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
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:
And then this happened:
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
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:
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:
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.
- You know how commentators talk out of their asses and never say anything worth listening to? Well, sometimes they actually stumble upon something of note. Over at Twinkie Town, Louie Opatz looks into the two-strike approach of Twins hitters, after some offhand comments from broadcasters in recent games.
- Right after the 2017 season began, the Cardinals locked up Stephen Piscotty with a six-year extension. He didn’t hit especially well in the early going — prior to returning last night, his triple-slash was an inauspicious .241/.378/.380 — but that was more the product of bad luck than any real regression, says Viva El Birdos’s Ben Markham.
- Earlier this season, I noted that Nick Castellanos was hitting the snot out of the ball. That remains true to this point, but his mediocre BABIP (.304) and ISO (.173) don’t show it. As Fielder’sChoice (quality pun game there) explains for Bless You Boys, Castellanos isn’t the only Tigers hitter who’s been unlucky.
- From 2012 to 2016 — when he was one of the most fearsome hitters in the majors — Edwin Encarnacion played half his games in Rogers Centre, a great place for a right-handed hitter to wallop a long ball. Now, his home park has moved to Progressive Field, which isn’t as friendly to righties. BtBS’s Merritt Rohlfing, writing for Let’s Go Tribe, muses on how much the switch has hurt EE.
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.