Quick Hits: A Look at Thursday's Season-Opening Matchups
MLB BULLET POINTS
FOR SERIES BEGINNING
Thursday, March 28, 2019
METS at NATIONALS
Ø The Mets went 147-177 (.454) in 2017 and 2018 combined – their worst record in a two-season span since 2003-2004 (137-186, .424). Last year’s team started 11-1 before going an NL-worst 21-47 between April 14 and June 30.
Ø The Nationals finished over .500 in seven straight seasons entering 2019 – yet they failed to win a playoff series in any of those years. Only the Yankees (26), Cardinals (11) and Dodgers (eight) have longer active streaks of consecutive seasons with winning records.
Ø Washington went 84-47 against the Mets between 2011 and 2017, but New York took 11 of 19 meetings between the clubs a season ago. The Mets went 6-3 at Nationals Park, matching their best single-season record there (6-3 in both 2008 and ’15).
Ø No current member of the Mets or Nationals hit as many as 30 home runs or drove in 100-plus runs last year. Among current Nats, Anthony Rendon had the top 2018 totals, 24 homers and 92 RBI. Michael Conforto had the most homers among active Mets with 28; Jed Lowrie the top RBI figure, 99.
Ø The NL Cy Young winner in 2018, Jacob deGrom had a 1.70 ERA – third lowest in the last 50 seasons by any pitcher with at least 30 starts, bettered by only Dwight Gooden (1.53 for the 1985 Mets) and Zack Grienke (1.66 for the ’15 Dodgers).
Ø Last year’s Cy Young runner-up, Max Scherzer had his seventh season in succession with at least 230 strikeouts – a streak unmatched in MLB history. Scherzer has joined Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to post four straight seasons with 250-plus strikeouts and an ERA under 3.00.
ORIOLES at YANKEES
Ø Last season, the Orioles went 5-4 at Yankee Stadium, the only AL park in which they had a winning record. At 47-115, Baltimore had the worst record ever by a team that had a winning record at either Yankee Stadium.
Ø Baltimore’s 115 losses last season were tied for the fifth most in MLB history, and the Orioles finished 61.0 games back of the first-place Red Sox, the farthest back of first place by any team since the 1942 Phillies (62.5 games back of the Cardinals).
Ø The Yankees finished 2018 with 100 wins, the MLB-high 20th time they have achieved the feat (the Athletics are second with 10). However, New York trailed the Red Sox (108-54) and the Astros (103-59), becoming the first team all-time to finish outside the top two in its league despite recording 100+ wins.
Ø Andrew Cashner went just 4-15 last season with a career-worst 5.29 ERA. However, Cashner earned the win on April 5 in his only career outing at Yankee Stadium, tossing six innings and allowing just two hits and one run to outduel Masahiro Tanaka in a 5-2 victory.
Ø Masahiro Tanaka went 12-6 last season despite allowing 25 home runs in 156.0 innings (1.44 HR/9). In Tanaka’s five-year career, he has 11 wins when allowing multiple home runs, the most such wins in MLB since 2014.
Ø Last season, the Yankees set MLB records for most home runs (267) and most players with at least 10 home runs (12). It was a balanced offensive attack, as the only Yankee with 30+ home runs, 100+ runs or 100+ RBI was Giancarlo Stanton (38 HR, 102 R, 100 RBI), while four other Yankees hit 27 home runs.
CARDINALS at BREWERS
Ø The Brewers won their last four games against the Cardinals in 2018 and finished 7.5 games ahead of them in the division. Milwaukee won the season series with an 11-8 record, the same mark it posted in 2017. The Brewers had never won the season series against the Cards in back-to-back years.
Ø The Brewers won the National League Central in 2018 by winning a Game 163 against the Cubs. That was the Brewers’ first division title since 2011. Milwaukee fell to Los Angeles in the 2018 NLCS, 4- 3, the round it also reached in 2011 – the Brewers lost to the Cardinals, 4-2, that season.
Ø The Cardinals failed to make the postseason in 2018 for the third straight season despite having a win percentage over .500 in all three seasons. St. Louis is the first National League team to have three or more consecutive winning seasons without a playoff berth since the Phillies from 2003 to 2006.
Ø Miles Mikolas went 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA in his first season in St. Louis. He had the most wins by a pitcher in his first season with the Cardinals since Darryl Kile won 20 games in 2000. Mikolas had 19 games with six-plus innings pitched and two earned runs or fewer in 2018, fourth most in the NL.
Ø Jhoulys Chacin went 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA in his first season in Milwaukee. He limited right-handed batters to a .528 OPS, the third-lowest mark among National League pitchers who faced at least 200 righties in 2018 (Jacob deGrom was first with .460 OPS against and Miles Mikolas was second at .504).
Ø Christian Yelich was the National League MVP for 2018. From September 1 to the end of the regular season, Yelich had an OBP of .508 and slugged .804. He is the first NL player to have 500+ OBP and .800+ SLG after September 1 since Barry Bonds in 2001 (.607/1.078) in 2001 (minimum 50 PA).
BRAVES at PHILLIES
Ø The Phillies are 23-15 against the Braves at home over the past four seasons, including three shutouts in the last six meetings of 2018. However, Atlanta’s pitchers held Philadelphia to a .203 batting average across all 19 games last season, the fifth lowest by a team against a divisional opponent in 2018.
Ø The Braves won 90 games and finished first in the NL East in 2018, achieving a 90-win season and a division title each for the first time since 2013. Atlanta exited the playoffs at the hands of the Dodgers in the NLDS, 3-1, which was the same exact result for the Braves in 2013.
Ø The Phillies finished 2018 with an 80-82 record and missed the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. Philadelphia was 49-32 (.605) at home and 31-50 (.383) on the road, the second-largest difference in win percentage (+.222) among teams that were better at home (Minnesota, +.247).
Ø Julio Teheran went 1-2 after August 1 last season despite posting a 2.97 ERA and a .167 opponent batting average. That opponent average was the second lowest among NL pitchers who pitched at least 30 innings from August 1 to the end of the regular season (Walker Buehler, .154).
Ø Aaron Nola went 17-6 with 224 strikeouts in 212.1 innings in 2018. It was Nola’s second consecutive season with a strikeout-per-nine figure above 9.0 while pitching at least one inning per team game. The only other pitcher in team history to do so in back-to-back seasons was Curt Schilling in 1997 and 1998.
Ø Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies as a free agent in the offseason. In his seven seasons in Washington, Harper amassed 521 RBI and 610 runs scored. Still 26 years old, he is the first left-handed hitter to reach 500 RBI and 600 runs scored before turning 27 since Ken Griffey Jr (725 RBI, 695 runs).
TIGERS at BLUE JAYS
Ø The Tigers haven’t won any of their last five series in Toronto. The only place where they currently have a longer streak of not winning a series is Anaheim with nine straight. Detroit’s 5-12 record in Toronto since 2014 is tied for its worst in any city in that span (Oakland, Kansas City).
Ø Detroit’s .395 win percentage over the past two seasons – 64-98 record in both - is second worst in the majors ahead of only Baltimore at .377 (122-202). The Tigers’ 4.97 ERA in that span is also the worst in baseball besides the Orioles (5.07).
Ø The Blue Jays are one of only four teams to hit 1000 homers over the past five seasons (1069), and the only team to have more in that span is Baltimore with 1101. Toronto is the only team to hit at least 200 homers in each of the past four seasons.
Ø Jordan Zimmermann has totaled 27 quality starts in three years with Detroit after having at least 21 in each of his final four seasons with Washington. He’s been much better before the All-Star break in a Tigers uniform, going 18-12 with a 4.61 ERA, compared to 6-16 with a 6.36 ERA after the break.
Ø Marcus Stroman had just a 2.14 strikeout-walk ratio during an injury-plagued 2018 after posting a 3.06 mark in his first four major league seasons. Stroman, listed at just 5-foot-8, is the only pitcher on Toronto’s active roster under 6-feet tall.
Ø Miguel Cabrera has played 16 years in the majors, turns 36 in April and is one RBI shy of Ernie Banks’ total of 1636, which ranks 32nd all-time. The 35-year-old Cabrera is 35 homers away from 500 for his career, and he’s currently tied for 35th place all-time with Dave Winfield with 465 home runs.
ASTROS at RAYS
Ø The Rays are 32-21 (.604) all-time against the Astros, their best record against any current AL team.
Ø Blake Snell went 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA last season, allowing just 112 hits in 180.2 innings. The 112 hits were the fewest ever allowed in a 20-win season in MLB history, besting the previous record of 139 by Clayton Kershaw in 2014.
Ø The Rays had just four players hit 10+ home runs for the team last season (tied with Detroit for the fewest in MLB), and only one of those four players is still with the team (Willy Adames).
Ø Justin Verlander continues to be baseball’s foremost workhorse pitcher, as last year marked the eighth time in his career he led the AL in total pitches thrown. Since pitches were first tracked beginning in 1988, no other pitcher has led his league (AL or NL) in pitches more than four times (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Barry Zito are second with four each).
Ø Alex Bregman posted a .553 on-base percentage in last year’s playoffs, the fifth best all-time in a single postseason (minimum 35 PA) behind Manny Ramirez in 2008 (.667), Barry Bonds in 2002 (.581), Jon Jay in 2014 (.571) and Rickey Henderson in 1989 (.568).
Ø George Springer’s 24 career leadoff homers are tied with Hanley Ramirez (2005-09) for the most all-time in a player’s first five seasons in the majors.
CUBS at RANGERS
Ø The Cubs have posted four consecutive 90-win seasons for the second time in franchise history and the first time in over 100 years. They lead MLB with a .597 winning percentage since 2015; since that year, their pitchers rank second in ERA at 3.53 (Dodgers – 3.48) and first in opponent batting average at .231.
Ø The Rangers went 67-95 in 2018, matching their 2014 campaign; they have not had a worse record since 1985, when they went 62-99. Combined with a 78-84 mark in 2017, it is the first time since 2007 and ’08 that Texas has finished below .500 in successive years.
Ø Texas went 9-11 in interleague play in 2018; it was the Rangers’ first losing season versus National League competition since 2006. The Cubs went 13-7 against the American League last season and are 40-20 in interleague play since 2016 – second to only Boston’s 46-14 mark.
Ø In each of the last four seasons, at least one Cub has finished in the top NL’s top five in RBI: Javier Baez topped the NL with 111 last season. No Ranger has finished in the AL’s top five in RBI since 2012, when Josh Hamilton was second with 128, and no Texas player has led the AL since 2008 (Hamilton – 130).
Ø Jon Lester tied a career high with 11 road wins last season, going 11-2; his 2.87 road ERA was the lowest in his 13 seasons to date. Lester had a 2.55 ERA in interleague games last season after posting a 5.79 mark against AL clubs the previous year.
Ø With his Opening Day start for the Rangers, Mike Minor will pitch in the majors in consecutive seasons for the same team – something he has not done since 2013 and ’14 with Atlanta. Minor did his best work late last season, going 6-2, 2.97 with a .194 opponent batting average in his last 10 starts.
ANGELS at ATHLETICS
Ø The Angels have won the season series with the Athletics each of the past five seasons. However, the last time these teams met in Oakland, the Athletics hung 38 runs on the Angels over three games. That was the most any team scored in a three-game span against an opponent last season.
Ø The Angels finished 2018 with an 80-82 record, their third consecutive season under .500. Los Angeles had not finished three straight seasons with a losing record since 1992 through 1994. The Angels have a new manager at the helm, Brad Ausmus, for the first time since 2000 (Mike Scioscia’s first season).
Ø Oakland finished second in the American League West in 2018 despite winning 97 games, its most wins since 2002 (103). The Athletics opened their 2019 season in Japan, losing both games to the Mariners. Oakland has not lost its first three games of a season since 1996.
Ø Trevor Cahill will be making his first start for the Angels on their Opening Day. He went 7-4 with a 3.76 ERA while pitching for Oakland in 2018. He was 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA and a .179 opponent batting average in 11 starts at the Oakland Coliseum last season.
Ø Mike Fiers will be making his second start of the season after he took the loss in the Athletics’ first game in Japan. Since being acquired on August 6 of last season, Fiers is 5-3 but has allowed 13 home runs in 56.0 innings (2.09 HR/9), the fifth-highest rate in the AL over that span (minimum 50 innings).
Ø Mike Trout became the highest-paid player in MLB history over the offseason. He is coming off back-to-back seasons with a .400-plus OBP and a .600-plus slugging percentage, the first player to do so in consecutive seasons since Albert Pujols with the Cardinals in 2008-09 (minimum 400 plate appearances).
DIAMONDBACKS at DODGERS
Ø The Diamondbacks finished last season with an 82-80 record, failing to make the postseason one year after falling to the Dodgers in the divisional series. However, it did mark the first time Arizona had back-to-back seasons above .500 since 2007 and 2008.
Ø The Dodgers won their second consecutive National League pennant last year before falling to the Red Sox in five games in the World Series. They’ve won six straight NL West titles, the third-longest streak all-time (Atlanta had 14 from 1991-2005, and the Yankees had nine form 1998-2006).
Ø Arizona won the season series with the Dodgers last year, 11-8 – the same record they had against them in the 2017 regular season. Those seasons are tied for their third-best record ever against LA, behind a 13-5 mark in 2005, and a 12-6 mark in 2012.
Ø Zack Greinke will make his third Opening Day start in four seasons with Arizona. He’s won at least 10 games in 11 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the league, and tied for the fifth-longest streak since 2000.
Ø Hyun-Jin Ryu will be the first Opening Day Starter for Los Angeles other than Clayton Kershaw since Vicente Padilla in 2010. Ryu finished with a 1.97 ERA last year, one of 12 sub-2.00 ERA seasons by a Dodger since 1912 (minimum 15 starts) – six of which have come from Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax.
Ø A.J. Pollock will make his Dodger debut against the only team he’s played for in his career. Pollock’s 637 games with Arizona rank 11th in franchise history, as do his 640 hits. His 257 extra-base hits are the eighth most by any Diamondback, and his 103 stolen bases rank fourth.
ROCKIES at MARLINS
Ø This will be the eighth consecutive season that the Colorado Rockies open the season on the road. The Rockies have won three of the last four openers, losing in 2018 at Arizona, 8-2, but winning the three years prior – 2017 at Milwaukee, 7-5, 2016 at Arizona, 10-5 and 2015 at Milwaukee, 10-0.
Ø The Marlins have lost four consecutive season-opening games. The last time Miami won a season opener was 2014 at home against the Rockies. The Marlins won that game 10-1, and of the 18 starting players only two remain on their respective teams – Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado with Colorado.
Ø Nolan Arenado homered off Patrick Corbin in the 2018 season opener, and over his last four Opening Days, Arenado is 9-for-16 (.563) with three home runs, eight RBI and seven runs scored.
Ø Don Mattingly was 5-0 in Opening Day games with the Dodgers from 2011-15, but is 0-3 in his first three tries with the Marlins.
Ø Kyle Freeland will be Colorado’s seventh different Opening Day starting pitcher in the last nine seasons: Jon Gary 2017-18, Jorge De La Rosa 2014 and 2016, Kyle Kendrick 2015, Jhoulys Chacin 2013, Jeremy Guthrie 2012 and Ubaldo Jimenez 2011.
Ø On August 15, 2018 in Atlanta, Jose Urena hit Ronald Acuna Jr. with the first pitch of the game and was ejected. From his next start to the end of the regular season, Urena was 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts. Opponents hit .176 against him during that stretch, and he allowed more than one run only once.
GIANTS at PADRES
Ø San Francisco won the season series between these teams last season, 11-8. The Giants have won four of their last five season openers – all on the road – while San Diego has lost four straight on Opening Day.
Ø The Padres went 66-96 last year, their third straight season losing at least 90 games; the Reds are the only other team with a streak as long (four straight). San Diego’s eight straight losing seasons are topped only by the Marlins’ nine.
Ø The Giants have had back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the first two years of Bruce Bochy’s tenure (2007-08). Their 187 losses over the last two seasons are the franchise’s most in a two-year span since losing 196 games over the 1984 and ’85 campaigns.
Ø Evan Longoria’s 16 home runs led San Francisco last year, making the Giants the only MLB team with a 20-home run hitter – the third straight season that has been the case. The last team to go three straight non-strike-shortened seasons without a 20-homer hitter was the Pirates from 1983-85
Ø Madison Bumgarner is set to make his fifth Opening Day start for the Giants. The only other San Francisco Giant (since 1958) with as many Opening Day starts is Juan Marichal, with 10.
Ø Manny Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres in February after a year in which he set or tied career highs in home runs (37), RBI (107), batting average (.297) and OPS (.905) with the Orioles and Dodgers. The 26 year old hit .391 in six games against the Giants last season (9-for-23).
PIRATES at REDS
Ø The Pirates went 14-5 against the Reds last season, the most wins either team has had against the other in a season since the NL Central was formed in 1994. Pittsburgh hit 29 home runs against Cincinnati in 2018, tying a team record for most home runs in a season versus a single opponent (vs. NYM in 1966 and vs. Mil in 2002).
Ø The Reds have finished in last place in the NL Central in four straight seasons, failing to reach 70 wins in any of those seasons. In five seasons since losing to the Pirates in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game, Cincinnati is an MLB-worst 343-467 (.423).
Ø Pittsburgh finished 2018 on a strong note, going 42-31 (.575) from July 8 on, the fifth-best mark in the National League over that time. The Pirates possessed the majors’ second-best ERA from July 8 on (3.38), trailing only the Dodgers (3.19).
Ø Offseason acquisitions Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp combined to hit 44 home runs and slug a combined .487 for the Dodgers last year. Cincinnati’s outfielders ranked 27th in the majors last season in combined slugging percentage (.385) and 24th in home runs (52).
Ø Corey Dickerson hit .300 with 55 extra-base hits last year, becoming the first Pirate to hit at least .300 with 50+ extra-base hits in his first season with the team since Brian Giles in 1999.
Ø Jameson Taillon posted a 2.33 ERA after the All-Star break last year, the fifth-best mark in the majors (min. 75 IP). Taillon made 32 starts last year and walked three or fewer batters in all 32.
Ø Luis Castillo posted a 1.09 ERA in five starts in September last season, the lowest in the NL (min. 25 IP). Over his last seven home starts of 2018, Castillo posted a 2.32 ERA while striking out 52 batters compared to just four walks across 42.2 innings.
INDIANS at TWINS
Ø The Indians took the season series with the Twins in 2018, 10-9, winning eight of the last 11 games after the Twins won six of the first eight.
Ø Cleveland won the AL Central last year with a 91-71 record. The Indians have won 90+ games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1999-2001. They have only ever done so in four straight seasons one time in franchise history – six straight years from 1950-1955.
Ø The Twins finished second in the AL Central behind the Indians with a 78-84 record, one year after losing the AL Wild Card game. Minnesota hasn't won a playoff series in 16 consecutive seasons, the second-longest active streak in the AL behind the Mariners (17 straight).
Ø Corey Kluber finished third in the AL Cy Young voting after posting a 2.89 ERA with 222 strikeouts. He notched the 1400th strikeout of his career in his 199th game on September 28, 2018 – the only other pitcher in MLB history to reach 1400 strikeouts within the first 200 games of his career is Randy Johnson, who did so in his 196th game.
Ø Jose Berrios has improved his ERA (3.94 in 2018), WHIP (1.14) and opponent batting average (.222) in each of the first three seasons of his career. In his last start against Cleveland, he gave up four earned runs and six walks in just 4.0 innings.
Ø Eddie Rosario was one of five MLB players to lead his team in hits (161), runs (87), home runs (24) and RBI (87) last season. He batted .311 with 19 home runs before the All-Star break but regressed to a .240 batting average with just five homers after the break.
WHITE SOX at ROYALS
Ø The White Sox and Royals will face off on Opening Day for the second straight year, after the White Sox won last year's opener, 14-7. The Sox won the season series, 11-8, after winning each of the first five road games against the Royals.
Ø Chicago finished 2018 with a 62-100 record, third worst in MLB just ahead of Kansas City at 58-104 and Baltimore at 47-115. It was the White Sox's fifth-worst record in franchise history and worst since a 56-106 campaign in 1970.
Ø The Royals' 58-104 record in 2018 was tied for their second worst in franchise history, just ahead of the 2005 season (56-106). They finished the year on a positive note, going 20-14 over the last 34 games of the season, holding opponents to just 4.2 runs per game.
Ø Jose Abreu played a career-low 128 games in 2018 but hit 22 home runs, his fifth consecutive season with 20+ homers. He is one of just six active players to hit at least 20 home runs in each of his first five MLB seasons.
Ø Brad Keller started 20 games as a rookie last season after entering the starting rotation in late May. He allowed just seven home runs in 140.1 innings for a 0.45 HR/9 rate, second best in MLB behind Jacob deGrom (minimum 125.0 innings pitched).
Ø Whit Merrifield led MLB in stolen bases last season with 45, the most in a single season by a Royal since Johnny Damon in 2000 (46). He also lead MLB in hits with 192, becoming the seventh player in history to lead the league in both hits and stolen bases and the first AL player to do so since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
RED SOX at MARINERS
Ø The Red Sox won 108 games last season en route to a World Series win over the Dodgers. This was the franchise’s first time crossing the 100-win plateau since 1946 (104 wins), and was the most wins in a season since the 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games.
Ø Mookie Betts finished the 2018 season with a 1.078 OPS, 129 runs scored and 30 stolen bases. His was the first season with a 1.000+ OPS, 120+ runs scored and 30+ stolen bases since Jeff Bagwell in 1999.
Ø Seattle won 89 games in 2018, its most in a season since winning 93 in 2003. The Mariners have missed the postseason in 17 straight seasons, the longest active streak in baseball.
Ø Mitch Haniger has gotten off to a hot start in 2019, as he doubled and homered in the Mariners’ opening series in Japan. In 2018, he became the first Mariner with 35+ doubles, 25+ home runs and 90+ runs in a season since Richie Sexson in 2005.
Ø Marco Gonzalez allowed two home runs in his Opening Day start for the Mariners in Japan, but still turned in a quality start (6.0 innings, three earned). Last season, his 1.73 walks per nine innings ranked fifth among qualifying pitchers.
Ø In his two seasons with Boston, Chris Sale has amassed 545 strikeouts and a .196 opponent batting average. These marks both rank second in MLB behind Max Scherzer (568 Ks, .183 BAA) since the beginning of the 2017 season (minimum 50 starts).