It doesn’t matter where we play on Opening Day.
Hey, it rhymes!
This Thursday will be the 6th time in Diamondbacks’ history that we will meet the Los Angeles Dodgers on Opening Day. Of those 6 it will be the 4th time that Opening Day match will be played in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are not a pleasant Opening Day partner. The Diamondbacks won just 1 Opening Day match against them, in 2001, with a narrow 3-2. But, hey, that could mean that if we win this year, we will also win the World Series!
All other meetings with the Dodgers on Opening Day ended in losses, with the one in 2003 being the most painful one as it was the only Opening Day match ever that the Diamondbacks were shut out by a team: Hidea Nomo pitched a complete game with 103 pitches and allowed just 4 hits and a base on balls. The D-Backs lost 8-0.
After this year’s Opening Day match the Dodgers will move into second place on the ranking of D-Backs’ opponents met at the start of the season, leaving the Padres behind with 5. Number one? The Rockies, of course. The Colorado Rockies were 8 times our Opening Day partner. Add to them the 3 times we met the Giants and the NL West was our kick-off partner of each season 21 out of 25 times. The remaining teams were 3 from the NL Central (Reds, Cubs and Cardinals) and one from the NL East (Phillies).
On Opening Day the Diamondbacks hosted the game 15 times, so the other 10 times we played an away game. Footnote though: one of the home games was played in Australia (2014). The D-Backs are almost 50-50 when it comes to a win or loss on Opening Day: 5 losses and 5 wins in away games, 7 losses and 8 wins at home. It really doesn’t matter where we play on Opening Day.
- Biggest loss: 16-6 against the Chicago Cubs in 2005. That game has also the most total runs with 22.
- Biggest win: 8-2 against the Colorado Rockies in 2018.
- Most runs scored: 9, against the Colorado Rockies in 2009.
- Most runs allowed: 16, against the Chicago Cubs in 2005.
- Least runs scored: 0, shutout by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003.
- Least runs allowed: 0, shotout against the San Diego Padres in 2002. That game has also the least runs with 2.
Opening Day pitchers.
Best Opening Day starter: Randy Johnson.
If everything goes to plan, after Opening Day Zac Gallen will join the list of 11 other Opening Day starters for the Diamondbacks.
That list is led, of course, by Randy Johnson who made 6 Opening Day starts. Brandon Webb is second with 4 while Ian Kennedy, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner complete the top 5 with 3 appearances each one of them.
The shortest outing for an Opening Day starter goes to Javier Vazquez, who didn’t complete the second inning. If you paid attention to the previous paragraph you might know already what year and game we are writing about here, but what you might not remember is that he gave up 7 runs and 10 hits on just 42 pitches.
Randy Johnson got 3 wins in his Opening Day starts, that’s pretty darn good. He pitched a complete game and a shutout in 2002 when he blanked the Padres. Randy Johnson pitched at least 7 innings in the 3 years before that game as well. Just 7 times did an Opening Day starter in Diamondbacks’ history go 7 innings. Four of those where accounted for by Randy Johnson.
It shows how tough it has been for a Diamondbacks’ pitcher to complete 7 innings. The last one who accomplished that “feat” was Ian Kennedy in 2013, already 10 years ago.
Randy Johnson threw an astonishing amount of 126, 130 and two times 133 pitches in the 4 games where he went at least 7 innings. Ian Kennedy, Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, the other starting pitchers who completed at least 7 innings, threw 94, 92 and 98 times. Compare that to Madison Bumgarner’s 91 pitches over 4.0 innings in 2021.
By the way, in each game he started on Opening Day Randy Johnson threw at least 100 pitches.
Best Opening Day reliever: Brandon Lyon.
Andrew Chafin is already the reliever that appeared most times in an Opening Day game. If he makes an appearance in the very first game of this season as well it’ll be the 5th time he pitches on Opening Day for the Diamondbacks. Funny enough, he has to share the honour of the reliever with most innings pitched with Matt Koch.
If the name Koch shows up, you probably know what kind of game we are talking about. He came into relief after Zach Greinke was lifted on Opening Day 2019 when the Diamondbacks were getting punished by the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Greinke gave up 7 runs and, of course, Koch added a handful of runs more to that and the Snakes sank 12-5.
But that isn’t the worst outing of a reliever on Opening Day though. For one of the worst we do not have to go that far back: in 2020 Kevin Ginkel gave up 4 runs in 0.2 innings of work. Clint Sodowsky’s performance in 1998 was pretty sad too, when he gave up 3 runs in 0.2 innings of work, but both weren’t as bad as Steve Randolph’s 2003 where he allowed 3 runs in 0.1 inning. Russ Springer in 2000 allowed just one run but was lifted before getting a batter out and after just 9 pitches. He is the only reliever with an “infinite” ERA.
Although, if you talk about short and terrible outings we also have Tom Wilhelmsen’s 2017 appearance where he gave up 2 hits and a run on just 5 pitches, but at least he did get a batter out. Some true gems amongst relievers that blew a game on Opening Day...anyone still remembers Jason Grimsley? Took the loss on Opening Day 2006 and shortly after that would be lifted from his bed by the FBI and was forced to end his career. He recently confessed in a biography that after that he got addicted to alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, was left by his wife, strained relationship with his kids and eventually tried to shoot himself through the head.
Back to baseball: some need even less pitches for their outing than Wilhelmsen, and get the job done in a terrific way: JJ Putz in 2014 and Brandon Lyon in 2006 needed just 3 pitches to get 2 batters out on Opening Day. Especially Lyon’s performance is impressive as he did so while pitching in an average leverage index situation of 2.91. That is top 5 of average leverage index situations Opening Day relievers pitched in. The highest leverage index situation was also Brandon Lyon’s where he got 5 batters out on just 17 pitches in one inning.
Let’s call him the best reliever ever on Opening Day.
Opening Day batters.
Best Opening Day batters: Jake Lamb and Steve Finley.
He came close, but eventually he will have to share the honour of most Opening Day starts. David Peralta, who will probably start in the outfield for the Dodgers on this Opening Day, is together with Diamondbacks’ legend Luis Gonzalez the batter that appeared most times in an Opening Day game: 8.
That is one more than the 7 for Paul Goldschmidt, who will find Nick Ahmed right next to him if the shortstop makes the 2023 Opening Day match.
It’s remarkable that in those 8 Opening Day starts David Peralta was able to knock in just 1 batter, while Luis Gonzalez brought home 7. Maybe that’s the reason why one is a legend and the other one a Dodger.
But you’d be surprised if I tell you that the batter with most RBI on his name, 9 in total, is none other than Jake Lamb. Lamb needed just 3 of his 5 appearances on Opening Day to achieve that, pretty impressive. But only in one occasion did that result in a Diamondbacks win: that was in 2018 when the Diamondbacks beat the Rockies 8-2 and Lamb put 4 runs on the board with 2 hits, the best performance ever from a batter on Opening Day.
Although...is that really the best one ever? Looking at OPS and BA we’d probably have to mention Steve Finley’s performance in 2000. The Diamondbacks beat the Phillies back then and Finley, batting 5th, accounted for just 1 RBI, but did cross home plate twice and mustered 4 hits in all 4 of his plate appearances. He is the only player that didn’t enter the game as a pinch hitter to achieve a 1.000 BA.
But for every great Opening Day batter we also need to have a worst one. Would be easy to point out a pitcher like Randy Johnson or a random player who went hitless in his only Opening Day appearance for the Diamondbacks. So we won’t do that.
But we did see Chris Owings. From 2014 to 2018 he appeared in 5 Opening Day games and in 17 at bats he could only get 3 hits, striking out 8 times. Sorry, Chris, despite the one time you crossed home plate, you carry the title of worst batter in Diamondbacks’ Opening Day history.