Yesterday was the first day of regular season baseball on the docket, but today is what I consider the real opening day. A whole card of action is on the table, from the early afternoon to the late night hours. The Pirates and Blue Jays were able to pick up where they left off last season, while the Royals currently hold a 4-0 lead in the top of the 8th inning in a World Series rematch. In other words, it’s like this isn’t even a brand new season. However, I think as this week progresses, there will be some newcomers that might catch your attention. Is it late to say that the Houston Astros are going to be a big threat this season? Look out for them, and also the Arizona Diamondbacks could cause some noise in the National League.
The D-Backs haven’t been in this position since perhaps 2001, a year in which they captured the World Series. A word of caution, though. Teams with immense pressure on their backs usually do not live up to their full billing. The Diamondbacks are going to be a real good team, but am I going to get sucked into the hype of them going to the World Series? No, I am not.
The Cubs were in the same spot last season. They had all of the hype and delivered on it, partially. You want me to be impressed Diamondbacks? Go to the World Series and win it. You’re not paying Zack Greinke to come in and bring the team to a competitive level in the regular season. The Cubs had the talent to do it a year ago, but I said throughout the regular season, let them get their feet wet this season and watch what they have next year. Well, next year is now, and the pressure is going to be on the Cubs to get to the World Series. Doing well in the regular season is not good enough now. And with the Cubs, I could see them making it all the way. Their journey begins today, with interleague play against the LA Angels.
Chicago Cubs vs. L.A. Angels
Jake Arrieta (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (0-0, 0.00)
The Cubs received a significant boost thanks to the surprise year of Jake Arrieta. There are always a couple of unheard pitchers every year who come out and play lights out baseball. Arrieta was without a doubt the winner in that case. The Cubs paid Jon Lester the big dollars, while Arrieta stole the spotlight. He threw for a blistering 1.77 ERA, along with a record of 22-6. It can feel easy to pitch like that for one season, but the best in the game do it on a yearly basis. Arrieta will have the chore of matching his output from 2015.
The Cubs are favorites to win the World Series with good reason and Arrieta is part of that equation. The Cubbies do have a wealth of talent in the lineup as well, though. Anthony Rizzo blossomed into a fan favorite, bolstering the Cubs with 31 home runs and a batting average of .278. He batted .333 in the spring. I expect his numbers to continue to improve. The Cubs added Jason Heyward in the offseason as a measure to improve their offense.
The Cubs have all of the expectations, while on the other side, the Angels have all of the brand names. But despite Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in the lineup, the Angels were unable to reach the postseason. The Pujols signing is viewed as one of the worst in professional sports. In any event, the Angels could add all of the bats in the world, I don’t feel that the pitching is up to par with other perennial contenders. Garrett Richards gets the nod tonight as the opening day starter for the Angels. Richards would be a great number 3 option in a rotation, but is he going to be the guy to lead the Angels on the mound? Their pitching is going to me a major liability this season.
Richards posted an ERA of 3.65 last season and had to battle through some injuries. I have to say, you’re not going to find Arrieta below -150 often this season, against any team. I rode Arrieta plenty last season and I’m going to jump right back on the train early in the season in his first start. The Cubs should be able to get their World Series campaign started off the right way in LA.
PICK: CUBS TO WIN -137