2014 in Opening Day First Pitches by Jeff Sullivan April 2, 2014 Brandon McCarthy isn’t our boss, nor is he anywhere on the FanGraphs payroll, but similar to how one would act around a boss, we’re willing to do what McCarthy asks us to do. There’s nothing better than being handed an idea, and a year ago, McCarthy handed over an idea that we get to write about on an annual basis! The old tweet in question: ? for my stat enthusiast followers- in last 5 years, has any team’s opening day starter started the season with an off-speed pitch? — Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) March 19, 2013 This was written about on March 20, 2013. Based on the evidence, it was pretty much fastballs all the way down, with one or two potential question marks. But now we can put together an update, because as of the beginning of Tuesday’s game between the Yankees and Astros, everyone’s 2014 opening-day game is complete. So what’d we get in terms of opening-day first pitches? Was it all fastballs, or were there breaking balls and changeups to be found? Please consult the following big giant table. Team Pitcher Batter Pitch Result Angels Jered Weaver Abraham Almonte Fastball Called Strike Astros Scott Feldman Jacoby Ellsbury Fastball In Play Athletics Sonny Gray Nyjer Morgan Fastball Ball Blue Jays R.A. Dickey David DeJesus Knuckleball Called Strike Braves Julio Teheran Carlos Gomez Fastball In Play Brewers Yovani Gallardo Jason Heyward Fastball Ball Cardinals Adam Wainwright Billy Hamilton Fastball Called Strike Cubs Jeff Samardzija Starling Marte Fastball Called Strike Diamondbacks Wade Miley Yasiel Puig Fastball Called Strike Dodgers Clayton Kershaw A.J. Pollock Fastball Called Strike Giants Madison Bumgarner A.J. Pollock Fastball Called Strike Indians Justin Masterson Coco Crisp Fastball Ball* Mariners Felix Hernandez Kole Calhoun Fastball Ball Marlins Jose Fernandez Charlie Blackmon Fastball Ball Mets Dillon Gee Denard Span Fastball Ball Nationals Stephen Strasburg Eric Young Jr. Fastball Called Strike Orioles Chris Tillman Daniel Nava Fastball Called Strike Padres Andrew Cashner Carl Crawford Fastball Ball Phillies Cliff Lee Shin-Soo Choo Fastball Foul Pirates Francisco Liriano Emilio Bonifacio Fastball Called Strike Rangers Tanner Scheppers Ben Revere Fastball Ball Rays David Price Jose Reyes Fastball Called Strike Red Sox Jon Lester Nick Markakis Fastball Called Strike Reds Johnny Cueto Matt Carpenter Fastball Called Strike Rockies Jorge De La Rosa Christian Yelich Fastball Called Strike Royals James Shields Ian Kinsler Fastball Called Strike Tigers Justin Verlander Norichika Aoki Fastball Called Strike Twins Ricky Nolasco Adam Eaton Fastball Called Strike White Sox Chris Sale Brian Dozier Fastball Ball Yankees CC Sabathia Dexter Fowler Fastball Ball In there, 30 first pitches, from 30 different pitchers, to 29 different hitters. And, we’ve got 29 fastballs and one obvious knuckleball, which counts as an exception. McCarthy was asking about pitchers besides Dickey. Besides Dickey, this year, it was all heaters. Here’s that knuckler, for the hell of it: Now, of those fastballs, 26 were taken. Of those taken fastballs, 16 were taken for strikes. It’s clear that these aren’t just fastballs grooved down the middle, but you also think that maybe hitters can take advantage of this predictability and try to punish the first pitch they see. Historically, they haven’t done that, and maybe the hitters aren’t quite ready to swing, before they see a single live pitch. But just because swings this year were infrequent doesn’t mean they didn’t happen at all. First, you’ll notice there’s an asterisk in that table, by the pitch from Masterson to Crisp. That’s because, while Crisp took the fastball for a ball, he at least threatened to bunt before pulling back: The Rangers signed Choo in large part because they love his approach and his ability to post a sky-high OBP. Choo swung at literally the first pitch he saw in a meaningful game in a Texas uniform. I suppose, against a pitcher like Lee, it’s a good bet you’re going to get a strike, so you might as well not fall behind if you don’t have to: Ellsbury did Choo one better, or perhaps one worse. Tuesday, against Feldman, Ellsbury was ready for a first-pitch fastball, and he put the ball in play, lifting it to left-center: Yet the big winner was also the big loser. Last season, Freddie Freeman was second in baseball at 46.4% first-pitch swings. Carlos Gomez was first in baseball at 52.3% first-pitch swings. More often than not, Gomez went after the first pitch of a plate appearance, and it didn’t matter to him that Monday’s game was the first of the 2014 regular season. He’d seen enough pitches in spring training. Maybe he hadn’t done enough baserunning in spring training: On the first pitch to a Brewer in 2014, Gomez singled against Julio Teheran. He aggressively advanced to second on an error. Then he ran himself right into an out at third for seemingly no reason. What you don’t see is how casually the ball was returned to the infield with Gomez breaking for third. The Braves weren’t even in a rush. That’s not something Gomez was taking advantage of — that’s just how easily Gomez was retired. I’m not sure we’ve had a more eventful first pitch in a long long time. In all: 29 fastballs, with one knuckler that doesn’t really count as a non-fastball. The knuckler was taken for a strike, and 16 of the fastballs were taken for strikes. Three first pitches were swung at, and another was almost bunted in the direction of new third baseman Carlos Santana. There’s something to be done, probably, about the pitchers’ predictability, here. But this only seems like kind of a big deal now. Ultimately, it’s one pitch, and we don’t even know how ready the hitters are to hit before they see anything thrown in their direction. Carlos Gomez was ready the other day, but he seemed ready for just about anything. I don’t know if Gomez is a coffee drinker, but that would be a legal explanation.