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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

THE GAME PLAN
Well, aside from John Lackey having a relatively short outing, Opening Day went pretty much according to plan. A strong enough outing from the starter, a few runs scrapped out here and there, and the bullpen closing the door in the last third of the game.

A few notes:

  • John Lackey did not look particularly good, with errant control of his fastball and slurve. He reverted back to the old pussy-footing around when he got behind in the count, getting cute with slurves (which weren't close enough to the strike zone to get anyone to bite) and foregoing his heat. Now, when Mark Teixeira is up with a runner in scoring position with two outs, fine, pitch around the guy. With guys on first and second and two outs? I'd prefer you not to walk the bases loaded, thanks.

    And not only does this cowardice lead to baserunners, it also racks up the pitch count, which is going to keep Lackey from going deep into games, especially this early in the season.

  • Darren Oliver came in to face to left-handed batters and, shockingly, retired neither of them.

    Oliver, over his career, hasn't had any kind of platoon advantage against the LHB (he's allowed an 810 OPS to RHB and 817 to LHB, a virtual tie). He's even had several seasons where lefties tag him even more than righties did, so he's miscast in a role where he's asked to only retire left-handers.

  • Are we so phobic of Casey Kotchman's "speed" leading to double plays that we're gonna hit-and-run with Shea Hillenbrand on base all the time? Okay, one of the instances last night was on a 3-2 count, so I dig that one. But late in the game a straight hit-and-run was put on early in the count; Casey flailed at a pitch at least a foot out of the strike zone to the side and at least a foot out of the strike zone toward the ground, and Hillenbrand got hosed from you to me. This was when Mike Wood was pitching; he couldn't find the plate at all there, and Kotchman drew a walk. The hit-and-run backfired there. Hillenbrand is no kind of speedster, so we should be careful about using this weapon.

  • It isn't the sort of thing you notice, but K-Rod exhibited some very nice pitching against Brad Wilkerson in the ninth. After falling behind 3-0, K-Rod came back with two fastballs to full the count. Instead of pulling a Lackey and getting cute with the breaking stuff, K-Rod kept coming at him with the fastball, garnering a flyout to deepest center.

    While a fly to the warning track may look bad -- just a few feet another way and it's a home run! -- it was in fact the residue of design. With a three-run lead, Frankie knew that a home run wasn't going to hurt him, but that there's no point in walking a guy. If someone's going to reach base, make him earn it, don't give him a free pass. The K spotted his fastball perfectly on the outside corner, letting Wilkerson lay some wood on it in a place where he was unlikely to pull it over the rightfield fence or push it over the one in left. K-Rod let the ballpark work for him, and got one of the easier saves he should expect to see.

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