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Opening-day recap: Harang’s hubris

The Cardinals proved that a potent offense covers a multitude of mistakes in their opening-day triumph Monday over the Reds, 11-6. Albert Pujols led a parade of circuit clouts, capped by Yadier Molina’s grand slam, to overcome some unsteady relief pitching and fielding.

Pujols, of course, is going to hit home runs. But his first-inning shot off Aaron Harang might’ve partly been a case of opening-day hubris on the part of the Reds’ pitcher. After striking out the Cardinals’ first two batters on sliders, Harang came hard to Pujols with two strikes, heaving two 94-mph fastballs in a row, the first of which Pujols fouled off. Harang might’ve been amped up and wanting to blow a pitch past the reigning MVP to strike out the side, but his bravado led to a quick 1-0 deficit. Trying to sneak a fastball past Pujols, especially right after he just missed one, is questionable pitch calling. Pujols’s weaknesses are all relative, to be sure, but he hits sliders (1.42 slider runs above average per 100) about half as well as fastballs, which he kills (2.74 wFB/C). Obviously.

Some other notes:

  • Three of the Cardinals home runs came from players’ whose health was a concern in spring training, Pujols and Molina.
  • With six home runs total of 23 fly balls, more than a fourth of the fly balls hit at Great American were big flies, a 26% HR/BF rate (league average is usually around 11%).
  • Chris Carpenter may have surrendered two home runs, but a) they were at Great American, and b) they were with leads of four and three runs. Carpenter did appear to be laboring, however.
  • After posting a solid 3.00 K/BB in spring, Motte disappointingly walked a .327-OBP guy (Carlos Hernandez) with a four-run lead. But he recovered well, striking out Dickerson and inducing a flyout from Cabrera to avoid a repeat of last year’s opener.
  • According to the fab 2nd Guesser iPhone app, the Reds’ double-steal in the eighth was a "good idea," assuming a 75% career success rate for Brandon Phillips. The only problem was that Rolen, the runner at first, didn’t steal.
  • Based on the initial leverage of the situation in which La Russa deployed his relievers, Kyle McClellan is his most-trusted arm from the pen:
    pitcher initial LI
    McClellan 1.000
    Reyes .650
    Motte .400
    Franklin .030
  • With Scott Rolen sporting a .594 GPA against Ryan Franklin, a five-run lead at Great American may actually qualify as a save for the Cardinals’ closer.
  • If Win-Probability Added is any indicator of the most-valuable player — we think it should be — Pujols started his trophy defense well, with +.344, best in the game. He received our Fangraphs’ 3-star player of the game vote. Rasmus, at +.145, and Carpenter, at +.144, were next on our ballot. Just like everyone else who followed the game.

4 Responses to “Opening-day recap: Harang’s hubris”

  1. Around The Blogs: Opening Day 2010 | Baseball Bloggers Alliance Says:

    [...] you want the stats to go with the show, you always turn to Pip, who doesn’t disappoint.  Side note: Pip is going to be assisting in Cardinal live game chats on ESPN.com this year, [...]

  2. CardinalJohn Says:

    “Where have you gone, Pip?” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  3. Pip Says:

    I’m here. What do you mean, CJ?

  4. CardinalJohn Says:

    Well, it took me a long time to figure it out, but something is wrong with the RSS feed I have for you. This was the last one I got. I just didn’t check your actual site. I assumed you hadn’t posted, I shoulda known better. :) Glad your still workin’ away.

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