"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." -Rogers Hornsby
Spring is here and finally, so is Opening Day. Let's get it started.
If you've been waiting on pins and needles for this day these last six months, you're not alone. The Braves kick off the 2013 season with the Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin, side by side in the outfield while bidding adieu to fan favorites such as Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. This will be the first season since 1994 that #10 will not take the field for the Braves, announcing last year that 2012 would be his last. Not seeing Chipper or Prado in the dugout will take some getting used to, but anyway, on to baseball!
Greeting the Braves in the season opener at Turner Field will be Cole Hamels and the Phillies. Hamels was arguably Philly's best pitcher in 2012, leading the team in wins (17), ERA (3.05) and strikeouts (216), solidifying his role as the new staff ace. Fellow lefty Cliff Lee, pitching Thursday, is coming off a season better than what his 6-9 record indicates. Lee and Hamels were the two best starters for the Phillies, often appearing together in several NL pitching categories; Lee came in second to Hamels in bWAR (4.5), ERA (3.16) and strikeouts (207).
The one most everyone expected to be the staff ace, Roy Halladay, had a disappointing year by his standards. His 2012 season saw his six-year streak of 16+ wins snapped and posted a 4.00+ ERA for the first time since 2004. Couple that with decreasing velocity on his fastball and one has to wonder if Halladay can ever be the pitcher hitters hated to face.
Responsible for catching this pitching staff is Carlos Ruiz, and he had a career year in 2012, earning his first All-Star selection while setting career highs in batting average (.325), home runs (16) and RBI (68, tied for team lead) despite missing a month due to injury. He won't, however, be in action as he will serve a 25-game suspension to start the season due to a positive drug test. Erik Kratz will be the starting catcher until Ruiz's return.
In an effort to upgrade their outfield, the Phillies sent young pitcher Vance Worley to the Twins for speedster Ben Revere, he of eight Defensive Runs Saved and a 14.9 UZR in 2012 (Fangraphs). Then just when the outfield defense was starting to look halfway decent, the Phillies signed free agent Delmon Young. To say Delmon Young's defense is a liability is a gross understatement: he is all bat, no glove. His -39 DRS and -54.3 UZR make him a joke of an outfielder (Fangraphs). Like Ruiz, the Braves won't see Young at all this series as he is rehabbing an ankle injury. In addition to Revere, the Phillies will also have 22-year-old outfielder Ender Inciarte on the 25-man roster to begin the season. In his first year with the team, Inciarte was a .283/.347/.367 hitter in the minors with just five home runs in 456 minor league games.
Replacing Worley in the rotation is notorious Braves nemesis
Cy John Lannan while infielder Michael Young was acquired in a December trade. A lifetime Texas Ranger, Young's relationship with the team soured to the point of him waiving his no-trade clause. His 2012 season saw him post a negative fWAR for the first time in his career and numbers that hadn't been seen since 2002. At 36 years old, he's expected to be the everyday third baseman, but like Delmon Young, he too is a defensive liability. Michael joins an already aging infield with Jimmy Rollins (34), Chase Utley (34) and Ryan Howard (33). Howard will be ready to play a full season after missing most of 2012 with an Achilles tendon injury. Utley actually managed to play in his first Spring Training since 2010 after battling persistent knee problems the last three years: he last played more than 115 games in a season in 2009, but claims he's healthy and ready to go on Opening Day, something he wasn't the last two Opening Days.
Jonathan Papelbon anchors the back side of a shaky Phillies bullpen that posted a 3.94 ERA in 2012. Papelbon saved 38 games in 2012, but the team suffered from an inferior middle relief: the team's eighth-inning ERA was 4.67. In order to stabilize the inconsistent relief corps, Mike Adams was signed as a free agent from Texas. Opposing hitters hit .269 against Adams in 61 games with the Rangers in 2012 and in only two games did he allow a home run, so the Phillies are hoping Adams can provide a more reliable bridge to the ninth inning. A Brave from a year ago, Chad Durbin, rejoined the Phillies following a respectable 2012 which saw him post a 3.10 ERA in 76 games.
Monday, April 1, 7:00 p.m. ET
Wednesday, April 3, 7:10 p.m. ET
Thursday, April 4, 7:10 p.m. ET