Phillies-Braves (Game 1): Must-Know Stuff
Phillies (0-0) at Atlanta Braves (0-0)
Coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN 2.
Smell that? It’s the hopes and dreams of a new baseball season. (And pollen. Achew.)
Cole Hamels, Opening Day Starter
Never could say that before, and not always because Hamels wasn’t ready for it.
In 2009, fresh off his World Series MVP, Hamels grappled an elbow injury throughout the spring. The next three Opening Days were Roy Halladay territory. All three prior, Brett Meyers.
Now, the ink still drying on a 6-year, $144 million deal from last summer, Hamels gets his chance to be the Phillies No. 1 ace – beginning with Game 1.
As exciting and deserved a spot as it is for Hamels, it’s also an ominous reminder of the state of Halladay, which we can't be entirely sure of until Game 2 on Wednesday.
The Other Guy
That Hudson, 37, goes as the Braves’ No. 1 speaks to what will be their biggest weakness throughout the season: the starting rotation. (Behind him are, in order, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran.)
Hudson can deal, even now; he’s won 16 or more games in each of his last three seasons, and all of his key performance indicators (ERA+, SO/BB, HR/9) have remained relatively level over the span, his age-34-through-37 years,
But the list of guys you’d rather give the ball on Game 1 – and every game against your opponents’ No. 1 – isn’t short, and speaks to the relative strength of Atlanta’s staff as a whole.
This May Matter
Last season, five 2013 Braves – B.J. Upton (169), Dan Uggla (168), Jason Heyward (152), Freddie Freeman (129), and Justin Upton (121) – struck out over 120 times.
Hamels in 2012 ranked sixth in the National League in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.03) among starters with 150+ innings, Jonathan Papelbon ranked second (11.83) among relievers with 70+ innings, and, if you lower the criteria to just 50 innings of work, Antonio Bastardo ranked third (14.02), behind only Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel (16.66) and Cincy's Aroldis Chapman (15.32.)
Could be a lot of fanning today.
Turn That Roster Over
It takes a vigilant scroll down Baseball Reference’s list of Phillies Opening Day starters to find the last time there’d been just one carryover from the previous year: 1937, when only Jimmie Wilson had been on the diamond for the first pitch of the season prior.
This year, it’s another Jimmy: Rollins, the only remaining ODS from 2012.
Unlike then, though, this is more a matter of freak circumstance than mass overhaul: two of the newbies are franchise fixtures in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who replace Ty Wigginton and Freddy Galvis at first and second from 2012; and Erik Kratz, who’s tapping in for Carlos Ruiz on Monday and throughout Ruiz’s 25-game suspension to start the season.
Still, Ben Revere (center) and Domonic Brown (left, presumably) are poised to take over for the foreseeable future, and Michael Young, who replaces Placido Polanco at third, could be considered the intermediary to who’s likely to be that guy at the hot corner next season, Cody Asche. Revere steps in for Shane Victorino, who’d started the last five Opening Days.
Laynce Nix, the left-handed option in the Nix-Mayberry platoon likely to start the season in right field, is a safe bet to start in right field against the right-handed Hudson.
Hunter Pence started there last year, opposite Mayberry.
Game 1 Goodwill
There’s been a lot of that of late. Three in a row, to be exact, with John Mayberry’s pinch-hit RBI single off Brandon Lyon the bottom of the ninth to cap a three-run rally and polish off the Astros, 5-4, on Opening Day 2011 being maybe the brightest spot.
Of note, that game too was played on April Fool’s Day.
(Maybe Exhibit A for why it’s good to temper said goodwill.)