There were games in Japan, a game in the garish new stadium in Miami, and games all around the country yesterday – now Opening Day has finally come to Baltimore. The team’s going to be bad (by WAR I think I had them coming out to 72 wins; but 69-72 seems like a reasonable range for expectantions), but watching baseball played by a bad major league team is still better than most things.
The Twins (2011 stats):
Maybe not quite this week, but I hope Justin Morneau can re-establish himself as a good major leaguer again. Also, given the contract Minnesota gave him, that Joe Mauer can get back closer to star level. Not that that’ll be enough to make them competitive, probably, but it would be nice for baseball.
Pavano isn’t a hard thrower (89-90 with the fastball), his sinker (his primary heater) doesn’t miss bats, and his off-speed stuff is merely OK. But he can spot his pitches and doesn’t give out free passes or a ton of long-balls. I could see the O’s not doing much against him most of the game, but having an inning where they string together 4-5 hits with a double or two mixed in to put some runs on the board.
The Orioles (2011 stats):
That’s a decent enough line-up, though there’s no one particularly great (or even very good, one could say) hitter. The defense is maybe close to average as well, excluding Reynolds (who should be somewhere between “bad” and “please hide all his gloves so he has to DH”). I don’t love Chris Davis being in there instead of Nick Johnson (from a one game perspective), since Davis seems more apt to be taken advantage of by Pavano (who isn’t very likely to give him something good to hit) as opposed to Johnson (who can at least force Pavano to throw a strike). Nolan Reimold leading off is nice though (but I’d flip Hardy and Markakis).
Arrieta’s stuff is good enough that he should be able to maintain an average-ish strike-out rate, so if his control comes around (he did have a 3.6 BB/9 in April last year), he could be a #3 type pitcher. He’ll need to be careful with the middle of the Twins’ line-up, throwing strikes but not leaving too much in the middle of the plate. Even with a few walks, I think he’ll be OK if he can keep the ball in the yard though.