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
José Peraza rips a ground-rule double to capture the lead — +.506 WPA
The surprising part of this matchup between the Reds and the Cubs in late August isn’t that the Reds are playing the role of spoiler, it’s that the Cubs have anything to potentially be spoiled. Sure, after spending much of the season in second place the Cubs now lead the NL Central, but by only three games after Thursday’s loss in Cincinnati. The Dodgers and Nationals are biding their time until October, but these games still matter quite a bit for Chicago.
Pedro Strop entered in the eighth inning aiming to protect a 2-1 Cubs lead. He got Zack Cozart and Joey Votto to fly out and was poised for a impressive 1-2-3 inning. Perhaps Strop relaxed after retiring the Reds’ two best hitters, but no matter his state of mind, the next three batters went single, double, intentional walk. The bases were now juiced, and it all happened with two outs.
The tenuous situation didn’t take long to resolve as Strop’s first pitch with the bases loaded — a 97 mile per hour, elevated fastball down the middle — was crushed by Reds pinch hitter José Peraza. The ball landed just out of the reach of Cubs centerfielder Ian Happ, bounced off of the warning track and over the wall for a ground-rule double to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. It could’ve been worse for the Cubs, as the ball clearing the wall prevented a third run from scoring, but Strop immediately undid that bit of fortune with a wild pitch that scored the runner who had been stranded at third base.
Spoiler season is upon us, as the Cubs experienced in excruciating fashion on Thursday. It’s an important lesson for all the playoff contenders out there playing the Reds, retiring Cozart and Votto to begin an inning is outstanding, but don’t relax until all three outs have been recorded. These spoiler teams want nothing more than to crush your dreams.
Yesterday’s best game score
Stephen Strasburg — 75
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.
Stephen Strasburg was having his way with the best offense in baseball through six innings when a leg cramp forced him to exit. It was an unfortunate ending to a fantastic outing, but with his injury history and a Nationals playoff spot all but clinched, a no-brainer decision. At 90 pitches Strasburg would’ve realistically pitched only one more inning anyway.
His outing was cut short, but still proved good enough to earn Thursday’s top game score. In those six scoreless frames Strasburg allowed three hits and one walk while striking out seven. He induced 11 Astros whiffs and his first inning curveball to ring up José Altuve (gif above) was a thing of beauty worth watching over and over. His entire arsenal was sharp, but it was Strasburg’s changeup that was really clicking against Houston.
Strasburg threw 19 changeups and got four swinging strikes, which is great, but even more impressive is that only one of his changeups was put into play — one. And that lone change that found its way into play was a weakly hit, 61 mile per hour groundout to shortstop. Check out this filthy changeup from Strasburg that rung up Marwin González.
It was a shortened outing because caution prevailed — as it always should for the Nationals at this point — but in a possible World Series preview, Strasburg looked dominant.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Yoenis Céspedes — 440 feet
Don’t you just love a violent swing? I know I do. And this offering from Yoenis Céspedes is pure power and violence. That first step across the plate after contact almost seems like a recovery step, necessary to keep from falling over after exerting such force. It is immediately followed by his standing at attention to admire how well the ball was hit. We talk about the aesthetics of where a baseball lands quite a bit, but here the appeal is all in the swing.
The ball did make it to the second deck, which is always nice, if only because it’s a helpful descriptor. It didn’t take long to reach its destination either, as it left Céspedes’ bat at 110 miles per hour and a 24 degree launch angle. That combination has delivered a home run all but once in the Statcast era; the lone exception being a ball hit off the back wall of Chase Field.
Robbie Ray pitched a solid game for the Diamondbacks and this dinger was the only run he allowed, but you can tell from his reaction that it was a terrible pitch. An 80 mile per hour curveball down the middle, just above the knees to Céspedes will often be met with the same type of powerful rip we saw on Thursday.
Here’s to the power of Yoenis Céspedes, it’s a treat when he truly gets hold of one.
- In yesterday’s edition of Launch Angles, BtBS co-managing editor Henry Druschel opined elegantly on Rich Hill’s heartbreaking flirtation with a no-hitter and how silly it is that a child’s game can stir such emotion. Over on the SB Nation MLB page, Grant Brisbee also addressed the emotional aspect of the performance, and was able to find beauty in the failure.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
José Quintana (3.55 projected ERA) vs. Jerad Eickhoff (4.43 projected ERA)
The Cubs gave up a lot to acquire José Quintana, and so far he’s mostly delivered on expectations. In seven starts he’s allowed more than three runs just once, and never delivered less than 5 innings. Since moving to the North Side, Quintana has a 3.73 ERA, a 3.96 FIP, and a 19.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio; all numbers that eclipse his season marks. He may not be an ace, but Quintana is an important cog at the top of the Cubs rotation.
Jerad Eickhoff is in the midst of his worst season, but is still, you know... fine. He’s got a 4.46 ERA and a 4.17 FIP, but despite those middling numbers has only given up more than four runs twice all season. Perhaps the problem is that in his 22 starts, Eickhoff has only allowed one run or fewer six times. He may not get blown up, but he’ll rarely shut you down either.
The Reds played spoiler against the Cubs on Thursday, now it’s the Phillies turn to try and make their mark on a playoff race.
Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.