April 06, 2010
I'm the last hand on deck as we finish up the opening day wrap; if you want to celebrate Jason Heyward's(notes) fantastic debut, go here; if you want to marvel at Mark Buehrle's(notes) Globetrotter act, click here. Otherwise, let's take a look at a glorious first full day of action and see what's moving and shaking on the roto landscape.
Gomez was one of the surprise stars of opening day, collecting four hits (including a homer) and a stolen base in Monday's loss to Colorado. And the snappy debut came on the heels of an exciting spring (.301 average, 11 steals in 11 attempts). He's going to get a shot at the No. 2 position in the Milwaukee lineup, and it looks like Gomez will have the green light on the bases anytime he wants it. All sounds great, doesn't it?
Ah, but there's an ugly flip side to consider here. Gomez has long been known as a player with no patience or pitch recognition skills at the dish; he sees the ball, he hacks at the ball. His putrid on-base percentage (.292) forced him out of Minnesota, and Gomez didn't show any improved patience during March (just two walks). Bourn's reinvention last year came through a series of important changes – better pitch selection, more balls on the ground; conversely, Gomez's big Monday was all about swinging from the heels at the first pitch available (he took a cut on 8-of-13 pitches, and look at his pose above – you can almost hear him saying "yeah, I'm a slugger"). You could make the argument that the home run Gomez hit was the worst possible result for him long term; it's going to reinforce bad habits.
This doesn't mean you can't make a short-team pickup with Gomez; for all of his offensive flaws, he is capable of stealing 40 or more bases over a full season. And you never know, perhaps a fast start could turn him into a trading chip, depending on the quality and sophistication of your league. Just keep in mind that Monday's results didn't show a change in offensive philosophy, and this is a player that's desperately needed one for a while.
• Monday was a fairly clean day from the closers but we didn't get away completely unscathed; Jason Frasor(notes) has the first ninth-inning meltdown of the year, falling apart in Arlington (0.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R). Scott Downs(notes) breezed through the eighth inning on just 11 pitches (eight strikes) and probably is Toronto's best reliever pitcher on raw skills, but Kevin Gregg(notes) is also around and might be more attractive as a potential closer because he's right handed (never mind that he's not as good as the other two options here). It's probably 50-50 at best that any of these three guys manages to get to 20 saves when it's all said and done.
• Ryan Franklin(notes) came out for an inning of work in Cincinnati; he was in line for a save chance until Yadier Molina(notes) counterfeited things with his grand slam in the top of the ninth. Franklin had just about nothing on his cutter and the Reds hit him pretty sharply (3 H, 2 R); Brandon Phillips(notes) laced a two-run double to center that probably dented the ball.
If you're hedging against Franklin (and really, who isn't?), please note that Jason Motte(notes) struggled in the seventh (one run, two outs, three baserunners) while Kyle McClellan(notes) was ordinary in the eighth (1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, an unearned run). The fact that McClellan got the eighth-inning assignment in the first place is worth noting; the Cardinals aren't afraid to close with a non-name brand (like Franklin last year) and Motte's still a work-in-progress in a lot of ways (heck, he's only been pitching since 2006).
• I've never really been a Casey Kotchman(notes) fan, but if he's going to bat third most of the year behind Ichiro Suzuki(notes) and Chone Figgins(notes), maybe something interesting will happen. The table setters got on base four times in Oakland (one hit, three walks, plus three steals) and Kotchman made the most of it, collecting two hits and four RBIs. Location, location, location.
• Garrett Jones(notes) homered on his first two at-bats and they both made a statement about his game; make a mistake over the plate and he's capable of splashing into the river, and even if you work away from him, he's got enough power to find the seats. He'll probably see a lot more off-speed stuff as the season goes along, but he's no longer a secret to anyone, teams had a full offseason to consider how to get this guy out. His average will probably fall 20-30 points from last year, but 25-30 homers looks like a sure thing to me.
Handshakes: Franklin Morales(notes) allowed a couple of absolute rockets in the ninth inning at Milwaukee but survived (thanks, Troy Tulowitzki(notes)). … Brian Fuentes(notes) was surprisingly tidy putting down the Twins in order. Fernando Rodney(notes) got through the eighth as only he can; working a scoreless inning despite throwing just 3-of-10 pitches for strikes. … Piece of cake for David Aardsma(notes), getting the A's in order and recording two strikeouts. Andrew Bailey(notes) worked on the other side and needed 16 pitches to record one out, albeit a Kevin Kourmanoff error extended the inning. … Frank Francisco(notes) struck out two of the four Blue Jays he faced, then picked up a victory when Frasor imploded in the bottom of the ninth. … The perennially-underrated Brian Wilson(notes) closed up with two outs in Houston, made necessary after Brandon Medders(notes) ran into trouble.
Speed Round: Shaun Marcum(notes) was the early story of the day, taking a no-hitter into the seventh at Texas before the Rangers caught up to him (Nelson Cruz(notes) eventually squared the game with a three-run moonshot). Marcum's a nice story off Tommy John surgery, but I'm not betting on AL East pitchers for mixed-league play unless they're All-Star quality. If I were doing a pitcher Shuffle Up and Deal right this second, I wouldn't go past $5 on Marcum. … It's a little surprising Felix Hernandez(notes) couldn't completely dispatch of that pedestrian Athletics lineup (everyone starting for Oakland should be batting first, sixth or ninth; the middle of the order is embarrassingly weak). … Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) might have pitched better than his line suggests (6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K) and it's interesting to note that the Brewers could't stop praising his nasty stuff after the game. Yahoo's Jeff Passan tabs Jimenez to win the Cy Young this year. … Carlos Gonzalez(notes) was nabbed on his stolen-base attempt but that was just about the only thing that went wrong for him during a 4-for-5 opener with two runs scored. Now let's hope Jim Tracy gives Cargo a chance to play against all kinds of pitching, as he deserves. … The Mets have plenty to feel good about with their opener (David Wright(notes) homered, Johan Santana(notes) was sharp), but it's hard to feel good about a lineup that uses Mike Jacobs(notes) in the cleanup spot (0-for-4, 2 Ks).
Nothing about Philly's romp in Washington comes as a surprise; here's a look at the crooked numbers. Ryan Howard(notes) tends to struggle with hard-throwing lefties, but the soft-tossing John Lannan(notes) didn't fool him in the fourth inning. … Drew Stubbs(notes) didn't start for the Reds but he made an impact later in the game (2-1-2-1). … Vernon Wells(notes) broke a lot of hearts in 2009, in part because he was playing with a bad wrist. He sure looked healthy in Texas (three hits, including a homer). … Tim Lincecum(notes) mowed down the Astros and Dan Haren(notes) toyed with the Padres, to the surprise of no one. Good work if you can get it. … Carlos Zambrano(notes) didn't have a thing in Atlanta (1.1 IP, 8 ER) but he made good on his promise to be more in control of his emotions; he did not attack the Gatorade bucket in the dugout. Lou Piniella seemed to take Chicago's ass-kicking in stride as well. Chicago did have one bright spot Monday, Sean Marshall's(notes) work in relief (2.2 perfect innings, with five strikeouts). … I've run out of words to describe the awesomeness of Albert Pujols(notes), so you can take up that chore in the comments. Welcome back, baseball.