Welcome to the first 2016 edition of ‘Marty's Musings', my weekly column of numbers summarizing the past week in Major League Baseball. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the prior week and the upcoming matchups to watch, identifying numbers that are generally not found in a standard box score.
The stark baseball winter is finally over and the start of the baseball season is at hand. The Pirates and Cardinals kicked off the season Sunday afternoon and our first day of baseball was capped off with a World Series rematch. The fun continues as most teams begin their year on Monday. Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to announce that baseball has returned. Congratulations on surviving the offseasons. Let's have some fun.
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports
12 - Games on Monday, marking Opening Day for 22 of MLB's 30 teams. There are some fantastic matchups being broadcast nationally on Monday (see the ‘What To Watch' section below for details) but hope springs eternal for nearly all MLB teams. 28 fan bases will officially have a season in progress after Monday.
4 - Opening Day home runs in Troy Tulowitzki's career, who added yet another one on Sunday in the Blue Jays 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Tulo rocked one to left field off middle-relieving (and definitely not game-saving) Ryan Webb.
10 - Strikeouts for Pirates starter Francisco Liriano in his 2016 debut. Liriano showed a typical lack of control, giving the Cardinals five free passes, but he managed to escape several jams by getting St. Louis' hitters to strike out in key spots. He also managed to snag the earliest RBI of the year – the first time a pitcher drove in a season's inaugural run since 1973.
4:1 - Odds in Las Vegas that the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series. The Cubs have not entered the season as World Series favorites in a long time and will have to make a decent run into the playoffs for their season to live up to expectations. Vegas is not the only place that thinks the Cubs are the best team: Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA-based projected standings have them as the game's best team, as does FanGraphs' Cool Standings.
5.2 - Innings Matt Harvey pitched in a primetime 2016 debut. It seems not a week can go by without Matt Harvey news, but despite some health issues relating to blood clots, he made the Opening Day start as expected. He wasn't his normal sharp self, however, walking two and striking out only two en route to four runs and a loss to the Royals.
What to Watch
Monday is the crown jewel of baseball games because it's one of the few days where the aces of the majority of staffs align. There are a number of fantastic matchups on Monday (as would be expected).
Monday, April 4
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) v. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)
The last time Keuchel took the mound in the Bronx, he ended the Yankees 2015 season. He goes up against Masahiro Tanaka who returns for another year as the Yankees' ace. Keuchel won the American League Cy Young last season and looks to start 2016 right where he left off in 2015.
David Price (BOS) v. Corey Kluber (CLE)
David Price comes into 2016 as the ace Boston fans clamored for after a second consecutive basement finish for the Red Sox, while Kluber is only one season removed from his 2014 AL Cy Young. It's PECOTA's 2016 projected American League winner against PECOTA's 2015 projected American League winner. Cleveland fans hope it works better for them than it did for Boston last season.
Max Scherzer (WAS) v. Julio Teheran (ATL)
The offseason is long and it's easy to forget the level of dominance of Max Scherzer's 2015. Set against a backdrop of an underachieving team, an incompetent manager, and clubhouse chemistry issues laid out on national television, Scherzer went the distance in four games (three of them shutouts), had an earned run average 43 percent better than league average and came one hit batsman away from a perfect game. The Braves look to counter their divisional rival with youngster Julio Teheran, who may be one of the only bright spots for Atlanta in 2016.
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) v. Tyson Ross (SD)
Kershaw remains the best pitcher in baseball and each and everyone one of his starts should be included in this column. There's no better way to spend an evening than watching public enemy number one cause opposing hitters' knees to buckle. Tyson Ross certainly has the raw stuff to be a true ace (his slider is truly elite), but his high walk rate has remained his Achilles heel.
Chris Sale (CHW) v. Sonny Gray (OAK)
The east coast late-night show is certainly a fun one. Despite his herky-jerk mechanics, Sale remains one of the most consistent and dominant starters in baseball. The Athletics, meanwhile, seem to have little to look forward to going into 2016, but young, homegrown stud Sonny Gray is one of the few excellent players (maybe THE only excellent player) in Oakland.
*Matchups as of Sunday Night pitching probables
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano