MLB 2017: Top 5 pitching matchups
MLB 2017: Top 5 pitching matchups
Opening Day is one of the most exciting days of the MLB season. Each team starts out on equal footing, and every manger is able to send out his best pitcher to take on the best his opponent has to offer. Aces typically step up and live up to the challenge of starting their team out on the right foot for a new season.
There have been many historic performances by pitchers on Opening Day over the past 100 years. Walter Johnson, a Hall of Famer, threw one of the most dominant one-hitters in MLB history on Opening Day. Bob Feller, another Hall of Famer, threw the only no-hitter on Opening Day, while Randy Johnson, also a Hall of Famer nearly threw his own no-no on Opening Day. A good pitcher can rule the day in April while the hitters attempt to get up to speed in the cool and damp weather. An ace can feast on Opening Day, and there have been plenty of dominant performances in the annals of MLB history. This year is no different; here are the five best pitching matchups to watch as the 2017 season gets rolling on Opening Day.
5. Felix Hernandez vs. Dallas Keuchel
Hernandez — 11-8, 3.82 ERA, 153.1 IP, 122 K, 65 BB, 1.324 WHIP, .239 BAA
Keuchel — 9-12, 4.55 ERA, 168.0 IP, 144 K, 48 BB, 1.286 WHIP, .259 BAA
In a matchup of former Cy Young winners, Hernandez and Keuchel will look to start their 2017 seasons on a solid note. Both are looking to bounce back after 2016 left something to be desired. Injuries limited Hernandez and Keuchel, and they both must prove that health will not be an issue this season.
Felix Hernandez is the current King of Opening Day among MLB pitchers. He is close to matching the record for wins and strikeouts on Opening Day. Hernandez is making his 10th career start on Opening Day, and is 6-1 with a 1.40 ERA in those starts. The all-time record for wins on Opening Day is nine, so King Felix is close to breaking the MLB record. He will face the Houston Astros this season, and none of them have experienced much success against him over the past five years. Hernandez has allowed only two home runs in that time period.
Keuchel is coming off a down year in 2016. He could not match his 2015 Cy Young effort, and was slowed by shoulder injuries for most of the season. Keuchel relies upon his ability to generate weak contact with his heavy fastball. This will be his third straight start on Opening Day, and he has won the past two with seven-inning performances in each. Nelson Cruz has been a nightmare for Keuchel, with three home runs over the past five years.
The matchup appears to favor Felix Hernandez. The Houston Astros are one of the most interesting teams in the league this year, and had an outstanding offseason. On Opening Day, however, do not bet against Felix Hernandez.
Mar 8, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets at First Data Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
4. Gerrit Cole vs. Rick Porcello
Cole — 7-10, 3.88 ERA, 116.0 IP, 98 K, 36 BB, 3.33 FIP, 1.440 WHIP, .289 BAA
Porcello — 22-4, 3.15 ERA, 223.0 IP, 189 K, 5.91 SO/BB, 1.009 WHIP, Cy Young
Porcello will get second billing to ace Chris Sale in the Boston rotation this season, but he gets the start on Opening Day — a nod to his status as the defending AL Cy Young. This will be his first start ever on Opening Day. Porcello really came into his own last season, going 13-1 with a 2.97 ERA at home. He has great control, and benefited from some of the best run support in MLB history last season. Porcello was able to use his two-seam fastball to get ahead in counts and then generate plenty of weak contact on the ground. He has made two starts in his career against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and is 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA in 23.0 innings pitched.
Porcello’s opponent, Gerrit Cole, is looking to bounce back in 2017 after an injury-plagued effort in 2016. Cole is also making his first start on Opening Day, as well as first ever appearance at Fenway Park. In 2015, Cole went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and pitched in the All-Star Game. His ERA was inflated last season by an extremely high opponent’s BABIP of .349. Cole’s FIP of 3.33 indicates that he was much closer to his dominant self. If he is healthy, Cole’s power fastball should give the Red Sox problems in the chilly April air.
There are very high expectations for the Red Sox this season, and for Porcello as well. He will be pitching to prove his dominance in 2016 was no fluke. The Pirates have much lower expectations, but should be able to surprise some people with a strong season. Cole must pitch up to his abilities for them to have a shot at contending, and he had a very strong run in the Grapefruit League.