4 Major League Baseball Opening Day Predictions


The Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista scores on a three-run double by Troy Tulowitzki against the Kansas City Royals in the sixth inning during Game 5 of the ALCS on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Blue Jays won, 7-1, leaving the Royals with a 3-2 series lead. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

The grass is cut, the flag is flying, the organ music is playing — and Major League Baseball is back. Here are four Opening Day predictions based on the start of 2016 season and previous 2015 moments and statistics. Happy Opening Week!

1.)    Bat-Flip Fade:

It may be a new year, but people haven’t forgotten, or necessarily approved of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder José Bautista breaking the unwritten rule of respect last postseason.

“Those moments are spontaneous. They’re human. And they’re a whole lot of fun,” Bautista said in a self-written article for The Players’ Tribune. “But nowadays, when a player flips his bat, especially a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, a small section of people always seem to turn it into a debate about the integrity of the game.”

The backlash the bat-flip king received after hitting a game-winning home run was enough to limit how he and other dramatic baseball players will celebrate a win this season.

2.)    All-time Low in Stolen Base Attempts:

Well, the first stolen base attempt of 2016 was a complete failure.

Trailing by two runs in the fourth inning, the Tamp Bay Rays had two outs with Kevin Kiermaier on second base. Instead of safely staying in scoring position, he hesitantly tried to steal third base, sloppily sliding into an easy inning-ending tag. The Blue Jays won 5-3 — and this ill-advised attempted steal could have made all the difference for the Rays.

Obviously, one blunder isn’t going to deter speedy runners from trying to steal, but it does highlight that runners need to be smarter. A single player caught stealing often hurts the team more than a single successful stolen base helps the team. If these teams aren’t mature enough to steal bases effectively, stealing attempts will only rob them of wins.

Last season, the Cincinnati Reds led all of baseball with 134 stolen bases. I predict the Houston Astros will have the most stolen bases with only 101.

3.)    Longer At-bats:

Hitters are becoming more patient. Instead of swinging at the first decent pitch, they build up the pitch-count and work the pitcher. Even younger sluggers are drawing walks and fouling more often.

Since new pace-setting rules this season limit time in the batter’s box, meetings on the mound and challenges on umpires’ calls, opposing teams will have to make pitchers tired using their minds and bats.

4.)    Decline in Strikeouts (K’s):

There are a standard 27 outs in a game, but how many of those outs will be strikeouts?

Strong Opening Day performances might have you disagreeing, but starting pitchers are truly focusing on extending their innings pitched number, rather than the amount of K’s. Several rotations don’t have consistent relievers, so starters have a lot of pressure to play longer and stronger.

Rays pitcher Chris Archer proves that K’s aren’t the most important thing on pitchers’ minds. Exiting the game in only the fifth inning with a losing 3-1 score, the 27-year-old had a short, shaky Opening Day start that was considered “an off-day” by sports commentators — despite him earning a remarkable 12 K’s against the Blue Jays.

Last season’s strikeout leader was Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw with 301, per Baseball-Reference. My 2016 strikeout leader prediction is Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale with 275.