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Launch angles — August 27, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn/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

Andrelton Simmons turns the tables — +.701

Win probability graphs are great, because they convey the “story” or feel of a game so effectively. There are some classic archetypes: the even games, with both sides around 50 percent until one breaks the balance late in the game, or the wild games, with comebacks and comebacks from the comebacks causing both side’s WPA to spike crazily. Personally, I love the big comeback games, where one team is in control from the get-go until almost the end, at which point they lose in stunning fashion (or the other team wins in thrilling fashion, depending on your perspective). This Angels-Astros game was a classic of the genre:

The Astros had a 5–1 lead by the 4th, and would tack on another run to open the 7th; the game looked over, and judging by the Angels’ 3.1 percent WPA, it nearly was. But the Halos would chip away in the bottom of the 7th, cutting the lead to 6–3. Then in the bottom of the 8th, Francis Martes got two quick outs, and Anaheim’s WPA was back down to 3.6 percent. But a walk and a single later, he was pulled in favor of Tyler Clippard, who gave up another single and brought the score to 6–4 with two runners on and Simmons at the plate. You saw what happened next.

Tyler Clippard is having a rough year. He’s bounced around over the last few months, going from the Yankees to the White Sox in the David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle/Todd Frazier deal, then going to Houston once the Astros decided they did actually want to trade for some pitching. He doesn’t look totally dissimilar from who he once was — he’s still striking out plenty of batters — but he’s walking more opponents and getting slammed with home runs, a bad combination for obvious reasons. It’s easy to feel a bit bad for him on this dinger — hit on a not-terrible pitch that did fool Simmons somewhat (if not enough), barely clearing the wall in left and possibly catchable if Reddick had timed his jump better — but Clippard has given up so many dingers this year that dismissing this one as undeserved feels very odd. Maybe Simmons got lucky, but he still put himself in a position to get lucky, by managing to put his bat on this ball, and Clippard put himself in a position to get unlucky, by not getting the prior out. With a 70-point swing in WPA, there’s plenty of blame and credit to go around.

Yesterday’s best game score

Zach Davies — 83

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.

If I told you before the season that the Dodgers-Brewers game on August 26 would be must-watch, you’d think I was crazy, for several reasons but mostly because that would’ve sounded like a lopsided matchup in the making. But this game had it all, not least because Zach Davies mowed through the potent Dodgers lineup. Over seven shutout innings, he walked nobody, allowed just three hits, and struck out seven.

As the GIF demonstrates, Davies had it all working last night. He was getting whiffs on breaking balls low in the zone, and on fastballs up above it. Most impressive to me, however, are the strikeouts of Stripling and Granderson, when Davies dots fastballs just on the corner of the zone, fooling the hitters so thoroughly that the bat never leaves their shoulders while also locating the pitch so precisely that both hitters know they’ve struck out before the umpire says a thing. A strikeout is a strikeout, but Davies’s strikeouts had style last night.

The 24-year-old righty has been a major part of Milwaukee’s surprising success this year, running a 3.91 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 4.13 DRA over 157 innings. The Brewers sit 3.0 games back in the NL Central and 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card slot. Every win they can steal is a big one. They’ve split the first two games of the three-game set against LA; this afternoon, Jimmy Nelson goes up against Yu Darvish in the rubber match.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Kendrys Morales — 455 feet

Kendrys Morales doesn’t do many things very well, but one of them is mash huge dingers, and this certainly qualifies. Going upper-deck at the Rogers Centre is impressive enough; doing it to nearly straightaway center (centre?) field is even more so. Morales had worked the count full, laying off some heat above the strike zone and only pulling the trigger when the pitch was truly in the zone. He had whiffed on the first swing, and fouled the pitch off on the second; he didn’t miss on the third.

Low and inside is emphatically not where you want to pitch Morales.

And by the look of Mitch Garver’s glove, it’s not where Dillon Gee was trying to pitch Morales. Again, Morales is not an unbeatable hitter; his wRC+ on the year is a paltry 94. But if you’re going to miss your spot against him, try to miss away, since otherwise, you might be featured in this recap, and not in the good way.

SABRy tidbits

Today’s best pitching matchup

Lance Lynn (4.33 projected ERA) vs. Chris Archer (3.43 projected ERA)

Lance Lynn is having a classic season if you focus on his ERA: at 3.17, it’s in line with what he’s done over the prior four seasons, during which time he’s grown into a solid and reliable mid-line starter. His FIP is much worse, however, at 4.71, and while his projections split the difference somewhat, they seem to buy into the latter more than the former. Lynn’s strikeout rate is down to 20 percent, and his walks and home runs haven’t fallen to compensate; somehow, despite that, his ERA has stayed steady. He presents a bit of a puzzle, therefore, and while we’re unlikely to answer the question of which of Lynn’s FIP or ERA is more accurate in a single night, it’s still something to look out for.

Across from him is Chris Archer, who is in the opposite boat to some extent. His 2017 FIP of 3.17 is excellent; his 2017 ERA of 3.76 is just very good. Archer’s strikeout rate of 30.1 percent is a career high, and his walk rate of 7.1 percent is a career low, so it’s not too hard to talk me into believing he’s improved, and that his ERA is just somewhat inflated. Both the Cardinals and the Rays are facing longshot playoff odds; per FanGraphs, the former has a 6.1 percent shot at the NL Central title, and a 12.5 percent chance at a Wild Card slot; the latter is all-but-eliminated from the AL East, but has a 9.9 percent chance at the Wild Card. Every win counts desperately for each of these teams, so they’ll be looking for their starter to bring their A-game.