Handicapping the MLB Opening Day Matchups
by Trevor Whenham - 3/27/2013
I love Spring Training. It’s Major League Baseball in its purest and simplest form. There comes a time every year, though, that I suddenly get tired of the spring and start to itch for the games to actually count. I’ve reached that point this year.
Luckily, the wait isn’t that long. Texas welcomes Houston to the American League on Sunday night, and 24 more teams kick off their season on April Fool’s day, with the last four teams starting on Tuesday. Most of the Opening Day pitchers have been named. We don’t have lines yet, but we can still look at what is offered to see what is in store. Here’s a look at the five games that are the most intriguing and exciting for MLB handicapping and the one that is a total dud:
Kansas City at Chicago White Sox
The White Sox aren’t any more interesting than they have been for a few years, but they aren’t what I’m looking forward to seeing here. The Royals got aggressive in the offseason — especially with their rotation when they added James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields is clearly the Opening Day starter, and the Royals are relying on him heavily. He has never quite taken the step from solid starter to ace that people have expected from him, but it will be interesting to see if the change of scenery gives him the boost he needs. Beyond that there are several things to watch with this team. Can they finally take advantage of their young talent and start to play like a legitimate contender? They had a massive spring and easily topped the standings in the Cactus League. Spring doesn’t always matter, though. We won’t know anything for sure after this game — or after the first month — but it will be very interesting to see if this team has a jump, or if they just look like the same old Royals that no one can love.
San Francisco at L.A. Dodgers
Division rivals. The defending champions. The new champions of spending recklessly to build a team. California pride. This game has everything going for it. The pitching matchup has the chance to be a classic as well. Matt Cain is unquestionably San Francisco’s ace. Clayton Kershaw won the Cy Young two years ago and finished second last year. This is a matchup we could see for years — if we are lucky. Great game.
Seattle at Oakland
The AL West is deep and very tough. Both of these teams could go either way. The Mariners have increased their ability to hit and locked down Felix Hernandez forever. They are probably too young to be a serious threat in this division, but they will be much-improved from last year, and they will be looking to make a big statement early on. Oakland has all sorts of pressure to match the unexpected playoff season of last year. They can’t sneak up on anyone this year, but they have the talent to make things interesting. This is a very tough team to call this year, so we’ll have to watch them closely early on to get clues of what to expect.
Cleveland at Toronto
The offseason was very kind to both teams, so they both face massive expectations. This is our first chance to see what they can do. Cleveland will debut Terry Francona and Michael Bourn here. The Jays will debut so many players that it’s a good thing they have names on their jerseys — otherwise no one would know who anyone was. Both of these franchises are fragile after years of struggles. If they have a bad year this year, it could be a crushing blow for the organization and their fans. It’s only one game, but this one really matters.
Boston at New York Yankees
This game would be on this list every year, but most years it would be for a different reason. Usually this is a battle of the titans. Now it’s a train wreck just waiting to happen. Can either team be competitive with cobbled-together lineups and questionable rotations? There won’t be too many people sad to see either of these teams struggle badly if that happens. In fact, most people are probably hoping for it.
Not so great
Miami at Washington
There is nothing less interesting than an absolute mismatch, and they don’t get more mismatched than this game. Washington had the best record in baseball last year, and the Nats should be improved this year. Stephen Strasburg is healthy and ready to go. Bryce Harper is a year older. The team will be good. Miami, on the other hand, has had a fire sale of historic proportions this year. Their payroll is microscopic. The talent level is worse. The team is a total farce. Nothing to see here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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