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Launch angles — August 3, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/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

Tyler Flowers takes the late lead — +.380 WPA

The Dodgers lost! That’s a noteworthy thing these days:

and they lost thanks to Tyler Flowers, and Pedro Baez. Baez is in the midst of an odd season; his strikeout rate of 22.1 percent is the lowest its been since his rookie 2014, and his walk rate of 9.0 percent is higher than any other season and a full two points above his career rate. The result is that his K-BB rate is just 13.2 percent, lower than any prior season. What makes 2017 “odd” instead of simply “bad” for Baez is his 1.77 ERA, much better than his 3.85 FIP or 3.64 DRA. The Dodgers can usually be trusted to be on the cutting edge with analytics, it seems, so I’m inclined to think they weren’t that surprised by this dinger, and that anticipating some regression from Baez is why they traded for half a new bullpen at the deadline.

This was not a deep blast from Flowers; he took a slider on the outside of the plate to the opposite field, hitting it just 361 feet. A catcher pinch-hitting (as Flowers did here) is not usually the norm, but Flowers is in the midst of a great offensive season, hitting for a 128 wRC+. Baseball Prospectus thinks his framing has been off-the-charts good this season, as well, and when combined with his excellent offense, propels him to an astonishing 4.8 WAR in just 271 PA. The catcher framing numbers remain a little hard to swallow for some, but if you take them seriously, BP suggests that Flowers could be a fringe MVP candidate in the NL, as he currently has the seventh-highest WARP in the NL. I probably won’t be voting for him anytime soon, but it’s certainly striking, and Flowers looked the part of superstar last night.

Yesterday’s best game score

Ervin Santana/Vance Worley — 81

As is my habit when we get two people tied for one part of this recap, let’s break the tie by figuring out who had a better night. These pitchers had totally different lines: Santana threw a complete game, with two runs, four hits, one walk, and nine strikeouts; Worley was done after seven innings, and with just three strikeouts, but he also allowed only two hits, no walks, and no runs.

Santana leaned hard on his twoseamer last night, throwing it more than half the time and getting an impressive ten whiffs on it. That tended to be happen earlier in counts, however; his main strikeout pitch, as demonstrated in the gif above, was his darting slider, thrown nearly as often as his twoseamer and with fourteen whiffs of its own. On the night, Santana had a whopping 28 whiffs in total. It was an impressive start.

Worley’s start was much more focused on getting outs on balls in play, as you might’ve guessed from his low strikeout total. He induced just three whiffs from Nationals hitters, and his main skill this start was just throwing the ball down the pipe (with a 59 percent strike rate) and hoping for the best. It worked, but it seems like Worley can’t really take that much credit for his own success.

If you couldn’t already tell, my tendency is to go with the longer, more strikeout-intensive start, since that seems to me to be more skillful. It’s a lot harder to luck into an outing like Santana’s than it is an outing like Worley’s; with enough batted ball luck, lots of pitchers could probably go scoreless through seven innings. I don’t think there are that many pitchers who could induce 28 swings-and-misses on 110 pitches.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Joey Gallo — 460 feet

Well look who it is! Gallo hit yesterday’s longest home run too; this is the first time this season when a player has repeated on consecutive days. It’s a pretty similar home run, too: a blast to deep center (though this one was a tick more toward right field than yesterday’s), with folks clambering all over the batter’s eye even though the ball eventually clears it, and stunned reactions from all Gallo’s teammates in the dugout.

Gallo has, on his career, feasted on the high pitch:

But this home run came on a slider over the bottom part of the plate, and yesterday’s blast came on a fastball also in the lower half of the zone. That’s what’s so funny about Gallo, and what enables his success: while he has huge swing-and-miss tendencies, he doesn’t have a hole in his swing, or some easily exploitable weakness. On almost every pitch type and location, he’s going to whiff fairly often, but he’s also going to make contact some amount of the time, and when he does the ball is going to go a mile. Gallo’s wRC+ is up two points from yesterday, to 120. He’s one of the oddest, most enjoyable players in baseball, both as an analytical puzzle and as a player who hits huge dingerzzz.

SABRy tidbits

  • When someone mentions breakout players on the Brewers, you probably think about Eric Thames, or maybe Travis Shaw. You should be thinking about Domingo Santana, too, and Tim Muma has a profile of the outfielder over at Brew Crew Ball.
  • Calling up a 20-year-old to the big leagues is, by definition, a bit risky. You never know how they’ll adjust — AA can only prepare you so much — and the development of young players is a fragile business. Thus far, Rafael Devers has acquitted himself incredibly well. Matt Collins breaks down his hot start at Over the Monster.
  • Now that the trade deadline is past, it’s waiver trade time. Unclear on what exactly that means, or who can get moved in August? Check out this explainer by BtBS alumnus Ken Woolums, which has all the info you need on waiver trades.

Today’s best pitching matchup

José Quintana (3.48 projected ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (3.58 projected ERA)

One of the most fun parts of the trade deadline are all the matchups that take you by surprise. Quintana and Greinke haven’t been in the same league before this year, and now they’re running into each other in the regular season. They’re both on very good teams for whom each win matters a lot, and they’re both excellent pitchers. The projections think they’re almost perfectly matched; Greinke has been better this season, and has the longer track record, but is older (and struggled in 2016). In any case, this should be a great matchup and game, and it’s well worth your time.