Beware of the Shadows! Lo Duca’s Best Opening Day Betting Opportunities
Finally it’s Opening Day!
At the beginning of the season, every manager has his dreams of winning the World Series with the team he runs out there. He knows he has weaknesses — every team does — it’s just a matter of how you hide those flaws. Your job is to put your players in the best situation to succeed. But for whatever reason, managers tend to ignore the matchups on Opening Day, opting instead to roll out the most TALENTED starting nine. Skippers — especially new ones — are playing the percentages instead of going with their gut. Why? It’s safe. The front office wants the percentage play. Plain and simple. Too bad you don’t play the game on paper.
So in April and May, you really need to focus on managers and BULLPENS with the weird start times, cold weather and rain delays. The hitters need to catch up, and the starters need to build their pitch count. As a hitter early in the season, you want comfortable at-bats and guys who are around the zone, so you can be aggressive. Every hitter will tell you bullpen guys are so tough because you only get a small sample size, and let’s be honest, relievers are sometimes nastier than the starter.
Weird Start Times
The San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers kick off their seasons with a 4:08 p.m. PT start time. It’s the in-between game on Opening Day. Ty Blach will take the ball against Clayton Kershaw. Unfortunately, we don’t get the matchup we wanted with the injury to Madison Bumgarner, but Blach held his own against the team in blue last year. Kershaw is always holding his own. He hasn’t given up a run ALL spring. Back issues have plagued Clayton the past few years? At least every critic says that. Kershaw still went 18-4 in 2017 with a 2.31 ERA and he was 5-0 when pitching day games, although I wouldn’t call this a day game. This is what we call an ELEMENT game! The shadows at Dodger stadium are HORRIBLE, especially if there are no clouds in the sky. Any start time between 3 and 6 p.m. makes for tough hitting conditions, but some parks — such as Dodger Stadium, PNC Park and Progressive Field — are way worse than others. It’s very tough to pick up spin as the ball comes out of the shadows into the light. As a hitter, you are hunting the heater because it’s straight. It’s even worse when facing lefties because the ball is coming from out of the stands. Around 7-ish is when the shadows go away. By that time, the game should be over while the game goes under, if you catch my drift. Look for a low-scoring game with Kershaw dominating.
The coldest game of the day will likely be the Pittsburgh Pirates taking on the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Jordan Zimmermann takes the ball trying to get back to the form that earned him that $110 million contract. Since joining the Tigers two years ago, Zimmermann has posted a 17-20 record and 5.66 ERA thanks to neck and back injuries slowing him down. BUT before you fade him, just know that eight of his 17 wins with the Tigers have been in April. Zimmermann started the 2016 season 5-0 with dominating numbers before hurting his neck. He still has three years on that contract and something to prove on a bad team. He will face Ivan Nova, whose numbers the past two years are confusing. He is 6-16 away from home with an ERA in the mid 5s. But again, he threw two complete games last year, BOTH in April and BOTH on the road. So to me this is a game that on paper looks like it could yield a lot of runs but won’t. Look for a low-scoring game and maybe a comeback year for Zimmermann.
How do you not play the Cubs against the Marlins? This is an easy one right? Veteran Jon Lester takes the hill in what will essentially be a HOME game. Even when I played and the Marlins were relevant, Cubs fans were a lot louder than Fish fans. Yes, I know Lester may not be the same pitcher he was a few years ago, but he still struck out a batter per inning in 2017 and he’s facing a roster straight out of Major League — a team slated to lose 100 games. Plus Lester is unique in a way. You don’t face a lot of starting southpaws who rely on a cut fastball. Obviously Andy Pettitte comes to mind, but what I’m getting at is that Lester is not a fun at-bat, especially if you haven’t faced him before and he’s even more uncomfortable to go up against early in the year.
On the other hand, Jose Urena, who is coming off his worst outing of the Spring, is a COMFORTABLE at-bat for any hitter. Urena does not strike out many batters and usually sits around the zone, even though his control has been questionable at times.
Joe Maddon won’t let the Cubs get off to a slow start like they did last year. They completely revamped their bullpen bringing in Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow, a familiar face to Maddon, to go along with Carl Edwards Jr. — who didn’t give up a RUN last April. The bullpen still needs some consistency, but I think Joe’s sense of urgency early will be huge. Cubbies on Opening Day to start your season on the right foot.
Top photo: Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw; credit: USA TODAY Sports