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Launch angles — July 9, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Milwaukee Brewers v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/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

Clint Frazier blasts a walk-off home run — +.663 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

Clint Frazier had the best game of his six-day old major league career on Saturday. He went three for four with a triple and a three-run, walk-off home run. Not bad, rook.

Entering the bottom of the ninth with a 3-2 lead, the Brewers looked to their All-Star closer Corey Knebel to lock down the save in Yankee Stadium. He walked Didi Gregorious on four pitches, struck out Chase Headley, and then walked Jacoby Ellsbury — again on four pitches. Frazier stepped to the plate knowing two things; a base hit is all it would take to plate the tying run and Knebel had struggled to throw strikes against two of the first three batters of the inning.

Knebel threw the first pitch — a knuckle-curve — in the dirt. Perhaps knowing that the All-Star didn’t want to fall behind to another hitter, Frazier jumped all over the second pitch; a belt-high, 97 mile per hour four-seam fastball over the middle of the plate. The ball left the bat at 107 miles per hour and got out in a hurry, finding an eager fan in the back row of the first section of outfield seats after just 4.4 seconds of flight time. Statcast put the laser home run’s distance at 423 feet.

Who knows how the rest of this top prospect’s season or career will go, but in his first week Frazier had a game that he will never forget. The day’s only disappointment was that the ensuing celebration showed us what could have been if Frazier’s had been allowed to grow his hair even longer. Please don’t ask him to cut it again, Yankees. Let those locks, and the walk-off gum showers flow.

Gif via MLB.com

Yesterday’s best game score

Alex Cobb — 83

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.

If you’re looking for strikeouts, Alex Cobb starts are not the place for you. He tallied just three on Saturday and as you can see from the above gif, one of them was on an extremely generous call. Now, if you’re looking for some sweet ground ball action? Cobb is your guy. He induced 11 ground outs against the Red Sox to just three fly outs.

Over 7 23 scoreless innings Cobb allowed two hits and one walk with the aforementioned three strikeouts. He collected seven total swinging strikes, all on either his splitter or knuckle-curve. Of the 56 four-seam fastballs Cobb threw, not one generated a whiff. His zone chart from this game is really interesting.

Zone Chart via Baseball Savant

Cobb’s four-seamer was all over the place, which makes sense. As you can see his splitter and knuckle-curve are generally going to be down, on his arm-side edge of the zone. Cobb has to throw his four-seamer to the other quadrants to prevent hitters from sitting on that one location. His fastball may not fool anybody — again, zero whiffs generated — but it sets up the splitter and knuckle-curve.

He’s not blowing anybody away with velocity, but in the new, three true outcome happy MLB, pitchers like Alex Cobb are a welcome respite from the norm. After all, without all of those grounders we might not have gotten this gem:

Gif via MLB.com

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Jonathan Schoop — 462 feet

Gif via MLB.com

On one hand, there aren’t really any cool monuments or nature scenes at Target Field for dingers to interact with. As we’ve established time and time again here at Launch Angles — those are the best home runs. On the other hand, the second and third deck outfield seats are so high up, that there is something visually satisfying about a home run finding it’s way up there.

In the case of Jonathan Schoop’s 462-foot rocket on Saturday, the ball hit the third deck stairs, bounced down to the second deck, and then all the way back down to the field. That’s some top notch stadium interaction.

It happened in the fourth inning against Twins starter Adalberto Mejía. Schoop stepped up with Manny Machado on first base and crushed a first-pitch changeup to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Twins catcher Jason Castro was set up outside but the pitch drifted a back over the plate a tad and right into a spot where Schoop could crush it. The ball left the bat at 114 miles per hour and a 26 degree launch angle, which — I’m willing to say with certainty — is a recipe for success.

I’ll leave you with a better look at exactly where this ball landed in the third deck.

Gif via MLB.com

SABRy tidbits

  • Sunday marks both the last day of meaningful action before the All-Star break and the day of the annual Futures Game. If you’re a prospect hound it’s likely you’re at least somewhat familiar with all of the players, but for those with only a passing knowledge of the youngsters involved, Minor League Ball has you covered. Asher Feltman previewed the U.S. roster and Eric Cole previewed the World roster. Enjoy the festivities!

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Danny Duffy (3.82 projected ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (2.58 projected ERA)

There are a ton of intriguing matchups on Sunday. Jimmy Nelson takes on a recently resurgent Masahiro Tanaka in the Bronx. Chris Archer hosts David Price in Tampa Bay to try and chip away at Boston’s division lead. Young Jameson Taillon faces off against Jon Lester at Wrigley. And in the night cap, Michael Fulmer and Corey Kluber battle it out at Progressive Field in Cleveland. All of these games are worthy of appearing in this space, but we measure matchups by combined rest-of-season ERA and Clayton Kershaw is pitching against a solid opponent, so they really had no chance. Better luck next time, gentlemen.

The Fulmer/Kluber matchup was next in line, but Kershaw and Danny Duffy’s combined rest-of-season ERA’s still bested them by half a run. Kershaw is on a tear after a rocky stretch that saw the “Is Kershaw still the best pitcher?” headlines out in full force. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in three straight starts. Duffy on the other hand will be making just his second start since missing a little more than a month with an oblique strain. His first start back went well, as he threw 5 23 innings while allowing just two earned runs.

On Sunday the Royals will try to avoid getting sweep and the Dodgers will try to capture their sixth straight to enter the All-Star break with a league-leading 61 wins. You’ll have plenty of viewing options, but this should be a great one.


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