Are you serious? 10 Opening Day overreactions

March 30th, 2018

Just as any sentence that begins with "No offense, but…" inevitably ends with something offensive, any Opening Day observation that begins with "I'm not overreacting, but…" inevitably ends with an overreaction.
We're human, and we can't help ourselves, especially after going 147 painful days without baseball games that counted.
So let's take a deep breath now and delve into 10 Opening Day overreactions that might have crossed your mind Thursday:
1. "Gabe Kapler is fit… but not to be a manager!"
The impossibly sculpted skipper drew the ire of Phillies fans in his first official day on the job for multiple reasons, but most notably by yanking in the sixth inning with a 5-0 lead and dipping into a bullpen that gave up eight unanswered runs in an 8-5 loss to the Braves. The problem with being billed as a deeply analytical skipper is that people are going to accuse you of overthinking it when you lose like that. Nola had thrown just 68 pitches and had batted with the bases loaded in the fifth. And though the Phillies are carrying a nine-man bullpen, it turned out a prominent one of the nine -- Pat Neshek -- was unavailable with a lat issue. So Kapler was a really easy target.
The obvious defense of Kapler here is that, you know, it's only one game.

The more nuanced defense is that he opted not to let Nola (who had thrown only four innings in his last spring start) face Freddie Freeman (.374/.444/.688 slash vs. Nola prior to Thursday) a third time (Nola's opponents' OPS jumped from .548 to .836 the third time through the order last year) and instead turned to (who held lefties to a .464 OPS with zero homers last season). Kapler did have reasons to watch the workload of his young ace and to trust his 'pen, so let's not jump him just yet.
Besides, he could totally beat us up.
2. "AL East race? What AL East race?!"
At a time when it feels like virtually every analyst went chalk in the National League West (Dodgers), American League West (Astros), NL Central (Cubs), AL Central (Indians) and NL East (Nationals), the AL East, with two purported powerhouses in the Yankees and Red Sox, is supposed to be our saving grace -- the one place where a legit division duel is on tap. It is, for example, the only division in which FanGraphs' projections had less than a seven-game gap between first and second place. (The Yankees were projected to win the East by two games.)
Well, one day, two homers and one Boston bullpen bumble later, it's probably hard for Red Sox fans to feel awesome about the state of the East. I get it. In fact, the bullpens are a point of emphasis in this rivalry, because Boston's bridge to simply has more questions than New York's bridge to .
But keep calm, Red Sox Nation. Chris Sale was awesome. is healthy again, and it shows. Inside-the-park provider ensures second base is in good hands with on the shelf. And if the bullpen somehow does remain suspect, you know Dave Dombrowski will do whatever it takes to fix it on the fly.
Also, Stanton is not going to homer twice a game. (He'll have some days where he sits or only goes deep once.) Speaking of…

3. "John Sterling's Stanton home run call is weird!"
You know what? It is. Sterling, whose long ball calls are usually corny-but-catchy home puns, may have tried too hard with his rhyming Italian phrase that, best we can tell, was, "Giancarlo! Non ci puo stopparlo!" -- translating to, "You cannot stop it!"
I'm Italian, so I'd ordinarily be in favor of a little Boot vocab. But Stanton is not Italian. This call undeniably needs work.
• Listen to Sterling's home run call for Stanton
But as emphasized on Opening Day, Sterling is going to have plenty of opportunity to get it right. By the time Stanton hits No. 246 this season, the announcer's going to nail it.
4. "Clayton Kershaw's velocity is down!"
OK, I'll admit, this was interesting. Kershaw's four-seam fastball averaged 91.4 mph on Thursday. In his Opening Day start last year, it was 93.0 mph. And Kershaw saw a slight drop in the four-seam velo readings in the second half last year that dropped his average down to 92.8.
But even if we were to get on our jump-to-conclusions mat and assume that battling back issues the last two years and turning 30 and pitching deep into October has caught up with Kid K and forever altered his fastball (and to be clear, I'm not on that train yet), it should go without saying that this is a guy capable of adjusting as he ages. Kershaw doesn't thrive solely on blowing pitches past hitters. The average exit velocity against him (84.6 mph) last year was the ninth-lowest among those with at least 300 batted balls induced. The home run he gave up to Joe Panik on Thursday (the only run he allowed in six innings of work) traveled 351 feet and had just a 6 percent hit probability.

So let's put the Game 1 velocity chatter in the category of "interesting" and not "alarming."
5. "The Detroit and Cincinnati rainouts are proof that scheduling Midwest games in March is dumb!"
Yeah, it was a bummer that the dream of all 30 teams beginning the 2018 season on the same day died a quick death, with Reds-Nationals and Tigers-Pirates both postponed. But let's not turn this into some negative screed directed at the schedule-makers. The season started early for good reason -- to add four off days to every team's schedule to improve conditions for the players. And you can't run scared from Mother Nature and give domed or warm-weather teams an early season schedule heavily weighted toward home games every year, because that gives them an unfair early advantage (or perhaps even an unfair disadvantage if that annually means a ton of road games later in the year).
I would add that both Detroit and Cincinnati have higher precipitation averages in April and May than they do in March, per the data available at the Weather Channel's website. So there's no good way to do this. Sometimes it rains.
6. "The Astros are going to repeat!"
They just might! But not because they won on Opening Day. The Yankees were baseball's last repeat champs in 1998-2000, and they lost on Opening Day 1999 and won on Opening Day 2000. So insert the shrug emoji here.

7. "Yankees? Pfft. It's the White Sox who will break the single-season team home run record!"
Six Sox swats were fun, but… nah. The club that had the seventh-lowest slugging percentage in baseball last season didn't become the 1927 Yankees (or even the 2018 Yankees) overnight.
But the Sox's lineup is becoming increasingly interesting and will be even moreso when Eloy Jimenez arrives later this season. Strike-zone discipline is key for both Matt Davidson and . So while the multi-homer days from both of those guys (with Davidson doing his Tuffy Rhodes impersonation) were cool, it was arguably equally encouraging to see each of them draw a walk.
• Davidson's 3 HRs help White Sox match record

8. "The Cubs won, but looked terrible!"
Yeah, four runs on seven hits and three walks over 3 1/3 innings against that Marlins lineup wasn't a good look. And like Kershaw, Lester's velocity was down both from his 2017 norm and his Opening Day outing last season (and his '17 season itself was already marked by a downturn in velocity from previous years). Father Time's undefeated, and Lester's 34 with more than 2,300 innings to his name.
So this is another one that does merit monitoring. But it is worth noting that March/April has been Lester's worst month in his career -- the only month in which opponents have an OPS of at least .700 (.712, to be exact) against him. Let's not freak out about one start. (We can wait until after his second start.)
9. "The Orioles are going to shock the world!"
Suffice it to say the and Alex Cobb additions and re-signing of Chris Tillman didn't cause a great many to rethink their position on the Orioles. It has still been widely expected that a Manny Machado midseason trade is more likely than an O's postseason berth.
But man, there's nothing more uplifting than an Opening Day walkoff. The O's got one with ' awesome final flourish in the 11th inning of a game colored by 's great start, 's sick catch, a two-run triple from (the guy everybody was ripping in 2016 for going 49 games without an RBI) and that weird sight of Chris Davis in the leadoff spot.
• Jones jolts O's with walk-off HR in 11th

It would be awesome if an O's team with a ton of expiring assets (including in the dugout, with manager Buck Showalter's contract up at year's end) made one last run with this core, but for now, the rotation beyond Bundy and still invites an awful lot of wait-and-see.
10. " went 0-for-6. He's overrated!"
OK, now you're just trolling me.