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Launch angles — July 19, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-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 play

Hanley Ramirez mercifully sends everyone home — +.413 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

There’s something damn cool about a home run leaving the stadium. It’s even cooler when it’s a walk-off shot, and becomes cooler still — like Fonzie hitting a jukebox level cool — when that walk-off is in the 15th inning at 1:09 AM local time.

Everyone still at the ballpark in the 15th inning of a game that also had a one hour rain delay clearly loves baseball, but they probably also want to go home. Hanley Ramirez stepped up to the plate against the soft-tossing Mike Bolsinger with a clear plan to end everyone’s misery, as Ian Browne and Gregor Chisholm detailed in the MLB.com recap:

"Just try to look for something up in the zone," said Ramirez. "I was chasing a little bit down in the bottom of the zone. I told myself, 'Just stay up.'"

“Just stay up” wasn’t just Ramirez’s approach, it also perfectly describes Bolsinger’s 79 mile per hour, first-pitch curveball. The offering was up and in, but still caught enough of the plate to allow Ramirez to turn on it with authority.

Zone via MLB Gameday

According to Statcast the ball left Ramirez’s bat at 108 miles per hour with a 30 degree launch angle and traveled 438 feet. It was a no-doubter and the “we’ve been here forever” catharsis is evident in the immediate reaction of the fans that remained at Fenway Park. Look at how everyone behind home plate stands right up with their arms raised to the sky before the broadcast can even cut away from the main center field camera to follow the flight of the ball. In an instant every single person in attendance knew that they could finally go home.

Gif via MLB.com

Yesterday’s best game score

Michael Wacha — 94

Gif via MLB.com

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.

Before Tuesday, Michael Wacha’s best 2017 game score was a 75 posted against the Nationals on July 1st. He blew that mark out of the water in his first post All-Star break start against the Mets in Citi Field. Wacha threw the first complete game shutout of his career while allowing three hits, issuing just one walk, and striking out eight.

He relied on his four-seam fastball and cutter most, but Wacha generated swinging strikes on all of his pitch types with a total of 17 whiffs. It took him 118 pitches to finish the job, but Wacha saved the best for last as he was able to dial his velocity up late, touching 99 miles per hour against Yoenis Cespedes in the ninth inning. We can only assume that the adrenaline of being so close to the finish line of a complete game shutout might provide an extra boost.

Chart via Brooks Baseball

This was Wacha’s best outing since September 24th, 2013; the ninth start of his big league career. On that day he allowed no runs and only one hit while walking two and striking out nine, but went only 8 23 innings for a game score of 92. Wacha was able to get one extra out on Tuesday to top that 2013 outing and secure the best game score of his career.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Mike Trout — 448 feet

Gif via MLB.com

In the top of the first inning of the Nationals’ visit to Anaheim, Bryce Harper socked a 405 foot dinger to center field. Mike Trout went back and jumped at the wall in hopes of robbing it, but there was never actually any chance of that happening. Harper had put his team up by one early, and taunted his adversary by hitting the ball directly over Trout’s head. The gauntlet had been thrown down.

Trout would not be outdone. There’s a reason he’s considered the best player in the world, folks. In the bottom half of the first, Trout smacked a 448 foot homer on a 3-1, 96 mile per hour four-seam fastball from Edwin Jackson that was over the middle of the plate in the bottom third of the zone. The ball left his bat at 108 miles per hour and ricocheted off of some stray rocks beyond the center field wall.

Take another look at where the ball hit the rocks. At first blush it may seem like it’s not that far back, but the rocks extend well beyond the wall. The ball finds the face of a back rock that is jutting above the first section — thus the aesthetically pleasing change of direction upon impact. This homer was absolutely crushed.

Gif via MLB.com

Of course I’m mostly kidding about the the Trout vs. Harper aspect of all this. They will always be linked, so we half-jokingly indulge in the narrative of a rivalry on the rare occasions their team’s meet. But as I was sitting there after the first inning — oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I was at this game — all I could think about was how I’d now always be able to tell people that I once saw Trout and Harper square off. Instead of just mentioning how I saw them play against each other, I would now have a cool anecdote about how they exchanged solo home runs in the first inning.

It’s really great to have Mike Trout back doing Mike Trout things, please never get hurt again.

SABRy tidbits

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Mike Leake (4.27 projected ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (3.52 projected ERA)

Last time Jacob deGrom was featured in the best pitching matchup category he was also facing the Cardinals, but squaring off against their number one starter, Carlos Martinez. This matchup is decidedly less sexy. Mike Leake is not a flame-throwing ace, but he is a solid pitcher having a great year. Leake only strikes out 16.4 percent of opposing hitters, but has parlayed a 56.2 percent ground ball rate into an impressive 3.14 ERA/3.99 FIP. He has allowed more than three earned runs in just three of his 18 starts this season.

The Cardinals are still realistically in the playoff hunt, while the Mets — oh boy, the Mets — are not. At 15 games back of the division lead and 11.5 games back in the wild card hunt, the Metropolitans have had a rough year. The lone bright spot in their star-laden but injury-riddled rotation has been deGrom, but with a 3.48 ERA and 3.74 FIP, even he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. The good news is that deGrom appears to be out of the funk that plagued him early on.


Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.