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Number One vs. Number One?

Opening day is supposed to be just loaded with brilliant pitching matchups. Sometimes they’re not the pitchers duel as advertised, as we saw with last night’s 9-7 Sabathia vs. Beckett matchup, but I wouldn’t bet on a similar result in today’s Zack Greinke-Justin Verlander showdown or even the Josh Johnson-Johan Santana duel to be seen at Citi Field.

For the most part, the opening day games have at least one great pitcher (Roy Halladay vs. John Lannan at Washington), or maybe some young up-and-comers (Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Yovani Gallardo at Milwaukee), or at least a couple of above average pitchers who have had good years (Shaun Marcum vs. Scott Feldman at Texas). One matchup, however, just makes you wonder about how it could possibly happen.

The Dodgers will be taking on the Pirates at PNC park at 1:35 PM Eastern time this afternoon. The probable pitchers as of this morning are Vicente Padilla and Zach Duke, two pitchers with K/BB ratios below 2 and FIPs above 4.00. Combined, CHONE projects these two to be worth only 35 runs above replacement, or just over half of Zack Greinke’s projected value.

What makes this matchup especially egregious is that Padilla and Duke are nowhere near the best pitchers on their respective teams. Padilla’s ability as a pitcher doesn’t approach that of either Chad Billingsley nor Clayton Kershaw, and he’s not better than Hiroki Kuroda, either. Paul Maholm of the Pirates is a proven 3-win pitcher, and he actually projects at a similar level to Kershaw, whereas Duke is projected at the level of Carl Pavano.

Now, there could be very good reasons why each pitcher is starting the game over other, more deserving candidates. All I know is if I had a ticket for this game, I wouldn’t be too happy with either manager.