We just finished the opening weekend of the MLB season, and already two American League fan bases are in panic mode. The Chicago Cubs were given at least one reason to be optimistic about the future, and the Texas Rangers will finally get to see their big winter investment in action.
Our analysts discuss all three storylines in today's Triple Play.
1. Who should be more concerned: Yankees fans or Red Sox fans?
Molly Knight (@Molly_Knight), ESPN The Magazine
Red Sox fans, no doubt. It's still hard for me to find a hole in the Yankees lineup. They will hit a ton, and their pitching will come around -- even if that means using the ghost of Andy Pettitte to keep them in games this summer. But the Red Sox lineup feels weaker than it has in the last decade. Obviously, they still have great hitters in Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, but there are some easier outs in there, for once. Plus I think Boston is the most difficult market to play and manage in. And given the way they finished last year, if they don't turn it around in the next few weeks the panic will be potentially crushing.
Jason Wojciechowski (@jlwoj), Beaneball
Red Sox fans should be more concerned, but I would have said that on Wednesday, too. Two bullpen blow-ups and a blowout are ugly, especially given existing worries about the pitching, but three contests one way or another shouldn't change our opinions. Since mine was that the Yankees are better, it still is.
Dave Gershman (@Dave_Gershman), Marlins Daily
Red Sox fans should definitely be more concerned. The bullpen that the Sox have in place is rather weak. The back end, which revolves mainly around Mark Melancon, lacks stuff and experience. Additionally, the Sox lack depth in the outfield and have Mike Aviles playing shortstop, two problems being overshadowed right now by the bullpen blowups.
2. Jeff Samardzija: Are you buying or selling?
Knight: Buying. I know it's only one game, but this guy was averaging 96 mph on his fastball in the ninth inning, after throwing 90 pitches. If he wanted to prove to his club that he can start in the big leagues, mission accomplished. Clearly he gets stronger as the game goes on. He came one pitch and one
error away from tossing a complete game, and struck out eight Nationals, who later raved about his stuff.
The next time I issue a buy recommendation on a merely decent pitcher with one good start, you can take away my blogger card. Still, it's notable that, per the PITCHf/x data, Samardzija lost very little on his pitches compared to last year and kept his velocity all the way through his 110th pitch. That's encouraging.
Gershman: I've always been a buyer. Samardzija has always been known for his stuff but command has been an issue. He showed Sunday that he is certainly capable of shutting down an offense out of the rotation, which is what I've always believed he could do.
3. Yu Darvish's final line on Monday night will be
Knight: 7 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 7 K's, 4 BB. When I saw Darvish pitch in the spring his stuff was good but opposing batters told me he had trouble throwing his two-seamer for strikes. It's imperative he goes out throwing bullets because if he doesn't, guys will be able to cheat a little bit on his big slow breaking ball. When he throws strikes, hitters say the difference in velocity between his fastball (95 mph) and his curve (75 mph) makes it damn near impossible to get the barrel of the bat on the ball and drive it. I think he may have a little trouble with the strike zone tonight and that will cost him -- but not too much. Look for a strong outing from Yu and a Rangers victory.
Wojciechowski: Seattle knocked Oakland around, but Yu Darvish ain't Bartolo Colon. He has a vast arsenal of pitches, most of them filthy. Some silly strikeouts will result, but I think he'll get a momentary rude awakening to the joys of Arlington from one of Seattle's bigger bats. My prediction: 7 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs, 8 K's, 2 BB and a homer.
Gershman: 6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 6 K's, 1 BB. Although Darvish is facing a potentially weak Mariners lineup, it is his first career start in the majors so there are no past trends that could project future outings. I think he'll flash his brilliant stuff but some growing pains are to be expected. I think his overall line will be merely decent.