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Launch angles — May 25, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
This wasn’t on the winning play, but how could I have an article about Billy Hamilton without a photo of him sliding?
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

Billy Hamilton does Billy Hamilton things — +.648 WPA

Yeah, you can’t see it in this GIF, but be patient!
GIF via MLB.com

Knowing nothing else about the games, if you looked at this WPA graph…

Image via FanGraphs

…and this WPA graph…

Image via FanGraphs

…you’d probably suspect, based on its late-game WPA fluctuations, that the former had the more exciting finish.

And you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Trailing 5-3 after six innings, the Padres rallied to tie the game at five in the seventh, then pulled ahead 6-5 in the eighth. The Mets put the winning run in scoring position in both the eighth and ninth frames, but they couldn’t bring them around; the final inning was particularly dramatic, as Brad Hand didn’t allow a run despite putting the first three men on base.

But while the WPA in the Ohio rivalry game didn’t jump around quite as much, it concluded in as thrilling a fashion as possible, thanks to one of the most electric players in the game. The Indians took a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning, ready for closer Cody Allen to seal the deal. After two singles put runners on first and second with no one down, the righty got a fielder’s choice for the first out and appeared to end the game on the next play:

GIF via MLB.com

That call would be overturned, though — and correctly:

GIF via MLB.com

Given another opportunity, the Reds — and Billy Hamilton — capitalized. Zack Cozart lined a single into left field, and the speedy Cincinnati outfielder scored from first base (yes, really) to give his team a 4-3 lead. While Raisel Iglesias made things a little bit interesting in the bottom half of the inning, the Reds nevertheless walked away with the win in this bitter rivalry game.

This play shouldn’t take anything away from Hand — he struck out Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera when a ball in play could’ve tied the score — or from the Padres-Mets game, which had another impressive play of its own. But just look at this sonofabitch run the bases:

GIF via MLB.com

Dude never even breaks stride! He started running from first before Allen threw the pitch and crossed home plate before Michael Brantley knew where the ball was. When Billy Hamilton’s on your team, you could see the biggest play in baseball on any given day. On Wednesday, that most certainly was the case.

Yesterday’s best game score

Luis Severino — 85

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.

Several veteran pitchers had incredible starts Wednesday. Twenty-nine-year-old Mike Leake and 27-year-old Sonny Gray each notched a Game Score of 82, and 27-year-old Tyler Chatwood put up an 80. But the best effort belonged to Severino, who at the age of 23 shut down the Royals, giving up four hits and a walk over eight scoreless innings.

In his starts before Wednesday, Severino had developed a trend in his pitch usage — he was leaning more on the slider at the expense of the four-seam fastball:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Against Kansas City, he took that to the extreme, throwing 55 sliders and 44 four-seamers. Of those 99 pitches, 14 were called strikes and 12 were whiffs; those putaway pitches helped him fan seven Royals. And against a lineup with four lefties, he used the changeup down-and-away to keep the southpaws honest:

Image via Baseball Savant

In 55 innings this year, Severino has a 3.11 ERA and 3.29 FIP, with 61 strikeouts to just 14 walks. Maybe 23 is the new 27.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Hunter Renfroe — 440 feet

GIF via MLB.com

Okay, so I stand by my earlier statement about the Reds-Indians game being the most exciting, but damn, this is one hell of a shot. Smoker missed badly with his first three pitches, then ran one down the gut on 3-0. Since it worked once, he figured he’d try it again:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Renfroe has serious power — BP’s Jeffrey Paternostro called it “potential plus” and FanGraphs’s Eric Longenhagen gave it a 70 grade — but because of his contact problems, he’s had some issues tapping into it. When he gets a meatball, though, he’ll feast.

As for Smoker, well, he served up a heater down-and-in to a guy who’s hit for a ton of power there, and in a hitters’ count, no less. Terry Collins: You sure you want to have this guy be your spot starter? At least Rafael Montero isn’t the kind of pitcher who gives up a tape-measure go-ahead homer — oh, wait, never mind. Yeah, maybe you should just wait for Thor.

SABRy tidbits

  • WHIP is an imperfect statistic — it measures all hits equally, ignores hit-by-pitches and errors, and doesn’t take into account BABIP fluctuation. Still, the fact that Clayton Kershaw now has a career WHIP under 1 is pretty damn cool.
  • Originally, the Orioles were going to platoon Trey Mancini and Hyun Soo Kim in left field. That hasn’t really happened, as Mancini’s incredible start — he’s hitting .294/.336/.541 through 119 plate appearances — has earned him the lion’s share of the playing time. Camden Chat’s Alex Conway has some specifics on what’s gone right for the nascent slugger.
  • Hector Neris was one of the few bright spots on the 2016 Phillies, with a 2.58 ERA and 3.30 FIP in 80 13 innings. He looked like a completely different pitcher to start this season, bottoming out with his three-homer blown save against the Dodgers. Since then, though, things have looked a lot better for the righty, as The Good Phight’s Ethan Witte explains.
  • Have the Rockies been a lucky team this year? Yes; they’ve won considerably more games than their peripherals would suggest. Does that negate those wins, or the joy fans derive from them? Not at all, and as Adam Peterson lays out at Purple Row, good fortune in April and May can come in handy in September.
  • Sans Andrew Miller, the Yankees need another lefty in the bullpen to back up Aroldis Chapman. Or rather, they needed another lefty — until Chasen Shreve exploded onto the scene. Pinstripe Alley’s Joshua Diemert breaks down the southpaw’s 2017 breakout.
  • Remember when the Indians traded for Jonathan Lucroy? The deal fell through, and Cleveland fans are probably relieved right now — Yan Gomes is on a tear, and Lucroy looks worse than ever. Over at Let’s Go Tribe, BtBS’s Merritt Rohlfing reflects on what could have been.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Dinelson Lamet (4.25 projected ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (3.33 projected ERA)

More Mets/Padres! Lamet is slated to make his MLB debut today. His relatively optimistic projection comes as the result of consistent production down on the farm — he’s notched a 2.99 ERA in 298 13 career minor-league innings. A high-strikeout, fly ball-inclined pitcher with some control problems, Lamet profiles as a reliever in the long term. For today, though, he’ll have a chance to shine.

deGrom is the only bona fide ace slated to take the hill today, at least according to the projections — the next-lowest projected ERA is 3.72 for Kenta Maeda. In a nightmare season for the Mets, he’s put together the best campaign of his career, thanks to some tweaks he’s made to his repertoire. The high-strikeout, high-grounder version of deGrom should make for a challenging adversary.


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.