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Launch angles — August 2, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Cleveland Indians 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

Christian Vázquez walks off a wild one — +.746 WPA

This game, including everything leading up to the dramatic finish, was extremely fun, and extremely dumb. We told you to watch it, though that was because we anticipated a pitching duel between Carlos Carrasco and Chris Sale, which (spoilers) did not materialize. I’m not going to show you the win probability chart, because I think this game is better appreciated event-by-event.

Top 1: Chris Sale, leading AL Cy Young candidate and bona-fide ace, gives up three runs on three singles and a double. He’s given up three or more runs in just eight of his 21 starts this season.

Top 2: Sale gives up another two runs, walking Yan Gomes on four pitches and giving up a dinger to Brandon Guyer. By the end of the inning, Boston’s win probability is 13.7 percent.

Bottom 2: Carrasco sees Sales five runs and meets them, giving up a three-run home run to Mitch Moreland plus a string of singles and doubles that score another two runs. Carrasco is pulled and Tyler Olson comes on to finish the inning. Boston’s win probability returns to 50 percent.

Top 5: In his last inning, Sale gives up another home run, leaving with Boston down 7–5. Seven runs and five strikeouts are more and fewer, respectively, than Sale had in any other start.

Bottom 5: Austin Jackson robs Hanley Ramirez of a home run in stunning fashion, timing his leap perfectly and toppling into the Red Sox bullpen. Dan Otero is pleased.

Bottom 6: Bryan Shaw gets into trouble for Cleveland, so Andrew Miller comes in with 11 outs remaining in the game to try to keep them in the lead. He fails, giving up a bases-clearing Eduardo Núñez double, bringing the score to 9–7 and putting Boston’s win probability at 87.1 percent.

Top 8: Addison Reed, newly acquired by the Red Sox to stabilize their bullpen, gives up a home run to the very first batter he faces.

Top 9: Craig Kimbrel, in the midst of his own outstanding season, comes in for the 9th, and promptly gives up a home run to Francisco Lindor, tying the game at 9. After getting two outs, Kimbrel loads the bases, and before getting Austin Jackson to fly out, throws a wild pitch. The go-ahead run scores, and the Red Sox’s win probability falls to 21.8 percent at the end of the inning.

Bottom 9: Cody Allen, yet another member of Cleveland’s multi-headed bullpen monster, gets two quick outs (Red Sox WP: 10.6 percent), and strikes out Mitch Moreland for what should be the third out of the inning. But the ball gets away —

— and Moreland reaches (despite nearly not running, because he thought he had held up on the swing). Vázquez is the next batter, and he goes deep.

Really, a walk-off home run was the only way this game could end. Now that the trade deadline is done, it feels appropriate to start anticipating the playoffs, and personally, I can’t wait for the Wild Card games, when stupidity like all the stuff that happened in this game will be what decides whether a team advances or not, with none of baseball’s normal multi-game focus smoothing out those irregularities. It’s gonna be great.

Yesterday’s best game score

TIE: Kenta Maeda/Dylan Bundy — 82

Maeda and Bundy had two very similar and, per Game Score, equally excellent performances last night. Bundy went eight innings, allowing just three hits, one walk, and one run to go with five strikeouts; Maeda went seven, with two hits, one walk, and no runs along with six strikeouts.

Bundy made a lot of Royals hitters look foolish, thanks primarily to his nasty slider (seen above striking out several Royals batters, and inducing weak contact when it didn’t do that). Bundy threw his slider 24 times, getting strikes on two-thirds of those pitches and whiffs on nearly half the swings against it. He threw 64 of his 93 pitches for strikes (69 percent), thereby staying away from walks, challenging the Royals to put the ball in play, and getting good results when they did (allowing just three hitters to reach on 22 batted balls).

Early in the year, Bundy looked like he had maybe broken out, with a 2.88 ERA through 71 23 IP in April and May, but he’s struggled since, with a 5.93 ERA in June and an 8.41 ERA in July. August is off to a good start, though, and on the year, Bundy looks serviceable, with a 4.24 ERA/4.86 FIP and 1.4 fWAR. The key to ever being more than just serviceable is figuring out how he did what he did last night, and doing it repeatedly.

I say this as an idiot who knows nothing about pitching or baseball, really, but it sure looks like Maeda, when he’s pitching well, fools hitters more than just about anybody else. Look at how much some of the swings in the above gif are missing by:

Maybe it has something to do with his true six-pitch arsenal; the righty threw each of his offerings at least eight times last night, and got whiffs on all of them but the curveball. Like every pitcher, Maeda has predictable patterns to some extent, but his expanded arsenal could minimize that. I’m not sure how much it matters to his performance, really, but it might help make opposing batters look like fools.

This was Maeda’s longest outing in over a month, as he’s been scuffling a bit recently. But the Dodgers staff is so formidable, particularly with the addition of Maeda’s countryman Yu Darvish, that Maeda is functionally LA’s number-four or -five starter. From that perspective, a string of mediocre, five-inning starts with the occasional seven- or eight-inning gem tossed in looks real good. When you realize that this is as good as it gets for opposing teams, you start to understand how the Dodgers could plausibly win 115 games.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Joey Gallo — 456 feet

Joey Gallo is made for this part of the recap. All he does is a) strikeout and b) mash huge dingers, almost literally. His line for this season reads like a David Roth ratio joke for a particularly egregious tweet: .202/.317/.534, with 27 dingers and a 38.1 percent strikeout rate. That’s an isolated slugging of .332, tied with Aaron Judge for second leaguewide. Gallo’s swing-and-miss tendencies are what keep him from being Judge (who has a strikeout rate ten points lower, and an OBP more than 100 points higher). But while his profile is odd, it’s not bad — Gallo is running a 118 wRC+ and has 2.1 fWAR on the season — and it yields some hilariously long home runs.

New Mariners starter Erasmo Ramírez had already allowed one home run this inning, to Rougned Odor, and he didn’t put on the most skillful display to Gallo, either. He threw him three straight fastballs, with the first two missing outside by a not-small margin and failing to entice Gallo into chasing. The third was a strike, and while Ramírez finally succeeded in getting Gallo to swing, he maybe wished he hadn’t.

Finally, of course, we have to discuss the aesthetics of this highlight. They’re pretty good! Big grassy batter’s eyes are fun, and watching fans trample each other to get to balls is something I enjoy. Here, it provides both a way of eyeballing the distance of a home run in the moment — to clear the eye completely requires at least 450 feet, roughly — and the pleasant surprise of seeing fans guess a ball’s landing point but turn out to have underestimated it drastically. 7/10! Good job, everyone.

SABRy tidbits

  • We covered every trade here, but if you’re looking for a more in-depth look at the prospects moving back and forth yesterday, check out Minor League Ball. Time for you to get to know the new members of your team’s system, or get retroactively mad about who your GM gave up.
  • For most contending teams, the trade deadline is about making the playoffs (with the exception of those for whom it’s about preparing for those playoffs). The shift in playoff odds from the day of trades, therefore, is one of the best ways to judge how each team did. Adam Peterson breaks down the NL, with an eye for the Rockies specifically, over at Purple Row.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Jake Arrieta (3.66 projected ERA) vs. Zack Godley (3.87 projected ERA)

There was a spate of articles early in the season arguing either that a) Jake Arrieta was fully broken, or that b) he was just hitting some bad luck of one sort or another and would soon move through it. They’ve kind of disappeared, and in the meantime, Arrieta has kind of chugged along in the middle: not as great as he was back in 2014 and 2015, but not wholly terrible either. The projections of an “ace” are usually a bit surprising for how low they are, thanks to their habit of regressing toward the mean/employing general skepticism; Arrieta’s 3.66 projected ERA is surprising, but more because of his own performance than anything else. He’s got a 4.03 ERA on the season, so this feels like a fair representation.

Zack Godley was highlighted in this space before his last start, too, and he delivered, going seven shutout innings against the Cardinals and earning a game score of 77. There’s not much more to say about him: he’s quietly been a revelation for the Diamondbacks this season, and a key part of their surprising success. His ERA (3.06), FIP (3.03), and DRA (2.78) all agree that he’s been great. If you go by name value only, Arrieta might look like the draw for this matchup, but both in the future and probably the immediate present, Godley looks to me like the more exciting pitcher. Baseball is weird.