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Launch angles — May 21, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Colardo Rockies v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Michael Hickey/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

Scott Schebler caps off a Reds rally — +.437 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

While their bizarre Ian Desmond contract got all the (negative) attention, the weirdest move the Rockies made during the offseason might have been giving a three-year contract to Mike Dunn. A 31-year-old left-handed reliever, Dunn posted a 97 ERA- and 95 FIP- from 2014 to 2016 with the Marlins. He was essentially a LOOGY, who wasn’t all that great at retiring lefties — they had a .287 wOBA off him. And his overall production wasn’t the only red flag: He was also an extreme fly ball pitcher, which can lead to trouble in Coors Field.

This brings us to Saturday’s Reds-Rockies game, which despite taking place in Great American Ballpark had a decidedly Coorsian outcome for Dunn. After Colorado scored six runs in the fifth inning, it had an 8-3 lead and a 92.5 percent chance of winning. With Antonio Senzatela cruising, it seemed victory was a certainty.

By the sixth frame, the tables looked like they might be turning. Chad Qualls gave up a home run to Devin Mesoraco, bringing the score to 8-5. Dunn came in to clean up Qualls’s mess, and he gave up two more runs. Still, the Rockies retained an 8-7 edge, and two outs were on the board. All Dunn had to do was retire Schebler, a fellow southpaw — the kind of hitters Colorado is paying him $19 million over three seasons to get out.

Then this happened:

Image via Brooks Baseball

And then this happened:

GIF via MLB.com

The Reds would tack on two more runs to pad their lead, walking away with a 12-8 win. Having given up three runs in two-thirds of an inning, Dunn saw his ERA inflate to 4.85, accompanied by a 4.12 FIP.

While Desmond isn’t hitting well — to this point, he’s been precisely replacement level, per FanGraphs — Dunn’s struggles in his first year with Colorado shouldn’t go under the radar. Next time, maybe the team won’t invest so much in a lefty specialist who isn’t all that special.

Yesterday’s best game score

Carlos Martinez — 93

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.

The projections don’t lie, man. Well, kind of. In yesterday’s recap, this game got the nod for best pitching matchup, with an average projected ERA of 3.58 between the two starters. Through nine innings, the score was 0-0. So yeah, they were definitely the best pitchers of the day — but ZiPS and Steamer didn’t quite expect them to be this great.

Jeff Samardzija’s performance bears mentioning here; he twirled eight shutout innings for the Giants, and his 86 Game Score would’ve taken the cake on 33 of the previous 48 days. Martinez was the star of the night, though, with nine scoreless frames for the Cardinals. He scattered two hits and a walk to go along with five strikeouts.

Martinez has a four-pitch repertoire — he combines a four- and two-seamer with a changeup and a slider — and all four of those pitches were working against San Francisco. The four-seamer, change, and slider each went for strikes at least 73 percent of the time, while the sinker netted nine called strikes in 39 appearances.

The Cardinals righty required only 93 pitches to make it through his nine innings, but because his offense couldn’t put a run across, he left without earning the Maddux. A 3.28 ERA and 3.72 FIP are his reward for his efforts, which were ultimately for naught, as Kevin Siegrist imploded in the 13th inning to let the Giants win 3-1. Chin up, Martinez — that obscure internet stat will be yours next time.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Chad Pinder — 460 feet

A play, in three acts:

GIF via MLB.com
GIF via MLB.com
GIF via MLB.com

After laboring against Drew Pomeranz for four innings, the Athletics trailed the Red Sox 3-2. Then came the fifth frame. Mark Canha led off with a 456-foot blast to center field, tying the score at three runs apiece. Khris Davis followed up with a 429-foot tater to left-center, giving Oakland a 5-3 edge. And Pinder wrapped things up with a 460-foot moonshot to the Raiders section of the Coliseum.

Canha and Davis, we know have power. These four-baggers aren’t that surprising coming from those two. But what about Pinder? Before the season, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen gave his raw power a 50 grade, which indicated average clout was his ceiling. Yet through his first 50 plate appearances with the A’s, he’s clubbed four round-trippers en route to a .267/.340/.600 batting line.

While some elements of Pinder’s quasi-breakout seem sustainable — his 10 percent walk rate is nearly double his lifetime mark in the minors — he won’t continue slugging .600. But even he can hit an upper-decker when you serve him a 91-mph sinker that’s about as middle-middle as possible:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Whether they’re the AL’s fifth-best home run hitter or an anonymous utility prospect, any big-leaguer can turn on a hanging pitch. Pinder doesn’t have Davis’s raw power, but by capitalizing on the mistake Noe Ramirez offered him, he helped the A’s put on a laser show.

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Stephen Strasburg (3.32 projected ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (4.09 projected ERA)

Today’s must-watch matchup pits a couple of NL East teams on opposite ends of the spectrum against each other. Strasburg’s the stronger end of the duel; he’s worked a 3.42 ERA and 3.17 FIP thus far, despite a strikeout rate well below his career norm. Garcia, meanwhile, has had trouble finding the strike zone, leading to the highest walk rate of his career by a wide margin. This battle leans the Nationals’ way, but if the Braves offense can crack two homers off Strasburg as they did to Max Scherzer yesterday, things could go differently.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. He also writes about the Orioles for Camden Depot, sometimes. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.