Baseball BeatApril 04, 2006
Opening Day Notes
By Rich Lederer

At the risk of being apprehended by the small sample size police, here are some facts, observations, and questions about the greatest day of the season (unless, of course, you are a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays or Minnesota Twins)...

  • ...the Sunday night game counts, too, because it didn't end until Monday morning. It did end, right?

  • If C.C. Sabathia (NYSE: CC) were a stock, how much would it have plummeted in the third inning when he walked off the mound with a strained abdominal muscle?

  • Didn't Joe Morgan all but guarantee that Sabathia would win 20 games this year?

  • Was there anybody rooting harder for the rain to continue Sunday evening than Fernando Cabrera? I ran into him at Bally Total Fitness yesterday. The Cleveland relief pitcher was apparently trying to work down his 54.00 ERA. Hey, if he holds opponents scoreless for the next 17 innings, he can cut his ERA to 3.00.

  • Upon further thought, maybe I should invest in Bally's. I hear Barry Zito (47.25), Jon Lieber (21.60), Scott Kazmir (13.50), Derek Lowe (12.60), Tim Hudson (11.25), and Aaron Harang (10.80) are all desperate to join. In the Fernando Cabrera category of relievers, Blaine Boyer's 81.01 looks more like an average golf score than an ERA.

  • In total, there were 156 runs scored--or an average of 11.2 per game--in the first 14 contests. Last year, the average number of runs per game for the season was 9.2. Just wait 'til we run those #4 and #5 starters out there. Man, King Felix is already feeling the pressure.

  • Kudos to Roy Oswalt (8-5-0-0-1) for pitching the best game of anyone. He is the only pitcher who has won 20 games in each of the past two seasons. However, before we hand him the Cy Young award, let's see how he does vs. a major-league team.

  • Are Brandon McCarthy (3-0-0-0-0-2 and a "W") and Jon Papelpon (1-0-0-0-0-1) auditioning for starting assignments? Throw Francisco Liriano into the mix and, like basketball, we might have to come up with a Best Sixth Man award.

  • The attendance at the Astros home opener might have been my favorite stat of 'em all: 43,666 (106.6% full). The Rangers didn't fare too badly either: 51,541 (104.9% full). Must be something about Texas. The Dodgers didn't do as well at the turnstile in their opener. Attendance: 56,000 (100% full).

  • Who says Dodger Stadium is a pitcher's park? An 11-10 score with 29 hits. I wonder what its park factor is now?

  • All right, the stat I really liked was this one...

    Ground Balls-Fly Balls: B Webb 15-2

    Did I mention that this game was played at Coors Field?

  • Did Francisco Rodriguez's performance prove, once and for all, the silliness of the "save" as a meaningful stat? The guy comes in with a two-run lead, gives up a home run to Roberto Petagine, records three outs, and gets "credited" with a save? Where do I sign up?

  • ...Oh, and if we are going to make changes in the way we keep score, how 'bout getting rid of the notion of a "sacrifice" fly? At best, it should be a scorer's decision, similar to a sacrifice bunt. But isn't giving a player an RBI enough? I mean, how different is a F9 vs. a 4-3, especially when the infield is playing back?

    I couldn't give a better example of how ridiculous a SF is than pointing to what Jason Kendall was credited with last night. He hit a sacrifice fly in the NINTH inning of a 15-1 game. Now there's a selfless player!

  • Was there a basketball game last night?

  • Did anybody else notice that Curt Schilling threw 117 pitches? Or that Carlos Zambrano tossed 105 and couldn't even make it out of the fifth inning?

  • Curtis Granderson went 0-for-5 and struck out three times. He hit a ton (5 HR plus 14 BB and 7 SB) in the Grapefruit League. Just goes to show how much more difficult it is to hit in a big-league game than it is in spring training. Oh wait, the Tigers center fielder was facing the Kansas City Royals. Scratch that thought.

  • While on the subject of tough openers, how about Prince Fielder's debut? He was K's, that is. Granted, the rookie faced a tough left-hander in Oliver Perez, but Cecil's son is going to have to make better contact if he wants to avoid being platooned.

  • Jason Bay walked three times. With Joe Randa hitting behind him, I wonder how many good pitches Bay will get this year? Don't be surprised if the Pirate slugger racks up about 120 free passes and an OBP well over .400.

  • Chris Shelton went deep twice. I can just see fantasy league managers scrambling to get him into their lineups, like yesterday.

  • Jonny (or is it Jhonny?) Gomes, Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Adam LaRoche, Matt Murton, Mike Piazza, and Frank Thomas all went yard their first time up. Is there a better feeling for a ballplayer?

  • I gotta wonder though if Piazza's home run isn't going to raise the expectations of Padres fans and perhaps set him up for a fall later in the year? I would be surprised if the future first-ballot Hall of Famer hits more than 20 HR this year. Poor Mike, the guy can sure pick his ballparks, huh? Let's see...Dodger Stadium, Joe Robbie Stadium, Shea Stadium, and now Petco--four of the most difficult hitter parks around.

  • Jim Thome's homer was a feel good story for everyone who lives outside Cleveland. Well, now that I think about it for a moment, maybe there are some Thome fans from his days with the Indians. He and The Big Hurt are likely to battle for the AL Comeback Player of the Year award. Over in the NL, Scott Rolen (remember him?) got off to a nice start with three hits, including a grand slam. Rolen and a guy named Barry Bonds are the favorites for such honors in the NL.

  • Looking for another warm and fuzzy? Kenji Johjima hitting a HR in his first game certainly qualifies. I don't know if the veteran should be eligible for AL Rookie of the Year or not but, as long as he is, there is no use in betting against him.

  • Are the reigning MVPs any good? Albert Pujols went yard twice and Alex Rodriguez slugged a grand salami. They did a few other things, too. Hmmm, did I really draw #1 in my fantasy pool and elect to slide back to #8?

  • Is there a better feeling than seeing a bunch of crooked numbers in the boxscore of one of your fantasy team players? Yes, seeing them for two or more players, right? Let's face it, Albert's 2-3-2-4 line screams two HR and two BB for those of us who know how to "read" what otherwise looks like nothing more than a street address.

  • Xavier Nady went 4-for-4 with two doubles. I bet Padres management is hoping he doesn't pull a Jason Bay, circa 2004, on them.

  • Hideki Matsui had a pretty good line, too. He went a perfect 4-for-4 and added a couple of runs, four RBI, and two walks for good measure.

  • Tom Glavine (6-6-1-1-3-5, 1-0) began 2006 in the same manner he finished 2005. Few people realize that the two-time Cy Young Award winner had the third-lowest ERA in the majors in the second half last year. He is pitching inside and throwing his curve more than ever.

  • Is David Wright still an emerging growth stock or has he already graduated to a blue chip? If this is his so-called breakout year, what do you call 2005 when the then-22-year-old hit .306/.388/.523 with 42 2B, 27 HR, 72 BB, 17 SB, 99 R and 102 RBI?

  • Is Ryan Howard hot or what?

  • I'm happy for Jimmy Rollins but...

  • Cardinals fans might want to take a photo of the following line:

    Hitters    AB  R  H RBI  BB  SO  LOB  AVG 
    A Miles 2B  5  2  4   2   0   0    1 .800

  • For proponents of Pythagorean won-loss records, are the Yankees really 3-0 now? By the same token, I guess that makes the A's 0-3.

    My turn's up. What did you notice?

  • Comments

    Are the reigning MVPs any good?

    Yes, and so are last year's 2nd and 3rd place finishers, too!

    Andruw - 4-2-2-4 (HR)
    D. Lee - 2-2-1-2 (3 BB, 2B)
    Ortiz - 5-2-3-3 (HR)
    Vlad - 4-1-2-2 (HR)

    Out of curiousity, who'd you take at #8 in your fantasy draft after passing up the #1 spot?

    Ground Balls-Fly Balls: D Lowe 11-2

    Similar to Webb but amazingly different results.

    Basketball? Yep, there was a game last night. Florida Gators beat UCLA by 16 points for the NCAA Championship! Since the media's favorite didn't win, you haven't heard anything about it.

    The reds pitching might be even worse than was originally thought (if that is possible). The Astros shut-out "the marlins" despite being throttled by Dontrelle Willis.

    Harang L, 0-1 5 9 9 6 3 3 100 10.80
    CHammond 0 2 2 2 0 0 8 --
    Burns 1 2 1 1 2 1 28 9.00
    Belisle 1 1 0 0 1 0 22 0.00
    Coffey 1 1 0 0 0 0 10 0.00
    RiWhite 1 3 4 1 1 0 20 9.00

    IP H R ER BB K HR Season ERA
    R. Oswalt (W, 1-0) 8.0 5 0 0 1 8 0 0.00
    B. Lidge (S, 1) 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0.00

    - Barry Zito's last 2 starts combined against the NYY, both in Oakland...

    4.2IP, 13H, 13ER, 3HR, 7BB, 6SO, and 27.86 ERA.

    - It's going to be a LOOOOOOONNNG year for Joe Girardi. The Marlins lose 1-0 with the only run being scored on a wild pitch with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th inning. Nice.

    Zito puts up lines like that against the Yanks, and he thinks he can handle the pressure of playing in New York? This might turn out to be the biggest head case tragedy ever.

    After seeing Sunday's opener, I finally get Cleveland's reasoning behind starting Boone over Marte at 3B.

    Sabathia's gonna get hungry before the All Star break.

    Tom Glavine is available in my league. Is he a pick up? I'd dump Kazmir...

    One performance that really stands out in my head is Brandon McCarthy, who Rich mentions in this piece. McCarthy showed three real plus pitches against the Indians, including that curve that fools every hitter he throws it to. He also showed the improvements on his change from a year ago are for real, so he really does have three pitches he can use in any count.

    Once a seller in McCarthy, I now see a future star ... all of which makes the Contreras extension that much more frustrating.

    You are so right about the sacrifice fly joke. Just think, if a batter reaches base on an error - scoring a runner from third in the process, he is charged with an AB, may not be given an RBI, plus he becomes a baserunner and his team has not added an out in the inning, plus his team's run-scoring potential in the inning is increased.

    Contrast this with a sac fly in which an out is added and no baserunner is gained, while a team's run-scoring potential in the inning is decreased. Somehow baseball thinks the latter situation is more of an accomplishment than the former. The sac fly was devised for the purpose of fattening batting averages, not for any meritorious reason.

    Think there's something wrong with that guy Jim? There's been no coverage of Florida's NCAA win? Noah got more face time than any MLB player. Paranoia's for the weak, chump.

    Hey Brian! You still thinking about getting Lyle Overbay to play first for the White Sox? he's pretty handy with the glove and respectable on the basepaths, and I think the Jays might let him go for a package of Brandon McCarthy, Jerry Owens and a good left handed reliever...say, Neal Cotts? I think that deal might get it done.

    Man, that was the most lopsided trade proposal ever. It even motivated Kenny Williams to sign Paul Konerko, just to avoid the possibility that your trade could ever occur. Thank god for the Archives, huh?

    Oh MikeQ, how nice of you to point that out. First, for accuracy sake, it was Damaso Marte, not Cotts.

    The Jim Thome trade happened following my suggestions, and I will admit that Ken Williams plan was better than mine. Both of us realized the team needed some LH sock, but he found a bit more at a different cost. And for what it's worth, I still disagree with the Konerko signing.

    It was not a good trade proposal, I realize that now. If we all had our poor winter suggestions pointed out, no one would make a good armchair GM.

    Out of curiousity, who'd you take at #8 in your fantasy draft after passing up the #1 spot?

    I took Jason Bay at #8. I didn't slide back to that spot because I liked Bay better than ARod or Pujols. Instead, I opted to move to the middle of the draft for four reasons:

    1. As great as ARod and Pujols are, I thought 3B and 1B were rather deep this year. By the same token, I actually felt as if OF were surprisingly thin, particularly given the fact that our league has 15 teams and, therefore, our starters go 45 deep.

    2. I thought I would have a much better shot at another outstanding offensive player in the second round by drafting 23td rather than 30th. I selected Chase Utley with my second pick. I don't think he would have been there had I kept the #1 pick.

    3. When you draft #1 or #15, you're always 30 picks from your next selection. Lots can happen between picks.

    4. I also like drafting from one of the middle spots because I think I'm less apt to reach and make bad choices, knowing I'm never too far from my next pick.

    The bottom line is that one can't view it as ARod or Pujols vs. Bay. For better or worse, my team would have been totally different had I kept the #1 pick. I'll report back from time to time and let you know how I'm doing. Thanks for asking.

    Tom Glavine is available in my league. Is he a pick up? I'd dump Kazmir...

    Well, I wouldn't give up on Kazmir so quickly. Like Glavine, Kazmir had a huge second half. He is young and has a lot of upside--much more than Glavine, particularly given where they are in their respective careers. That said, Kazmir had a poor spring and his outing on Monday gave no sign that he has turned things around.

    I guess it comes down to two things:

    1. Time horizon (this year vs. keeper league)

    2. Categories (Kazmir will do better in a format that counts strikeouts)

    Good luck!

    1. i really wonder what hideki matsui would have done against korean/cuban/etc pitching in the wbc. but an OBP and AVG of 1.000 for 1 day aint too shabby. Johjima doesnt seem to be too overwhelmed by MLB pitching so far either.

    2. zito had a pretty good 1st inning i think. its just when he decided to stop throwing strikes in the 2nd that he really got in trouble. im glad for one thing though, it put a sock in the talk of all the cubreporter posters who kept belly-aching that the cubs should have tried to trade for him!

    3. keep an eye on the florida pitching made up of ex-cubs or could-have-been-cubs (the majority of it: willis, mitre, wellemeyer, borowski, nolasco, pinto). so far, so good, eh?

    4. adam dunn is a comedy in motion. even when catching a pop-up, he ends up smacking womack in the head with his mitt!

    I know about Cotts. I read your original post. The Sox already traded Marte, and you can't trade players to whom you no longer have the rights. Neal Cotts was a fascetious stand in for the departed Mr. Marte.

    And I agree with you on Konerko. If he sucks this oh man. That contract is untradable.

    But man...McCarthy + 2 bits for Overbay? Considering that the Brewers eventually accepted David Bush + 2 bits for him, that's farfarfarfarfarfarfarfarfarfarfarfar too much from the White Sox. Though I will concede you had the form of the trade down. Lyle Overbay would get traded...and he'd be traded for a young starting pitcher, an outfield prospect, and either a starting pitching prospect or a veteran reliever. You were dead on in that regard.

    I'm glad that you're on McCarthy's side, though. He's going to have his ups and downs, but odds are he's starting by the end of 2006, and certainly by 2007. He should be pretty decent, with a chance to be more than that.

    I wonder what the odds are on Overbay outperforming Konerko this year?

    "Ground Balls-Fly Balls: B Webb 15-2

    Did I mention that this game was played at Coors Field?"

    Are they still humidifying the balls in Denver? Has this process been shown to have any effect?

    as per the Dodgers game,I notice that they've lost a huge amount of foul territory at Chavez due to the new box seats along first and third. What's next? Moving every outfield fence in by 20 feet? After all,the more runs,the more "entertainment",right? Sorry about the rant :)