Your team is either 1-0 and you feel like pre-ordering your playoff tickets or your team is 0-1 and you feel a deep, deep despair of hopelessness and will probably sleep in until 2 p.m. on Tuesday (Well, unless you’re a Tigers or White Sox fan and got rained out). Opening Day is in the books. What did we see that is real and what did we see that was a mirage? I have the answers! Now, get up, put your cap back on and remember: 161 more games to go.
The game: Braves at Mets
What happened: Noah Syndergaard dominates with six scoreless innings, but leaves with a blister, hardly easing concerns about the health of the Mets' rotation.
Real or mirage: Real. This is an issue we’ll most likely address throughout the season, especially considering Steven Matz and Seth Lugo both started the season on the DL with sore elbows. That seven-man rotation is already down to five and Zack Wheeler still has to show he’s back from Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard, meanwhile, will have his second start pushed back a day, to Sunday. Keep this in mind, as well: The only other pitcher on the 40-man roster with starting experience not already in the majors is Sean Gilmartin.
The game: Marlins at Nationals
What happened: Bryce Harper homers in a 4-2 win for the Nationals.
Real or mirage: Real. Sure, I get it. The haters will point out that Harper homered last year on Opening Day, had a monster April with nine home runs and then hit just 15 more the rest of the season. While Harper or the Nationals never acknowledged it, it seems he likely played through a shoulder injury (for example, he started playing more shallow in right field and the velocity was down on his throws). After a monster spring training with eight home runs, Harper is clearly healthy again. Even as the power waned last year, he maintained his superb plate discipline, a reason to expect 35 home runs or so and a .400-plus OBP. In other words, MVP-caliber numbers.
The game: Pirates at Red Sox
What happened: Andrew Benintendi hits a three-run homer in a 5-3 win for the Red Sox.
Real or mirage: Real. Gerrit Cole was cruising along in a scoreless duel with Rick Porcello when everything unraveled quickly. Two outs, nobody on, then: triple, infield single, bunt single against the shift, RBI single, Benintendi three-run homer. The Red Sox left fielder is the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year with good reason: The kid will hit. Cole tried to blow a 2-2, 98 mph fastball past Benintendi, but the rookie turned on the high heater and hit it out to right-center. Benintendi is in a good spot in the lineup, hitting between Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts, and he packs surprising punch for a smaller guy. A .300 average and 20 home runs are not out of the question.
The game: Blue Jays at Orioles
Real or mirage: Mirage. In the game of designated hitter/corner outfielder musical chairs that was played over the winter, Trumbo ended up slinking back to Baltimore for less money than he might have anticipated and Bautista ended up slinking back to Toronto for less money than he anticipated. Orioles general manager Dan Duquette famously said the O’s didn’t really want Bautista anyway, because “our fans just don’t like Jose.” So, did the Orioles end up with the better hitter here? Not necessarily. Trumbo led the AL with 47 home runs last year, but Bautista nearly matched him in wRC+ (123 to 122) thanks to a better OBP. Now, Bautista missed time last year, but don’t be surprised if he is more valuable at the plate ... even if he did make Orioles fans very happy on Monday.
The game: A's at Angels
What happened: Khris Davis homers (twice) for the A’s.
Real or mirage: Real. Notice I didn’t take the easy way out and point out that Mike Trout also homered. Anyway, Davis hit 42 home runs last season, and he’s capable of that number again. In fact, he didn’t hit his first home run last year until April 21, so if he gets off to a strong start, 50 is a possibility.
The game: Rockies at Brewers
What happened: Rockies' bullpen tosses five scoreless innings in 7-5 win.
Real or mirage: To be determined (admittedly, a total cop-out on my part). Now, hold on, Rockies fans. I’m a big Adam Ottavino fan. Greg Holland, coming back from Tommy John surgery, certainly had an encouraging outing. Mike Dunn had two strikeouts in his inning of work. Those three should certainly help make this a better bullpen than last year’s disaster corps, which had a 5.13 ERA -- unacceptable even by Coors Field standards. I just want to give this more than one game before I completely buy in. I also want to make sure Holland can hold up over the long haul and that Dunn throws enough strikes to be a useful setup guy. Plus ... man, this Brewers team is going to strike out a gazillion times this season.
The game: Phillies at Reds
What happened: Jeanmar Gomez gets the save in Phillies’ 4-3 win.
Real or mirage: Mirage. For starters, Gomez gave up two runs. Can we please create an addendum to the save rule that if you gave up two runs, you don’t get credit for the save? Anyway, Gomez saved 37 games last year, but he also allowed 78 hits in 68 2/3 innings and recorded just 47 strikeouts. Hector Neris is the best reliever on the team, and I suspect he’ll be closing before long (even though he can argue he’s more valuable in the setup role, when he’ll conceivably enter at times with runners on base).
The game: Royals at Twins
What happened: Royals' bullpen serves up six runs in the seventh inning of a 7-1 loss.
Real or mirage: Real. This is not the bullpen Royals fans have grown to love in recent seasons. Kelvin Herrera is still here, but Wade Davis is gone, 2015 World Series hero Luke Hochevar is gone, and Holland is with the Rockies. Matt Strahm looked good down the stretch last season, but the young lefty gave up two walks and two hits. He should be OK, but the pen is still a collection of retreads (Peter Moylan), injury comebacks (Mike Minor) and second-tier free agents (Travis Wood). Once a strength, the pen now looks like a weakness.
The game: Mariners at Astros
What happened: Dallas Keuchel tosses seven shutout innings.
Real or mirage: Real. This looked like 2015 Keuchel, with great movement on his sinker while pounding the corners and bottom of the strike zone. He got 11 groundouts and just one fly ball out in the Astros' 3-0 win over the Mariners, and that's how he won the Cy Young Award.
The game: Indians at Rangers
What happened: Rangers' bullpen blows late lead.
Real or mirage: Mirage. This is the kind of game the Rangers won last year when they went 36-11 in one-run games and the bullpen went 41-20. Buried in that, however, was a mediocre 4.40 bullpen ERA and the second-lowest strikeout rate. The pen was certainly clutch, if not necessarily dominant. While Matt Bush and Sam Dyson blew Monday's lead, that should still be a solid late-game duo.
The game: Padres at Dodgers
What happened: Padres lose 14-3.
Real or mirage: Real.
The game: Giants at Diamondbacks
What happened: Giants' bullpen struggles in 6-5 loss to Diamondbacks.
Real or mirage? Mirage. Look, it’s easy to understand the panic. The Giants led the majors last season with 30 blown saves -- the most ever for a playoff team. They started 2017 with two in the first game, blowing leads in the eighth and ninth innings, and that’s on top of lefty Will Smith going down with Tommy John surgery. It’s one game. Hey, Mariano Rivera once blew his first two opportunities of the season. Mark Melancon allowed four hits -- something he’d done just twice over the past three seasons, a period in which he led the majors with 131 saves, with a better save percentage than Kenley Jansen. So, that probably won’t happen again all season. Derek Law, Hunter Strickland and George Kontos are all solid relievers. This should still be a top-10 bullpen.
The game: Cubs at Cardinals
What happened: Carlos Martinez fans 10 in 7 1/3 scoreless innings for the Cardinals.
Real or mirage: Real. Look, in a Cy Young discussion of Clayton Kershaw versus the field, I might still take Kershaw. But if you’re looking for somebody who has never received Cy Young votes to break out as a candidate, Martinez is a good bet. His final step in becoming an ace is improving against left-handers, who posted a .342 OBP off him in 2016. Cubs' lefties were just 3-for-15 against him. Most importantly, he threw 15 changeups of the 58 pitches to lefty batters. If that pitch is as effective as it was Sunday night, Martinez is going to rack up a bunch of double-digit strikeout games.
The game: Yankees at Rays
What happened: Chris Archer allows two runs in seven innings.
Real or mirage: Real. Archer had some problems with the long ball in 2016, especially early in the season, but he still has that world-class slider and that cool confidence. His 233 K’s last year in 201 1/3 innings attest to the quality of his stuff, and after a 2.7 SO/BB ratio in the first half, he had a 5.4 ratio in the second half. He’ll be a Cy Young contender.