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Launch angles — Sep. 1, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins

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

Eddie Rosario jumps on the first pitch to tie the game — +.485 WPA

Gif via

The Twins weren’t expected to be in the playoff race, but here they are, now 1.5 games up on the Angels for the second wild card spot after a come from behind victory over the White Sox on Thursday. They don’t even have Miguel Sanó right now! Man, baseball is crazy.

Of course the White Sox sold just about every veteran of consequence and are in full on rebuild mode, so that they would blow a late, close game is actually not crazy at all. But still, how about those Twins?!

On this particular afternoon, Minnesota entered the ninth inning down one run. They sandwiched their first out with a single and a walk to put themselves in a great position. With those runners on first and second, Eddie Rosario wasted no time against White Sox reliever Juan Minaya as he jumped on a first pitch slider that was down the middle and singled to right. Ehire Adrianza motored home from second to score easily, tie the game, and put the Twins in the driver’s seat.

Two batters later, after an out and a Joe Mauer walk, Max Kepler took one for the team.

Gif via

Autsch! (That’s German for ouch.)

Kepler sacrificed his leg for the win, but it was Rosario’s single that was the biggest moment of the game, and the day in baseball. The calendar now reads September and and Twins are truly in this thing. What a world.

Chart via FanGraphs

Yesterday’s best game score

Zack Greinke — 67

Gif via

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.

The Diamondbacks swept the Dodgers on Thursday with ease, handing them their fifth straight loss. Arizona’s offense once again exploded early and managed to put up seven runs against Kenta Maeda in the first three innings. The early offense meant that Maeda’s counterpart Zack Greinke needed only to be solid, not dominant, to secure a victory. And you know what? He delivered exactly that.

Greinke was more than solid actually, I’d say he was pretty darn good. But the fact is that his game score of 67 ties him with Gio González for the lowest mark to ever win the day’s best game score here at Launch Angles. We’re just used to so much more from our starting pitchers in this space.

Greinke threw six innings of one run ball; allowing four hits, two walks, and striking out six. He induced nine swinging strikes and generally weak contact — save for a 415 foot flyout from Cody Bellinger — as the Dodgers average exit velocity against was 81 miles per hour. Greinke kept his curveball down, his two-seamer on the edge, and his slider out of the heart of the plate. You know, typical Zack Greinke stuff.

Zone Plot via Baseball Savant

Again, Greinke was very good on Thursday; but that’s not unexpected as he’s one of baseball’s elite pitchers as has been for quite some time. It was the game’s circumstances — sweeping the Dodgers, extending their losing streak, etc. — that helped make the start more meaningful than the actual performance.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Kendrys Morales — 430 feet

Gif via

Blue Jays slugger Kendrys Morales entered Thursday’s game with a 94 wRC+ and finished it with a 101 wRC+ — he had himself quite a night. Morales went 4-5 with three home runs as the Blue Jays put a stop to the Orioles’ seven-game win streak. Toronto will not be playing in October this year, so they have been relegated to the role of spoiler for the remainder of the season; a role that Morales filled almost single-handedly on Thursday.

The second of Morales’ three home runs was the longest of the day in baseball, but also came at a hugely important moment in the game. This 430 foot blast banged off of the exterior fence at Camden Yards and shrunk the Orioles’ win expectancy from a manageable 35.1 percent to a disheartening 9.7 percent.

Morales hit his first dinger of the day against Jeremy Hellickson, but both his second and third would come against the excellent right-handed reliever Mychal Givens. On this particular moonshot, it seems that Givens was squeezed on his first pitch — a 95 mile per hour fastball on the bottom edge of the zone.

Zone Plot via MLB Gameday

For the fateful second pitch that would travel 430 feet, Orioles catcher Welington Castillo was set up in the same spot as the first pitch and again called for a four-seam fastball. Unfortunately for the O’s, Givens missed his spot badly.

Gif via

If I’m not mistaken, when it comes to missing down and in to a lefty masher the common theory is pretty straightforward — don’t. But Givens did, and Morales sent it deep into the night.

SABRy tidbits

  • After trading Justin Wilson at the non-waiver deadline, the Tigers used the waiver trade deadline as an opportunity to purge their roster of its two remaining Justin’s — Upton and Verlander. Over at Bless You Boys, Kurt Mensching wrote about Justin Upton to the Angels and Ashley MacLennan reacted to the late-night saga that was Justin Verlander’s trade to the Astros.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Clayton Kershaw (2.60 projected ERA) vs. Dinelson Lamet (4.28 projected ERA)

Well look at what we have here. The best pitcher on the planet makes his return from the disabled list on Friday, just in time to help the Dodgers try to end their season high five-game losing streak. Clayton Kershaw will not be set completely free at Petco Park, as he is expected to be on a 5 inning or 75 pitch limit; but his presence on the mound will surely be a sight for the Dodgers’ suddenly sore eyes.

Dinelson Lamet is outclassed against Kershaw, but that’s true for most pitchers. Lamet is actually an interesting young arm for the Padres. Through 86 innings and 16 starts he’s earned a mediocre 4.60 ERA and a 4.18 FIP, but a promising 3.47 DRA. Lamet has walked 10.4 percent of opposing batters, which isn’t ideal, but that is countered by an impressive 28.9 percent strikeout rate. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and is complimented by a slider and very occasional changeup.

Lamet is an intriguing arm on an extremely young team, but tonight is all about the return of Clayton Kershaw. Baseball is better when it’s stars are healthy. Let’s do this.

Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.