Takeaways From a Wild Opening Day

As it typically goes, the build-up for for Opening Day felt like it had to overshadow the actual event. Luckily for baseball fans everywhere, the day had plenty to offer. With a couple hours before games begin again, let’s take this time to digest it, let it sink in, and recap the major takeaways from a wild Opening Day from Major League Baseball.

The Umpires

The old saying goes, the umpires had a good day if nobody remembers them. If that’s the case, the umpires have some rust to shake off too. Beginning opening night and extending into Opening Day, fans couldn’t help but notice the size of the strike zone, a point of emphasis this offseason in an effort to speed up the game and encourage players to swing away.

The strike zone appears to have grown, and not only did fans notice, so too did pitchers across the league. Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy and Diamondbacks starter Daniel Hudson both commented on the expanding strike zone gifted to Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright on Sunday night:

As night became day, the strike zone appeared to stay large throughout the league, much to the delight of pitchers everywhere. If that alone caught people’s eyes, we may not have an issue. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there for the boys in blue.

In Detroit, Twins center fielder Torii Hunter made his feelings on the umpiring known, getting in the face of controversial Joe West, who called Hunter out on a check-swing third strike to end the Twins game against Detroit despite some pretty clear evidence Hunter had held up. He did not ask for an appeal. You can see the video here, courtesy of the Worldwide Leader. Hunter would say after the game that West must have “had dinner reservations” to make that call.

Finally, in Tampa, the umpires were once again involved in a play at the plate. Baltimore’s Steve Pearce was thrown out at home by several steps. However, Pearce slid under the tag, as proven by instant replay:

While it does appear the right call was made, you could argue the new, still-unclear rules regarding home plate collisions could have played a role (despite the fact that Tampa catcher Rene Rivera was legally allowed to block the plate with the ball in hand).

Overall, not the best Opening Day from the Umpires.

The Power

Pitching may reign in today’s Major League Baseball, but on Opening Day at least, balls were flying out the park. All told, 29 home runs were hit by 27 different players yesterday across Major League Baseball, led by the two apiece from Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez. One of Ramirez’s was a grand slam, the only one of the day.

MLB: APR 06 Red Sox at Phillies

Detroit’s J.D. Martinez started the barrage with first of the day, followed in kind by the likes of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Adrian Gonzalez, and Andrew McCutchen, just to name a small sample.

The two most dramatic hits of the day may have come from Jimmy Rollins and Todd Frazier, each of whom hit a go-ahead, three-run home run to break a tie game in the bottom of the eighth.

All in all, fans of the long-ball had to be happy with Opening Day.

Virtuoso Pitching

You’d think with all the home runs, the pitching yesterday would have taken a beating. Some did; Cole Hamels, Kyle Lohse, and Masahiro Tanaka were all roughed up a bit, but there were a handful of expertly crafted pitching performances yesterday as well.

Detroit’s David Price had perhaps the easiest game of the day, going 8.2 innings and allowing only five hits, no runs, and throwing 101 pitches. Price nearly completed the shutout, exiting only after back-to-back two-out singles in the ninth.

MLB: APR 06 Twins at Tigers

Other standouts included Clay Buchholz, who tossed seven shutout innings while allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out nine. Felix Hernandez went seven innings as well, allowing only two hits, albeit one by Mike Trout that left the ballpark. He struck out 10 batters. In Houston, we even got an old-fashioned pitchers duel, as the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel bested AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. While Kluber allowed two earned on three hits in 7.1 innings, Keuchel went seven scoreless to pick up the win.

No pitcher had a better night though than Sonny Gray in Oakland, who allowed only one hit in eight innings, and took a no-hitter into that eighth inning. Gray allowed only three base-runners on the night to pick up the win, and nearly the second Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history.

It may be only day one, but Opening Day offered a little bit of everything last night. Home runs, high scores, lights out performances by some of the game’s best pitchers, and even a little bit of controversy. If Opening Day is to serve as a microcosm of the 2015 season, sign me up.

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