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MLB Opening Day Overreactions: Stanton, Ohtani Impress; Marlins Don’t

Sascha Paruk

by Sascha Paruk in MLB Baseball

Updated Apr 8, 2020 · 11:09 AM PDT

Giancarlo Stanton talking with Reggie Jackson
Giancarlo Stanton (R) had a big Opening Day. More on that below. Photo by Arturo Pardavila III (Wikipedia) [CC License].

The 2018 MLB season picked up right where 2017 left off, with balls flying out of the park literally left, right, and center. The Cubs’ Ian Happ started the fun in the first at-bat of the year, going yard against the hapless Marlins. George Springer, meanwhile, got the world-champion Astros off to a hot start, as well, with his own lead-off shot against the Rangers.

On the whole, most of the teams and players expected to be good were good, and the ones expected to nauseate were nauseating. But there were some surprises in the mix, like Shohei Otani looking uber-comfortable at the plate.

How much can really be gleaned from one data-point in a 162-game season? Should we expect players who came out en fuego to keep it up? Time to overreact (or not) to the best (and worst) of Opening Day.

Giancarlo Stanton is going to break the home run record

Giancarlo Stanton donning his 2017 ASG uniform
Giancarlo Stanton got his Yankee career off to the best start imaginable with two home runs on Opening Day. Photo by Arturo Pardavila (Wikipedia) [CC License].
The Blue Jays felt good about sending JA Happ to the mound for the first Opening Day start of his 11-year career; he went 2-0 against the Yankees last year, giving up just two earned runs over 11.2 innings. But that was back when Giancarlo Stanton was still a Marlin. Stanton introduced himself to the American League rather rudely, taking Happ deep on his first swing in pinstripes.

He followed that up with an absolute bomb in the top of the ninth, finishing the day 3-5 with four RBIs in a 6-1 Yankees win.

On pace for 324 dingers, does the 6’6 goliath have a realistic shot of breaking Barry Bonds’ steroid-fueled, single-season home-run record of 73? No, not even playing half his games in the little-league park that is Yankee Stadium.

Odds Stanton breaks the single-season HR record (73) in 2018: 79/1

The Marlins will be the worst team in MLB history

Billy the Marlin, Miami's exuberant mascot
Even Billy the Marlin will have a tough time smiling through Miami’s 2018 season. Photo by Carmen Zuniga (flickr) [CC License].
The 2018 season could not have started worse for the Marlins, who are projected to have the worst record in the majors. Opening Day starter Jose Urena gave up a home run to Cubs leadoff man Ian Happ, and then plunked three batters before the first inning was over. The Marlins, who found themselves down 4-1 by the end of two, showed some pluck by coming back to tie the game in the third. But Chicago errors played a role, and Urena proceeded to give the lead right back in the top of the fourth.

The ostensible “ace” of the staff lasted just four innings and gave up six hits and five earned runs in an 8-4 loss. If Urena is closer to a jack-high than an ace, this team is in more trouble than previously thought. The rest of the rotation is going to get hammered. None of the other projected starters had an ERA under 4.01 last year.

If Urena is closer to a jack-high than an ace, this [Marlins] team is in more trouble than previously thought.

The over/under for Miami wins this season was set at 64.5. My colleague Ryan advised taking the under on the Marlins back in February. That’s still advisable, but setting a new record for losses will require more futility than even the most pessimistic fan is expecting. Could this actually be a 41-win/121-loss team?

No franchise has approached that number in the last 15 years, ever since the ’03 Tigers went 43-119. Count on the Marlins bumbling their way to at least 50 wins.

Odds the 2018 Marlins lose more than 120 games: 29/1

Shohei Ohtani will hit under .250

The much-heralded Japanese import had a disastrous spring on the mound and wasn’t any better at the plate, going 3-28 and striking out nine times, according to David Schoenfeld. He singled in his first regular-season at-bat (on the first pitch he saw, no less) but he’s currently 1-5 (as the game drags on into the 11th) and hasn’t looked overly comfortable at the plate.

Ohtani was more prized as a pitcher than he was as a hitter, even though the 23-year-hold hit .322 with a 1.004 OPS in the 2016 JPPL season, and followed that up with a .332 BA/.942 OPS in 2017. He’ll be better than his Spring Training stats portend, but no where near his JPPL numbers, not against MLB pitching, not at the rate he strikes out (161 SO in 525 AB, combined, in 2016 and 2017).

Over/Under Ohtani’s 2018 batting average: .257.

The Phillies are not a contender

Phillies Opening Day starter Aaron Nola delivering a pitch
Aaron Nola and the Phillies got 2018 started right with a Photo by hj_west (flickr) [CC License].
There’s a lot of hype around the Phillies for the first time in a long time. By adding Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana to the burgeoning young core of Aaron Nola, Cesar Hernandez, Nick Williams, and Rhys Hoskins (among others), Philadelphia turned itself into a popular dark-horse pick for the NL Wild Card.

Their Opening Day tilt with Atlanta was the perfect first act for that script … for seven innings. Nola was solid, giving up just three hits and one earned run over 5.1 innings; Hernandez went deep; and Hoskins was 2-3 with an RBI as the Phils built a 5-2 lead.

Then bullpen let it slip away. Adam Morgan gave up three in the eighth, and Hector Neris surrendered a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth in an 8-5 loss. 

For such a young team, Opening Day is not just one drop in the 162-game pond. Building confidence out of the gate is big, and Philadelphia let a big opportunity slip through its fingers today. 

Odds the Phillies make the 2018 playoffs (including Wild Card game): 5/1

Chris Archer is done/Chris Sale has the Cy Young in the bag

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer mid-delivery
Tampa’s Chris Archer gave up six runs in his first start of 2018. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License].
The two best pitchers named Chris went head to head with Chris Sale’s Red Sox visiting Chris Archer’s Rays. They both went six innings, and that’s where the similarities end. Sale sparkled, giving up just one hit and no runs while striking out nine in six innings. Archer gave up six hits and four earned, though did manage to fan six batters, himself.

Concern has to be growing for Archer, who finished 2017 miserably. From late August to the end of September, he watched his ERA balloon from 3.66 to 4.07, at one point losing five straight starts. His career is on an undeniable downward trajectory; his ERA and WHIP have increased each of the last two years, and his WAR has fallen from a career high of 4.3 (2015) to 1.8 (2016) all the way to 1.2 (2017).

[Chris Archer’s] career is on an undeniable downward trajectory; his ERA and WHIP have increased each of the last two years …

Chris Sale, on the other hand, is still at his peak, and showed it on Opening Day. Last year’s Cy Young runner-up is coming off a 308-strikeout season in which he posted a solid 2.90 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. His bullpen let him down, giving up six runs in the eighth en route to a 6-4 loss. But that’s got nothing to do with Boston’s ace, who will be competing with the likes of Corey Kluber again for the AL hardware.

Over/Under Chris Archer’s 2018 ERA: 4.10

Over/Under Chris Sale strikeouts in 2018: 299.5

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