Grant Brisbee, who covers the San Francisco Giants for SB Nation’s McCovey Chronicles, has recently joined guys like FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan and Eno Sarris among my favorite baseball scribes. Grant’s been doing his thing for years, but I’m late to the party on this one. Better late than never though, just like Buck Showalter bringing Zach Britton into a tie game against the Blue Jays…
But I digress.
Grant wrote a post yesterday titled “Lessons from Opening Day,” and I enjoyed it so much I decided to yoink it for our own Birdland purposes. Of course, we can’t REALLY learn anything from one baseball game out of 162, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to pretend that we can. We’re all juiced up from the Birds’ Opening Day walk-off win, so let’s take a dive into the “lessons” that yesterday’s game bestowed upon us.
Manny Machado is Still Awesome
As if there were any doubt, after watching him dazzle the world in the WBC last month. Still, it was great to see Manny come out and remind everyone that he belongs to Baltimore, damn it, and he does this crap ALL THE TIME.
This was the one that’ll be all over the highlight shows today, but it wasn’t even Manny’s only ridiculous play of the afternoon. A few innings earlier, he robbed Kevin Pillar on a “Baltimore Chop” that most likely earns Pillar a base hit if 28 or 29 other MLB third basemen field it. Manny got his feet set as the ball was descending, and fired an absolute rocket to nail the speedy centerfielder.
Zach Britton is Zach Britton
I’m not even gonna bring up the Wild Card game again. Once was plenty (and probably once too many). Britton, who we heard late last week was still struggling a bit to find his delivery after only pitching five innings in Sarasota, looked to have well, found it.
He struck out the first batter he faced. He was then the victim of the BABIP dragon, as the next two batters slapped ground balls that had eyes and scooted through the infield. Another grounder later, and the Blue Jays were back out in the field thanks to a 5-4-3 double play.
Showalter gave him a second inning of work, and he got two more quick ground ball outs. At that point, he’d thrown something like 12 pitches to record five outs on a K and five straight grounders.
That’s Great Britton for ya.
He was robbed of strike three on his sixth out (more on that below), resulting in a walk. Two grounders later, he was out of the jam.
So yes, he may have allowed two baserunners in each of his innings of work, but a closer look at how those guys reached base reveals that we shouldn’t have much to worry about when it comes to number 53.
Kevin Gausman’s Fastball is Moving
This topic will probably be deserving of a post all its own in the near future, but for now, let’s just touch upon it.
Gas Man’s fastball had some movement yesterday. One of the main criticisms of Kevin, throughout his young career, has been that while he can throw 95-99 regularly, the ball is straight as an arrow.
Yesterday, that wasn’t the case, at least some of the time. We heard Mike Bordick and Jim Palmer talking about the “two-seam” action on some of Gausman’s pitches. I don’t know if this is a “new pitch” in Kevin Gausman’s repertoire or what (PitchFX still picks it up as a four-seamer), but something was different in his first start of 2017.
Check out this pitch, on which he struck out Russell Martin in the second inning.
That’s a good bit of horizontal movement. Let’s head over to Brooks Baseball for some data.
That’s showing the horizontal movement of Gausman’s four-seamer by month. As you can see, in 2015 it was extremely straight. Last year, it got a little better.
Here’s a random start from 2016 (September 20 vs. Boston, when he gave up 5 runs on 10 H in 6.1)
Now, let’s look at yesterday:
-13.07! That’s twice as much as last year’s average. I’m no expert, but that seems good. This is definitely something that we’ll be watching closely in Gausman’s next few starts. Maybe he was just extra amped-up for Opening Day and that caused a shift in his mechanics that resulted in some anomalous movement. Or maybe this is a great sign of things to come.
The Orioles are still prone to long cold stretches
Of course, the lessons weren’t all good.
On the other side of the coin, we again had a game where the offense went completely dormant for a long time (I said I wouldn’t bring up the last game where this happened again in this post, so you just go ahead and use your imagination.)
But like they did for most of the second half of 2016, the O’s bats took a deep snooze – a “Lumber Slumber” if you will – between the early innings and Trumbo’s shot to end it. After plating two runs in the third, 14 consecutive Orioles were sat down by Jays pitching, until Machado’s eighth-inning single. Trey Mancini‘s pinch-hit single in the 10th was their only other baserunner until Trumbo jogged slowly around the diamond in the 11th.
Dovetailing on this point…
The Approach at the Plate Will Continue to Make You Pull Your Hair Out
The Orioles walked just twice in this game, with Manny and Adam Jones (!!) each drawing one. The walks were early, with Manny’s in the first inning and Jones’ in the third.
After each walk? The next batter (Chris Davis in the former case, Machado in the latter) hacked at the first pitch and was retired.
Maybe this doesn’t bother you like it does me, but it drives me up a friggin’ wall. The guy’s struggling a bit with command, so make him work!
Givens Might Still Struggle Against Lefties
Mychal Givens‘ woes against left-handed batters are well-documented, and were a constant cause of consternation throughout last season. In his career, lefties hit .314/.404/.471 off him, compared to just .161/.248/.263 from righties. Last year, it was even worse – .366/.464/.561 from lefties.
So when Buck left him in to face Ezequiel Carrera in the sixth inning, Birdland puckered our collective sphincters.
And we were justified in doing so, as Carrera promptly doubled in the tying run.
Will Buck continue to just hope Givens can figure out how to get lefties out? Stay tuned.
New Catcher’s Pitch Framing: Same as the Old Catcher’s Pitch Framing
We’ve heard bellyaching for years now in Baltimore (ever since “pitch framing” became a thing that the average baseball fan talked about) that Matt Wieters was extremely deficient in this area.
Well, now Matty Backstop is gone, costing pitchers strikes down I-95 in the nation’s capital. So, yay, right?
Not so fast. Apparently his replacement, Welington Castillo, isn’t very good at “receiving” either. He definitely turned some strikes into balls yesterday afternoon.
I count four “blue” dots in the strike zone on those two examples, which are strikes that are called balls. Something to keep an eye on, begrudgingly, moving forward.
Anyway, those are the things I learned on Opening Day. With a day off today, that’s plenty of time to think about them some more. Tell me what you learned (or why I didn’t actually learn what I think I did) in the comments, or tweet at me @EutawStReport.
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