Opening Day is finally here! The Cincinnati Reds look to start the 2015 season on a positive note against the Pittsburgh Pirates. On the last day of the 2014 season, Johnny Cueto took the mound at Great American Ballpark and led the Reds to a 4-1 victory over the Pirates. Hopefully, Cueto and the Reds repeat today, and we begin 2015 with game-winning fireworks!
The Pirates have made the playoffs as a wild card team in each of the past two seasons after a 20 year absence from postseason play. I’ve read a lot of people predicting that Pittsburgh will make the playoffs again as a wild card or challenging for the division title. As Grant Freking outlined in last week’s Pirates preview, they have made more additions than subtractions to last season’s 88-win team.
That theoretically puts Cincinnati in the underdog role. However, the Reds beat Pittsburgh in head-to-head play last year 12-7 including winning six of nine games at Great American Ballpark. Among NL clubs, only the Reds, Brewers, Cardinals and Nationals had winning records against the Pirates.
The following stats are 2014 actuals except for the 2015 FIP projection (ZiPS):
|PITCHER||2015 FIP||2014 FIP||HR/9||BB%||K%|
Johnny Cueto pitched exceptionally against the Pirates last year, going 5-0 in six starts with a 1.76 ERA, and a 0.935 WHIP. He faced 180 batters over 46 innings, walking just 10 (5.6%) and striking out 38 (21.1%).
Francisco Liriano was great for the Pirates for the 2nd consecutive season but didn’t fare so well against Cincinnati. He was 0-2 in five starts last year, posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. In 30 innings, he pitched to 136 Reds, walking 19 (14%) and striking out 25 (18.4%).
Grant also wrote about the Pirates 2015 pitching staff in detail last week. The Pirates begin the year with two of their best relievers (Melancon and Watson) plus acquired lefty Antonio Bastardo for the back end of their bullpen. There are a lot of question marks bridging the middle innings, and overall, the bullpen is probably the weakest part of this Pirates team.
The Pirates top 4 offense is almost back in its entirety, except 5 WAR catcher Russell Martin. Martin’s loss is something to watch this season as he was a major contributor to last year’s squad both offensively and defensively.
- Josh Harrison (R) 3B
- Gregory Polanco (L) RF
- Andrew McCutchen (R) CF
- Neil Walker (S) 2B
- Starling Marte (R) LF
- Pedro Alvarez (L) 1B
- Francisco Cervelli (R) C
- Jordy Mercer (R) SS
- Francisco Liriano (L) P
The Reds are going with the lineup Bryan Price showed in the last two exhibition games.
- Billy Hamilton (S) CF
- Joey Votto (L) 1B
- Todd Frazier (R) 3B
- Devin Mesoraco (R) C
- Marlon Byrd (R) LF
- Jay Bruce (L) RF
- Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
- Zack Cozart (R) SS
- Johnny Cueto (R) P
I’m certainly ready for some baseball, and I’m looking forward to the Reds putting 2014 in their rearview mirror. If you are heading down to the ballpark, you might want to take your umbrella. They should be able to get the game in, but I can’t promise that you’ll be dry when you walk back to your car. The 2015 season starts with 22 games against NL Central foes. It’s expected to be a tight division race, and all five clubs have some reason to be optimistic.