It’s just one game but, for better or worse, Opening Day gets treated a little differently.
Let’s take a look at some of the takeaways from the Tribe’s first game of the year.
Kluber picks up where he left off
Kluber used his usual combination of fastballs and sliders to shut down the Astros lineup.
His slider was particularly effective, generating a 52 percent whiff rate and forcing Astros hitters to chase it out of the zone 46 percent of the time.
Of Kluber’s seven strikeouts (see Heat Map below), five of them came on pitches out of the zone.
Lack of patience at the plate
Of Dallas Keuchel‘s 103 pitches, he only threw 35 in the strike zone. Yet, somehow Tribe hitters only forced him to throw 17 pitches while behind in the count.
When Tribe hitters fell behind (which almost all of them did) Keuchel simply refused to throw them a strike. In pitcher’s counts, he threw only eight of 43 pitches in the zone (see Heat Map below), yet Tribe hitters chased 46 percent of his pitches out of the zone.
With a heavy dose of sinkers and sliders, Keuchel fooled the Indians hitters all night long and they did nothing to adjust.
Francona’s blind loyalty to Raburn
For unknown reasons, Ryan Raburn was in the lineup against Keuchel. Not only should Raburn never be in the starting lineup – unless, perhaps to give someone a day off – he should absolutely never start against a sinkerballer.
Entering Opening Day, Raburn had a .059 batting average against sinkerballs the past three seasons.
When looking at Raburn’s performance against Keuchel’s full repertoire (primarily sinkers and sliders), he has posted a .167 average against those pitches from left-handed pitchers the past three years.
If Francona continues to ignore the stats, we may be in for another long year of Raburn playing every few days.