MLB opening weekend: Takeaways from early-season baseball action
The MLB season is in full swing after full slates of games Saturday and Sunday. The lockout essentially gave fans two Opening Days with games Thursday and Friday.
The first weekend of the season confirmed things we already knew (the Blue Jays can hit) and gave us new things to monitor.
While it’s too early to gather real information about trends, some things are readily apparent, and other things will evolve over the 162-game season.
The Sporting News has some incredibly early takeaways from MLB’s opening weekend:
Umpire audio is an incredible addition
This is more a general observation. Umpire announcements are a simple addition to the fan experience, but they’re already a rousing success for MLB. Allowing everyone in the stadium to know what a call is at the same time leads to moments we need at the ballpark. What’s more perfect than hearing an out changed to a walk-off hit on Opening Day?
That moment occurred at Detroit’s Comerica Park on Friday after Javier Báez’s drive to deep right field appeared to be caught by the White Sox’s A.J. Pollock. The game seemed to be heading to extra innings until further review determined that the ball hit the wall prior to Pollock juggling, and then catching, it. Home plate umpire and crew chief Marvin Hudson made the call live, which produced a thunderous reaction rather than the slow uproar that would have occurred in the past with just a simple signal.
After further review … a Javy #walkoff winner!
— MLB (@MLB) April 8, 2022
The Blue Jays and Mets are must-see TV
Toronto shook off ace José Berrios getting shelled on opening night, coming back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Rangers. The rally started fittingly: with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singling home George Springer for the first run. The Jays went on to score seven more times before the Rangers tied the game 8-8.
In the bottom of the seventh, there was another umpire announcement of a reversal after Teoscar Hernández slid under a tag at home, giving the Blue Jays a 9-8 lead. They added an insurance run and ended up winning 10-8.
Us: [chanting] Safe, Safe-
Other fans: Safe, SAFE
DUGOUT: [pounding bench] SAFE, SAFE, SAFE! pic.twitter.com/Mgh7KajDv4
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 9, 2022
The Blue Jays won the series 2-1, but the bullpen — a pressure point for Toronto heading into the season — had to be busy on opening night after Berrios recorded just one out. Every game at Rogers Centre during the weekend was fun. The Blue Jays will be good, and they’ll be great to watch.
As for the Mets, they finished the weekend 3-1 against the Nationals. Offseason pickup Mark Canha had seven hits. Another newcomer, Starling Marte, drove in four runs. Their main mound additions, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt, notched quality starts, making New York one of just two teams to have two starters log quality starts in the opening weekend (the Padres had three against the Diamondbacks).
The Mets’ three wins were by a combined 13 runs as the length of their batting order stood out. The universal DH greatly benefits a team with New York’s depth. For example, it allows Pete Alonso to stay off the field on occasion, as he did Saturday when he hit a grand slam.
Pete Alonso, grand slam. That thing hung up there forever, almost seven full seconds in the air.
Mets 4, Nationals 0, top five. pic.twitter.com/QBgVMHcMbx
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 10, 2022
The AL East and NL East races should be thrilling this year with these retooled teams poised to break out.
Unwritten rules aren’t going anywhere
The Mets-Nationals and Brewers-Cubs series had tension, with the benches clearing in both. On Friday, the Mets’ Francisco Lindor was hit in the face while squaring to bunt, making four New York hit batsmen in two games. That got the Mets out of their dugout. On Saturday, the Brewers’ Andrew McCutchen was hit in response to the Cubs’ Ian Happ getting drilled. That led to the jostling at Wrigley Field.
Andrew McCutchen gets plunked and benches clear at Wrigley Field pic.twitter.com/wn2mLVVcRB
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 9, 2022
Tensions flare and the benches clear in Washington as Francisco Lindor takes a pitch to the head pic.twitter.com/6QSJROpmHM
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 9, 2022
Whatever you think of the incidents, they aren’t going anywhere. These mound meetups in the first weekend were partly a product of division rivals being familiar with each other, but they’re also part of baseball’s DNA, for better or worse. McCutchen said he was bothered because he felt the Cubs made it appear as though they were going to pitch to him before they hit him, which wasn’t fair play.
MLB’s bad teams are really bad
Don’t be fooled by the Diamondbacks stealing an Opening Day win from the Padres: Arizona’s lineup is horrendous. It was no-hit for the first six innings of Game 1 and the first seven innings of Game 2. On the other coast, the Orioles were swept by the Rays and scored four runs total in the three games. It’s going to be a long season for both teams, with the NL West and AL East being two of baseball’s top three divisions along with the NL East. Don’t expect many miracle wins like Arizona’s on Thursday.
The kids are all right
For the most part, the top prospects who made their MLB debuts had a good weekend. You can lump in Seiya Suzuki with this group even though he’s 27. Spencer Torkelson failed to get a hit for the Tigers, but the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. had a go-ahead RBI with his first career MLB hit before coming back the next day and making one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see.
Welcome to the show Bobby Witt Jr!
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 7, 2022
Bobby Witt Jr. 👀 pic.twitter.com/7Yl83ir9An
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 9, 2022
Twins right-hander Joe Ryan looked strong in his first Opening Day start, with two hits allowed over four innings against the Mariners, although he also had control issues with four walks. Jhoan Duran came on for Ryan and dazzled in his MLB debut, with four strikeouts over two innings.
Hunter Greene won his MLB debut Sunday, allowing three runs over five innings in the Reds’ 6-3 victory over the Braves. Greene struck out seven and walked two. Another rookie, Nick Lodolo, is up next for Cincinnati.
Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, like Torkelson, struggled early, but he did manage to notch his first MLB hit, a standup leadoff double that sparked a ninth-inning rally in Seattle’s 4-3 victory Saturday. Being able to hit in high-leverage situations is a good sign for the 21-year-old Rodriguez.
SAVE THAT BALL.
First major league hit for Julio Rodriguez!
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 9, 2022
Finally, there’s Suzuki, who scored a run in his debut Thursday and homered Sunday. Suzuki showed great plate discipline as he drove in six runs in his first three games as a Cub. He’s making the transition to MLB look easy.
Seiya Suzuki has landed.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 10, 2022
The Craig Kimbrel-A.J. Pollock trade was good for the Dodgers and White Sox
There’s a reason there aren’t many trades of major leaguers for major leaguers: They’re rarely mutually beneficial. This swap, however, was recognized almost immediately as a good deal for both sides, and both players paid immediate dividends for their new teams.
Pollock went 4 for 7 in the first two games while filling in for the suspended Tim Anderson as the White Sox’s leadoff hitter. Kimbrel notched a save in his Dodgers debut, though he did allow a run to the Rockies.
Kenley Jansen’s departure to the Braves still hurts the Dodgers, but the upside of landing Kimbrel to take his place as the closer can’t be denied. Pollock, meanwhile, improves the White Sox’s outfield depth.