Thoughts on an Opening Day Loss | The Process Report

Thoughts on an Opening Day Loss

We will not recap every game but for opening day let’s make an exception.

  • The big takeaway from David Price’s first start is he did not have his best fastball command, particularly to the glove-side. When Price is on point he can spot fastballs on either side. This ability keeps right-handed hitters honest and opens up the back-door cutter. Alas Price was unable to locate as well as he would’ve liked to. There are going to be days like that no matter the pitcher. It stinks that Price’s day fell on opening day, however, he was still able to toss six innings and keep the Rays in the game. His next start is scheduled to come Sunday at the Trop against the Indians.
  • Interestingly, Price seemed to know locating his fastball would be a task and went to his secondary stuff earlier than usual. He threw Manny Machado, the second batter of the game, three changeups during the duration of a seven-pitch at-bat. Price threw one more first-inning changeup on 1-0 to Matt Wieters but it was middle-middle and Wieters launched it for a two-run home run. After the first inning Price averaged just a hair more than one changeup per inning pitched.
  • Same story for Jake McGee. He was up in the zone more often than usual and paid for it. He left an 0-2 fastball dead-red for Adam Jones to shoot into left-center and then a 91-mph heater (his slowest pitch of the afternoon) up and over the plate against Chris Davis following an intentional walk.
  • Jamey Wright was also up a little more than in the past as well. He seemed to be pitching inside a lot more. The past outings I’ve watched of Wrighthad him throwing the majority of his pitches away and over the middle. Today he was inside-inside-inside. That’s something to watch for, although he’s got to get more groundballs and fewer balls in the air to be effective.
  • James Loney didn’t contribute at the plate today. He still had a good defensive game. It’s easy to overlook his scoops (he made at least four solid plays on balls in the dirt) or forget his strong, accurate throw to second on a pickoff play after the fact. But Loney (as well as Evan Longoria, Sam Fuld, and Jose Molina) had a stellar defensive game.
  • What offense was on display for the Rays came off two bats: Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings. Zobrist took advantage of Jason Hammel’s tendencies to pitch away and use his fastball early twice. In the first inning he hit an elevated fastball that was off the plate away into center field for the Rays’ first hit of the season. Later, in the fourth, Zobrist engaged Hammel in a seven-pitch at-bat before pulling a poorly located slider into the right-field seats for the Rays’ first home run (and first run period) of the year. In Zobrist’s third encounter with Hammel he hit another fastball up and away into deep center field, plating the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.
  • Meanwhile Jennings hunted Hammel’s fastball in deeper counts. He nearly led the game off with a home run and added his second warning-track out in the bottom of the third. Both balls were fastballs located between the belt and the letters on the inner-to-middle portions of the plate. Jennings did get an extra-base hit off a Hammel fastball later in the game when he doubled down the left-field line. That pitch was up in the zone and again over the plate.
  • Last note is a minor one: Joe Maddon sort of got outfoxed by Buck Showalter in the seventh inning, albeit in a no-win situation. Maddon had Shelley Duncan pinch-hit for Loney against left-hander Troy Patton. Showalter smartly waited until after Duncan was announced and standing at the plate before going to the bullpen to get the righty Darren O’Day. (This may sound elementary but just on Monday night Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made the mistake of going to the mound before the pinch-hitter was announced, allowing Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to pull the switcharoo and leave his original batter in the game.) Empirically Duncan has a smaller platoon split than Loney does, so you can understand the move on Maddon’s part. Credit Showalter for thinking ahead as the bottom of the order approached.

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