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April 1, 2014

Overthinking It

Takeaways from Opening Day

by Ben Lindbergh


There are only two possible stories to tell about Opening Day. There’s the boilerplate, “Boy, isn’t it swell to have baseball back” story, which is accurate (It is swell!) but nothing you haven’t heard after every other opener. And then there’s the small sample, confirmation-bias-based conclusion: Team X’s bullpen blew the game, so they’re bound to struggle to hold leads all season; Player Y had a three-hit day, so just as we suspected, he’s bound for a breakout. The fact is that there’s only so much about this season that we weren’t aware of before the first of Monday’s 13 contests kicked off, and we shouldn’t make too much of any occurrence (save for, say, a serious injury) just because five months of baseball withdrawal makes each pitch and swing seem momentous. It’s okay to let it all wash over us for a while, making the occasional mental note about things that could become significant, someday.

This article, then has no narrative. Behold, a bunch of bullet points from opening Day:

  • Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez—who made a meh diving play to his left in the seventh, then won the game with a walk-off single—started off on a more negative note when he flubbed a soft grounder in the fourth, prompting one patient, forgiving Tigers fan on my Facebook feed to post, “Alex Gonzalez [expletive] blows.” That statement may well turn out to be true, but it’s worth noting that the grounder he bobbled came off the bat of Norichika Aoki, the reigning king of the reached on error.

    As I noted this winter, Aoki easily leads the majors in reached on errors in his two major-league seasons; if we had added ROE to every hitter’s on-base percentage, Aoki’s OBP would’ve risen 12 points relative to the league. Aoki almost never strikes out, hits a ton of grounders to the left side of the infield, and has the speed to make fielders try to rush. A player with that profile will get more than his fair share of these:

    Aoki went 0-for-5 on Opening Day, but one of those outs is hiding some skill.

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Related Content:  Opening Day

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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oldbopper

How did I ever live without BP? After watching Carlos Gomez challenge Jack Cust and Ruben Rivera for the top spot on the list of All-Time worst base running plays I came across TOOTBLAN. Upon googling this acronym I almost died laughing. It is a good thing I am retired because I need a couple of hours every day to read the fabulous stuff you guys write.

Apr 01, 2014 09:23 AM
rating: 5
 
hyprvypr

This Billy Hamilton should have spent the ENTIRE Winter working on bunts of all kinds. There's no reason a player with this kind of speed can't simply cause carnage by laying own at least one bunt a game(and show it often).

Apr 01, 2014 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

That was one of his goals this spring.

Apr 01, 2014 09:43 AM
 
jalee121

SSS aside, this White Sox fan was very pleased with Jose Abreu's at bats yesterday.

Apr 01, 2014 10:16 AM
rating: 1
 
caminante1

It reads that Clint Hurdle requested a replay in the 10th inning. I thought that after the 6th inning, the umpire decides when to have a replay.

Apr 01, 2014 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

After the sixth, the crew chief can initiate a review, but the manager can still issue a challenge if he has one remaining.

Apr 01, 2014 11:01 AM
 
newsense

"PECOTA projects Goins for a .280 TAv and .228 TAv,"

You might want to check that.

Apr 01, 2014 11:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Right, .280 is his projected OBP.

Apr 01, 2014 11:17 AM
 
Eddie

Excellent article. This is why I subscribe.

Apr 01, 2014 12:24 PM
rating: 0
 
DetroitDale

In addition to the "accomplishments" you listed for Alex Gonzalez, he also tripled in Alex Avila to tie the game, setting up his heroic walk-off. This is the kind of thing that got Brandon Inge and Don Kelly a ton more fans and at bats than men of their modest skills should have had. Expect a lot of "clutch" arguments to be made on AGonzo's behalf, even as his average sinks to it's true level.

The "confirmation bias" problem from this game will be that the team's trading of speed for defense was the right move, that they won a game the would have lost because they got a key base hit instead of waiting for homers. It's only one game, and the real problem last year was not the offense, but the bullpen (which didn't get fixed by signing Nathan). The only problem with the offense was not the "clogging of the basepaths" we heard about ad nauseum, it was the outs on the basepaths, running themselves out of innngs, much like Nick Castellanos did when he wasted his leadoff single trying to make double out of it. Killing that rally had as much to do with Gonzo's heroics as Aoki did.

Or maybe I'm just suffering from a different form of confirmation bias :-)

Apr 01, 2014 14:08 PM
rating: 0
 
pft1957

"Rick Renteria challenged on a force play at first after stalling for time and glancing into the dugout just as Gonzalez did, and that initial call was confirmed."

It should not have been though. I mean, when they can't get it right on replay, there is something wrong. I understand a tag play since they can be hard to tell in 2D, but a force out at 1B? Just freeze frame it and you can see he was safe

Apr 01, 2014 23:49 PM
rating: 0
 
gjhardy

Kurt Suzuki drove in all three MIN runs in Game 1 while batting in the second slot. This is probably the worst possible outcome for MIN fans, as it will justify Gardenhire's outdated thinking for about four months, and he will continue to plow empty ABs into a player with a career OPS of .685. It's bad enough that Suzuki is going to get 400 ABs playing ahead of Pinto, who has a much higher ceiling…we think. We may never know.

Gardenhire's decision to bat Suzuki could be one of three things:
1. a subtle request to be fired
2. Gardy telling all the "stats guys" to go screw
3. a cry for help.

Apr 02, 2014 07:54 AM
rating: 0
 
cmyiii

I agree with Eddie: this article is terrific. Almost as good as having seen all the games. Something like this everyday -- or even just once a week -- I is worth the price of admission.

Apr 02, 2014 15:34 PM
rating: 0
 
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