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Launch angles — June 9, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-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

Jesus Aguilar finds a crease to give the Brewers a chance — +.385 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

Giants closer Mark Melancon entered the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead and proceeded to do exactly what is expected of a member of the Giants bullpen. Former “Face of MLB” runner-up Eric Sogard launched a solo home run to begin the inning and Eric Thames would follow with a walk. Jesus Aguilar then stepped up to the plate, worked the count full, and smashed a middle-middle knuckle-curve from Melancon to left field. Thames motored all the way home from first to tie the game and there was much celebration from the Milwaukee faithful.

Enter home plate umpire Ed Hickox to burst everyone’s bubble.

Gif via MLB.com

The Brewers had not tied the game. The ball had gotten stuck between a crease in the left field wall. Thames was be sent back to third and Aguilar credited with a ground-rule double. Craig Counsell ran out for an explanation and the umpires would go to a review of the play, but it was pretty clearly the correct call.

Gif via MLB.com

So the biggest play of the day didn’t score anybody and still left Aguilar’s team down a run, but it did put the Brewers in a great position. A runner on second and third with no outs is a game state that produces a run expectancy of 1.9421.

The Brewers would immediately score Thames on a single from Travis Shaw to find themselves with runners on the corners with no outs in a now tied game. From there, Mark Melancon was able to bear down and get the next three outs without allowing Aguilar to score from third. The Giants would put up four runs in the tenth to secure the victory.

Aguilar put his team in a great position to succeed, they just couldn’t finish the job. The Brewers’ failures don’t diminish the timeliness of Aguilar’s hit and the fact that it was the biggest play of the day according to win probability added. WPA doesn’t care about what happened later in the game, it only cares about the importance of each individual play at the moment it happens. Jesus Aguilar did his part.

Yesterday’s best game score

Joe Ross — 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.

Entering Thursday’s game against the Orioles and through six starts, Nationals right-hander Jos Ross was the owner of a 7.34 ERA and a 5.67 FIP. Those numbers aren’t pretty, but they are belied by solid strikeout and walk rates (20.6 and 5.0 percent), an inflated BABIP (.365), and an almost certainly unsustainable home-run-to-fly-ball rate (22.5 percent). Ross has dealt with injury in the past couple of years, but he does have a track record of success in the majors; there’s reason to believe he can be a legitimate mid-rotation starter.

Ross got himself back on track in a big way yesterday. In 7 13 innings he allowed one run, four hits, and no walks while striking out twelve Orioles. His slider has always been Ross’ main secondary pitch and has consistently generated plenty of whiffs with a career 22.3 percent swinging strike rate. On Thursday he threw it 43 times and generated 15 swings and misses for a swinging strike rate of 34.9 percent!

Zone Charts via Baseball Savant

Ross collected just three whiffs on his sinker, but that still works out to a total of 18 swinging strikes on the day. His slider was devastating and we finally got a glimpse of what Joe Ross is capable of at his best.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Austin Slater — 461 feet

Gif via MLB.com

Entering play on Thursday the Giants had the fewest home runs in baseball, by a wide margin. Their total of 46 was 10 behind the 29th place Red Sox. It seems that Madison Bumgarner’s stint on the disabled list has significantly hampered San Francisco’s power production.

Austin Slater is not a big time power prospect, his highest total in a season was 18 last year over two minor league levels. This year in Triple-A, Slater had just four home runs in 196 plate appearances. He also had a 123 wRC+ and a .322/.381/.460 slash line, so it makes sense that the Giants are giving him a chance in the big leagues, just saying that it’s not because of his overwhelming power.

Boy did he get into one on Thursday though. In the top of the fourth inning Slater took a belt high, 89 mile per hour fastball on the inner third from Brewers starter Paolo Espino deep to center field for his first career major league dinger. It hit the bottom of the scoreboard wall overhang, which doesn’t sound all that impressive on it’s own, until you see how high up that actually is.

Gif via MLB.com

Who knows if he’ll stick in the big leagues, but no matter what, Austin Slater will always be able to say that his first career home run went 461 feet, and that’s pretty cool.

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Andrew Triggs (4.15 projected ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (4.17 projected ERA)

Earlier this week my colleague Anthony Rescan wrote about how the A’s road back to contention will depend on the success of their collection of young pitchers. Among those mentioned is Andrew Triggs, who is having a great season in his first full year as a starter. He has a 3.36 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, and is finding success by combining a slightly above average ground ball rate (49.7 percent) with a below average hard hit rate (25.5 percent). There’s nothing overwhelming about Triggs, but his two-seam fastball, cutter, slider combination is getting the job done so far.

On the other side is Alex Cobb, who in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery has yet to recapture the same level of success he had in 2013 and 2014. Primarily a ground ball pitcher throughout his career, Cobb’s ground ball percentage is still above league average, but at an all time low for him.

Graph via FanGraphs

That coincides with — and is perhaps caused by — a decrease in strikeouts and an increase in contact allowed. Cobb’s velocity hasn’t taken a dip this year, but he is throwing his knuckle-curve significantly more and at the expense of his changeup so it’ll be worth monitoring his pitch mix going forward. Being that this is his first full season after Tommy John it’s foolish to proclaim that the Cobb of old is gone, but there is plenty of cause for concern.


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