Two teams with similar expectations will go head-to-head Thursday when Seattle hosts Cleveland for the first of a four game set at T-Mobile Park.
Most oddsmakers have each team’s regular season win total set at 87.5. while Seattle is favored to do more damage in the postseason with a World Series price of 20/1 compared to Cleveland’s 25/1 mark.
Shane Bieber will make his fifth Opening Day start and look to kick off what will ideally be another elite campaign.
In 2022, Bieber threw 200 innings with a 2.28 ERA and a 3.51 xERA. Bieber’s underlying numbers did suggest that regression was on the horizon for much of the campaign.
A reduction in fastball velocity led an overall drop off in stuff quality, which caused Bieber’s K/9 (8.9) to dip for the third consecutive season and those flaws remain a concern based upon Spring Training results, where Bieber pitched to a Stuff+ rating of 93.
A combination allowing few home runs, the Guardians excellent defense and some plain good luck likely helped hide Bieber’s potential flaws in 2022. However, it’s possible Bieber takes a step back this season.
Cleveland is returning four Gold Glove defenders and should remain excellent in that aspect of the game. If anything, it’s team defense could be even more of a strength with the lack of a shift, as Cleveland was the second-least reliant on the shift to generate defensive value.
Josh Bell was a key addition to the batting order and should bat behind superstar Jose Ramirez in a dangerous top of the order.
Most models project Cleveland to sit roughly 13th-16th in terms of offensive production, and it should feature an irritating lineup that runs the bases well and doesn’t offer much in the way of cheap outs.
Luis Castillo has had a stellar start to his tenure in Seattle and his excellent outings in the postseason made him an obvious choice for the Opening Day start.
ZiPS is at the high end of Castillo’s projections, projecting him to hang around the 2.99 ERA he posted last season. THE BAT’s projection (FanGraphs) of 3.41 is at the low end.
Castillo has had a concerning spring and has typically started the season slowly, though his underlying numbers from a season ago suggest he should remain dominant.
Seattle filled two key needs via trade, adding Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong to the lineup.
Wong should shore up the play at second base and help round out what should remain a top-third defense.
Hernandez adds some significant pop to what should be a strong batting order. He also has sky-high upside in a contract year and could offer a ton of support for Julio Rodriguez at the top of the order.
Jarred Kelenic drew a ton of attention this spring and rightfully so as he hit .353 with four homers. His revamped swing and approach is seemingly uncapping what was considered serious high-end potential.
Bieber’s K-rate has continued to dip in each of the past few seasons and it seems fairly realistic to think that he could put forth a slightly less dominant 2023 campaign.
Castillo offers less question marks and should offer the Mariners a starting pitching edge in this matchup, particularly if you put any weight on his ridiculous numbers at T-Mobile Park.
Relative to the market, I rate the upside of the Mariners lineup considerably higher than that of the Guardians and believe it’s possible Seattle proves to be a fair bit more productive.
Both of these teams feature stellar bullpens, which will be ready to go on Opening Day. If either starter can exit with his team in front, it’s highly likely that lead will hold and I like Castillo’s chances of doing just that.
Seattle holds enough edges that betting it down to -125 holds value.
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