVP candidate again; when he fell short, so did they.

This year, though, things are back in order. Goldschmidt has avoided the popups that dogged him last year, and started hitting the snot out of the ball again — he’s made hard contact on a clean 50 percent of his balls in play, which ranks eighth among qualified hitters. With a 158 wRC+, he’s helped the Diamondbacks start 14-8 (!) and challenge the Rockies (!!!) in the NL West.

2016 was also a down year for the Padres rotation — and this year looks like more of the same. Padres starters finished 25th in baseball with 6.4 fWAR last year; FanGraphs projects them to come in 29th this year. San Diego is building for the future, not the present, and it shows.

With his implosion against the Dbacks, Clayton Richard now has a 4.45 ERA and 4.75 FIP in 30 13 frames. The Padres have a potentially legit Trevor Cahill, a junkballing Jhoulys Chacin, and that’s pretty much it. (One of the team’s best pitchers from last year, Andrew Cashner, gave up a 437-foot moonshot yesterday to Miguel Sano. It wasn’t a banner day for the Padres, whether past or present.) Someday, if A.J. Preller plays his cards right, winning baseball will return to San Diego; for now, Padres fans should get used to massive four-baggers.

SABRy tidbits

  • In their loss to the Angels on Monday, the Blue Jays probably got hosed on a call. It also didn’t really make a difference. That’s a curt and complicated explanation; Mark Colley does a much better job over at Bluebird Banter, so I’ll hand it off to him.
  • When you think of Andrelton Simmons, you think of insane defense -- but like all position players, Simmons has to hit as well. This year, he's excelled in that regard for the first time in a while, and as Rahul Setty explains over at Halos Heaven, the changes he's made look sustainable.
  • The Royals really can't hit. Like, at all. That covers it pretty well, but in case you're not a fan of blunt statements, try on some gory stats, courtesy of Royals Review's Max Rieper.
  • In the blockbuster trade that brought Trea Turner to Washington and Wil Myers to San Diego, a less-heralded hitter went to Tampa Bay: Steven Souza. After a couple of up-and-down years with the Rays, Souza seems to be breaking out in 2017, thanks to the progress he’s made with his plate discipline. DRaysBay’s Jim Turvey breaks down his improvements.
  • The baseball blogosphere has talked quite a bit about long relievers, who might be making a comeback after a steady decline. Or did their revival start even earlier? AZ Snakepit’s Jim McLennan has an interesting take on the matter.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Julio Teheran (4.02 projected ERA) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2.90 projected ERA)

While several top pitchers will take the mound today — Lance McCullers, Johnny Cueto, Jon Lester and Carlos Martinez among them — each of them is facing a far less intimidating opponent. Only Cueto’s adversary comes close, but the gap between Alex Wood and Teheran is smaller than the gap between Cueto and Syndergaard, so the NL East duel tops the NL West battle.

Last season, if you judge by runs allowed, Syndergaard and Teheran weren’t that different. The former ranked 16th in the majors with 5.2 RA9-WAR; the latter came in 20th, putting up 4.8 RA9-WAR. Underneath that, the differences emerged — Syndergaard had more than twice as much fWAR (6.5) as Teheran (3.2). Still, each pitcher wore the title of “team ace,” albeit with vastly different standards.

Where Syndergaard’s credentials speak for themselves, Teheran’s projections indicate he needs an argument on his behalf, so I’ll elaborate a bit. Teheran has always had middling peripherals: In 844 career innings, he’s posted a 3.86 ERA, which translates to 3 percent worse than league average. By ERA (3.39), though, he’s been 12 percent better than average, and with a sample that large, it’s starting to seem like a true skill. If he can keep preventing on runs — and his 3.52 ERA in 2017 indicates he’s done just that — ZiPS and Steamer will come around. For now, we can just enjoy two talented righties duking it out.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. He also writes about the Orioles for Camden Depot, sometimes. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.