Opening Day History

It didn’t take the 2017 Brewers long to land themselves in the history book. 46 pitches to be exact. That’s the moment when opening day starter Junior Guerra sprinted out of the batter’s box, strained his calf, and landed on the 10 day Disabled List. Per the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt, it could be an injury that sets Guerra back 4-6 weeks.


Guerra finds a very interesting position in history. First off, he’s the only Brewer opening day starter in history, as far as I could tell form studying past box scores and game logs, to ever suffer an injury on opening day. And, if he misses the reported six weeks, he’ll be only the second Brewer opening day starter to miss his second start of the season and have his second start happen in May or later.

The only other Brewer to miss his second start was Mark Knudson in 1991. Knudson, according to an article by Chris Zantow, got sick with a high fever and lost 10 pounds before his next start 10 days later.

The only other Brewers pitcher to have his second start be in the month of May or later was Ricky Bones in 1995, the MLB strike shortened season. His first start was April 26th, and consequently had his second start on May 1st. Therefore, starting in May had nothing to due with injury or sickness. This means Guerra will be the only opening day Brewers starter to have his next start in May for an outside reason.


But, the Guerra historical tidbits don’t end there. His 46 total pitches were the fewest for a Brewers opening day starter dating back to 1988, the end of Baseball Reference tracking pitch counts. However, I suspect that Guerra might have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, opening day pitch counts since the Pilots first took the field in 1969.

Guerra only pitched three innings on Monday and faced 11 total batters. From 1987 to 1969, only three pitchers threw three innings or less. Lew Krausse threw 3.0 in 1970, Jim Colborn 2.7 in 1974, and Jim Slaton 2.7 in 1975. However, all three of those pitchers were shelled instead of injured. Slaton gave up five runs and faced 17 batters, Colborn seven runs and 16 batters, and Krausse four runs and 13 batters.

Pairing all that with the fact that Guerra’s 2.5 career WAR was the 11th lowest of any opening day starter on any team in the past decade, his start might be one of the biggest outliers in Brewers history.


But, the 2017 Brewers weren’t done making history on Monday. Specifically, the Brewers also made history with their infield.

Here are the Brewers opening day infields from the last two years.

Year Catcher First Base Second base Shortstop Third Base
2017 Jett Bandy Eric Thames Jon Villar Orlando Arcia Travis Shaw
2016 Jonathan Lucroy Chris Carter Scooter Gennett Jon Villar Aaron Hill

The one difference of note: they’re all different.The Brewers are the only team in 2017 to debut an infield where not one person is playing the same position as the previous season. Granted, Villar remains on the infield, but for the purpose of this article, the positional change makes him a different player.

This is the third time in Brewers history they’ve had an infield with no similarities. The two other years were 1993 and 1972. Interestingly, 1993 and 2017 share an incredible amount of opening day lineup similarities.

Year Catcher First Base Second Base Shortstop Third Base
1993 Joe Kmak John Jaha Dickie Thon Pat Listach B.J. Surhoff
1992 B.J. Surhoff Franklin Stubbs Jim Ganter Scott Fletcher Kevin Seitzer

Along with the infields being different, the outfields are exactly the same as the previous year.

Year Left Field Center Field Right Field
2017 Ryan Braun Keon Broxton Domingo Santana
2016 Ryan Braun Keon Broxton Domingo Santana
1993 Greg Vaughn Robin Yount Darryl Hamilton
1992 Greg Vaughn Robin Yount Darryl Hamilton

Further, the 1993 lineup had an average age of 27.8. This roster was filled with players below age 30, partnered with the aging franchise piece, Robin Yount, at 37. Similarly, the 2017 team has an average age of 27 and is bolstered by a sub-30 core, sans Thames, who just turned 30 in November, and a 33 year-old Braun. Bad news for the Brewers, that ’93 team, even thought they were projected at 75 wins, won just 69 games and finished 7th in the AL east. Currently, the 2017 team, based on PECOTA, is projected at 76 wins.

There was one more thing that caught my eye. Due to the infrequency of the completely different infield, I sought out to find just how common that is. It turns out that this is pretty rare for most teams.

Looking at the NL central, the other four teams have averaged 3.5 completely unique infields. None of them have had two unique infields in the past 60 years.

Brewers 2017 1993 1972
Cubs 2002 1944 1914
Cardinals 1943
Reds 2006 1946 1932 1931 1927
Pirates 1988 1953 1950 1930 1917

It turns out, the Brewers are one of only six organizations, along with the Marlins, Padres, Royals, Athletics, Mariners, to have three or more unique infields between now and 1972. Unsurprisingly, all are small market teams, but the good news is two of them have won world series during that time frame. By contrast, the Nationals and Rockies have never had a unique infield, and the A’s are the most frequent, doing it 9 times in their 105 years.

Overall, the average per franchise for unique infields is 3.0, and the average since 1969 is 1.2. This means that the Brewers are well above average and truthfully haven’t found that many reliable infielders since their inception.

Some final odd opening day notes.

  • The Brewers’ total of 3 errors has only been matched or surpassed five times in franchise history.
  • Milwaukee’s five run inning has only been replicated five times, as well.

Opening day is always interesting, and their are always some interesting historical notes, but 2017 turned out to be quite eventful even though it seemed like a prototypical 7-5 loss.

Related Articles

Leave a comment