You did it, Orioles fans. You conquered the most difficult task of every season, successfully trudging through the off season and 32 spring training exhibition games to make it to Opening Day. There isn't exactly an award to be given out to you, but take this bit of good news as a replacement: meaningful Baltimore baseball is back.
As we count down the hours (minutes, for you more loyal fanatics), it's rather difficult to look at the 2016 season with anything but optimism. Sure, the rotation is a mess and this year's team might set the record for strikeouts in a season, but who cares?
Everyone is undefeated. There's a clean slate. At least for a little while, everyone has a chance 2016's Cinderella story.
With that said, it's time to set sights on the Minnesota Twins. Last Wednesday, we took a quick look at the opposing pitching the O's will be seeing this week. Now, it's time for everyone's favorite exercise - Opening Day predictions.
As a small disclaimer (and a time-saver for all of you angry commenters ready to tell me I'm crazy for not picking the Orioles to win 376-0), this is meant as a fun shot in the dark to kick off the season. There will be a few trends and statistical backbones to the preview, but that's not entirely the point here.
We're all ready for the season; it's been way too long since we've had "real" Orioles baseball on our televisions. We might as well kick back, relax and have fun predicting the 2016 debut at Camden Yards!
Twins against Chris Tillman
As you might've heard, the season's opening pitch will belong to Tillman, who will be making his third-consecutive Opening Day start for the Birds. And nicely enough, he's had some impressive success against the Twins regulars.
Here is the Twins' Opening Day roster, barring any last-minute changes: pic.twitter.com/JqyqjAzTBY— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) March 29, 2016
Only three of the projected nine starters have faced Tillman more than five times - Kurt Suzuki is 2-11, Joe Mauer is 3-12 with five strikeouts and Trevor Plouffe has gone 1-7 with three Ks. When you look at Minnesota's overall experience against the righty, you could hypothesize that the advantage goes to the O's. Against Tillman overall, the nine have hit just .195 with no home runs in 46 at-bats.
Now, of course, the first game of the year throws some of these numbers into the blender and makes them somewhat unimportant. Pitchers tend to take a few weeks to find their rhythm. And based on Tillman's spring starts, we know he's far from perfect.
It's also important to take a look at the youngsters who might be able to do damage as well. Keep in mind that four of the Twins' most exciting players, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Byung-Ho Park have just seven total looks at Tillman. All four should be impact players this season - whether or not they'll contribute right away is a different story.
With all of that in mind, compiled with the general profile of what we know Tillman to be, I'll go conservative for his numbers:
Tillman: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Orioles against Ervin Santana
Like Tillman, Santana is far from having elite status as a starter. He's talented enough to be competitive with every start, but also lacks shutdown stuff in his arsenal. Primarily fastball-slider, the "stuff" won't be as tricky as other teams will see from aces around the rest of the country.
In the aforementioned article posted on Wednesday, I mentioned that Santana - at-least by the numbers - is pretty much the league average in every category. He does a lot of things well, nothing overwhelmingly impressive.
Combing through the Orioles numbers against Santana, it looks like the stats spell a pretty similar story. While there doesn't look to be much of a trend out of the ordinary with this matchup, home runs could be aplenty.
- J.J. Hardy has two HRs in 16 at-bats against Santana.
- Mark Trumbo is 2-4 with a home run.
- Chris Davis has three HRs in 28 at-bats.
- Matt Wieters is 4-17 with a home run.
Again, there's no real reason to go by the book on Opening Day with the numerous variables in play. But, it's at-least entertaining to try and predict some numbers.
Ervin Santana: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Mark Trumbo: HR, BB
Battle of the bullpens
If Chris Tillman finds his way through six innings, there's probably a pretty good shot the Orioles are going to come out on top. Still, even with just five, Buck Showaler should feel comfortable with the ‘pen the rest of the way.
FanGraphs ranks the Twins bullpen 20th in the MLB - largely helped by closer Glen Perkins - while the Orioles come in 6th with a well-rounded group. And while 14 slots is a lot, I'd argue that it's more of a landslide than these rankings show.
Even with Brian Matsuz down, the O's win big here. Issues could creep up in the sixth and seventh innings before (hopefully) O'Day and Britton closing out a win, but the same could be said on Minnesota's side with their duo of Kevin Jepsen and Perkins. For the O's, Brad Brach could be the option for an inning or two despite his shaky spring.
In the famous words of Buck Showalter, I like our guys.
I started my analysis with the feeling that it would be a sin to pick against the Orioles, but then realized that predictions were, well, what you believed in. The O's have an enormous amount of unknown this season. It's fun, but also incredibly difficult when it comes to projections.
Luckily, I do not have to worry about upsetting all of you. It's O'pening Day at Camden Yards. The Orioles can't lose, right? Here's my projected headline for Tuesday morning:
Orioles beat Twins, 5-3 on Opening Day; Britton records first save
That's right. The bullpen trio of Brad Brach, Darren O'Day and Zach Britton will come up clutch, giving the Orioles (and potentially Brach) the first win of the season.
Feel free to enter your own predictions into the comments section below. And follow me on Twitter @@JoeWedra, where I'll be tweeting throughout not just Opening Week, but the entire season.