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Launch angles — June 16, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics Cary Edmondson-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

Khris Davis drops a blooper into no man’s land — +.736 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez hit a go-ahead single in the top of the tenth inning to put New York up 7-6. Dellin Betances had pitched the previous 1 23 innings, so the task of closing the game out was given to rookie reliever Giovanny Gallegos. It looked like he was up to the challenge after getting two quick outs, but the A’s didn’t back down.

Rajai Davis singled, Chad Pinder doubled, and with runners on second and third, Joe Girardi decided to intentionally walk Jed Lowrie to face Khris Davis. Walking the bases loaded left his pitcher with absolutely no margin for error, but apparently Girardi cared more about the platoon advantage, creating a force out everywhere, and facing the hitter almost twice as likely to swing and miss or strike out. It’s a reasonable call with merit to both sides of the argument, but we’re not here to parse managerial decisions. Let’s get to the game winner.

You know “Barrels?” The Statcast metric that MLB debuted last season? This was decidedly not that. Gallegos’ fifth pitch was a 2-2 slider inside that Davis was able to bloop into short centerfield. It left the bat at 68 miles per hour and a 37 degree launch angle. This is a completely unimpressive batted ball, but according to Statcast it yields an expected batting average of .733! It’s that perfect combination of weakly hit and looping that finds an open space more often than not.

Starlin Castro gave a tremendous effort in trying to run the ball down, but it deflected off his glove and landed just beyond the incoming Brett Gardner, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score. Davis got jammed but happened to hit it in the exact right place. The BABIP Gods were smiling upon him late Thursday night.

Let’s give Castro a minute, I think he’s just gonna hang out here for awhile.

Screenshot via MLB.com

Yesterday’s best game score

Chris Sale — 85

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.

Nick Pivetta joined Chris Sale in the best pitching matchup section of yesterday’s Launch Angles, but only because of Sale’s greatness and tiny projected rest-of-season ERA. Undaunted by the prolific southpaw in the opposing dugout, Pivetta threw seven scoreless innings, striking out nine en route to an impressive game score of 79. There are many days in which Pivetta would be featured here himself, but on Thursday night he would have to settle for the real life victory for his team.

Sale is expected to dominate against a Phillies team that owns a meager 86 wRC+ against left-handers, and that’s exactly what he did. In eight innings, Sale allowed just one run, four hits, and one walk. He struck out 10 Phillies and generated 19 swinging strikes on all four of his pitch types.

Zone Charts via Baseball Savant

In most games a performance like that will get the job done, but the Red Sox offense failed to show up on Thursday and Boston lost 1-0. In fact, not only did Sale dominate on the mound, but he was the only Red Sox player to record an extra-base hit. He did everything he possibly could to try and carry Boston to a victory, but it still wasn’t enough.

We had an unexpected pitchers duel in Philadelphia on Thursday. By game score Nick Pivetta was great, but Chris Sale was a little bit better. Of course that’s exactly why they play the game; it’s a team sport, the better pitcher doesn’t always win.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Keon Broxton — 489 feet

Gif via MLB.com

Keon Broxton was the darling of many sabermetrically inclined prognosticators heading into the 2017 season — most notably Jeff Sullivan on FanGraphs — and with good reason. his Statcast batted ball numbers were off the charts fantastic and once given a regular role with the Brewers last year, he delivered a 109 wRC+ and plus defense in center field.

After a terrible April, Broxton bounced back with a tremendous May, but has once again struggled in June. His strength and talent have never been in question though, and on Thursday he showed off both by crushing an absolute rocket against Michael Wacha and the Cardinals.

It happened in the second inning and his first at-bat of the game, with two outs and Travis Shaw occupying first base. Broxton pounced on the first pitch Wacha threw, an extremely hittable cutter just above the knees and over the heart of the plate. Just look at where the pitch was at the moment of contact; I believe the proper term for this is “grooved.”

Screenshot via MLB.com

Broxton turned that meatball around with an exit velocity of 109 miles per hour and a 29 degree launch angle. At 489 feet, it was the second longest home run of the season and the longest home run in the history of new Busch Stadium. Now, because the ball ended up in the stands and not some random stadium anomaly, there might be a tendency to dismiss the projected distance. It’s looks long, but a little too normal, you know? Please, fight the urge to be a Statcast truther and just look at how many rows deep that thing lands! You absolutely do not see that everyday.

Keon Broxton is a strong human being.

Gif via MLB.com

SABRy tidbits

  • Carlos Martinez has established himself as a bonafide ace and is currently in the midst of his best season to date. However, if one were to quibble with part of those ace credentials, the argument would be that he historically hasn’t handled lefties nearly as well as righties. The good news is that lately he’s shown improved slider command to left-handers, prompting Joe Schwarz of Viva El Birdos to ponder if Martinez has potentially put his platoon split issue behind him.
  • John Sickels was a busy man this week providing comprehensive coverage of the MLB Draft at Minor League Ball. With that now over, make sure to check out his division by division reviews: AL West, AL Central, AL East, NL West, NL Central, and NL East.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Max Scherzer (3.06 projected ERA) vs. Steven Matz (3.60 projected ERA)

Here we go again with Max Scherzer showing up in the best pitching matchup section of Launch Angles. It’s both obvious and obnoxious how often he, Clayton Kershaw, and Chris Sale occupy this spot. Didn’t they learn how to share as kids? Anyway, you know about Scherzer. He’s awesome, in the midst of his best season to date, and recently passed the 2,000 career strikeout mark. As is the case with any all-time great, you should try to tune in to as many of their starts as possible. Enjoy them while they’re here.

Luckily, today Scherzer isn’t just propping up a mediocre back-end starter with his incredible projected ERA. On Friday he’ll square off against Steven Matz, who will be making his second start of the season since being activated from the disabled list. He only struck out two in his season debut against the Braves, but did deliver seven strong innings of one-run ball. With the Mets’ overall fragility, a strong Matz from this point forawrd would go a long way towards legitimizing their wild card hopes.


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