By Danny Mehigan
After a month of practice in sunny Florida or Arizona, you’d expect most major league pitchers to come into the first week of the regular season throwing darts. Most variables are in their favor. The weather is cold and crappy, so hitters can’t get in a groove. When they do knock the ball, it won’t go anywhere thanks to the conditions. After six months off, it takes awhile to get your timing back as a hitter. As a pitcher, things don’t change if you’re facing Little Leaguers or Major Leaguers – you have to make your pitches.
Yet, despite all that, the first outing for a Major League ace can be generally placed into one of three categories. And true to form, the 2009 debuts of these guys were no different.
These guys put opponents to shame on day one and even stole their girlfriends afterwards. True “pwn-age”, if you will.
Derek Lowe, Braves: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 K.
Kevin Millwood, Rangers: 7 IP, 5 H, ER, 5 K.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners: 8 IP, 5 H, ER, 5 K.
Josh Beckett, Baahstan Red Sawx: 7 IP, 2 H, ER, 10 K.
WAXING POETIC: FEW RUNS, HIGH PITCH COUNTS, GRITTY PERFORMANCES
If I were an old-school badass like Grantland Rice, I would write something that made it seem like these guys fought tooth and nail to defend their turf when they didn’t have their best stuff. But I’m not Grantland Rice, so this is all you get. People who dog baseball for being slow-paced and lacking excitement probably use these games for their arguments.
Johan Santana, Mets: 5.2 IP, ER, 7 K, 4 BB, 99 pitches.
Aaron Harang, Reds: 5 IP, ER, 2 K, 3 BB, 114 pitches.
Mark Buehrle, White Sox: 5 IP, 2 ER, 97 pitches.
This group is shockingly numerous. Are these guys nervous? Did they just work on their base tans at spring training? Although I can’t get upset because there’s no reason not to get jacked and tan, at least get nice frosted tips if you’re going to pitch like this. (Note: Jeff Suppan does not apply here, because everybody saw that coming.)
Cliff Lee, Indians: 5 IP, 10 H, 7 ER. Cy Young winner, my ass.
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks: 4 IP, 6 H, 6 ER. And now he’s hurt, too.
CC Sabathia, Yankees: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 0 K, 5 BB. Brewers fans smile just a little.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 8 ER. No quip here, just bad pitching.
Tim Lincecum, Giants: 3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 78 pitches. Other Cy Young winner, my ass.
These guys will get better no doubt, but why does it seem like they all start off so slowly? Quite the phenomenon, eh? Anybody have an answer for this?
[UPDATE: This was a topic on both Around The Horn (taken as insult) and Pardon The Interruption (taken as compliment) today. I’m so smart … ESPN should just give me a job.
What’s that? I already had a job there? Until they laid off half the company only to pay big money to bring on Herm Edwards as the 37th talking head on NFL Countdown, forcing me to quit for my own well-being? Well, you win this round, Bristol. You win this round.]