What’s happened to this year’s Opening Day pitchers?

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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)

11: Jhoulys Chacin (11-6, Colorado); Clayton Kershaw (11-7, LA Dodgers)

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)

4: Jonathon Niese (4-6, N.Y. Mets); Johnny Cueto (4-2, Cincinnati); Ian Kennedy (4-8, Arizona/San Diego)

1: Vance Worley (1-5, Minnesota); Brett Anderson (1-4, Oakland)

0: Matt Harrison (0-2, Texas)

In addition:

* Of the 30 Opening Starters in 2013, only 13 have a record of .500 or better; seventeen have a record under .500.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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