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Launch angles — May 4, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle Mariners
This is technically from the next play, but Mariners fans really shouldn’t complain.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/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

Jarrod Dyson spares the Mariners more misery — +.394 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

The Mariners have had a pretty rough year. They’re sitting in third place in the AL West with a 12-16 record, and their bullpen has imploded a ton — it has the third-most blown saves and the fourth-most meltdowns in the majors. On Wednesday, it looked like their hardship would continue: Thanks to a sixth-inning rally, the Angels led 6-4 heading into the eighth.

But Dyson — who has the lowest hard contact rate in the majors — wouldn’t let them go quietly into the night. Stepping to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, the man with a documented history of clutch play bullshitted a single into right field to knot the score at six. The next batter, Jean Segura, hit a single through the left side, giving the M’s the lead again. One Edwin Diaz save later, Seattle had the come-from-behind-after-falling-behind win.

On the flipside of this, you have to feel for Blake Parker. Heading into this game, he had a lifetime hard-hit rate of 29.3 percent (below the MLB average), and a lifetime popup rate of 4.9 percent (above the MLB average). Yet somehow, he’d put up an inflated .319 BABIP — and that was before this four-hit implosion. Don’t worry, Blake: Here at Beyond the Box Score, we don’t use fascist measures like ERA to judge your talent. We’ll always love you for your 3.32 FIP, no matter how many squibbers Dyson hits.

Yesterday’s best game score

Jeff Samardzija — 90

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.

Yesterday’s Launch Angles (or is it Launch Angle?) featured the Dodgers-Giants game as the best pitching matchup. It certainly lived up to the billing, with the scored tied at one run apiece after nine innings. While Julio Urias twirled 5 23 scoreless innings for Los Angeles, he gave up four hits and four walks while recording a sole strikeout. That meant top billing for the night went to Samardzija, who certainly deserved the honor.

Over eight frames against the Dodgers, The Shark allowed three hits and no walks. He fanned 11 of the 26 hitters he faced, and the only run he sacrificed came after a mind-numbing error from Joe Panik. It was the second-best start of the season for any pitcher, behind Ervin Santana’s one-hit shutout on April 15 against the White Sox.

Samardzija deviated from the norm in this contest. He basically scrapped his four-seam fastball and cutter. instead relying heavily on his slider and curveball. And breaking from his typical strategies with those pitches, he pounded the zone pretty regularly:

Image via Baseball Savant

Altogether, Samardzija threw 47 curveballs and sliders. 36 of them went for strikes, with 11 calls and 11 whiffs among that total. With offspeed pitches that deadly, Samardzija should keep pitching like an ace. (What’s that, you say? His ERA is above 5? Well, you know what they say…)

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Marcell Ozuna — 468 feet

GIF via MLB.com

I feel like we don’t talk about Ozuna enough. (Here, I’m using the royal “we,” referring to the baseball writing community as a whole but mostly to myself.) It’s probably because he plays for the Marlins, who (a) employ Giancarlo Stanton, demigod and devourer of worlds, and (b) are the Marlins.

Still, Ozuna had himself a decent 2016, putting up 2.4 fWAR for a forgettable Miami team. This season, he’s done some rather indecent things to baseballs, such as this hanging changeup from Blake Snell:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Ozuna’s hard contact rate is at a career high, and ranks among the NL leaders. And yesterday, he hit the fifth-longest home run of the year to date, along with the longest of his career (in the Statcast era, that is). If he keeps slugging .300/.360/.570 — and if Stanton continues to languish in the .250s — we’ll treat Ozuna like the star hitter he is.

SABRy tidbits

  • We’ve always thought of the A’s as the Moneyball team, balling on a budget to varying degrees of success. That image might be changing, though, as the club loosens up its pursestrings. Athletics Nation’s grover likes the trends from the team’s recent spending.
  • Death, taxes, and bullpen problems in Detroit: Some things in life are certain. Francisco Rodriguez’s ninth-inning hiccups have many Tigers fans pining for Justin Wilson to become the closer. Bless You Boys head honcho (and BtBS contributor) Rob Rogacki tells them, calmly, to put down the torches and pitchforks.
  • Several key Royals players will become free agents after the 2017 season. Among them: Eric Hosmer, who’s struggled in April and whom Royals Review’s Max Rieper thinks might be hurting his value; and Alcides Escobar, who has bottomed out completely and whom RR’s Matthew LaMar thinks should hit the waiver wire.
  • Look, Joey Votto is phenomenal. I could say more than that, but I’d rather just link you to Red Reporter’s Wick Terrell, who sings his praises and analyzes his greatness better than I ever could.
  • Chris Devenski is all the rage! After BtBS’s Steven Martano speculated about which teams could find another super reliever, Twinkie Town’s Andrew Bryzgornia seems to have found the perfect candidate: Tyler Duffey. Check out the stats — while he’s not quite on Devenski’s level, he could be a similar Swiss army knife-type player.
  • Domingo Santana put up some formidable numbers in the minors — a .282/.374/.485 triple-slash that put him on numerous top prospect lists. In the majors, he’s struggled to live up to that hype, but he might have turned a corner this year. Over at Brew Crew Ball, Kyle Lesniewski takes a look at Santana’s plate discipline, which is trending in the right direction.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Danny Salazar (3.61 projected ERA) vs. Michael Fulmer (3.98 projected ERA)

I won’t lie — I was kind of disappointed, knowing Max Scherzer was pitching today, that he didn’t show up here. Each of his first five starts has appeared on this feature, but his streak will end there, thanks to Braden Shipley and his 4.83 projected ERA. If only Shelby Miller were still around…

This game isn’t a bad matchup, though. It pits two of the AL Central’s brightest pitchers against each other, albeit not the best pitchers on their respective teams (that one came on Tuesday). Salazar has the second-highest strikeout rate in baseball at 33.3 percent, and Fulmer is coming off the AL Rookie of the Year award. The duo has plenty of pitch variety — the former has five legitimate pitches in his arsenal, the latter four — and, based on how well the Indians and Tigers have hit so far, that unpredictability should come in handy.


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.