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Launch angles — September 15, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/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

Francisco Lindor keeps Cleveland’s hopes alive — +.509 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

They just keep rolling.

Trailing 2-1, with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tyler Naquin singled against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera to put the tying run on base. Francisco Mejia then pinch-hit for Yan Gomes and grounded into a fielder’s choice, replacing Naquin as the tying run at first and leaving Cleveland with just one out to work with. Luckily for them, it was Francisco Lindor’s turn to bat.

Herrera had a clear plan against Lindor, pump fastballs away. Considering the next batter Cleveland would send to the plate was either going to be Greg Allen or a pinch-hitting Austin Jackson, not giving Lindor anything to hit was probably the prudent course of action. Herrera executed the plan, but Lindor didn’t care. He reached out and knocked an 2-2 fastball on the outside edge of the zone off of the left field wall.

Zone Plot via MLB Gameday

Alex Gordon’s effort on the play was admirable, but the ball was out of his reach and the do-or-die nature of his attempt meant that Erik González (who pinch-ran for Mejia) could score easily from first base. As soon as the ball hit off the wall and it was clear that the game was not yet over, Progressive Field exploded.

Gif via MLB.com

Cleveland would strand Lindor at second, sending the game to extra innings, but at that point it seemed a foregone conclusion that they would extend their win streak. Cody Allen came on to retire the Royals in the top of the 10th, allowing a lone single to Alcides Escobar, but nothing more. The bottom of the 10th saw José Ramírez lead off with a double and Edwin Encarnación follow with a walk before Jay Bruce would send everybody home, winning streak intact.

Gif via MLB.com

Cleveland has now won a mind-blowing 22 games in a row. Bruce put the bow on the victory, but it was Lindor that put them in position in the first place with his huge game-tying double off the wall.

Yesterday’s best game score

Zack Godley — 85

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.

The Diamondbacks broke out early on Thursday and scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning, ensuring that Zack Godley needed only to be solid for them to cruise to a victory over the Rockies. He was more than solid, he was excellent; delivering eight innings of scoreless baseball to increase Arizona’s lead in the top NL wild card spot to five games.

Godley allowed five hits, walked no one, and struck out seven. He induced just nine swinging strikes, instead utilizing ground balls to get the job done. In total, Godley recorded eight ground ball outs, including three double plays. He averaged an exit velocity against of 87.3 miles per hour with plenty of hard hit balls mixed in, but Godley’s average launch angle against on the day was just five degrees — hard contact doesn’t hurt as much if it’s on the ground.

One of my favorite things is to look at a pitcher’s zone plot by pitch type when there’s a distinct separation between secondary pitch type locations. While Godley’s main offering is a cutter that he throws all over, on Thursday his curveball and sinker stayed — with a couple exceptions — on their designated side of the zone.

Chart via Baseball Savant

It’s like an old 90’s sitcom where fighting siblings put tape down the middle of the room to avoid each other’s space at all costs. Luckily, Godley’s cutter was there to mediate and bring the rest of his pitch types together, as a family.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Jorge Alfaro — 459 feet

Gif via MLB.com

Jorge sure did hit that ball al-FAR-o.

*holds for applause*

Marlins starter Vance Worley threw Alfaro an 0-1 knuckle-curve that dropped in on the inside corner of the plate. It wasn’t what you would call hung, necessarily, but Alfaro read the pitch all the way and was able to turn on it with extreme prejudice. There was no doubt it was gone; the ball left the bat at 110 miles per hour, seeking refuge in the second deck of Citizens Bank Park.

Now that the specifics of the blast are out of the way, let’s talk about the elephant in the room — that guy looking at a clipboard who almost gets hit with the ball.

Gif via MLB.com

At first I thought it was a guy looking at his phone, but after further review that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Screenshot via MLB.com

Maybe he’s an employee of some kind? Or just a guy reviewing some documents at a baseball game. Look, I’m certainly not going to shame this guy or anyone who’s on their phone/not fully attentive. That’s a tired, “old-man yells at cloud” type of take that really has no place in our culture any more now that most people are connected to their mobile devices at all times.

HOWEVER, it might be prudent to look up after the ball is hit and the crowd starts to roar. According to Statcast, Alfaro’s home run had a hang time of 5.5 seconds. That should be plenty of time to glance at the action for a moment and see what’s happening. Do whatever it is you want to do at a baseball game — no judgements here — but remember it’s probably a good idea to have some situational awareness and check in on the action when the crowd pops off and you’re sitting where projectiles could be incoming.

SABRy tidbits

  • One of the stresses of writing about baseball is having your analysis immediately proven short-sighted or flat out wrong. The ebbs and flows of the game mean that the things we think we know may change on a dime, but that doesn’t make an article that misses the mark sting any less. Over on the SB Nation MLB page, Marc Normandin laid his soul bare to discusses the stress associated with writing about Rhys Hoskins and why he won’t do it.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Chris Sale (2.89 projected ERA) vs. Matt Andriese (4.26 projected ERA)

Chris Sale is no longer the clear-cut AL Cy Young favorite. Not so much because of his performance but because Corey Kluber has come on strong. Sale’s not entirely blameless as he’s had a 3.99 ERA and a 3.09 FIP since August 1st (ha, imagine being so good that those numbers are considered lackluster), but Kluber’s recent dominance and Cleveland’s headline-making success has evened the race. The Red Sox lead the AL East by 3.5 games, so this start is about more than an award as the division is not yet locked up. But Sale’s final few outings are definitely magnified because the Cy Young race has tightened up.

Matt Andriese will be making his third start and fourth appearance since returning from a hip injury that sidelined him for nearly two and a half months. Both of his previous starts have been, well, less than ideal. In those starts he allowed 11 earned runs in 6 23 innings, with his last start lasting just 1 23 innings total. It will most likely take a much improved effort from Andriese to keep the Rays in Friday’s contest against Sale.


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