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Launch angles —May 15, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/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

Manny Piña puts the Brewers ahead with a blast — +.632 WPA

Gif via

David Stearns is killing it. The Brewers are four games above .500 and staying competitive early in the season while simultaneously rebuilding. The Eric Thames and Travis Shaw acquisitions have paid obvious dividends, but the production Milwaukee has received from their catcher timeshare has been a little more under the radar.

After trading Jonathan Lucroy to help replenish the farm system, Stearns decided to roll with the duo of Jett Bandy and Manny Piña behind the dish. It’s still early and their BABIPs remain a tad inflated, but the duo have combined for a 120 wRC+ this year which ranks the Brewers seventh in baseball in catcher offensive production. Meanwhile, Lucroy is sporting a wRC+ of 86. Baseball really is weird sometimes.

On Sunday, Piña got the start for Milwaukee and found himself up to bat in the eighth inning with two on, two out, and the Brewers down one. He got ahead 3-0, but Mets reliever Addison Reed battled back to get the count full. With the seventh pitch of the at-bat Reed threw a slider wasn’t badly elevated, but probably caught more of the plate than he had hoped.

Piña doesn’t have the same power as his catching partner in crime Jett Bandy, but on this day he got into one and played the role of hero. The Brewers are a lot of fun.

Chart via Baseball Savant

Yesterday’s best game score

Alex Meyer — 72

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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.

Two batters and six pitches into Sunday’s start against the Tigers, Alex Meyer was down 1-0 after consecutive hits by Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos. It looked like his fourth start of the season was going to be another rough day on the bump.

Meyer buckled down after that and ended up finishing 6 13 innings with just three total hits, two walks, that lone earned run, and seven strikeouts. It was an incredibly impressive turn around after a terrible beginning. Even more extraordinary is that Meyer did it while basically throwing just two pitch types.

Chart via Baseball Savant
Chart via Baseball Savant

He threw only one changeup on Sunday, instead leaning on his fastball and power-curve. The fastball averaged 96.4 miles per hour and topped out at 99, while the curveball averaged 84.7. Meyer recorded 11 swinging strikes on the day; six on the fastball and five on the curve.

Does this performance cement Meyer’s spot in the Angels’ rotation? No, though it probably buys him a couple more starts. In the long run it’s going to be tough to succeed as a starting pitcher with just two pitches and Meyer is still most likely destined for the bullpen. But if he can continue to keep his fastball around the corners and out of the top of the zone while pounding the bottom with his curve, there’s no reason not to try to keep this success going.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Jorge Soler — 464 feet

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Through May 5th, the Royals had the worst offense in baseball. Their collective 67 wRC+ and .272 wOBA was dead last in both categories. Getting Jorge Soler back on May 6th was never going to be the cure-all, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Cue Soler collecting just three hits in his first 25 at-bats entering Sunday’s game against the Orioles, fitting right in among the already sluggish Kansas City offense.

Placing a value judgement on a player’s first eight games after coming off an extended stay on the disabled list is laughable, so today we focus on Soler’s first sign of life in the 2017 season. Leading off the sixth inning against Orioles reliever Richard Bleier, Soler crushed a 2-2 sinker on the outer edge to dead center — an estimated 464 feet according to Statcast.

The ball left the bat at 114 miles per hour but at a low launch angle of 18 degrees, this was a line drive home run in the truest sense. Royals’ television Analyst Rex Hudler remarked that he had never seen a ball clear all three walls in center field at Kaufmann Stadium. Here’s the view from behind the plate so you can see exactly what he’s talking about.

Gif via

It’s been a tough start for the Royals. Jorge Soler won’t fix that, but he might help a little bit. At the very least he’ll provide some tape-measure dingers along the way.

SABRy tidbits

  • The Twins sitting atop the AL Central standings halfway through May is one of this season’s biggest surprises. While their starting pitching has been just okay overall, Hector Santiago has been great. Over at Twinkie Town, SooFoo Fan ponders an important question; is Santiago good now?

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Chris Archer (3.38 projected ERA) vs. Carlos Carrasco (3.38 projected ERA)

On a Monday with only eight games, this pitching matchup between Cleveland and Tampa Bay stands head and shoulders above the rest. Chris Archer and Carlos Carrasco have both been outstanding to begin the year and have identical projected ERAs moving forward.

Through eight starts Archer appears to have bounced back nicely from a down 2016 as he owns a 3.07 ERA, a 2.77 FIP, and a 19.9 percent strikeout-to-walk percentage. Carrasco’s numbers are even more impressive as he’s posted a 1.86 ERA, a 3.00 FIP and a 21.8 percent strikeout-to-walk percentage in his seven 2017 starts.

Look, there’s not a lot to say about this matchup that you don’t probably already know. These guys are both absolute studs and their tilt on Monday night is the marquee game on baseball’s schedule. Make sure to tune in to this one.

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