The Weekend Takeaway
The season’s first edition of #weirdbaseball was quite the doozy. On Friday/Saturday, the Yankees and Red Sox went 19 innings in the Bronx, with the visiting team winning 6-5. Somewhat miraculously, no position players pitched.
A mostly unremarkable first nine innings—save Nathan Eovaldi hitting 101 mph in the first inning, a pitch Dustin Pedroia proceeded to single up the middle—went completely off the rails with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Chase Headley boomed a home run into the second deck off Edward Mujica, A.K.A. the store-brand version of Koji Uehara.
Should of thrown a splitter, Ed.
There were few punches being pulled in terms of weirdness, as action was halted for 16 minutes in the 12th inning when a bank of lights in the left field went out. The delay was not of the umpires’ own volition; Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to lobby to the umpires.
“I just said that I didn’t think it was right that they hit in the bright lights and we were missing a few,” Girardi clarified in his postgame comments.
After five scoreless innings, David Ortiz put the Red Sox on top with a solo shot in the16th inning. Then Mark Teixeira, just 57 minutes into his 35th year on the Earth, hit a dinger of his own off Steven Wright to tie the game back up.
Our Lord and Savior Mookie Betts mercifully put an end to things in the top of the 19th, hitting a sacrifice fly off Esmil Rogers to score Xander Bogaerts. Wright then retired the side (with the benefit of a double play), ending the nearly seven-hour contest, which was the longest in Red Sox franchise history, as well as that of the new Yankee Stadium.
Both sides then had to regroup for a 12:05 p.m. start the following afternoon.
Didi Gregorius brought up the rear in the individual WPA race, going 1-for-6 and leaving three runners in scoring position with two outs on his way to a -0.346 WPA. Betts’ go-ahead sac fly redeemed a rotten night for him, as his four strikeouts tied him with Mike Napoli for most by any individual and he went 1-for-8 with a walk. He drove in the winning run and his WPA was still -0.238.
As for the series, the Red Sox cruised to an 8-4 win on Saturday, behind seven innings of one-hit ball from Joe Kelly, and the Yankees returned the cruising with a blowout Sunday night.
Quick hits from the weekend
Archie Bradley’s first major-league start happened to come against a man whose accomplishments have been such to merit his own federal (Internet) holiday. (Seriously, my dad had the day off.) Tough draw for BP’s 11th-ranked prospect, given that the rest of the Dodgers are okay, too.
However, it turned out to be Kershaw who was knocked around, as the reigning Cy Young was rocked for 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Bradley, on the other hand, gave up just one hit in six innings of work, with his four walks being the only real mark of tarnish on his start.
Bradley’s fastball grades out as a 7 in the Prospect Team’s scouting report, and he relied heavily on that pitch on Saturday. He threw it 76 percent of the time, per Brooks Baseball, and the pitch averaged 93.1 mph and 4.1 inches of run (i.e. toward righties, away from lefties). The pitch got whiffs 12 percent of the time Bradley threw it.
None of those figures are particularly remarkable compared with the league as a whole, but Bradley did well to keep the pitch out of the middle of the zone and locate it where its run could be utilized to full effect.
Bradley also helped himself considerably by throwing a first-pitch strike to 15 of the 22 batters he faced. The only hit he wound up giving up was on an inside fastball that Howie Kendrick somehow managed to inside-out all the way to the right-center gap.
It was a banner day for Bradley on both sides of the battery. In the first pitch of his first career at-bat, he turned around a 93 mph fastball from Kershaw and bounced a hard grounder through the left side of the infield. He then proceeded to get picked off by Kershaw. Like a real big-league hitter.
Major League Baseball currently has two undefeated teams, and they are in the same division. Yes, the A.L. Central is so far living up to its potential of being an incredibly compelling division. (Well, minus the Twins, but their ineptitude can be compelling in a worldstarhiphop.com sort of way.)
The Tigers and Royals are both 6-0. The explanation for Detroit’s end of things is very simple.
So yeah, they’re mashing. It helps that their first three games were against the Twins, who didn’t even score a run until the third game. The second set, against the Indians, was much more even, with margins of victory of four, three and three runs for the Tigers and 40 runs scored between the teams in the game. Detroit is averaging 7.8 runs per game, which is a totally sustainable rate, you guys.
The Royals’ success has been more intriguing. They took three from the White Sox in convincing fashion at home, popping that fan base’s confidence bubble almost as soon as it was inflated. Then Kansas City headed out to Anaheim to continue its dominance of the Angels by grabbing three straight from its 2014 ALCS opponent.
Of note for the Royals: Lorenzo Cain, first of all. He’s pretty good. His 1.142 OPS from the three-hole is solid enough, and he’s continued to establish himself as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.
The Royals have been uncharacteristically formidable on offense so far, with a .341 TAv through Saturday. (And then they scored nine on Sunday.) Heck, Mike Moustakas has even his an opposite-field home run! The only concerning spot, really, is Alex Gordon, who just one hit in 18 plate appearances after offseason wrist surgery. However, his .333 OBP reflects better on his performance.
The bullpen is stout as always: Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera have combined to give up four hits in 10 innings. De facto ace Yordano Ventura has been great so far — eight hits allowed in 11 2/3 innings pitched, three walks — if oddly prone to cramps. In his opening day start, he left in the seventh inning with a right thumb cramp, which caused him to leap off the mound in pain after throwing a fastball. On Sunday, he left early with a cramp in his right calf.
That young man needs to drink more water.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) April 12, 2015
In other A.L. Central news, White Sox ace Chris Sale made a triumphant return to action after missing his first start with a fracture in his right foot. He was positively filthy against the Twins, allowing five hits and striking out eight. The velocity was there in force for Sale, as he hit the upper 90s with his fastball from a sidearm slot.
The White Sox, after dropping the Friday’s game to the Twins, won the next two to take the series.
The Mets and Braves continue to be more relevant than they probably deserve. Atlanta is 5-1 and New York is 3-3, with a series win against the Nationals to the squad’s credit. To be fair, the Mets’ pitching has a chance to be legitimately interesting, with Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey providing a damn good 1-2 punch. (No, I don’t care that Bartolo Colón actually got the Opening Day start.)
The Braves, who are projected to share the division basement with the Phillies, have shown so far that they can at least give themselves a fighting chance against comparatively weak competition, sweeping the Marlins to begin the season and taking two of three from the Mets.
But then again, there’s this:
In other N.L. East news, it’s starting to seem like the Marlins just can’t catch a break with their young arms.
— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) April 12, 2015
Alvarez was pretty good in his first start of the season, going seven innings and giving up six hits and two runs to the Braves. He only had two strikeouts, though, and PITCHf/x data showed his velocity was down, a common omen of elbow trouble. He averaged 91.9 mph in that start, down from an average of 94.5 in 2014, per Brooks Baseball.
Against the Rays on Sunday, Alvarez held the opposition to a run through the first four innings, but he gave up a three-run home run to David DeJesus in the fifth inning. A quick look at the velocity data on MLB.com’s play-by-play, which is missing velocity data from the first two innings, shows that Alvarez topped out at 93 and more commonly sat in the low 90s. The three pitches he threw to DeJesus in the fifth inning clocked in at 90.
According to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, Alvarez will also have his right shoulder examined.
The Defensive Play of the Weekend
The suffocating combination of ennui, hopelessness and outright sadness that I’m sure permeated this weekend’s Rangers-Astros series vanished for a couple thrilling seconds.
With the bases loaded and two outs in a tie ballgame in the 10th inning, Leonys Martin clobbered a Tony Sipp slider deep to right field. Sure, it was in the bandbox that is Globe Life Park, but still, a dinger’s a dinger. But wait…
Holy smokes! That is some Mike Trout level stuff from George Springer. To even get back to the wall is impressive enough, but to jump on the run like that, make essentially a no-look catch and still hang on to the ball like that it truly special. In a recent Effectively Wild podcast, Sam Miller pitched the idea of a more precise WPA stat, something that updated in microseconds as a play unfolded. This would be the perfect play to test that out.
The Astros went on to win 6-4 on Hank Conger’s two-run homer in the 14th inning.
What to Watch on Monday
The Tigers head to Pittsburgh for their first interleague matchup of the season, and another chance to prove their worth against a bona fide division title contender — the Pirates received nine votes for the N.L. Central title in the BP staff’s pre-season predictions. Anibal Sanchez will look to avoid giving up his first run of the season, and Gerrit Cole will try to rebound from an unspectacular start against the equally unspectacular Reds.
Mat Latos is scheduled to get the start for the Marlins against the Braves. Latos’ first start this year — also against Atlanta — was historically terrible. He gave up seven runs on six hits and retired just two batters before being yanked. His ERA currently sits at 94.50. Latos’ fastball sat around 90 mph, continuing its steady descent from his peak 94ish-mph days with the Padres. That wasn’t the whole story behind Latos getting bombed, but it was a big part. The Marlins’ rotation is already on shaky ground with the news of Henderson Alvarez’s elbow discomfort, and more terribleness (or even mediocrity) from Latos would be crushing to the team’s hopes of respectability this season.
The A’s dropped two straight extra-inning contests to close out their series with the Mariners, though Sunday’s contest featured a four-run rally against Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at 7-7. Oakland will send Houston area native (and former Sugar Land Skeeter) Scott Kazmir against the Astros and Scott Feldman. Kazmir was brilliant in his season-opening start against the Rangers, striking out 10 in seven innings of one-hit ball. He showed velocity in that start that was actually a tick up from 2014, which is especially good news for an A’s team working on a mostly unproven rotation.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now