(with apologies to Ogden Nash)
Hi, everyone! And welcome to Write-Up For Yesterday, BttP’s guide to what the heck happened yesterday in baseball. We’re not gonna just hand you some scores here, because we trust you know how to type the letters E-S-P-N into your internet machine. Instead, we hope to give you a fuller and richer understanding of important goings on from yesterday in baseball. The big stories, and the noteworthy performances-good and bad.
STORY LINES AND NEWS CYCLE EPHEMERA
Stephen Strasburg did nothing to regain anyone’s confidence as he had one of the worst starts of his major league career, allowing eight runs – seven earned – to the Diamondbacks in just 3 1/3 innings. Manager Matt Williams dispelled any concerns about his health, saying he’d proved that wasn’t a concern, while Strasburg himself said that his back was “good enough”, a phrase that hardly qualifies as reassuring. Strasburg has only made it more than six innings once this season and his only start in which he hasn’t allowed more than a hit per inning was the April 19th victory against the league’s worst offense, the Phillies. The good news about Strasburg’s disaster start was that minor league journeyman Clint Robinson became the first Nationals position player ever to pitch, coming into the game when Washington was down 14-4 and pitching a scoreless inning, even striking out Aaron Hill.
Noah “Thor” Syndergaard and Kris Bryant faced off in a battle that rendered prospect evaluators catatonic at the mere thought of their first major league meeting. Syndergaard flashed his ridiculous stuff and matched zeroes with Jake Arrieta through five but came unstuck in the sixth and took the loss after a single, double and home run to start the inning put the Cubs permanently on top. Bryant tripled off Syndergaard and later homered against reliever Hansel Robles. Thor, unable to help himself, later commented that the Cubs have “a lot of thunder in their lineup“.
Giancarlo Stanton launched a mammoth home run out of Dodger Stadium, apparently only the fifth time that has ever happened in the history of the park. The Marlins could have done with it counting for more than one run as they were crushed 11-1 by the 21-hit Dodgers, but at least everyone’s talking about the homer rather than the loss. Statcast broke down just how hard and how far Stanton hit the ball, which can be summarised thus: very hard, and very far.
From one extreme to the other: Alfredo Simon threw not one, but two eephus pitches to Torii Hunter, clocking in at a scorching 63mph. Torii seemed to find the first one funny, but perhaps it wasn’t so amusing when he popped out on the second. The Twins lost 2-1 on a walkoff bloop single in the 10th, so maybe if Torii could just have hit these, things would have been different:
Elsewhere, Chris Sale and Mike Fiers got their seasons back on track with good starts, Sale aided by his own fielding prowess in a 4-2 White Sox victory. Unheralded Giants rookie Chris Heston threw a two-hit complete game against the free-swinging Astros, Albert Pujols baffled Rafael Betancourt by stealing second base (his ninety-ninth) and the Mariners went nuts at Safeco with six home runs against the Padres, who have now allowed 50 homers in 34 games.
TWEETS WE LIKED (the Stanton Home Run Edition)
Bolsinger on Stanton’s HR: “That was the hardest hit I’ve ever seen. Actually, I take that back, his last hit against me was the hardest.”
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) May 13, 2015
Who even cares about this game just cancel it and let Stanton take BP.
— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) May 13, 2015
In play, holy shit(s) https://t.co/DEhBBznKLD
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) May 13, 2015
ARTICLES WE LIKED
Jeff Sullivan examined the surprising evolution of Carlos Peguero, suddenly the most productive outfielder the Rangers have.
At Just A Bit Outside, Owen Watson wrote about how pitchers are trying not to throw Kris Bryant any pitches he can hit.
The Kansas City Star’s Andy McCullough regaled us with a tale about how Edinson Volquez conned $600 out of Vicente Padilla and Joaquin Benoit.
Ryan Sullivan supplied the audio from the BP Q&A session at Miller Park.
TODAY’S BEST PITCHING MATCHUPS
(Deserved Run Average included in brackets)
In an effort to provide some insight into what to watch out for in a pitcher’s repertoire, today’s matchups are brought to you by Fangraphs’ pitch values and the Pitchf/x data available from Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus.
Francisco Liriano (PIT, 3.39) vs. Cole Hamels (PHI, 4.11) (7:05 ET)
Two left-handers who also have significantly above-average changeups; in Hamels’ case, the second-most valuable changeup for any MLB starter in the last three seasons, according to Fangraphs (and really the most valuable amongst active regular starters as far back as you care to look, as Yusmeiro Petit does not really fall into that category). Liriano also possesses an extremely effective slider, which has the 12th-best whiff-per-swing mark (43.72%) since Pitchf/x tracking began.
Jose Quintana (CHW, 4.12) vs. Jimmy Nelson (MIL, 3.58) (8:10 ET)
Nelson’s slider has been exceptional since he got to the majors, with his Whiff/Swing% of 45.88% ranking third-best amongst all starters in the Pitch f/x era. This year he has ditched his changeup and cut back on his sinker in favour of an outstanding curveball, which has an even higher mark of 51.72%, a rate that currently stands as the best since tracking began (although he has only thrown 107 of them). Quintana’s repertoire is considerably less flashy but he mixes a four-seamer, curve, cutter and sinker to good effect – his changeup fares much less well – and is one of just 16 pitchers consistent and durable enough to pitch over 200 innings in each of the last two seasons.
James Shields (SDP, 5.32) vs. Taijuan Walker (SEA, 6.41) (10:10 ET)
Big Changeup James not only uses his changeup almost as often as his four-seamer, he is both good at getting hitters to swing at it (58% swing rate) and more than a third of those swings miss, which is a very handy combination. While his swinging strike percentage is way up this year, leading to 55 victims in just 42 innings, he has also been the victim of the long ball at both home and on the road, a trend that will correct itself given his outlandish 25% HR/FB rate. Opponents currently whiff on more than 21% of Walker’s four-seamers and have just a .207 True Average against his cutter. Unfortunately, when they do make contact with anything except his cutter, he is getting hit hard, especially on his splitter, which opponents are slugging .477 against – hence the 6.41 DRA for this former top pitching prospect.
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