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Launch angles — June 14, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/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

Rougned Odor finds the Crawford Boxes to put the Rangers ahead — +.405 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

What’s most striking about Rougned Odor’s second home run of the game was the confidence. As soon as he hit it Odor put his head down, dropped the bat, and started jogging. He knew it was gone and that after tying the game with a solo shot in the previous inning, he had just given his team the lead. I’m not going to object to the showmanship — personally, I like that kind of stuff — but it barely cleared the fence! Odor only hit the ball 346 feet, but if Statcast measured bravado his surely would’ve been awarded five stars.

Luke Gregerson has been a great reliever in his career, but he’s not having a good year. He’s allowing his highest walk rate (9.0 percent) since his rookie season and by far the lowest ground ball rate (38.0 percent) of his career. He fell behind 0-2 to Odor and then missed his spot badly with a two-seam fastball that was supposed to be inside but drifted back to the outer third of the plate. Odor poked it the opposite way at an exit velocity of just 96 miles per hour, but that was hard enough to find the Crawford Boxes and get the job done.

Zone Chart via Baseball Savant

Yesterday’s best game score

Jon Lester — 77

Gif via MLB.com

Game Score was developed by Bill James as a quick way to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance, and recently updated by Tom Tango. The score begins at 40, with points added for outs and strikeouts, and subtracted for walks, hits, runs, and home runs. A score of 70 is very good; a score of 90 is outstanding.

It became a laugher early on at Citi Field as the Cubs put seven runs on the board in the second inning to jump out to an 8-1 lead. When a team gets that far down early it makes sense to maintain a glimmer of hope. It’s still early after all, if you can just chip away at the lead you can get back in the game. I’d have to imagine though that hope is extinguished as soon as you remember that the opposing pitcher is Jon Lester.

Lester did exactly what you’d expect, throwing seven innings while allowing just one run, five hits, and one walk. He struck out 10 and coerced 13 swinging strikes with seven of those whiffs coming on his curveball.

Lester typically throws his curveball 12.1 percent of the time. On Tuesday he almost doubled that number and threw it 22.6 percent of the time — 24 of his 106 total pitches. Lester induced seven swinging strikes with his curve and was able to steal five called strikes over the heart of the plate. Working backwards, he got four of those five called strikes on the first pitch. Lester clearly felt confident in his curveball so he leaned on it, with good reason.

Zone Chart via Baseball Savant

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Anthony Rizzo — 462 feet

Gif via MLB.com

Anthony Rizzo got his first career start batting leadoff on Tuesday and deposited the second pitch of the game deep into the New York night. Joe Maddon is a genius!

Of course, Rizzo is one of the best hitters in baseball and will punish mistake pitches no matter where he is slotted in the lineup. In this instance Mets starter Zack Wheeler’s two-seam fastball came back and caught a little bit more of the plate than he had probably hoped and Rizzo proceeded to crush it 462 feet. It’s easy to see why batted balls hit at 111 miles per hour with a launch angle of 25 degrees have left the yard 100 percent of the time.

The one disappointing aspect of this dinger is that it came so close to hitting the giant apple in center field but missed. It’s a much better home run aesthetically if it hits the apple, this is undeniable. I guess we’ll just have to settle for appreciating the distance on this one. Here, enjoy it again in slow motion.

Gif via MLB.com

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Brandon McCarthy (3.77 projected ERA) vs. Corey Kluber (3.40 projected ERA)

Somewhat lost in all the talk of how the Dodgers are shuffling their rotation by manipulating the 10-day disabled list and moving formerly capable starters to the bullpen, is how good Brandon McCarthy has been. Through 10 starts and 57 23 innings he has a 3.28 ERA and a 3.07 FIP. After returning from Tommy John Surgery last season McCarthy had a battle with the yips, but those struggles seem to be a thing of the past. He and Alex Wood have joined with Clayton Kershaw to provide stability to a deep but fragile Dodgers rotation.

Toeing the rubber for the home team is Cleveland’s ace, former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. With a 4.38 ERA and 3.53 FIP, he hasn’t been his typical dominant self this year; but has had two solid starts since returning from the disabled list. After a quick glance at his numbers, the main thing that’s troubling is that his hard hit rate is up significantly from previous seasons. He’s only made eight starts this year though, so it’s going to take a more prolonged stretch of hard contact struggles to truly move the needle of concern.

On Wednesday night in Cleveland we have an excellent interleague pitching matchup featuring two teams with World Series aspirations. Hopefully this contest will be as good in reality as it is on paper.


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