Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
Usually, we think of a team’s Opening Day pitcher as their number one starter in the rotation. In many cases that is true. But in others cases, injuries, contract disputes, or other factors put a team’s best pitcher on the sideline when the season opens.
Let’s take a look at Opening Day 2013. Thirty different pitchers took to the mound as their team’s Opening Day hurler. The question is, how many of those pitchers who took the ball in their team’s first game of the year have had success so far in 2013?
First, did you know that three pitchers who were Opening Day starters this year are no longer with those teams? The three are Ricky Nolasco (he started Opening Day from Miami and was traded to the Dodgers), Ian Kennedy (he started for Arizona and was traded to San Diego, and Bud Norris (he started for Houston and was traded to Baltimore).
At the top end of the scale, two pitchers, Adam Wainwright (St. Louis) and Justin Masterson (Cleveland) have 13 wins so far this season. Seattle’s Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez is the only one of the 30 Opening Day starters who has a winning percentage of .700 or better (he is 12-5, a .706 winning percentage).
At the other end is Matt Harrison. He started Texas’s first game of the year and quickly fell to 0-2 before his season ended with lower back surgery.
Here’s a look at the current pitching records of the 30 Opening Day-2013 starters.
Wins, Pitcher (record, team)
13: Adam Wainwright (13-7, St. Louis); Justin Masterson (13-8, Cleveland)
12: Justin Verlander (12-8, Detroit); Felix Hernandez (12-5, Seattle)
10: Jon Lester (10-7, Boston); C.C. Sabathia (10-10, N.Y. Yankees)
9: Ricky Nolasco (9-9, Miami/L.A. Dodgers); R.A. Dickey (9-11, Toronto)
8: Tim Hudson (8-7 Atlanta); Yovani Gallardo (8-9, Milwaukee); Edinson Volquez (8-10, Cincinnati); Chris Sale (8-11, Chicago White Sox); Bud Norris (8-9, Houston/Baltimore)
7: Matt Cain (7-8, San Francisco); Jason Hammel (7-8, Baltimore); James Shields (7-8 Kansas City); Jered Weaver (7-5, L.A. Angels)
6: Stephen Strasburg (6-9, Washington); Jeff Samardzija (6-11, Chicago Cubs); David Price (6-5, Tampa Bay)
5: Cole Hamels (5-13, Philadelphia); A.J. Burnett (5-8, Pittsburgh)
1: Vance Worley (1-5, Minnesota); Brett Anderson (1-4, Oakland)
0: Matt Harrison (0-2, Texas)
* Of the 30 Opening Starters in 2013, only 13 have a record of .500 or better; seventeen have a record under .500.
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From May 30 and every day until September 5… the start of the 2013 NFL season… Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ will publish “99 Stats Until Kickoff” a daily dose of NFL stats that will get you ready for the 2013 NFL season.)
In the last Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens rookie placekicker Justin Tucker became the first rookie kicker in 15 years to score a point in the Super Bowl. The last rookie kicker to score in the Super Bowl was Green Bay’s Ryan Longwell in 1998; he had a field goal and three extra points for six points in the Packers’ 31-24 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Tucker had a pair of field goals to go along with four extra points as he scored 10 points for the Ravens in their Super Bowl win. The 10 points in the Super Bowl by a rookie was the most since 1993 when Dallas Cowboys’ rookie placekicker Lin Elliott tallied 10 points on seven extra points and a field goal.
With three high-profile first-year quarterbacks, Tucker didn’t get much attention for 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year, but the first-year kicker was honor-worthy as he made 30 of 33 field goal attempts (a success percentage of 90.9). He became the third rookie kicker in history to make 90 percent or better of his field goal attempts (minimum of 16 attempts to qualify).
(Note: Another rookie kicker this year, Minnesota’s Blair Walsh, made 35 of 38 field goal attempts, 92.1 percentage. That’s the highest field goal percentage for a rookie kicker in the history of the league).
Here’s a look at the nine rookie placekickers who have scored points in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl year, Kicker, team (Points)
1971: Jim O’Brien, Baltimore (four points on one field goal and one extra point)
1980: Matt Bahr, Pittsburgh (seven points on one field goal and four extra points)
1986: Kevin Butler, Chicago (14 points on three field goals and five extra points)
1990: David Treadwell, Denver (four points on one field goal and one extra point)
1993: Lin Elliott, Dallas (10 points on one field goal and seven extra points)
1995: Doug Brien, San Francisco (seven points on seven extra points)
1997: Adam Vinatieri, New England (three points on three extra points)
1998: Ryan Longwell, Green Bay (six points on one field goal and three extra points)
2013: Justin Tucker, Baltimore (10 points on two field goals and four extra points)
* The Bears’ Kevin Butler, with his 14 points, holds the Super Bowl record for most points by a rookie. Washington’s rookie running back Timmy Smith in 1988 scored a pair of touchdowns in the Redskins’ 42-10 Super Bowl win over Denver. His 12 points ranks second to Butler.
* Of the nine rookie kickers who have scored points in the Super Bowl, six of the kickers saw their team win the title, three did not.
“99 Stats Before Kickoff” (Stats you need to know before the start of the 2013 NFL season) is available from e-book publisher Smashwords. Go to www.smashwords.com to download a copy, including a pdf version which can be viewed on your home computer. Cost is $2.99.