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10 takeaways from MLB Opening Weekend: Orioles’ offensive outburst, Yankees revenge, A’s poor attendance, more

The first weekend of the new Major League Baseball season is in the books. Technically the season officially began a week earlier, with a two-game series in Seoul, South Korea. Spiritually, though, it’s fair to describe the last four days as the real start to the season.

There’s a funny, natural conflict at play with baseball. It’s the sport that offers the most games, but it also requires the longest amount of time before you can draw real conclusions. Still, we’re licensed and trained experts here (or something like that), so we’ve decided to honor the occasion of Opening Weekend by publishing 10 takeaways from the start of the season.

Our observations, found below, range from the team-level all the way down to the uniforms and the minors — hey, it was their first weekend back on the job, too. Some are analytical, some are very much not. In concert, we’re hopeful that they give you a greater appreciation — or, at least, education — for what transgressed over the season’s first four days.

Bear in mind that there are far more players and teams than we could possibly cover here, so don’t feel miffed if your favorites weren’t included. It’s a long year; we’ll get to them.

1. Orioles are on the warpath

The Orioles were a trendy preseason pick to win the American League pennant. Opening Weekend showed why. They throttled the Angels, scoring 24 runs over the first two games before falling 4-1 in Sunday’s series finale. 

On an individual level, the new one-two punch of Corbin Burnes and Grayson Rodriguez combined for 20 strikeouts versus one walk in 12 innings of work. Meanwhile, shortstop Gunnar Henderson kicked off his MVP candidacy by homering and tripling as part of an opening series that saw him hit .400/.538/.900.

The poor Angels, in their first week without Shohei Ohtani, didn’t know what clobbered them.

The Orioles’ April schedule looks favorable to us: they’ll play their next nine games against non-playoff teams, and they’ll have another such nine-game stretch later in the month. As such, there’s a real chance the Orioles enter May with the majors’ best record.

2. Yankees, Braves (sort of) exorcize ghosts

We’re not here to pretend that past playoff failures can be erased in March. We do think that the Yankees, Braves, and their respective fan bases had enjoyable weekends all the same.

The Yankees, in particular, had to be encouraged by their four-game sweep against the Astros — a franchise that had upended them in 2017, 2019, and 2022. New York overcame a 4-0 deficit in Game 1; scored seven unanswered runs in Game 2; rallied from behind again in Game 3; and then eked out Game 4 — all on the road, and all without injured ace Gerrit Cole. The Yankees, as a result, are 4-0 for the first time since 2003.

The Braves, meanwhile, scorched the Phillies in the first two games of their three-game set. Atlanta dropped the series finale, but a victory amounts to a small (indeed, a very small) amount of retribution toward the team that sent them home in the last two Octobers.

Who knows, both series might end up being playoff previews. There’s a lot of baseball to be played in the interim, but we suspect few series will feel quite as meaningful after starting the seasons on such high notes.

3. Yamamoto is going to be fine

Writing off Yoshinobu Yamamoto after one poor start in South Korea may have been a mistake. Yamamoto, who wrapped up his career in Japan by winning three consecutive MVP and Cy Young equivalent Awards, had a much better second outing on Saturday against the Cardinals — in the process suggesting the Dodgers didn’t err by signing him to a massive free-agent contract that will pay him $325 million over the next 12 years.

Indeed, Yamamoto threw five shutout innings in a loss, striking out five batters and walking none as he showcased the command that made him a force overseas. He surrendered just two hits and threw more than 66% of his pitches for strikes. Yamamoto also generated nine swinging strikes, with his trademark splitter and curveball notching four apiece.

Yamamoto’s next start figures to come on the road against the Cubs.

4. The kids are all right

Among the top joys of Opening Weekend is seeing players make their big-league debuts. Some, like Wyatt Langford and Jackson Chourio, come with years of hype and expectations. Others, including Padres infielder Graham Pauley, very much do not. It didn’t matter here:

One rookie in particular who shined this weekend was Pirates right-hander Jared Jones. He took it to the Marlins on Saturday night, generating 22 swinging strikes on 89 pitches. That included 11 on his four-seam fastball and another 10 on his slider. Observe:

For reference, the MLB leader in swinging strikes is Dodgers Tyler Glasnow with 26 … and he’s had two starts, and 19 more batters faced than Jones, to amass that total.

Jones has been overshadowed a bit in the Pirates farm system by Paul Skenes. Not so on Saturday.

5. Bieber’s gains stick

This is a pivotal season for Guardians right-hander Shane Bieber. He’s slated for free agency come the winter, and he’s attempting to amend for a 2023 campaign that featured injury, a statline that was beneath his usual standards, and an ineffective heater. 

Bieber had a tremendous spring, during which he displayed an upgraded arsenal. Through one start — an outing against the Athletics that saw him strike out 11 batters in six shutout frames — he continued to show improved velocity. His average fastball was up exactly one tick from 2023. Additionally, his hardest pitch on the day (93.7) would’ve been his fastest all last year.

Bieber’s heater still didn’t miss many bats. Yet his 11% whiff rate would represent an improvement over last season’s 9.5% mark.  We’ll see if Bieber can maintain that new oomph over the rest of the season. So far, the Guardians have reason to be optimistic.

6. It’s going to be a long year in Oakland

Athletics fans continued to boycott John Fisher’s attempt to relocate the franchise to Las Vegas, Nevada, resulting in some eye-opening attendance totals. The A’s reported that they drew more than 13,000 spectators on Opening Day. They then saw fewer than 10,000 combined fans come through the turnstiles on Friday and Saturday night. Sunday’s day game, a walk-off win for Oakland, saw 4,118 people in the stands, according to the team.

The City of Oakland is reportedly preparing to offer the A’s a five-year lease extension — if the Vegas deal goes through, don’t be surprised if the attendance numbers slip even more.

7. Dugout jackets are slick

There was a lot of chatter during spring training about misgivings of the new uniforms manufactured by Nike and Fanatics. You may recall union chief Tony Clark uttering a Hall of Fame quote by saying that the “universal concern is the pant.” There’s still chatter about the size of the nameplates, as well as the perpetually moist nature of the Yankees’ road attire

We’re not here to relitigate all that jazz; we’re here to praise the league’s new sharp-looking dugout jackets. Here’s a look at the Mets’ version, but we think they all look pretty good. Just, um, don’t let your eyes drift to the price tag if you want to maintain happy thoughts.

8. Holliday is proving he’s close

We mentioned how the Orioles were well-positioned to start hot. Here’s another factor: at some point this spring, they’ll add No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday to their lineup. 

The Orioles demoted Holliday at the end of spring, claiming they wanted him to see more left-handed pitching and time at second base. Whatever the real reason — and we’ll note that the recent CBA has done a good job of limiting, if not outright eliminating, the most egregious instances of service-time manipulation — he’s off to a hot start on the farm. 

Through Holliday’s first three games, he put 13 balls into play — seven of those had an exit velocity of 100-plus mph. For those who like their analysis in more traditional formats: he’s 5 for 14 with a home run, two doubles, and five RBI. 

9. The injury bug made the cut

Holliday may not have made the trip north, but the injury bug sure did. Opening Day alone saw several notable players suffer ailments that required a trip to the injured list. That included Twins infielder Royce Lewis, Cubs ace Justin Steele, and Braves catcher Sean Murphy

Of them all, Nationals third baseman Nick Senzel may have had it the worst. He fractured his thumb while fielding a ball during warmups, meaning that he wasn’t even able to partake in the festivities that come with cracking an Opening Day roster. That’s rough.

10. … and so did general feistiness 

A new season is a fresh canvas. For the lot of us, that means sporting a happy, optimistic way of thinking until the general vibes modern life led us down more cynical paths. 

Some players, we regret writing, didn’t get the memo about having bright eyes or bushy tails. 

MLB spent Easter Sunday handing out three-game suspensions to Mets righty Yohan Ramírez and Blue Jays lefty Génesis Cabrera for the extracurricular behavior they engaged in to begin the new year, plus a one-game benching to Mets manager Carlos Mendoze. Ramírez’s banishment came after he was accused of intentionally throwing at Brewers first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Cabrera’s suspension, on the other paw, was for inciting a benches-clearing incident by pie-facing Rays shortstop Jose Caballero

We will note that both pitchers appealed their suspensions, suggesting some of that springtime optimism resides within them after all.

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