MLB Opening Day overreactions: Mike Trout in familiar spot, Tigers have Cy Young favorite, problem for Houston

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In every sport, we’re prone to overreacting to the first thing we see in a new season. It’s human nature. We’ve been sitting around for months dreaming of seeing the fresh season with newly shaped rosters, and the first day is the only sample we have in the new campaign.
Major League Baseball has a quirk to it that other professional sports don’t, and that would be the daily aspect. We’ve got 162 of these freaking things. We know we shouldn’t go crazy about seeing something. It would be like deciding an NFL team was definitely terrible or awesome based upon the first two possessions or something. And still, we do it because, again, we’re human.
As such, we’ll run through some possible overreactions here on MLB’s official Opening Day (even though two Dodgers-Padres games were played last week in Seoul, South Korea).
Remember, we’re having fun here with possibly tongue-in-cheek subheadings, but will include earnest analysis to determine if the overreaction was indeed an overreaction that’ll be corrected or if it’s truly a sign of things to come.
We’re getting a World Series rematch
The last time there was a World Series rematch in consecutive seasons? That would be 1978. In 1977, the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series and then in 1978, it happened again, with the Yankees repeating for their 22nd championship.
As you might recall, the Rangers beat the Diamondbacks in the 2023 Fall Classic, four games to one. The Diamondbacks did good work on their roster in the offseason and the Rangers are retaining that loaded offense. The Rangers had to deal with a feisty and strong Cubs team on Opening Day but showed their mettle by tying the game in the bottom of the ninth and then winning it in the 10th. The Diamondbacks were only tasked with the lowly Rockies, but made a statement in an utter dismantling of the woeful Rox.
Both teams are amazing! It’s finally another repeat World Series, right?
Verdict: C’mon. What are the odds of this actually happening with so many other good-to-great teams? Even if both of these teams are juggernauts in the regular season, the win totals last year during the regular season were 90 for the Rangers and 84 for the Diamondbacks, a nice illustration of how much of a crapshoot the playoffs can be.
For D-backs and Rangers fans, be happy and cherish the Opening Day Ws. But there are 161 to go before the playoff gauntlet.
The Astros’ haven’t shaken their home woes
It isn’t a stretch to say the Astros’ relative inability to win at home last season cost them another championship (not to mention being called a dynasty). They were 51-30 on the road in the regular season compared to 39-42 at home. The trend continued into the playoffs, when the Astros were 5-0 on the road but 1-5 at home, losing all four ALCS home games and the series in the process.
Fast-forward to Opening Day on Thursday. The Astros got three runs in the first, then they tacked on another in the second inning for a 4-0 lead with All-Star pitcher Framber Valdez on the hill. Surely they were about to prove the home woes last season were a fluke.
Wrong.
The Yankees won the game, 5-4. Uh oh, Houston!
Valdez walked six and hit a batter and couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. That bullpen before their two stud closers is relatively thin, so that presented a bit of a problem and the Yankees are a formidable ballclub. Plus, the Astros appeared ready to tie the game or even walk things off in the ninth, but Juan Soto threw Mauricio Dubon out at home plate on a really close play. Just a few inches either way on the throw and the Astros probably win this game.
But they didn’t. And why did their bats hibernate between the second and ninth innings?
These seem like similar problems that we saw at home in the playoffs.
Verdict: Surely this can’t be real. As noted, the Yankees are good and the Astros were really just a few inches from winning this game. I have to imagine with 80 more home games they’ll end up winning a decent number more in Minute Maid Park than last year.
I can, however, totally understand any concerns from Astros fans in the vein of “we’ve seen this movie before.”
Cy Skubal!
Tigers starter Tarik Skubal returned from injury last season to make 15 starts down the stretch. Since it wasn’t the start of the season, it wasn’t as widely noticed nationally as it should have been. He went 7-3 on a mediocre (at best) team with a 2.80 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 102 strikeouts against 14 walks in 80 1/3 innings.
There was decent hype on Skubal heading into the season in the gambling and fantasy communities. He went out and rewarded that faith in him with a dominant Opening Day performance against the White Sox. He gave up just three hits (all singles) in six scoreless innings of work while striking out six without a walk, emerging with the W despite his team only giving him one run of support.
Sure, “only” six innings pitched, but it’s Opening Day and starters aren’t fully stretched out to where they’ll be midseason just yet.
Bottom line, that was an ace effort, so it appears he’s ready to continue his 2023 efforts through the 2024 season as an All-Star and Cy Young contender.
Verdict: It’s possible. It’s also the White Sox and they are one of the worst teams in baseball. Let’s hold off on the coronation of Skubal for another start or two against actual big-league competition this season.
Cubs are in major troubles without Steele
The Cubs lost on Opening Day against the defending champion Rangers. It was in extra innings and the Cubs certainly looked, for the most part, a contender — at least as much as you can in a loss. They also lost ace Justin Steele to an apparent hamstring injury. We don’t yet know the extent of the injury, but it’s hard to see a hamstring injury on a pitcher being minor in terms of missed time. And if he misses a few starts before he’s healed, he’d need to go to the minors on a rehab assignment to build himself back up.
You can see how this would snowball, right? If Steele misses something like six weeks, the Cubs don’t have nearly as sturdy a rotation as it looked like they would. Any team losing an ace would feel it. It’s not just a matter of trying to replace the production of one pitcher, as there are ripples throughout the roster. Any other pitcher likely doesn’t throw as well or work as many innings as the top dog, which means the bullpen is worked harder, which means the depth of the pitching staff as a whole, including those in Triple-A, is tested.
Simply, losing an ace for six weeks could cost a team 1-2 wins. That might not sound significant, but what if the projections are right? SportsLine had the Cubs winning the NL Central by four games. If losing Steele costs them two wins and another team overplays the projections by two, that’s the division. Fangraphs had the Cubs losing the Central by one game while PECOTA had the Cubs losing the Central by two games, so in those systems, there is no margin for error.
Verdict: We have to see how bad the injury to Steele’s hamstring is, but if he’s lost for something like two months, it very well could cost the Cubs the playoffs. It’s obviously an overreaction to believe the season is over or anything like that, but it would be totally naive to think that injury alone won’t have a major impact on their playoff chances.
I guess what I’m saying is the Cubs could still very well win the Central, but there’s also a decent chance we’ll end the season and look back at the Steele injury as an early dagger.
Mike Trout is back! Same ol’ Angels, though …
In the last three seasons, Mike Trout has only played in 237 games (an average of 79 per season). He hasn’t appeared in more than 140 since 2016. When he plays, he’s still amazing. Hell, he hit 40 homers in just 119 games in 2022.
Thursday, he hit a home run off Orioles ace and 2021 Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes in the first inning. It was glorious just to see Trout doing his thing again.
Of course, that was the only baserunner the Angels got off Burnes in his six innings of dominance.
Through seven innings, it was 11-1 Orioles. The Angels would tack on two worthless runs in the eighth, but it was again a hapless performance from what looks like a hapless team other than the future Hall of Famer.
Verdict: Yep, this is all too real. It is not an overreaction at all. Let’s just hope we get 150+ games of Trout again as opposed to the injury-riddled campaigns we’ve gotten in recent years.
For those wondering, Trout has six years at $37,116,667 per season left on his contract.
The A’s, Rockies and Nationals are absolutely pitiful
The three surefire doormats were outscored 31-3 combined. They will all finish last and are terrible baseball teams.
Verdict: Yes. Yes, they will, and yes, they are.

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