We have finally made it. Today is Opening Day, a date that has been circled on calendars all around the world since October 1. Spring Training is officially behind us, and as exciting as Vlady Jr made the finish of the final game, it was still a meaningless game.
Gametime is set for 4:07 pm ET, with pregame festivities scheduled to begin at 3:00. In what will no doubt be a big part of an emotional pre-game ceremony, the Blue Jays will retire Roy Halladay’s number 32, in a ceremony scheduled to begin at 3:28. I hope MLB.tv will be airing the opening ceremonies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t.
After the ceremonies conclude, the regular season officially gets underway.
Blue Jays Starter
The Blue Jays are handing the ball to J.A. Happ to open the season. Happ went 10-11 last year with a 3.53 ERA over 145.1 innings in 25 starts. He posted his best strikeout rate (22.7%) since 2012, while keeping his walk rate pretty steady from 2016 (7.4%). His 3.76 FIP resulted in his best ever FIP- (85).
Looking forward to this year, Happ seems healthy. He had a good spring, throwing 20.2 official innings with a 3.05 ERA, with 16 strikeouts against 5 walks, while also allowing a somewhat worrisome 4 home runs. He will be in tough against some pretty great hitters in the Yankee lineup.
The Yankees counter with Luis Severino, a 24 year old righty with 326.2 career innings under his belt. But he is no doubt deserving of this start. His 2017 season resulted in him placing third in the Cy Young balloting, on the strength of 14-6 record and a 2.98 ERA over 193.1 innings. His FIP (3.07) and his xFIP (3.04) show that sub-3.00 ERA wasn’t a fluke, as a 29.4% k-rate coupled with a minuscule 6.5% walk rate made him one of the best starters in the league.
He got those numbers by featuring the highest fastball velocity of all qualified starters in baseball (97.6 mph, second place was Gerrit Cole at 96.0), while also throwing a knockout slider and a knee buckling changeup. If he has control of these pitches again throughout 2018, look for Severino to once again challenge for the Cy Young Award.
Blue Jays Lineup
It hasn’t officially been posted as of this writing, and the roster has yet to even be announced. If all is well though, I would expect the Jays to roll out this lineup for Opening Day:
Curtis Granderson, LF (career 128 wRC+ vs righties, 130 last 3 years, 114 last year)
Devon Travis, 2B (112, 112, 71)
Josh Donaldson, 3B (134, 151, 144)
Justin Smoak, 1B (105, 113, 124)
Randal Grichuk, RF (110, 111, 101)
Kendrys Morales, DH (112, 103, 77)
Russell Martin, C (103, 104, 110)
Kevin Pillar, CF (78, 80, 64)
Aledmys Diaz, SS (120, 120, 82)
With a bench of Luke Maile, Steve Pearce, Gift Ngoepe and Yangervis Solarte.
The Yankees, perhaps excited to roll out their potent lineup, released their Opening Day lineup yesterday morning.
Brett Gardner, LF (career 91 wRC+ vs lefties, 84 last 3 years, 62 last year)
Aaron Judge, RF (133, 133, 149)
Giancarlo Stanton, DH (170, 186, 202)
Gary Sanchez, C (128, 128, 131)
Aaron Hicks, CF (104, 99, 140)
Didi Gregorius, SS (75, 91, 72)
Brandon Drury, 3B (99, 99, 86)
Neil Walker, 2B (91, 99, 67)
Tyler Austin, 1B (197, 197, 199 - but only 44 PA total, 17 last year)
They have a 3 man bench to start the season, as Greg Bird (and I’m guessing Jacoby Ellsbury) will start the season on DL.
That’s an amazing 2-4, probably as menacing as the Jays 2-4 from 2015. Outside of that is a pretty mediocre lineup, which still means it’s very strong top to bottom.
Things to watch out for
Giancarlo Stanton is tied with Paul Goldschmidt for the active leaders in wRC+ vs lefties at 170 - higher than other legendary right handed bats such as Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. If Happ is going to do well this afternoon, he has to be careful with Stanton.
The Yankees bullpen, projected for almost 2 more WAR than second place Houston, put up the second best season of all time for a bullpen last year, falling 0.4 WAR behind the Eric Gagne led 2003 Dodgers. Any Jays offense will likely have to come against Luis Severino, which means the Jays bats might have a rough day.
Yangervis Solarte enters today’s contest with 499 career hits and 99 career doubles.
J.A. Happ will be going for his 50th career win as a Blue Jay.
Find the Link
With Scott’s permission, I have brought back Find the Link!
Find the link between the Yankees starting pitcher and a man once traded for Joe Gunkel (and it’s not that they’re Dominican)