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Launch angles — September 26, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Victor Decolongon/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

Charlie Blackmon ends things for the Rockies — -.257 WPA

GIF via MLB.com

MLB didn’t have too many exciting games yesterday. Because it was a Monday, we saw only 12 games total, and seven of those were decided by six or more runs. Of the five close contests, most were resolved early, without any late-inning drama or incredible comebacks.

Luckily, the Rockies gave us something worth watching. After scoring in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to make the margin 5-4, Colorado had three outs to tally one run off Kyle Barraclough. The frame got off to a good start when Jonathan Lucroy worked an eight-pitch walk; Mike Tauchman would enter to pinch-run for the backstop. But Carlos Gonzalez going down on strikes meant the Rox had just two outs left.

Maybe that’s why Blackmon was so desperate to make contact here. This isn’t a pitch you often see put in play:

Image via MLB.com

Likewise, this isn’t the way most games end — with a whimper, in the form of a casual check with the umpire to make sure the call is correct. For the Rockies, an 82.6 mph liner that could’ve tied the score ended up sealing the deal. Such is the craziness of baseball, and on an otherwise boring day, such is the biggest play across MLB.

Yesterday’s best game score

Yu Darvish — 84

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

You might not think an 84 is all that impressive, considering this is Yu Darvish we’re talking about. Indeed, he’d met or surpassed that threshold 10 times in his career before Monday. But the context here matters: After seven innings, the Dodgers had an 8-1 lead, so Darvish came out despite having thrown just 91 pitches. Had this been a more important game, Darvish’s line — seven innings, one earned run, two hits, no walks and nine strikeouts — would probably look a lot better.

Darvish has maybe the biggest arsenal in MLB — he’s thrown eight different pitches this season. Against the Padres, though, he limited himself to five, and three of those in particular:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The four-seamer and cutter gave Darvish two heaters to attack San Diego with; combined, they went for 45 strikes — with 15 of those called and eight swinging — in 62 appearances. Meanwhile, the slider was absolutely dominant, picking up five whiffs and five calls out of a mere 23 pitches. Facing one of the worst hitting teams in baseball, Darvish didn’t need a deep pitch count or a deep repertoire.

Although his first several starts in Dodger blue had their ups and downs, Darvish has gotten on a roll recently. Over his past three outings, he’s given up one earned run in 19 13 innings, while racking up 21 strikeouts to just one walk. As L.A. prepares for the postseason — and tries to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1988 — it’ll need all the mileage it can get from the Japanese ace.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Marwin Gonzalez — 443 feet

GIF via MLB.com

This Rangers-Astros game really sums up the state of Texas baseball in 2017. In the second inning, with both teams scoreless, Collin McHugh hung a 1-0 changeup, and Joey Gallo — as he so often does — hit a moonshot:

GIF via MLB.com

That long ball went 442 feet deep, giving the home team an early 1-0 lead. But it wouldn’t last for long, as Houston (which has the best offense in MLB) put a bunch of runs on the board against Texas (which has one of the worst pitching staffs in MLB).

Still, at least the Rangers had the best dinger of the night. Or, at least, they would’ve had the best dinger of the night — were it not for Gonzalez. The Astros super-utility man worked the count to 2-2 against Paolo Espino, then finally made quality contact on the sixth pitch:

Image via Brooks Baseball

The Rangers didn’t win the game, obviously. They’ll head to their couches come October, while the Astros will play in the divisional series for only the second time in the past 12 seasons. And Texas couldn’t even take home this measly consolation prize — Houston had to snatch that one, too. Still, after years of seeing your cross-state rival dominate the AL West, I suppose I’d be happy to take revenge, too.

SABRy tidbits

  • On Sunday, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem. His decision led the usual crowd to condemn the “politicization” of sports. As Athletics Nation’s Dani Baker-Gillman lays out, though, baseball has always been a political game, from its creation and throughout its history until the present.
  • The 2017 season has been a nightmare for the Giants, who have sunk to 62-95, tying them with the Phillies for the worst record in the majors. On Sunday, Brandon Crawford tried, and failed, to bunt against Clayton Kershaw. How are these two things related? (Aside from the fact that they both involve the Giants.) Let Grant Brisbee explain.

Today’s best pitching matchup

J.A. Happ (4.23 projected ERA) vs. Chris Sale (2.87 projected ERA)

Sale’s credentials — leads the AL in everything, going to win the Cy Young, etc. — speak for themselves at this point. Happ, on the other hand, doesn’t have Sale’s fame, and while he’s certainly no match for Sale, he’s excelled as of late. Since the beginning of August, Happ has a 2.98 ERA and 2.85 FIP in 10 trips through the rotation. These two southpaws, facing heavily right-handed lineups, will make for an interesting matchup in Fenway.


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.