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Launch angles — July 12, 2017 (All-Star Game edition)

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

88th MLB All-Star Game Photo by Mike Ehrmann/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

Robinson Cano gives the American League the lead in extras — +.341 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

For all the craziness in last night’s All-Star Game — Nelson Cruz took a photo with Joe West! In the middle of the game! — the events on the field were pretty dramatic themselves. The AL struck first, with Miguel Sano bringing around Jonathan Schoop with an RBI single in the fifth inning. Yadier Molina answered with a solo shot in the sixth to tie the score at 1.

With no one ahead after nine innings, the nightmare scenario — a draw, like we saw back in 2002 — appeared imminent. But Cano saved Rob Manfred the shame that befell his predecessor. After taking a fastball upstairs and fouling off another heater in on the hands, Cano got ahold of a hanging curveball:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The circumstances here are a little fishy. Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014, Davis has given up four home runs, total, across 212 23 innings. Did he hang this pitch intentionally, as Adam Wainwright (possibly) did in the 2014 All-Star Game?

Maybe — or maybe one of the best hitters in the game just did his thing. Cano is five home runs away from 300 for his career; right now, he’s at 295, tied with Ryan Braun for 147th all-time. With one swing, Cano won the All-Star Game MVP, saved everyone an embarrassing tie, and made his league proud. One clean Andrew Miller inning later, the American League won a wild and wacky All-Star Game.

Yesterday’s best game score

Carlos Martinez — 52

GIF via MLB.com

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.

So technically, Game Score applies only to starts. But since no pitcher goes more than two innings in the All-Star Game, we’ll bend the rules and evaluate all the pitchers. By the numbers, Martinez’s appearance — two innings, no runs, one hit, one walk, and four strikeouts — edges Chris Sale’s dominant start to take the crown.

And man, Martinez was not messing around. Against a fearsome AL lineup — he faced seven of the Junior Circuit’s top nine hitters — he was in control throughout. Of his 34 pitches, 21 went for strikes and eight resulted in whiffs. His only blemish was a ground-ball single to Jose Ramirez, which an Aaron Judge groundout neutralized, and a four-pitch walk to Justin Smoak, which didn’t matter after Corey Dickerson went down swinging.

Martinez’s money-maker, this year and for his career, has been his slider. AL hitters had a rude introduction to the pitch, which induced five whiffs in nine appearances. Martinez mixed up his location, putting the breaking ball inside the zone and burying it with ease:

Image via Baseball Savant

Three of those sliders were for strikeouts, including the nasty 87-mph pitch that retired Altuve, one of the least strikeout-prone players in the league. With the Cardinals treading water, Martinez might not make it to the Fall Classic any time soon, so he’ll have to settle for its midsummer twin. Judging by his breaking ball, and their reaction to it, I’d say the AL’s hitters are fine with that.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Robinson Cano — 395 feet

C’mon, who’s complaining about another GIF? (Well, MLBAM, probably.)
GIF via MLB.com

During the regular season, we’ve seen the biggest home run of the day also be the biggest play of the day just once — back on May 12, when Mike Napoli walked off the Rangers with a 448-foot blast. Here, of course, it’s not quite the same — the only other four-bagger that could’ve gone here was Molina’s, which petered out at 385 feet.

Still, there’s no such thing as too many dinger GIFs:

GIF via MLB.com

Now, back to our regularly scheduled analysis. Cano has appeared on Launch Angles once before: On May 30, he took Mike Dunn 443 feet deep for his longest long ball of the year. This time, his tater came in an area where he’s historically mashed — low and middle. He’d been having some trouble with the curve this year, hitting .179 with just one home run against benders, but a pitch in his power zone is just asking for trouble.

SABRy tidbits

  • Aaron Judge is the talk of the baseball world — why wouldn’t he be? — but will players like him someday become the norm? In other words, will we start to see more 6-foot-7 sluggers as the game evolves? Grant Brisbee looks at baseball’s history and says yes, we definitely will.
  • The All-Star Game used to get much higher ratings than it does now. Have those damn millennials just forgotten how great the Midsummer Classic is? Or are other factors at play here? Royals Review’s Max Rieper runs through the reasons for the dropoff.
  • With every passing day, the 2017 Brewers become more legitimate. We’re more than halfway through the season, and they’re sitting pretty at 50-41, leading the NL Central by 5.5 games. Brew Crew Ball’s TimMuma breaks down some of the stats that are working in Milwaukee’s favor.
  • Meanwhile, the Cardinals are stuck in neutral, without a clear path for the rest of the season. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz is one of the biggest reasons for St. Louis’s disappointing year, as he’s floundered in his sophomore campaign. Viva El Birdos’s Bem Markham tries to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Friday’s best pitching matchup

Carlos Carrasco (3.48 projected ERA) vs. Sonny Gray (3.99 projected ERA)

Now comes the hard part: two days without baseball. Will you be able to survive? At least we’ll see some good pitching on Friday. Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, James Paxton, Jason Vargas, Brandon McCarthy — aces and quasi-aces alike will be toeing the rubber after the All-Star Break.

Regardless of where you put Carrasco or Gray on the “ace” spectrum, this game should be an entertaining one. The former has given up more homers than you’d like, but his strikeout and walk rates are as incredible as ever While the latter stumbled out of the gate, he’s gone on something of a hot streak recently, with a 1.71 ERA and four times as many strikeouts as walks in his last three starts. For fans seeking quality pitching on both ends, the Indians-Athletics contest is the perfect way to kick off the second half.


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.