Day 1: No complete games


Five swings at baseball’s newest sequel, Opening Day III, or celebrating the return of boxscores:

1.

There’s one thing that apparently won’t be in vogue in 2012: complete games. Four pitchers dominated starts Thursday, but none finished. Two got huzzahs, pats on the back, ovations, accolades, but not victories.

  • Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay, who had eight complete games last year, threw a two-hitter over eight innings, but was pulled after 92 pitches. The Pirates couldn’t haven’t been any less threatening to Halladay if Freddy Galvis was their cleanup hitter.
  • Johnny Cueto threw a three-hitter over seven innings and 95 pitches against the Marlins, but Reds manager Dusty Baker went to his bullpen. Yes, the Reds stil have one, even with Ryan Madson gone for the year.
  • Detroit’s Justin Verlander threw a two-hitter over eight innings and was pulled after 105 pitches. It seemed an odd time to be concerned about Verlander’s pitch count — he led the majors last year with 3,941 pitches thrown, and averaged 116 per start. Let the record show that Jose Valverde, 52-for-52 in save chances last year including the postseason, is 0-1 in 2012.
  • Cleveland’s Justin Masterson allowed just two hits and one run, and only one walk in his last 15 batters before he was pulled after eight innings and 99 pitches. The Blue Jays got more hits, more walks and more runs in seven batters vs. Chris Perez than they had in 27 vs. Masterson; they tied the game in the ninth and won in 16. Bang the drum slowly in Cleveland.

We’re not sure what it is about the ninth inning that is like some bonus questions on a test — more difficult than the first eight. Sometimes the best move a manager can make is no move at all.

2

Thursday was just one day in the 2012 season, but it could have been any day from the 1968 season. If it’s any indication, there won’t be a lot of runs scored this year.

Of the seven games Thursday, three were shutouts (and a fourth might have been if Verlander pitched the ninth), and two were by 1-0. Of the only game that didn’t have a hockey score — Toronto’s 7-4 win over Cleveland in 16 — the Indians scored four runs in one inning and were scoreless in the other 15. Of the 120 innings teams batted Thursday, only eight had multi-run innings, and only 21 had any scoring at all.

Scoring dropped precipitously in 2011 — the 8.56 runs per game were the lowest since 8.24 in 1992, according to the Associated Press — but there’s still a ways to go till we hit 1968 levels, when teams average 6.8 runs per game, according to ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian. But we’re on the way.

How bad was 1968? The Reds led MLB in runs scored with 690; that would have been 17th in 2011. Carl Yastrzemski led the AL with a .301 average; Danny Cater was next at .290. Bert Campaneris led the AL in hits — with 177. The NL had five .300 hitters, but no one with more than Willie McCovey’s 36 home runs. No one scored 100 runs in either league. Tom Seaver had a 2.20 ERA, and was seventh in the NL, more than a run behind Bob Gibson’s 1.12. The AL had five pitchers with ERA’s less than 2.00 (if you want to try to name them, answer below. Hint: Cleveland had two of them, and finished third in the standings). Bob Gibson had 13 shutouts and 28 complete games, and allowed just 5.8 hits per game (the AL ERA leader allowed just 5.3).

We’re not saying 2012 will be like 1968, but if it’s scoring you want to watch this summer, you might try soccer.

3

Forget scoring. The Marlins are going to try to reach third base.

Miami spent more than $191 million on new players, opened a new stadium and has yet to win. The Marlins have managed one run in their first two games and seven hits, and they’ve gone down 1-2-3 in half of their at-bats. The good news is they haven’t left many runners in scoring position, because they haven’t been there — just three in two games.

We’ll see how long Ozzie Guillen’s patience lasts.

4

You might think you’re a contender, you might act like a contender and you might sell yourself as a contender, but if your opening-day lineup has Adam LaRoche batting cleanup and Roger Bernadina and Mark DeRosa in your outfield, you’re not a contender.

Stephen Strasburg might have been good enough to pitch around his own lineup and win 2-1, but let’s seen Edwin Jackson do that. Evev vs. the Cubs.

And while Bernadina went 0-4 with two strikeouts, Bryce Harper doubled, singled and stole a base in Class AAA. It makes sense to let Harper play in AAA for now, but it won’t for long. How do you explain away that decision in September when you’re two games out of a playoff spot and you let Bernadina man center field for two months?

5

The new-look Red Sox bullpen debuted in a way that could only make fans yearn for Rich Garces. Four relievers combined to pitch to 10 batters in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Detroit and retired only four of them. They gave up only four hits, an intentional walk, a hit batsman, an insurance run and the winning run.

All that without Matt Albers throwing a pitch.

The five pitchers with ERA’s of less than 2.00 in the AL in 1968 were the Indians’ Luis Tiant (1.60) and Sam McDowell (1.81), Baltimore’s Dave McNally (1.95), Detroit’s Denny McLain (1.96) and the White Sox’s Tommy John (1.98).

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2 Responses to Day 1: No complete games

  1. Mike says:

    Interesting point on Cueto since Dusty normally has his pitchers on a strict 150-pitch limit. Kershaw left after 39 with the flu. Which is ashame because I think he could have gone 90 pitches against the Padres with an IV in his right arm.

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