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Launch angles — April 4, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/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

Mark Trumbo walks-off — +.461 WPA

Perhaps it’s an amalgam of the uncertainty that one sees when looking into the abyss of 162 games and the overwhelming weight the first snapshots of information from a new season hold that cause us to so dramatically magnify the results from opening day; but rest assured, your team will not go winless or undefeated in 2017.

A level-headed approach is even more prudent when witnessing something extreme on opening day. Consider Mark Trumbo’s walk-off home run that lifted his avian-monikered team over the AL East’s other avian-monikered team. Yes, it was exciting — there were even fireworks — but like every other team’s fans, the Orioles’ faithful should expect an equal amount of good and bad fortune this year...

Except that this is kind of Baltimore’s thing. Their offense leads major league baseball in “clutch” over the last five years, a stat that, according to FanGraphs, measures “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” And while it has very little value when it comes to prognosticating, prognosticators have been unable to pin down the Orioles in recent years.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. They’ve hit gobs of home runs, fielded quality defenses, and deployed a hell of a bullpen. And while clutch may not be dependable from one year to the next, I won’t say it can’t be cultivated throughout the course of a season. And from the little bit of information I have to go off of, the 2017 Orioles are off to a good start.

Also, bad things happen to hanging breaking balls located in this particular zone to Mark Trumbo.

Brooks Baseball

Yesterday’s best game score

Dallas Keuchel — 78

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.

I’ve spent a lifetime forming, abandoning, and reforming my convictions — about myself, humans, the universe, Darth Jar-Jar — and that’s not likely to stop. But there are two beliefs about myself that I’ve consistently been convinced are true:

  1. I am attentive to detail
  2. I am not unduly confident about anything

Well, apparently I’ve been unduly confident in my attention to detail.

You see, I published this article earlier today with false information. I had declared that Clayton Kershaw was the proprietor of yesterday’s best game score, when in fact that honor belongs to Dallas Keuchel. It’s true that people probably aren’t going to read this article twice, so admitting my mistake may be adding folly on top of folly, but one thing I’m convinced of about myself that has yet to be disproved is that I’m an over-sharer.

So then, Dallas Keuchel! He was really good yesterday! He spun seven innings of shutout ball, limiting the Mariners to just two hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts. He looked very much like the Dallas Keuchel of 2015, racking up a 68.8 percent ground ball rate by locating his sinker low in the zone, and avoiding hard contact by avoiding the middle of the zone (90.4 mph was the hardest hit ball he allowed).

If you’d like to read about Kershaw’s (also very good) performance, I’ve left the original paragraphs in below.

Clayton Kershaw — 74

Clayton Kershaw was ho-hum on Monday afternoon, allowing 2 hits and 2 runs over 7 innings, walking none, and striking out 8, while notching his 7th straight opening day win.

Translation: Kershaw’s performance was better than 20 of the other 21 starters that toed the rubber, but was merely mediocre by his own standards. You see, Kershaw’s average game score in 2016 was 73, meaning that THESE ARE THE EXPECTATIONS! Go ahead and tell someone in close proximity to you that Kershaw retired 19 Padres in a row at one point yesterday. Do it — I can wait. Did they consider it for a second and then nod their head like you just told them it’s 80 degrees and sunny in southern California? Of course they did.

My point is, don’t take this generational talent for granted; something special is likely to happen whenever he takes the mound.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Carlos Gomez — 462 feet

It’s been over two years since Carlos Gomez hit a ball that far!

After rising to prominence in Milwaukee, Gomez looked downright lost by the time Houston DFAd him in August of last year. Texas took a gamble on the polarizing center fielder and it paid off, as he rediscovered his power stroke with the Rangers, ISOing .259 in 33 games to close out 2016.

For $11.5 million, the Rangers re-upped on Gomez and will be ecstatic if they’re getting anything close to what he was from 2012-14, when he was the third most valuable center fielder in all of baseball (123 wRC+ and 16.1 fWAR).

It’s just one home run clocked at 111.6 mph, but it looks like Carlos Gomez is feeling good.

SABRy tidbits

  • Masahiro Tanaka sucked on Opening Day, allowing seven runs in just 2 23 innings versus the Rays. What happened to the Yankees ace? Is it anything to worry about for the future? Pinstripe Alley’s Matt Provenzano sorts through the carnage play-by-play.
  • Chris Archer, meanwhile, started the season on a high note. Allowing two runs in seven innings, he appeared to have put his 2016 struggles behind him. A lot of that stemmed from his slider — the pitch had a new look against New York, which DRaysBay’s Ian Malinowski breaks down in further detail.
  • As discussed yesterday, Carlos Martinez dominated for the Cardinals, twirling seven shutout innings against a formidable Cubs lineup. Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant struck out in all three plate appearances against Martinez — and Viva El Birdos’s Joe Schwarz knows why. Bryant has something of a hole in his swing, which Martinez was happy to exploit.
  • The Padres aren’t a very good team; PECOTA projects them to win 70 games this year. In March, BtBS’s Joe Clarkin wondered how great the team would be if every player hit their 90th-percentile projection. The Brewers also aren’t a very good team, with a 78-win PECOTA projection, and Brew Crew Ball’s Kyle Lesniewski has the same dream about Milwaukee.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Jake Arrieta (3.28 projected ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (3.94 projected ERA)

Here we have an intriguing pitching matchup that pits two rebound candidates against each other.

Jake Arrieta’s velocity and performance took a considerable step back after his 2015 Cy Young campaign as he fell prey to command issues that have plagued him throughout his career. He also struck out less hitters, and induced less ground balls. He still managed a fine 3.8 fWAR and should be counted on for high-quality innings this season.

Wainwright experienced similar regression last year, and at age 35 is considered more likely to be on a declining trajectory.

There’s still the potential here for an electric showdown as both of these pitchers are capable of going toe-to-toe with anyone’s ace when they’re on their game. Plus, ya know, it’s the Cards and Cubs — come on!