Thursday, Apr 5, 2012, 4:05 PM EDT
Great American Ball Park
TV: ESPN2, FSO-HD, FSFL-HD; RADIO: WLW, WAXY, WAQI;
Chance of showers. Game time temperature around 60.
There's a lot of novelty to go along with the time-worn tradition of Opening Day. This year, to name a few things: new Opening Day starter, newly aggressive organizational strategy, new-look Marlins (probably the definition of novelty). Most importantly, new season.
It's pointless to try and manage expectations in April. That defeats the purpose and kills the whole buzz of Spring's march to Opening Day. This team and its management is hungry to prove that 2010 was not a tease. That doesn't mean anything they did this offseason or will do this season will amount to a playoff team. But it shouldn't hurt.
Everything says Johnny Cueto should be at least a run worse in ERA last year. That's what his peripheral stats scream, anyway. Still, I'm encouraged most of all by Cueto's constant evolution as a pitcher. He exploded onto the scene in his first major league start, so it's easy to think some of his early struggles were a setback. That misses the through-line of his nearly-constant progress in his four years as a major league starter. Almost statistic you pick out - ERA+, H/9, BB/9 - has trended in the right direction every year.
His K/9 has dropped every season too, which feeds into his unfavorably peripherals. But maybe this is Cueto 2.0. A different, but more effective, groundball pitcher. He'll face a pitcher in Mark Buehrle who's made a very good living at 5 strikeouts per nine innings or less and "should be" worse than he is.
Following baseball, at least as any kind of partisan fan, causes you to trust some numbers and block out others. These 162 games will decide which ones were your true friends.
Lineups after the jump.