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Launch angles — July 10, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Chicago White Sox v Colorado Rockies
Bordering on Papelbon-iness, but acceptable demeanor for a no-no.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/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

Dustin Pedroia launches a go-ahead two-run homer — +.413 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

Whenever David Price comes back to Tropicana Field, it’s a big event — especially when he’s facing Chris Archer, the heir to his throne as Tampa Bay ace. The Rays had won two of the first three games in this series, and the Red Sox were looking to salvage a split before the All-Star break. With two dominant starters on the mound, this one looked to be a low-scoring affair.

And through six innings, it was. Mookie Betts led off with a solo shot for Boston, and Tampa Bay scratched out runs in the first and the third. With the score at 2-1, the “pitchers’ duel” status was still intact (IMO, a pitchers’ duel requires at most three total runs).

But things changed in the seventh. Tzu-Wei Lin hit a one-out single, and while Betts hit a ground ball to short, he beat the throw to first, preventing the double play and keeping the inning alive. On the fifth, sixth, and seventh pitch to Pedroia, Archer challenged the Red Sox second baseman, who finally made him pay:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The lead wouldn’t hold up, though. Matt Barnes put runners on the corners in the bottom half of the inning, before giving way to Joe “Great Stuff” Kelly, who proceeded to allow the game-tying sacrifice fly. Then in the next frame, Brad Miller took Kelly deep to give the Rays the W. Not the homecoming Price had in mind, but the surging Rays will take it.

Yesterday’s best game score

Kyle Freeland — 91

Game Score was developed by Bill James as a quick way to evaluate a starting pitcher’s performance. The score begins at 50, with points added for outs and strikeouts, and subtracted for walks, hits, and runs. A score of 70 is very good; a score of 90 is outstanding.

GIF via MLB.com

A few things in baseball are really rare. Homegrown success stories — kids who follow their local team growing up, then go on to star for that team — are one of them. Joe Mauer was born in Saint Paul, and he’s been a Twin forever; Pittsburgh native Neil Walker spent several years with the Pirates; Brandon Crawford has played for the Giants after growing up in the Bay Area; and Dellin Betances is from the Bronx, although I doubt he’s a Yankees fan these days. But these players (and the others I’m surely forgetting) are the exception rather than the rule.

Something that’s even rarer — completely unprecedented, even — is in the center of this Venn Diagram:

Image via me

The Rockies have never had a no-hitter at home — but man, did Kyle Freeland come close. The Denver native pitched the game of his life on Sunday, holding the White Sox hitless through 8 13 innings. With two outs to go and 125 pitches on the board, he was well on his way to a no-no, until Melky Cabrera fisted a 2-2 four-seamer into left field.

Still, that dominant effort deserves some analysis. Freeland had 10 strikeouts and three walks to his name, along with eight grounders out of 15 balls in play. His two fastballs — a four-seamer and a sinker — accounted for 106 of his 126 pitches, with sliders making up the rest.

Throughout the game, Freeland maintained his velocity, hitting 92 into the ninth inning:

Image via Baseball Savant

His two-seamer got eight whiffs in 46 pitches, his four-seamer got 11 called strikes in 60 pitches, and the two of them resulted in 14 outs on balls in play. All together, it was a gem for the southpaw, and the first Launch Angles appearance for a Rockies starter this season.

While some pundits — such as philistine my BtBS colleague Joe Clarkin — have written Freeland’s strong start off as a fluke, he hasn’t wavered yet. The Rockies’ homegrown starter, drafted back in 2014 three years after graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, has a 3.77 ERA and 4.76 FIP in 107 13 innings as a rookie. Want to ignore him? Just don’t let his mom hear:

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Charlie Blackmon — 477 feet

GIF via MLB.com

The following is a list of facts about Charlie Blackmon.

Blackmon’s hit really well for the Rockies in two straight years — he’s followed up his .324/.381/.552 effort in 2016 with a .319/.372/.583 campaign in 2017. While he’s hit lefties well this year, he hadn’t taken them deep very often, with 14 of his 19 round-trippers off right-handers before this game. But Carlos Rodon’s 1-0 fastball was just too easy:

Image via Brooks Baseball

As you may have heard, Blackmon is good at hitting low pitches. (I guess that’s another fact about him.) With this dinger — his 20th, and sixth off a fellow southpaw — in the books, he’s on a hot streak heading into the Home Run Derby (which we’ll break down in a moment). Now if only he’d get a damn shave…

SABRy tidbits

  • The sudden emergence of Clint Frazier has added another piece of lumber to the logjam in the Yankees outfield. With Frazier, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks hitting well, does New York have a spot for Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner? Pinstripe Alley’s Matt Provenzano wonders if the veterans have anything left.
  • Blaine Boyer is no one’s idea of a star — his name practically screams “anonymous reliever.” (I mean, seriously? Blaine?) He’s done an admirable job in the Red Sox bullpen this year, though, and Over the Monster’s Matt Collins likes what he sees from the 35-year-old righty.

Today’s best hitting matchup

Aaron Judge (30 home runs) vs. Justin Bour (20 home runs)

While there aren’t any games today, the annual DingerFest is upon us! The last two Home Run Derbies have been thrillers, with Todd Frazier and Giancarlo Stanton slugging their way to victory in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This season, though, the biggest name is obviously Judge, who leads the majors in long balls as a 25-year-old rookie. Stanton gets the No. 1 seed because he took home last year’s crown, but Judge is the clear favorite to be this year’s champion.

Bour, meanwhile, has shown off some clout of his own this year. From 2014 to 2016, he hit 39 home runs in 850 plate apparances; this year, he’s knocked 20 in 305. He’s not much good against lefties, or as a baserunner, and he’s not a great defender at first base, but damn, those are some sweet dingers. To get the Judge-Stanton showdown we’re all pulling for, the hometown slugger will have to go down, and he’s planning to put up a fight.


Ryan Romano is the co-managing editor for Beyond the Box Score. He also writes about the Orioles for Camden Depot, sometimes. Follow him on Twitter if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.