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Eight numbers that matter from MLB’s opening weekend

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Major League Baseball’s season is already going by pretty quickly. 

Literally, yes – more on that in a minute. Figuratively, though, the grind has commenced, what with opening-week series concluded and the grind settling in as teams toss their bags on a truck, onto a plane and on to the next port of call. Sure, it’s just three or four games out of 162 in the books, but there’s too many blinking lights to ignore what’s already gone down. 

With that, a look at the numbers that matter during a crisp first weekend that brought little rain, pain and no extra innings – not yet, anyway: 

2:38

Average time of game for the 50 contests already in the the book. 

Sample’s getting a little larger, eh? Folks, this pitch clock really works –  like, really, really works. The average nine-inning game is already 25 minutes quicker than the full-season 2022 edition, and a whopping 32 minutes ahead of 2021’s torturous 3:10 rate. You wonder, almost earnestly, if game times getting ‘too short’ will become a concern – the pitching-proficent Rays and offensively-challenged Tigers got their games in in 2:14, 2:48 and  2:10. 

Perhaps the Rays should keep Red Panda on retainer and, if they’re through six innings in less than 90 minutes, pause the game for an exhibition before beer sales are cut off. 

Nightengale’s Notebook: Handing out MLB’s opening weekend awards

41

Pitch-timer violations, according to MLB.

That’s less than one per game, with 29 charged to pitchers, 11 to hitters and one to catchers. 

MLB has yet to have that bridge-too-far moment – say, when a violation is called with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning of a close game, meaning the end game not by ball or strike or batted ball but rather stopwatch. 

But the numbers overall show a general air of compliance, with many violations going unnoticed in the flow of the game. It seems inevitable a close-and-late scenario will rear its head – and perhaps spark a call for adjustments.

10

Stolen bases, in first two games, for the Baltimore Orioles. 

The shift ban, larger bases and a limit on throws to first – the two other seismic changes accompanying the pitch clock this season – will take far longer for clubs to adjust. It’s going to take a minute for the intended and unintended consequences of these changes to be known and, consequently, for clubs to construct their rosters around them.

But some teams are already built for it – such as the Orioles. 

They turned Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins loose against the Boston Red Sox and they responded with four and three stolen bases in the first two games at Fenway Park. Mateo and Mullins were 2-3 in steals last year (35 and 34, respectively), trailing only Miami’s Jon Berti, who had 41. 

Someone will easily swipe 50 this year. And we wonder if Kenny Lofton can be lured out of retirement. Why? 

1.4

Number of stolen bases per game, both teams.

That’s the highest rate since 1999, capping a decade in which Lofton led the AL or major leagues in steals five times, peaking at 75 in 1997. Lofton was a fantastic player, impossible not to watch. 

And perhaps teams will encourage the development of others like him. Because…

85%

Success rate on stolen base attempts through 50 games.

And it is a startling and also symbolic number. First of all, it’s an 11% increase on the 74% success rate in 2022. 

And secondly, it mirrors the success rate analytically inclined teams seek when evaluating whether the ‘risk’ of a stolen-base attempt is ‘worth it.’ As that number became canon across front offices and the life was slowly sucked out of the game one actuarial table at a time, the Loftons of the world became extinct, speedsters often confined to lower-payroll clubs seeking to make up a power-patience deficit against clubs with well-paid sluggers. 

Now, running just might be for everyone again. There’s honestly nothing to fear. 

2

Home runs for Aaron Judge.

That puts him #onpacefor roughly 107 round-trippers. No, we won’t necessarily take that number seriously. But if the reigning AL MVP has designs on hitting 63 homers one year after a record-setting 62, let’s just say he’s on the right track. 

2

Winless teams. 

That would be the Royals, natch, and, um, the Phillies. 

Perhaps the Texas Rangers’ sweep of Philly portends good things for the Rangers’ wild spending the past two winters, as they simply bludgeoned the Phillies for two games before Martin Perez shut them down Sunday night. 

Not sure if that will hold, but we’re fairly confident Kyle Schwarber (1 for 13), Aaron Nola (12.27 ERA) and Zack Wheeler (8.31) will find their levels. 

2.06

Mets’ ERA. 

Not many teams can survive the loss of a $43 million pitcher before Opening Day, but the Mets will be fine, even without Justin Verlander. 

Already down Jose Quintana, Verlander’s terejs major strain shelved 40% of their projected rotation, but the Mets easily smothered the still-deficient Marlins offense. 

The capper: Kodai Senga’s eight-strikeout performance Sunday. Injuries, clocks or not, the Mets are so far proving that $350 million in talent plays – in any era.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY