Last but not least of the “Big Four” to toe the rubber, Max Scherzer flat out dealt in Cincinnati. At one point, he struck out seven consecutive Reds, broken up on a fly ball by Joey Votto. Oddly enough, his opponent on the mound, Homer Bailey, became the first pitcher to reach 100 pitches this season. Scherzer followed his lead finishing with 100 pitches thrown in six innings of work with 10 strikeouts against one walk.

Delving into his numbers, Scherzer recorded 22 swinging strikes translating to a robust 22 percent swinging strike percentage to start the year. Nine of his swinging strikes occurred via his four seam fastball and eight from his change-up. Bailey did compete, which exceeds any expectations by his fantasy owners. He held the Nationals to four hits, one earned run with three walks and strikeouts. Scherzer now leads all active pitchers with 65 career double digit strikeout games and tied a team record with 10 on Opening Day.

Once again, Amir Garrett fared well in relief. He only worked one inning but recorded two strikeouts with four swinging strikes on 16 total pitches (25 percent swinging strike percentage). As the season progresses, Garrett may parlay his strong relief outings into starts, but for now, owners in head-to-head formats can exploit him as a starting pitcher in a relief pitching role (SPARP). Need to be savvy.


Searching for relief

Remember when the Nationals early season struggles finding a closer meant some rough endings to games? So did the front office which addressed the need through a trade with Oakland last year and keeping both Sean Doolittle with Ryan Madson this year. They also added Brandon Kintzler who agreed to return to Washington to pitch in the seventh inning.

Depth provides a strong bridge to the closer and allows the team not to overwork its starters. Kintzler turned in a clean seventh with a strikeout. Madson did give up two hits in the eighth with a strikeout then Doolittle notched his first save of 2018 ceding a walk but striking out two. Just as planned.

However, it’s been a rough start to the season for closers as evidenced by blown saves yesterday and both ninth inning options imploding in Detroit this afternoon. First, Shane Greene entered to try and close out a win for the Tigers but a shaky play in right field ended up as a triple for Starling Marte. Greene only registered two outs on the day but allowed three hits, all who ended up scoring for a 40.50 ERA after his first appearance.

Things went worse for Felipe Rivero. He warmed up to save the game, but entered with a four run lead in the ninth. Using closers with a lead larger than three can be dicey, and Rivero did not pitch well. He issued three walks and allowed one hit which translated to four earned runs and an ERA of 54 to start the year. Of more concern, Rivero walked five in only seven spring innings resulting in 11 runs (four earned) and a 1.71 WHIP.

By the way, if looking for Raisel Iglesias today, he will not return to the Reds until Sunday. He’s out on paternity leave.


El Coffee en fuego

After watching a 13 inning game, it’s apparent Gregory Polanco can lose focus. He lost a ball earlier in the game, ran into a double play on a contact play humpback line drive to shortstop and turned in a weak throw home. But, Polanco also stole his first base and launched a 416 foot home run with an exit velocity of 110.8 MPH propelling the Pirates to an Opening Day win on the road. Love him or hate him, Polanco’s healthy and ready to produce. He may be a strange brew, but one worth the price tag. There’s still a 20/20 season in Polanco’s skillset.


Lineup frustration, everywhere

Just when one thought only Gabe Kapler would frustrate fantasy owners, Dave Martinez, Bryan Price and Craig Counsell entered the fray. Trea Turner owners seeking upside in his batting second ahead of Bryce Harper all season took note of his debut, sixth in the lineup. It’s apparent Billy Hamilton’s career 29.8 on-base percentage proves less than ideal at lead-off, and started game one, hitting ninth. Less at-bats could defray the damage of his average, but less times at the plate mean reduced counting statistics, but perhaps not stolen bases. Time will tell.

It only took one game for Jonathan Villar to hit the bench. He did not make the lineup on Friday, sitting for Hernan Perez instead. This will need to be monitored in case he ends up in a platoon. As for the Phillies, Odubel Herrera openly complained about missing Opening Day, will start and hit third on Friday night. Scott Kingery will make his major league debut with Maikel Franco getting the day off. Welcome to 2018. Where have you gone Jorge Alfaro?



Not only will lineups be frustrating based on where players bat, but the emerging four outfield rotations in Cincinnati may be the wave of the future. Fluidity could make setting weekly fantasy rosters very challenging. Also, only two starting pitchers on Thursday made it all the way through the opposing team’s lineup three times, Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw.

Why could this be important? Check out this quote by Freddie Freeman after seeing Aaron Nola lifted after only 68 pitches on Thursday:

Taking a pitcher out may make sense, but how it affects another team needs to be assessed along with analytics. Every part of baseball opens itself to interpretation. Process over results makes sense, until an instance like Nola pitching well and being removed, does not.


That escalated quickly

Prior to the season, Cardinals players volunteered to sit so Jose Martinez could play. His first impression against the Mets parlayed into a starting role at first base. He will headline most waiver wire lists this weekend if he’s available.

The next save chance in Baltimore could go to Darren O’Day. Hunter Strickland nailed down his first save of the season and Andrew Baggarly suggests he stays there all year. Time will tell.

Josh Donaldson’s experiencing a “dead arm” with no structural damage. Unless one watches him throw to first base. He will take over as the designated hitter for the next few days, so if an Kendrys Morales owners read this, plan accordingly. For those scoring at home, my Vlad Guerrero shirsey arrived in the mail today.

Who will accrue more stolen bases this year, Cameron Maybin or Jarrod Dyson? My money’s on Dyson. Look for a poll and voice your opinion.

It’s almost time to beat the deadline, but Kris Bryant’s already homered. Remember Dave Martinez served as the bench coach for Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and with the Cubs. Washington’s lineup will be tinkered with all year. It’s been one and a half days, breathe.


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