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Launch angles — July 1, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Texas Rangers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/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

Melky Cabrera sends the Chicago faithful home happy — +.662 WPA

The White Sox had fallen behind 7–3 in the 6th, and the game looked mostly over. But a run here and a run there shrank the deficit, until Matt Bush (on to close it out for the Rangers) had just a two-run lead to work with. Three singles scored the first run, and put runners on first and second for Cabrera.

Much credit on this play should go not just to Cabrera, but to baserunner Alen Hanson, who scored from first when not many baserunners would have. On the other hand, if he had stopped at third, leaving the White Sox in a tie game with one out and runners on second and third, the White Sox are still probably favorites by a pretty large margin. This site gives them about a 20 percent chance of losing from that spot, though, so while the play at the plate was close, it’s not as if the White Sox could be fully confident in their chances if they didn’t send Hanson to home.

In a season where a lot of teams that planned to rebuild have been surprisingly good — the 40–38 Twins and the first-place Brewers being the big two — it seems somewhat unfair for other rebuilders to be down in the dirt. Granted, the teams planned for that lack of on-field success, and may even be happy about it, but it still doesn’t feel fully fair. At 35–44, the White Sox are fighting with the A’s for the distinction of worst record in the AL, so it’s nice to watch a stadium of people go wild for a double down the line in the bottom of the 9th. It’s a reminder that rebuilding and win curves and whatnot matter, but not much to a fan in the moment. Planning for the future is good and all, but never forget to show some good baseball today while you’re at it.

Yesterday’s best game score

Jacob deGrom/Sonny Gray — 83

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.

Gray’s presence in this recap, and Mike Foltynewicz’s absence, could be seen as an indictment of game score. After all, Foltynewicz carried a no-hitter into the 9th, and game score is telling me that he had a worse night (game score of 77) than his opponent? But Foltynewicz’s ongoing no-hitter had more to do with timing than ability, at least as compared to Gray. The A’s righty gave up just two hits over 8 innings pitched, with one walk, four strikeouts, and one run, and while Foltynewicz saved his one hit until the 9th, it was a home run, which takes a pretty sizable chunk out of his game score. Gray is a totally deserving victor, and a good start for him couldn’t have come at a better time; Oakland is widely rumored to be shopping him around, and while other teams are unlikely to overreact to a single good start or two, it sure can’t hurt.

MLB.com

But I think Jacob deGrom is the real winner of last night, even if game score believes in ties. He went one inning fewer than Gray, and gave up three hits and one walk to go with his one run, but struck out a whopping twelve opponents. deGrom had 15 whiffs, spread very evenly across all five of his pitches, thus keeping the Phillies lineup off-balance and more easily managed. This was the righty’s fifth start in June, and (arbitrary endpoints alert) his line for the month is excellent: 36 IP, 23.7 percent strikeout rate, 6.5 percent walk rate, 2.75 ERA, 3.50 FIP. The Mets can be so incredibly frustrating and inept, but somehow, they’ve got a collection of outstanding young pitchers. That’s enough to convince me to put up with quite a bit in order to enjoy them.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Joey Gallo — 454 feet

MLB.com

This tater got mashed. On first watch, I was surprised that this was the home run that went more than 450 feet, but I think that’s because of two things, neither of which is the fault of Gallo. One, center-left at Guaranteed Rate Field doesn’t have any sort of distance market. It doesn’t have the fountains of Kaufman Stadium, e.g., sitting around 450 feet in the outfield so that you can tell at a glance when a huge bomb is hit. This homer just ended up 15 rows back, which is still a sign of enormous distance, but is less visually distinct. Second, the way the cameraperson zooms in on the fence, then corrects upward into the stands, makes this ball’s trajectory seem a lot lower and slower than it actually was. Gallo smashed this ball.

The Rangers prospect has slowed down significantly from earlier in the season, but continues to make his very strange profile work, if just barely. Gallo is currently running a just-above-average 109 wRC+, despite a batting average of just .194. His 12.2 percent walk rate and .322 ISO are near-elite and super-elite, respectively, and are what keep him afloat despite a 38.4 percent strikeout rate. But that strikeout rate has been creeping back upward, and Gallo’s early gains in contact ability look like they might be evaporating:

Jeff Sullivan coined the phrase “the Joey Gallo threshold” earlier this year, referring to the minimum level of contact the lefty could make and still succeed through the huge amounts of damage he can do on that contact. The home run from last night shows that the damage on contact stays pretty constant, but if he can’t keep his whiffs down where they were in April and May of this season, Gallo will remain more of a novelty than an outstanding player.

SABRy tidbits

  • Remember Allen Craig? The Red Sox released him on Friday. Baseball makes fools of us all, eventually. Good luck to Craig.
  • The Orioles’ struggling rotation is well-known at this point, and dates back further than just this season. That’s why Brice Freeman of Camden Chat thinks they could use some creativity; specifically, that they should give Brad Brach, 32-year-old reliever and decent fill-in for Zach Britton, a shot at starting. The reliever-to-starter transition is fraught with difficulty, but it sure seems like Baltimore’s current approach isn’t working out.
  • The Reds are at a point in their franchise trajectory where they need to be collecting young players and hoping they turn into stars. According to Reds Reporter’s Wick Terrel, they have found just that in Luis Castillo, the flamethrowing prospect acquired from the Giants who now has 10 major league innings under his belt.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Francisco Liriano (4.36 projected ERA) vs. Chris Sale (2.89 projected ERA)

I am going to tell you a secret: I would rather watch a game other than this one. Tyler Chatwood and the Rockies vs. Zack Greinke and the Diamondbacks has a nice combination of excellent pitching (it’s our second-best matchup of tomorrow, using this method of pitchers alone) and thriving rivalry, and as someone pointed out this past week, we don’t talk about the DBacks much. Greinke is in the midst of a nice rebound season, and he’s consistently worth watching.

But the formula allows no input for personal preference, and so I am forced into the unenviable, terrible, no-good position of telling you to watch Chris Sale pitch again. He’s great, is the thing. Unless he goes up against a bag of balls, his projection alone is going to haul whoever his opponent is into this slot of the recap almost every five days. And Francisco Liriano, while not outstanding, is no bag of balls. He’s not having a great year with the Jays, to be sure, but he’s still got the potential to bust out an elite start. And, again, I can’t emphasize enough how good Chris Sale is. Red Sox-Blue Jays is in the afternoon, DBacks-Rockies in the evening; why not both?