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Top Ten Things We Learned About the National League On Opening Day 2016

Opening Day has come and gone. Sure the pageantry of Opening Day will still be there for some of the teams that Mother Nature has forced to wait a day, but the day that we circled on the calendar back in November is behind us.  We’re about to enter the grind of daily baseball contests and there are a lot of things to learn in these first few weeks back in the fold.  Here are the top 10 things I picked up yesterday about the National League landscape while watching all (or parts of all) the games:

  1. Cedric Hunter is a baseball player.  Hunter started yesterday for the Philadelphia Phillies, which by definition makes him one of the top 30 baseball players to have started in left field on Opening Day 2016. Hunter is actually a really good story.  He made the Opening Day roster of the Padres back in 2011, and went 1 for 5 before being sent back down.  In the scuffle of authenticating the ball from his first Major League hit, Hunter lost the ball.  It’s been 5 years and Hunter is still looking for a ball that he hit for a Major League hit. He went 0 for 4 yesterday.
  2. The rebuilding Phillies seem to have a type.  They’ve paired Cedric Hunter in the outfield with Odubel Herrera.Toss in Cesar HernandezFreddy Galvis and Carlos Ruiz and you have 5 of the 8 position players listed at under 6′ tall.  They’re not all burners, but the Phillies seem to be cornering the market on sub-6 foot athletic baseball players.  It’s not a bad strategy, considering these guys could be undervalued by the other organizations.
  3. Clayton Kershaw is still very nasty.  We were sitting in a crowded sports bar with 15 games and my girlfriend, who doesn’t know much about baseball, enjoyed watching Kershaw breeze through the Padres lineup.  He was funky and his pitches moved a lot.  That this girl, who has watched maybe 5 full baseball games in her life, was able to pick up on Kershaw’s dominance tells you all you need to know.  He’ll be fine.
  4. The Braves bullpen is going to be a mess all year.  Jason Grilli blew the save in teh 9th on an exciting play at the plate.  He really didn’t look terrible, but he didn’t look great either.  The Braves only bullpen lefty, Eric O’Flaherty, came in to pitch the 10th and didn’t look good in facing Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
  5. Daniel Murphy could be a good addition for the Nats.  We spent some time here at Off The Bench poking fun at the Daniel Murphy acquisition.  Following a big postseason, we were sure that a team would overpay for the defensively challenged second baseman.  Sure enough, the Nats were swooned by Murphy’s agent to the tune of $37.5 mil.  But us stat nerds may be underselling Murphy’s intensity, charisma, and leadership and the affect that can have on a team across teh next 6 months.  Murphy stroked a double in the 10th yesterday to drive in a run.  If he can help the team on the field and in the clubhouse, where teammates choking each other was a thing last year, then Murphy could be the glue that holds this club together.  We know 66 year old Dusty Baker won’t be it.  Murphy was the glue for the Mets last year, why not the Nats this year?
  6. Felipe Rivero is nasty.  He had a 2.79 ERA in nearly 50 innings with the Nationals last year and he returns to the nation’s capital a bit higher on the bullpen depth chart.  Dusty Baker rolled Rivero out in the 8th to protect a one run lead.  Rivero, who threw the fourth hardest average fastball of any lefty last year, promptly allowed a run to score to tie the game.  The impression was set for me, though.  The lefty averaged 95 with the heater and got 3 swing-and-misses with the change.  He’s still just 24 and throws from an odd arm slot.  He’ll be good if he throws enough strikes.
  7. Francisco Liriano may be on his way to a breakout year at the plate.  I was in attendance for his Spring Training homerun.  And given the Tweet that I just linked to, I believe I can take credit for Liriano’s breakout year. Liriano had a clean RBI single on Opening Day, which was the first RBI of the 2016 season.
  8. The Diamondbacks train could already be derailed.  After AJ Pollock went down just 2 days before Opening Day, Zack Greinke gave up 6 earned runs in the first game of the year.   Then, manager Chip Hale lost his temper with the media. The Pollock injury was a huge blow to the Diamondbacks; I chronicled just how good he is here.  If Greinke is also thoroughly average, this club’s offseason makeover will look oddly similar to the Padres’ from one year ago.
  9. He’s not in the NL, but Garrett Richards is throwing harder, it’s not making a difference, and that could be bad news for the Angels. Reports out of Spring Training had Richards touching 100 miles an hour on his fastball. He topped out at 98.5 yesterday, but did average about 1.5 mph harder on his heater than a year ago.  The big righty’s start yesterday left something to be wanted.  He struck out 7 and gave up 3 runs, but made it only 5 innings and walked 3.  He’s a tantalizing talent who has yet to even come close to putting it all together as he enters his age 28 season.  We’re town about the Angels’ 2016 outcome here at Off The Bench and much of it can be traced to a general lack of depth.  Undoubtedly the lineup lacks depth, but if the rotation’s nominal “Ace” isn’t that, the rotation’s depth quickly takes a big step back.
  10. The Giants can really hit.  The Denard Span addition could make all the world of a difference for San Fran.  Span pushes Angel Pagan to left field and gives the team a solid lineup from top to bottom.  Their rotation isn’t a sure thing, but it’s certainly talented.  It’s an even year, too, so this shouldn’t be surprising.
  11. Baseball is awesome.  I didn’t learn it yesterday, but it was reinforced as Opening Day brought with it the excitement and the sounds that help make the summer months all-around more enjoyable. There are 12 games scheduled for today.  Go watch one, or twelve.

-Sean Morash

Copyright © 2017 | Off The Bench Baseball

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