MLB 2020 opening day overreactions: Christian Yelich is lost, Reds and Padres are for real and more

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Finally, we witnessed a full day of meaningful baseball. The overwhelming majority of Major League Baseball teams (the Yankees and Nationals were out after Thursday’s opener) played a regular season game on Friday for the first time since September 29, 2019. It was so good to see the best players in the world against each other. Trade. It had been far too long.

Now, this version of the opening day overreaction is certainly going to be ironic fun, just like I’ve had fun doing the past few years. Excessive reactions to a game in a 60 game season still exist, but they are not as silly as going crazy for a game in a 162 game marathon. A game now counts nearly three times as many as usual. However, it should be noted that some of these issues are mitigated with 16 out of 30 teams making the playoffs. So, yes, we still shouldn’t overreact. Let’s go over some possible overreactions and discuss their validity.

Yo is back! Diaz is fixed… ?!

The Mets won, 1-0, against the Braves behind the stellar job of Jacob deGrom and the bullpen at the height of the zeros. The only run came thanks to a solo shot from Yoenis Cespedes (full story here). Edwin Diaz locked the ninth, giving Freddie Freeman a walk – and being careful with him and a point lead is never a bad decision – and nothing else.

So, yes, Mets fans, go crazy. Diaz is fixed with his newfound confidence and Cespedes is back, giving the Mets a ridiculously deadly power combo with Pete Alonso and Cespedes. Be excited!

The reality here is that both of these overreactions could in fact turn out to be true. Diaz was an absolute beast before he was traded to the Mets and collapsed last season. At 26, it’s not like he’s hit a wall because of his age. He just blew a few games, then snowballed into a lost season. It happens to the best of them. Friday’s outing will likely give him reassurance that he just needed to turn the schedule to 2020. I’d bet he’ll come back. The problem is, we can’t be definitive on this. We need to see more than a foursome exit to be sure.

A similar sentiment holds true for Cespedes. He only played 81 games in 2017 and 38 games in 2018 before missing all of 2019. He hadn’t played a meaningful game in over two years. The home run was very exciting and he looked like the part, but he’s also 34 and he’s been out of practice for a while.

Cautious optimism is fine. Past that, it’s a major overreaction.

Yelich is broken

Former MVP Christian Yelich, who could have won it last year to come back back-to-back before a fractured kneecap sidelined him, struggled fiercely in his summer camp games. It was well documented everywhere. Reports varied as to the actual numbers, but it was about 4 to 34 with 16 dams. This was the most common count I have found.

Friday against the Cubs he didn’t look good at all. He tapped the pitcher weakly on his first at bat, then struck out twice before retiring safely in the ninth with a runner (that was a defenseman’s choice, technically). He swung and missed five times, including two with two strikes.

React excessively!

It’s entirely possible he’s having a rough year after something that could have turned out to be a career-changing injury. The smart money, however, is that this is a superstar in the midst of his flower and that he will eventually make himself understood. Even though he can’t return to MVP level, he was at All-Star level before that.

Reds are the escape many thought they would be

The Reds were a fashionable choice to win NL Central and they came out of the gates incredibly strong. They scored seven runs on nine hits while allowing just one run (a solo homerun) and three hits. Sonny Gray was excellent on the mound. They didn’t burn any of their top-flight main relievers. Mike Moustakas made his debut for the Reds, going 3 for 4 with a massive home run. Joey Votto had a pair of hits including a home run. Shogo Akiyama made his debut with a two-beat RBI single. Nick Castellanos had an RBI brace. It was a fairly complete performance with a lot of good signs. They looked as awesome as many thought.

But they played the Tigers. The first inning for the Reds, they scored with a walk, a single, then two free-kick beaters before Moustakas made a single and Cameron Maybin sums up the 2020 Tigers.

The reds could be great. We can’t overreact and say that beating an atrocious team proves anything, however.

The Padres also succeeded!

The Padres are a team that I have been pushing like a good sleeper this season for weeks. Months, probably. The Diamondbacks were a playoff contender last year and added Starling Marte and Madison Bumgarner in the offseason, so they were a formidable opponent heading into Opening Day for the Brothers.

And the Padres, behind Chris Paddack’s dominance (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4K) on the mound, some quality pen work and Eric Hosmer exploding with three hits that included a pair of doubles at three RBI, cruising and absolutely watched the competitor’s part. Tommy Pham stole two goals, Fernando Tatis watched the all-star game as usual, Jurickson Profar shot two steps to load the bases in front of Hosmer with two strikeouts to set the table for the RBI six night and this team in general just got the look of a team that San Diego will rally around.

This is, of course, only one game. It was 0-0 for a while. The Hosmer doubles opportunity was happy and the whole game turned on them. But man, it was hard not to be excited about the Padres. As I like to say, cautious optimism is probably the right way here in San Diego.

Oh oh, Phillies

Phillies ace Aaron Nola looked like an elite level pitcher for the first five months of 2018. He’s been better than great and even closer to mediocre at times. On Friday, the Marlins got it for four runs in 5-1 / 3 innings. He hit seven on a pitch, but was knocked down in a four-run sixth.

Meanwhile, the Phillies’ offense was only two runs on five hits. They were mostly dominated by starter Marlins Sandy Alcantara.

Nothing has changed? Are the Philies even closer to mediocre instead of being good? If so, that means fourth place east of Newfoundland and Labrador… or worse? The Marlins just handled them pretty easily.

I would say there is some level of concern here, but let’s not be crazy. Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto did nothing at home and these are safe bets to perform consistently the rest of the time. The pitching part is a bit of a concern, but they added Zack Wheeler to the group last year. They are better than they have played.

Blue Jays> Rayons

Well, look at this. The “Buffalo” Blue Jays have a lot of young talent and have called on Hyun-Jin Ryu to serve as a staff ace. The Rays are a playoff team considered the biggest threat to the Yankees in the AL East. The Jays walked in and punched Rays ace Charlie Morton in the mouth. A Cavan Biggio circuit followed him with the following line: 4+ IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.

The inherited trio Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero combined for four hits, four runs and three RBIs in the top three places of the order. Maybe they have arrived?

Meanwhile, the Rays’ offense has only collected five hits. Sure, they were timely enough to get four points, but part of it is just luck. They went 5 for 33 and that’s an average of 0.152. Frankly, the lineup doesn’t look that impressive on paper.

So have the Jays already passed the shelves?

Probably not. Again, it was just a game. However, I think the takeaway from this game is that the Jays are going to be competitive this season and a lot of fun to watch. Even if they miss the playoffs, a good foundation is in place.

Lucas Giolito: one-year wonder

White Sox starter Lucas Giolito was baseball’s worst 2018 starter by ERA among qualifying starters, with a miserable ERA of 6.13. Last year he became an All-Star who finished sixth in Cy Young’s vote. Now he would have to face the rotation of an upstart suitor from the Chicago south side.

On Friday night, Giolito was beaten by seven runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked three. Baseball history is lined with pitchers who were short-term moats and just never got to relive that great season in the long term. Giolito looks like he got a ticket to Wonder Status a year after opening day, right?

I guess it’s possible. I don’t think it’s likely. He was a first-round draft talent out of high school and a top five prospect for several years in the minor league. He put it all together at 24 last season and came up against an attack from the stacked Twins on Friday. Smart money is it will be fine. With just 11 starts left, though, and one stinky in the books, don’t count on a Cy Young. Speaking of this award and Chicago …

Hendricks pour Cy Young!

The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks pitched the second opening day shutout since 2003 and the fifth since 1993 (full story here). He was remarkable in every way. He looks all the same as the Cy Young candidate he was in 2016, although he has since added a very effective curveball.

Hey, with only 11 starts remaining and already having a shutout under his belt, it might not be an overreaction, but Hendricks hasn’t gotten a single vote from Cy Young since 2016.

Globe Life Field is a pitcher’s dream

The Rangers launched a new stadium and won. I wonder how excited the clubhouse really is – at least on the positional side – after this one, though. The two teams combined for a run on six hits. There has been some talk over the past few weeks that this baseball stadium might play the opposite of Globe Life Park and be a pitching haven. The first game really looked like it. Lance Lynn is good. Germany’s Marquez has a good advantage and has generally been very good away from Coors Field, but it hasn’t really created a hitter-friendly atmosphere. It looks like the Rangers got the wake-up call the Padres did when they opened Petco Park.

Right?

Hey, let’s hold on a second. It’s just a game. We didn’t declare Wrigley Field a pitching park after the 3-0 result with a few hits on opening day. We also have to keep in mind the above mention that pitchers are good and we also have to keep in mind that the Rockies are generally pretty terrible away from Coors Field. It seems possible that this is a site suitable for launchers, but we do not have enough to continue.

Tigers and orioles are awful

Yeah, that’s not an overreaction. They both are. It’s hard to say what was worse, but it really doesn’t matter. They’ll pick 1-2 again in next year’s draft.

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