Denard Span had a rough first night, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. After taking 8 pitches in a decent plate appearance to start the game, Span struck out looking, then swinging in the 3rd and again in the 7th. It was his first game with three or more strikeouts since his 0-for-4 four strikeout night against Detroit on September 20th, 2009.
Likewise, Scott Baker's night began shaky - perhaps because of nerves or excitement. His first inning was littered with erratic offerings, missing wildly with his fastball and curve. I tweeted during the game that his release point was wandering that inning. As a result, his slider and other off-speed offerings stayed up in the zone.
Here is a pitch type map of last night (note the orange square for slider):
Here is a pitch type map for an October 1st, 2009 start (note the orange square for slider):
Obviously, Baker works up in the zone regularly with his fastball but his slider is typically down in the zone when he is on (as you can see above in his 10/1/09 outing against Detroit). Last night, Angels hitters were able to sit on fastball. In fact, his confidence in his other pitches waned so much that at one point in the 5th inning, Baker threw 10-straight fastballs, mixed in a change-up before throwing two more fastballs to Hideki Matsui that resulted in an RBI single.
Mauer struck out looking in the 3rd inning. In 2009, Mauer struck out looking 11 times.
Delmon Young's first home run of the season - as Darren Wolfson noted last night - was equal to his April and May production combined last year. What stood out to me, even before he took that swing, was Young was using the same mechanics from his second-half of the 2009 season. As I documented in December, Young's new muted leg kick was helping him elevate the ball more leading to more home runs. Unfortunately, within the same game, we also witnessed why Young will continue to be frustrating. After Angels reliever Fernando Rodney opened the 8th inning with four-consecutive balls to Michael Cuddyer then proceeded to fall behind Jason Kubel, Young hacked at the first pitch that was out of the zone, rolling it over for an inning-ending double play.
Speaking of Rodney, the Angels signed him to a two-year, $11 million contract this offseason, to see his fastball reach 90.3-mph last night. This is a 5-mph decrease from last October when he was chucking his heat at 95.4-mph.