It is hard to believe, but the start of the Major League Baseball season is already upon us! Opening Day is Thursday, March 29th and before the season starts, there are a ton of interesting questions that are currently unanswered. In just a few days, the regular season MLB action will begin.
Here is a list of the top nine things to look for as the MLB season throws out the first pitch:
1- The weather. March is supposed to come in like a lion and out like a lamb, but the only thing making that true is all the woolen attire people have to wear. Friday’s weather currently calls for the possibility of rain in the northeast and temperatures in the 30s from Seattle to Boston. How will the players adjust to the move from Florida and Arizona to playing in cold temperatures?
2- Injuries to starting pitchers. Comebackers have gotten Madison Bumgarner, Chris Archer, and Chris Sale in the last week. Danny Duffy left his start on Saturday with discomfort and Zack Greinke is out with a groin injury, just to name a few. Is this an indicator in an injury-riddled 2018 season or just a fluke?
3- The humidor in Arizona. Fantasy baseball players have long taken note of the fact that Arizona is almost as good of a hitting paradise as Colorado. As a result, all of the baseballs used at Chase Field will be stored in a humidor. Will the change to the humidity of the balls actually reduce offensive output?
4- Offensive firepower. 2017 saw a historic rise in the number of home runs hit. Balls were flying out of the yard at an unprecedented rate. Launch angle, bat speed, and exit velocity have all entered the baseball lexicon due to the emphasis on home runs. Will the home run barrage continue or will 2018 see a regression to prior year levels?
5- Bullpen usage. Advanced metrics, situational strategy, and the copycat nature of the MLB might lead to more multiple inning relief appearances similar to the way in which the Indians have used Andrew Miller. Craig Kimbrel is on record saying that he will pitch whenever the team needs him most, rather than be wed to closing situations only. Will closers only pitch in save situations or will managers use their best bullpen arms when high leverage situations arise?
6- Attendance in Miami. Derek Jeter and the Miami ownership are halfway through a fire sale in which tradeable pieces went out of the door. At the same time, Jeter claimed that fan enthusiasm was at an all-time high. It is certainly hard to take him seriously, and the numbers do not lie. The Cubs play the Marlins on opening weekend. Will the crowd be louder when the Cubs score or when the Marlins get some runs?
7- Shohei Ohtani. Perhaps no single player has garnered as much attention in their spring training appearances as Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani is expected to DH a few days a week and also make starts in an expanded Angels rotation. Spring training has certainly put a damper on everyone’s enthusiasm because he has been shelled as a pitcher and ineffective as a hitter. Publicly, the Angles have stayed positive about Ohtani, but there has to be some concern. Where will Ohtani play and how will he perform?
8- The Bronx Bombers. Perhaps the biggest move of the offseason was Giancarlo Stanton going from Miami to New York City. Stanton is now teamed with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in what is expected to be the most prolific home run hitting team we have seen in a long time. Will Stanton stay healthy, meet expectations, and carry the team or will the Yankees fail to crush the ball as expected?
9- Unexpected playoff teams. Last year the Rockies, Twins and Brewers all greatly exceeded expectations and either made the playoffs or came very close. This season all three of those teams expect to be in the hunt come late September. Every year it seems as though a team comes out of nowhere to compete. Who will be the unexpected playoff competitor in 2018?
The start of the MLB season should be a national holiday, and we are fortunate to be so close to Opening Day. The upcoming weekend will start to answer some of the most intriguing questions of the 2018 season.