Yesterday, I wrote about Houston Astros No. 1 starter Bud Norris after his outing on Sunday, which featured both the good and bad of what you can expect from Norris. There was nothing else on the slate for Sunday, but there was on Monday when 24 different teams opened up their season, providing viewers with 12 hours of baseball.
I watched several games on Monday, but the first one on was the Red Sox and Yankees, so here is one observation I made for each team on April 1, 2013.
1) CC Sabathia's Velocity
As a Yankees fan, it sure feels CC Sabathia often struggles on Opening Day and just generally early in the season as one of the starters who uses April to shake off the rust and build up arm strength. Monday marked the fifth Opening Day start for CC Sabathia as a Yankee and it went like three of the previous four outings in terms of results (see below); short and ineffective.
The poor results in Sabathia's first start of the season isn't surprising or a great cause of concern when put into perspective (see #2). But the lack of fastball velocity from Sabathia had some disconcerted following the game, including myself.
CC Sabathia's fastball was clocked at an average of 90 MPH via Brooks Baseball on Monday, which is 2 MPH slower than his fastball that sat 92 in his first start last season against the Tampa Bay Rays. When asked about it post-game, "I'm sure the velocity will keep coming back and the arm strength will keep building up the more I throw," Sabathia said. "Healthwise, I feel fine, elbow, shoulder and everything."
The good news is Sabathia got stronger as the game progressed on Monday in terms of fastball velocity instead of flat-lining or decreasing, which would have been a huge red flag. He also has the track record of being a slow starter, so he does get the benefit of the doubt for now.
It is worth mentioning Sabathia pitched a portion of the 2012 season injured and needed offseason arthroscopic surgery in his left elbow to remove a small bone spur in what Yankees GM Brian Cashman called a ''quick and minor cleanup''. To follow up, he only tossed 10 innings in spring training. In 2012, he threw 18 innings and made three more starts. I'm not a doctor nor smart enough to know if those aforementioned reasons are why Sabathia's velocity is two ticks slower than last year, so this is something to keep an eye on when he takes the mound for his second start of the season.
2) Boston is Trouble for Southpaws
If you didn't already know, you do now. The Boston Red Sox made life hell for Yankees ace CC Sabathia on Monday with their right-handed dominant lineup that features a handful of hitters that quite frankly mash southpaw pitching.
With David Ortiz sidelined, the Red Sox only have two everyday players that are specifically left-handed batters in rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jacoby Ellsbury, who doesn't have huge platoon splits.
Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino have all raked against southpaws throughout their careers and do possess significant platoon splits. In limited time in 2012 as a rookie, Will Middlebrooks did just fine at the plate, but also hit southpaws significantly better than right-handed pitchers. Then there's Dustin Pedroia, who is just an excellent hitter against any kind of starter.