It's finally here. After a long offseason of waiting, baseball is back. The Astros will kickoff the 2017 season Monday evening at Minute Maid Park, as former Cy Young winning southpaw Dallas Keuchel faces off against King Félix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.
|Time||7:10 PM CT|
|Location||Minute Maid Park|
|Home Pitcher||Dallas Keuchel (L)|
|Away Pitcher||Felix Hernandez (R)|
The Astros enter the season with very high expectations, as Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch attempt to take a team featuring a revamped lineup to it's first World Series berth since 2005.
With the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, and Nori Aoki, the team has one of the deepest lineups in franchise history, and projects to be one of the best offenses in the MLB. In 2017, the Astros will be much more of a contact hitting team with a steady diet of home runs, in contrast to the boom or bust, home run or strikeout approach the offense has taken over the past couple seasons.
However, due to the major acquisitions on the offensive side, a lot of the pressure now falls on the pitching staff to keep the opponent off the board and allow the Astros lineup to do some damage and not play from behind.
A lot of that weight lies on Dallas Keuchel's shoulders. Keuchel had his worst season since his rookie year last year, and clearly wasn't the same player who won the Cy Young award in 2015. Now healthy, Keuchel looks to put the bad season behind him and return to being the dependable ace that the Astros desperately need.
In the other dugout, the Seattle Mariners look to contend for the AL West to earn their first playoff appearance in 15 seasons. And they have the team to do it. Their general manager, Jerry Dipoto, has also made a flurry of moves over the course of the last few months to improve his organization. Overall, the Mariners added speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson, veteran pitcher Yovani Gallardo, and stud middle infielder Jean Segura.
I would expect both Dyson and Segura to start tonight for Seattle, while Gallardo will provide Seattle with some more pitching depth. The Mariners also added veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz and third-baseman Danny Valencia, who was an Astro killer last season with Oakland.
The Mariners have a balanced lineup and rotation, and will once again use Felix Hernandez, the longtime Mariner, as their opening day starter. While King Félix's velocity continues to steadily decline, he was still a solid pitcher in 2016. While the analytics suggest Hernandez should regress from his 3.82 ERA last season, King Félix has a penchant for defying expectations.
On paper, the Astros and Mariners have roughly equal bullpens, as FanGraphs has projected both tandems of relievers to amass a 4.2 WAR on the season. The Astros' will use flamethrower Ken Giles as their primary closer, with Will Harris and Luke Gregerson in setup roles, while the Mariners will employ dynamic reliever Edwin Diaz in the closer role, with Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner backing up.
|Odds||-129 (54.75% to win)|
|My line||-152 (60.35% to win)|
|FiveThiryEight||-138 (58% to win)|