Daily Archives: March 28, 2011

MLB Opening Day Preview: Schedule and Pitching Previews

MLB reports:  With the 2011 MLB season about to commence, literally hours away at this moment- my thoughts continue to centre on the Holy Grail:  Opening Day.  This year, there are 12 teams playing on Thursday March 31st with the remaining teams playing the next day.  For each MLB fan rooting for their respective team, there are 15 different opening day games that will be the focal point for them.  Regardless of the city you live in or the team you root for, the first game of the year is the most exciting. It is time to shake the snow off your boots, grab your jersey and tickets and get ready for the start of baseball.  For you, the diehards, I present the matchups and probable pitchers for each game.

In my brief analysis of each game, I have taken a slight twist in my analysis.  I have decided not to crunch the numbers and take the stats route.  To predict the outcomes of games, most stat-heads tend to look at historical opening day numbers for each team, head-to-head records, home/away records, day/night games, etc.  This article contains none of the above.  I am simply looking at the teams, taking a feel for each lineup and starting pitcher for each team, in performing my discussion.  I was planning to post this article in a couple of days but with the enthusiasm of opening day on the horizon, I simply could not wait.  Thus MLB fans, I present to you: The breakdown of the MLB Opening Day lineup.  (Note:  all game times are EST.  Starting pitchers are subject to change, especially for injuries.  Games may be delayed due to weather conditions)

Thursday March 31, 2011

1)  Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals:

1:05pm:  Derek Lowe vs. Livian Hernandez

There will be 2 games to start the year on Thursday at 1:05pm and this will be the first game previewed.  America’s team, the Braves vs. the Nationals in the Nation’s capital.  The Nationals are a nice, young exciting team with a great deal of buzz surrounding the team.  Unfortunately, neither of its 2 brightest stars-to-be, Strasburg and Harper will not be a part of the opening day lineup.  The Braves have a strong, young team led by Heyward and Freeman.  Derek Lowe is an experienced veteran who gets the opening day nod out of respect.  Livian Hernandez, on the other hand, is the opening day starter by default.  The Nationals fans will be likely going home disappointed on this day, as the Braves will be the victors in a high scoring opener.

2)  Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees

1:05pm:  Justin Verlander vs. C.C. Sabathia

The next opening game of the year to start the year comes from new Yankee Stadium, as 2 historical teams matchup in what should be an excellent pitching matchup.  Verlander and Sabathia are 2 of the strongest pitchers in the majors and should go toe-to-toe in this game.  While I see the hitters having the advantage in this game while the pitchers break into the season in a strong hitting park, smart money is the Yankees taking the win in their home park.    

3)  Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds

2:10pm:  Yovanni Gallardo vs. Edinson Volquez

This game is the one that will catch my attention the most on Thursday.  Two of the most exciting offensive teams in the majors, each led by their young strikeout artists.  Gallardo and Volquez are cut from the same mold:  when on, both are untouchable.  When both are having difficulties, they can be time bombs.  In the Cincinnati bandbox, I am predicting a high scoring game and a Reds victory.  I am a big Gallardo supporter, but I can’t see opening in Cincinnati working well for him. 

4)  L.A. Angels at Kansas City Royals

4:10pm:  Jered Weaver vs. Luke Hochevar

On paper this matchup looks very easy to analyze and in reality, it is.  Weaver is a stud hurler for the Angels, a team with strong defense and fairly balanced offense. The Royals have Cabrera and Francouer in the outfield and Hochevar as their “ace”.  The Royals fans are fortunate to be opening the season at home.  This will be the last of their fortunes on this day as Weaver and the Angels should easily have their way with a Royals team in their final year of rebuilding as respectability begins for them in 2012.

5)  San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals

4:15pm:  Tim Stauffer vs. Chris Carpenter

The young and surprising Padres bring their smoke and mirror show to St. Louis to face the Cards and Chris Carpenter.  With one of my hyped young hurlers Matt Latos on the shelf, Tim Stauffer gets the nod for the opener for the Padres.  With Adrian Gonzalez in Boston, the Padres will find a difficult time to score runs this year.  Stauffer, stellar in the bullpen and spot starts for the Padres in 2010, is now moved into the rotation full time this year.  Carpenter, one of the best pitchers in the game, will prove to be stingy at home.  Regardless of how many runs the Cardinals score on this day, 2 runs will be enough for the Cardinals to start their year with a win.

6)  San Francisco Giants vs. L.A. Dodgers

8:00pm:  Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw

This will be a premier matchup, as the World Series champions Giants face their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Lincecum vs. Kershaw will be a pitching matchup for the ages.  I see these pitchers battling all night, with the Dodgers emerging victorious. Opening night will be exciting for the Giants, but the hangover effect on the road leans to an advantage to L.A. on this night.

Friday April 1, 2011

7)  Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies

1:05pm:  Brett Myers vs. Roy Halladay

Day 2 of Opening Day finds Brett Myers coming back to his old stomping grounds to face Halladay and the Phillies.  I don’t want to formally go on record and say that Halladay will throw a no-no in the opener…so….let’s just say, I have already said enough.  The Phillies fans will be smelling blood and it should not take long for Myers to be shaken as the Phillies hitters have their way with him.  Houston goes down quietly and quickly in this one.

8)  Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs

2:20pm:  Kevin Correia vs. Ryan Dempster

Unless you are a Pirates or Cubs fans…I imagine that only the diehards will be watching this one.  Kevin Correia in my estimation was a solid pickup for the Pirates and with decent run support will win at least 12 games in Pittsburgh.  Dempster, as a steady pitcher for the Cubs will prove to be a worthy adversary.  This game will boil down to which team gets the better pitching and my crystal balls sees a Pirates victory in this one.

9)  Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians

3:05pm:  Mark Buehrle vs. Fausto Carmona

In the seemingly never-ending Opening Day matchup between the Chisox and Indians, Buehrle and Carmona face off in Cleveland.  As most White Sox fans will attest, Buehrle can be steady at the best of times and extremely frustrating in others.  The Opening Day nod was given to Buehrle by Ozzie out of respect and years of service, which is well deserved and applauded.  But with the hot hand of Fausto going into the opener, the Indians will squeak out a victory in the opener in one of the few bright moments that will likely shine in Cleveland’s otherwise rebuilding 2011 season.

10)  Boston Red Sox at Texas Rangers

4:05pm:  Jon Lester vs. C.J. Wilson

I would have loved to be at this game, as this game features the matchup of two of the best MLB offenses and dynamic left-handed pitchers.  This game is being in played Texas, which tends to favor the hitters in the summer…but alas, this game is being played in April.  The Red Sox will be buzzing with excitement with the additions of Gonzalez and Crawford, with the home return of Salty.  After falling short in the World Series, I foresee the Rangers coming to the game focused and determined.  Wilson will be on his game as the Rangers start 2011 with a hard fought victory over the Red Sox in a low scoring game.

11)  Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies

4:10pm:  Ian Kennedy v. Ubaldo Jimenez

One word:  Ubaldo.  The man with what, a 0.70 ERA in the first half of last year?  Ubaldo translates from Spanish to English to mean unhittable.  The Rockies take this game in 2 hours or less.

12)  Minnesota Twins at Toronto Blue Jays

7:07pm:  Carl Pavano vs. Ricky Romero

My live Opening Day game is in Toronto, Canada as Pavano and the Twins take on Romero and the Jays.  Both pitchers come into this game after difficult final outings in their last respective spring training games.  I was impressed with the Pavano re-signing with the Twins, as there is an excellent fit for him with this team.  Romero, while a young exciting pitcher, is still growing into his role as ace on an up-and-coming Toronto team.  While game 2 of this series features the true exciting pitching matchup of Liriano and Drabek, the fans attending opening day will have to settle to watch a decent game which will feature a victorious Twins team. 

13)  Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays

7:10pm:  Mark Guthrie vs. David Price

David Price, who will prove to be a serious Cy-Young candidate this year, faces the Orioles at home.  My preseason favorites to win the AL East, this game should be a cake walk for the Rays and Price.  While the Orioles will have a .500 team this year, Opening Night will not be their night.

14)  New York Mets at Florida Marlins

7:10pm:  Mike Pelfrey vs. Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson, when healthy, is one of the top pitchers in baseball.  Mike Pelfrey, pitching for the bottom-feeder Mets, is like a lamb being led to the slaughter.  Playing their final opener in their current home park, the soon-to-be Miami Marlins will give the Mets the first of their likely 90+ losses of the year.  Not even close.

15)  Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics

10:05pm:  Felix Hernandez at Trevor Cahill

The final game of the year features the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s hosting King Felix and the Mariners.  The A’s will have an exciting young team that has some of the strongest pitching in the AL with an improved offense that should finish 2nd in the AL West, with the chance of a division win.  The Mariners, a young team in rebuild mode, have the reigning AL Cy Young winner on the hill.  Despite many bumps ahead in their season, I would never bet against King Felix.  Opening Day ends with a Mariners victory and the season being completely underway.

As you, I cannot wait for the season to start.  Spring training has been exciting and now it is time for the game and stats to count.  While March has been about the hitters and pitchers to get their innings and at-bats in, Opening Day means that the games will be played the way they are meant to.  It’s a long MLB season, with 162 games ahead for each of our teams.  But with all the teams starting with a 0-0 record, everyone has an equal chance of success.  With that in mind and knowing the matchups, let’s get ready for 3 more nights of sleep and then it will be time to play ball.  Have a great season everyone; I have a feeling 2011 will be one of the best MLB seasons of all time.


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