The Yankees and Nationals opened up the odd season with a pretty good Opening Day game. Sadly, it was called at the top of the 6th inning due to weather, but the Nationals avoided an even worse beating.
With a bad start in 2020, Nationals’ fans and MLB fans are worried about Max Scherzer. While he was able to rack up strikeouts, he also allowed a ton of baserunners. Let’s break it down.
Max Scherzer’s Opening Day Struggles
Max Scherzer’s bad start can be chalked up to one key issue, 10 base runners in 5.1 innings pitched. That’s a recipe for failure, and four out of those 10 runners were issued walks. That issue is one that can be curbed if the Nationals opt to have Yan Gomes back there, rather than Kurt Suzuki. Yan Gomes could’ve stolen some strikes in my opinion, as he’s a much better framer. That’s part of the importance of framing.
Outside of potential framing issues, Scherzer has to avoid hard contact. He’s still a great pitcher and showed it with his 11 strikeouts, but he has to bounce back. When the SIERA and FIP metrics are released on Fangraphs we can see how he truly was.
While Scherzer struggled, he’s not what concerned me most, because those Nats’ bats were not good.
Nationals Bats Fell Silent Against the Yankees
Juan Soto‘s plate discipline and presence against righties cannot be underestimated, and we saw that last night. In 2020, the Washington Nationals only had a 20.9 strikeout% (5th best in the MLB). Last night they struck out 27.7% of the time. This can be attributed to Gerrit Cole being great, but at the same time, this team didn’t even rack up hits off of him. Adam Eaton hit that towering home run but that was about it, with Asdrubal Cabrera and Eric Thames reaching on base too.
These bats need to wake up. Last year what got them to their ring was hitting against great pitching. Howie Kendrick and Juan Soto had great offensive metrics against above .500 squads, but without Soto, that lineup looked exposed. This Opening Day woke the Nationals up to the fact that teams like the Yankees want to win it all just as bad.
The Nationals need Juan Soto to make a speedy recovery if they want to claim the NL East crown in 2020 and defend their title.
Yankees Look Poised To Be Elite; Again
The New York Yankees bats did strike out a ton against Scherzer, but they also hit very well against the NL’s best pitcher (in my opinion). Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton looked great and scary as ever. The issue? Brett Gardner should not be hitting fifth. He kills rallies and you’re better off with Tauchman’s bat and glove, and someone else hitting in the number-five spot. Gardner isn’t a middle of the lineup bat, he’s a number-nine hitter or bench hitter.
The Yankees love affair with hitting underperforiming lefties in the middle of the linuep is kind of absurd. In 2019 they had struggling Didi Gregorius and his sub-.300 xwOBA hit third or fourth which killed rallies. It didn’t matter much as Urshela, Voit, Wade, Judge, Stanton, and Torres all reached base at least once, but it’s still something to note.
As the next wave of Opening Day matchups begin, remember that it’s only one game, and I caution you to save judgement for a team until we have like 15-20 games before we start being excited or disappointed. There’s a lot of playoff spots and I guarantee that your team will be in that mix (except for the Orioles, your season’s over already).
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