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Launch angles — September 29, 2017

All the baseball nuggets you need to start your day.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox Patrick Gorski-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

Rob Brantly ties it up with a 2-run blast — +.398 WPA

Gif via MLB.com

I’ve been staring at this gif and the box score from the White Sox/Angels game for a while now, trying to come up with an interesting angle or takeaway to guide this blurb. The Angels had been in the AL Wild Card race for a while, but this was the first game they had played since being mathematically eliminated, meaning this collapse at the hands of a lesser team doesn’t actually carry any weight as we enter the final weekend of the regular season. So while Rob Brantly — a nondescript, Quad-A type catcher — facing Jesse Chavez and his 5-plus ERA doesn’t scream enticing content, we’ll push forward with blinders on to the greater context and focus on the moment itself.

Chavez and Angels catcher Carlos Pérez had a clear plan of attack against Brantly: keep everything down. Despite the ultimate outcome, it was a plan that they executed fairly well.

Zone Plot via MLB Gameday

Brantly fouled off the second pitch, and chased the fifth, but was otherwise able to lay off Chavez’s offerings to work the count full. First base was open, but since Brantly isn’t the type of hitter you’re going to pitch around, Chavez made sure his sixth pitch caught a little bit more of the zone than the previous five. Brantly, clearly unsurprised by another low pitch golfed the 90 mile per hour fastball into the right field seats to tie the game at four.

With Mike Scioscia’s moves no longer requiring a sense of urgency, Chavez stayed in the game and allowed back-to-back singles to the next two hitters, allowing the White Sox to take a lead that they would not relinquish. Since my tone thus far has been a bit uninspiring, I’ll leave you with this thought; high stakes or not, that is still an awesome moment for a player like Rob Brantly. No matter what his career looks like from this point forward, he’ll always have the memory of hitting a game-tying home run in a big league game, and that’s pretty cool.

Yesterday’s best game score

Carlos Carrasco — 90

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.

In his final tune up before the playoffs, against a potential first-round opponent; Carlos Carrasco was filthy. He threw 8 13 shutout innings, allowed just six hits and one walk, and struck out 14 Twins. Carrasco kept Minnesota on the ground all day as they made eight ground ball outs compared to just one out in the air.

Carrasco’s main weapon on Thursday was his curveball. He threw it 32 times — one more than his next most used pitch, the two-seam fastball — and used it to generate seven of his 15 total swinging strikes. While Carrasco kept his changeup to a relatively localized part of the strike zone, he allowed his curveball to dance all over the place, and opposing hitters chased it aggressively when it stayed down.

Zone Plots via Baseball Savant

There’s an legit argument to be made that giving Minnesota an extended look at Cleveland’s number two starter isn’t prudent, but it’s also true that with such a long layoff coming, Carrasco probably needed the work. If the Twins do happen to make it to the ALDS we’ll get to see if they fair any better against Carrasco having just seen him. Based on this outing though, it’ll be an uphill battle.

Yesterday’s biggest home run

Giancarlo Stanton — 467 feet

Gif via MLB.com

“Good evening, Mr. Stanton. It’s nice to see you again. The usual, sir? A comically long, line-drive home run that makes everyone gasp and shake their head in amazement? Excellent.”

It’s been a treat to finally see Giancarlo Stanton put together the incredible power year that we’d all hoped would happen if he could ever get past those nagging injury issues. I don’t know about you, but it’s everything I’d hoped it could be.

On Thursday, Stanton socked his 58th and 59th dingers of the season. The second one which we’re featuring here left his bat at 119 miles per hour and traveled 467 feet to the very back of Marlins Park. It’s a part of the stadium that — thanks to Stanton and Aaron Judge — was featured prominently during the Home Run Derby this year, but is rarely frequented during actual games.

Rex Brothers threw Stanton a first pitch slider and hung it badly. After Stanton demolished pitch, Brothers immediately froze in his follow through because he, like everybody else in the state of Florida, knew exactly what had just happened. But notice that while his body remained still, Brothers turned his head track the ball’s long flight path. Even when personally victimized by a massive Stanton home run, it’s hard to look away.

Screen Shot via MLB.com

Three games remain, and Stanton is just one home run from number 60. Since the playoff races haven’t materialized quite as much excitement as hoped, this will serve as a fun consolation storyline to track during the final weekend of the season. Let’s finish with a slow motion replay of Thursday’s longest home run, because not including it would be doing you — our loyal reader — a great disservice.

Gif via MLB.com

SABRy tidbits

  • We always feature the longest home run of the night here at Launch Angles, and some of the winners — Thursday’s included — are simply jaw dropping. Since baseball is in the midst of a home run surge, Tim Newcomb of Popular Mechanics took a moment to find out what’s the farthest distance someone could possibly mash a tater.

Tonight’s best pitching matchup

Gerrit Cole (3.89 projected ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3.24 projected ERA)

A few years ago this matchup would’ve carried a bit more intrigue than it does now, only because both Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg were both elite prospects with the incredibly high ceilings. Strasburg has basically fulfilled that promise, but injury issues have plagued his consistency from year to year. Still, he’s in the midst of his best season to date, and Friday’s outing against the Pirates will be his last before he (presumably) starts Game two of the NLDS against the Cubs. Cole on the other hand will be making the final start of what has been his worst season as a big leaguer. Hurt mainly by a spike in home-run-to-fly-ball rate this season, Cole has still been valuable, but has seen his reputation as a top-flight starter take a hit.


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