Opening Day Takeaways
So the real mainland Opening Day, call it First Full Slate Day, has come and gone and there was quite a bit for the baseball junkie to take in yesterday. It was Opening Day so we had a number of great pitchers taking to the hill (it's what aces do on Opening Day - they pitch), there were curious personnel choices, yet another Japanese phenom bursting onto the scene, veterans regaining their old form while for other vets the red flags and warning signs became even more ominous.
Brad Ausmus started at catcher for the Astros last night. Yes, this Brad Ausmus, the guy who turns 39 April 14th and has a .241/.326/.311 line to show for the last three seasons. Houston Manager said all the things you might have expected him to:
"The reason why I'm doing it is I want my starting pitcher to be comfortable," Cooper said. "This is a big year for us, and I want to make sure that he is comfortable and slowly kind of work the kid (J.R. Towles) in catching Roy (Oswalt) instead of just dropping the hammer on him, because that's not the right way to do it.
"We're going to slowly work him in. He'll catch the other guys for the most part. He and I have already talked about it. He is just happy to be here and be a part of this team."
I don't love this logic. Towles is 24 years-old and a career .301/.389/.471 hitter in the Minors. He's ready, and gave every indication as such in limited MLB time last season. Playing Ausmus accomplishes nothing. What also accomplishes nothing is pinch hitting for Ausmus with Darin Erstad, one of the few Major League players who is comparably pitiful at the plate (Erstad has hit .248/.310/.335 since 2005). In the top of the 7th last night in a four run game and with a man on first base with one out, Cooper sent Erstad to hit for Ausmus and then put Towles in to catch for the bottom half. It was an implicit endorsement of Erstad's bat over Towles's which, as far as I am concerned, amounts to an early indictment of Cooper's managerial chops.
So here is a quick overview of Kosuke Fukudome's first day on the job for the Cubs: He had three of their five hits, six of their eight total bases, one of their four walks and all three of their RBI. As Larry David would say, prett-ay, prett-ay, prett-ay good.
Here's the rundown on some of the name pitchers who took to the hill yesterday:
IP H BB SO ERA
Santana 7.0 3 2 8 2.57
Peavy 7.0 3 3 4 0.00
Harang 6.0 3 2 6 3.00
Bedard 5.0 3 4 5 1.80
Webb 6.0 3 4 6 3.00
Oswalt 5.1 11 1 6 5.06
Zito 5.0 8 1 1 7.20
Sabathia 5.1 6 3 7 8.44
Myers 5.0 5 2 2 5.40
Penny 6.2 4 2 4 0.00
The Giants are well on their way to the level of suck many of us portended. Yesterday the team hit for a .172/.258/.172 line. Five singles, three walks, no extra base hits.
James Shields threw 27 pitches in the first inning yesterday against Baltimore. He ended his outing after seven having thrown 86. That's what we call settling in.
Jim Thome is a career .240/.342/.415 hitter against left handed pitching so it stood to reason that since he was facing the 6'7" southpaw and defending Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia yesterday, that the opener might not be the best opportunity for him to get off to a great start.
Let's just say Thome is hitting .400/.400/1.600 in 2008 thus far.
How are veteran relievers Tom Gordon, Kerry Wood and Eric Gagne feeling today?
Tomorrow we close out our preview series with the AL East. Be sure to check back. Also, I would love to know what stood out for readers from Opening Day.