One week into the season and we’ve already learned a lot about what will transpire over the entire 162. Even the tiniest of snapshots has provided plenty of evidence for what’s in store for the Yankees and Mets this season.
Allow us to make some definitive statements:
BUCK SHOWALTER DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH STARTING PITCHING
Even before the season started, most everyone agreed it was a stretch to assume the Mets’ two aging aces, Max Scherzer (38) and Justin Verlander (40), would make it all the way to the end of October. Here we are one week in and Scherzer struggled mightily the third time through the order in his first two starts (6.35 ERA, 12 hits, league-leading four homers in 11 1/3 innings) and Verlander is on the injured list nursing an inflamed teres major muscle.
Further down the rotation, Carlos Carrasco’s velo was down to just 91 mph on his fastball in a disastrous first start (5 runs, 4 hits, 4 walks in just 4 innings) versus Milwaukee, which he blamed on the pitch clock, and David Peterson’s second start, also against Milwaukee (4 innings, 5 runs), was not encouraging either. What Buck Showalter needs more than ever right now is for Tylor Megill’s six-inning shutdown of the Marlins in the Citi Field Opener Friday to be the start of a repeat of his rotation-saving first five weeks a year ago when he was 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA before a biceps injury effectively scuttled his season.
EVEN WITHOUT TWO BEST PITCHERS, BRAVES MAY BE BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL
In contrast to the Mets, the Braves jumped out to a 6-1 start for only the fourth time in their history with Kyle Wright, baseball’s only 20-game winner last year, starting the season at Triple-A with a sore shoulder and Max Fried, last year’s NL Cy Young runner-up, pulling a hamstring Opening Day — and it was no problem. The Braves reached into their deep starting pitching resources and promoted lefty Dylan Dodd, who pitched five strong innings of one-run, no-walk ball in Wright’s place and then recalled righty Bryce Elder to replace Fried and he turned in six shutout innings against the Cardinals.
The Braves drafted both Elder (out of Texas) and last year’s rookie sensation Spencer Strider (out of Clemson in 2020). And then there is lefty Jared Shuster, their first-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2020, who scouts said this spring may be the best of them all, despite his struggles in his first two starts this year. That’s three frontline starting pitchers in one draft (you watching Yankees?) and may be the reason the Braves have resisted giving Fried an expensive long-term contract like they have with so many of their position players. Meanwhile, the one question mark hovering over the Braves this spring — a shortstop successor to Dansby Swanson — appears to have been answered by the torrid start of former utilityman Orlando Arcia (.323, 2 HR, 4 RBI).
$277M YANKS BEWARE: WITH WANDER FRANCO BACK, THE $73M RAYS LOOK VERY REAL
While taking into consideration they were playing some pretty bad teams in the Tigers and Nationals, the Rays nonetheless became the only team in the modern (post-1900) era to win their first seven games by at least four runs. Their five home runs against the A’s Friday gave them a major-league-leading 18 for the season. The same number of total runs allowed by their pitching staff. Over the winter, Rays owner Stu Sternberg made a conscious decision not to invest in any expensive free agents to improve the Rays’ offense, which was 20th in the majors in runs last year with the 12th most strikeouts. The reason being: Wander Franco missed half the year to injuries and Brandon Lowe, their leading home run hitter in ‘21, missed even more of ‘22, and Sternberg reasoned there could be no more potent additions to the Rays offense than his own guys.
Franco’s the man who makes the Rays go and in his first seven games he hit .379 with three homers and eight RBI, but he’s had plenty of help from center fielder Jose Siri, left fielder Randy Arozarena, first baseman Yandy Diaz and DH Luke Raley who combined for eight homers and 26 RBI in the first six games. The Rays’ real strength, however, may be their starting pitching of Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs and Zach Eflin, who gave up only three earned runs their first time around the rotation. By contrast, the Yankees, who still have not drafted and developed a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher since Andy Pettitte, have to be concerned over the pratfall of former No. 1 draft pick Clarke Schmidt, who was being counted on to replace the departed last year’s No. 3, Jameson Taillon.
A perusal of the Yankees’ home schedule for 2023 shows no special “days” planned so far and we can only hope the Yankees will finally do the right thing this year by honoring Graig Nettles, the greatest “clean” third baseman in their history, with a plaque in Monument Park. And while they’re at it, they really need to get a plaque in Monument Park for Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri, the greatest second baseman in their history. It’s absolutely unconscionable that the Yankees, of all teams, who take so much pride in their history, have failed to honor two of their greatest ever position players. ..,
Last week, Orioles owner John Angelos went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to celebrate his team’s all-in dedication to analytics, claiming that last year’s surprising 83-win season was a prime example of how the Orioles are now a team on the come. Except last year’s Orioles and this year’s team have almost nothing to do with analytics as, with the exception of 2019 overall No. 1 draft pick, catcher Adley Rutschman, the entire core Orioles — outfielders Anthony Santander, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and since-departed Trey Mancini — were all drafted and acquired by former GM Dan Duquette, not Mike Elias, the current O’s GM who upon assuming the job in 2018, fired all the team’s longtime scouts and replaced them with analytics nerds. Angelos also failed to mention on MSNBC Elias’ pledge last winter to augment the Orioles sudden success by investing substantially in the free agent market, especially in regard to their terrible starting rotation. But all they did was sign the very mediocre right-hander Kyle Gibson. Even the Orioles’ highly touted No. 1 pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez, who made his major league debut last week, was drafted by Duquette.