Happy Opening Day, fantasy baseballers! Welcome to a new feature at Fake Teams: The Game of the Week. The purpose of Game of the Week is to provide a thematic framework for choosing players to highlight in articles and to give Fake Teams readers a voice in choosing which players will be featured. Don't worry - Fake Teams has plenty of writers and all of our regular coverage will continue.
Each week on Monday, I'll post an article briefly previewing the two teams. Their recent results will be examined, the home ballpark will get a treatment, and we'll highlight some players to watch. The comments section in that article will be dedicated to nominating players to be analyzed throughout the week. Hitters and relievers will be profiled during the mid-week, and on Friday we'll take a look at the probable starters for the game. The Game of the Week will be the Sunday night game, and Fake Teams will host a live game thread. I hope to provide a variety of themes during these threads - for example, from time to time, I may ask somebody from the fantasy community to come guest host and do an All Questions Answered thread while we watch. At the very least, it will be a great time for people who love fantasy baseball to come together and enjoy watching the game.
This is a new feature for us, so it has the potential to develop organically. If something is not working - or working! - please let us know. Let's hit the ground running with this week's preview. The first Fake Teams Game of the Week will feature the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, April 6.
The Home Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
SB Nation blog: True Blue LA
Recently: Los Angeles had an atypical Spring Training, thanks to a regular season two-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks last weekend in Australia, which they swept. Last night, they featured in ESPN's Opening Night against the San Diego Padres, taking a 1-0 lead into the 8th inning before setup man Brian Wilson melted down and allowed 3 runs without retiring a batter. The loss marred an efficient outing for Hyun-Jin Ryu (7 IP, 7 K, 3 H, 3 BB, 0 ER), who was making his second start of the season before almost every other major league team even took the field.
The Dodgers are the odds-on favorite to win the division this year, and every projection system I've seen have them winning the most games in the league as well. Most teams that take the international trip to start the season in the short history of such openers have struggled a bit when the season proper gets underway, but they will have two days off this week that may offset that potential slump somewhat.
Fun with Fantasy: Ryu is the pitcher we have the most 2014 data on, so he's the natural choice to lead off this section. He was the 22nd starter taken in drafts this spring, according to Mock Draft Central, so fantasy players are expecting big things out of him this year. It's understandable, given his strong "rookie" season. A workhorse who actually got stronger in some respects in the second half (6.10 second-half K/BB!), Ryu looks like a solid option as a fantasy SP2. Last night, he took advantage of his five-pitch repertoire, effectively changing speeds and causing Padres hitters to whiff 14% of the time. He was more efficient than he was in Australia, finishing 7 innings with 86 pitches after taking 87 pitches to get through 5 in his first outing. Head-to-head players in weekly matchups will no doubt be thankful for Ryu, who is also slated to go on Friday, but given his home park, durability, and favorable peripheral statistics, all players should have every reason to continue to expect consistent, upper-tier performance from Ryu again in 2014.
The Visitors: San Francisco Giants
SB Nation blog: McCovey Chronicles
Recently: Here's where we'll normally talk about the team's recent results. The Giants had a spring training. They won a few games more than they lost. None of it means much of anything. Not many people expect San Francisco to threaten to return to the World Series for the third time in five years, but that was the case each of the other two times as well. If the Dodgers falter, it's more likely that the Giants are there to take advantage than any of their other divisional rivals. Madison Bumgarner will take hill today in Arizona for the opener.
Fun with Fantasy: Brandon Belt should be a fun one to watch this year. He was the 16th first baseman taken in drafts according to Mock Draft Central (98th overall), and I'm betting he'll finish higher than that. Last season, his contact percentage shot up (79.6% vs. career 77.1%, and check out that O-Contact% on FanGraphs: 62.9% vs. 57.3% career) and so did his overall numbers. What's interesting is that there are plenty of people buying what he's selling - check out the fan-sourced projections on FanGraphs relative to the major projection systems (141 wRC+ vs. 133, 128, and 125 for Oliver, Steamer, and ZiPS, respectively).
The Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Like almost every other NL West ballpark, Dodger Stadium suppresses scoring. Last season, it was the 28th-ranked park in terms of runs, but was a bit easier for home run hitters, ranking 15th. As a symmetrical field, it doesn't favor hitters or pitchers of either handedness, and since it sits in a recessed bowl, the lack of wind is ultimately a positive for pitchers. Pinched-in corners and an almost non-existent foul ground means that hitters produce very few triples.
Because home runs aren't suppressed nearly as much as total runs, hitters can thrive at Dodger Stadium, but we're likely in for a classic low-scoring National League game on Sunday. These two played each other 10 times in LA last season, and only twice did the scoreline eclipse the MLB average of 8.34 combined runs per game. To be fair, one of those two was a 19-3 Giants win, so who knows?
The Dodgers (2-1) have two more with the Padres before the Giants come to town on Friday. LA will have both Monday and Thursday off. San Francisco (0-0) starts a four-game set with the Diamondbacks on Monday.
Your turn: What Dodgers and Giants players would you like to see profiled this week?