Another O’pening Day, another walk-off. Ho hum.
Buck Showalter moved to 8-0 on Opening Day as the Birds’ skipper, and the O’s became the first team in history to walk it off on three straight Opening Days.
The #Orioles are the first team in baseball history to walk-off their opener in three straight seasons.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) March 29, 2018
Of course, it was annoying that yesterday even required a walk-off, as the O’s had a 2-0 lead entering the ninth inning, and it was even still 2-0 with two outs. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy, because Orioles.
With that, let’s get into our second annual (admittedly ridiculous) “things we learned on Opening Day.”
Bundy is Ready to Keep Dealin’
Dylan Bundy was getting a lot of the plate with some elevated pitches in the first couple innings. There were two very loud outs in the first, then Craig Gentry‘s rob of a would-be Eddie Rosario home run in the second. After that though, Dylan settled down nicely.
His final line (7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R) pretty much matched what we saw with our eyes. He kept Minnesota hitters off balance all day with a nice mix of pitches, held his fastball velocity in the 92-94 MPH range through his final inning, and had two breaking balls working nicely. Most impressively, he threw 24 slides, and got 12 whiffs on those 24.
Although the Birds pushed two runs across in the seventh after he departed, putting him in line for the win, of course that didn’t materialize.
Bundy got beat around a bit in Sarasota, and I said that he was pretty much the only O’s pitcher (this was pre-Alex Cobb) who I trusted was just “getting his work in.” He justified my confidence.
As long as I have you here, it’s a fine time to tell you that our friends at Breaking T have relaunched this awesome Dealin’ Bundy shirt, and you can get yours here.
Caleb is a Better Hitter than he gets Credit for
I was having an argument with a friend at a pre-game party yesterday, the subject of which was Caleb Joseph. He was poo-pooing Caleb’s offensive ability, and using his futile 0-RBI 2016 season as his main ammo. He backed off a bit when I reminded him of the quite gruesome injury the backstop suffered that season, but even I have to admit that yes, Joseph was pretty bad with the stick in 2016.
Still, I am not ready to hand the everyday catching duties over to Chance Sisco solely because of his offensive ability. Joseph makes the O’s pitchers better, and we all know they can use all the help they can get. On top of that, when he plays regularly, he can hit OK!
In 2015, he managed a wRC+ of 88 in 355 AB. In 2017, 82 in 266. Admittedly, these are below average, but they are nowhere near the 8(!!) figure he posted during that awful 2016 campaign.
Joseph isn’t an offensive force by any stretch. But for any bit that he “hurts” the team with his bat, he more than makes up for with his defense. With that in mind, sign me up for a near 50/50 split between he and Sisco this season.
Caleb also had one of the funnier post-game quotes you’ll ever hear when asked about his triple that put the O’s up 2-0 in the seventh.
Caleb says the Twins right fielder "playin me like a little leaguer…made me angry" on his triple
— Eutaw Street Rep⚾rt (@EutawStReport) March 29, 2018
O’Day is Still the Man
I went into this in great detail last week, so I won’t belabor the point any further.
Should O’Day have pitched the ninth inning instead? That brings us to…
Brach Maybe Still Isn’t a Closer
Brad Brach was 18/21 in save opportunities last season, which is probably a little better than you remember. (The 6 Blown Saves he is charged with on some sites isn’t really accurate – three of those came in the 7th or 8th inning, not really what we’d consider save situations). He’s now 0 for 1 in 2018 after blowing that aforementioned 2-0 lead.
He was absolutely the victim of some bad luck. Chris Davis should have flagged down that bouncer – that he perhaps lost in the sun – for an out. The pitch that he walked Max Kepler on could have easily been called strike three to end the game.
The hit that tied the game was a silly little bloop that just happened to fall in.
On top of that, he had some nasty stuff, as was quite evident on his two strikeouts.
All that aside, it took him 34 pitches to get through two-thirds of an inning. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence going forward. I don’t think he should be “replaced” as closer, but nor should he be “The closer,” going forward.
Which brings us to…
Buck Will Still Frustrate Us at Times
You guys know I’m a Buck fan. I won’t even bother laying out all the disclaimers about why he’s awesome here, as I’ve done it ad nauseum over the years.
But the guy ain’t perfect. No manager is, of course. Buck, though, has his own specific idiosyncrasies that send fans of his teams into fits from time to time.
Here’s one that was on display yesterday: once it’s clear the closer doesn’t quite have it that night, Buck will still give him enough rope to hang himself.
Now, I had no (or, less of a) problem with Showalter doing this with more established closers like Zach Britton or even Jim Johnson. But Brad Brach? Come on, man! Everyone watching could see that thing going sideways after about the 25th pitch. Mychal Givens started warning, but perhaps a little too late. By the time he came in, the game was already tied.
All’s well that ends well, I suppose. Don’t expect Buck to suddenly develop a quick hook for the guy “closing” the game, no matter which member of the Closer-by-Committee who isn’t quite on his game it happens to be.
I think Jon Shepherd put it quite nicely here:
He had nothing after Kepler.
Sometimes, I think, you are really playing with the odds that something good will come from that and you wonder a bit how bad would it have been to let Givens come in not completely warmed up.
— Camden Depot (@CamdenDepot) March 29, 2018
The Cap10 Continues to Dazzle Us
Would you believe that that was just Adam Jones‘ third career walk-off home run, and first since 2012? Believe it!
That was Adam Jones' third career walk-off HR.
* 5-24-11 vs. KC (Joakim Soria – 9th inning)
* 6-9-2012 vs. Phi (B.J. Rosenberg – 12th)
All 3 also came while game was tied.
— Eutaw Street Rep⚾rt (@EutawStReport) March 30, 2018
None of us know what the future holds for Mr. Jones, but it doesn’t seem, as we sit here on March 30, 2018, that the chances of him running down the orange carpet a year from now are much better than those of Manny Machado doing the same.
Perhaps that will end up making yesterday all the more special, or perhaps his home run off Fernando Rodney will just be another highlight playing on the video board when life-long Oriole AJ’s statue goes up beyond the OPACY bullpens in 2030.
Regardless, for now, let’s just savor that moment, and watch it again.