Better late than never to play ball

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They say history sometimes repeats itself. If that is the case, then the start of 2020 baseball campaign will be very important.

During a normal 162-game regular season, it’s not the end of the world if a team is a slow starter. We have seen teams begin the season a bit shaky only to finish atop their divisions. We have also experienced squads that kick off the year winning, only to end up cellar dwellers.

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Normally, the first month really doesn’t mean too much. However, with this shortened season, there is very little room for error. Teams must start out strong and stay that way. If not, the 60-game regular season is way too short to play catch-up.

Over the last five years, several teams have been known to start out red-hot and several have been known to start out ice-cold. For most of the last five years, the Yankees, Astros, Cardinals, and Cubs have all started the seasons winning, while the Royals, Giants and Orioles have usually started slow.

There are exceptions to every rule. Back in April of 2016, current highly-touted teams like the Astros, Twins, Yankees, Braves, Brewers, and Reds all finished the month of April with some of the worst records in baseball. Take note that all but Cincinnati ended the 2016 regular season with their league’s best marks.

Baseball is a game of trends and streaks. If history does sometimes repeat itself, stay with those hot teams and you should do fine. But, as always, watch out for laying those big numbers.

Here are this week’s best bets. All records, stats, and trends are as of Tuesday and may change, as can starting pitchers. As a rule, always list pitchers:

Friday

Tigers at Reds: This is a very interesting opening-week matchup as we see a team thought to finish last in their division go on the road to face a team slated to finish first in theirs.

The Tigers had the AL’s poorest record a season ago at 47-114. Believe it or not, they might end this season with an even lower winning percentage. Don’t let the Reds’ 2019 record fool you. They played in the most competitive division in either league, with only 22 games separating the five squads that make up the NL Central. This team is certainly improved as they are expected to take the division this season.

In his five seasons in the Majors, Matthew Boyd had just one ­winning campaign, back in 2016 when the left-hander went 6-5 with an ERA of 4.53. Journeyman Sonny Gray seems to have found a home with Cincinnati. In his first year with the team, the righty went 11-8 with an ERA of 2.87 in 2019. He found his control and it clearly paid off well. The Tigers are 0-4 the last four games played at the Reds. REDS RUN LINE.

Twins at White Sox: Minnesota returns this season as one of the best teams in baseball. The Twins enter 2020 very bitter after finishing the 2019 regular season at 101-61, only to get swept by the Yankees in the Division Series. They start the year off with Jose Berrios on the mound. The right-hander went 14-8 with an ERA of 3.68 last year, making it three solid campaigns in a row.

Lucas Giolito gets the nod at home here. He comes off his best campaign yet (14-9, 3.41), but is just 27-26 with an ERA of 4.60 lifetime.

The line here is a bit skewed as the Twinkies’ injury list rivals that of a Belichick/Patriots list. I’m not letting that scare me right now. This is a team on a mission. They are 4-0 the last four games played at Chicago and 5-1 the last six overall vs. the White Sox. TWINS.

Pirates at Cardinals: Saying St. Louis is going to come out with something to prove is an understatement. The Cardinals topped the NL Central last year at 91-71, bested the Braves in the Division Series, only to get swept, 4-0 by the Nationals in the League Championship Series. At 69-93, Pittsburgh was last year’s division’s bottom-feeder, a spot many feel they will once again own.

The Pirates send Joe Musgrove to the hill. In two seasons with the club, Musgrave sports a 17-21 record and a 4.25 ERA. Jack Flaherty gets the home start. The team is hopeful the right-hander will have another amazing season (11-8, 2.75, 231 K’s in 2019).

Pittsburgh has trouble on the road, as they are 0-6 the last six games played as a guest. St. Louis owns Pittsburgh, going 9-1 the last 10 meetings of 2019. CARDINALS RUN LINE.

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