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Launch angles — July 11, 2017 (Home Run Derby edition)

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: All Star Game-Home Run Derby Kim Klement-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 home run

Aaron Judge — 513 feet

GIF via MLB.com

Prior to last night’s spectacular Home Run Derby, my colleague Nick Stellini shared the following Hot Take:

Berman’s vocals can be charming, I’ll admit. But the considerable merit of Jessica Mendoza notwithstanding, the identity of the broadcasters really doesn’t make much difference for the Home Run Derby. On that note, Baseball Prospectus’s Craij Craig Goldstein shared a better Hot Take:

During this Judge blast — the longest of the night, topping his 501-foot moonshot from the first round — no one really said anything. Here’s a rough transcript of the audio (and keep in mind these lines overlap some):

Karl Ravech: That’s a … [inaudible] [silence] Oh, my!

Jessica Mendoza: Oh, wow! … [silence] Oh! Oh-ho-ho!

Mark Teixeira: Oh my — okay, that’s a [inaudible] right here. [silence] … That might be it! Wow.

These announcers — among the best in their field, paid exorbitant amounts of money to speak on TV and do nothing else — were reduced to a mix of blabbering nonsense and stunned silence. And did you care? I sure didn’t, because my reaction was the same as that of Dellin Betances:

GIF via MLB.com

Judge hit the longest home run in Statcast history, and probably in derby history, rendering everyone in their right mind speechless.

We watch baseball games for the announcers — for Vin Scully’s anecdotes, for Gary Thorne’s random voices, for GKR’s banter. But we watch the Home Run Derby for one reason: the dingers. Who cares if Berman isn’t there to bumble his way through the broadcast? Someone else can fawn over Judge just as poorly.

Yesterday’s biggest play

Cody Bellinger hits the buzzer-beater, then wins in overtime — +1 first-round victory

GIF via MLB.com

While Judge took home the crown in last night’s Home Run Derby, Bellinger had the most dramatic comeback of the night. After Charlie Blackmon mashed 14 home runs in his turn, it fell on the Dodgers rookie to answer. And while it took him a little while, he didn’t disappoint his pundit-resembling mom.

First came the defining shot, seen in the GIF above. With six seconds to go and a two-homer deficit to make up, Bellinger had no chance of winning in regulation. But he already had four four-baggers of at least 440 feet, and a fifth would give him 30 seconds of extra time. On his final swing, he powered a center-cut slowball from his father into the upper deck in right field. While he didn’t realize it immediately, he’d just kept himself alive.

And after that, he made sure to capitalize on the bonus:

GIF via MLB.com

With the clock winding down again, Bellinger came up big, launching a walk-off blast to a spot pretty close to the predecessor. Although he’d fall victim to Judge in the semifinals, Bellinger staged a comeback for the ages. That makes him the top play of the derby, WPA be damned.

Yesterday’s best game score

Mike Tosar — 10

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. (And yes, we calculated this Game Score precisely by the formula.)

Does using Game Score to analyze an event in which the sole attraction is home runs make a mockery of the statistic? Yes. Am I going to do it anyway? This blog isn’t called “Beyond the Box Score” for nothing.

Because Roger Clemens wasn’t available, Moustakas chose Tosar as his pitcher for the Home Run Derby. A former college player, coach, and scout, Tosar throws a straight fastball, apparently, but he couldn’t hit his spots often enough last night. Against his division rival Miguel Sano, Moustakas just couldn’t keep up.

Moustakas started off on a cold streak — at one point, he recorded seven straight outs — and a furious comeback toward the end couldn’t make up for it. Because of a bad swing and/or poor pitching, too many of his fly balls stayed in the yard. By my (probably incorrect) tally, he took 25 swings total, hitting just 10 home runs and falling short in the derby’s first round.

Efficiency makes a big difference in the Home Run Derby. While Moustakas probably got shafted on his timeout, he might have come back if Tosar had spent less time watching the ball and more time setting up for the next pitch. Compare that with the speed of Danilo Valiente, and you can see why Judge won out. (Well, that and the whole “being insanely strong” thing.)

SABRy tidbits

  • “Do you go to Fangraphs at all?” If that quote alone doesn’t make you fall in love with Daniel Murphy, I don’t know why you’re reading BtBS. Go ahead, let him (and Federal Baseball’s Patrick Reddington) explain why Anthony Rendon deserves to be an All-Star.
  • It’s been close to two years since Doug Melvin stepped down as Brewers GM. Doug Stearns has turned the club around immensely since then, and now it’s leading the NL Central. But as Brew Crew Ball’s Kyle Lesniewski reminds us, Milwaukee wouldn’t be where it is today without Stearns.
  • Now that Albert Pujols is an albatross, it’s easy for us to forget just how magnificent he was during the aughts. But Viva El Birdos’ John J. Fleming doesn’t want to let us forget.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Chris Sale (2.87 projected ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (2.98 projected ERA)

Now for the main event: the All-Star Game! In the break’s eponymous contest, the American League’s best pitcher will face the National League’s possible top pitcher (it depends on what you think of Clayton Kershaw’s gopheritis). Neither of these guys will pitch much more than two innings at most, but in that time we should see a healthy serving of strikeouts — and probably some trash talk — from the Condor and Mad Max.


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.