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Launch angles — September 13, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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

Rhys Hoskins brings the Phillies back from the brink — +.489 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

The Phillies were trailing 7-2 in the seventh inning when Rhys Hoskins hit his first home run of the day. It was a solo shot that cut the Marlins lead to four, but the Phillies still had plenty of work to do — and work they did.

After scoring three runs in the eighth to cut the deficit to one, the Phillies momentarily thought that Hyun Soo Kim had driven in both the tying and winning runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth. On the receiving end of a laser throw home from Giancarlo Stanton, César Hernández was initially called safe, but the Marlins challenged the play and it was overturned. Philadelphia had tied the game, but would now head to extras instead of home.

Gif via MLB.com

In the top of the 10th inning, Marcell Ozuna hit a solo shot to once again put the Phillies behind. After two quick outs from Marlins reliever Brian Ellington to begin the bottom half of the inning, it looked as if Philadephia’s admirable comeback would fall short in the end. Their last hope now fell on young slugger Rhys Hoskins.

Ellington decided to challenge Hoskins with gas as he threw three straight four-seam fastballs that were clocked at 100, 99, and 100 miles per hour respectively. Here’s the problem with that plan; the first two were not close to the plate, and the third was right in Hoskins’ wheelhouse. The burgeoning Phillies’ star did not miss and crushed the triple-digit heat 413 feet to center field.

Screenshot via MLB.com, Graphics via Baseball Savant and MLB Gameday

Hoskins’ homer — and not the walk-off double from Nick Williams — earns our biggest play of the game by win probability added because the Phillies’ backs were against the wall. It was score or go home. If Williams hadn’t driven in the game-winning run, the game would’ve simply moved on to the 16th inning.

It’s been another rough season for Phillies fans, but man did they get something to be excited about when Hoskins got the call and started mashing.

Yesterday’s best game score

Justin Verlander — 93

Gif via MLB.com

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.

I bet you were expecting to see Corey Kluber in this space. On a night that saw the Klu-bot throw a complete game shutout to clinch Cleveland’s 20th straight win, his performance was only the second best of the day, with a close-but-no-cigar game score of 92. We’re not here to recap the best stories, it’s all about the numbers — you either won a category or you didn’t. Sorry, Corey Kluber. (Somehow I think he’ll survive the snub.)

Tuseday’s best pitching performance belongs to Houston’s newest ace, Justin Verlander. In his second start with the Astros, Verlander absolutely dominated the wild-card chasing Angels. He threw 115 pitches in eight scoreless innings, allowing just three baserunners on one hit, one walk, and one hit-by-pitch. The hit came from Brandon Phillips leading off the first inning, after that the Angels were stonewalled.

Through five innings Verlander had only three strikeouts, but he dialed it up in his final three frames to finish the night with a total of nine. He generated 17 swinging strikes and generally allowed weak contact as the Angels average exit velocity against was a meager 78.5 miles per hour. Check out a zone plot of Verlander’s whiffs. It’s incredible, only two of the pitches were solidly in the zone. Verlander had the Angels chasing all night long.

Zone Plot via Baseball Savant

This was the type of outing that the Astros were hoping for when they acquired Verlander, but mostly it’s a performance they hope he’ll be able to replicate in the postseason. Time will tell on that front. For now let’s just enjoy this gif of Verlander’s final strikeout of the night as he paints a slider on the black to get C.J. Cron looking.

Gif via MLB.com

Cron can’t believe it, and all Mike Scioscia can do is shake his head in disbelief, but according to Statcast the pitch was in fact a strike. Verlander was dialed in on Tuesday, and considering Houston scored only one run, he needed to be.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Carlos González — 478 feet

Gif via MLB.com

This is Carlos González’s walk year, and he has been terrible. Even after his two-homer performance against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, his season total is now just 12 and his wRC+ sits at 77. González’s 2017 value is in the red according to fWAR, bWAR, and WARP. That’s a consensus, and it’s not good.

Here’s the good news for Rockies fans; CarGo has caught fire in September and is currently running a 278 wRC+ (!!) for the month. What better time than a playoff chase to recapture some of that old magic and prove that you’re not finished as an everyday player.

As for this specific dinger, there are a number of things that make it fantastic:

  1. The Moment: This home run was responsible for breaking the tie, and with the win the Rockies now see themselves 3.5 games up on the Cardinals for the second NL wild card.
  2. The Distance: Having a pool in your baseball stadium is ridiculous, BUT, it does allow you to hit dingers into or over said pool, which is delightful. It takes a massive shot to clear the swimmers, and CarGo’s 478 foot blast on Tuesday did so with ease. If Statcast has taught me anything, it’s that a ball hit 113 miles per hour at an angle of 22 degrees will get the job done every time.
  3. The Strut: González didn’t stay at home to admire this one, although he certainly could have. Instead he took three to four swagger-filled steps out of the box that said “yeah, you bet your ass I just did that.”
  4. The Bat Drop: Bat flips are rightfully lionized, but a good bat drop is just as satisfying in my opinion. It’s a subtle gesture, the laying down of one’s tool immediately after putting it to perfect use. What’s interesting about González’s bat drop here is that the bat almost stands on end after the force of CarGo’s release sends it slightly upwards. It doesn’t happen, but the makings of that moment were there. I’ll be honest, it’s something I never knew I wanted to see until now.

It won’t make up for his lackluster year, but last night Carlos González hit a tremendous dinger and lifted his team to victory.

SABRy tidbits

  • Cleveland’s historic win streak rolls on after their win on Tuesday. While the usual suspects like Corey Kluber obviously play a huge role, to have this type of sustained success requires contributions from everyone. As BtBS contributor Merritt Rohlfing explains at Let’s Go Tribe, backup catcher Roberto Perez has been on an absolute tear.
  • With Cleveland dominating baseball, it’s only right that they also dominate our SABRy tidbits link section. José Ramírez is legitimately in the discussions for AL MVP. He’ll probably end up with mostly down-ballot votes, but that he’s in the discussion at all is a testament to the tremendous season he’s having. On the SB Nation MLB main page, Grant Brisbee looks at his evolution as a player, and his importance to the Indians.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Luiz Gohara (3.80 projected ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (3.14 projected ERA)

This matchup is way more lopsided than the projections make it look, but chances are that it still would’ve been featured here even if Luiz Gohara’s projected ERA weren’t so good. That’s because Max Scherzer is Max Scherzer and — like with Clayton Kershaw or Chris Sale — it takes a real dud of an opponent to keep him out of this section of Launch Angles.

Scherzer is coming off a start in which he allowed four earned runs in six innings against the Phillies. That’s a minor blip for most, but a total meltdown in comparison to his usual dominance. Scherzer will look to right the ship — so to speak — against another lackluster NL East offense on Wednesday as the Braves visit DC.

Atlanta will send the rookie Gohara to the mound for his second career start after his first outing against the Rangers was, well... less than ideal. In his debut, Gohara threw four innings, allowed six earned runs and walked four. If you’re looking for silver linings, he did manage to strike out six, but judging results and not process for a 21-year-old September call-up is a mistake anyway. The Braves are simply getting Gohara’s feet wet at the big league level.


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