The first week of a baseball season is full of new names, old names on new teams, and sometimes no-namers on old teams (that would be the Marlins). It's also full of new weird stuff that happens, new strategic developments and, this year, Gabe Kapler. Let's review some of the fun.
The eagle then ate a hot dog
The Mariners have already had some bad injury luck -- like Nelson Cruz landing on the DL after slipping on the dugout steps after hitting a home run -- so for a brief moment every Mariners fan knew this stunt would end up with James Paxton in a hospital with a missing ear and his eye clawed out:
— Cut4 (@Cut4) April 5, 2018
An eagle landing on a baseball player during an elaborate pregame ceremony would be the most American thing ever except Paxton is Canadian. Asked why he didn't run, Paxton deadpanned, "I figured I'm not going to outrun an eagle."
Astros employ four outfielders on Joey Gallo
The most-talked-about innovation was the four-outfield shift the Astros used, with third baseman Alex Bregman moving out to left field (Gallo beat it once with an opposite-field home run). This isn't a new thing. Joe Maddon used it last year against Joey Votto and it has been used in the past against David Ortiz, Jim Rice, Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey, among others.
It became a hot topic of discussion on sabermetric sites. The question: Should Gallo just bunt? Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus crunched the numbers, although it's not an easy thing to study, in part because nobody knows if Gallo can actually bunt. Anyway, with a 47 percent success rate -- and thus a .470/.470/.470 batting line, Carleton estimates the Rangers would score 5.20 runs per game with Gallo bunting compared to 4.80 if he hit away.
As for Gallo himself, he pointed out that bunting against a pitcher like Justin Verlander isn't so easy. "I'm sure I'll try to lay one down here and there, but it's not like I've been a master bunter all my life," Gallo said. "Everyone sees the left side of the infield and says, 'Just bunt it. Just bunt it.' It's not that simple."
Unwritten rules, by the Minnesota Twins
Speaking of the shift, the Twins were upset when Orioles catcher Chance Sisco bunted for a single against it in the ninth inning of a game the Twins led 7-0. Twins pitcher Jose Berrios was two outs from a one-hit shutout when Sisco pulled his dastardly act.
"I don't care if he's bunting. I just know it's not good for baseball in that situation. That's it," Berrios said.
"I could've said something, but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there, with Chris Davis, Adam Jones and those guys. I'm sure they'll address it and move forward," Twins second baseman Brian Dozier said.
"Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That's not a good play," said Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario.
My head hurts just thinking about what the Twins might have been thinking. The obvious counterargument to their whining is why were they shifting up seven runs in the ninth inning? Because they're trying to win! Same reason Sisco bunted.
After realizing he was getting hammered, Dozier explained his thinking to the St. Paul Pioneer Press that because the Orioles hadn't held on a Twins runner, "they conceded to the fact they didn't want us to steal, so we didn't steal. We could have very easily stolen and put up more runs, so therefore in return, you don't bunt. That's what everybody is missing in this whole thing."
Except the Twins were in a shift.
Bottom line: Baseball is weird.
Edwin Encarnacion hits an inside-the-park home run
Encarnacion isn't exactly Adrian Gonzalez or Albert Pujols slow, but he's not known for his fleet feet, either, with only nine career triples. This one was a little wacky even as inside-the-park home runs go since Encarnacion wasn't even running out of the box and Justin Upton's effort after the ball hit off the wall would best be described as "poor."
Gabe Kapler's adventurous first week
So all this happened to the new Phillies skipper:
In the season opener, he removed starter Aaron Nola after 68 pitches while he was throwing a shutout and then watched as five relievers blew a 5-0 lead.
He brought in a reliever who hadn't warmed up in the bullpen.
He blew through 26 pitching changes in the first five games, although one of those was infielder Pedro Florimon.
He got burned when he brought right fielder Nick Williams in very shallow against Amed Rosario, who hit a two-run triple for the go-ahead runs. Williams was playing the hit chart but look where he was playing:
A Phillies player told FanRag Sports that, "We'll be OK. ... We just need the manager to get out of the way."
Kapler was then booed at the Phillies home opener.
Stanton gets a Bronx cheer
Kapler can take a little solace in knowing Giancarlo Stanton was also booed at his Yankee Stadium debut. On a cold, rainy day, Stanton went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts and heard the music from Yankees fans. How often does a player go 0-for-5 with five K’s? It happened only three times last year (Javier Baez, Matt Davidson and Odubel Herrera), three times in 2016 and twice in 2015.
Aaron Judge plays center field
More Yankees. Back on the first day of spring training, Judge joked that he still considers himself a center fielder, reminding reporters that he played there in college. At the time, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he couldn't envision a scenario where Judge would end up in there. Then Jacoby Ellsbury landed on the DL at the end of spring training and Aaron Hicks followed with an intercostal strain suffered on Opening Day. There Judge was on March 31, playing center field in a 5-3 loss to the Blue Jays.
Dee Gordon admires a home run
Gordon had 11 career home runs in more than 2,800 lifetime at-bats when he hit one against the Indians, and he watched it sail out as if he were Ken Griffey Jr. belting one into the third deck at the Kingdome.
Chris Davis hitting leadoff
The Orioles stole only 32 bases last season and since they didn't add Rickey Henderson or Tim Raines in the offseason, they still lack a conventional leadoff hitter (of course, the idea of the conventional leadoff hitter is dying a slow death anyway). Adam Jones and Tim Beckham got the most starts there in 2017, but Buck Showalter's initial plan put Davis there. That was quickly abandoned after five games when Davis went 1-for-20 with three walks. Only five years left on Davis' contract.
Weird series of the week
The Dodgers and Giants began with four games at Dodger Stadium -- and all four ended in shutouts. The Giants won the first by identical 1-0 scores, with Joe Panik providing both runs with home runs. You can guess where this is going: He's the first player to hit solo home runs in back-to-back 1-0 games at any point in a season, not just the first two games of a season.
Related note: The second of those came off Kenley Jansen, who is scaring Dodgers fans with diminished velocity and a loss and blown save in his first two outings.
Finally, the man of the hour
You know what Shohei Ohtani did. Let's replay that first home run:
Good luck, Week No. 2.