It’s been 173 days since Buster Posey hit that grand slam (not that I’ve actually counted).

But with Johnny Cueto’s first pitch today, we’ll officially and finally turn the page to 2013.

Manager Mike Scoscia, the longest tenured manager in baseball, leads the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim into Great American Ball Park for a three-game opening series against your Cincinnati Reds of Cincinnati. 2012 was a tale of two seasons for the Angels. They were 6-14 before calling Mike Trout up from AAA and 83-59 after. The Angels ultimately couldn’t overcome their slow start and missed the playoffs. But they have retooled and their 2013 squad stands second in the MLB Power Rankings.

In December 2011, the Angels signed a television contract worth at least $3 billion over 20 years. They quickly capitalized by reaching blockbuster agreements with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson for $331.5 million. Not content, this off-season they signed Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 million deal, and a few other free agents. The Angels’ payroll will remain at approximately $150 million this year. By comparison, the Reds’ payroll has jumped from $82 million to $105 million in the past year.

You might be wondering why the Reds are opening against an American League team. It’s because MLB moved the Houston AAstros to the AL to equalize the two leagues and the six divisions. There are now 15 teams in each league and 5 teams in each division. With an odd number of teams in each league, that means on any given day, there will be one interleague series. The Reds and Angels happen to be the Opening Day example of that.


  1. Mike Trout CF – (21, R) – .326/.399/.564, 30 HR, 49 SB
  2. Erick Aybar SS – (29, S) – .290/.324/.416, 8 HR, 20 SB
  3. Albert Pujols 1B – (33, R) – .285/.343/.516, 30 HR, 8 SB
  4. Josh Hamilton RF – (31, L) – .285/.354/.577, 43 HR, 7 SB
  5. Mark Trumbo LF – (27, R) – .268/.317/.491, 32 HR, 4 SB
  6. Howie Kendrick 2B – (29, R) – .287/.325/.400, 8 HR, 14 SB
  7. Alberto Callaspo 3B – (29, S) – .252/.331/.361, 10 HR, 4 SB
  8. Chris Ianetta C – (29, R) – .240/.332/.398, 9 HR, 1 SB

It’s hard to believe that Mike Trout accumulated those home runs and stolen bases in just five months. His April 28 promotion transformed the Angels and Trout finished second in the AL MVP voting. Trout’s WAR of 10.0 dwarfed the 6.8 of JoeyMVP in 2010. You can dicker about the accuracy of WAR, but you get the point.

It’s tempting to look at Albert Pujols‘ stats and conclude that he’s declined. But consider that he didn’t hit his first home run until May 6. After that point he hit .305/.365/.569. Maybe his slow start can be explained by changing teams, changing leagues or just the initial pressures created by his enormous new contract.

Josh Hamilton finds himself playing for a new team this spring, leaving Texas after 5 seasons. His defense, power and on-base-percentage could make the Angels a much stronger team. Yet, he was maddeningly inconsistent last year, with prolonged slumps. His MVP-caliber April and May concealed some troubling signs at the plate the rest of the year. Hamilton’s strike-out rate spiked from 17% in 2011 to over 25% in 2012. Hamilton still hasn’t posted 500 AB in back-to-back seasons. Off-field problems, etc.


The Angels lost three-fifths of their starting rotation, with Zack Grienke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana leaving. To replace them, the Angels traded for Tommy Hanson from the Braves, acquired Jason Vargas from the Mariners and signed Joe Blanton as a free agent.

Jered Weaver’s (3) Twenty wins and a 2.81 ERA are traditional stats that you would expect from an ace. But his underlying numbers tell a more nuanced story. Weaver’s strikeout rate has declined rapidly the past two seasons and in 2012 he benefitted from an unusually favorable BABIP of .241. His 2012 FIP of 3.75 is a better indication of what his ERA may be this year.

C.J. Wilson’s (32) first season under his new contract ($77.5 million/5 years) was a disappointment. His record was 13-10 and ERA was 3.83. His FIP of 4.04 shows that the elevated ERA was no fluke. Wilson is coming off surgery over the winter to remove bone spurs from his shoulder.

Joe Blanton (32) was signed by the Angels as a free agent ($15 million/2 years) after pitching for Oakland, Philadelphia and a few months in 2012 for the Dodgers. He’s been an average end-of-the-rotation starter for a few years.


Ryan Madson was signed as a free agent ($3.5 million/1 year) to become the Angels’ closer. In 2012, Madson’s bloody and torn right elbow joint at the end of spring training triggered a series of events that in part, landed Aroldis Chapman in the closer’s role. Madson’s progress back from Tommy John surgery has been slow and he is not expected to pitch for the Angels until late April. In his place, Ernesto Frieri (RH, 27) will close as he did for the first time in 2012. Last season, Frieri saved a pretty standard 23 games out of 26 opportunities. Sean Burnett (LH, 30) was signed as a free agent. Last year for the Washington Harpers, he was one of the top left-handed set-up pitchers in baseball. He and Scott Downs will come in to face Choo, Votto and Bruce in big spots.

Update: If you want some local color, check out this streaming video of the parade. The parade starts at Findlay Market and heads south. It’s a great Cincinnati tradition. George Foster is the honorary leader this year, and Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos are taking part.


26 Responses

  1. Big Ed

    I’ll be there for the first two games. It’s going to feel like it’s 85 degrees today. I saw the Angels in spring training. Trout is as strong as an ox; Pujols was favored his knee while running.

    • Richard Fitch

      @seat101: Please have one of those adult beverages for me, will ya? Oh, and there’s Skyline stand close to 519 if my memory serves me correctly. Have one of those, too.

      And bring home a win, people.

  2. Lost a Wager Concerning a Certain Cuban LHP to Redsfanman

    The page was turned, for me at least, when catchers and pitchers reported. Happy Opening Day everyone! . . .

    -the poster formerly known as Drew Mac

  3. Zach

    Dear Lord have I missed reading series previews and game summaries.

    Happy Opening Day everyone! It’s like a Christmas that’s more awesome, enjoy it.

  4. Chris DeBlois

    Living in Atlanta I have only been to one opening day game – 2003 for the new ballpark. I’ll be in my Reds hawaiian shirt (trust me, much cooler than it sounds), reborn again today for another year of baseball. Those of you with seats on the Great American couch – please have an extra cold one, an extra dog, an extra cheer for those of us following along at home. Go Reds!

  5. Steve Mancuso

    41º in Cincinnati now, headed up to a balmy 47º for the first pitch. Sunny-to-overcast. Brisk wind.

  6. redsfanman

    Surely Shin-Shoo Choo, who has hit .458 against Jered Weaver in 24 ABs over the past 5 years, can teach the Reds how to beat him up on opening day.

  7. bohdi

    The Bottom Line in Washington, DC will be filled with all of us Reds fans that can’t make it back to the promised land. This will be a tough year living in DC with the nationals bandwagon loud and proud, but a dominant Reds team and the DC Reds Bar will certainly help.

  8. Tourniquette

    My birthday is next week on the 8th. All I really want is an Opening Day win, all wrapped up in Hamilton, Trout, and most definitely Pujols’ tears. This day has taken soooo long to get here. Anybody know what channel it would be on in Indiana? Like, around Rushville or Muncie?

  9. Steve Mancuso

    The Angels just released their Opening Day lineup and it’s the same as the one as above, with Jered Weaver batting ninth.

  10. magi210

    Happy Opening Day from Louisville. Been browsing the blog for about a year and think you guys do a great job covering the team. Hopefully another successful year is forthcoming.

  11. Matt WI

    How ’bout a Choo single, a BP walk, and a Votto double to open the game? A statement that this team is going to wear out some basepaths. Oh yeah, and that Bruce guy is still lurking behind them.

  12. Mwv

    It’s been a long dark winter but finally baseball is here again. Here’s to another season of ups and downs, tears and cheers. I cannot wait for this game to start.

  13. athensRed

    This is our year guys, I feel it. Anyone remember a few years back when P-Doc wrote that column about how we should trade Votto and Cueto for Joe Blanton? What a disaster that would’ve been.

  14. rfay00

    Why couldn’t we open up against the Marlins this year? Weaver is much more difficult to solve than any Marlin’s pitcher.

    What am I saying, the freaking Astros beat the Rangers last night! Cueto will pitch a no-hitter.

    • LWBlogger

      @rfay00: That’s the great thing about baseball. Even the worst teams will win ~60 games and the best teams will lose around 60. Most teams win somewhere between 70-90 games. On any given day, your team has a chance to win the game. I really enjoyed that game last night.

      • rfay00

        @LWBlogger: Your right. Last night was exciting. I look forward to many more this year along with the Dbacks slamming the Cardinals tonight!

  15. redsfanman

    Sometimes opening day starters have terrible games – they give up back-to-back homeruns to leadoff the game – and you think they’ll never start an opening day game again. Well, congratulations to Edinson Volquez for getting another shot in San Diego! Better luck to him this time!

    Maybe Jered Weaver can accomplish the same feat this year.

  16. steveschoen

    How about a wins prediction discussion? I see 92-94 wins. I think the pitching will take a step down; I simply believe they looked too good last season to repeat. I do believe they will still do well. I believe the offense will be better with Choo and BP in the 1-2 holes. I’m not so sure that Ludwick and Frazier will have the same success they had last season. Also, no Astros to beat up on this season.

    Keys to the season for me, general:
    – production from the 4 hole
    – repeat of last season’s pitching performance

    Specific key? I would like to see them K less and get on the scoreboard first more often, to take some pressure off the pitching. Not sure about the latter how many times it happened last season. I do like to see it, though. It makes it tough on the other team when they have to come up swinging in order to just tie the game, where they could be swinging at most anything including garbage. One of the reasons for any success of a closer.