Your Opening Day Starter…Uh.

Prior to March 30th of last year, most people had no idea Odalis Perez was still in the majors, and yet there he was on ESPN to open the season versus Atlanta.

The most unlikely opening day starter this year? Probably Oakland’s Dallas Braden or the Angels’ Joe Saunders. In terms of events having to occur for the pitcher to get the nod, then Saunders takes the cake. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, and Ervin Santana all had to go down with injuries. Owner of a career 4.36 FIP, Saunders doesn’t come close to the most unlikely opening day starter of the past few seasons.

Jason Johnson and Mike Maroth got the call in consecutive years for the Tigers. A 1999 game between the Pirates and Expos featured a match-up of Francisco Cordova and Dustin Hermansen. Steve Trachsel, Albie Lopez, Tanyon Sturtze, and Dewon Brazelton have done honors for the Rays. 2002 saw Ron Villone start for the Pirates. Remember when Jose Lima started opening day 2005 for the Royals against the Tigers? Yeah, odds are, neither does Lima. The Twins primary opening day starter this decade was Brad Radke, with the exception of two Johan Santana starts, last year they called upon Livan Hernandez. Ouch.

Billy Beane’s first opening as General Manager came with Gil Heredia on the mound. Jeff Fassero also got the start in 1999 for the Mariners. The Rangers? Let’s see, Rick Helling, Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdez, and Ryan Drese. How about the Brewers, with a run of Rafael Roque, Steve Woodard, and Jamey Wright?

By comparison, Saunders nor Braden seems that out of place. Who are some opening day starters that proved once and for all why the word isn’t synonymous with “ace of the staff”?




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20 Responses to “Your Opening Day Starter…Uh.”

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  1. Preston says:

    I hope you’re not lumping Radke in with all those others – he had a 112 ERA+ over 2451 innings, which isn’t too shabby.

    I think there is one factor that separates Braden and Saunders from most of the names on this list – both are pitching for teams that actually hope to contend. Another separating Braden from most, if not all, is his lack of experience – given a choice, it seems most teams would rather throw the grizzled and mediocre (if that) vet rather than the (usually somewhat talented) young gun on opening day if they have a choice.

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    • BP in MN says:

      I’m pretty sure he’s saying that after most of a decade with Radke and Santana, Livan was a giant step down.

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  2. Paul says:

    Carl Pavano for the Yankees was pretty funny.

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  3. Baseballfan says:

    Why isn’t the game showing up on the scoreboard? And how often will updates be to the stats?
    And what new features are there?

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  4. brian recca says:

    Kip Wells for the Rockies last year.
    Mark Hendrickson for the Marlins last year.
    Runelvys Hernandez for the Royals 2005.
    Kevin Jarvis for the Padres in 2002.

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  5. Baltimore, 2003 to 2007:
    Rodrigo Lopez
    Sidney Ponson
    Rodrigo Lopez
    Rodriog Lopez

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  6. lookatthosetwins says:

    The Twins (and I’m sure many other teams) have usually seemed to base their selection on longevity with the team and overall experience, which is why Radke got the nod over Santana until it became absolutely silly to do so. None of this explains Livan Hernandez… it was his first year with the team. I guess they were trying to “shield” the youngsters from opening day jitters, as if they wouldn’t be nervous pitching the second or third game of the season.

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    • Brian Kick me in the GO NATS Jones says:

      after watching John Lannan today, I am a firm believer that your opening day starter should be your oldest and wisest pitcher. Lannan was totally freaked out and sucked. I have never seen him more rattled and it was just because it was opening day. I think Scott Olson should have been the guy to protect Lannan.

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  7. Neverending Pasta Diving Jeter Bowl says:

    Yeah, this begins and ends with Carl Pavano, 2007.

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  8. Matt says:

    Brett Myers last night. I just hate him.

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  9. Lee says:

    I certainly agree that Livan Hernandez, as a pitcher, is a big step down from Santana (duh!) and Radke. However, I feel the need to point out that not only did Hernandez win that Opening Day start against LAA, the next three Twins starters lost against the Angels in the Opening Series. So maybe it wasn’t that bad a decision.

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  10. Joel says:

    Well, also, Saunders might have needed an injury to last years opening day starter, Jered Weaver as well. Entering last season, he was a fringe 5th starter competing with Ervin Santana for the last gig. My how times change

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  11. Ray says:

    The Padres had Kevin Jarvis go in 02, followed by two years of Brian Lawrence.

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    • Brian Kick me in the GO NATS Jones says:

      I drafted Brian Lawrence in 2003. he was totally dominant in 2002 and everyone thought he would be dominant in 2003, so it was not that weird. But arm trouble caught him and that was that.

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  12. Matt H. II says:

    Wikipedia has a list of the Opening Day starters for 25 of the current teams here. I don’t feel like going through every team right now, but here are a few worth mentioning along with their ERA+ and innings pitched in the prior three seasons, which I chose completely arbitrarily:

    1947 Phillies, Ken Heintzelman: 92 ERA+ in 483.2 IP
    1966 Mets, Jack Fisher: 83 ERA+ in 597.1 IP
    1997 Expos, Jim Bullinger: 87 ERA+ in 397.1 IP
    2005 Devil Rays, Dewon Brazelton: 84 ERA+ in 182 IP
    2005 Royals, Jose Lima: 85 ERA+ in 312 IP
    2006 Royals, Scott Elarton: 83 ERA+ in 392 IP
    2008 Marlins, Mark Hendrickson: 88 ERA+ in 465.2 IP

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  13. Jack Moore says:

    Jeff Suppan today, anybody?

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  14. Red Sox Talk says:

    Don’t forget Livan Hernandez opened for the Twins last season on March 31 (and pitched well for the win!)

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