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Launch angles — May 30, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins Marilyn Indahl-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

Josh Reddick extends the rally and puts the Astros on top — +.487 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

Ervin Santana gave the Twins seven strong innings before handing the reigns to the bullpen with an 8-2 lead. Entering the top of the eighth inning against the Astros on Monday, the Twins had a 99.1 percent win expectancy. Then it all came crashing down.

Here’s what the Astros strung together before the biggest play of the game, in order: walk, hit by pitch, single, single, pop out, single, single, force out. That got them to within one run as Josh Reddick stepped to the plate for the second time that inning, looking to build on his leadoff walk.

It appeared Reddick might extend the rally by walking again as Twins reliever Craig Breslow fell behind 3-0. The next pitch was a two-seamer right on the inside edge for a called strike. On 3-1 Breslow went right back to a two-seam fastball on the inside part of the plate. This one hit the corner like it’s predecessor, but was a few inches higher and Reddick was able to bloop it into short right-center field where centerfielder Eddie Rosario couldn’t quite complete the sliding catch.

If Byron Buxton had still been in the game, there’s a high likelihood that the catch is made and the Twins escape the eighth inning with a one run lead intact. Unfortunately Buxton left the game two innings prior after lacerating his finger on the aforementioned Rosario’s cleat while attempting a diving catch on a ball hit in the gap by — you guessed it — Josh Reddick. Rosario caught that ball and in the sixth on a sliding catch similar to the one he would attempt in the eighth. Baseball coincidence at it’s finest.

After Reddick put the Astros in front with his big two-run double they would score four more times in the eighth and three more in the ninth to ultimately double up the Twins on the day. In case there was any doubt I’ll go ahead and state the obvious — the Astros are pretty good, folks.

Chart via FanGraphs

Yesterday’s best game score

Tanner Roark — 74

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.

As I’m sure you’re well aware, Monday’s Nationals/Giants game is what everyone will be talking about today. A man who can throw a baseball very hard was apparently holding on to a perceived slight from when he didn’t do his job well a couple of years ago. When all was said and done, a backside, an ego, and I’m guessing multiple other body parts ended up bruised in a silly baseball skirmish.

While the fight will get the headlines, there was a game played in which Nationals starter Tanner Roark pitched tremendously. He gave up no runs over seven innings, scattering six hits and one walk while striking out six. Roark has five pitches and used them all against San Francisco, generating at least one swinging strike with each pitch type and a total of 17 whiffs overall.

The two-seam fastball has always been Roark’s main weapon and as you can see from the below chart from yesterday’s outing, he’s comfortable throwing it to both sides of the plate. Of course the Giants’ league worst 72 wRC+ offense did their part, but Roark did a pretty decent job keeping his four-seamer up, his the off-speed and breaking stuff down, and his excellent two-seamer darting all over the place.

Zone via Baseball Savant

On a day that saw one of the game’s best players throw hands in a massive basebrawl Roark won’t get any of the headlines, but he was still outstanding and deserves some recognition. We see you here at Beyond the Box Score, Tanner. We see you.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Edwin Encarnacion — 451 feet

Gif via MLB.com

We’ve talked a lot in this space about baseballs finding shrubbery or other unique and interesting parts of a ballpark. I can only assume Edwin Encarnacion is an avid reader of Launch Angles, because on Monday he delivered a massive blast into the wilderness of Progressive Field.

A’s pitcher Daniel Mengden had just given up a home run to Carlos Santana when Encarnacion stepped into the box. The at-bat began with two sliders, one at the top of the zone that should have been called a strike but wasn’t, and one low and away that Encarnacion fouled off. Mengden followed with the exact same mistake he made in the previous at-bat against Santana, a four-seam fastball over the heart of the plate. Then, as you might expect: In play, (runs).

Chart via Baseball Savant

The ball left Encarnacion’s bat at 108 miles per hour and a 25 degree launch angle, winding up 451 feet away in the center field trees. According to Statcast, a batted ball hit with those particular measurements is a home run 100 percent of the time. This is Encarnacion’s first time winning the biggest home run of the day this season, I suspect it won’t be his last.

SABRy tidbits

  • There was understandably not a lot of analytical work being done on the holiday, so instead I direct you to the Minor League Ball mock draft from Sunday. John Sickels and Michael Cook go back and forth giving their picks on how the draft will and should turn out. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with some of the top amateur prospects in this year’s draft, which is now just under two weeks away.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Chris Sale (2.91 projected ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (3.84 projected ERA)

Chris Sale finds himself featured in the best pitching matchup once again, but this time he’s not propping up some back end starter with the shear force of his greatness. On Tuesday, Sale faces a challenge as he squares off against his former teammate Jose Quintana.

Quintana hasn’t had a great season to this point. His ERA is 4.82, a full run above his 3.81 FIP which alongside his career low 66.5 percent left on base percentage indicate he may be experiencing a touch of bad luck. He’s walking a career high 9.2 percent of opposing hitters but striking out a career high 23.1 percent. Things aren’t great for Quintana, but his situation isn’t dire either. Maybe that change of scenery that we all know is coming will do him some good.

As for Sale, he just keeps rolling. He’s only failed to go at least seven innings in one of his 10 starts and only fallen short of 10 strikeouts in two of them. Sale’s last outing against the Rangers was his worst of the season and he went seven innings while allowing three runs and striking out six; even his bad starts are pretty good.

This is the clear cut best pitching matchup of the day and even comes with a side of “former star returns to face his old team” intrigue. It should be a fun one.


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