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Game 1 Preview: Ryu vs Cole

Happy Opening Day!!!

New York Yankees v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Congratulations everyone reading this: you’ve made it to MLB Opening Day, one of the greatest days of the year! The exceptionally long winter is over, the fake games are wrapped up, and we’re here to watch some Major League Baseball that means something.

The Blue Jays kick off their season in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, taking on a Yankees team with the expectation of first in the AL East. The Jays should spend the season right in the mix with them, but the games need to be played first, and that’s why we’re here. Today’s game is set to get underway at 1:05 ET, a solid hour after the forecasted rain is set to clear up.

Blue Jays’ Starter

The Jays expectedly will open the season with Ace Hyun Jin Ryu, who dropped the hyphen in his name over the winter. Ryu is coming off an excellent first season with the Jays, finishing third in the Cy Young race in the abbreviated season. He went an impressive 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA over 12 starts, throwing 67 innings. His walk rate was the highest it had been in a few years, sitting all the way up at 2.28 per 9 innings after checking in in the low 1.64 and 1.18 the two previous seasons. A couple early season starts with 3 walks helped buoy that number.

Ryu spent most of the Spring pitching simulated games, but he did make it into a few regular games as well. In his latest start last Friday, his fastball velocity was sitting right in line with last year’s 90.1 mph average. He hit a high of 91.8 on his 59th pitch, but was generally in the 88-90 range the whole game. All of this is meant to say that his velocity is ready, he looks healthy and ready to go to start the season.

Yankees’ Starter

The Yankees will send out Gerrit Cole to make his second consecutive Opening Day start since coming over on a monster deal last season. Cole enjoyed a very strong first season in the Bronx, pitching to a 7-3 record with a 2.84 ERA, finishing 4th in the AL Cy Young vote. I would expect to see him right back at the top of the list again this season, as he finished runner up in 2019, and 5th in 2018.

Cole will strike out several Blue Jays’ batters today, as he tends to do. He crossed the coveted 300 strikeout mark in 2019, doing so with the fewest innings for a pitcher to reach that mark at 212.1. And while his rate wasn’t quite that good in 2020, he still finished 3rd in the league with 94. The best way for the Jays to strike back against him is to hopefully have someone on base as he lets up a fairly frequent home run, as he allowed the second most in the league in 2020 with 14.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

Top to bottom, this is a solid lineup, with Danny Jansen standing out as probably the only one to be expected to be below a 100 wRC+. For what it’s worth, projection systems even have him right near the 100 mark for this season too, and let me be the first to tell you if you haven’t already heard - that’s quite possible. He had a great bat in the Minors, and is just getting into his prime years now. Expect a good season out of him.

Newcomer Marcus Semien is the only addition to this lineup currently with George Springer on the IL, but he brings a lot of upside to lineup, not to mention some stability at SS if Bo Bichette needs a day off or spends some time on the IL. And that upside with his bat is definitely real, as he put up a 138 wRC+ in 2019, leading to a 7.6 fWAR season. Otherwise, he has been just a touch below 100 for his career, and for a solid defensive middle infielder, that plays.

Yankees’ Lineup

The Yankees are returning a very familiar lineup as last year as well, and are currently as healthy as they’ll be all season. Luke Voit is out for a few months after undergoing surgery on his knee, and Miguel Andújar is out with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Otherwise, this is a healthy and scary lineup, one this is also exceptionally right hander heavy.

Find the Link

Find the link between Gerrit Cole and Mark Appel, who is currently making another attempt at staying healthy and finally making it to the Majors.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs