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Opening Cray: 10 questions after wild 1st day

March 30, 2018

Opening Days are made for overreaction. If you can't observe a wild and wonderful Opening Day like Thursday's without considering the possibility of Matt Davidson hitting 486 home runs this year or Felix Hernandez and Jose Pujols turning back time or Yankees announcer John Sterling calling every Giancarlo Stanton home

Opening Days are made for overreaction. If you can't observe a wild and wonderful Opening Day like Thursday's without considering the possibility of Matt Davidson hitting 486 home runs this year or Felix Hernandez and Jose Pujols turning back time or Yankees announcer John Sterling calling every Giancarlo Stanton home run in a different language, well, what's the point?
So let's ask the 10 questions sparked by this year's zany Opening Day.
1. How many home runs will Stanton hit this year, anyway?
Here was the scariest part of the two massive home runs Stanton hit on Opening Day: They kind of fooled the announcers. It was clear that on the first one, Blue Jays announcer Dan Shulman and Sterling -- who had prepared for it meticulously and pulled out the odd "Giancarlo, non ci puoi straparlo" home run call -- took a beat to understand what they had just seen.

Stanton home runs are fundamentally different from anybody else's home runs. That first home run was an opposite-field shot with a 117.3 mph exit velocity -- Statcast™ has never before clocked an opposite-field home run at that speed. All of us are used to seeing massive home runs pulled high and deep; it's hard to adjust the eyes to what Stanton does.
The second home run was equally unique; there are others who hit home runs to straightaway center, but not like this. Nobody on the field even moved. It was as no-doubt as a no-doubt homer can be, but once again it took everybody an extra millisecond to realize, "Oh, OK, I get it, if Stanton gets good wood on the ball, it doesn't matter where he hits it, the ball will go out of the ballpark every … single … time."
How many home runs will Stanton hit? Let me introduce the Stanton home run calculator: Multiply the number of games he plays by 0.4. That seems a pretty good bet -- Stanton will hit one home run every two and a half games, or four home runs every 10 games he plays. If he plays 140 games, he will hit 56 homers. If he plays 160 games, he will hit 64. If he plays 70 games, he will hit 28.
By the way, the Sterling call translation is, "Giancarlo, you cannot get around it." Don't be surprised if he puts that one to bed after Opening Day.
2. Is Davidson good now?
Davidson was a big prospect with massive power potential, but like many big prospects with massive power potential, his plate discipline has threatened his big league future. He finally got a season in the big leagues in 2017 and hit 26 home runs, but his 165-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio was among the worst in baseball history.
Davidson spent the whole offseason reworking his approach and swing -- following the path of beloved White Sox star Paul Konerko. Davidson had a fantastic spring. And then he hit three home runs against Kansas City on Opening Day.

The other three players who pulled the trick -- George Bell in 1988, Tuffy Rhodes in '94 and Dmitri Young in 2005 -- did not go on to especially great seasons. But here's one thing we do know: If Davidson has figured something out and is good, the White Sox offense is in position to score a whole lot or runs. Which leads to …
3. Did any team show the potential to be 2018's big surprise?
I would say, yes: The White Sox. Maybe the Braves, too; we'll get to them in a minute. Everything leading into 2018 seems so set -- all six divisions have heavy favorites -- but the wonderful thing about baseball is that you can never figure it out.

The White Sox lineup has two players -- Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu -- who were fantastic last year. Yoan Moncada is 23 and has tremendous potential. In addition to Davidson's debut, another young player with huge talent, Tim Anderson, hit two home runs Thursday. This lineup could be very real right now. The pitching will take longer, sure, but there are amazing arms in that White Sox system.
4. Are we going to see a whole bunch of crazy comebacks in 2018?
The Magic Eight Ball says: Reply Hazy, Try Again. Four teams came back from four-run deficits on Opening Day. The White Sox trailed Kansas City, 4-0, early and then hit three home runs in an inning and ran away.
What a dreadful day for Boston fans. Bad enough that they had to endure the possibility of Stanton hitting 300-plus homers this year for the Yankees, the Red Sox also blew a 4-0 eighth-inning lead against a presumably punchless Rays team. Boston believes the bullpen is one of its strengths. Well, Tampa Bay promptly scored six runs off two relievers -- and it didn't even need a home run to do it. Four walks, a single, a double and a triple did the trick.

Oakland came back from a 4-0 deficit against the Angels; Khris Davis is the only player to hit 40-plus homers each of the last two years, and he homered in that one.
And the Braves came back from down, 5-0; they are another team with an exciting young lineup -- and that's before they even call up mega-prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. Another surprise team alert.
In any case: Is this a trend? Obviously it's too early to say, but I think we should keep an eye on this. The trend of using young relievers with huge fastballs has tilted the game, but hitters might be adjusting to the speed of the new game. It's worth watching.
5. Will The Freeze win every race this year?
Yes. He will.
6. Are we about to have another crazy home run year in baseball?
The Magic Eight Ball says: All Signs Point to Yes. There were 34 home runs hit on Opening Day, which is the most in history -- though that's not exactly a news flash, considering this was only the second time that every team was scheduled to play on Opening Day.

It was the extraordinary nature of the home runs that suggests we are about to see another wild year of dingers. Numerous people predicted that the Cubs' Ian Happ would hit a home run on the first pitch of the season … and then Happ actually did hit a home run on the first pitch of the season. Houston leadoff hitter George Springer hit a home run to open the Astros' season for the second straight year. There were two walk-off homers. Pujols hit the 615th homer of his career.
Heck, Boston's Eduardo Nunez even managed to sneak in an inside-the-park home run, becoming the first Red Sox player to do that since Carl Yastrzemski 50 years ago.
Oh yeah, the home run will continue to play a starring role in baseball this year.
7. How excited should we be about King Felix's nice Opening Day outing?
You obviously can't take too much away from 5 1/3 innings pitched … but there were some positive signs here. Hernandez's velocity will never again be what it was in his prime, but he was working in the low 90s with his fastball, and there was real bite on his fantastic changeup. He seemed generally in command, and he has long been one of the smartest pitchers in the game.

I would say: Cautiously optimistic.
8. Shohei Ohtani?
Well, Ohtani singled in his first plate appearance, displayed some top-end speed and in all went 1-for-5 with a strikeout. In other words: No idea what to make of it. I did think he looked pretty comfortable at the plate, he had a couple of nice battles even on his outs, plus there's kind of a cool Ichiro vibe in the way his body turns when he swings the bat.

Pujols played first base, like the old days, and he homered, like the old days, so who knows? Maybe it will be magical year for the Angels (despite the team blowing a four-run lead).
9. Should we start worrying about Cody Bellinger?
This is the negative side of overreacting to Opening Day … but yes. I'm a little bit worried about Bellinger. Some if it, unquestionably, comes from the World Series last year when he looked helpless at times.
Bellinger looked similarly vulnerable on Opening Day. The Giants started crafty lefty Ty Blach, who seems like he was born to haunt guys like Bellinger (though Bellinger had some success against Blach as a rookie). Bellinger went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, the Dodgers' lineup looked anemic and yes, it's one game, who cares, you know that this team is terrific and will come around just fine. But after Bellinger's amazing rookie season, I'm fascinated to see how the league adjusts to him and how he adjusts back.

10. What does Baltimore's walk-off win mean?
Well, it was the third straight Opening Day walk-off win for the Orioles. Two years ago, the O's contended all year and won an AL Wild Card spot. Last year, they won just 75 games.

So it "means" nothing.
Except, of course, a walk-off win on Opening Day can't mean nothing; Adam Jones' game-ending home run should spark dreams in Baltimore. What else is Opening Day for?

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for