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Launch angles — June 2, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Minnesota Twins v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Victor Decolongon/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

Jason Castro drives in the go-ahead run in the ninth — +.419 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

The Twins trailed heading into the ninth inning as Mike Scioscia eschewed his regular closer Bud Norris for left-hander Jose Alvarez. The next five batters were either lefties or switch-hitters and with Norris still nursing a mild knee injury the move made logical sense on the surface. Alvarez immediately retired Max Kepler but Jorge Polanco would follow by reaching base on a dropped pop up by first baseman Jefry Marte. That’s when things unraveled for the Halos.

A double and an intentional walk would load the bases for Jason Castro with one out. Facing Alvarez, he took a two-seamer in the dirt to begin the at-bat. That was followed up by two very hittable four-seam fastballs over the bottom and middle of the plate. Instead of taking his 1-2 count advantage and trying to get Castro to chase, Alvarez then went right back to a four-seamer in the same vicinity of the previous two. To use a classic baseball cliche, Castro “went with the pitch” and poked it the opposite way to score both the tying and go-ahead runs.

I want to take a moment to recognize the impeccable and visually pleasing slide of Eddie Rosario. Ben Revere’s throw wasn’t quite strong enough but it was on target, necessitating the perfect hand placement that Rosario demonstrated. Most impressive and satisfying — unless you’re an Angels fan — is the hop, spin, and fist punch that occur with one simultaneous motion after touching home plate. Kudos to Mr. Rosario for the grace he showed on this critical play.

Gif via MLB.com

Yesterday’s best game score

Chase Anderson — 81

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.

Chase Anderson is having an outstanding season. Entering Thursday’s matchup with the Mets he owned a 3.72 ERA, a 3.63 FIP, and a career-low 7.7 home-run-to-fly-ball rate — an important number for a fly ball pitcher. At the end of April, my Beyond the Box Score colleague Travis Sarandos detailed how Anderson was finding early season success. Since that time he’s faltered somewhat, but has remained a valuable rotation piece for the first place Brewers.

Coming off his best performance of the year against the Diamondbacks — which saw him post a game score of 85 — Anderson delivered another strong outing on Thursday. He went seven scoreless innings at Citi Field, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out seven and avoiding confrontation with Mr. Met. Anderson induced just seven swinging strikes, but he was still fooling Mets’ hitters as five of his seven strikeouts were of the called variety.

Chart via Baseball Savant

He was dominant to start the season, had a bit of a lull through May, and now has back-to-back incredible outings. It’s probably time to start buying that Chase Anderson is an impact starter. At the very least he’s someone to continue to keep an eye on.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Mark Reynolds — 450 feet

Gif via MLB.com

I will always have a soft spot for Mark Reynolds because he is responsible for what is probably the longest home run I’ve ever seen in person at a Diamondbacks/Indians spring training game in Goodyear. It cleared the scoreboard beyond the left field wall. I still think about it whenever I see his name.

On Thursday, Reynolds did what he does best again and launched a 94 mile per hour, 2-1 fastball into the spectators above Safeco Field’s out-of-town scoreboard. What’s most impressive about this moonshot isn’t the distance (450 feet) or the exit velocity (111 miles per hour) — although both of those things are extraordinary — but the location of the pitch. Just look at this thing:

Zone via Baseball Savant

Hitting a dinger 450 feet isn’t easy or common, but it is something we see nearly every day here at Launch Angles. What we don’t see everyday is a hitter climbing the ladder like Reynolds was able to do and still hitting the ball as far as he did. A quick Statcast search of home runs show that of the 89 dingers at the top of or above the zone this season, only two have eclipsed 450 feet. Mark Reynolds is a strong human being.

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Clayton Kershaw (2.57 projected ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (4.45 projected ERA)

Here we are again with Clayton Kershaw featured in the best pitching matchup category. We all know he’s great, but what’s been interesting this year is how mortal he’s looked at times. For the longest period he had trouble finding his slider, and now that it appears to be back he’s coming off a game where fastball location seemed to be the issue. Fallible Kershaw is still an ace, but he hasn’t quite dominated like usual. The long track record of excellence points to him finding his way, but for now we can’t assume flat-out dominance out of the gate in a start until seeing how his stuff looks each night.

Jimmy Nelson is projected for a rest of season ERA of 4.45, but that’s because of his past campaigns and not what he’s done this year. In 2017 Nelson is the proud owner of a 3.83 ERA, 3.41 FIP, and a career-high 22.6 percent strikeout rate. He is relying on his four-seam fastball and changeup more than ever, which is presumably due to the significant increase in vertical drop he’s seen on the latter this season. The projections are always a little slow to believe, but there’s plenty to suggest that Jimmy Nelson has turned into a legit mid-rotation starter.


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