It’s been another long and arduous offseason, spent monitoring news about free agents, injury rehabs and other baseball-related topics. After a month (or more) of drafting teams, the curtain has finally risen on the 2011 season! With only six games on the schedule for Day 1, the rotosphere is sure to over-analyze every at-bat and pitch. Well, let’s indulge in the first day of real baseball this year.
Atlanta 2, Washington 0
And that’s why Derek Lowe was a top-10 SP heading into the season. What? He’s available in over 50 percent of Yahoo leagues? That’s preposterous! Didn’t anyone see how effective he was against the prolific Nationals offense? I mean, they signed Jayson Werth this offseason! Why are we shouting? I don’t know!
As Rotoworld noted, the stage was set for Craig Kimbrel to enter the eighth inning and face the top of the Washington lineup, which included three right-handers coming up to bat. Instead, Johnny Venters came on in the eighth while Kimbrel closed out the game in the ninth. Co-closers my rear end … mark Kimbrel down for 40 saves this year.
If only the Braves could convince Jason Heyward (HR in first at-bat) that every day is Opening Day. Still, you have to love the second-year player’s potential this season, especially if he isn’t nagged by a mid-season injury just when he starts to hit his stride. I somehow nabbed him with the sixth pick of my main draft, which features five rounds of keepers at the top. Players selected ahead of Heyward: Ian Kinsler, Jose Bautista, Adam Dunn, Ubaldo Jimenez and Brian McCann. Thanks for leaving me a surefire keeper for the next 10 years, guys.
New York (A) 6, Detroit 3
Someone forgot to tell Mark Teixeira that he’s terrible before May 1. Dude went yard off Justin Verlander with two men on in the third inning, staking the Yankees to a 3-1 lead. Teixeira was just 1-for-17 against Verlander coming into 2011, and that one hit didn’t go nearly as far as Thursday’s bomb.
I had to make a decision on Curtis Granderson before I saw the lineups on Thursday, so I decided to play it safe and sit the ailing Yankee. One solo job later, I’m hating myself even more for taking a goose egg from Mike Morse on Thursday. You’re in my lineup on Saturday, Grandy; be sure to find your way onto Joe Girardi’s lineup card as well.
Russell Martin may be hitting ninth, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pile up runs and RBIs in such a stacked lineup. Kudos to anyone who grabbed Martin off the late-round scrap heap heading into the season, as the new Yankee backstop rewarded owners with a hit, a stolen base and two runs. Remember, Martin had double-digit steal totals in his first four seasons before last year’s forgettable performance — he’s a sneaky option while supplies last.
One last Yankee note (because really, who wants to talk about the Tigers?): Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect eighth for a hold before Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for a save. Why do I have the feeling that’s going to happen a lot this season?
Cincinnati 7, Milwaukee 6
As far as not-pretend baseball goes, this was as good as a non-Brewer fan could have hoped for an Opening Day game. The drama was capped off with a Ramon Hernandez three-run bomb (his fourth hit of the night) to seal the come-from-behind victory for Cincinnati. Standard league owners shouldn’t rush to the wire, as Hernandez should lose plenty of at-bats to sneaky-good option Ryan Hanigan throughout the season.
Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez delivered back-to-back jacks to open the Brewers’ season. Everyone knows how good Weeks can be when he’s healthy, but if you own him you’re definitely playing with fire the longer you wait to trade him. Gomez had just five HRs last season, but one came on Opening Day. He’s caught J-Hey fever! Having also stolen a base, Gomez filled up the stat sheet on Day 1, keeping Nyjer Morgan at bay — for now.
Drew Stubbs hit leadoff for the Reds despite owning a pretty ugly OBP, but the strategy worked on Thursday, as the power/speed star went 2-for-5 with a homer in the fourth inning. He could easily take Grady Sizemore’s spot as fantasy’s 30-30 darling that kills your average.
A couple of first-round picks also contributed HRs, but we already know how good Joey Votto and Ryan Braun are.
The big loser in this game was John Axford, who coughed up four runs in 0.2 innings, blowing his first save opportunity of the season. Axford was good enough last season that one poor outing won’t lead to a role change, but his short track record leads me to believe he doesn’t have as much rope as most closers.
Los Angeles (A) 4, Kansas City 2
Jered Weaver looked incredible in his start on Thursday, allowing just two hits and two walks in 6.1 innings while punching out six Royals. A family effort by the Angels bullpen included a one-up, one-down performance from rookie Jordan Walden. While Fernando Rodney got the job done in the ninth inning this time, it certainly wasn’t pretty. Walden should be squarely on your fantasy radar, and possibly on your team depending on league size.
True story: the guy that does the Game of the Week preview in our Hit and Run Baseball League took a jab at Torii Hunter (and my lineup by association) before game-time, saying “I’ve just never been a Hunter guy, and therefore he probably doesn’t get the respect he deserves in this review.” Respect the Hunter after a 2-for-5 performance that included a solo smash.
Fantasy afterthought Jeff Mathis recorded a double and a homer on Opening Day, which was roughly 7,000 percent better than any portion of his 2010 season. Here’s how irrelevant Mr. Mathis is — type “Mathis” into Google and you don’t come to a “Jeff” entry before the third page. His Baseball Reference page ranks just behind the website for Marty Mathis Clothiers. Let’s fix that, shall we?
Alex Gordon was on fire this spring, showcasing the God-given talent that made him an super-prospect, nay, an uber-prospect coming out of college. It looked like 2011 would finally be the year Gordon made his predicted ascension into the annals of fantasy baseball lore. Until he came out on Opening Day with a three-K effort that would have made Clayton Bigsby proud. Alex, I think it’s time we see other people.
San Diego 5, St. Louis 3
It took 11 innings and a couple two-hit days from little-owned Cameron Maybin and Nick Hundley, but the Padres came into St. Louis and shocked the Cardinals in the first game of the season. Maybin smacked a home run off Ryan Franklin in the ninth to send the game into extra frames, and the former top prospect is an intriguing option in deeper leagues since he appears to benefit from regular playing time.
My favorite sleeper pitcher of the season held his own on Opening Day, as Tim Stauffer allowed nine hits over six innings but only let two earned runs cross the plate. They’ll be better days ahead for Stauffer, especially when he’s at home taking on a mediocre offense. I think he’ll be good for 14 wins and a sub-3.50 ERA this year.
While Prince Albert decided to take a preemptive day off by going 0-for-5, Matt Holliday brought his A-game, going 3-for-4 with a homer and a couple RBIs. He was one of the safest options in the second round of drafts, and it’s almost impossible to overrate safety when navigating the early stages of a fantasy baseball draft. Holliday even tried to chip in a steal for fantasy owners but got caught. Thanks for the thought, Matt.
What’s worse that having Brad Hawpe hit cleanup for your favorite Major League club? Seeing Orlando Hudson in the three-hole. Yes, a team featuring Hudson and Hawpe in the prime lineup spots just beat a team led by Pujols and Holliday on Opening Day. Don’t even try and wrap your head around it; it’s baseball.
Los Angeles (N) 2, San Francisco 1
We were treated to a phenomenal pitching matchup on primetime of Opening Day as Tim Lincecum faced Clayton Kershaw. Neither pitcher failed to live up to his billing, as the two combined to pitch 14 innings without allowing an earned run. Lincecum owners may complain that their ace only provided five punch-outs, and Lincecum owners can drop the guy if they want to be whiners.
Matt Kemp looked right at home batting cleanup, as he reached base in all four of his plate appearances, walking three times and adding a single for good measure. The terrific rebound candidate also came through with two runs and a stolen base. Here’s to hoping Don Mattingly can take a page out of Joe Torre’s book, burn it, and completely forget how Torre yanked Kemp around last season.
Rookie Brandon Belt was a surprise addition to the Giants Opening Day roster, earning the starting first baseman job and shifting Aubrey Huff into right field, where Huff promptly made it seem he belonged on my Wednesday co-ed softball team instead of the Giants. And yet Huff wasn’t charged with any of the three errors made by the Giants on Thursday night. To Belt’s credit he had a single and a walk in his four trips to the plate, and he remains a nice sleeper option at the position this season. Get in on the Belt discussion in this Cafe thread.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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