8 things we learned from Indians opening day
It may only be the first game of a long, arduous season, but there are eight definite lessons we can take from the Cleveland Indians’ record-setting 2012 opener.
After literally taking an hour and a half to find a parking spot, thus missing the first two innings of the game today, I was able to witness history. I was a part of the largest Opening Day crowd in Progressive Field history, I witnessed the longest Opening Day game in the history of Major League Baseball, and I got to see further proof that God just might hate Cleveland.
Melodrama aside, the Tribe’s 2012 opener left me with some definite impressions. It is basically the smallest of sample sizes, but here are eight things to take away from the first game of the Indians’ season.
1. Justin Masterson Looks Like A Real Ace
Eight innings, ten strikeouts, one run, one walk, two hits; could Justin Masterson have done anymore to outpitch last year’s Opening Day starter, the man formerly known as Fausto Carmona? Seriously, Masterson’s outing really could not have gone much better. If Masterson pitches like this all season, he will improve on last year’s impressive, breakout performance and will more than solidify himself as the ace of the Tribe’s staff this year.
2. There’s Something Wrong With Chris Perez
There has been some speculation that Perez may still be suffering from the strained oblique he had in spring training, but regardless, this was not the start he was looking for. Perez had two walks, gave up three hits and three runs, and did not manage a single strikeout. Best case scenario, Perez goes on the DL soon and recovers. Worst case scenario, Chris Perez is this bad of a pitcher after all.
Sidenote: It can never be a good sign for your season when fans are actually calling out things like “Bring back Wickman” as you’re pitching. A new career low for Pure Rage.
3. The Rest Of Bullpen Looked Strong
After the Perez debacle, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, and Jairo Asencio did a very good job of keeping the Blue Jays down for over six innings. Asencio’s third inning did not go very well, but he is also the last man in the bullpen; he shouldn’t be counted on for much and was questionably put back out there for a third inning of work. Sipp’s problems with walks were also on full display (two in 1.1 innings), but there’s not much you can complain about after your bullpen literally keeps you in the game through 15 innings.
4. The Offense Still Has Some Real Issues
Now, if the offense could have managed any runs after the second inning today, then the bullpen would not have had to carry the team that long. The four-run second inning was exciting and all, but this team literally went scoreless for the next 14 innings. They need to get more consistency and scoring going forward if they want to catch the Tigers in the AL Central.
Sidenote #2: You’ll notice that I missed the first two innings thanks to a terrible parking situation, which means I saw 14 scoreless Tribe innings today. Ugh. Plus, the Indians have now lost seven straight games I’ve gone to. At least I called it yesterday.
5. Especially Asdrubal
Everyone’s favorite regression candidate Asdrubal Cabrera got a fast start on fulfilling that destiny today, going 1-for-7 on the day and having a particularly bad at bat in the 12th inning to potentially cost the Indians a win (I’m still trying to comprehend why on Earth he was swinging at the first pitch after Luis Perez walked the last batter, Michael Brantley, on four pitches). You don’t want to make too much out of one game, but considering how Asdrubal ended last season, this was not a good start to 2012.
6. Supermanahan Strikes Again
Just like last year, Jack Hannahan had a big Opening Day. His home run provided most of the Tribe’s runs today and his defense likely saved a few Blue Jays’ runs from crossing the plate. Hannahan is still just keeping the hot corner warm for Lonnie Chisenhall, but if he can post another .250/.331/.388 slash line, .320 wOBA, and 100 wRC+ like he did in 2011 (granted, a little less streakiness while doing it would be nice), he’ll be a very solid 2-3 WAR player that can be the glue of your team.
7. Casey Kotchman Is Elite On Defense
In addition to seeing the treat that is Jack Hannahan on defense, Tribe fans also got to see Casey Kotchman turn in various impressive performances at first base today. After some rough times there defensively in recent years, seeing Kotchman’s talents on full display was a sight for sore eyes. He may have gone hitless today, but even if he is only average offensively, he’s adding enough on defense to help the Indians in a big way.
8. Michael Brantley Might Not Be Able To Handle Center Field
On the opposite side of the spectrum from Hannahan and Kotchman’s defensive performances was Michael Brantley in center field. I have been torn on how I feel about Brantley in center, but I’m starting to become less convinced. His arm is just terrible at times, as Tony pointed out on Twitter during the game. Brantley needs to play better there since his bat doesn’t seem good enough for left field, but right now, I’m just not convinced he can handle center field.
Like I said earlier, this is only one game, so there’s a huge small sample size problem going on here. That doesn’t mean that we can’t pick out some trends that are clearly visible after game 1 of 162. Hopefully the positives out of yesterday continue throughout the season and the negatives work themselves out, but we’ll see how it goes. The season’s still young and there’s plenty of time for the Tribe to put the sour taste of this loss behind them and still have a very good year in 2012.
If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.
5) Why do the guys the Indians give extensions to always suck/get hurt/falsify their name?