What We Learned In Week One

We’ve got a little more than a week of baseball in the books, and while the samples are too small to make any meaningful conclusions, we’ve still seen some interesting things in the last seven days. So, let’s cover what we learned in week one.

The Astros are terribly impatient.

I don’t think anyone thought Houston would be good this year when they saw the roster that had been put together. We placed them dead last in the organization rankings for a reason, after all. But in their seven games, they’ve been a total and utter disaster.

It’s bad enough that their offense isn’t hitting, but perhaps most shocking is their remarkable insistence on swinging at everything. Through seven games, Houston has drawn just six walks while striking out 50 times. The Angels have drawn the second fewest walks, but they have 17. The Astros are in a class by themselves in terms of hacking away.

They’ve swung at 33.4 percent of pitches outside the strike, easily leading the league. They’re tied with the Rangers for the highest overall swing percentage, except that Texas’ hitters are actually, you know, talented. Houston won’t have much of an offensive threat until Lance Berkman returns from the disabled list, but at least they could make pitchers throw strikes. The current approach is obviously not working.

The Orioles outfielders are going to get a workout this year.

Here are the GB% for Baltimore starters so far:

Kevin Millwood: 37.5%
Jeremy Guthrie: 34.1%
Brad Bergesen: 42.1%
Brian Matusz: 0.0%
David Hernandez: 11.8%

Matusz and Hernandez continued their trend established in 2009 of being extreme flyball pitchers in their 2010 debuts. Chris Tillman is also an extreme flyball guy, so interestingly, the Orioles crop of young arms is made up almost entirely of guys who ptich up in the zone and give up balls in the air. Millwood and Guthrie are about average groundball guys for their careers, so the outfield will only get to rest on days when Bergsen takes the hill.

Kelly Johnson should have gathered more interest this winter.

Not that we should overreact to his hot start, but Johnson settled for just a one year, $2.35 million contract from Arizona after he was non-tendered by the Braves. He’s quickly reminding the rest of the National League that he’s a pretty good offensive second baseman, showing both power (five extra base hits) and bat control (four walks, one strikeout) in his first 23 plate appearances. But this isn’t anything new, really – ZIPS had Johnson projected to hit .279/.352/.472 before the season even started, and his career wOBA is .343.

He’s not a great defender at second base, but a 28-year-old who can hit like that and at least fake it at a middle infield spot should not be settling for the contract that Johnson got. Even better for Arizona is that they retain his rights beyond 2010, because he’s not going to have enough service time to qualify for free agency until after the 2011 season.

The cutback in winter spending led to some necessary market corrections, but it also led to Arizona getting a new second baseman for a fraction of what he’s worth. Kudos to the D’Backs for taking advantage of a market that failed to realize that Johnson is still a quality player.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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