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Ahead of the Curve: The Changing Landscape of Matchups

You may not know who this man is without looking it up, but he's not as fluky as he may seem.
You may not know who this man is without looking it up, but he's not as fluky as he may seem.

As a part of this column, it's important to keep track of both how matchups change over time and how they stay the same. If you had asked me what the odds were that both the Mets and Mariners would have scored more runs on the season through May 10th than the Detroit TIgers, I'd probably have thought you were nuts. Does that mean I'm viewing matchups against these three teams differently going forward? No. I still believe that the Mets and Mariners present a below average challenge for starting pitchers and Detroit remains a tough test.

The only real derivation from this so far this year is the Angels, who have really struggled out of the gate. As of Wednesday's games, the Angels were in the bottom 10 in MLB as far as runs scored and also have a team BB rate of 6.4%, which is third worst in the majors. Entering the season, I would have said that the Angels were a tough matchup, but right now, they are a mild one. Of course, we could also see them hitting their stride in another week or two, so I see a start against them in the next week very different than in three to four weeks.

More grey areas come in for teams that have been hit by injuries. For example, Tampa Bay is an easier start now with Evan Longoria being out. Washington is an easier start with Jayson Werth out. The Phillies have been a pretty easy target as long as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard remain sidelined. Pablo Sandoval was a huge blow to the Giants, who were not a good offensive team beforehand anyway. These matter and they are reflected in my analysis. So let's get to it..


All Marlins pitchers (NYM, PIT, @ATL, @CLE, COL, SF, WSH)

We talked in length about Marlins pitchers about a month ago here, and their schedule has not gotten any more difficult. This goes for all five guys -- JJ, Anibal, Buehrle, Big Z and Ricky "I really think he's going to be different this year" Nolasco. This is five of the next seven series at home in their spacious ballpark, with the only road series at Atlanta (a slightly above average team) and Cleveland (a below average team). Regardless of which of these guys you have, you're going to want to run them out there. And don't be surprised if the Marlins are close to 1st place in the NL East by the first week of June.

More after the jump..

Jaime Garcia (ATL, @SF, SD, PHI, @NYM, @HOU)

Garcia has not exactly been a revelation so far this year, and his 3.71 ERA masks his 1.41 WHIP, but there are reasons to be optimistic here. The biggest issue Garcia's had in 2012 is a lack of K's, and this may get remedied with starts against K-prone teams like the Phillies, Mets and Padres. On top of that, his swinging strike rate is pretty much in line with his career (which means he's been a strikeout underperformer). I like the odds of that changing over this stretch of schedule.

Ricky Romero (@MIN, NYM, @TB, BAL)

This stretch of these four matchups is only amplified by the fact that Romero is a lefty. Tampa Bay especially, with their best RH hitter (Longoria) on the bench and their best overall hitter so far in 2012 (Joyce) being pretty terrible at hitting lefties.

James McDonald (HOU, @WSH, NYM, CHC, @MLW)

It's been a very impressive start to the 2012 season for the former Dodger farmhand as he's gone 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 7.6 K/9. And while these exact numbers are unsustainable, there's no reason McDonald couldn't have an ERA in the mid-threes and a WHIP around 1.20 for the remainder of the year. If you gambled on him in a deep mixed or NL-only league, keep rolling him out there and reap the value.

Marco Estrada (CHC, MIN, SF, @LAD, PIT, SD)

This schedule makes it a shame that Estrada's not a good pitcher. However, it could make him playable in NL-only leagues -- and that would be news in itself.

Other Potential Outperformers:

Matt Garza (@MLW, PHI, @HOU, @PIT, @SF)
Gavin Floyd (KC, @LAA, MIN, CLE, SEA, HOU)
Derek Lowe (@MIN, MIA, @CHW, MIN)
Drew Pomeranz (@LAD, SEA, @MIA, HOU)
Rick Porcello (@OAK, MIN, @CLE, @MIN)
Dan Haren (OAK, @SD, @SEA, NYY, SEA)
Ervin Santana (OAK, @SD, @SEA, NYY, SEA)
Jarrod Parker (DET, @SF, LAA, @MIN)
Matt Harrison (LAA, OAK, @SEA, SEA)


Tommy Hanson (@STL, @TB, @CIN, STL)

If you haven't sold Tommy Hanson yet, I don't know what you've been waiting for. Yes, he's been getting ground balls at a career high rate (though it's still not over 50%), but the dude's fastball is averaging under 90 MPH. I don't care what is being said about his "new delivery" and how "great it feels" -- that's a recipe for both injury and underperformance. His numbers are still not terrible at this point, but we may be heading in that direction. And soon.

Blake Beavan (@NYY, @COL, TEX, @TEX, @CHW)

Yes, this schedule makes him completely unplayable even in deep AL-only leagues.

Kyle Drabek (@MIN, NYY, @TB, @TEX, BOS)

Drabek gave up more than 2 runs in a start for the first time pitching in Anaheim last week, but is looking to get back on track against the Twins (he should be able to handle that one). However, once he leaves Target Field, he's going to become a different type of target. Yes he's faced Boston and Texas already and pitched well, but it's an entirely different thing to do it the second time around. He still has pretty special upside, so it should be fun to watch -- from your bench.

Other Potential Underperformers:

Randall Delgado (CIN, @TB, @CIN, STL)
Ted Lilly (COL, STL, @ARZ, MIL, @COL)
Nick Blackburn (TOR, @DET, @CHW, DET)
Kevin Millwood (@BOS, @COL, LAA, @TEX)
Jason Vargas (@BOS, @COL, LAA, @TEX)


As you may know, I post a streamer of the day owned in less than 10% of leagues on a daily basis at @tfw_bret on Twitter. And as a staple of this column, I'm going to review my picks as the season goes on. Here are the final numbers for the past seven #streameroftheday picks:

2 wins, 4.81 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 32 K's in 39 1/3 innings.

And the details:

Date Pitcher Opp IP ER H BB K ERA WHIP Dec
4-May Anthony Bass MIA 6 6 6 3 7 9.00 1.50 ND
5-May Pat Corbin NYM 3 1/3 4 5 2 2 10.80 2.10 L
6-May Rick Porcello CHW 6 1/3 1 4 2 5 1.42 0.95 W
7-May Drew Pomeranz SD 3 3 5 3 2 9.00 2.67 L
8-May AJ Burnett WSH 8 2 6 1 10 2.25 0.88 ND
9-May Dillon Gee PHI 5 2/3 4 10 0 4 6.35 1.76 ND
10-May Henderson Alvarez MIN 7 1 7 3 2 1.29 1.43 W

Not the best week for me as a couple of rookie left-handers let me down in Corbin and Pomeranz. But the AJ Burnett gamble one start after his meltdown in St Louis ended up being my best call of the week (despite him not getting the win).

Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret