Recommendations for Every Teams Opening Day Starter

What Every Opening Day Starter should Throw: 

Baseball is finally back! Tonight the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees and Nationals will usher in the first of games of the 2020 MLB regular season. Being named the opening day starter is always a nerve-racking experience, but 2020 will come with a new set of challenges. Normally, fans in the stands are loud, proud and hopeful for the upcoming season. In 2020, fans will be hopeful not only to make the playoffs, but hopeful that the pandemic ends or does not impact the 60 game sprint.  

Onto the pitches...

I took the last 2 years worth of regular season baseball, broke it down pitch by pitch for every single pitcher in the game. Then, I aggregated each pitchers result by pitch: the number of hits allowed, home runs allowed, times the pitcher allowed a baserunner, number of walks, strikeouts...etc. Basically every single result aggregated up by each pitch type in every possible scenario: home, road, against RH, LH, the first pitch of the bat, any pitch of the at bat, and any conditional. For example, say you're interested in what pitch Max Scherzer should throw against a RH hitter, on the road, after he just threw a slider? Now you know!

Over the past 2 years, Scherzer has been in this exact situation 356 times. Here is the breakdown of pitches he's thrown:
  • Changeup: 34 pitches
  • Cutter: 6 pitches
  • Four Seam: 199 pitches
  • Slider: 117 pitches
Far and away, his best pitch to throw (results wise) in this situation is the changeup. Throwing the changeup in this situation has the highest strikeout rate, lowest on base percentage, and he has not given up a hit (since 2018) when following the slider with a changeup on the road against a RH. 

Full breakdown below:

Interestingly enough, the changeup is not the pitch he primarily throws. For some reason, he only throws the changeup about 10% of the time and instead relies on his fastball and slider. 

The tool is linked here.

Onto the recommendations:

I've gone through every team, identified the opening day starter and found the optimal pitch for them to throw to minimize opponents on base rate on the first pitch. For the best optimization, the tool should also consider the batter type (Left or Right), but not every team has a clear cut lead off man. 

It's really interesting to go through the tool and understand that most pitchers really throw 2, maybe 3 pitches most of the time. Or, they throw 2 pitches to RH but throw a completely different 2 pitches to LH. 

TeamStarting PitcherHome/RoadPitch Recommendation (Combined)Against RHAgainst LH
Arizona DiamondbacksMadison BumgarnerRoadChangeupChangeupCurveball
Atlanta BravesMike SorokaRoadFour SeamFour SeamChangeup
Baltimore OriolesTommy MiloneRoadCurveballCurveballSlider
Boston Red SoxNathan EovaldiHomeSplitterSliderSplitter
Chicago CubsKyle HendricksHomeChangeupFour SeamChangeup
Chicago White SoxLucas GiolitoHomeChangeupFour SeamCurveball
Cincinnati RedsSonny GrayHomeSliderSliderChangeup
Cleveland IndiansShane BieberHomeSliderKnuckle CurveSlider
Colorado RockiesGerman MarquezRoadKnuckle CurveKnuckle CurveChangeup
Detroit TigersMatthew BoydRoadCurveballSliderCurveball
Houston AstrosJustin VerlanderHomeChangeupChangeupChangeup
Kansas City RoyalsDanny DuffyRoadCurveballCurveballSlider
Los Angeles AngelsAndrew HeaneyRoadCurveballSinkerCurveball
Los Angeles DodgersClayton KershawHomeCurveballCurveballCurveball
Miami MarlinsSandy AlcantaraRoadCurveballChangeupCurveball
Milwaukee BrewersBrandon WoodruffRoadCurveballTwo SeamCurveball
Minnesota TwinsJose BerriosRoadCurveballChangeupCurveball
New York MetsJacob deGromHomeChangeupFour SeamTwo Seam
New York YankeesGerrit ColeRoadChangeupSliderChangeup
Oakland A'sFrankie MontasHomeSliderSliderSinker
Philadelphia PhilliesAaron NolaHomeFour SeamChangeupFour Seam
Pittsburgh PiratesJoe MusgroveRoadCurveballCurveballChangeup
San Diego PadresChris PaddackHomeCurveballCurveballFour Seam
San Fransico GiantsJohnny CuetoRoadSliderChangeupSlider
Seattle MarinersMarco GonzalesRoadFour SeamFour SeamFour Seam
St. Louis CardinalsJack FlahertyHomeKnuckle CurveKnuckle CurveKnuckle Curve
Tampa Bay RaysCharlie MortonHomeSinkerCutterSinker
Texas RangersLance LynnHomeCurveballCurveballCurveball
Toronto Blue JaysHyun-Jin RyuRoadCurveballCurveballCurveball
Washington NationalsMax ScherzerHomeSliderSliderSlider


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