What I don’t want to do is ignore the weather. Check out these game-time temperatures:
NYM @ WAS - 70
BAL @ NYY - 62
CLE @ MIN - 33
CWS @ KC - 41
Also...why is this only a four-game slate? PIT/CIN? DET/TOR? ATL/PHI? Why not?
Anyway, it’s COLD. All four games are divisional, for what it’s worth. The game with the highest temperature features Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg...hardly a spot we’d want to find hitters. If I can find bats I like, I’m honestly inclined to just rotate all these stud pitchers in.
The Yankees should be supreme chalk in the next-warmest game against Baltimore’s opener, Nate Karns. I’m wondering if we can differentiate at all in this one. After all, eight of those nine Yankee hitters can do some damage (sorry, Tulo). Anyway, Karns’ largest samples sizes in recent memory came in 2015 and 2016. In ‘15, he allowed 19 homers, 14 of which were to right-handed hitters. That was a 1.73 HR/9 to righties, compared to 0.61 HR/9 to lefty bats. Right-handers made more hard contact, pulled the ball more, and put the ball in the air more. In ‘16 it was mostly the same (smaller sample) but righties again touched him up more (seven homers to four). Lefties had a 0.76 HR/9, while righties posted a 1.34 HR/9. Right-handers again made more hard contact and pulled the ball more, but they didn’t put it in the air as much (fly ball rate fell to only 31.1%). In 2017’s small sample (our most recent one) righties had six homers to three and a 1.95 HR/9 compared to a 1.53 HR/9 to lefties. However, lefties again had a higher fly ball rate and also posted more hard contact. Righties still pulled the ball far more, 46.7% to only 31.9%. Add it all up and it reads like right-handed bats against Karns is what we want, but lefties would also be tolerable. Unfortunately for Karns, eight of New York’s hitters will bat from the right side, with only Brett Gardner hitting lefty (LeMahieu is in for Greg Bird). I just can’t see Karns lasting long in this one. That means we’ll see plenty of Baltimore’s bullpen, but we saw Wright, Hess, and Fry on Opening Day. Fry was really solid against right-handed bats a year ago, so that’s a loss for sure. I don’t know how the Yankee bats aren’t mega-chalk on a small slate against Baltimore’s bullpen...
James Paxton is hard to peg today. He’s cheaper than Bauer (most expensive) but more expensive than Thor (who is on the road). Strasburg is at home, but running up against Thor. Ownership among these pitchers will be interesting today. Like I said, I’ll be attempting to find bats I like and then weaving these hurlers in and out. Good luck with that, right?
Part of me thinks Bauer may go under-owned due to being the most expensive AND being on the road. I’m totally fine with that. I expect the Twins to have an excellent season, but in a 30-degree game against Trevor Bauer....we call that an “uphill battle.” Part of the allure to Bauer is opposing starter Jake Odorizzi’s inability to keep the ball out of the air. Sure, the dense cold should help, but Odorizzi is simply an “innings eater” at this juncture of his career, and he had the third-worst fly ball rate in the Majors in 2018 (only Verlander and Matt Boyd allowed more fly balls). Cleveland should fall into some offense, somewhere. One run might be enough.
At first glance, this last game looks pretty disgusting, with Reynaldo Lopez taking on Jakob Junis in Kansas City. However, Lopez had a really solid run to end 2018 and finished with a 3.91 ERA overall. Lopez allows a lot of fly balls, ranking fifth-worst in the MLB in 2018 at 47.1%. But KC’s home park should aid that problem. Problem is, Lopez just doesn’t strike out a ton of batters. That, and this slate might be bereft of enough hitting options to warrant not paying down for Lopez. We shall see. I do really like one lineup with all of the big right-handed Yankee bats (Judge, Stanton, Sanchez, Andujar) that also includes Jose Ramirez. Punting shortstop with Richie Martin (and praying for a stolen base) makes it all work. And if you want to work in Luuuuuuuke Voit, you might have to drop Jose Ramirez. If I do that, I like adding in another one, some dude named Eloy Jimenez. My handy FanDuel news note tells me Eloy saw only four fastballs on 17 pitches in his MLB debut. My handy Fangraphs news note tells me that Jakob Junis relies heavily on his fastball to work himself back into counts when he falls behind—and that hitters had a .412 wOBA on that heater in said situation. I’m just saying, there’s a chance we see Eloy’s first big league homer today, regardless of the park setting.
What in the heck are you guys doing for bats today? Pitching seems plentiful. Bats...not so much.