Only one game is in the books, but it couldn’t have been a much better Opening Day for Braves fans. I’m willing to look past the offensive struggles after the first time through the batting order, I guess, and choose to see the glass-half-full summary of last night’s game: Jeff Francoeur looked better at the plate than he has since 2005, and Derek Lowe was, as Mac Thomason put it, Maddux-like, with an efficient 97 pitches over 8 dominant shutout innings. Chipper’s hitting .500 after one day, and Jordan Schafer became the 99th player to homer in his first major league at bat.
Brett Myers looked awful for the Phillies, which is not good for a team that needs both he and Cole Hamels to stay healthy and strong if they plan to repeat last year’s success.
Mike Gonzalez struggled through the 9th inning and allowed the Phillies’ only run, briefly making things exciting again at the very end of the game. Let’s hope he just needed one more tune-up to get going.
Since there’s only one game to discuss at the moment, I’ll share a few other thoughts about the broadcast and the season in general.
ESPN introduced Steve Phillips as the new third member of the Sunday Night broadcast booth last night. While I don’t think he’s a great analyst, he certainly makes Jon Miller and Joe Morgan more watchable. I’ve never been a fan of Morgan’s commentary, since he actively disdains objective statistical analysis, but he’s more tolerable when talking about how to execute certain plays than when he’s actually analyzing strategic decisions.
Opening Day really shows you which broadcast teams do their homework, and it was pretty clear last night that Miller and Morgan don’t. Miller kept referring to Jordan Schafer as “Logan,” even after he started his career 2-for-2. My head nearly exploded when Morgan mentioned OPS in the opening segment (looks like ESPN’s going to be pushing that on everyone this year), and I can’t wait to hear him try to explain it at some point. Miller tried to explain it in the first inning, but he tried to start his explanation with two outs and two strikes on a batter, so he had to rush through it. I’ll be glad to hear the Braves’ own broadcast team later this week.
I know Fox Sports Net and Sport South will have their own annoying ads and segments (anything involving Braves Live would qualify here), but ESPN showed the Dustin Pedroia/MLB ’09 ad at least five times during last night’s game before I stopped counting. It’s a decent ad, but after that many replays it’s almost as annoying as Taco Bell’s “nacho drag” ad.
Other Opening Day Thoughts
I’m slightly disappointed in two of my favorite baseball stat sites, since they didn’t have anything posted this morning from last night’s game. I didn’t notice if they were doing their live win probability graphs, but FanGraphs doesn’t have the box score up this morning (or any pages for 2009 stats), and Baseball Reference also ignored that last night was the beginning of the regular season. I know these sites are always working on new features (and b-r.com just finished a redesign), but to be taken seriously as an alternative to the stat pages on ESPN/CBS/Yahoo, they need to have everything ready for the start of the season.
Back to more positive things, I’m always excited about Opening Day, but this year was even better than usual because Melissa and I finished working on our basement this weekend. A few things already need touching up, but the room is inhabitable at this point. I’ll try to post some pictures of the finished product later this week if I get the chance.
Plans for the Braves Check
Assuming the aforementioned sites get their acts together, the stats I have historically tracked are mostly redundant. Aside from a few relief pitching stats, most of what I’ve usually posted here is a duplication of FanGraphs’ published data. So, I’ll try to refer mostly to them and avoid doing double work. This post won’t be going away, though, and I’ll still lean heavily on the stats for analysis.
That’s all for this week. The Braves have two more games at Philly before opening the home schedule this weekend against Washington.
[Update at 2:30 PM]
FanGraphs is a bit late to the party, but they do have last night’s win probability chart up. B-R.com still has 2008 standings on the front page, and the Braves link takes you to their 2008 stats.
From a win probability perspective, McCann’s homer started things in the right direction, but the Phillies just ran out of time while the Braves’ bats went cold the second and third times through the order. Lowe’s performance still stands out as an incredibly strong one.
Chase Utley’s walk, which brought Ryan Howard up as the potential tying run, only got the Phils up to 10.4% win expectancy. Even if you account for Howard’s prolific power, all signs still pointed toward a Braves win.