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
Jesus Aguilar is the pinch-hit hero for the Brewers — +.432 WPA
For all the attention the baseball blogosphere gave to Eric Thames, he wasn’t the only hot-hitting Brewers first baseman in the first half of the season. While Thames put up a 135 wRC+ before the All-Star break — fading fast after an unbelievable April — an unheralded 27-year-old rookie came on strong late. Aguilar posted a 130 first-half wRC+ in 190 plate appearances, mostly as a platoon option against lefties.
But that surprising pop gave way to a nasty second-half slump. In 64 post-ASB plate appearances, he had a .172/.250/.276 slash line, which had lowered all the way to 105 entering Saturday’s action. That cold stretch — and the right-hander on the mound for the Rockies — was probably why Craig Counsell kept Aguilar out of the starting lineup in favor of Thames.
Come the ninth inning, though, the game was tied at 3-3, and the Brewers needed a big hit. Even though Greg Holland is, notably, a righty, Aguilar came off the bench with two outs and the winning run 180 feet away. After he worked the count full, the drama was on. Would he tap a single into center field to give Milwaukee the lead? Would he strike out and end the inning?
For the payoff pitch, Holland went to his trusty slider. Aguilar has swung-and-missed at an even 25 percent of the sliders he’s seen this year, so this seemed like a solid choice. But this breaking ball flew too close to the sun:
An elevated slider, in Coors Field, is a recipe for a 449-foot two-run home run, and an eventual 6-3 win for Milwaukee. Aguilar was the hero of this game, and while this doesn’t negate his vicious slump, it does bump his wRC+ for the season back up to 110. Not bad for a guy the Brew Crew found on waivers.
Yesterday’s best game score
Jose Berrios — 83
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.
After a sterling start on August 1 against the Padres, Berrios had a pretty snazzy season line — a 3.57 ERA and 3.81 FIP in 15 starts and 90 2⁄3 innings. But he imploded in his next two outings, adding 70 points to his ERA (4.27) and 37 points to his FIP (4.18). In this interleague matchup against the Diamondbacks, who entered with a top-10 wOBA, that trend looked like it might continue.
[Ron Howard narrator voice] It didn’t.
Berrios was masterful against Arizona, allowing two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. While he got only eight swinging strikes out of 103 pitches — and all seven of his Ks were on whiffs, so he timed those well — he managed to catch the Diamondbacks looking 24 times. And he didn’t get a ton of help from the umpire on those:
Even working with a normal-sized strike zone, Berrios threw 69 pitches for strikes — had to work that in eventually — and picked up more than enough called strikes to get the D-backs to swing-and-miss when it counted.
Whatever possessed Berrios during those two rough starts appears to have dissipated. He’s now at a 3.99 ERA and 4.01 FIP for the season, and the Twins are now percentage points ahead of the Angels in the hunt for the second AL Wild Card. I guess it’s good that the development of that slump was arrest—*is tackled before finishing this awful wordplay*
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Rougned Odor — 466 feet
You might not be surprised to hear that the Rangers have had the most appearances on this section of Launch Angles. A Texas hitter has clubbed the longest long ball on 13 days this season, more than any other team, and Joey Gallo has accounted for eight of those. He’s not the sole slugger in the Lone Star State, though; along with solo appearances by Nomar Mazara, Mike Napoli, and Carlos Gomez, the Rangers have now had two from Rougned Odor.
That’s all a very wordy way of saying: This is the second time in 2017 Odor has hit the biggest homer of the day. On August 1, he put a hanging sinker from Felix Hernandez back into the upper deck at Globe Life Park. But that one went only 437 feet, which isn’t that long for this section. The bomb Odor hit yesterday, though — that was the 23rd-longest of the year for anyone. This is a lot more impressive on his part.
And this really wasn’t a good game plan from Dylan Covey. He started Odor out with four pitches outside the strike zone, then tried to sneak a heater past him to avoid the walk:
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but Odor likes pitches right down the middle. And when he has three balls in the count, he’s swinging at everything within the vicinity of the plate. When you’re leaving a fastball in the middle of the plate in that situation, you’re asking for trouble. That’s how Odor got dinger No. 26, and how the Rangers got “Yesterday’s biggest home run” No. 13.
- Here at Launch Angles, we cover a lot of incredible comebacks. A ton of those have come out of L.A., as the Dodgers lead the majors with nine biggest plays of the day this season. Over at True Blue LA, Ryan Walton highlights some of the best wins for the team this season — and there are quite a few to choose from.
- Bill Simmons is a blathering moron; this much, we know. Recently, he again stuck his foot in his for-some-reason-constantly open mouth, musing that the Red Sox might give up Mookie Betts in a trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Over the Monster’s Max Marcovitch explains why that’s stupid (hint: Betts > Stanton).
- If you want to get a base hit, you need to swing the bat and make contact with the ball, instead of swinging and missing. Simple, right? Apparently Miguel Sano needed a refresher. And Bartolo Colon was happy to let him know. Twinkie Town’s myjah looks at the budding relationship between the young slugger and the veteran right-hander.
Today’s best pitching matchup
Kenta Maeda (3.80 projected ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (3.98 projected ERA)
This pitching duel would’ve looked a lot more appealing before the year. As a 28-year-old rookie in 2016, Maeda cruised to a 3.48 ERA in 175 2⁄3 innings, and Steamer and ZiPS foresaw a 3.57 ERA in 2017. Verlander, meanwhile, showed new life at age 33, churning out a 3.04 ERA over 227 2⁄3 frames and receiving a 3.66 projection for this year.
These right-handers have each taken a step back this season — Maeda’s ERA is at 3.76, while Verlander’s is at 4.11. They’ve each retained some of the skills, though; the former has actually improved his K/BB ratio, and the latter has looked much better since the All-Star break. In a matchup between the best team in baseball and one of the AL’s three non-contenders, both pitchers should be able to hold their own.
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.