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
Hunter Renfroe turns the tables — +.570
One of my favorite types of walk-offs occur when one team goes up in the top of the inning, and the other team comes back in the bottom half to tie it and then to take the lead. I am a sucker for huge emotional swings, and that’s almost certainly what the Brewers experienced, going from even at the top of the 10th, to hugely advantaged after Eric Sogard’s solo shot, to slightly advantaged after Erick Aybar reached base, to losers after Renfroe’s homer.
The 25-year-old Padres outfielder had a good and characteristic day yesterday, with a double, walk, and two strikeouts in addition to this home run, plus a nifty assist on a runner at second. His wRC+ on the season is a paltry 78, primarily the product of a terrible .273 OBP. But he’s hitting for decent power (an ISO of .189, seven home runs and another six doubles) and walking at a totally adequate rate of 7.1 percent. Renfroe’s 27.9 percent strikeout rate is certainly worrisome, but if more of his batted balls start falling for hits, Renfroe’s numbers might begin to tick upward. Alternately, he could keep hitting them over fences, and then he won’t need to worry about whether they fall for a hit or not.
Yesterday’s best game score
Zack Godley — 72
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.
With only eight games yesterday, and some surprising disappointments from starters (like Carlos Carrasco’s 3 2⁄3 innings with five runs, three walks, and six strikeouts), this slot was left wide open for Zack Godley to slip into. One can’t argue with the results of his start, in which he allowed only one run in 6 2⁄3 innings, but his seven strikeouts and five walks aren’t exactly up to the standards of this space on most days.
Still, Godley was fooling a lot of Mets hitters, generating 17 whiffs over the course of the night (including 11 on his curveball alone), so if he didn’t exactly know where his pitches were going, neither did they. After cups of coffee in 2015 and 2016, Godley’s currently sitting on the highest strikeout rate of his career, at 26.4 percent, and thus far it’s more than offset his 12.5 percent walk rate (which is also the highest of his career). He’s increasingly relying on his curveball, having thrown it more than 30 percent of the time this season, and the above gif probably demonstrates why; it has a knack for making opposing hitters look very foolish. If he can ever get his walks under control, the 27-year-old starter will turn the corner into excellence very quickly.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Justin Bour — 437 feet
Here’s a secret: I don’t find distance that aesthetically pleasing, when it comes to home runs. Statcast tells me what it is, along with the exit velocity, but neither of those are things that I can perceive from just watching a homer. For me, home runs separate themselves from the pack in other ways, including the forcefulness or violence of the swing. This Bour homer is a great example; at 437 feet, it’s among the shorter longest home runs that we’ve recognized this year, another product of the small number of games played last night. But something about the way he rips the bat through the zone makes me really appreciate this dinger.
I’m not totally sure what I mean by “violence” of a swing, but I think what I’m seeing may be batters taking advantage of hung offspeed pitches, such as this 81mph slider from Luke Gregerson that sat at the top of the zone instead of falling like Evan Gattis wanted.
Gregerson’s inning in relief was emblematic of his wonky 2017, in that he got two of his three outs via strikeout but also gave up a homer. Compared to last year, his strikeout numbers are down and his walk numbers up, but where he’s really getting killed is keeping the ball in the park. This was the 12th homer he’s allowed in just 15 2⁄3 innings, and while this might sound facile, I think it might have to do with his inability to locate pitches. This was an enormous miss with the slider, and not the kind of mistake that a pitcher can consistently make and expect to emerge unscathed.
- In every rebuild, there comes an inflection point, where the focus turns from collecting prospects to developing the pieces you already have. Over at Talking Chop, Scott Coleman lays out the case for and against the Braves trading Julio Teheran, and in doing so, breaks down the state of the rebuild and possible future in Atlanta. Personally, I am strongly against it; the Braves could be competitive as soon as next season, and will certainly be so by 2020; the odds of a Teheran trade bringing back players who will be as good as he is at any point in the next three years seems slim at best.
- It seemed like the Tigers were moving toward a rebuild when they traded Cameron Maybin to the Angels this offseason; Maybin was just 30, and coming off a two-win season for Detroit. But Brandon Day at Bless You Boys points out that, thanks to Maybin’s poor performance and the Tigers’ sufficient replacements, Detroit has not regretted the deal, even as they seek to stretch their window out for one more year.
- The Orioles have banked a lot of wins with their early season flurry, but they’ve hit a rough patch of late. Mark Brown of Camden Chat demonstrates the beneficial impact of that win bank on Baltimore’s final record, even if the Orioles aren’t as good as they looked in April, and lays out some of the main unresolved questions that are keeping them in this uncertain state.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
Chad Kuhl (4.38 projected ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3.26 projected ERA)
This space often features lopsided matchups, and this is probably one of them. We all know about Strasburg, though I think hype fatigue sometimes means we forget exactly how good he’s been. He’s also doing some new stuff this season, cutting his strikeouts (from 30.6 percent in 2016 to 23.7 percent in 2017) but increasing his groundball rate drastically (from 39.5 percent to 49.2 percent), so you wouldn’t do too wrong by simply watching this matchup for Strasburg.
But Chad Kuhl is interesting to me, and not just because he has a very sweet last name. He is not a big strikeout out guy, nor particularly good at limiting walks, and while he got a ton of grounders in the minors, his rates have fallen since he made his debut last year. Still, he’s been a point of stabilization for the Pirates over the last two season, with 21 starts and just over 100 innings with a 3.90 FIP and a 4.69 ERA. If he can bring the latter down closer to the former, Kuhl will really be worth keeping an eye on; right now, he’s just a very democratic pitcher, which is always enjoyable to watch.