MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Opening Day outliers: Tillman, CarGo light up Statcast

Lagares brings the heat; Gennett hits best ball of his life

Opening Day outliers: Tillman, CarGo light up Statcast

The first two days of the new season featured a historic rout, a team winning a game while being one-hit, Jeremy Hellickson striking out Joey Votto three times ... and of course, a Bryce Harper home run.

So yes, 2016 is off to a pretty eventful start. From a Statcast™ perspective, we've already seen Eric Hosmer set a running speed record, and that's hardly all. Here's what stood out to us from what we've seen so far.

Chris Tillman amps up the heater

Tillman pitched only two innings due to rain in Baltimore, and that's probably a good thing for the Twins, considering that five of the six outs he recorded were on strikeouts. Matt Wieters was impressed:

That's impressive by any measure, but especially because Tillman is hardly known for missing bats. Over the past three seasons, 54 pitchers have thrown 500 innings, and Tillman's 18.2-percent strikeout rate ranks 38th. Tillman threw strikes on 19 of 22 pitches, but more impressive, he threw difficult-to-hit strikes.

For example, last year, Tillman's four-seamer averaged 92.3 mph with a relatively middle-of-the-pack spin rate of 2,251 rpm. But when he struck out Eddie Rosario, it was 93.5 mph and 2,465 rpm. When Tillman whiffed Trevor Plouffe, it was 95.8 mph and 2,517 rpm. While getting Byung Ho Park to take a called strike, it flashed 95 mph and 2,419 rpm. He finished off Park off with a slider.

Is this the new normal, or a happy benefit of a short appearance on Opening Day? Remember, high spin is positively correlated with a high rate of swinging strikes, and Wieters certainly liked what he saw. That alone makes Tillman's next start a must-see.

Scooter Gennett hit the most impressive ball of his life ...

Statcast: Gennett's huge homer

We say "of his life" with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but then again, what was baseball even like before it could be measured with Statcast™? Gennett's 108.5-mph blast off Madison Bumgarner set all sorts of personal bests, most notably the fact that his previous best velocity was a "mere" 103.6 mph.

That's hardly all, though. It was the first of Gennett's 22 career homers to come off a lefty, and of course Bumgarner isn't just any lefty. The only two other lefties to go deep off Bumgarner last year were Harper and Joc Pederson, putting Gennett in some elite company, and Milwaukee's second baseman had entered the game with a we-can't-sugarcoat-this-by-calling-it-anything-other-than-brutal career line of .124/.147/.150 against southpaws. It was shocking all around, is the point.

The lesson here? Well, it helps to face Bumgarner when he's battling through the flu. But when you happen to get something hittable from an ace like that, you'd be well served to do something with it. Gennett did that, and then some.

... and so did Carlos Gonzalez

Gonzalez's solo shot

Gonzalez and Trevor Story went deep back-to-back in the third inning against Zack Greinke in Arizona, and for Gonzalez, the 117.4-mph homer was the hardest hit of his we have on record and would have been the seventh-hardest hit ball of the entire 2015 season.

For Gonzalez, that's particularly interesting, because he did actually have a ball reach 117 mph last year. Unfortunately for him, he got absolutely nothing out of it; it was a groundout to Gennett, of all people. That tied Gonzalez with Hanley Ramirez for the hardest-hit ball that turned into an out, which is all sorts of bad luck -- Major League Baseball as a whole hit .774 on balls at 115 mph or higher.

Juan Lagares flashes that arm

Statcast: Lagares' throw

This was actually on Sunday, but it was cool enough that we'll include it here. Last year, the big story for Lagares was that he was attempting to play through an injured elbow, an issue that had bothered him for at least a year. After all, he'd had 15 assists in 2013, and just nine over 2014-15 combined, as he attempted not to totally air it out for fear of further aggravating his arm. There was talk over the offseason that surgery might be necessary, but it was ultimately decided that rest would be the best medicine.

So how's that looking so far? Not too bad, because it took all of five innings of the 2016 season for Lagares to unleash a throw harder than any measured by Statcast™ all of last year -- 95.6 mph. In the fifth inning on Sunday night, Alcides Escobar singled to center, and while Lagares wasn't able to catch Omar Infante trying to advance, the strong throw had to make you feel a lot better about that arm.

Last year, of the more than 170 tracked throws in the system, Lagares only touched 95 mph once, against the Marlins in September. Only 11 times did he even get to 90, and as a former shortstop, he's long been known for having a strong arm. Now Lagares is nearly up to 96? That's about as good as you can hope for.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.