Well, my wait is finally over: baseball season opens today with 3 games: Yankees at Rays (1:00 pm), Giants at Diamondbacks (4:00 pm) and Cubs at Cardinals (8:30 pm). I certainly get why that last game is the evening featured game: defending champs, bitter rivalry, two good teams. But the other two are intriguing, as well.
The Yankees will start Tanaka, of course, their only legitimate star starter, and the Rays will counter with Archer, certainly their best pitcher. Archer hasn’t missed a start in at least 3 years, though 2016 was a bit of a down year for him, as his ERA ballooned to 4.02 after seasons of 3.22, 3.33, 3.23 (consistency, anyone?). Conventional wisdom for years has been that the Yankees are vulnerable to left-handed pitching, but I think that is not a thing, especially right now. McCann (L) has been replaced by Sanchez (R), Gregorius (L) by Torreyes (R) [to be fair, Didi MURDERED lefties in 2016]. Yes Bird (L) has replaced Teixeira (Both) but Tex was much better from the left side late in his career, and Judge (R) has replaced Beltran/Hicks (Both) so they clearly tilt much more to the right. I expect the Yankees to score, and Tanaka to pitch well, and the Yankees to start off with a win. We’ll see.
The Giants, with Bumgarner, should be clear favorites over Arizona with Greinke, but I am a Greinke fan. I know that he had, for him, a horrible 2016 (4.37 ERA) but he accumulated most of that in four disastrous starts (allowing 7, 7, 9 and 8 ER in 4.0, 6.2, 1.2 and 4.2 IP. I know those starts count, but my own pitching metric hovers him between B and B+ (I haven’t actually done the math) which is far from the disaster everyone portrays. He was 13-7 for a team that did NOT score a lot of runs (for him or anyone else) so he must have pitched well sometimes. I am afraid I have to predict the Giants, but Greinke and the DBacks could certainly surprise.
It will be interesting to see how Jon Lester fares this season with the Cubs. Lester is that rare species (a lefty who thrived in Fenway) but last year’s near Cy Young season featured David Ross, hardly a household name, but Lester’s personal catcher. Ross is gone now, and I think Lester will suffer for it. Lester pitched 202 innings in his age 32 season, AND ANOTHER 36 in the postseason, and I am looking for a bit of a collapse from him. The Cardinals are hungry, as their dominance in the division has been exploded by Chicago. I think the Cardinals will win this game.
All of this is silly, of course: unlike football or even basketball, the “favorite” in any game is typically only 55-45 to win, or maybe 60-40 in extreme cases (Phillies at Cubs?). Who knows who’ll win. That’s why we watch! That said, I won’t watch any of the games today – LDS General Conference is on from 12-2 and 4-6 and that four hours will probably constitute most of my TV for the day. I do have mlb.tv, which allows me to watch games DVR-style during or after the game, so I may try to catch some of the Yankee game between sessions of conference, or in the evening.
But, hey, BASEBALL!
It’s about time.