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
Jake Lamb pulls a go-ahead grand slam — +.507 WPA
Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb has a rather large platoon split. Entering play on Tuesday he owned a .408 wOBA against righties and a .257 wOBA against lefties. Because of this, the decision by Dave Roberts to allow newly acquired left hander Tony Watson to face Lamb in a critical moment seems like a no brainer. Lamb is crushing right handers this season and had already homered against Pedro Báez earlier in the game. However, here’s a strange anomaly; against Dodgers left handed pitchers this year, Lamb had a wOBA of .516.
On the whole Lamb is well below average against lefties, unless they happen to pitch for the Dodgers. Roberts didn’t made a mistake, as the overall platoon split is what matters and the it’s most likely small sample size randomness — he’s had only 16 plate appearances against Dodgers lefties this season — but it’s still remarkable.
Watson entered with one on and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, looking to protect a 3-2 lead for the Dodgers. He proceeded to hit Adam Rosales and get David Peralta to ground out. Roberts then decided to intentionally walk AJ Pollock to get the lefty on lefty matchup. Lamb was behind in the count 1-2 after five pitches — including four foul balls — but on the sixth pitch he got a middle-middle slider and pulled it down the right field line. It hit the foul pole well beyond the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig and gave the Diamondbacks a 6-3 lead.
The ball left Lamb’s bat at 93 miles per hour and a 41 degree launch angle. According to Statcast, that batted ball combination results in a hit just three percent of the time. This ball quite literally had to be pulled down the line to avoid being a routine fly ball out. They don’t decide baseball games with Statcast though, and Jake Lamb propelled his team to victory by continuing his reign of terror against Dodgers left handed pitching.
Yesterday’s best game score
Chris Sale — 95
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.
In the midst of an already incredible year, Chris Sale pitched his best game of the year on Tuesday. His previous season high game score of 91 came against the Blue Jays on April 21st, and while his line against the Rays was almost identical to that effort — eight innings, one walk, and 13 strikeouts — Sale was able to cut his hits allowed down from four to just two.
Dominating seems to be the appropriate descriptor, but that’s used so often to describe fantastic pitching performances that Sale seems to require something more these days. How about... overwhelming. Sale overwhelmed Rays hitters on Tuesday, inducing 15 swinging strikes and generally weak contact. When Tampa Bay was able to put the ball in play against Sale they averaged an exit velocity of 78 miles per hour and eclipsed the 90 mile per hour mark with just three of their 14 batted balls.
Dominant. Overwhelming. Devastating. Break out the thesaurus and choose whatever adjective you want to describe Chris Sale this season, he will usually deliver on your choice.
Yesterday’s biggest home run
Joey Gallo — 457 feet
This is the seventh time that Joey Gallo has claimed the top spot in our biggest home run category and the third time in the last eight days. His smash on Tuesday put his season dinger total at 31, which means 23 percent of his home runs have been the longest in baseball on the day they were hit. He certainly has his flaws as a player, but holy cow can Joey Gallo mash a mean tater.
Where this particular home run ended up is not especially interesting. It’s one of those home runs that seemed shorter than it actually was because of the visual of how it landed only six or seven rows up in the outfield seats. But those seats are in deep right-center field and it had to clear a large empty space to even reach the fans in the first place. This home run was a bomb.
The ball left Gallo’s bat at 114 miles per hour, but what’s most impressive is the pitch location. Chris Flexen tried to backdoor a slider to Gallo and actually put it in an ideal spot — down and away, right on the edge of the zone. But Gallo, being the incredibly strong human being he is, went down and did some flexing of his own to drive the pitch 457 feet.
This was an impressive dinger, but the show didn’t stop there. On top of taking a pitch like that out to deep right center field, he blew a perfect bubble while rounding first base. Now you’re just showing off, Joey Gallo.
- The Cleveland bullpen is lauded because of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, but one of its most consistent contributors has been Bryan Shaw. Unfortunately, as his team is fighting for a playoff spot, Shaw has been struggling. Over at Let’s Go Tribe, Beyond the Box Score contributor Merritt Rohlfing tries to figure out what has happened.
- It’s been a rough year for the Giants. We all know their offense has been horrible, but as Grant Brisbee details for McCovey Chronicles, it has the potential to be historically bad.
- Miguel Sano crushes fastballs, this much we are certain. But as Louie Opatz of Twinkie Town explains, he can be exploited by sliders and will need to adjust in order to continue his development as a great hitter.
Tonight’s best pitching matchup
Alex Wood (3.45 projected ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (3.59 projected ERA)
We determine these matchups by adding up the rest-of-season projected ERA from each starter. Sometimes games will be close, but it’s rare to see a game lose the best pitching matchup title by .01, which is exactly what happened for Wednesday’s games. The clash between the Cubs and Giants sees Kyle Hendricks and Madison Bumgarner combine for a 7.05 combined ERA. Impressive, but not quite enough to best the combined 7.04 ERA of Alex Wood and Zack Greinke.
It’s a good thing that Wood and Greinke were able to sneak by Hendricks and Bumgarner, because the Dodgers/Diamondbacks contest is much more compelling. The Cubs have fought back to capture first place but the Giants are undeniably terrible. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks on the other hand, that is a potential NLDS matchup. The Diamondbacks are having a tremendous season that would have them in contention to win the division if it weren’t for the existence of the juggernaut that is the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Alex Wood tries to continue his magical season and Zack Greinke aims to bounce back from his rocky outing against the Cubs against his former team. This one has everything you could ask for in a Wednesday evening divisional matchup.
Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.