No offense on Opening Day? This only seems to happen every year!
Opening Day was certainly kind to pitchers, but it seems like the hitters needed a day or two more of spring training. In fact, it was the most offensively stagnant day in baseball in nearly 30 years. An average of 4.7 runs were scored in each game on Thursday, the lowest total since May 11, 1983 (on a day where at least seven games were played) according to Elias.
You know what this means? Not a whole hell of a lot. When you have Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Jon Lester, Johan Santana, Tommy Hanson, Jonny Cueto, Mark Buehrle and others pitching on the same day, you’re not going to have many runs scored. Offenses always catch up and a major Opening Day storyline is always the alarming lack of offense. We’ll get over it.
It’s natural for closers to endure early season struggles
Another thing that happens on Opening Day? Closer meltdowns. Carlos Marmol continued his bad year last season with a loss to Chad Tracy and the Nationals (Chad Tracy & The Nationals: a great name for a cheesy old rock band, no?). With Andrew Bailey out a few months with a thumb injury, the Boston duo of Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves (two former Yankee prospects; do I smell an infiltration?) couldn’t keep Detroit at bay after Jose Valverde blew his own save in the top of the ninth. Chris Perez blew a sure win for the Indians and was partially responsible for the longest Opening Day game in big league history; a 16-inning contest won 7-4 by Toronto.
Closers rarely, if ever, pitch the ninth inning of a Spring Training game. There’s usually as much pressure on closers to do well in Spring Training as there would be pressure on Warren Buffett placing a $1 bet at Belmont. You can try to simulate pressure-packed, high leverage situations but nothing replicates what happens in a regular season game. Closers are paid millions of dollars to close; early in the season the onus is on them to get the save and pad the stats. Even for seasoned veterans like Marmol and Valverde, it’s difficult to get back into those situations and immediately flourish. So you have early season struggles for closers.
Thoughts & Theories
-Boston has no reliable relief pitching! Sound the alarm! Miami has seven hits and nine total bases in two games! Press the panic button! Everyone needs to calm down. Serenity now! You’re welcome, fan bases around the major leagues.
-It was nice seeing Chad Tracy scoring the winning run in Washington’s Opening Day game against the Cubs. After spending a year in Japan, he’ll be on a potent Nats bench this season along with Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel and infield prospect Steve Lombardozzi.
-The Mets’ back end bullpen work was quite strong in its 1-0 Opening Day win over Atlanta, which has to be encouraging. Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco set the Braves down and earned Johan Santana the win in his first big league appearance in roughly a year and a half. On the other side, it wouldn’t be the Mets without some bad irony. Leadoff hitter Andres Torres, who scored the game’s only run, will be placed on the DL after straining his calf. Something like this would only happen to a cursed franchise like the Mets.
-Two of the top hitters last season picked up right where they left off. Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp each went deep in wins for their teams. Kemp is even dating Eva Longoria right now. Talk about scoring both on and off the field…