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
Marwin Gonzalez blasts a towering grand slam — +.711 WPA
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eight inning, Marwin Gonzalez stepped into the box to face Keone Kela. Trailing 5-3, this would most likely be the Astros’ best opportunity to come back and at least tie the game. Kela had gotten two outs, but he was also responsible for all three runners; Rangers manager Jeff Banister stuck with him anyway.
Kela started Gonzalez off with a curveball in the dirt for ball one. He then followed with three straight fastballs all within one mile per hour of each other. The first one was a ball that should’ve been called a strike at the bottom of the zone. The second one was out of the zone but induced a swinging strike from Gonzalez. That was an important strike for Kela, but he still found himself down in the count so he went right back to the fastball. Jonathan Lucroy wanted it down where the previous two were located, but this pitch was drifted up in the zone to a spot that’s basically middle-middle and the ball found a new home beyond the right field wall.
According to Baseball Savant, batted balls hit 94 miles per hour at a 41 degree launch angle have an expected batting average of .048 and an expected home run percentage of just three percent. Usually a ball hit with these particulars is a extremely high but routine fly out. Gonzalez was able to pull it down the line to the one place where a batted ball like this has any hope of finding success — just inside the foul pole.
This towering grand slam — Gonzalez’s second dinger of the game by the way — gave the Astros the lead and they would not look back. Have yourself a day, Marwin Gonzalez.
Yesterday’s best game score
Jose Quintana — 83
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.
Through his first four starts of the season Jose Quintana had a 6.17 ERA and 5.74 FIP. He had a solid outing against the Twins but it would be fair to say that overall he was not sharp to begin the season. Enter the Kansas City Royals.
On Tuesday Quintana faced the Royals for the second time in as many starts and dominated them for the second time in as many starts. He went eight innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out seven. Quintana only induced eight swinging strikes on the night, but was able to keep most of the hard contact the Royals made on the ground. Four of the five balls hit over 95 miles per hour against him resulted in groundouts. As they say, there’s no slug on the ground.
For the most part Quintana did a good job keeping his fastballs elevated, his changeups down, and his occasional curveballs on the arm side corner or buried in the dirt. By looking at his zone chart and splitting it in two horizontally, it seems like there was an overall plan in place that was well executed.
Despite a couple of hiccups to start the year, Jose Quintana has rebounded nicely to remind everyone that he’s still one of baseball’s best pitchers. The White Sox should collect quite a nice prospect haul when he’s traded away at the deadline.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Joey Votto — 449 feet
Joey Votto is an absolute delight. It seems like every year he re-invents himself and experiments with his approach for a portion of the season. So far he’s posted what would be by far career low strikeout and walk rates and is hitting for more power than usual with career high fly ball and pull rates. He’s also swinging more than ever and making more contact than ever while running a minuscule .208 BABIP.
Right now Votto’s a power hitter, but that could change if he wants it to because he’s a hitting savant. His ability to tinker with who he is at the plate while playing at the major league level will never not amaze. For now though, enjoy the dingers.
On Tuesday, Votto crushed his longest home run of the Statcast era, an impressive 449 feet to dead center off of Pirates rookie hurler Tyler Glasnow. It was one of those balls that you kind of lose in the air and pick up again only after it has smashed against an outfield structure and landed back in the field of play. The quiet indignity of a center fielder forced to chase down a home run ball that has ricocheted back into their territory is on full display here.
The swing Votto put on this blast was a sight to behold, so lets watch it again in slow motion and from different angles. Such control, such power. Enjoy this version of Joey Votto before he inevitably morphs into someone new and just as awesome.
- Over at Athletics Nation, Joseph T. DeClercq uses Statcast to break down how unlucky Matt Joyce has been so far in his first season with the A’s (hint: pretty darn unlucky).
- Some prospects break onto the scene immediately and others take a little extra time to develop, needing reps in the big leagues to find their footing. At Let’s Go Tribe, Beyond the Box Score’s own Merritt Rohlfing looks at the strong start from Cleveland’s Lonnie Chisenhall to see if he’s one of these cases and is finally breaking out.
- The Twins are 13-11. It’s a little surprising, but they are doing one thing exceptionally well as a team to help their cause — walking, a lot. Twinkie Town’s Louie Opatz looks at the the team’s historic walk rate and whether or not it is sustainable.
- Clayton Kershaw has looked shockingly human in a couple of his starts this year. While it’s still early, Chad Moriyama of Dodgers Digest is a little bit worried about Kershaw’s slider and breaks down what’s been different about it so far this season.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
Jeff Samardzija (3.76 projected ERA) vs. Julio Urias (3.50 projected ERA)
I think Jeff Samardzija might be the poster boy for the “mid-rotation starter.” Sometimes he’s great, sometimes he’s not, and neither outcome is particularly surprising since as a baseball fan you’re keenly aware that he’s capable of any type of performance at any time. So far this season it’s been mostly bad as he’s posted a 6.32 ERA and a 4.50 FIP, but Samardzija is coming off his best game to date against the Padres where he went seven innings and allowed just two earned runs.
The competition and atmosphere will be decidedly different on Wednesday as he’ll be facing the rival Dodgers and their 20-year-old pitching prodigy Julio Urias at Chavez Ravine on the night Vin Scully is inducted into the team’s “Ring of Honor.”
This will be Urias’ second start of the season as the Dodgers had him start the year in the minors. In his first outing last week he faced these same Giants allowing one earned run over 5 2⁄3 innings while allowing four hits, four walks and four strikeouts. Last year Urias joined Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller as the only other pitcher in history to have produced a sub 3.50-FIP with a strikeout rate of at least 25 percent in 50 or more innings in their age 19 or younger season. Illustrious company and a validation of why Dodgers fans have been chomping at the bit to have Urias join the rotation for good.
Urias is here now, for good, and on Wednesday he’ll face a capable opponent in the rubber match of a rivalry series. Dodgers and Giants, what more could you possibly want out of a Wednesday night?
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Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrchrisanders.