Want to know what's going to happen before it happens? Then you've come to the right place, as Matt breaks down the trends that will give you that edge you need this fantasy baseball season.
In last week's column, I analyzed 10 players, and predicted whether or not they would excel in the month of April based on historical results for that player during April, as well as their production against the teams that they will be facing during the month.
This week, the focus will narrow from the strategic to the tactical, and look at specific matchups between hitters and pitchers, to determine who the best plays of the week.
Tip of the week: Throughout the season, most major league teams have off days on Mondays and Thursdays. So for those of you in weekly leagues, make sure to look ahead and see which of your players are playing less than a full schedule, and make pickups as necessary. In daily leagues, check your team on Sundays and Wednesdays. Please note that a number of teams will have Tuesday off in Week One, so plan accordingly.
This week, let’s take a look at 10 players that are coming off poor 2008 seasons. Some of these players were hurt, while the others… let’s just say they had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season and leave it at that. So let’s take a tour around the diamond and get the Oracle’s take on their prospects for success in Week One of the baseball season.
Victor Martinez (C, CLE)
Indians manager Eric Wedge has already announced that Martinez will split time between catcher, first base, and designated hitter.
Since Martinez is a switch-hitter, there shouldn’t be much concern about him being benched because a pitcher is right or left-handed.
Martinez has a reasonable schedule for success in Week One with three games at Texas, and three at home against Toronto.
The Oracle says…Martinez will get off to a great start in Texas. He is a career .338 at Rangers Ballpark, and against the likely three starters for Texas, of Kevin Millwood (SP, TEX) and Vicente Padilla (SP, TEX), Martinez is a combined 9-of-22 for a .409 average. Martinez has never faced the Rangers No. 3 man Matt Harrison (SP, TEX).
At home, Martinez is a career .301 hitter, and among the four possible starters for that series, Scott Richmond (SP, TOR), Roy Halladay (SP, TOR), Jesse Litsch (SP, TOR) and David Purcey (SP, TOR).
Martinez is a career .375 against Halladay in eight at bats, and has never faced Richmond, Litsch or Purcey. Don’t hesitate to start Martinez this week.
Paul Konerko (1B, CHW)
Konerko suffered through his worst season since 2003, finishing 2008 batting .240 with 22 home runs with 62 RBI. So now that Konerko is 33, is his bat slowing down, or will he rebound in 2009?
Konerko is a .292 hitter at US Cellular Park, and opens the season with six straight home games against Kansas City and Minnesota.
However, Konerko has hit only .268 in his career against those two teams, so let’s flip it to the Oracle and get a better read on this situation.
The Oracle says… Konerko should face Gil Meche (SP, KC), Zack Greinke (SP, KC) and Kyle Davies (SP, KC) in the opening series, followed by likely starters Nick Blackburn (SP, MIN), R.A. Dickey (SP, MIN) and Francisco Liriano (SP, MIN) in series two.
Konerko has had no luck against Greinke or Blackburn in his career, hitting a combined 6-of-52 for a .115 average. If you’re in a daily league, I’d pull Konerko for those games.
Konerko has had success against Meche, Davies and Dickey, hitting a combined .359 against that trio. Konerko has just four at bats against Liriano with one hit. In weekly leagues, Konerko is an option as a third corner.
Rickie Weeks (2B, MIL)
Weeks is the poster boy for “Failing to Deliver on Promise,” as he failed to hit .240 for the second consecutive season, with fair power and speed numbers.
Weeks has yet to play more than 120 games in a season, so if he could surpass that not-so-lofty goal, fantasy managers will be pleased.
Weeks has hit .286 for his career at AT&T Park, and .269 at home, so that’s encouraging. But let’s get the Oracle’s final word before putting our stock in Weeks.
The Oracle says… Bench Weeks in Week One, as this could be one of those weeks for Weeks. Against the six probable starters he’ll face, Weeks is a combined 12-of-57 for a .211 batting average.
A majority of those at bats have come against Carlos Zambrano (SP, CHC) and Tim Lincecum (SP, SFO), and he is 9-of-42 against just those two pitchers.
Khalil Greene (SS, STL)
The move from PETCO Park to Busch Stadium can only help Greene. PETCO is the worst park in the league for hitters by a good margin. Busch Stadium played as a pitchers park last season, but the effect isn’t nearly as severe as PETCO.
Greene and the Cardinals play seven games in Week One, all at Busch Stadium, where Greene is 4-of-23 for his career. Oh wise Oracle, will fantasy owners be Greene with envy, or green from disgust?
The Oracle says… For the series against the Pirates, the Oracle isn’t seeing much. Greene only has 13 combined at bats against the Pirates’ starters.
Against the Astros, the only pitcher Greene has more than 10 at bats against is Roy Oswalt (SP, HOU), and he hasn’t done much, hitting just 2-of-16.
Brian Moehler (SP/RP, HOU) and Mike Hampton (SP, HOU) are the other projected starters, and Greene is a respectable 5-of-14 against them.
In daily leagues, definitely sit Greene against Oswalt, and the rest of the games will be a mixed bag.
In weekly leagues, when you take his overall track record and combine that with his lack of success in Busch, you would be wise to bench Greene in Week One.
Alex Gordon (3B, KC)
Gordon enters his third season with diminished expectations. The luster has come off, and Gordon appears to be nothing more than a low-end fantasy third baseman. But the Royals seem poised to be more than a doormat this season, and if they are to surprise, Gordon will be one of the guys contributing to that effort. The Royals start off at US Cellular Field for three games before heading home for a three game series against the Yankees. Oh wise Oracle, how will Gordon fair in Week One?
The Oracle says… Gordon is 9-of-66 for his career at US Cellular Field, so don’t expect much from him there. In fact, against probable starters Mark Buehrle (SP, CHW), John Danks (SP, CHW) and Gavin Floyd (SP, CHW), Gordon is a combined 8-of-36 for a .222 average.
Things don’t get much better against the Yankees. Gordon is a combined .240 hitter against probable starters Andy Pettitte (SP, NYY), Joba Chamberlain (SP/RP, NYY) and CC Sabathia (SP, NYY), including an awful 2-of-16 effort against Sabathia. It would be best to leave Gordon on your bench in Week One.
Justin Upton (OF, ARI)
This guy has to be good – right? Isn’t he supposed to be even more talented than his brother B.J.? Well that house of cards was exposed last year starting May 1, 2008.
In April 2008, Upton could do no wrong. He hit .340 with five home runs and 15 RBI. After that? Well let’s just say that he should have considered changing his name from Upton to Downton, because down is the only direction his value went the rest of the season. So what will happen in Week One, and more importantly, will we believe in him if he does produce?
The Oracle says… Upton will have a fantastic opportunity to get off to another hot start, as all six games in Week One will be played at home. Upton has hit .296 and 14 of his 17 career home runs in Arizona. He will face the Rockies and Dodgers, against whom he has batted a combined .289.
While he has yet to hit a home run against the Dodgers, he has connected five times against the Rockies, so the schedule is set up perfectly for Upton. Now all he has to do is take advantage of it. Go ahead and start Upton in all formats.
Felix Hernandez (SP, SEA)
After a successful 2007 season, it certainly appeared that Hernandez was ready to make a jump in 2008. Well, he did jump, unfortunately it was backwards. He went from 14 wins in 2007 to nine in 2008.
But is it fair to say that he jumped backwards? He did shave almost 0.50 points off of his ERA, and while is WHIP went up 0.01, he did lower his BAA from .281 to .261.
With two starts on the road against Minnesota and Oakland in Week One, this is quite the quandary. Oracle, can you sort this mess out for our readers?
The Oracle says… In his career, Hernandez has pitched well in both the Metrodome and McAfee Coliseum, with four wins against three losses.
Additionally, he has struck out 47 batters in 56 innings, and has posted a 2.57 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Don’t hesitate to start Hernandez in both games; you will be pleased with the results.
Fernando Rodney (RP, DET)
As an Indians fan, I could not be happier to see Rodney coming out of the bullpen in the ninth inning. He of the 33 career saves and 25 BLOWN saves. That’s a save percentage of 56.9 percent.
To put that in perspective, Shaquille O’Neal’s career field goal percentage is 58.2 percent. Peyton Manning’s career completion percentage is 64.4 percent.
So on any given day, it is more likely that Shaq will make a shot, or Manning will complete a pass than it is that Rodney will notch a save. But maybe the Oracle has a different take…
The Oracle says… Rodney has been awful against the Blue Jays. In 9.2 innings, his ERA is 9.31 and his WHIP is 2.28. He is zero wins and three losses with no save opportunities.
On the bright side, he does have 10 strikeouts. Things are a little rosier for Rodney against the Rangers, as he has converted two-of-three save opportunities, while posting an ERA of 3.55 and a WHIP of 1.26 in 12.2 innings.
He also has 10 strikeouts against the Rangers. If you need saves, you need saves; but be prepared to take a beating from Rodney along the way when you start him.
When Matt isn’t crunching numbers for The Fantasy Oracle, you can find him at the ballpark, if you do, buy him a beer; he probably could use one. Got a question, comment or complaint? E-mail Matt at Wirkiowski@RotoExperts.com