The smell of freshly cut grass. The large crowds cheering on your favorite team. The vendors yelling “hot dogs” and “cold beer”. Baseballs flying out of the yard, and pitchers honing their craft, fooling hitters with outstanding pitches. Opening Day, and by extension the opening weekend is what baseball fans look forward to. The games count, and we are seeing the best of the best play the greatest game in the world while anticipating the next great young star coming up from the minor leagues. Every team has dreams of playing past game 162, and while most teams have almost no chance to get past that point, this is the time of year where players can still say they have a chance.
For statheads like myself, we like to go through the numbers and come up with the most outlandish pace stats. Some of these examples include:
Adam Eaton is on pace for 377 runs scored (seven runs scored in the first three games for Washington)
Eaton and Lorenzo Cain are on pace for 432 hits (eight hits in three games)
Matt Davidson was on pace for 486 home runs after Opening Day (and is still on pace for 162 along with Charlie Blackmon).
Kyle Gibson and Trevor Williams are on pace to allow 0 hits in 198 innings (both starters went six hitless innings in their opening start)
The Los Angeles Dodgers are on pace to allow just 81 runs for the season. The Boston Red Sox starting pitchers are on pace for that same amount.
The point is, there have been some outstanding performances during the Opening Weekend of the season. Here is what caught my eye watching a lot of baseball this weekend.
Xander Bogaerts is back. After struggling in the second half of the 2017 season with the hand injury, he has opened the 2018 season with a vengeance, collecting 8 hits over the first three games of the season with six extra base hits. Bogaerts became just the second player in the past 100 seasons to open the year with three straight games with multiple extra base hits. He obviously isn’t going to continue this pace all season, but as long as Bogaerts reverts back to his pre-injury form, he will get himself back into that argument of the best young shortstop in baseball with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Manny Machado.
Jose Altuve is really good. I mean REALLY good. You might expect that the reigning MVP would take a small regression back, but that isn’t the case, as Altuve had nine hits in the Astros’ opening four-game series with the Texas Rangers. It isn’t going to be a stretch to think that Altuve could win back to back MVP awards, and it isn’t a stretch to say that Altuve is the best pure hitter since Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn when it comes to picking up the pitch at the plate and putting it where he wants to.
Pitching has dominated early in the season. Were it not for Joe Panik, the Dodgers would have thrown four shutouts against the San Francisco Giants. Kyle Gibson and Trevor Williams threw six no-hit innings in their debuts for the Twins and Pirates respectively. Johnny Cueto took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Dodgers. Alex Wood allowed one hit in that same game against the Giants. Other starters to allow just one hit in at least six innings include Chase Anderson (Brewers), Jarlin Garcia (Marlins), and Chris Sale (Red Sox). The Red Sox starting rotation allowed just two runs in their four starts against the Rays. Jose Berrios allowed one hit over the first eight innings before settling for a three-hit shutout against the Orioles. Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Kenta Maeda, Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard each struck out at least 10 batters in their opening starts. Josh Hader and Chad Green have struck out seven of the 11 batters they’ve faced.
American League: Xander Bogaerts (Boston) .471 (8 for 17), 5 doubles, 1 HR
National League: Adam Eaton (Washington) .615 (8 for 13), 2 doubles, 2 HR, 7 runs scored
American League: Jose Berrios (Minnesota) CG three-hit shutout
National League: Alex Wood (Los Angeles) 8 innings, 1 baserunner allowed