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Launch angles — August 12, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees
Look, I know this wasn’t the biggest play, but how often will you see something like this?
Photo by Mike Stobe/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

Amed Rosario puts the Mets ahead for good — +.340 WPA

GIF via

Even though it wasn’t the biggest play of the day, I want to take a second to break down this double play from yesterday’s Yankees-Red Sox game:

GIF via


Image via


In the top of the ninth, with New York ahead 5-3, Aroldis Chapman issued three straight walks. Boston had no outs and the bases juiced for Andrew Benintendi. He stepped to the plate looking for a pitch to drive, and after fouling off one heater, he got another in the middle of the plate:

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The result was a rather confusing play. It’s not often that a team sees its win expectancy decrease by .316 when a run scores, but a flyout-throwout double play — Eduardo Nunez really shouldn’t have tested Aaron Hicks there — will have that effect. Once Mitch Moreland hit a fly ball to center, the game was over, with Chapman (lol) recording the save.

But that play, bizarre as it was, doesn’t take the top spot. No, that honor goes to a much more conventional clutch play, in a game with far lower stakes. Even though the Mets and Phillies are pretty much eliminated from playoff contention — FanGraphs actually gives the Nationals a 100.0 percent chance of winning the NL East — they still played a thriller on Friday night.

The Phillies took an early lead, scratching out three runs in the first off Seth Lugo. The Mets answered pretty quickly, with home runs from Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes putting them ahead 4-3. Tommy Joseph tied things back up with an RBI double, before Neil Walker and Cespedes brought in two more runs to make it 6-4 New York, before Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez brought in two more runs to make it six all.

That all set the stage for Rosario. Like Benintendi, he fouled off one fastball — a center-cut heater from Hector Neris — then got ahold of the next one:

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Rosario’s first big-league homer couldn’t have come at a better time. The Mets would win, 7-6, improving to a marginally less mediocre 52-61. The Phillies, meanwhile, drop to 42-71, 2.5 games “ahead” of the Giants in the race for the No. 1 draft pick. So, really, I guess both sides won here.

Yesterday’s best game score

Carlos Carrasco — 90

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.

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Here is a non-exhaustive list of pitchers whom Carlos Carrasco has a lower ERA than, in 2017:

  • Justin Verlander
  • Jon Lester
  • Gerrit Cole

Yeah, yeah, those are all putative aces in the middle of down years (a second straight down year, in Cole’s case). Here, then, is a non-exhaustive list of pitchers whom Carlos Carrasco has a lower ERA than, since 2014:

  • Yu Darvish
  • Sonny Gray
  • Jose Quintana

Pretty impressive company, no? On most other teams in baseball, Carrasco — who owns a 3.83 ERA this season, and a 3.36 ERA over the past four seasons — would be recognized as the ace he is. But Corey Kluber seems to dominate the spotlight in Cleveland, and while he certainly deserves the attention, it hurts to see a phenomenal arm like Carrasco go so underappreciated.

That’s why games like yesterday’s matter so much. Carrasco was locked in against the Rays, allowing no hits until the seventh and giving up only four total baserunners in eight shutout innings. He racked up 10 strikeouts, the fourth time this season (and 14th time since 2014) he’s hit double-digits in one game. No matter how you slice it, he dominated, just another great game in a career full of them.

As is often the case when he’s dealing, Carrasco had a nasty curveball working Friday night. He threw the bender 31 times, occasionally putting it in the zone but usually burying it in the dirt:

Image via Baseball Savant

Those curveballs netted him four called strikes and nine whiffs, helping him pick up the Ks. He paired that pitch with a nasty sinker, that pounded the strike zone:

Image via Baseball Savant

Tampa Bay hitters put the sinker into play eight times, notching a hit on exactly zero of those. A deadly breaking ball plus a fastball that’s tough to square up makes for a pretty superb pitcher, which is exactly what Carrasco’s been over the last four seasons. Think Kluber would let him share the Cy Young trophy?

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Mike Zunino — 450 feet

GIF via

I’m not sure what’s weirder — that this is only the second time this season Mike Zunino has hit the longest home run of the day (the first time was his 463-foot tater on June 17, in case you were wondering), or that this is the first time Ricky Nolasco has given up the longest home run of the day. Zunino has hit some massive moonshots this year, and Nolasco has given up 30 long balls (no, really, 30!).

Regardless, this is a formidable homer on its own. Safeco Field isn’t an easy place to go deep if you’re right-handed, and that upper deck is pretty far up. It just so happens that, with a 2-1 count and one out in the fifth, Nolasco threw a breaking ball that caught just enough of the plate:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The Mariners broadcasters remarked that the speed of Jarrod Dyson at first base had gotten to Nolasco, distracting him enough that he left a ball over the plate. Even if that’s the case, this wasn’t that bad a pitch from the righty. Historically, Zunino hasn’t done as well against pitches on the outer part of the plate; this was just a get-me-over breaking ball that ended up getting over to the second deck. Better luck next time, Ricky!

SABRy tidbits

  • One of the interesting stipulations of the new CBA — aside from how it screwed over international amateurs — is the “showcase” game, one nationally televised contest played the Thursday after the All-Star Game. The Cubs and Cardinals, two clubs contending for the NL Central crown, will take part in that game next year.
  • For fans of other NL West teams — specifically that one out there by the bay — the Dodgers’ historic dominance this year might not be very fun. But McCovey Chronicles’ Grant Brisbee has a way of spicing it up: Figuring out what the funniest postseason loss for L.A. would look like. While I’m not sure I agree with the ranking, it’s still worth your time.
  • If you know anything about Derek Dietrich, it’s probably that he likes getting hit by baseballs. But lately he’s been more than a masochist — he’s been a fearsome hitter for the Marlins, thanks to some adjustments in his swing, which Mitch Custer has broken down over at Fish Stripes.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Jeff Samardzija (3.71 projected ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (3.09 projected ERA)

Unless Marc Rzepczynski stops being a LOOGY and moves to the Mariners rotation, these two hurlers might have the weirdest names of any two starters in baseball. That’s probably why they have the nicknames they do — “the Shark” and “Mad Max” are a lot easier to spell than Samardzija and Scherzer.

By some metrics, these guys aren’t too different. Scherzer brings a 3.08 xFIP into this game, while Samardzija is at 3.30. That obviously doesn’t tell the whole story: Samardzija has given up a ton of hits and homers this year, while Scherzer has limited both. The Shark has the largest ERA-FIP gap in baseball; Mad Max, the 16th-smallest. Regardless, this should be a game with tons of strikeouts and not many walks — assuming it doesn’t get rained out after a long delay, like last night.

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.