Three Takeaways From The Red Sox Opening Day Performance

While one game alone will not provide us with answers, It sure does feel good to try and find 'em anyway!

Sure, it’s hard to take much of anything away from one baseball game, but with a team full of so many question marks, it’s always fun to start peeling back layers – as small as they may be – to uncover some of those answers. While we probably won’t have much of a handle on what this team rally is until late May/early June, there were some positive takeaways to look at from yesterday’s game that are worth talking about. Let’s jump right in…

Jon Lester was mostly good, but still has some work to do.

I liked most of what I saw from Lester on Monday, especially in the early innings. Truth be told, he looked a lot like the Lester of old, slashing back and forth across the plate and using his fastball to set up his cutter – which was absolutely devastating. Almost all his pitches were kept down in the zone and he seemed to be hitting his spots pretty well while keeping his velocity at more-than-acceptable-for-Opening-Day levels. All things considered, the first three innings when about as well as anyone could have hoped.

In the fourth inning, he ran into some control issues of which he wrestled with for the rest of the start. I’m not sure that’s opening day fatigue, the cold weather or whatever – but all his pitches seemed to bleed up higher in the zone. His control got so bad at one point, that he missed his spot six times in a row – and pretty badly at that. Still, you have to take the inning with a grain of salt – he could have prevented those runs but he also could’ve given more up. He got BABIP’d a bit with Francisco Cervelli’s hit that landed on the chalk in left field and knocked in the only two Yankees runs, but also got a little lucky throwing a fastball right down the pipe for a called strike three that Jayson Nix just stared at. Either way, he worked his way out of it and rebounded nicely with a 12 pitch fifth inning where he struck out Eduardo Nunez and Vernon Wells. Lester kept the damage to a respectable minimum, which I’m not sure would have happened last year.

Overall, he wasn’t spectacular by any means, but there were certainly some strong positives he can take away from his start and build on.

The Base Running might quietly be the biggest improvement of the Red Sox offseason. Keep an eye on it.

Too often good base running gets confused for being fast and stealing bases and stuff – but the reality is that it’s none of that. It’s being able to read the field, judge one’s own ability and make sound decisions on when to advance and when not to. One of the more underrated aspects of this offseason is that the Red Sox brought in a group of players who fit that mold. With injuries to David Ortiz and Stephen Drew, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jose Iglesias have found themselves in the opening day lineup as well – taking an already solid base running team and making them that much better.

Both made their presence felt throughout the day – with Iglesias legging out infield hits and Jackie Bradley Jr. providing a nice heads up play at 2B. Even Jonny Gomes got in on the action; catching the Yankees infield napping at one point to score a sneaky seventh run that felt like a total knockout blow. If the Red Sox do nothing else this year, they should run the bases well, so keep an eye on it as the season progresses. I know it’s one game, but I’m confident this is the year the Red Sox emerge from the dark ages of Tim Bogar and come out into the light of sound base running and fewer wasted outs.

This bullpen, man…

Seriously. These guys looked lights out. While the usually strong Yankee pen struggled to locate anything all afternoon, the Red Sox hurlers closed the door, nailed it shut and attached plastic explosives to it for good measure. Koji Uehara’s splitter looks a lot better than I remember it being and both Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Bailey looked borderline dominant. Most surprising to me though, was just how completely overwhelmed the Yankees – as depleted as they may be – looked once they got a look at Joel Hanrahan’s 98-99mph gas. After staring at velocity mostly in the low 90’s all afternoon, they looked completely overmatched. The only sort-of-low-light was Andrew Miller, who is hit and miss anyway, but for the most part- the bullpen looked better than advertised.

Categories: Andrew Bailey Andrew Miller Eduardo Nunez Francisco Cervelli Jackie Bradley Jr. Joel Hanrahan Jon Lester Jose Iglesias Junichi Tazawa Koji Uehara Tim Bogar Vernon Wells

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

One Response to “Three Takeaways From The Red Sox Opening Day Performance” Subscribe

  1. Gerry April 2, 2013 at 1:44 PM #

    The lineup sans Ortiz maximized the the Sox running game to create runs. Having Gomes, Bradley, Iglesias, Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia lined up might even be illegal, and is certainly unfair to opposing teams. Along with 150SB potential, these guys can all leg out hits (like Iggy did twice), prevent DP's, go 1st to 3rd and, turn doubles into triples (like Ells did) and, like Gomes, 2nd to home. Considering they will also grind out an OBP of about .350, and this is a serious offensive threat. Not to minimize the 20-30HR/30-40 doubles power of Ells, PD, Vic, Nap, WMB, Gomes and Salty, as this team can get runs both ways.

    I also LOVE this bullpen, which could just as easily protected a one run lead over four innings. A nervous Miller, at 96-98, also held the line, facing righties as well as lefties. He is, IMO, coming into his own and will likely be a beast for this pen.

    I am soooo happy for Iggy. Talk about a confidence builder. He has, in fact, hit well (not OK, but well) in AA, AAA, but only after he adjusted to the level while working around two injuries, one from a HBP. He is now adjusting to MLB, and with his offseason regimen dedicated to hitting.with aithority, hit well in ST and began the season well. What a conundrum. If, in 3 weeks, Drew is hitting better than a decent hitting Iggy, while Iggy clearly establishes himself as the new Wizard in town with a glove, who gets the nod? One more thing to keep an eye on. I hope Iggy follows the paths of WMB, Doubront, Tazawa and Bradley and siezes the opportunity.