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Launch angles — April 3, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks 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

Daniel Descalso — +.417 WPA

Déjà vu is an unnerving sensation; just ask Giants fans. After blowing 30 saves in 2016, San Francisco is one-for-one in blown saves to start 2017. This is a truly nightmarish start for a team that retooled their bullpen and threw $62 million at Mark Melancon for some late-inning insurance. But chin up, Giants fans — the season is long and Mark Melancon is still baseball’s WPA leader among relievers, 2013-16.

Speaking of WPA, Daniel Descalso’s two-out, game-tying single in the bottom of the 9th was the biggest play of the day! No, it did not win the game, but it brought Arizona’s win expectancy up from 15.1-percent to 56.8. Sometimes the blow that sets up the knockout is more paramount than the knockout itself.

But here’s the knockout because I know you want to see it.

Yesterday’s best game score

Carlos Martinez — 82

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.

Game score, though designed by humans, is incapable of hyperbole. I, however, am not. So while game score would rightfully designate Martinez’s outing as somewhere between very good and outstanding, I’d slap a “masterful” on it.

Martinez logged the second-highest game score of his career on Sunday night (83 represents his high), looking every bit of the ace the Cardinals expect him to be. He twirled 7 13 shutout innings against the high-octane Chicago lineup, sitting down 10 Cubbies via the strikeout, while inducing two popups and four ground balls. Perhaps the two most encouraging takeaways from Martinez’s start were his willingness to use his changeup (45.7 percent usage; 33.3 percent whiffs!) and the zero you’ll find in the walks column of his line in the box score.

And as a perfect example of why wins are not a tool with which to judge a pitcher’s value:

Game Scores

Starter Martinez Bumgarner Archer Lester Greinke Tanaka
Starter Martinez Bumgarner Archer Lester Greinke Tanaka
Game Score 83 66 65 56 50 6
Win? No No Yes No No No
Fernando Rodney and Seung Hwan Oh were credited with wins despite combining for two blown saves, a 13.50 ERA, and a 2.25 WHIP.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Madison Bumgarner — 422 feet

Fact: you have to go all the way down to the third spot on the home run distance leaderboard to find a player other than Madison Bumgarner. Mad Bum totaled 831 feet of home run distance en route to becoming the first pitcher in history to homer twice on opening day.

His second home run of the game — and 16th of his career in 524 plate appearances — was a light tower shot that came screaming off his bat at 112.1 mph and reached an apex of 116.8 feet, making it both the longest and highest home run of the day. He walked in his only other plate appearance.

And no big deal or anything, but his first home run was the hardest hit home run by a pitcher in the stat cast era.

Now go out and chop some wood, kids.

SABRy tidbits

  • When the Cardinals signed Yadier Molina to a three-year extension, it created a couple of interesting questions: Was the contract a good value, or an overpay? And what does it mean for Carson Kelly, St. Louis’s backup catcher and (before this deal) heir apparent to Molina’s throne? Viva El Birdos’s Ben Markham breaks down all the ramifications.
  • Jesse Hahn has gone from solid Athletics starter to fringe big-leaguer. What happened? Athletics Nation’s Tim Eckert-Fong (also a BtBS contributor!) took a look at the right-hander, who at age 27 needs to make a change if he wants to stick around.
  • Every year, the projections don’t think very highly of the Royals. Every year, Kansas City seems to prove them wrong — until 2016, that is. The projections are just as pessimistic heading into 2017, and Royals Review’s Max Rieper has had enough of the nonsense.
  • The Twins have assembled an incredible defensive outfield. Byron Buxton’s highlight-reel plays draw the attention, but Max Kepler has done an admirable job while going under the radar. Twinkie Town’s Louie Opatz sings the right fielder’s praises and analyzes exactly how he’s performed so well.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Clayton Kershaw (2.34 projected ERA) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (4.31 projected ERA)

We’ve decided to crown the best pitching matchup by the lowest sum projected ERA between opposing pitchers; but if we’re being real, this matchup is pretty one-sided. Clayton Kershaw is obscene — the best pitcher in the world. Jhoulys Chacin is the San Diego Padres’ opening day starter — he was also the opening day starter for the 2013 Colorado Rockies.

This will mark Kershaw’s third consecutive opening day squaring off against the Padres and he’ll likely build on the success he’s had in those starts — 13 IP, 30.6-percent K-BB, and a 2.08 ERA. Whenever he toes the rubber it’s probably considered “can’t miss TV”, but if your pallet is enticed by something a bit more evenly matched, Julio Teheran (3.90 projected ERA) and Noah Syndergaard (3.01 projected ERA) will face-off for the Braves and Mets.

From all of us here at Beyond the Box Score,

Happy opening day.