Opening Day 2020 Has Finally Arrived

Remain calm Red Sox Nation – Opening Day 2020 is finally here! After many months of negotiations, we finally have baseball. The Red Sox open the season against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park starting tonight at 7:30pm. From there, the New York Mets come to town for two games, then the Red Sox head to Citi Field for two games. This is going to be a wild season for sure, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

The 2020 Red Sox will look different, there’s no doubt. With Eduardo Rodriguez stillopening day 2020 recovering from COVID-19, Nathan Eovaldi will take the ball tonight. The Red Sox have a pretty solid team, but the pitching will be the mystery of 2020. How will the Red Sox fair on Opening Day 2020? Well, hopefully better than the Nationals and Giants did last night.

Opening Day 2020 vs The Baltimore Orioles

As mentioned above, Nathan Eovaldi will be getting the start for the Red Sox tonight. The Orioles will be sending Tommy Milone to the mound to face the Red Sox. Originally, the Orioles had John Means making the Opening Day start, however, he will be starting the season on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. Both Eovaldi and Milone will be making their first career Opening Day starts. Both had a solid Spring and Summer training prior to the start of the season.

In 23 games for the Red Sox last season, Eovaldi went 2-1 with a 5.99 ERA in 67.2 innings. After a 2019 that saw him on the injured list, Eovaldi is looking to have a better 2020. His last faced the Orioles on September 27th 2019, going 5 innings giving up 5 earned runs while striking out 3. Tommy Milone came to the Orioles via free agency after spending the 2019 season with the Seattle Mariners. In 23 games, he went 4-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 111.2 innings. Milone last faced the Red Sox in 2014 as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

Tomorrow’s 1:35pm game will have Alex Cobb going up against Martin Perez. The Boston native only pitched in 3 games last season, going 0-2 with a 10.95 ERA. Perez will be making his Red Sox debut after pitching for the Minnesota Twins last season. He was 10-7 in 32 games for the Twins with a 5.12 ERA. Sunday’s final game, also at 1:35pm, will feature Wade LeBlanc against Ryan Weber. LeBlanc, who pitched for the Mariners last season, went 6-7 in 26 games while posting a 5.71 ERA. Weber is looking to make a name for himself in the Red Sox rotation. Last season in 18 games, he went 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA

Welcoming Back Rick Porcello and Eduardo Nunez

The Red Sox will be welcoming back Rick Porcello and Eduardo Nunez when the Mets come to town on Monday. While Red Sox fans won’t be seeing Porcello pitch, they might get to see Nunez play at Fenway. No pitchers have been announced yet for either team,  however, Porcello won’t be one of the two this time around. He will be making his Mets debut against the Braves on Sunday.

Eduardo Nunez last played in July 2019 before the Red Sox designated him for assignment. In the offseason, he signed a minor league deal with the Mets. Rick Porcello, after five seasons with the Red Sox, signed a one-year contract with the Mets this past offseason. The New Jersey native stated in his press conference that he was looking forward to pitching for team he rooted for as a child.

Both home games against the Mets will be at 7:30pm. From there, the Red Sox will travel to Citi Field to take on the Mets on Wednesday and Thursday to start their first road trip of the season. The Red Sox will close out July against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Last Night’s Games

Opening Day 2020 officially began last night for the Yankees, Nationals, Dodgers and Giants. Both the Yankees and Dodgers got their first wins of the season, and a few hit home runs. The Yankees – Nationals game ended after 5 innings due to rain, and the final was 4-1. The Dodgers and Giants played a full game, which saw the Dodgers beat the Giants 8-1.

Gerrit Cole made his Yankee debut last night, where he struck out 5 batters, and allowing a home run to Adam Eaton. Max Scherzer made the start for the Nationals, striking out 11, but allowing 4 runs in 5.1 innings. Giancarlo Stanton got the offense going for the Yankees, hitting his first home run of 2020 off of Scherzer in the first inning.

Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to make his Opening Day 2020 start against the Giants, but was scratched due to an injury. Dustin May took the ball in game one against Johnny Cueto. May went 4.1 innings, allowing one run and striking out four. Kike Hernandez hit the lone home run for the Dodgers, however, the Dodgers managed to have 12 hits and drove in 8 runs. Even though they got 8 hits, the Giants only managed to get one run across the board thanks to a Pablo Sandoval sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning.

2019 MLB Top Five Starting Pitchers

Pitchers do not only win Cy Young awards, they win MVPs. Two starting pitchers have been named Most Valuable Player since 2011, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Some other starting pitches to win a MVP: Don Newcombe, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Roger Clemens. All of these players were top five starting pitchers for the majority of their respective careers.

Starting pitchers also get paid massive contracts. Both David Price (Red Sox) and ZackTop Five Starting Pitchers Greinke (Diamondbacks) signed free agent contracts in the 2016 off-season worth more than $30 million per year. Nationals ace Max Scherzer signed a 7-yr/$210 million contract a year earlier in 2015.

Starting pitchers also help teams by setting the tone. To begin last season’s World Series, Red Sox ace Chris Sale fired a strikeout on a 2-2 pitch to Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier. The Sox went on to win the series in five games to capture their 9th World Series championship. Below is a list of 2019 MLB Top Five Starting Pitchers.

 Top Five Starting Pitchers – 5 – Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)

Kluber’s strengths are his high strikeout volume and durability. He has recorded at least 222 strikeouts and 203 innings pitched in five consecutive seasons. “Klubot” is a two-time Cy Young award winner and has finished in the top-3 voting of the Cy Young in four of the past five years. He is the ace of the Cleveland Indians and is under team control through 2021. The 32-year-old turns 33 in early April. He is still very much in his prime, as Kluber has won at least 18 games in three straight seasons.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 4 – Jacob deGrom (New York Mets)

Baseball’s best pitcher in 2018 was arguably Jacob deGrom. He won his first Cy Young after leading the MLB in ERA (1.70). He also finished in the top-5 in innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP. Ironically deGrom and Kluber both pitched for Stetson University in Central Florida. deGrom is the ace on the Mets starting staff, a rotation that also includes Noah Syndergaard, and is set to become a free agent after next season.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 3 – Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox)

Sale would be higher on this list had he pitched more starts last season. He finished 2018 with 27 starts, missing time in the second half due to a nagging shoulder injury. His ERA (2.11), WHIP (0.86), and FIP (1.98) were career bests, however, his 158 innings were the fewest since 2012. Sale has also surprisingly never won a Cy Young, even though he has been voted an All-Star in each of the past seven seasons. He has started the past three for the American League. Sale and the Red Sox recently agreed to a five-year extension on March 23rd.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 2 – Justin Verlander (Houston Astros)

When asked who is the best pitcher of this generation, most fans would argue Clayton Kershaw. The correct answer might actually be Verlander. The right-hander just turned 36 in February and is very much still in his prime. He has thrown at least 200 innings in 11 of the past 12 seasons. JV has finished second in Cy Young voting three times, including last year, when recorded career-highs in strikeouts (290), hits allowed, FIP, WHIP, and strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. Like Sale, Verlander was just awarded a contract extension for 2 years and became official today. Verlander has a plethora of playoff experience. He owns a 13-7 record, 3.19 ERA, and a 1.02 WHIP in 152 postseason innings.

Top Five Starting Pitchers – 1 – Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)

“Mad Max” has been baseball’s best pitcher for the past six seasons. Since 2013, he has made the All-Star Game each season (started 3), finished in the Cy Young voting top-5 each season (won 3), and has struck out at least 240 batters in each season. In the past three years, Scherzer has led the National League in WHIP and strikeouts. The only slight on Scherzer’s resume is that he has not won a playoff start since the 2013 ALDS.

Honorable mentions: Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays), Aaron Nola (Philadelphia Phillies), Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians), Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers), Zack Greinke (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Will New Under Armour MLB Jersey Contract Spike Sales?

In December, a deal was finalized with the MLB making Under Armour jerseys the official on-field game wear. Additionally, Fanatics will oversee product licensing rights to manage and manufacture the merchandise. The new MLB Jersey contract is the first change in several years.

MLB Jersey Contract

The deal will begin in the 2020 MLB season and will give Under Armour exclusive rights for a 10-year period. Through the agreement, they will provide all 30 MLB teams with all their on-field uniforms. This includes jerseys that will feature the company’s branding, as well as base layers, game-day outerwear gear, and other apparel.

Although financial details were not disclosed, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank called the deal a “watershed moment for the brand” during an interview with Fortune Magazine.

Implications of the MLB Jersey Contract

And that’s exactly what Major League Baseball wants. Kids buying UA jerseys.

Despite their falling stock, there’s no doubt that Under Armour is most popular among children and millennials. As a millennial, I love Under Armour’s product, and while it may seem like just another manufacturer, the impact this could have on jersey sales is huge.

Even though Majestic and Russell are good brands, the logo recognition of Under Armour will do wonders for MLB jerseys.

Under Armour’s move an obvious measure to compete with not only the other brands but also to get its stake into the Big Four merchandise platform. Their clients already include the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper.

Because of the brand loyalty that exists for UA, this deal will spike MLB jersey sales and be a positive for the game. As a UA consumer, I am pumped about the new MLB Jersey Contract.

Looking at the Red Sox Draft Strategy

The Red Sox hold the 7th pick in tonight’s MLB draft, which marks the second time in 3 years the Red Sox will pick at that spot. In 2013, the Red Sox selected pitcher Trey Ball, a 6’6″ lefty from Indiana, who has had his struggled in his minor league career so far (4.67 ERA in 67 starts since being drafted). He’s only 20 years old, so he’s still got time to turn things around.

But, if recent history is any guide, 7 could still be a lucky number. Here are a few of the Red Soxnames to be taken 7th in recent years: Clayton Kershaw, Troy Tulowitski and Matt Harvey. So, where should the Red Sox focus be in the draft tonight? On picking the best player available. Why? The Red Sox have so many holes right now, it’s hard to pinpoint one area of need at the moment. Every facet of the game has struggled this year at different points, so it’s hard to say they should focus on offense or pitching over the other.

2 names being thrown around are 2 former Red Sox picks from the 2012 draft, shortstop Alex Bregman and pitcher Carson Fulmer. Both of these guys are projected top 10 picks this year, and both could be on the board for the Red Sox. Bregman is batting .312 with a .406 on base percentage and .534 slugging percentage at Louisiana State University, per Masslive.com. He also has 22 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs, and 37 steals in 47 tries this season. Once he gets to the Major League level, he could be a big impact player. So could Fulmer, though – he has a 13-2 record with a 1.82 ERA, 152 strikeouts and only 46 walks in 114.0 innings per MassLive.

Granted, neither  would make an immediate impact at the Major League level, but I would be happy with the Red Sox picking either guy. The Red Sox could pick an outfielder (Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benitendi could be available), which is the one area the Red Sox have some depth, at least when everyone is healthy. That has been a problem so far, with Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava both injured right now. Who knows what the Red Sox do, with so many areas to address, but it seems pretty hard for them to go wrong on paper. The draft kicks off tonight at 7 pm.

The Red Sox and Jon Lester: What’s the Deal?

Jon Lester

On the eve of Spring Training, Jon Lester, the Sox best starter and post-season hero, announced that he’d like to stay with the Red Sox when his current contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. Surprisingly and happily (for the Red Sox) he said he’d even take a hometown discount to stay.

So, how did the Sox react? “Refreshing,” they opined. That’s it?

It’s been almost a month since Lester spoke out publicly and it’s less than two weeks before Opening Day. Lester will be on the hill for the Red Sox by the way. And not a single word in the mainstream media on any contract negotiations. Why not? This is either being kept a secret on a scale of the Invasion of Normandy or the Sox are guilty of malfeasance by not trying to re-sign Lester for the long-term—and soon—particularly, after his stated desire to be a life-long Red Sox

The argument for keeping Lester on his pitching merits is almost ironclad. Consider: He’s just 30 years old and he’s never even had a hint of arm trouble. In 5 of the last 6 years (the hideous Bobby Valentine 2012 excluded), Lester has had a minimum of 15 wins and averaged 205 innings pitched. Lester is also a monstrously good (great!) big game pitcher. He has 6 post season victories for the Red Sox with an ERA of 2.11 in the playoffs and World Series. And he’s done this in the most difficult environment in all of baseball—Boston, where every game is the War of the Roses.

Who else can claim the same and what would the cost be?

I am not saying that Lester should get Clayton Kershaw money (7 years, $25 million) but when the comparatively mediocre Homer Bailey was recently resigned by the Reds at 6 years and $105M, alarm bells should have gone off on Yawkey Way. Not to mention the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka, who just signed a 7 year, $155M deal without having pitched a single inning in the big leagues. The simple fact of the matter is that starting pitching salaries always go up. Great ones, even just good ones, are worth their weight in gold.

After the 2014 season, the Tiger’s Max Scherzer and likely David Price of the Rays will both be on the Free Agent market. Their salaries will be astronomical. Should he make it to free agency, Lester will almost certainly make a ton of money if for no reason other than the “a rising tide raises all boats” theory. And it will likely be a lot more than he’d ask the Red Sox for right now.

It’s obvious and understandable that the Sox are very optimistic about the cadre of strong-armed starting pitching potential they’ve accumulated in the minor leagues. Webster. Renaudo. Barnes. Owens.

But asking them to step in and be major league pitchers from the get-go is like whistling past the graveyard, and certainly not Jon Lester-like effective.

From my perch, if Lester has said he’s ready and willing, the Red Sox should vote with their pocketbooks—before Opening Day.