An opener in baseball is a pitcher who starts the game but has no intention to get past the first or second inning. Typically, teams will utilize the opener from a relief pitcher, who has around 20 or so pitches to throw before they become fatigued. The idea behind the opener is to get out of the first inning with no runs, so you use a hard-throwing relief pitcher against the team’s best hitters.
So, when did the opener begin in Major League Baseball? What is the real point to using an opener in baseball? Are there any pros to using an opener in baseball? What are the cons?
Here is the complete guide to the opener in baseball.
Baseball Opener Began with the Tampa Bay Rays
In 2017, the Tampa Bay Rays had an “opener” relief pitcher start some games at Tropicana Field. The idea was to put their best pitching against their opponent’s best batters to start the game. Most hitters perform better the third time they see a starting pitcher, so the idea was to get past an opponent’s top hitters to start a game with little damage. The opener strategy was a bit weird during the regular season, but more teams saw the data that it was working, and it is now part of the 2020 plan for many organizations.
One of the most used openers on the Rays was Ryne Stanek in 2018. He made 42 starts, but did not last more than two innings. The WAR (wins against replacement) saw a six-tenth increase (.91 to 1.53) for Ryne Stanek when he made starts. Another key player for the Rays was Sergio Romo, who made many starts as well as an opener. The Rays grew on this strategy and the MLB league took notice both in the American and National League.
What is the Point of a Baseball Opener?
The point of using an opener in baseball is to use your best pitcher to start the game. Sometimes baseball teams have their best arms in the pen, but they don’t use them because the game is out of reach due to the poor start by the starting pitcher. Since opposing teams generally have their best hitters to at the top of the lineup, you counter with your best arms.
The New York Yankees in 2019 Began Using an Opener
In 2019, the New York Yankees used Chad Green as an opener fifteen times. Chad Green had impressive numbers when he began the game, and even got into the second inning for certain games. Chad Green did not have a set pitch count to throw, so the only goal was to get outs.
What are the Pros to Using a Baseball Opener?
The pro of using a baseball opener is that, in theory, you are putting your best pitcher against a team’s best hitters to start a game. If you can get out of the first inning without any runs, it can be a big confidence boost to a team. Especially when the game is a playoff game, getting quick wins via momentum can be important for teams to start the game off the right way.
What are the Cons of Using a Baseball Opener?
The cons of using a Baseball Opener is that the strategy doesn’t always work. The theory goes that you put in a relief pitcher to pitch the first inning and get the hitters out. However, sometimes a pitcher who starts the game gets in trouble and starts throwing many pitches. Other times the strategy doesn’t work when the other team hits well against that relief pitcher. When that happens, the opener did not do their job, and thus their team now has to play catchup right off the gate.
Conclusion: What is a Baseball Opener?
In summary, a baseball opener is a new concept in baseball to put your best relief pitcher out on the mound in the first inning. The idea behind the strategy is that this relief pitcher should be pitching against the team early in the game. By using your best pitcher from your bullpen early, you are assuming they won’t give up runs to the start the game, and only need them to go an inning or two.
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