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Game #1 Preview: Gray vs Berríos

Welcome to the 2022 Season!!!

Home opening weekend Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

We’ve made it through a long winter, made a bit longer due to the Owner’s lockout, but we’ve finally reached one of the most anticipated days of the year: Opening Day!!

The Blue Jays enter this 2022 season with high expectations, and start on the long path to what should be a great season this evening. They welcome the Texas Rangers into town to kick things off, with the game scheduled to get underway at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

For the first time in a long time, the Blue Jays had a legitimate choice to make for Opening Day, and they landed on José Berríos to get the start. Acquired at the trade deadline and then extended over the winter for 7 years and $131m, there is a good chance this won’t be the last time that Berríos finds himself starting for the Jays on Opening Day. It’s not unfamiliar territory for him either, as he started Opening Day for the Twins in 2020 and 2019.

Berríos had a great season in 2021 split between Minnesota and Toronto. Over 192 innings, he went 12-9 with a 3.52 ERA, and his FIP was right there at 3.49 as well. He does many things well, with 204 strikeouts over his 192 innings, plus a walk rate (2.11 per 9 innings) and home run rate (1.03 per 9 innings) comfortably better than league average as well (3.34 and 1.26, respectively). The one knock on him is probably the amount of hard contact he gives up, and as a result he’s more in the middle of the pack across the Majors in regards to expected outcomes.

Rangers’ Starter

The Rangers had a very healthy offseason as they tried to jumpstart their team’s rebuild, and one of those additions was free agent righty Jon Gray, who will get the ball for them to start the season. After spending the first 7 seasons of his career in the very pitcher unfriendly confines of Coors Field in Colorado, Gray signed a 4 year, $56m deal with the Rangers and will see what kind of pitcher he can be when he doesn’t call that park home.

Gray had a strong season again last year, and with the exception of the pandemic shortened 2020, has put up at least 2.3 fWAR in all of his seasons since his short rookie year. His ERA has certainly bounced around throughout his career, fluctuating between 3.67 and 5.12 in those years, but his FIP has been a lot stronger and steadier, coming in between 3.18 and 4.22. So now that he’s out of Coors, he and the Rangers are likely hoping he can play closer to that career 3.91 FIP than to his career 4.59 ERA.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

There has been a bit of guessing of what today’s lineup might look like, but looking back to what the Jays put out there for Berríos’ last Spring Training start is probably a good indication. It seems like the top of the lineup will go Springer - Guerrero Jr. - Hernández - Bichette for many games at the start of the season.

Gurriel - Chapman - Biggio seem likely follow each other in that order, but whether that’s in the 5-7 spots or 6-8 seems somewhat likely to fluctuate. I’d guess 6-8, with Kirk batting 5th and Jansen catching and batting 9th. We’ll likely have an early call today from the team with the lineup, so we probably won’t have to wait long for this answer.

Rangers’ Lineup

The Rangers had the most expensive offseason of any team this past winter, with Gray being the big pitching addition, and on the offensive side they added Corey Seager and former Blue Jays Marcus Semien up the middle. Those two will anchor a lineup that is tremendously better than the group that put up an 84 wRC+ as a group last year, but still seem likely to fall short of being a league average group again.

Beyond those two, Nathaniel Lowe (1B) and Mitch Garver (C) will provide two other above average bats, and will also be joined by 29 year old near-rookie Andy Ibáñez at 3B to complete a fairly strong infield.

The outfield and DH situations are where things fall apart for the Rangers. The all power and nothing more Adolis García will be a regular fixture in CF, but the other three spots seem to be destined for a platoon. Willie Calhoun will get the bulk of the playing time at DH, and try to regain the hype he had with the bat as a prospect and put together a season closer to his 2019 season, the only time he has been above average as a hitter. Newcomers and veterans Brad Miller and Kole Calhoun will start in the corner outfield spots against righties, and while neither are great, they’re not likely to be complete black holes in the lineup either.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Many other teams got their seasons started yesterday, with 7 games being played despite a few rainouts as well.

Canadian Tyler O’Neil went 2-3 with a home run and 5 RBI, earning himself the Monster Bat award. The Cardinals showed the Pirates and the baseball world what will probably happen to the Pirates a lot this season, beating them 9-0.

Ian Happ had a go ahead 2 run double in the bottom of the 7th inning, and that was good enough for the WPA King trophy with a .369 mark. The lead held as well, giving his Cubs the 5-4 Opening Day win over the Brewers.

Framber Valdez squared off against reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani and the Angels, and won the duel for his Astros. Valdez held the Angels off the board for 6.2 innings, allowing just a walk and 2 hits while striking out 6. He also picked up the win as the Astros beat the Angels 3-1.

Find the Link

Find the link between Marcus Semien and 2009 Derek Jeter.

Stats retrieved from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant