The worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s

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Opening Day is set to kick off in just a few minutes when the Houston Astros take on the Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ Matt Harrison opposes the Astros’ Bud Norris. Though Norris isn’t terrible, he isn’t exactly the type of starter you envision kicking off your team’s season on Opening Day.

With that said, let’s take a quick look back at some of the worst Opening Day starts of the 2000’s.

April 1, 2011: Roberto Hernandez (Indians) vs. White Sox

Hernandez, then known as Fausto Carmona, was hit right from the start. He allowed two runs in the first, four in the third, and was charged for four more in the fourth inning as the Sox put up an eight-spot. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin homered in the third, but the rest of the damage was done by singles and doubles.

Hernandez’s final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

April 5, 2010: Carlos Zambrano (Cubs) vs. Braves

The Cubs staked Zambrano to a three-run lead in the first inning, but he gave it back and then some in the bottom half of the inning. On a walk, four singles, and a three-run home run by Jason Heyward, the Braves scored six runs. In the second, Zambrano hit Martin Prado, then Chipper Jones grounded out but Prado ended up coming all the way around to score on a Zambrano throwing error, and Brian McCann homered before the right-hander was finally removed from the game.

Zambrano’s final line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

April 2, 2007: Jose Contreras (White Sox) vs. Indians

Grady Sizemore led the game off with a home run, then three more Indians reached base without making an out — all singles. Josh Barfield landed a crushing blow with two outs, hitting a two-run triple to right field that brought the Indians’ lead to 5-0. Contreras came out for the second inning, but walked Sizemore, then surrendered a double to Trot Nixon to put runners on second and third with no outs. Travis Hafner hit a grounder to shortstop Juan Uribe, but he made an errant throw to first base, allowing Sizemore and Nixon to score, chasing Contreras in the process.

Contreras’s final line: 1 IP, 7 H, 8 R (7 ER), 1 BB, 1 K

April 3, 2006: Jon Lieber (Phillies) vs. Cardinals

Lieber was on the hook for eight runs in his start, which is amazing considering he exited the third inning having allowed only two runs on a Jim Edmonds RBI double in the first and an Albert Pujols solo home run in the third. The eventual World Series champions strung together a bunch of hits against Lieber in the fourth: five singles and a triple. Lieber left with his team down 5-0 with one out and the bases loaded. Julio Santana came in relief but he only poured more gasoline on the fire. Pujols hit a sacrifice fly, Edmonds was walked to re-load the bases, and Scott Rolen hit a grand slam to put his team up 10-0.

Lieber’s final line: 3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

April 4, 2005: Javier Vazquez (Diamondbacks) vs. Cubs

The first inning wasn’t that bad for Vazquez. He surrendered four hits, leading to two runs, but they were all singles. The Cubs started crushing everything Vazquez threw in the second. He got Michael Barrett to pop out to lead off the inning, but pitcher Carlos Zambrano reached base on a double, which was then followed up by three consecutive singles and an Aramis Ramirez double, putting the Cubs up 6-0. Jeremy Burnitz struck out, but Derrek Lee extended the inning with a double to left, driving in the Cubs’ seventh run, pushing Vazquez out of the game.

Vazquez’s final line: 1.2 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.