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Launch angles — September 23, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Abbie Parr/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

Travis d’Arnaud gives the Mets some schadenfreude — +.347 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

2017 has been an Annus horribilis for the New York Metropolitans. Matt Harvey’s been terrible and sad, Noah Syndergaard’s been hurt for most of the year, somehow they broke Steven Matz, yadda yadda yadda, the team is 66-87 and behind both the Marlins and Braves in the NL East.

In a season like this, when the Mets have nosedived into irrelevancy as the Nationals have stormed to the division title — which they actually did before the Dodgers, funnily enough — the New York faithful just want a reason to come out and cheer. After Washington took a 6-1 lead early in Friday’s game, the crowd at Citi Field got quiet, but soon things turned around.

Juan Lagares led off the fifth inning with a bunt single against Edwin Jackson. He came around to score on another knock from Nori Aoki, who then crossed the plate on an Asdrubal Cabrera base hit. With two men on, one out, and the score 6-3 Nats, d’Arnaud stepped to the plate looking for a ball to drive. He wasted no time:

Image via Brooks Baseball

That long ball garnered huge applause, tied the score at 6, and chased Jackson. In the next inning, Joe Blanton gave up another run, giving the Mets the lead for good.

This game makes little difference in the standings for either team. The Nats are 5.5 games behind the Dodgers for the No. 1 seed and six games ahead of the Cubs for the No. 3 seed, while the Mets have a top-10 draft pick all but locked up. Still, a win like this — featuring a comeback ignited by veterans and finished off by young talent — is satisfying for New York. Doesn’t make up for the terrible season, just helps to cushion the blow a bit. Hey, there’s always next yea— * beaten by aggrieved Mets fans *

Yesterday’s best game score

Erasmo Ramirez — 83

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.

GIF via MLB.com

The Mariners’ season has been a lot more painful than the Mets’, at least in my opinion. Where New York plummeted in the standings pretty quickly, putting spectators out of their misery by the end of the spring, Seattle teased its fans by flirting with contention for most of the year, its playoff odds peaking at 31.1 percent in August before slowly declining to near-nothing.

Seattle’s starting rotation, with the fifth-lowest fWAR in the majors, bears a lot of the blame for that. So it was pretty surprising when Erasmo Ramirez, of all people, tore through the Indians, of all teams. Less than a week after Cleveland’s 22-game winning streak, the right-hander — who came into the game with a 4.56 ERA and 4.61 FIP —shut the team down, allowing one run on three hits and no walks over eight innings.

Ramirez didn’t even start the season with the M’s. He worked in the Rays rotation earlier this year, but when Tampa Bay set out to upgrade its bullpen, he found himself on the move to Seattle. That deal looks good for Seattle — Steve Cishek can leave after this season, while Ramirez has team control through 2019 — even if he remains a run-of-the-mill swingman.

As this game shows, though, Ramirez has the potential to be much more than that. You don’t fluke your way into 10 strikeouts against the team with the second-lowest K rate in MLB. If Ramirez can figure out what works and what doesn’t, and put it all together next year, maybe the Mariners won’t just tempt their fans all summer — maybe they’ll stay strong into the fall. (Then again, they’re the Mariners, so probably not.)

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Aaron Judge — 469 feet

GIF via MLB.com

Ho, hum. Another day, another Aaron Judge blast taking the top spot. The Yankees rookie — yes, he still is a rookie — now has 46 homers on the season. Four of those are in the top 50 for distance among all hitters, according to Statcast; only Giancarlo Stanton (five) has appeared on that list more often. The dude is strong. We get it.

Still, a dinger’s a dinger, so let’s break this one down. Marco Estrada fell behind the Yankees’ second hitter of the game, and he tried to even the count at 2-2 on his patented rising fastball:

Image via Brooks Baseball

Judge would have none of it. He lasered the 89 mph heater to the upper deck in the Rogers Centre for his 46th homer of the year — and a quick 1-0 lead. Although the Blue Jays would score eight unanswered runs to triumph 8-1, Judge’s homer at least put the Yankees on the board. (And, c’mon, you’re not going to give style points for this one?)

This four-bagger was part of a trend for Judge, who’s reverted to form down the stretch. After a mediocre July (115 wRC+) and a worse August (90 wRC+), Judge is slashing .262/.407/.705 for a 177 wRC+ in September. The boringly common moonshots had disappeared for a second there, but they’re back with a vengeance now. Whatever unlucky soul has to face the Yankees in the Wild Card game better be careful.

SABRy tidbits

  • With the 2017 season coming to a close, we can come to some moderately firm conclusions about last offseason’s transactions. First up: the Mark Trumbo contract, which looks like an albatross for the Orioles. Camden Chat’s Brice Freeman reflects on the first year of the three-year, $37.5 million pact, and he’s not optimistic about the next two seasons.
  • As the Red Sox prepare for the playoffs, they’re planning to use David Price out of the bullpen. Could he do for Boston what Andrew Miller did for Cleveland — pitch multiple innings in multiple games of crucial playoff series to help the club win a pennant? Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s slow down here. Over the Monster’s Matt Collins has some sensible thoughts on what Price will be for the Sox, and what he should be.

Today’s best pitching matchup

Madison Bumgarner (3.39 projected ERA) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (4.20 projected ERA)

In this Rickey Henderson Special (try figuring out what that one means), the best team in baseball faces the worst team in baseball, one day after the former clinched its fifth straight NL West title. Bumgarner gives the Giants a bit of an edge over the Dodgers, though; while he missed time early in the year after a dirt bike accident, he’s looked like his usual self when he’s taken the hill.

Here’s a fun Ryu stat. In 2014 — his last full season before this one — his ERA was 3.38, putting his ERA- at 97. In 2017, his ERA has risen slightly, to 3.46, but his ERA- has plummeted to 83. Over the past three years, the NL-wide ERA spiked from 3.66 to 4.35 (that’s an increase of 69 points), which means a pitcher with the same stats in both years looks much better now. Such is the case for Ryu, who’s capable of going toe-to-toe with MadBum as L.A. tries to pad its divisional lead.


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.