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
Brandon Kintzler gets Max Stassi to ground into a double play — -.392 WPA
Over the past 30 days Nationals relievers are second in baseball with a 3.06 FIP. During that time period they have accrued 1.4 fWAR, bringing their season total up to 1.1 fWAR — yes, you read that right. Trading for Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler has transformed Washington’s bullpen from a glaring achilles’ heel to, you know, probably fine, pretty good in fact.
It was Kinztler’s turn to preserve a Nationals lead on Tuesday as he entered the start of the eighth inning with his team leading the Astros 4-3. Kintzler immediately found himself in trouble after allowing back-to-back singles to Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel. Astros manager AJ Hinch then had Marwin Gonzalez bunt the runners to second and third. That’s right, the same Marwin Gonzalez who owns a 148 wRC+ and a .390 wOBA this season was asked to sacrifice bunt with two on and no outs. Presumably Hinch wanted to stay out of the double play and put both runners in scoring position so that a single would give them the lead. But taking the bat out of the hands of the fourth best hitter on this year’s best offense in baseball seems quite foolish.
The bunt was successful, first base was now open, and Duty Baker then intentionally walked Carlos Beltran to ensure a force out at every base. Astros catcher Max Stassi stepped to the plate with the bases juiced, one out, and the pressure on in what could realistically be a World Series preview. Stassi battled Kinztler, including three foul balls after falling behind in the count 1-2, but ultimately pulled a 95 mile per hour fastball on the ground to Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon. Rendon gloved it cleanly to start the 5-4-3 double play.
Now that the Nationals bullpen seems stable, the last remaining areas of worry for Washington are the team’s health and Daniel Murphy’s defense. The latter of which almost reared it’s ugly head in the process of turning this double play.
Despite an incredibly awkward transfer and double clutch, Murphy was able to fire the ball over to Ryan Zimmerman just in time to get Stassi at first. The Nationals bullpen came through in another big spot, which is a grouping of words that seemed inconceivable in the first half of the season.
As for the Astros? Hey, at least Marwin Gonzalez and his 156 OPS+ got that bunt down to give the rookie Max Stassi a chance to win the game.
Yesterday’s best game score
Doug Fister — 85
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.
This tweet from Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich sums up Doug Fister’s night quite nicely.
Doug Freakin Fister, filling in for David Price, throws a CG, one-hitter against the defending AL champs. The hit was to his 1st batter.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) August 23, 2017
After allowing a lead off home run to Francisco Lindor, Fister absolutely shut down the Cleveland offense. He struck out six, generated 11 groundouts, 5 flyouts, and would issue just two free passes in his nine innings of work.
Fister was only able to induce six swinging strikes from his 114 pitches, so it really was all about weak contact. On the night his average exit velocity against was 81 miles per hour overall and 83.4 miles per hour against his two-seam fastball, a pitch that Fister peppered the zone with all night long.
After starting three games for the Angels in Triple-A and striking out only 15.4 percent of the batters he faced there, Fister has now started eight games for the Red Sox and has seen his strike out rate rise to 19.1 percent. Now, his walks are up too, and a 4.78 ERA, 4.79 FIP, and 7.09 DRA (holy cow!!) don’t inspire any confidence, but Fister’s purpose in Boston is to be a veteran inning eater who can provide an occasional solid start. That means that while you can never count on it, every once in a while you might get lucky and he’ll go out there and throw a gem; which is exactly what happened on Tuesday.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Gary Sanchez — 493 feet
Oh my word.
Gary Sanchez murdered a baseball at Comerica Park on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the third at-bat of the game. The fans had barely had a chance to settle in when Tigers starter Matthew Boyd threw an elevated 2-1 changeup on the outer third that Sanchez blasted 493 feet into the outfield seats. The now deceased baseball left the bat at 113 miles per hour and a 29 degree launch angle, which has only been done four other times in the Statcast era and — as you might correctly presume — is always a no doubt home run. It was the second longest dinger of 2017, as Sanchez fell just two feet short of Aaron Judge’s 495 foot blast.
Now that the minutiae of the homer is out of the way, I’m going to make a short clip of the above gif detailing the immediate aftermath of the blast. Keep your eye out for three spectacular reactions.
- The fans in the front row above the Comerica sign who exclaim “Oh S%*^!”
- The lady in the fourth row aisle seat who cranes her entire body upwards, as a reaction to the power that has unfolded before her.
Matthew Boyd. Poor, sweet Matthew Boyd. He immediately puts his hand to his face like one might after seeing something truly horrific, and then seems to try and play it cool by turning that into a face wipe of some sort. Here’s the still:
It’s a perfectly reasonable reaction from a pitcher who had just seen a ball he threw sent into orbit. We were all right there with you, Matt. That was unbelievable.
- Francisco Lindor’s offensive profile has changed pretty dramatically this season. Over at Let’s Go Tribe, BtBS contributor Merritt Rohlfing took a closer look at what has been different and what Cleveland fans should expect from Lindor going forward.
- Is Justin Verlander throwing a slider or a cutter? How about both! As BtBS contributor Ron Wolschleger explains at Bless You Boys, Verlander seems to be manipulating the pitch depending on the situation and is successfully keeping hitters off balance.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
Drew Pomeranz (3.95 projected ERA) vs. Corey Kluber (3.17 projected ERA)
Drew Pomeranz doesn’t get talked about much, but he’s quietly having as outstanding season as the Robin to Chris Sale’s Batman. A 3.31 ERA/3.67 FIP/3.87 DRA is bolstered by 24.5 percent strikeout rate. He exited his last start after 3 1⁄3 innings with back spasms but appears good to go for Wednesday’s contest in Cleveland.
In his last outing Corey Kluber allowed just one run, but lasted only 5 1⁄3 innings while striking out four. It would be solid outing for most, but feels lackluster from the pitcher nipping at Sale’s heels in the AL Cy Young race. He’ll look to bounce back against the Red Sox from his merely mortal performance to his usual dominance.
Both teams are comfortably in first place for now, but neither has a lead that would allow them to ease off the gas pedal. After meeting in the first round of last year’s playoffs, they seem poised to clash once again in the ALDS. Who doesn’t love a good playoff preview?
Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.