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
Lane Adams clears the bases to give the Braves the lead — +.409 WPA
Are walk-offs thrilling? Hell yeah, they are. (Trust me: I was an Orioles fan for the insane extra-inning winning streak. I never get tired of them.) But they’re not always the biggest plays in terms of win probability. Yesterday, both Khris Davis and Hector Sanchez hit walk-off home runs for the Athletics and Padres, respectively. Neither of them takes the top spot, though, for two reasons — when they hit those homers:
- The score was tied
- A man was already on base
Each of those qualifiers meant they stepped to the plate with a good chance their team would win, dinging their ability to add to that. Contrast that with the more innocuous Lane Adams double. While this might not have assured the Braves of a win — and it obviously wasn’t with the bases empty — the fact that it came with the Diamondbacks down means it accounted for a larger swing.
This was a pretty improbable play, too. Adams came into this game with a .214/.241/.321 slash line over his 29 plate appearances this season, and Randall Delgado had been having a stellar year out of the Arizona bullpen. But with the bases juiced and two men down, the veteran right-hander tried to sneak a first-pitch slider past Adams:
The two-bagger brought around Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, and Dansby Swanson, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 advantage. Ender Inciarte followed up with a single to cushion the lead, and the Braves ended up waltzing to an 8-5 victory. A win is pretty satisfying, regardless of when you earn it.
Yesterday’s best game score
Chris Sale — 89
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.
On a day when Cole Hamels and Danny Duffy twirled twin 81s in Kansas City and Michael Fulmer posted an 82 against the Blue Jays, no Game Score came close to Sale. The Red Sox left-hander wouldn’t give in against his team’s most bitter rival, allowing three hits and two walks over 7 2⁄3 shutout innings. His 13 strikeouts tied his season high from April 20 against the Blue Jays. From start to finish, he was in command.
As is typically the case when Sale is on his game, his slider was simply unfair. He threw the pitch 47 times, and it went for a strike 35 times. Those weren’t all foul balls, either — the Yankees took 15 called strikes and had nine whiffs on the slider. No matter where he put the pitch, hitters were hopeless:
Just when you think Sale’s reached his peak, he tops that. Across his 19 starts and 135 1⁄3 innings this year, he’s put up a 2.59 ERA and 2.00 FIP. With a nasty breaking ball — to say nothing of his explosive fastball, which New York could do nothing against — he’s virtually unstoppable. Now, if only Boston could get him some damn run support…
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Matt Chapman — 455 feet
One of the weirder plot lines to emerge from the 2017 season has been the Athletics suddenly discovering tons of elite power hitters. Everyone knew Davis was a slugger, but Yonder Alonso? Matt Olson? Chad Pinder? What the hell are they putting in the water in the Coliseum? Wait, no, don’t answer that.
Matt Chapman didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Down on the farm, he’s slugged 80 home runs in just 1,373 plate appearances, giving him a .274 ISO and a 60 power grade from FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen. Heading into this game, though, he had zero long balls in 45 big-league plate appearances. That all changed against Corey Kluber, who helped Chapman break into the Show earlier in this game:
Chapman wasn’t done, though. With Oakland down 3-2 in the eighth inning — and the Klubot still on the mound — he pounced on a first-pitch fastball and rammed it to straightaway center. His second four-bagger of the night was also the longest for any hitter, topping Anthony Rizzo and Matt Holliday (445 feet and 443 feet, respectively). Whatever the A’s are feeding him, it appears to be working.
- Futbol, schmutbol. Baseball is the best sport on the planet — even Hungarians are into it! Bleed Cubbie Blue’s Danny Rockett relays his adventures with the Budapest Reds, a budding team in Central Europe.
- Most 37-year-old baseball players are, well, former baseball players. It’s pretty rare for them to be active, much less sporting a 129 wRC+. Yet Matt Holliday has done just that for the Yankees, and Pinstripe Alley’s Joshua Diemert has some perspective on how uncommon that is.
- Last season, Michael Fulmer put up a 3.06 ERA en route to the Rookie of the Year Award. This year, as the MLB-wide ERA has crept up a little more, Fulmer’s ERA has… stayed exactly the same, at 3.06. BtBS’s Ron Wolschleger, writing for Bless You Boys, puts those numbers in perspective. (Spoiler: They’re pretty great.)
Today’s best pitching matchup
Jeff Samardzija (3.67 projected ERA) vs. Trevor Cahill (3.93 projected ERA)
In their quest to fulfill that one Sports Illustrated cover, the Astros are looking for a starter, and they’re considering the Shark. It’s easy to see why they’d want him — for every walk he’s issued this year, he’s struck out opponents nine times.
Well, 9.07 times, to be exact, but I never pass up an excuse to use that GIF. Steamer and ZiPS value his 3.44 FIP more highly than his 4.58 ERA, predicting the latter will come down to align with the former.
Cahill, too, has been the subject of some trade rumors. While teams might hesitate to deal for a guy who missed nearly two months with a back injury, his breakout performance this year — a 3.38 ERA and 3.50 FIP in 50 2⁄3 innings — looks pretty enticing. These two right-handers might be on the move soon; for now, they’ll stay on the West Coast and give us a pretty solid pitching duel.