The best Opening Day Fantasy performances in MLB history

Opening Day was supposed to be today. I had it marked in my theoretical calendar for months: “March 26, baseball is back.”

Of course, that isn’t where we’re at today, with the season on hold as MLB does its part to help slow the spread of coronavirus. We’ll have an Opening Day at some point this year, and it will be great to have baseball back in our lives. But until then, we’re trying to pass the time as best we can, and the CBSSports.com team already put together a list of our favorite Opening Day memories

I want to focus on the Fantasy side, so I dove into the baseball history books to find the best Opening Day Fantasy performances of all time. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with the best hitting and pitching performances of all timeon Opening Day:

Pitching in the Modern Era

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

App,Dec

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Clayton Kershaw

4/1/13

LAD

SFG

W 4-0

SHO, W

9

4

0

0

0

7

Jose Berrios

3/28/19

MIN

CLE

W 2-0

GS-8, W

7.2

2

0

0

1

10

Jeff Samardzija

4/1/13

CHC

PIT

W 3-1

GS-8, W

8

2

0

0

1

9

Jered Weaver

4/6/12

LAA

KCR

W 5-0

GS-8, W

8

4

0

0

0

10

Justin Masterson

4/5/12

CLE

TOR

L 4-7

GS-8

8

2

1

1

1

10

This is a fun list, featuring some stars — Kershaw was the best pitcher in the game in 2013, Jered Weaver finished in the top-5 in Cy Young voting for the third straight season in 2012, and Berrios made his second All-Star game in a row in 2019 — but Justin Masterson is the name that really stands out. He had a great 2011 season, and this Opening Day performance seemed to be a harbinger of good things to come. However, fittingly, he was stuck with a no decision, and ended up going 11-15 with a 5.08 ERA over his next 33 starts. Masterson was an up-and-down pitcher, but was never better than on Opening Day, 2012.

Kershaw, by the way, is the only pitcher since Hideo Nomo in 2003 to throw an Opening Day complete game shutout. 

Pitching in the Classic Era

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

App,Dec

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Tom Glavine

4/7/92

ATL

HOU

W 2-0

SHO, W

9

2

0

0

2

9

Bob Gibson

4/11/67

STL

SFG

W 6-0

SHO, W

9

5

0

0

0

13

Lon Warneke

4/17/34

CHC

CIN

W 6-0

SHO, W

9

1

0

0

2

13

Walter Johnson

4/13/26

WSH

PHA

W 1-0

SHO(15), W

15

6

0

0

3

9

Camilo Pascual

4/18/60

WSH

BOS

W 10-1

CG, W

9

3

1

1

3

15

Please don’t yell at me about Tom Glavine being included in “The Classic Era” — an antique car is considered one that is 25 years or older, so take it up with them. Glavine is the only pitcher with a complete-game shutout on Opening Day with two or fewer hits and nine strikeouts since 1973, so he belongs.

Walter Johnson and Bob Gibson are names you know, and they shouldn’t be a surprise showing up on any list of the best pitching performance of all time — they’re two of the best to ever do it. However, Camilo Pascual is a name you might not have heard of. The Cuban-born ace led the league in strikeouts three times, and was coming off his best season when he twirled this gem, setting an MLB record for strikeouts in an Opening Day start. Randy Johnson (twice!) and Don Drysdale are the only other starters to strike out more than 13 on Opening Day.

Lon Warneke is also a name you may not be familiar with, but he was the MVP runner up in 1932. Bob Lemon remains the only pitcher to throw an Opening Day no-hitter, but he struck out eight and walked five in that one, while Warneke came up just short — he recorded 25 outs before giving up a single in the ninth. But his 13 strikeouts are the most by far the most by any pitcher with a one-hitter on Opening Day — and was the only double-digit strikeout game by any pitcher in the game that entire season. 

The Three Homer Club

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

HBP

Matt Davidson

3/29/18

CHW

KCR

W 14-7

5

4

4

3

0

0

3

5

1

0

0

0

Dmitri Young

4/4/05

DET

KCR

W 11-2

5

4

4

4

0

0

3

5

0

0

0

1

Tuffy Rhodes

4/4/94

CHC

NYM

L 8-12

5

4

3

4

0

0

3

3

1

0

0

0

George Bell

4/4/88

TOR

KCR

W 5-3

4

4

3

3

0

0

3

4

0

0

0

0

This is a fun one. Everyone should remember Dimitri Young, but for some reason I remembered his three-homer game coming with the Nationals. Funny how memory works.

You may not remember Tuffy Rhodes — he hit just 10 more homers in the majors outside of that game — but he’s an absolute legend in his own right. Just not in America. He hit 464 homers in 13 seasons in Japan, the most ever hit by a foreign-born player. He is 11th on the Nippon Professional Baseball league home run list, and matched Sadaharu Oh’s single-season homer mark. That three-homer game ended up being a harbinger of things to come, just not in the majors.

And then of course, Fantasy players should remember Matt Davidson’s start to the 2018 season. He was coming off a 26-homer 2017 season, and so there was hope that this might have been the start of a breakout. Instead, he found himself back in the minors in 2019. 

The “One Shining Moment” All-Stars

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

Corey Patterson

3/31/03

CHC

NYM

W 15-2

6

6

2

4

0

0

2

7

0

Brant Alyea

4/7/70

MIN

CHW

W 12-0

4

4

2

4

0

0

2

7

0

Emilio Bonifacio

4/6/09

FLA

WSN

W 12-6

5

5

4

4

0

0

1

2

3

Continuing the theme of players whose big Opening Days didn’t quite lead to a breakout, Bonifacio and Patterson both created big stirs in Fantasy with their season debuts. Patterson was a hyped prospect and really was enjoying a great season, with 13 homers and 16 steals in 83 games before a torn ACL in July put him on the shelf. Who knows what might have happened if not for that speed bump, but he never put together another all-around season like the one he had in 2003 — though he did have 24 homers and 32 steals in 2004.

For Bonifacio, Opening Day of 2009 would truly be the highlight of his career. He was electric in that game, getting on base four times and scoring each time, including with an inside-the-park homer. His three steals are tied for the most ever on Opening Day, and he had multiple hits in five straight games to start the season — but hit just .233/.288/.279 from that point on. 

Because That’s What Stars Do

Player

Date

Tm

Opp

Rslt

PA

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

HBP

SB

Kirk Gibson

4/7/86

DET

BOS

W 6-5

4

4

2

4

0

0

2

5

0

0

0

1

Carlton Fisk

4/6/73

BOS

NYY

W 15-5

5

4

4

3

1

0

2

6

0

0

1

0

Raul Mondesi

4/5/99

LAD

ARI

W 8-6

6

5

2

4

0

0

2

6

1

1

0

0

Joe Kuhel

4/17/45

WSH

PHA

W 14-8

6

5

4

4

0

1

0

5

1

0

0

1

And then sometimes, you have a superstar, and they just do what they’re supposed to. That’s what happened in these cases, and they aren’t quite as fun. Mondesi, Fisk, Gibson and Kuhel would all go on to have great moments, but I do want to highlight Mondesi — he would go on to hit 33 homers and steal 36 bases for the Dodgers that season, his second 30-30 season. He is one of just 13 players with multiple 30-30 seasons.