by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Ian Happ got the day off quickly, homering on the first pitch of the 2018 season, setting the tone for what was an exciting day of baseball. Giancarlo Stanton wasted no time in making his presence felt in New York, going 3-5 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and 3 R. Aaron Nola pitched extremely well (5.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K), but inexplicably was pulled after throwing 68 pitches and watched the bullpen get charged with 7 R and blow the game. Felix Hernandez turned back the clock, tossing 5.1 shutout innings he allowed 2 H and 2 BB with 4 K), to outpitch Corey Kluber and earn the win. What else happened on the field that we need to know about? Let’s take a look:
1) Carlos Martinez struggles to find the strike zone…
The Mets’ offense is expected to be an all or nothing group this season, but that wasn’t the case on Opening Day. They showed a lot of patience taking on Carlos Martinez, who failed to make it through 5.0 innings on the day. Lasting 4.1 IP he allowed 5 R (4 earned) on 4 H and 6 BB, striking out 5, over 4.1 IP (and he also hit a batter). Obviously it was a frustrating outing, but control has not been a big issue throughout his career (3.21 BB/9) and it’s likely just a blip on the radar. Don’t get down on Martinez off this one poor performance (which should go without saying).
2) Matt Davidson puts on a power display…
Davidson pulled his best Tuffy Rhodes impersonation, going 3-4 with 3 HR, 5 RBI and 4 R hitting out of the cleanup spot for the White Sox. No one was going to question his power upside, the issue entering the year was if he was going to be able to make enough contact to tap into it. Obviously strikeouts weren’t an issue yesterday and he did draw a walk, but let’s not forget that he posted a 16.3% SwStr% (leading to a 37.2% strikeout rate) over 443 PA in the Majors last season. It was a great day, but let’s not forget that it was just one day. If he can continue to make consistent contact our outlook will change, but for now he still has a lot to prove.
3) A strong start for Brian Anderson…
He did a lot of the damage to the Cubs’ Jon Lester (3.1 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 3 BB, 2 K), as he was hitting fifth and finished 2-3 with 2 RBI and 1 R (while also drawing a walk). He didn’t strike out, which is the big key after he was exposed a bit in his MLB debut last season (12.8% SwStr% led to a 29.5% strikeout rate over 84 AB, after posting a 12.0% SwStr% in the minors). There also are questions about how high his power potential is (22 HR between Double and Triple-A last season) with a spacious home ballpark and moderate fly ball (37.1% in the minors). Those two things combined don’t paint a pretty picture, and while it was a good start keep your expectations in check.
4) The bullpen costs Dylan Bundy the W…
He threw a gem against the Twins, with 7.0 shutout innings allowing just 5 H and 1 BB while striking out 7. Unfortunately for Bundy Jake Odorizzi matched him pitch-for-pitch (6.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 7 K) and Brad Brach imploded in the ninth (2 R on 2 H and 2 BB). Bundy was getting plenty of swings and misses (15), and he managed to keep the ball in the ballpark. Of course he generated just 5 groundballs vs. 9 fly balls, meaning the risk of HR remains fairly high. It was a great start to the season but there could easily be some bumps along the way. That doesn’t mean we aren’t buying, just know that the risks remain.
5) Luis Severino, Cy Young candidate…
He quickly showed that last year’s breakout was no fluke, tossing 5.2 shutout innings allowing 1 H while striking out 7. You can argue that he didn’t have excellent control, walking 3 batters, but you are definitely splitting hairs (especially when you factor in his 7 groundballs vs. 3 fly balls). Obviously he pitches in a tough division and in a less than ideal home ballpark, but there’s little reason to doubt Severino and just how good he can be. Don’t be surprised if he’s again one of the elite starters in the American League and could realistically challenge for the Cy Young Award.
6) New year, same troubles for Julio Teheran…
Taking on the Phillies, those hoping that Teheran would bounce back from a disastrous 2017 didn’t get the type of start they were hoping for. Going 5.2 innings he allowed 4 ER on 4 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, though ultimately walked away with a no decision. The biggest blow came courtesy of Cesar Hernandez (2-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R), who took him deep. Considering the home run issues he had a year ago and his 6 groundballs vs. 8 fly balls yesterday (not to mention pedestrian control) it’s getting harder and harder to believe. Maybe he figures something out, but we wouldn’t be counting on it.
7) Jose Pirela hits fourth for the Padres…
We’ll have to wait and see if he continues to get plugged into the spot, though if he does it’ll be an enviable spot to produce. He had Manuel Margot, Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer ahead of him, meaning there will be ample opportunities to drive in runs, and Pirela didn’t hurt his cause by going 2-5 yesterday. He brings .280/20/10 potential, and if he’s going to continue hitting behind the big bats 85+ RBI will suddenly be realistic. A low-cost, under-the-radar acquisition now is the perfect time to kick the tires and see if you can grab him. There’s a good chance that the window to buy low is relatively small.
8) Marcus Semien plays hero…
While he didn’t do the most damage for Oakland (that award goes to Khris Davis, who went 2-5 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R), but Semien sent the crowd home happy and capped off a solid day. He went 3-5 with 1 RBI and 2 R (he also drew a walk), though “skeptics” will point to all three hits being singles as a negative. The fact is Semien generally flew under-the-radar this spring, partly due to the injury that cost him most a good part of ’17 and helped to limit him when he was on the field, but he does bring 20/10 potential (with the upside for more). This should be just the start of a solid season.
9) With low expectations, Ty Blach delivers…
The assumption was that the Giants didn’t have much of a chance, with Blach taking on Clayton Kershaw (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 7 K), but Blach blanked the Dodgers over 5.0 innings to earn the W. He allowed 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 3, and while he did generate 10 groundballs vs. 2 walks don’t get overly excited about the performance. While it was impressive, he generated a mere 3 swinging strikes on the day backing up his pitiful 4.01 K/9 in the Majors last season. Could there be a little bit of streaming value, depending on the matchup? Perhaps, but the lack of strikeout (and upside to improve in the category) makes it nearly impossible to trust him regardless of the situation.
10) A strong start for Patrick Corbin, for the most part…
He defeated Jon Gray (4.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 4 K) and stymied the Rockies, for the most part. Going 5.2 IP he allowed 2 ER on 7 H and 1 BB, striking out 8, but both runs came courtesy of solo home runs and that was the biggest concern facing him entering the day. Considering the addition of the humidor and the fact that he generated 7 groundballs vs. 2 fly balls there’s every reason to believe that he is capable of limiting the long ball moving forward. Of course that was the assumption entering the year, so seeing a pair of home runs allowed is a slight concern. Time will tell if it continued to be an issue, but for now we are willing to overlook it.
Sources – ESPN, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:
|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 03/24/18|