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Launch angles — May 12, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

San Diego Padres v Texas Rangers Photo by Rick Yeatts/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

Mike Napoli walks off the Padres with a towering blast — +.285 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

The combination of some wholly unexciting games and a shortened Thursday schedule finds us with our lowest win probably added ever in the biggest play category of Launch Angles. Mike Napoli hit a monster home run in the ninth inning with two on and one out to walk off against Padres reliever Brandon Maurer.

While Napoli’s dinger was the final dagger, it was a team effort by the Rangers as they entered the ninth down a run. Here’s a rundown of the key events:

  1. Elvis Andrus singles to center (.100 WPA).
  2. Jonathan Lucroy singles to center, Andrus to third (.248 WPA).
  3. Joey Gallo pinch runs for Lucroy.
  4. Rougned Odor singles to left, Andrus scores, Gallo to third (.245 WPA).
  5. Mike Napoli crushes a 3-run game winning dinger to left (.285 WPA).

As you can see — with one out the common denominator of the entire sequence -- both Lucroy and Odor’s singles contributed to the Rangers’ win expectancy almost as much as Napoli’s home run. It took a rally, but the final nail in the coffin belonged to Napoli and for that reason he is the proud owner of yesterday’s biggest play.

Gif via MLB.com

Yesterday’s best game score

Zack Greinke — 86

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.

After a disaster first season in the desert, Zack Greinke is bouncing back quite nicely. Entering Thursday’s contest against the Pirates he was the owner of a 3.09 ERA, a 3.21 FIP, a 2.22 DRA, and strikeout and walk rates that harken back to his dominant days in Los Angeles.

As Beyond The Box Score co-head honcho Ryan Romano laid out in the best matchup preview section of yesterday’s Launch Angles, Greinke is relying on his slider more than ever. The positive effect of this change in pitch type approach was on full display yesterday as 14 of Greinke’s 17 swinging strikes were induced on his slider. He threw the pitch 40 times and got 14 whiffs for a 35 percent swinging strike rate. That’s dominant.

Greinke carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning when Gregory Polanco pulled a 2-2 slider down the right field line for a home run. Look at the location of the pitch, it was well inside.

Chart via MLB Gameday

Nothing to do about that but tip your cap. It wasn’t mistake pitch, he just got beat.

All told, Greinke finished eight innings allowing just one hit, one run, and one walk, while striking out 11. He had no-hit stuff on Thursday night, but came up a little bit short. Don’t worry Zack, you’re finally in the books as a winner of Launch Angles’ best game score. That’s something, right?

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Mike Napoli — 448 feet

Gif via MLB.com

Well, would you look at that. It’s a banner day for our daily recap here at Launch Angles! First we had the lowest win probability ever in our biggest play category, and now for the first time, the day’s biggest play was also the day’s longest home run. Soak it in, folks. Beyond the Box Score history has unfolded right before our eyes.

Above I outlined the circumstances surrounding Napoli’s home run, so now let’s take a look at the characteristics of his majestic dinger. Maurer got ahead early with a fastball away, but then quickly fell behind 3-1 after two more fastballs and a slider missed. The 2-1 slider was perfectly placed but Napoli was able to lay off. After being unable to induce that swinging strike, Maurer was now behind 3-1 and went back to the fastball. He needed a strike, but this particular 95 mile per hour heater found itself over the heart of the plate where Napoli had no trouble turning it around.

Charts via Baseball Savant

The ball left Napoli’s bat at 111 miles per hour and a 30 degree launch angle. According to Statcast, that’s a home run 100 percent of the time. Nearly six seconds after it left the bat, the ball reached it’s final destination 448 feet away — deep into the Globe Life Park in Arlington outfield seats.

This particular blast was Napoli’s second of the game. He hit a combined 881 feet of home runs on Tuesday. A productive day at the ballpark, I’d say.

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Clayton Kershaw (2.51 projected ERA) vs. Tyler Chatwood (4.58 projected ERA)

Here we go again with Clayton Kershaw singlehandedly dragging his opponent into the best pitching matchup category. That’s what happens when you’re the best pitcher on the planet I suppose.

Kershaw has actually struggled a little bit this season. His ERA is an astronomical (for him) 2.40 and his 28 percent strikeout rate sits under 30 percent for the first time since 2013. He’s already allowed seven home runs and has yet to have a start where his slider was consistently locked in. In his second start of the season at Coors Field, Kershaw allowed three home runs. Now he returns to the mile-high city to find some redemption for that effort. The good news for the Dodgers is that even when Kershaw is not entirely sharp, he’s still one of the best in baseball.

Tyler Chatwood, owner of a 4.74 ERA and 5.52 FIP, is an uninspiring opponent for Kershaw if we’re being totally honest. His underlying metrics this season are almost identical to his numbers from last season except for one — home run to fly ball rate. So far this year balls hit in the air against Chatwood are leaving the yard at a 33.3 percent rate. That mark will almost surely regress, but being susceptible to the long ball and calling Coors Field your home park is a recipe for disaster.

It’s a one-sided matchup, but anything can happen in Denver.

. . .

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