We have finally reached Opening Day! Let’s take a look at all of the stories stemming from the first day of the baseball season:
Owners of Yovani Gallardo are cursing John Axford this morning, aren’t they? It’s not like Gallardo was overly impressive (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 3 BB, 4 K), but he was supposed to win that game.
I had my concerns about Axford heading into the season (I had him ranked 19 among the 30 closers), but I never expected this type of performance. Obviously you don’t read too much into one outing, but how discouraging is it to see the line of 0.2 IP, 4 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 K? Who could’ve expected Ramon Hernandez (4-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R), of all people, would take him deep for a game-winning, three-run home run? His shaky spring (5.40 ERA, 6 BB, 9 K over 8.1 innings) certainly doesn’t help his cause.
My main concern sat with his control (4.19 BB/9 in ’10, 6.06 BB/9 over his minor league career), but that really wasn’t the real culprit yesterday. At the same time, it only makes matters worse. Obviously another poor outing or two could put him on notice, but for now his job should be safe. Still, owners who are desperate for saves should certainly have Takashi Saito on their early season radar.
Who’s Closing In Atlanta?
With lefties Adam LaRoche and Rick Ankiel due up in the ninth you would have expected Jonny Venters (a lefty) to get those duties if this was a true time-share at closer, right? Well, of course the team instead used Venters in the eighth against right-handed hitters Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.
The right-handed Craig Kimbrel tossed a perfect ninth, striking out two, to get the save. Who knows for sure what Fredi Gonzalez is going to do, but for now Kimbrel appears to have an edge in the closers role. Both players should be owned, for now, though Venters owners have to be on edge.
Brandon Belt Makes Major League Debut
Brandon Belt hit seventh in his Major League debut against Clayton Kershaw, going 1-3 (though his hit didn’t leave the infield) with a walk and a strikeout. However, it’ll be hard to imagine him staying in that spot for long, despite Pablo Sandoval (1-3) hitting eighth. What was impressive was that he saw 27 pitches, most of anyone on the Giants (in fact only Ryan Braun – 28 and Scott Rolen – 31 had more, while Torii Hunter and Colby Rasmus saw the same 27 pitches). He should produce, and if he can continue to show that type of patience the Giants will have to move him up the order soon enough (it isn’t impossible to imagine him hitting second instead of Freddy Sanchez). If someone in your league hasn’t grabbed him yet, do so immediately.
- It just wasn’t a very good day to be a closer. Ryan Franklin blew his first opportunity of the year, giving up a home run to Cameron Maybin to blow a one-run lead. Jason Motte is likely the next to get opportunities and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Franklin regress (1.38 BB/9 in ’10 compared to a 3.54 BB/9 in ’09). Don’t pull the panic chord quite yet, however.
- Mark Teixeira is usually bad in April. No one ever said anything about March though, did they? He went 1-3 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 1 R and now the question is, when the calendar turns to April will he struggle as normal?
- Edinson Volquez allowed 5 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 5, over 6 innings of work. The first two batters to face him, Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez, both took him deep. He’s still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and at this point has to be considered a shaky play until he proves otherwise. I discussed him in much more detail last night, which you can view by clicking here.
- It was a rough Opening Day for Albert Pujols, going 0-5 and grounding into three double plays. Let the speculation about his contract begin!
- Wasn’t Alex Gordon’s spring supposed to be a precursor of him putting his past struggles behind him? It was convincing enough to convince Ned Yost to bat him third. Gordon certainly delivered, going 0-5 on Opening Day. Obviously we shouldn’t draw any conclusions quite yet, but it certainly wasn’t an awe-inspiring debut.
- Tim Stauffer, a favorite sleeper of many, allowed 2 R on 9 H and 1 BB, striking out 2, over 6.0 innings in a no decision against the Cardinals. With a minor league career K/9 6.11, he clearly doesn’t bring much to the table in that department. He’s a low-end option, but should certainly be considered when starting at home.
- Clayton Kershaw (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 9 K) vs. Tim Lincecum (7.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 5 K) certainly lived up to the hype. If Kershaw can continue to pound the strike zone as he did, the sky truly is the limit. Could he emerge as one of the elite in 2011? So far, so good.
- It wasn’t pretty, but Jonathan Broxton returned to the closer’s role. He allowed a solo home run to Pat Burrell, but that was the only blemish on his line. Hong-Chih Kuo (1 BB, 1 K in an inning) is waiting in the wings, and clearly should be owned as a handcuff, but for now Broxton is the man in Los Angeles.
What are your thoughts from yesterday’s games? Who impressed you most? Who were you most disappointed with?