Today is the joyous realization for all baseball fans that Baseball, real baseball; the kind where you don't get a text from your friend asking "Who in heaven's name is Miguelangel Sierra?; the kind of baseball that counts in the standings.
I live in New Jersey where there is still snow piled up in certain places resisting melting. Yet Opening Day tells me that Winter is Dead (and that it will never return).
Praise be to Opening Day.
And for us Astros fans, this is a particularly special day. For one, it's the official turning of the page from the 2017 season...The Season. We all dreamed that one day the Astros would win again, and would laugh and laugh. And we did.
As I write this, my TL is filled with Astros fans watching the Root Sports re-broadcast of Game 5 of the World Series. The combination of re-living all of our trepidation from that night, the knowledge of how it all works out, and the constant thrill of action in that game is coming through on my laptop, a couple of thousand miles away from a RSSW feed.
We know we must turn the page tomorrow, but what a page to turn. We know, as James pointed out earlier tonight, that the MLB scores link at the top of Baseball Reference will change tomorrow from the status it has had since November 1 of last year. And we know that the game it lists from that date is Game 7 of the World Series, where Charlie Morton went from a man to a legend.
Because this is the last time we’ll have the pleasure of seeing this particular box: pic.twitter.com/aseeDOsd7a— Thickie Don (@AstrosCounty) March 29, 2018
But we Astros fans are blessing in a third way on this turning of the baseball year, because what we are turning from is so good for us. And you know what, what we are turning to may be just as good.
Wanna see. Here's what the Pecota projections say about the Astros. A 92% chance of getting to the playoffs and a 15.5% of repeating.
Or look at Fangraphs. They like us, they really like us. A 98.5% chance of making the playoffs and a 23% chance of doing it again.
Or if you want the real optimist case. Take the following projection from NEIFI, the sabremetric projection system. They project the Astros to win 103.5 games.
May it be ever so.With Cole, Astros now project at 103.5 2018 wins. Easily the highest pre-season W projection NEIFI has ever forecast.— NEIFI Analytics (@NEIFIco) January 13, 2018
Of course you don't have to think in terms of projections to understand how excited 2018 should be. You can think of players.
- The top 4 players in our lineup tomorrow will be Springer, Bregman, Altuve, and Correa. A series of homegrown players who have not only superstar skill, but also gobs of joy for baseball and likability. People want to cheer for our guys.
- Today our team will start Justin Verlander on opening day...and we have him for the full season.
- Tomorrow, the Astros will send a top level starting to the pitcher to the mound. They will do the same on Saturday, and Sunday, and Monday for the home opener. And then again.
- Then we have two excellent starters who will start the season in the bullpen. And two other promising starters who will start in Fresno. And our best pitching prospect is on the way.
- The Astros have so many good shortstops that one of them must play third, and the other played left in last year's playoffs.
Face it, we are stacked. We feel good walking in to 2018.
Obviously, we don't know what the future brings. We all like the odds of the best lineup in baseball against Cole Hamels, a pretty average starter at this point in his career. We like the odds of Justin Verlander against anybody, much less a bunch of low average, high strikeout guys that make up the Greater Waxahachie Metropolitan Area Baseball Team. And we hope for a win tomorrow...and to watch the Astros playoff odds increase. But the future is of course uncertain.
If the future is uncertain, there is only one thing to do in the present--enjoy this moment. Enjoy this moment Astros fans. It combines three great things: the joy that baseball brings; the nostalgia of the glory of 2017, and the promise of 2018. This could be the season. Just like last season.