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After one (1) weekend of games, it is clearly too early to announce any World Series favorites. But we’ve had too many monster races, video highlights, upsets, bat flips, bad pitches – in short: we’ve got baseballAnd that’s fine for me.
I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal – Welcome to The Windup!
Beginner’s luck is on your side
It seems that every year there is a football team that wins its first 10 or 11 games. Baseball, of course, doesn’t work that way. There is a five-player rotation to consider, and the games are every day (so it’s not the same lineup every game). More often than not, by the time a season is five or six games old, everyone has lost at least one game.
It could happen, but after the first four days of games, there are three undefeated teams — the Rangers, Rays and Twins — leading toward 162-0 (while the Phillies, Tigers and Royals are all hoping to avoid breaking the record 0-21 streak set by the Orioles 1988).
• The Rangers swept the National League champions at home, and two of the three weren’t even close. They scored 27 points in the first two games against Philadelphia, including a 16-3 bombing on Saturday. All this with Jacob DeGroom’s first start… er, okay. Mitch Garver hit two home runs in that game – if someone had predicted a rebounding year for him! For all the talk about the newly revamped rotation, the offense in Texas has looked great so far.
• The Rays sweep of the Tigers may have been more predictable, but it was still impressive to see Wander Franco finish the first series of the year with a Seven hits in 11 at bats (. 636 batting average). Meanwhile, Shane McClanahan and Jeffrey Springs each finished their first starts with an ERA of 0.00 (and Zach Eflin sits at 1.80). This is similar to…
• Minnesota, who also had two starters (Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray) refuse to allow an earned run, while Joe Ryan allowed one run (1.50 ERA) in their sweep of the Royals. The Twins won their first two games without hitting a single home run. That changed on Sunday when new first-team player Joey Gallo blasted two of them.
Now that I’ve teased all three of these teams…
Kane’s Corner: Wrinkle a court clock to watch
One aspect that the pitch clock teams weren’t able to test in spring training was how pitchers would react to the game rushing at them in actual competition. Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola fell victim to this scenario on Opening Day, prompting catcher JT Realmuto to say, “With a pitch clock, you can never slow a pitcher down.”
But Realmuto wasn’t quite right. One of the things the Yankees have discussed is using more of their mound hits when things start to go awry, says Gerrit Cole. The new rules allow five visits in the first eight rounds, and if the team runs out of provisions, a sixth in the ninth.
Excluding pitch changes, which don’t count towards totals, last season hits averaged just 1.18 mL per game, according to STATS Perform. The Rays lead the league at 1.59. The Yankees were at 1.23.
So hit rate will be another stat to monitor this season as you assess the impact of the new rules. Increased hits league-wide would be an unwelcome counter to the stadium clock, slowing the pace of play.
But when a team feels like the game is taking away from the pitcher, they may have no better alternative than huddling at the mound to keep things in check.
We are on each other’s team
By now, you may have heard the quip: “An arms race to nowhere” is how one owner described the analytics to Commissioner Rob Manfred, who told the story last week because he said he agreed with the sentiment.
It exudes an age-old divide back and forth between “old school” and “new school” vibes – something that really shouldn’t be necessary, since the most successful teams hire both of them. Yes, the numbers can tell you how a particular batter handles, say, the diving slider of a left-handed pitcher, which can (and should) inform the manager’s decision as to whether or not to make a pitch change.
But computers can’t read characters and talk to friends and family about the work ethic of the future the way Scouts can. It’s managers, scouts, and front-office members who ultimately make and know decisions about humans. Analytics Can Giving teams more information about the likelihood of these humans succeeding in any given scenario.
Ignore one of them at risk (your team). How many games do we see defined in one or two games? It is often by a very small margin, and the best teams benefit from both sides. It should be a partnership, not a gap.
Manfred also spoke on a number of other topics, including Realmuto’s ridiculous spring training ejection by referee Randy Rosenberg. Manfred called it a “misunderstanding”. Evan Drilich has it all here.
left in the cold
We have our first high school drama on Playtime. Aaron Hicks said the athlete that he has “no idea” of his role in The Bronx after finding his name missing from each of the first three cards of the year. On Sunday, he sat out for a player-turned-catcher-
This isn’t the first time Hicks has lost a position on the court to a professional player. Last year, it was Oswaldo Cabrera (who then took over for Kenner Valeva on short notice during the playoffs).
One possible reason could be that Hicks hasn’t had an OPS over . 700 since 2020. Last year, he hit .216/.330/.313 (.642 OPS). This high on-base percentage is due to a good eye—he had 62 walks—but he only had 19 extra base hits in 453 plate appearances (384 at bats).
In other Yankees news, Chris Kirchner takes a great look at Giancarlo Stanton’s path to becoming the king of off speed. Stanton hit a 485-foot home run on Sunday, the third longest in the statcast era in Yankee Stadium history.
Handshakes and high fives
Randy Johnson may be as good at photography as he was at pitching. C. Trent Rosecrans got a chance to talk to him about some of his footage.
The Padres and Jake Cronworth agreed to a seven-year extension. Denise Lynn has all the details here.
James Fegan gives some background on the White Sox’ new manager Pedro Grifol.
Did Chris Sale have a point when he said that at 34 years old, his throwing arm is only 31?
Robbie Ray will be out for 4-6 weeks with a left flexor strain. It’s an inauspicious start for a team whose starting players didn’t miss a single game due to health issues last year on their way to the playoffs.
WBC Great Britain champion Trayce Thompson knocked down three zingers for the Dodgers on Saturday.
After his successful MLB debut, Kodai Senga gave his citation of the year to date, saying he was so nervous before a game that his “legs felt like a ghost”.
It was Brian Reynolds extension Too close in Pittsburgh. Instead, a requirement for an opt-out clause after the fourth year reined it in (for the time being).
Oh man, I love Randy Arosarina.
(Top photo by Mitch Garver: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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