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It'll be a miserable day for Opening Day in Pittsburgh, with temperatures in the low 40s and the threat of showers. With snow and colder temps in the forecast for Tuesday, every attempt will be made to play Monday's Opener. It'll be a bad day for hitters, both because of the conditions and because of the starting pitchers. Jeff Samardzija takes the mound for the Cubs on the heels of a very impressive 2012. Samardzija posted a 3.21 K/BB ratio and in a favorable pitchers' park on a day with cold conditions, putting the ball in play won't be easy. Not allowing free baserunners will be big for Samardzija.
Similarly, AJ Burnett starts the opener for the Pirates. Burnett posted a 2.9 K/BB ratio last season. Taking advantage of PNC Park's hurler-friendly conditions, Burnett posted a 3.10 ERA at home. Burnett has discussed possible retirement after the 2013 season, so it could be his final Opening Day start, so he'll want to give a good performance right out of the gate.
These were two of the worst offensive teams in the league last season, as the Pirates averaged 4.28 runs per game and the Cubs just 3.78. Add in bad hitting conditions and two pitchers that don't issue many walks and runs should be at a premium.
The World Series champion San Francisco Giants willl have to wait for any ring ceremony with their home crowd, as they open the 2013 campaign on the road against their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And even though the Giants are defending a World Series title for the second time in three seasons, this overhauled roster at Chavez Ravine is said to be the one that will bring another World Series championship to Elysian Park. Heck, even San Francisco manager Bruce Brochy called the Dodgers the favorite out of the N.L. West.
But this season, all 19 games between the rivals could very well be the most heated in a ver long time, as both clubs have deep rotations and experienced bullpens. The Dodgers are the team with potentially the league's best lineup, while the Giants sport the defensive edge and in an overall administrative advantage.
It all begins today, and I'm not listing pitchers - Matt Cain vs. Clayton Kershaw - cause I don't care about who is on the bump, it doesn't concern me. This one is about pride, and I want the defending World Series champ wherever it's playing, against whomever it's playing.
I like the New York Yankees over the Boston Red Sox. And I want you listing both pitchers in this one: C.C. Sabathia and Jon Lester.
Sabathia will be making his fifth Opening Day start as a New York Yankee, and does so after coming off his sixth straight year of at least 15 wins and 200 innings. His .714 win percentage ranked third in the American League, while he struck out 8.87 batters per nine innings. But forget about the season, I've watched C.C. all off-season, and I can tell you all this guy has wanted to do is erase the painful memories from last year's playoff debacle against the Detroit Tigers.
And why not start things fresh against the arch-rivals in front of the home crowd?
The Yankees may be starting the season with a banged-up lineup, but as Lester is making his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Crimson Hose, he's also in after a disappointing campaign, so I'm going to make him beat me over the first month of the season. I know he posted a 3-0 record and 0.75 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts, but this is real-time today, and it's at Yankee Stadium.
The thing about Lester is his wide array of pitches and the fact he messes himself up in attempting to throw anyone of the weapons from his arsenal, and gets caught making too many mistakes. He has a two- and four-seamer and a cutter; he changes the shape and speed of a curve and if his change is on, it's effective in fading from right-handed lineups.
But again, I'm making him prove to me he's ready for this season. Lay a rare-small price on Sabathia and list both pitchers.
My free winner is on the Oakland Athletics over the Seattle Mariners, and I don't care about listing pitchers, I just want you playing the team I think is going to be the surprise challenge in the American League West.
Sure, the A's are having to take on Felix Hernandez, who is making his sixth Opening Day start and fifth against Oakland, and I know the ace-right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his Opening Day starts (2-0 with a 1.71 ERA against the A's). But none of that matters to me this season.
I like the make-up of Oakland's lineup. While this team lost Brandon Inge, Stephen Drew, Chris Carter, Cliff Pennington and Jonny Gomes, there are new names operating under the A's strict budget, including: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Jed Lowrie, Chris Young, John Jaso and Nate Freiman.
How the manager Bob Melvin will piece his lineup together and deal with some early-season injuries is beyond me, and we won't know his Opening Day roster until the first pitch nears, but allow me to remind you the A's are the defending American League West champs after they put together an unforgettable second-half rally that culminated with 94 victories and a tight AL Division Series they lost in the end.
The A's - the remaining ones - are hungry after that and will be motivated.
Forget the lineups, this game is about pride to start the season.
Baseball bettors were treated to a warmup courtesy of the World Baseball Classic this year, but Opening Day is what really gets them excited.
We thought it would be a good idea to kick off the 2013 campaign by offering a betting tidbit for each of the 30 MLB teams.
Baltimore Orioles - After flip-flopping their record last season, winning 93 games after losing 93 in 2011, the Orioles believe they will be contenders in the crowded AL East.
Boston Red Sox – Red Sox pitchers posted an ugly 4.72 (27th) team ERA last year, but the additions of Joel Hanrahan and Ryan Dempster should help lower those numbers in 2013.
New York Yankees – The Yankees bashed a league-high 245 homers in 2012, but the Bronx Bombers will surely miss injured sluggers Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to start the campaign.
Toronto Blue Jays –Blue Jays pitchers allowed a season-high 204 homers last season, but that issue was addressed with the additions of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson.
Tampa Bay Rays – Pitching is the name of the game in Tampa, but can the Rays duplicate their 64-91 over/under mark from 2012?
Chicago White Sox – The White Sox led the league with a .988 fielding percentage and were a good under play (72-84-6 O/U) last season.
Cleveland Indians – Cleveland pitchers combined for an AL-worst 4.78 ERA in 2012.
Kansas City Royals – The lowly Royals have just one winning season since 1994 but the additions of James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana to the starting rotation could prove to be a step in the right direction.
Detroit Tigers – Tigers starters finished second in the AL with 91 quality starts in 2012, but will be without a clearly defined closer for the first time since 2008.
Minnesota Twins – The Twins' inexperienced pitching staff surrendered 832 runs in 2012 and should suffer more growing pains this year.
Houston Astros – A new league and a new division will complicate matters for the MLB’s worst team, which managed just 55 wins in 2012.
Seattle Mariners – Bringing the fences in as much as 12 feet at Safeco Field should improve a porous Seattle offense which ranked last in the AL in runs, hits, total bases, RBIs, and batting average last season.
Los Angeles Angels – The Angels led the league with a .274 team batting average last season and now they've added the big bat of 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton.
Oakland Athletics – The A’s finished on top of our MLB Money Statistics in 2012, putting their bettors up 38.52 units.
Texas Rangers – Alexi Ogando returns to the starting rotation for the first time since 2011, when he posted a 13-8 record and 3.51 ERA.
Atlanta Braves – The Braves will feature one of the better (and fastest) outfields in the game as B.J. and Justin Upton join Jason Heyward. The trio racked up 70 stolen bases between them in 2012.
Miami Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton led the NL with a .608 slugging percentage in 2012, but because the Marlins gutted their roster, it could be a struggle for him to build on that excellent season with no protection around him in the lineup.
New York Mets – The Mets head into 2013 with a relatively young, unchanged roster that had the leagues’ sixth-best over record at 82-72-8 O/U in 2012.
Washington Nationals – Gio Gonzalez was the most profitable pitcher for bettors last season, according to our Starter Money stats page.
Philadelphia Phillies – The health and performance of Roy Halladay will be the key to seeing if the starting rotation can build on a 2012 that placed them second in the NL with 99 quality starts.
Cincinnati Reds – The Reds played under the total in 23 of Johnny Cueto’s 33 starts last season – the most unders for a starting pitcher in the bigs.
St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals should be potent on offense again as they posted top three NL numbers in runs, hits, RBIs, batting average and on-base percentage in 2012.
Milwaukee Brewers – Over bettors cashed in big on the Brewers’ 89-68 over/under record last season.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Opponents stole a league-high 154 bags on Pirates catchers last year and had an 89 percent success rate on their theft attempts.
Chicago Cubs – The Cubbies did not appease bettors as they finished 2012 down 25.68 units, third-worst in the majors.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Los Angeles was a good under play at Dodger Stadium (33-43-5 O/U) in 2012. The additions of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to the starting rotation should help keep totals low in L.A. this season.
San Francisco Giants – The Giants had the second-best over record in baseball last season (86-70-6 O/U), which is surprising given their stable of talented arms.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Ian Kennedy leads the NL in wins over the last two seasons with 35. Wow.
Colorado Rockies – Rockies pitchers allowed a league-high 824 earned runs in 2012 and had a league-worst 5.22 team ERA.
San Diego Padres – The Padres committed the second-most errors in all of baseball last season with 121 and were joint-bottom in fielding percentage at .980.