With one White Sox game finally in the books, it’s too early to look at the data — and I don’t mean because of a lack of sample size. Gameday’s been throwing up on itself early on, Baseball Savant doesn’t have the 2017 data on player pages yet, Brooks Baseball said Jose Quintana threw 30 extra pitches, and with Major League Baseball switching from PITCHf/x to Trackman, velocities might be difficult to establish early in the season, at least relative to a player’s career.
That said, the two biggest things that jumped out to me in real time on Tuesday:
Jose Quintana was better than he looked
Between the everpresent trade rumors and the absence of Chris Sale, it would’ve been a delight if Jose Quintana threw a gem on Opening Day. Instead, they hammered him for six runs over 51⁄3 innings, all of them scoring via three home runs.
It’s not necessarily a surprise given the history. Quintana entered the game with a 4.97 ERA against Detroit over the previous two years. It’s a lineup full of talented right-handed hitters who get a lot of looks at him, so they might be able to punish mistakes a little better than the rest of the league.
And they did on Tuesday, but that doesn’t explain it all. JaCoby Jones hit the blast that turned the game, a three-run shot during a seven-pitch at-bat that gave the Tigers the lead they never relinquished, and it was just a helluva battle:
Man, some at-bat by JaCoby Jones. pic.twitter.com/l11EirUcLD— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) April 4, 2017
Maybe Quintana wanted the curve to dig a little lower, but it certainly wasn’t a bad pitch. The swing reminded me of Delmon Young taking Chris Sale deep back in 2012 on a pitch that registered as the lowest gopher ball of the year.
Jones’ homer wasn’t that extreme, but it might’ve been a similar story, in that it was made possible by Quintana working in one area too much. His pitch charts — which are potentially unreliable at the moment — resembles one from his early career. He was much more comfortable working inside to right-handed hitters, which is usually a great foundation, but he couldn’t quite find the balance on the outside corner. The homers to Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos were the ones that stuck with him:
"Yeah, I missed the spot, especially the fastballs against Castellanos and Kinsler," Quintana said. "I tried to go away, and the ball cut a little bit. I was behind in the count, too. That happens when you are going that way."
But his approach wasn’t all that off, so there should be better days ahead. The same can be said for the hitter I’m about to discuss.
Tim Anderson was as bad as he looked
Especially against Justin Verlander.
Anderson went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on the day, and 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Justin Verlander. Here’s what those three at-bats looked like:
Nine pitches, seven strikes, five swinging, although one of the takes was one borderline (it dots the corner on Brooks). Verlander just worked him over, especially with the fastball. In all three at-bats. He set up Anderson with breaking balls for first strikes in all three plate appearances, and when he showed the fastball, he showed it in places Anderson couldn’t reach.
The silver lining is that Verlander has three top-two Cy Young finishes in his career, and this is why he’s that good. Anderson will probably look that bad against lesser pitchers as he goes through his first full MLB season — but this is one where a great pitcher suffocated him.
Verlander saved his mistakes for the batter before, as Tyler Saladino capitalized on hittable secondary pitches for a great start to his season. Saladino singled on a 1-1 curveball in the first inning and an 0-1 changeup in the second. Both pitches were middle in and elevated, and he smacked them firmly through the left side both times.
Verlander and Brian McCann took notice. The third time up, Verlander threw five pitches — all fastballs, all elevated. Saladino fouled one off, but he was otherwise able to hold up entirely, and he drew a walk for a perfect afternoon against the Detroit ace.