We have finally made it to Opening Day, everyone! Today at 3:10 pm CT the St. Louis Cardinals will open their 2023 season with a pitch from Miles Mikolas to Willson Contreras and the sky will open, clouds will part, birds with sing, and the people will rejoice. Baseball is back! Not a bad way to spend a beautiful spring day in St. Louis, Missouri.
The starters for the Cardinals are scheduled to be Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Montgomery. Opposing them from Toronto will likely be Alek Manoah , Kevin Gausman, and Chris Bassitt. This is a very strong trio of righties with Manoah and Gausman being recipients of Cy Young votes in 2022 and Bassitt coming off one of the best seasons of his career.
Manoah and Gausman have somewhat similar repertoires. Both primarily throw a 4-seam fastball and offer a slider as a secondary pitch. A big difference though is that Guasman throws a spit finger more often than his slider and for good reason — it is consistently one of his best pitches. In 2022 it was valued at a -14 run value and in 2021 it was a whopping -23, per Baseball Savant. In fact in 2021 it was tied for the second most valuable pitch in the league per run value.
Bassitt is kind of the opposite in his pitching arsenal. Last season he primarily threw a sinker and then splits the rest of his pitches between a cutter, curveball, and 4-seamer. According to Baseball Savant he also occasionally, but not often, threw a slider, a changeup, and something called a sweeper? It is apparently a slider with extra horizontal movement.
Chris Bassitt's Kitchen Sink:— Chris Black (@DownToBlack) March 27, 2023
Top, from left to right (MPH):
Sinker (91), 4-Seam (90), Cutter (87), Change (83)
Bottom, from left to right (MPH):
Split (81), Slider (78), Sweeper (72), Curve (69) pic.twitter.com/kjcxZvNnpH
In 2022 the Blue Jays offense was the second best in the league by wRC+ with 117. They had eight regular players with a wRC+ over 100. Their top qualified hitter in 2022 was George Springer. His 2023 ZiPS projections are more of the same with a projected 138 wRC+ and 4.9 fWAR.
The Blue Jays also had something in 2022 I consider to be pretty rare in that they had three strong catchers to choose from. One of those catchers was traded away to the Arizona Diamondbacks this offseason in exchange for Daulton Varsho. Varsho is a talented defender in the outfield. In 2022 he amassed 19 defensive runs saved in the outfield and also looks to have played over 175 innings at catcher as well.
Going off the previous season, the Cardinals and Blue Jays match up to be two fairly evenly matched teams in this series. Both were top five offenses in 2022 and have a deep lineups. The Cardinals had a better defense, but the Blue Jays defense should improve with the addition of Varsho. The pitching is closer than you might think, though the Blue Jays seem to have a bit more depth with the top end of the rotation. All and all, it looks to be a fun series with some beautiful weather in St. Louis. Baseball is back, friends!
Thursday, March 30 at 3:10 pm CT: Miles Mikolas vs. Alek Manoah
Saturday, April 1 at 1:15 pm CT: Jack Flaherty vs. Kevin Gausman
Sunday, April 2 at 1:15 pm CT: Jordan Montgomery vs. Chris Bassitt