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
Robinson Chirinos hits an insane three-run moonshot in extras — +.484 WPA
We saw a lot of — for lack of a better term — expected weirdness yesterday. A scheduled doubleheader in Tampa? Sure, why not. Aaron Judge hitting the hardest home run in the Statcast era? I mean, he did it off Chris Tillman. The Royals tapping into their devil magic again? That doesn’t really count when it’s against the Padres. (Same goes for Terrance Gore’s home run.)
The Nats and Rangers being in this situation wasn’t that strange — Washington’s Koda Glover gave up a 3-1 lead (yup) in the ninth inning. That was the team’s 10th blown save of the year, tied for seventh in the majors. Hell, even this play itself makes sense: Shawn Kelley is a homer-prone pitcher, and Chirinos came into the day with a .268 ISO this season.
But then you see this…
…and you’re like, “oh yeah, that home run was really fucking weird.”
Before yesterday, MLB hitters were 53-for-404 — that’s a .131 batting average — when hitting the ball at a 38 degree launch angle. On any other day, this is a popup, a lazy fly ball to right, a can of corn, as the old baseball idiom goes. Kelley escapes the jam, and the game goes to the bottom of the 11th.
Except, in this case, that doesn’t happen. Chirinos, a 33-year-old lifetime backup, turned on a fastball from the Nationals’ $15 million reliever, launching it so hard it managed to squeak over the fence in about six seconds (no, really — its hang time clocked in at 5.9). It’s not as sexy as Judge’s massive dong, but this moonshot from Chirinos came at the biggest moment possible for the Rangers.
Yesterday’s best game score
Carlos Martinez — 95
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.
For as great as Martinez is, we sure don’t talk about him that much. After this dominant performance on Saturday — his first career complete-game shutout, with four hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts — he’s had the top Game Score three times this season, behind only Max Scherzer (four) for the MLB lead. That, along with a 2.95 ERA and 3.11 FIP, is, how would you say… not too shabby.
When Martinez is on, he’ll have a nasty slider working double duty — and oh man, was he on last night. He picked up 25 called strikes and 11 whiffs out of 107 total pitches; his slider accounted for 10 and six of those, respectively. The pitch was a double-edged sword, catching hitters looking when they let it go by and leaving them in the dust when they swung:
As dominant as the slider was, though, it accounted for three of the four hits Martinez allowed. He relied on his fastball combo for his .200 BABIP in the game, as his adversaries couldn’t square up the high heat:
In addition to, you know, being the Phillies, Martinez’s opponent had only three southpaws in its lineup — Odubel Herrera, Andres Blanco, and Freddy Galvis, hardly a murderer’s row. For a hurler who’s been far worse against lefties (career .326 wOBA) than righties (.263), that obviously makes things easier. But Martinez did the heavy lifting, and now he has the sub-three ERA to show for it. Underappreciated, he won’t be for much longer.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Kennys Vargas — 471 feet
The issue with this long ball — a frequent problem, I’ve found — is the stadium in which it occurred doesn’t really do it justice. Thanks to Triples’ Alley, this looks like a regular ol’ dinger. So to help put it in perspective, I’ve
stolen created this helpful image, showing where the ball would’ve gone in Vargas’s home park:
Mercy, what a shot. A whole lot of things went right here — a hitter who feasts on low pitches got a 97-mph fastball from a pitcher who’s given up the second-most homers in the NL this year — and you get the third-longest long ball of 2017. Maybe Big Papi taught this budding power hitter a few tricks.
- I was rewatching Field of Dreams the other day, thinking about Moonlight Graham — the guy who played one game in the majors, then never returned. Red Rolfe could’ve been like that, but luckily, as Matt Ferenchick lays out for Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees third baseman got another shot and made the most of it.
- After an up-and-down stint with the big-league club, Indians starter Mike Clevinger has returned to Triple-A Columbus for the time being. Cleveland’s right-hander has a 3.28 ERA in his minor league career; can he match that potential in the majors? BtBS’s Merritt Rohlfing, writing for Let’s Go Tribe, sorts through what he’s accomplished this year to try and find out.
- Chris Gimenez — a catcher, who does not throw baseballs for a living — has pitched in four games this year for the Twins. That’s a lot! Somehow, Minnesota is still in first place! Twinkie Town’s Louie Opatz isn’t really sure why it’s happened, but his article has a lot of GIFs, so you should read it anyway.
Today’s best pitching matchup
Jose Quintana (3.88 projected ERA) vs. Carlos Carrasco (3.48 projected ERA)
Before 2017, Quintana was a bit of an overperformer; he paired a 3.41 ERA with a 3.47 FIP (and 3.79 xFIP). That trend hasn’t continued this season, as he’s seen his ERA and FIP implode to 5.30 and 4.20, respectively. Carrasco, on the other hand, has been a historic underperformer — he entered the year with a 3.92 ERA and 3.50 FIP — who’s turned things around this year, lowering his ERA to 3.36 while his FIP has held steady at 3.56. If these two AL Central hurlers can produce like they’ve done in years past and 2017, respectively, today’s White Sox-Indians game will be a pitching duel for the ages.