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
Kris Bryant opens the flood gates — +.248 WPA
This moonshot from Kris Bryant against the Marlins on Thursday accounts for two new records in this section of our daily recap series. His three-run dinger in the top of the fourth inning had the smallest win probability added and happened earlier in the game than any previous winner of the day’s biggest play. The former lowest marks of record came courtesy of Daniel Descalso’s April 14th three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning which had a .281 win probability added. Congratulations to Kris Bryant, I think.
As for yesterday’s play in question, it happened when the Cubs were already leading 2-1. With two outs and Jake Arrieta on first base after a single, Marlins southpaw Jeff Locke walked Anthony Rizzo to bring Bryant to the plate. After starting him off with a knuckle-curve in the dirt, Locke got Bryant to swing through a changeup on the outer and lower third. After two fastballs way inside made the count 3-1, Locke tried to go back to a changeup in almost the exact spot that had previously generated a whiff. It did not work. The ball ended up a couple of inches closer to the middle of the plate and Bryant walloped it 416 feet to left-center field.
The home run put the Cubs up 5-1 and they would never look back, ultimately beating the Marlins by a final score of 11-1. There were other, more dramatic plays on Thursday — mostly coming at the expense of the Mets — but we go by the cold, hard numbers here at Launch Angles. So while it happened early, with the Cubs already in the lead; Bryant’s dinger just about sealed the Marlins’ fate in one fell swoop, making it the biggest play of the day.
Yesterday’s best game score
Jose Quintana — 79
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.
The White Sox and Twins endured a 4-hour and 50-minute rain delay before playing this one. They must have been going nuts, right? I mean, I know modern locker rooms are spacious and have tons of amenities, but you’re still bound to get a little stir-crazy just hanging around for so long.
Whatever Jose Quintana did to pass the time worked. He threw 6 2⁄3 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and striking out nine. Quintana induced 13 swinging strikes and as is usually the case, threw nearly 30 percent curveballs. Keeping the curve concentrated at the bottom of the zone, Quintana successfully kept Twins hitters off balance. The offering had just one hit against it and accounted for six of those 13 whiffs.
The most impressive aspect of Quintana’s outing was his failure to issue a walk, something that had happened in just two of his previous 14 starts. His 8.6 percent walk rate is still a career-high mark, but a couple more outings like Thursday and that number should fall more in line with his career norms.
Quintana had a LONG time pre-game to sit around, think about, and prepare for this outing. Who knows how he spent that time, but whatever it was, he might want to do it again in five days.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Marcell Ozuna — 448 feet
For whatever reason, Statcast did not track this laser home run from Marcell Ozuna yesterday. There are any number of potential explanations for this, but instead of speculating, let’s just be thankful that Hit Tracker Online provides an alternate source of home run distance measurements. They rarely line up exactly with Statcast’s numbers, but as the next biggest home run measured by Statcast on Thursday went 433 feet — three actually; without Ozuna there would’ve been a three way tie in this category — I’m confident in saying that a 15 foot margin of error with Hit Tracker Online’s number is probably safe.
As for the home run itself, it came on a 3-0 sinker from Jake Arrieta that drifted back towards the inner-third of the plate just above the knees. It was the third straight sinker that Arrieta had thrown Ozuna; with the first a borderline strike not called and the second missing just off the plate.
That Arrieta would go right back to a sinker on 3-0 makes sense. The previous two were both good pitches, Ozuna had just shown impressive restraint not to swing. On that third sinker Arrieta missed his spot in a place that allowed Ozuna to put the hammer down. In my opinion, the most aesthetically pleasing home run swings can best be described as “violent,” and this particular laser from Ozuna definitely fits that bill.
- Lonnie Chisenhall has a 149 wRC+ this year; he’s mashing. With a necessary small sample size caveat, one of the big differences is that he’s started hitting lefties. Over at Let’s Go Tribe, Beyond the Box Score contributor Merritt Rohlfing looks at what adjustments Chisenhall has made this season to fix his platoon issue.
- The Yankees aren’t exactly hurting for high-leverage relief pitching help, but Joe Girardi has insisted he will continue to trust Tyler Clippard as his “seventh inning guy” despite some shaky performances. Pinstripe Alley’s Matt Provenzano makes the case for Chad Green to get those high-leverage opportunities.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
Luis Castillo (4.44 projected ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3.24 projected ERA)
Congratulations on your major league debut, Luis Castillo! Now go out there and try to best Stephen Strasburg.
We usually determine these matchups by adding up projected ERA according to FanGraphs’ depth charts. Castillo doesn’t have a depth chart projection, so for him I used his rest of season Steamer projection. The 24-year old right hander has been great for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the Southern League with a 2.58 ERA, 2.56 FIP, and 21.4 strikeout-to-walk rate. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Castillo 10th on the Reds’ organizational prospect list with a 45 future value. Here’s how he described Castillo’s arsenal at the time.
Castillo throws hard, sitting 95+ and touching 100 in shorter outings. It’s more of a downhill, heavy 96-97 than a true bat-missing, upper-90s heater and Castillo does strike out as many hitters as you might expect from a now 24-year old who spent almost all year in A-ball. His slider flashes plus and is effective down and out of the zone but can get slurvy and lose effectiveness when he’s working within it. The changeup is below average but there’s good arm speed here (that should be obvious, this guy bumps 100) and it could get to average with reps.
As for Strasburg, he continues to crush it this season with increased curveball and changeup usage after his 2016 tryst with a slider. He still throws the slider, but much less frequently out of a desire for arm preservation. Strasburg got rocked two starts ago, but still carries an impressive 3.28 ERA and 3.03 FIP into this contest at Nationals Park.
Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.