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Launch angles — August 6, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

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Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/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

Jarrett Parker gets revenge on the D-backs — +.377 WPA

GIF via

The first-ever Launch Angles recap, back on April 3, foreshadowed how the season would turn out. The Giants’ $64 million closer Mark Melancon blew the save against the Diamondbacks, as Daniel Descalso blooped a walk-off single into shallow right. From there, the Giants sank into one of the worst campaigns in team history, while the D-backs soared into contention.

On Saturday, though, a clutch hit and some funky managing let San Francisco get payback. With the scored knotted at 4-4 in the ninth inning, T.J. McFarland gave up a leadoff double to Denard Span. Torey Lovullo didn’t want his LOOGY facing a righty, so Arizona — which has long loved the intentional walk — went a little crazy here.

First Kelby Tomlinson got a free pass to bring up Brandon Crawford. McFarland used his sinker to get a worm-burner from the lefty shortstop, turning a double play to bring him one out away. The winning run advanced to third, though, and MVP candidate/right-handed hitter Buster Posey was at the plate. So Lovullo opted for a second IBB, putting runners on the corners with two down.

Then in stepped Jarrett Parker, who has the name of a former Bay Area pitcher and the face of a current Bay Area pitcher. Earlier in the game, he’d made an impressive play with the glove:

GIF via

In this situation, he needed to deliver with the bat, and he did just that. On an 0-1 sinker, he put the ball on the ground to center-right field, a routine out with the shift on but an infield single with a straight-up defense. As the D-backs push toward the playoffs for the first time since 2011, at least the Giants can take solace in the small things, like fluky walk-offs.

Yesterday’s best game score

Cole Hamels — 86

GIF via

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.

Earlier this year, it looked like Cole Hamels was hitting a wall. Through his first five starts in April, he had a 3.03 ERA, but that came with 12 walks and just 15 strikeouts in 32 23 innings. FanGraphs’ Paul Swydan wondered if he was declining permanently, and that was before Hamels went on the DL for two months. In his first start back, the lefty got rocked, giving up seven runs in 4 13 innings; his ERA leapt to 4.38, which didn’t inspire much optimism.

But since then, Hamels has turned things around. Over his past seven outings, he’s notched a 2.98 ERA, with 37 strikeouts to eight walks in 48 13 frames. The pinnacle came last night against the Twins, as Hamels twirled a 96-pitch complete game, picking up five strikeouts and letting a mere five hitters reach base safely. Since the sole run he allowed was unearned, the BtBS Slack had a discussion about whether it constituted a Maddux:

Image via us. Who even reads these things anyway

Hamels said last year that he doesn’t like to throw his sinker because hitters don’t swing at it. Despite that, he’s relied on the sinker much more in recent games, using it 35 times yesterday. Minnesota hitters offered at just 10 of those, but the pitch dropped in for a called strike nine times, which helped Hamels get ahead in the count and pick up some Ks.

The best pitch last night, though, was the pitch that’s brought him this far — his changeup. Of the 31 they say, the Twins swung at 22, whiffed at nine, and put nine into play, all of them resulting in outs. With a quality two-seamer and a revitalized cambio, Hamels has a 3.59 ERA on the year, and while his FIP is a more pedestrian 4.40, that should continue falling. Looks like Hollywood is back in town.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Giancarlo Stanton — 447 feet

GIF via

We have a standard template for Launch Angles, with the sections laid out for us to fill in. (We’re very lazy people.) This is what our default entry for this section looks like:

Image via me, obviously

Hyperbolic? Yeah, I suppose, but if anyone is going to hit a baseball 550 feet, Stanton is. He’s now appeared in this section of our recap five times this year, putting him second in the major leagues (Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo are tied for first with six apiece).

This long ball didn’t come off a great pitcher. As my colleague Jeremy Klein explained earlier this year, Mike Foltynewicz isn’t throwing as hard as he used to, relative to both his standards and MLB’s. Thanks to some lucky sequencing, he’s posted a 3.94 ERA this year, but his 4.50 FIP shows him for who he is — a middle-of-the-pack pitcher. In this case, though, he was a little unlucky, as Stanton put a good swing on a fastball out of the zone:

Image via Brooks Baseball

That high heater gave Stanton his 36th four-bagger of the year, improving his slash line to .277/.370/.610. After a down year in 2016, he is very much back to the dominance of old, and Foltynewicz and his ilk better be careful about where they put their fastballs.

SABRy tidbits

  • The Yankees, as my colleague Henry Druschel feared, are back to being the Evil Empire. But we can still laugh at them for some things — such as the fact that Eduardo Nunez, former New York shortstop and terrible baseball player, is now a non-terrible baseball player for the Red Sox. Matt Provenzano reflects on the bitter (i.e. hilarious) irony of that turnaround over at Pinstripe Alley.
  • Corey Kluber is (a) an awesome pitcher, one of the best in MLB, and (b) 31 years old with just 1,011 innings under his belt. Does he have any shot at the Hall of Fame? In an excellent Fanpost for Let’s Go Tribe, purplehatkid figures out how well the Klubot would need to pitch for a spot in Cooperstown, using Roy Halladay as an analogue.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Luis Severino (3.80 projected ERA) vs. Carlos Carrasco (3.58 projected ERA)

Go back in time four-odd months, and Severino’s projections look a little different — before the year, ZiPS had him pegged at a 4.20 ERA, while Steamer predicted a 4.09 ERA. A 5.83 ERA in 71 innings the prior season made them understandably pessimistic. But Severino has shown this year why he was a consensus top-100 prospect, riding a 28.2 percent strikeout rate (fifth in the AL) to a 2.98 ERA and 2.92 FIP. With more dominance like that, the projections will keep coming down.

Carrasco’s excellence is nothing new — he’s been a superb pitcher since 2014. This year, he’s punched out 26.9 percent of his opponents, which puts him one slot behind Severino in the Junior Circuit. While a drop in ground ball rate has caused his ERA to rise to 3.89, he still has power stuff, even at age 30. These two righties should pile up the strikeouts, which means the Yankees and Indians might be in for another low-scoring affair.

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.