Opening Day Starters – Some Random Trivia

Opening day in North America is tomorrow, April 4th. As with last week’s opener in Japan, doesn’t seem to be a lot of build-up by MLB. To wit, tomorrow’s debut of the Marlins’ new digs will share attention with 12 pre-season games, including at least one that will likely still be in progress when the first pitch is thrown in Miami.

One of the great rites of the start of the baseball season is the naming of opening day starting pitchers. This year’s roster includes several making their first opening day start, including Brandon McCarthyStephen Strasburg, Tommy Hanson, Justin Masterson, Johnny Cueto, John Danks, Colby Lewis, Wandy Rodriguez, Jake Arrieta and Bruce Chen.

Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia (highlighted below) will be moving up the list of pitchers with the most opening day starts, with Halladay moving into a tie for 10th place on that list. Eight of the other 12 pitchers in the top 10 and ties are HOFers with one of the other four a certainty to also make the Hall.

Rk Player #Matching   W L W-L% ERA GS CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP
1 Tom Seaver 16 Ind. Games 7 2 .778 3.13 16 2 0 0 100.2 96 35 8 20 81 1.15
2 Jack Morris 14 Ind. Games 8 6 .571 3.39 14 5 0 0 106.1 99 40 9 39 75 1.30
3 Randy Johnson 14 Ind. Games 7 2 .778 2.49 14 1 1 0 97.2 75 27 9 38 107 1.16
4 Steve Carlton 14 Ind. Games 3 9 .250 4.30 14 2 0 0 92.0 92 44 11 29 66 1.32
5 Robin Roberts 13 Ind. Games 5 7 .417 4.03 13 8 0 0 105.0 101 47 12 23 37 1.18
6 Roger Clemens 13 Ind. Games 6 3 .667 4.08 13 1 0 0 88.1 71 40 6 37 72 1.22
7 Bert Blyleven 12 Ind. Games 3 3 .500 3.21 12 2 0 0 87.0 73 31 7 26 57 1.14
8 Dennis Martinez 11 Ind. Games 2 5 .286 3.65 11 0 0 0 69.0 61 28 10 26 48 1.26
9 Fergie Jenkins 11 Ind. Games 3 4 .429 2.58 11 4 0 0 80.1 65 23 7 11 47 0.95
10 Warren Spahn 10 Ind. Games 4 4 .500 3.10 10 5 1 0 81.1 78 28 8 21 38 1.22
11 Juan Marichal 10 Ind. Games 6 2 .750 1.73 10 6 2 0 83.0 65 16 4 20 57 1.02
12 Bob Gibson 10 Ind. Games 2 2 .500 3.00 10 2 1 0 75.0 61 25 7 23 61 1.12
13 Don Sutton 9 Ind. Games 4 3 .571 2.63 9 3 1 0 65.0 47 19 9 20 44 1.03
14 Rick Sutcliffe 9 Ind. Games 5 3 .625 4.71 9 2 1 0 57.1 53 30 8 26 33 1.38
15 Nolan Ryan 9 Ind. Games 5 3 .625 3.84 9 2 0 0 58.2 44 25 5 28 59 1.23
16 Steve Rogers 9 Ind. Games 2 4 .333 3.43 9 2 2 0 57.2 54 22 2 13 37 1.16
17 Brad Radke 9 Ind. Games 4 2 .667 4.25 9 0 0 0 55.0 62 26 9 7 36 1.25
18 Gaylord Perry 9 Ind. Games 4 3 .571 3.82 9 3 0 0 68.1 61 29 7 13 44 1.08
19 Phil Niekro 9 Ind. Games 0 7 .000 7.31 9 1 0 0 44.1 53 36 9 16 27 1.56
20 Livan Hernandez 9 Ind. Games 4 4 .500 4.45 9 0 0 0 56.2 58 28 5 15 36 1.29
21 Roy Halladay 9 Ind. Games 4 3 .571 3.75 9 0 0 0 60.0 61 25 10 12 46 1.22
22 Mark Buehrle 9 Ind. Games 4 1 .800 3.68 9 0 0 0 51.1 46 21 6 14 20 1.17
23 CC Sabathia 8 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 5.40 8 0 0 0 43.1 47 26 4 19 35 1.52
24 Roy Oswalt 8 Ind. Games 2 4 .333 3.48 8 0 0 0 54.1 55 21 6 10 29 1.20
25 Pedro Martinez 8 Ind. Games 3 1 .750 2.76 8 0 0 0 49.0 37 15 3 12 64 1.00
26 Greg Maddux 8 Ind. Games 6 1 .857 2.10 8 0 0 0 55.2 48 13 3 11 44 1.06
27 Charlie Hough 8 Ind. Games 4 1 .800 3.08 8 2 1 0 52.2 40 18 5 23 28 1.20
28 Dwight Gooden 8 Ind. Games 6 1 .857 3.81 8 2 1 0 54.1 56 23 8 12 42 1.25
29 Tom Glavine 8 Ind. Games 5 3 .625 3.70 8 1 1 0 48.2 44 20 4 17 31 1.25
30 Kevin Appier 8 Ind. Games 1 5 .167 3.80 8 0 0 0 45.0 45 19 4 24 37 1.53
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/3/2012.

 Of these pitchers, Bert Blyleven (MIN, TEX, PIT, CLE, CAL) and Gaylord Perry (SFG, CLE, TEX, SDP, SEA) have made opening day starts with the most franchises. Livan Hernandez (FLA, SFG, MON-WSN, MIN) is right behind them. Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher with at least 3 opening day starts for each of 3 or more different franchises (CAL, HOU, TEX).

Jeremy Guthrie will start for the Rockies on Friday, missing his birthday by 2 days. These are the only times a pitcher has had an opening day start on his birthday.

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR GSc ERA WPA RE24 aLI
1 Ryan Drese 2005-04-05 TEX LAA L 2-3 GS-7 ,L 7.0 6 3 3 1 0 1 52 3.86 -0.015 0.625 .824
2 Jon Lieber 2001-04-02 CHC MON L 4-5 GS-7 7.0 6 4 3 1 6 1 56 3.86 -0.048 -0.508 .834
3 Bert Blyleven 1979-04-06 PIT MON L 2-3 GS-7 7.0 5 2 2 2 3 1 60 2.57 0.103 1.453 1.029
4 Catfish Hunter 1976-04-08 NYY MIL L 0-5 GS-7 ,L 7.0 7 5 5 3 2 0 42 6.43 -0.314 -1.961 .541
5 Bert Blyleven 1973-04-06 MIN OAK W 8-3 CG 9 ,W 9.0 10 3 2 2 7 0 62 2.00 0.135 1.087 .701
6 Marty Pattin 1971-04-06 MIL MIN W 7-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 9 2 2 3 5 0 63 2.00 0.291 2.006 .761
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/3/2012.

 Bruce Chen joins a group of 52 other pitchers making their first opening day start at the age of 34 or older. Of those 52, only these 16 have had a second opening day start.

Rk Player #Matching   W L W-L% ERA GS CG SHO SV IP H ER HR BB SO WHIP
1 Charlie Hough 8 Ind. Games 4 1 .800 3.08 8 2 1 0 52.2 40 18 5 23 28 1.20
2 Jamie Moyer 4 Ind. Games 1 2 .333 4.07 4 0 0 0 24.1 28 11 4 5 11 1.36
3 Jerry Koosman 4 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 4.71 4 1 0 0 28.2 31 15 3 7 16 1.33
4 David Wells 3 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 4.41 3 0 0 0 16.1 19 8 2 3 12 1.35
5 Rip Sewell 3 Ind. Games 3 0 1.000 0.00 3 3 3 0 27.0 16 0 0 3 6 0.70
6 Ray Kremer 3 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 4.58 3 1 0 0 17.2 27 9 1 0 5 1.53
7 Woody Williams 2 Ind. Games 0 1 .000 9.00 2 0 0 0 9.0 15 9 3 6 5 2.33
8 Virgil Trucks 2 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 3.00 2 1 1 0 15.0 11 5 2 4 11 1.00
9 Jack Quinn 2 Ind. Games 0 2 .000 4.20 2 1 0 0 15.0 17 7 0 2 4 1.27
10 Fritz Ostermueller 2 Ind. Games 0 0   10.29 2 0 0 0 7.0 9 8 1 4 4 1.86
11 Sal Maglie 2 Ind. Games 2 0 1.000 2.35 2 1 0 0 15.1 11 4 2 6 13 1.11
12 Sam Jones 2 Ind. Games 1 0 1.000 3.86 2 1 0 0 14.0 10 6 1 1 7 0.79
13 Mark Gardner 2 Ind. Games 0 0   4.35 2 0 0 0 10.1 14 5 2 3 10 1.65
14 Ken Forsch 2 Ind. Games 1 0 1.000 1.56 2 1 0 0 17.1 12 3 1 1 12 0.75
15 Spud Chandler 2 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 2.35 2 1 1 0 15.1 13 4 0 2 10 0.98
16 Babe Adams 2 Ind. Games 1 1 .500 4.32 2 0 0 0 16.2 19 8 0 1 5 1.20
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/3/2012.

Among this year’s opening day starters, only Roy Halladay has previously had a hit in an opening day game. Here are the opening day pitchers who have helped their own cause most often, showing the games in which they got a hit.

Rk Player #Matching   PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH
1 Juan Marichal 6 Ind. Games 19 16 8 2 0 0 3 1 3 .500 .529 .625 1.154 2
2 Livan Hernandez 5 Ind. Games 14 13 6 0 0 0 2 0 1 .462 .462 .462 .923 1
3 Dwight Gooden 5 Ind. Games 16 15 5 0 0 0 2 0 5 .333 .333 .333 .667 1
4 Tom Glavine 5 Ind. Games 13 12 7 1 0 0 1 0 1 .583 .583 .667 1.250 1
5 Wes Ferrell 5 Ind. Games 22 21 8 1 0 0 6 1 2 .381 .409 .429 .838 0
6 Pete Alexander 5 Ind. Games 15 14 8 2 1 1 5 1 1 .571 .600 1.071 1.671 0
7 Lon Warneke 4 Ind. Games 16 15 4 0 0 0 3 0 1 .267 .267 .267 .533 1
8 Bob Lemon 4 Ind. Games 12 12 4 0 0 1 1 0 2 .333 .333 .583 .917 0
9 Sad Sam Jones 4 Ind. Games 13 9 6 2 1 0 2 3 1 .667 .769 1.111 1.880 0
10 Don Drysdale 4 Ind. Games 13 11 4 0 1 2 3 2 4 .364 .462 1.091 1.552 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/3/2012.

Finally, none of this year’s opening day starters are rookies. In fact, it has been a very long time since any pitcher made his career debut as an opening day starter. These are the only ones to do it.

Rk Gcar Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR GSc ERA
1 1 Al Gerheauser 1943-04-24 PHI BRO L 4-11  L 4.0 7 5 5 3 2 0 27 11.25
2 1 Jim Bagby 1938-04-18 BOS NYY W 8-4  W 6.0 5 4 3 6 5 0 47 4.50
3 1 Lefty Grove 1925-04-14 PHA BOS W 9-8   3.2 6 5 4 4 0 0 27 9.82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/3/2012

For Gerheauser, the last to do this, it would be his only opening day start.

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24 Comments on "Opening Day Starters – Some Random Trivia"

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birtelcom
Editor
I believe your lists are limited to 1918 and after (the Play Index game search years). For example, I believe there is some SABR research showing that Walter Johnson started 14 Opening Day games if you include pre-1918 years, and there are probably others as well (Christy Mathewson, Cy Young?). But that doesn’t mean your lists are any less interesting. The birthday list, the old-guy list, the hitting pitchers list — all excellent. Here’s another for the gang. 35 guys have accomplished something since 1918, including Orlando Cepeda, Ken Boyer, Wally Moon, Will Clark, Earl Averill, Chuck Tanner, Joe Charboneau… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Those guys Cepeda, et al.) made their ML debut on an opening day and homered.

birtelcom
Editor

Indeed.

John Autin
Editor
I saw Jordan Schafer on that list, saw that he had just 4 career HRs so far, and figured that must be the lowest of the group. Nope. On Opening Day 1936, Eddie Morgan of the Cardinals made his ML debut with a pinch-hit 2-run HR off Lon Warneke. He never hit another, in a career that lasted just 39 games. And two players who debuted in 1945 finished with 3 HRs – Ben Steiner and Joe Mack. Steiner, by the way, was the only one in the searchable era to add a stolen base along with a HR in… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Eddie Morgan was the first player to debut with a pinch-hit HR.

John Autin
Editor

Continuing the tangent … The only player known to have debuted with a HR on his birthday was Morrie Aderholt. (Not on Opening Day, though.) It was the same game as Early Wynn’s debut – the first of his 244 losses.

Richard Chester
Guest

More opening day starts (per SABR Baseball List & Record Book):

Walter Johnson 14
Cy Young 14
Pete Alexander 12
George Mullin 10

Ed
Guest

Wow, Phil Niekro was pretty awful on opening day.

Hartvig
Guest

I’m guessing old Phil’s knuckleball wasn’t knuckling yet for some reason. maybe too much adrenaline flowing and he was over-throwing.

But Charlie Hough acquitted himself quite well on opening day.

Looks to me like Juan Marichal is the guy you want going for you to start the season.

He not only had the lowest ERA among the leaders for most starts he also managed to hit at a nifty 0.500 pace.

Doug
Guest

Just for clarity, the numbers shown on the Hitting list are what each pitcher did in the Opening Daya games in which he had a hit (that’s what the # Matching refers to).

Nevertheless, 6 out of 10 games getting a hit is not too shabby. And, it’s 5 out of 9 for Livan.

ATarwerdi96
Guest

Wait, won’t Josh Johnson be making the opening day start for the Marlins, not Mark Buehrle? Or are you only counting Thursday’s games?

bstar
Guest

I was completely unaware there’s a game tomorrow. Does anyone know if it’s nationally televised? Knowing Selig’s inability to promote Opening Day correctly, I’m guessing not.

JDV
Guest

Yes…ESPN…7pm EDT…unlike MLB’s complete butchering of the A’s-Mariners series. Give me back my Monday opening day.

bstar
Guest

Amen to that. And start it at 11 central, in Cincinnati like they used to. Thanks for the info, JDV.

topper009
Guest

I think Kyle Lohse is starting for the redbirds against the fish tomorrow night, not Jamie Garcia.

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