Baseball BeatApril 02, 2007
Play Ball
By Rich Lederer

It's that time of the year (again). Opening Day coincides with the Finals of the NCAA basketball tournament and precedes the Master's Golf Tournament by a few days. If you're a sports fan, it doesn't get much better than this week.

The New York Mets want the season to end now and the St. Louis Cardinals can't wait to get back on the field. But both teams will have to wait one more day. In the meantime, all of the other teams (with the exception of the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants) will play the first of 162 games today.


American League:

Devil Rays (Scott Kazmir) at Yankees (Carl Pavano), 1:05 ET
Blue Jays (Roy Halladay) at Tigers (Jeremy Bonderman), 1:05
Indians (C.C. Sabathia) at White Sox (Jose Contreras), 2:05
Red Sox (Curt Schilling) at Royals (Gil Meche), 4:05
A's (Dan Haren) at Mariners (Felix Hernandez), 6:35
Orioles (Erik Bedard) at Twins (Johan Santana), 7:10
Rangers (Kevin Millwood) at Angels (John Lackey), 10:05

National League:

Marlins (Dontrelle Willis) at Nationals (John Patterson), 1:05
Braves (John Smoltz) at Phillies (Brett Myers), 1:05
Dodgers (Derek Lowe) at Brewers (Ben Sheets), 2:05
Cubs (Carlos Zambrano) at Reds (Aaron Harang), 2:10
Diamondbacks (Brandon Webb) at Rockies (Aaron Cook), 4:05
Pirates (Zach Duke) at Astros (Roy Oswalt), 7:05

Let's take a quick look at each of the above matchups...

  • TB at NYY: Carl Pavano gets the start. From joker to ace in one season - alright, TWO seasons!

  • TOR at DET: Halladay vs. Bonderman. A classic pitcher's duel. If Santana stumbles or gets injured this year, these two pitchers are as good a bet as any to step up and win the AL Cy Young Award.

  • CLE at CWS: Aside from Pavano and Meche, Contreras is the weakest starter of today's bunch - and one of the reasons why I believe the White Sox will not win the AL Central this season.

  • BOS at KC: Time for the $55 million man to step up and earn his pay. He probably didn't choose this assignment. Good luck.

  • OAK at SEA: Felix joins Dwight Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela in becoming the third pitcher in the last 26 years to start an opener before reaching the age of 21. I wonder if his career will turn out like theirs?

  • BAL at MIN: The best southpaw in the AL (OK, the world) vs. the next best? I like Sabathia and Kazmir but am inclined to believe that Bedard may just be the best of the three this year.

  • TEX at LAA: Lackey is being asked to play Texas Hold 'Em today. I don't think he will flop.

  • FLA at WAS: The Nationals will have a decent shot in most games Patterson starts. I'm just concerned about the other 130 contests.

  • ATL at PHI: Two of the three best teams in the NL East battling one another in the opening series.

  • LAD at MIL: If Sheets stays healthy, he could just well be the best starting pitcher in the NL. He gets to face a Furcal-less Dodgers team that lacks power in the middle of its lineup. I like Big Ben here.

  • CHC at CIN: Zambrano is apparently close to signing a five-year, $80 million contract. For his sake, I hope he emerges from this game healthy (or at least with a Lloyd's of London policy in hand).

  • ARI at COL: Webb and Cook. I wonder if anybody will hit the ball in the air?

  • PIT at HOU: Without Andy Pettitte and perhaps Roger Clemens, Oswalt may have to shoulder the load all by himself this year. Can Brad Lidge help him by returning to form this year?

    Play ball!

  • Comments

    I came across your baseball blog and I think you're doing a great job. I run a blog and was wondering if you would like to check it out and perhaps exchange links? Let me know. Thanks

    Ah, the holiest day of the year. Opening Day! *sigh*

    I actually rigged up 3 tvs in my back room yesterday for the White Sox/Indians, Cubs/Reds, Yanks/Devil Rays and Atlanta/Philly. All in all I took in parts of seven games yesterday without the aid of the extra innings package. Gotta love opening day. I swear I was sick, boss...

    Well, Brad Lidge definitely didn't succeed...both Roy Oswalt and Astros fans everywhere paid the price. :(

    But if Gil Meche performs like yesterday all year, he might actually be worth $11 million!

    Hey all,

    I have a question that is related to the Matt Garza rookie status issue. I am actually trying to determine whether Clay Hensley of the San Diego Padres was a rookie in 2006. I've always used the USA Today Sports Weekly to see who had rookie status, and for basic sortable stats, I use the ESPN statistics page, using 'rookie' as a sortable option. Neither of these listed him as a rookie, even though numerous writers considered him a 'rookie pitcher' last year. In your updates on 2006 NL rookie pitchers last season, you had Hensley listed. When I use the Baseball Prospectus 'VORP for Rookie Pitchers' report for 2006, they list 241 rookies. ESPN's sortable report shows 182. I know ESPN uses Stats Inc. for their information, and I assume BP maintains their own info, but I can't figure out who to trust. Who do you use for this info?

    As for the specifics on Hensley, his situation is very similar to Garza's. In 2005, Hensley pitched 47 innings, which is less than the 50 1/3 innings pitched rule; he was recalled from Portland on July 18th, 2005, and that would give him exactly 45 days on the 25 man roster before the September 1st roster expansion date. He never pitched in the majors prior to that, so I don't see why he wouldn't have been considered a rookie in 2006.

    What authority determines the rookie status of MLB players? For instance, if you are a member of the BBWAA and want to vote for Matt Garza for ROY in 2007 but another person tells you he isn't a rookie, who do you ask to decide the outcome of the debate? I can't get a straight answer from anybody. If you have any information, I'd really appreciate your input.