Justin Verlander, Luke Hochevar Justin Verlander, Luke Hochevar

Central Processing: 2011 AL Central Opening Day Starts


Justin Verlander, Luke Hochevar, Mark Buehrle, Fausto Carmona and Carl Pavano. Those were this year’s Opening Day starters representing AL Central. Each hoped to get their respective team off to a 1-0 start on the back of some excellent pitching.

Do you remember who succeeded and who failed? To be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I vividly remember the Royals opener last Thursday because I was there and shivered through most of it. I also remember the Twins opener, and if I didn’t you’d all have grounds to jettison me from this site. But the other 3 teams? Not so much.

Well, one of the best ways for me to retain something is to write about it so here we go with a recap of the AL Central’s 20111 Opening Day starters. Be forewarned. There are no masterpieces in these 5 performances.

Game Score: 58 (The “Best” of the Pack)

If you had the chance to pick which of the division’s 5 starters turned in the best Opening Day start, the smart money would have been on Justin Verlander. Well they call it smart money for a reason and the division’s best pitcher lived up to the billing. At least he did in relation to his peers.

You see, being the best doesn’t really say a whole lot in this case. Technically Verlander gave the Tigers a quality start, but his final line hardly smacks of quality. It took 114 pitches to get through 6.0 IP allowing 3 H, 3 ER and 4 BB while striking out 8.

Justin will have plenty of better days this season, but on March 31st, he wasn’t good enough to beat the Yankees. Detroit lost 6-3.

Game Score: 42 (Next Time Use the Force)

5.2 innings pitched, 9 hits, 4 runs (3 of them earned), 2 home runs, 0 walks, 5 strike outs and 102 pitches thrown

Luke Hochevar’s final stat line doesn’t look pretty, but he actually didn’t pitch all that badly. The Royals defense made 3 errors in the game and dropped a pop-up in foul territory that wasn’t called an error but was definitely a defensive misplay at best. Luke is used to such things though. Entering this season, he had a 5.61 ERA in 399.1 innings pitched but sported a far more palatable 4.53 FIP.

Regardless of the circumstances, he didn’t get the job done and the Royals lost to the Angels 4-2.

Game Score: 39 (It’s Not 2010 Anymore)

One season ago, Mark Buehrle was on the mound for Opening Day against the Cleveland Indians. He went on to throw a 7.0 inning, 3-hit shutout at home and the White Sox came away with a 6-0 victory.

What a difference a year makes.

Cleveland was again their opponent for the opening series this season. Though the Sox wound up winning 15-10, the road wasn’t so smooth for Buehrle this time around. He managed to go 6.0 innings – thanks to a massive lead – but gave up 8 hits and 4 runs while walking 1. He only threw 80 pitches and failed to strike out a single batter.

Game Score: 21 (Tried to Be the Worst … and Failed)

Maybe the Twins should have let Francisco stride to the mound on Opening Day. Maybe things would have been different. Then again, maybe not. Pavano threw just 64 pitches, but that was more than enough for Toronto to take advantage. In 4.0 innings Pavano gave up 7 hits, 8 runs (7 earned), 2 walks and 3 home runs while whiffing 3.

The end result was a 13-3 pounding at the hands of the Jays. If you really want to relive the events, you can check out Josh’s game recap by clicking here.

Fortunately for Carl, another AL Central starter took the cake for pitching futility.

Game Score: 1 (When Keeping it Real Goes Terribly Wrong)

Have you ever witnessed a starter turn in a Game Score of 1 in person or on television? Well, if you watched Cleveland Indians righty Fausto Carmona pee down his leg against the Chicago White Sox on April 1st, then you can proudly answer yes.

3.0 innings pitched, 11 hits allowed – 2 of which went over the fence, 10 earned runs and 88 pitches thrown to a total of 21 batters. How’s that for ugly? He only walked 1 batter, but given the results he got while throwing 59 strikes, maybe working outside of the zone would have been more effective. That boys and girls is how you get an ERA of 30.00 and an ERA+ of 16. It’s also a good way for your team to be on the wrong end of a 15-10 score.

Carmona is signed through this year and will make $6.1 million. Then the Indians get to decide on whether to keep him around in each of the next 3 seasons thanks to the team options on his contract for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. Those options will cost the team $7 million, $9 million and $12 million respectively. He also gets bonuses in each of those seasons if he finishes in the top-5 of Cy Young Award voting, but given that he’s struggled to be remotely close to league average for 5 of his 6 major league seasons I think they’re safe to spend that money elsewhere.

Now one start isn’t going to cause the team to turn down any of those options, but the Fausto version 2007 isn’t coming back anytime soon. Outside of his mythic and improbable 6.6 WAR season that year he’s been worth just 0.2 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) and that’s not worth nearly what they are on the hook for if they pick up any of those options.