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Launch angles — July 21, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets Adam Hunger-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

Jose Reyes catches Trevor Rosenthal napping — +.369 WPA

Gif via

With the game tied, runners on the corner, and two outs in the bottom of the ninth; Jose Reyes grounded a 98 mile per hour, first-pitch fastball from Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal to first baseman Matt Carpenter. The ball was hit hard enough that Carpenter had to range back and to his left, creating significant momentum carrying him into foul territory. With a speedster like Reyes running hard out of the box, the only chance the Cardinals had to make this play and send the game to extras was if Rosenthal were to beat Reyes to first and handle a toss from Carpenter. He did neither.

From the above gif it may seem that Reyes deserves sole credit for hustling down the line and taking advantage of his speed, but we can’t see from that angle if Rosenthal deserves some blame or if he’s just naturally that slow. Luckily, in showcasing Reyes’ sprint speed for Statcast, gave us a look at the entire play from behind the mound.

Gif vi

Oh no, Trevor. Yikes.

Rosenthal watches Carpenter field the ball, only to realize halfway through his third step off the mound that he needs to cover first. On one hand, there’s an instinctual element at play here and it seems that Rosenthal’s brain was a second late in registering what needed to be done. It’s tough to be mad at someone for that. On the other hand, it’s the pitcher’s job to cover first base there — period.

Combine the fielding brain cramp with Reyes booking it down the line at a sprint speed of 29.3 feet per second — well above his average of 27.8 — and you have the perfect recipe for a walk off infield single. Every so often we’re reminded of just how little margin for error there is in professional baseball. A fact probably not lost on Trevor Rosenthal yesterday.

Yesterday’s best game score

Seth Lugo/Felix Hernandez — 72

Gif via
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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.

I don’t like the term “meh.” To me it carries a kind of dismissiveness that’s a little bit off-putting and occasionally even rude. I know in actuality it’s simply an easy way to express indifference, but I’m not a fan. Get off my lawn, youths.

That said, I will admit that when I discovered two pitchers had tied for Thursday’s best game score with a mark of 72, something resembling “meh” was my brain’s immediate reaction. As outlined in the game score explanation above, 72 is very good; but I suppose that writing two of these recaps a week for the entire season has made me a game score elitist. In the 105 iterations of this column, there have been only eight instances of a number less than or equal to 72 winning the day. It usually takes a little something more.

Despite my cynicism, Seth Lugo and Felix Hernandez both had objectively strong outings. There are no ties in baseball however, and as we’ve laid out in previous instances, a winner must be chosen. To the tale of the tape we go:

Lugo vs. Hernandez (7/20)

Pitcher IP H ER BB SO HR Whiffs Opponent Opponent wRC+
Pitcher IP H ER BB SO HR Whiffs Opponent Opponent wRC+
Seth Lugo 6 2/3 4 1 1 5 0 10 Cardinals 95
Felix Hernandez 7 3 1 2 9 1 15 Yankees 109
Data via and FanGraphs

Hernandez has the advantage in strikeouts, total whiffs, and quality of opponent. Plus, he was able to complete seven full innings. They each had five combined hits and walks, so really Lugo’s only advantage is that he didn’t allow a home run. Keeping the ball in the yard is important, but in the end they each allowed only one earned run; it just so happened that Hernandez’s was the result of Brett Gardner planting one(*) in the outfield seats.

(*)To quote esteemed Yankees’ radio play-by-play voice John Sterling.

Taking all that into account, the discrepancy in whiffs and strikeouts has moved me to crown King Felix the winner of Tuesday’s best pitching performance. Here’s hoping for a rejuvenated Hernandez down the stretch, it was nice to see him look like his old self for a change.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Eric Hosmer — 444 feet

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The Royals took it to Michael Fulmer on Thursday, forcing the Tigers’ ace to exit a game before completing three innings for the first time in his young career. He allowed four runs in the first — three of which were unearned — but bounced back with a clean second frame. Fulmer could have easily rebounded after that rough first inning to have another typically strong outing, but Eric Hosmer would have none of that.

After taking a slider low and inside for a ball, Hosmer looked at a 95 mile per hour fastball on the inside corner and saw the count even up at 1-1. Fulmer went back to the slider for his third pitch but this one was hung right down the middle and Hosmer jumped all over it. The ball left Hosmer’s bat at 105 miles per hour with a 26 degree launch angle and took 5.1 seconds to splash down in right-center field, which is only a little bit longer than it probably took for Fulmer to realize it just wasn’t going to be his night.

Charts via Baseball Savant

The Kaufmann Stadium water feature has been discussed and lauded in this space before, so I won’t drone on about that, but it’s always great to see a home run splash down out there. Now if only we could get Hosmer to quit it with all those ground balls and join the launch angle revolution so it could happen more often.

SABRy tidbits

  • Eric Hosmer may have crushed a dinger yesterday, but the Royals are still in a tough spot. They’re on the periphery of the playoff picture, but are a team full of soon to be free agents, which arguably makes a hypothetical fire sale the best course of action. Over at Royals Review, Max Rieper takes a look at what the Royals could realistically expect in return for their rental players and whether or not it’s how they should proceed.
  • Manny Machado struggled mightily to begin the 2017 season, but as is the case with most extraordinary talents, he was bound to turn it around at some point. That time is now. Beyond the Box Score alum and Camden Chat scribe Nick Cicere looks at Machado’s turnaround and how it has come about.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Carlos Martinez (3.58 projected ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (3.63 projected ERA)

On a day where Chris Sale and Max Scherzer both take the hill, neither one of them claims a spot in the day’s best pitching matchup category. It’s a Launch Angles upset!

In their stead we have a young, borderline ace in Carlos Martinez and a one-time surefire ace turned mediocre starter in Jake Arrieta. That’s not too harsh, is it? I mean Arrieta really has been mediocre this year. He has a 4.17 ERA, a 4.25 FIP, and has only once broken a game score of 70. As the Cubs try to climb back into the playoff picture, a rejuvenated Arrieta would go a long ways towards helping their cause, but there has been no reason to expect that will happen.

Carlos Martinez has had a fantastic year overall, but has slipped a little bit recently. Since his 11 strikeout, complete game shutout on June 10th, Martinez has compiled a 4.37 ERA, a 5.33 FIP and a 10.6 percent walk rate. That’s a small-sample with arbitrary endpoints, so there’s no concrete reason to think that Martinez has joined Arrieta in the land of mediocrity. But if the Cardinals want to make a playoff push, they’ll need Martinez to be better.

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