Angels-A's Opening Day starting pitchers: Ohtani vs. Muller

March 24th, 2023

There’s a bit of a David vs. Goliath feel to this Opening Day matchup between the A’s and Angels.

Just over a week removed from conquering the United States in the World Baseball Classic, Angels superstar will take the mound at the Oakland Coliseum Thursday night. Meanwhile, rookie left-hander  will toe the rubber for the A’s. With a total of 12 Major League games under his belt, Muller has the least amount of big league experience as an Opening Day starter for the A’s since 2014, when Sonny Gray also started the season opener with just 12 Major League games on his resume.

RHP Shohei Ohtani
Previous Opening Day starts: 2022 against Houston (4.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K)
2022 season: 15-9, 2.33 ERA, 28 starts, 219 K, 44 BB, 14 HR, 166 IP

Fresh off being named the Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic, Ohtani will make his second straight Opening Day start for the Angels. The two-way superstar will also be in the lineup, batting third. Ohtani is coming off another incredible season that saw him finish second in the balloting for the American League MVP Award and fourth for the AL Cy Young Award. He’s also in the final year of his contract and is expected to become the most coveted free agent in baseball history after the season. He was named the Opening Day starter early in camp, but the main topic of conversation was his future with the Angels.

He had his best season as a pitcher last year, setting career bests with 15 wins and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings (28 starts). He added a cutter and a sinker to his arsenal to go along with his 102 mph fastball, sinker, curveball, splitter and sweeping slider. The Angels also plan to pitch him more this season, as he’s set to take the mound every sixth day as much as possible. The team will use a modified six-man rotation to help keep Ohtani on his turn and get as many starts as they can out of him.

He was also dominant in four starts against the A's last season, posting a 1.09 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. He has a career 2.50 ERA in 10 starts against the A's, including a 3.72 ERA in six starts at the Oakland Coliseum.

LHP Kyle Muller
Previous Opening Day starts: N/A
2022 season: 1-1, 8.03 ERA, 12 K, 12.1 IP with Atlanta

An injury to 2022 All-Star  opened the door for Muller, who was acquired this winter from the Braves as part of the return for catcher Sean Murphy. Rated Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline at the time of the deal, Muller is currently rated Oakland’s No. 5 prospect and showed enough in his time with the club during Spring Training to not only earn a spot in the rotation but also to take the mound at the Oakland Coliseum for Game 1 of the regular season.

Muller’s towering presence at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds has drawn comparisons to Madison Bumgarner and Carlos Rodón from A’s coaches this spring. His fastball sat around 93-95 mph throughout Cactus League play, while his revamped power slider has led to more swing-and-misses than it had in the past. Muller only brings a total experience of 12 Major League games (11 starts), but his success throughout the Minors has prepared him for this moment.

A second-round pick by the Braves in the 2016 MLB Draft, Muller spent six seasons in Atlanta’s Minor League system and posted a 3.18 ERA in 108 games, including 588 strikeouts over 541 innings. He also received a Triple-A All-Star selection last season after posting a 3.41 ERA and holding opponents to a .694 OPS across 23 starts.