Opening Day Thoughts And Afterthoughts

A-Rod vs TOR 2015 For those who didn't know and were wondering where I've been the last few days (probably nobody), I was out in Denver for a long weekend with the girlfriend.  My personal desire was to watch the entirety of yesterday's game, simply because Opening Day and the idea of baseball really being back is awesome.  But there was no way I was going to get away with that on our last day of vacation, so I went the strategy of "I just want to see A-Rod hit and then we can go" and parlayed that into a little more than half the game.  Not a bad compromise.  That said, keep in mind that this post is being written from the perspective of a guy who only watched the first 5 innings yesterday, although I suppose that was really all anybody needed to see to know how the game turned out.

- It wasn't a good start for Masahiro Tanaka yesterday, certainly not the performance he or Yankee fans were hoping for on his first Opening Day start.  He missed his spots badly on a few pitches and paid for it, he wasn't especially efficient, and of course the velo wasn't there.  Still, I didn't think it was as horrible a start as his final line indicated.  He did strike 6 batters out, 12 of his 50 strikes were swings and misses, and from where I was sitting it looked like his slider and splitter were pretty good.

- It was the fastballs that did Tanaka in, and that was the worst thing that could have happened given all the hand wringing over his decreased velocity in ST.  The 2 big hits in the 5-run 3rd inning came on a 93 MPH 4-seamer over the middle of the plate and a sinker that didn't sink.  To be fair, Russell Martin's 2-run single off the 4-seamer was a GB base hit through the second base hole.  It wasn't like he crushed it off the right-center field wall.  Encarnacion's home run was a different story, but hey, sometimes that happens.  It was one game.

- Don't tell that to the MSM crew though.  Holy crap was it a trollfest with Tanaka yesterday.  From the radar gun being off to the velocity being down to the short length of the outing due to pitch count.  You would have thought it was the end of the world if you were following Twitter during the first 4 innings.  I'm not even going to dignify Joel Sherman's article with a link because it's absolute garbage, but I will reiterate my point of not buying into that negative hype based on 1 game, the first game of the year when pitchers usually aren't at their best.  If you're someone who does or is buying into it after yesterday, please know that I'm judging you for it and I think less of you as a person and a Yankee fan because of it.

- Onto happier things, like Alex Rodriguez being the best hitter in the lineup yesterday and being one of the few Yankee highlights.  It was great to see him get cheered, it was better to see him step back into the batter's box again, and it was best to see him put together a solid day at the plate with 2 really good at-bats against Drew Hutchison.  Once again he showed why he's one of the greatest natural baseball talents to ever live by working counts, fouling off pitches, and not trying to do too much when the pitcher didn't give him what he wanted to hit.  He might be a little slower and creakier than he was the last time he played a regular season game, but the dude still knows what he's doing up there.

- Case in point, the base hit in his second at-bat.  Hutchison busted him in with a fastball early in the AB, getting A-Rod to swing through a low-90s heater that he was way late on.  A-Rod worked the count full again, was looking fastball 3-2, got one out over the plate that he could handle, and he put a good swing on it out into right-center.  Nothing flashy, just a well-earned base hit in a time when the team needed that more than anything.

- As for the rest of his lineup-mates, they were a pretty sad bunch at the dish.  There were a lot of bad at-bats and bad swings in the 5 innings I saw, some of them carbon copies of the bad at-bats and bad swings that defined most of last season.  That was disappointing to see because I didn't think Hutchison was that good yesterday and most of the lineup should have been very familiar with him.  Hutchison faced the Yanks 6 times last year and they knocked him around in 5 of those games.  Yesterday they let him off easy.

- Maybe not Brett Gardner.  His solo shot was the only hit of significance all day, and he almost took Hutchison yard in his first at-bat too.  If Gardner gets under that first-pitch meatball a little more in the bottom of the 1st and gets some air under it, that would have been a homer easily.  Good to see Brett is staying with that aggressive early-count approach that served him well last year.

- I know Tanaka kinda threw him off by coming off the mound, and I don't want to be unfairly harsh to anybody after 1 game and make a hypocrite of myself, but that play by Chase Headley on the bunt in the 3rd was brutally bad.  You have to make a better throw than that on that play.  Either make a better throw or eat the ball.

- HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Chris Martin!  I was critical of the decision to take him in the OD bullpen, but he looked pretty good to me yesterday.  Hit his spots, had good movement, and he probably could have had 4 or 5 strikeouts in the 5th if the ump would have given him the corner.  Maybe he's another Rothschild pet project that will work out.

- Solid Yankee debut for David Carpenter too.  He'll be a nice upgrade from Shawn Kelley.

- Not so much from the new lefties Shreve and Wilson though.  Whatever.  Start the countdown clock to Jacob Lindgren.

- Always nice to see Joe Torre in Yankee Stadium.  I'm sure everybody else who had been following the goings on in Yankeeland knew he was throwing out the first pitch yesterday, but that was a fun surprise for me as someone who had been unplugged from it for a few days.

- Bonehead move by Didi Gregorius to get thrown out at third in the 8th, but it did lead to a great reaction by Joe, courtesy of our friends at PSA.  That look is laugh out loud funny.

- Last but not least, since I missed them yesterday when the rest of the IIATMS predicted, here are my 2015 MLB predictions:

AL East: Red Sox AL Central: White Sox AL West: Mariners

AL WC1: Indians AL WC2: Yankees

NL East: Nationals NL Central: Cardinals NL West: Dodgers

NL WC1: Pirates NL WC2: Padres

ALCS Winner: Indians NLCS Winner: Nationals WS: Winner: Nationals

Bold Prediction: CC Sabathia will make more than 25 starts this year and pitch 170-180 innings of above-average ball.

P.S.- If you're feeling generous today, how about throwing me a follow on the Twitter?  I promise my in-season banter is not nearly as obnoxious as my non-baseball stuff and the rest of the IIATMS staff is starting to bully me for still having less than 100.