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Launch angles — April 5, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/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

Danny Espinosa’s 3-run, 9th inning blast— +.662 WPA

It was a seesaw affair between the A’s and Angels in Oakland on Tuesday night. Rajai Davis was all set to be featured in this space with his go-ahead triple in the seventh, but when faced with that realization new Angels’ second baseman Danny Espinosa decided he could not abide being the victim of yesterday’s biggest play.

Down 6-4, with runners on the corners and one out in the ninth inning, Espinosa stepped into the box against Ryan Dull. He fell behind 0-2 after looking at a slider and taking a huge hack at a fastball in on his hands. Dull then went back to a slider in almost the exact same location at almost the exact same speed as pitch number one and Espinosa launched it 400 feet into the Oakland night for his first hit as an Angel. Somewhere, a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt was flapping his arms like a maniac.

Fool Danny Espinosa once...
Chart via Baseball Savant

Yesterday’s best game score

Clayton Richard — 79

Richard induces his 4th double play of the night.

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.

For the second straight day a lefty named Clayton dominated at Dodger Stadium. You might be saying “Whoa, that’s bold of the Dodgers to let their ace pitch two straight games to begin the season.”

*cues 30 for 30 music*

What if I told you that on a cool Los Angeles night in April, Padres’ starter Clayton Richard dismantled the presumptive NL West favorites with ease.

*record scratch*

It’s true! Over eight scoreless innings Richard scattered just five hits and two walks while striking out five. Of all pitchers who threw at least 60 innings in 2016, Richard’s 65.1 percent ground ball rate ranked forth in baseball. That skill was on full display Tuesday night as he induced 12 ground ball outs, including four double plays against the usually formidable Corey Seager, Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig, and Justin Turner.

In 2016 the Dodgers were the worst team in baseball against left-handed pitching, with a collective 72 wRC+. Dave Roberts played the platoon advantage card and inserted righties Franklin Gutierrez and Kiké Hernandez into the lineup to try and make sure that Achilles’ heel wouldn’t continue into this season; Clayton Richard simply did not care. He collected six swinging strikes on 23 changeups thrown and generally kept the pitch down and away from those righties that intended him harm.

Clayton Richard kept the ball and the Dodgers down.
Chart via Baseball Savant

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Joey Gallo — 443 feet

The dingers at night, are long in flight *clap, clap, clap, clap* deep in the heart of Texas.

In the grand scheme of things Statcast is still in it’s infancy. It’s a learning process to determine how to best interpret the data it provides. That said, I think we can all say for certain that a ball hit at 115.6 mph with a 37 degree launch angle is well struck and is destined to travel a great distance. According to Statcast, this moonshot from Joey Gallo is the hardest home run ever hit at a launch angle above 35 degrees. That’ll play.

The 23-year old — remember he’s still only 23 — might not have even been in Arlington on Tuesday night weren’t for an injury to Adrian Beltre. As happens with many top prospects who don’t immediately produce, the shine has somewhat worn off of Gallo. But whatever he may or may not become, Gallo’s light-tower power has never been in doubt and it was on full display Tuesday night. Carlos Carrasco pitched a nice game but paid the price for leaving a pitch up and over the heart of the plate to the young Rangers slugger.

SABRy tidbits

  • The big news from Opening Day was that velocity was up — not for any one pitcher in particular, but for everyone. That’s not an accident: MLB switched from PITCHf/x to Statcast across the majors this year, and the location velocity will be measured from has shifted. Dave Cameron has a great writeup with more details over at FanGraphs.
  • Did you see this tweet? If you’re reading BtBS, you probably did. Whatever your opinion about WAR or its place in the ballpark, the Reds’ new scoreboard was a landmark — and not necessarily a good one. Double Birds’s Adam Felder argues that this is a harbinger for the further commercialization of statistics, as MLB tries to suck whatever little of a soul remains from this game. (Also, stay tuned for the BtBS roundtable on that tweet!)
  • After incredible showings in 2013 and 2014, Yan Gomes had a subpar 2015 and a miserable 2016. Did he suddenly get worse, or is bad luck to blame? Let’s Go Tribe’s Matt Lyons suspects the baseball gods haven’t been too kind to Gomes — and he has the stats to prove it.
  • Baseball is back, but the projections haven’t gone away! McCovey Chronicles OG (Original Grant) gets into the nitty-gritty of some ZiPS projections. The numbers shed some light on the Giants’ left-field battle, throw some water on the team’s power potential, and make Buster Posey look even better, if that’s possible.
  • Gerrit Cole has also had an inconsistent run recently, going from dominant in 2015 to pedestrian in 2016. His first start of the season had a little of both — he cruised through the first four innings against the Red Sox, then hit a wall. Bucs Dugout’s Travis Barnett looks at Cole’s arsenal from the game, and how it differs from last year (don’t worry, he takes Cameron’s article into account).
  • Robbie Grossman’s a rather distinct hitter — not many players in the majors are as patient as he is. Overall, though, he’s done well for himself with the bat, making him the Twins’ designated hitter to start the season. Twinkie Town’s Louie Opatz takes a deep dive into his offensive profile and muses on how he’ll perform in this new role.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Jameson Taillon (3.64 projected ERA) vs. Chris Sale (3.14 projected ERA)

Bringing with him a big fastball and a plus curveball, Jameson Taillon had a really nice major league debut in 2016. He made 18 starts, tallying 104 innings with a 3.71 FIP, 3.67 DRA, and a solid 20.3 percent strikeout rate, though what was most impressive from the rookie was his paltry 4.1 percent walk rate.

Taillon has all the makings of a front line starter and will begin his sophomore campaign to prove it at Fenway Park in front of a crowd that will be excited to see their newest ace in his Boston debut. Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski lived up to his reputation by acquiring Chris Sale for a package revolving around uber-prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Now the spoils of his bold moves will be realized.

Sale will almost certainly be good this season. This is not a bold stance. But how good he will be is up for debate and, as tackled by our own Ryan Romano, illustrated in his conflicting projections. The change of scenery and backstops should also benefit Sale as White Sox catchers cost him 17 runs in 2016 due to poor pitch framing.

An exciting up-and-comer against a proven ace. This one should be fun.