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Launch angles — May 19, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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

Guillermo Heredia pokes a game-winning base hit — +.392 WPA

Gif via

The Mariners started the season winning just two of their first 10 games, an inauspicious start for a team with playoff aspirations. Despite losing most of their rotation, upstart Mitch Hanigar, and recently Robinson Cano to the disabled list, Seattle is battling back. After Thursday’s heroics from Guillermo Heredia they sit at 20-22, just two games back in a tightly-packed AL West.

Heredia entered the game to pinch hit for Ben Gamel with two outs and runners on first and second. Of course with the game tied and the Mariners at home, the only runner that mattered was the man on second. On this day that happened to be the speedy Jarrod Dyson, meaning the Mariners would walk away with a victory on just about any base hit.

Facing White Sox southpaw Dan Jennings, Heredia looked at two straight sliders. The first was well outside, failed to draw a swing, and was called a ball. The second ended up over the heart of the plate in an extremely hittable spot, but Heredia watched it for strike one. On 1-1, Jennings threw his third straight slider. This one was on the outer third of the plate but belt high and Heredia was able to poke it over the head of Yolmer Sanchez to score Dyson with ease.

Charts via Baseball Savant

Yesterday’s best game score

Jose Berrios — 91

Gif via

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.

Twins starter Jose Berrios has been a well regarded prospect and his call up last season generated significant buzz in the world of people who follow such things. As is often the case with young pitching prospects though, worries about control at the big league level proved valid. Berrios posted a 8.02 ERA and 6.20 FIP to go along with a paltry five percent strikeout-to-walk rate. His debut was not a success.

Sometimes top prospects never get it together at the major league level and kind of fizzle out. But sometimes it just takes a little seasoning. Now two starts into his 2017 big league campaign, Berrios — at still just 22 years old — seems to be putting it together. After 39 23 minor league innings to start the year, his first start back in the bigs yielded 7 23 innings of two-hit, one-run ball in which he struck out four and allowed just one walk.

Aiming to build on that, Berrios faced the Rockies at home on Thursday in the second game of a double-header. He again delivered 7 23 innings with just two hits allowed, but on this day he allowed no runs, struck out 11, and walked none. Berrios relied mostly on his four-seam fastball and curveball, collecting 18 of his total 19 swinging strikes on those offerings. It was a dominant showing.

Charts via Baseball Savant

After two starts in his second big league stretch, Berrios looks like he may have taken the leap and could actually develop into the front-line starter many thought he had the potential to become. This is a definitely a young pitcher to keep an eye on.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Kris Bryant — 450 feet

Gif via

Look, it’s great when fans can get a souvenir, but personally I’m a huge fan of when a massive dinger interacts with the stadium in some way. Due to the batter’s need to you know, see the pitch, most of these meetings of fast-traveling baseball and stadium occur in centerfield. Be it the Marlins’ sculpture, the Royals fountain, or the Angels’ rock pile; it’s just aesthetically pleasing to see ball and stadium interact. Beyond the Box Score’s co-overlord Henry Druschel described this very thing in an earlier edition of Launch Angles, so I don’t think I’m alone here.

Kris Bryant’s home run on Thursday was a simple example of this. The ball hit the batters’ eye roof and fell back into a waiting bush, crushing the hopes of nearby fans who tried their best to will the ball into their outstretched arms. I hope it’s remained in that bush so that future generations of Chicagoans may one day discover the remnants of this mammoth Kris Bryant blast.

As for the particulars of this specific home run, Bryant mashed it against promising Reds rookie Amir Garrett. With no on and no out in the fourth, Garrett threw Bryant a 92 mile per hour first pitch four-seamer. It was a tad down and inside, but still over the plate so Bryant was able to turn it around with relative ease at 109 miles per hour with a lunch angle of 24 degrees. 450 feet later it settled in Wrigley field shrubbery and the Cubs extended their already comfortable lead.

Charts via Baseball Savant

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Chris Sale (2.93 projected ERA) vs. Kendall Graveman (4.45 projected ERA)

Somewhere around the middle of last year, Kendall Graveman decided to change his approach and lean more heavily on his sinker. The change in usage proved benficial.

Chart via Brooks Baseball

While he started 2017 continuing that success, Graveman has come back down to earth somewhat. His ERA and FIP now hover around four — just as they have in his other two seasons in Oakland — but it’s still relatively early and he has just two below average starts on the year. Graveman’s sinker usage seems to be falling slightly as the season goes on, so it’ll be interesting to see how he mixes in his other offerings going forward.

Like Graveman, Chris Sale’s approach has changed slightly in 2017. He’s relying less on his fastball — to the tune of a 13.5 percentage point usage decrease — and more on his slider and changeup. It seems to be working, as he leads all qualified starters in fWAR by almost a full win. Sale’s got a 2.15 ERA along with an impressive 1.80 FIP and a minuscule 1.28 DRA. He’s striking out what would be a career high 38.8 percent of batters while maintaining a tiny 5.9 percent walk rate.

Boston gave up a ton for the southpaw, but are thus far reaping the rewards. Sale is dominating right now and you should probably cancel your Friday night plans to watch him pitch. A healthy social life is overrated.

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