Opening Week has come and gone, and the craziness of week one was equal parts small-sample expectancy and player-adjustment reality. It served as yet another reminder that these players are not robots, and there is no evidence like the field of play. It also served as a reminder of the volatility inherent in the season's first week, and that a single start of in-game evaluation can sometimes carry more weight than an entire off-season full of post hoc analysis.
The first week of the season can be the toughest to compete in DFS due to the long hiatus and gaps of information that exist when formulating lineups. I did not know that such a level of stability existed in Ubaldo Jimenez's mechanics, yet there it was on full display last Saturday. I didn't know that Archie Bradley had ironed out so many of the inefficiencies in his own delivery, but one glimpse told me that he was pitching at a higher level than any point of 2014. These examples help to illustrate a more important point, that teams know their players far better than we can possibly fathom, and when they make a decision that appears dubious at first glance there is typically an explanation hidden beneath the surface of our awareness.
Evan Longoria, 3B ($4300)
There is a considerable overlap in the stats above, to the point of nearly being redundant. The sample size is small, but the message is clear: Longoria has had no issue with handling Dickey (or knuckleballs) in his career. The 34 plate appearances in which the two have battled head-to-head ties for the 13-highest total in Longoria's career, adding an extra ounce of weight to the numbers/ Combined with the homer-friendly confines of Rogers Centre, which was the second-easiest park for right-handed batters to hit homers last season, Longoria is poised for a big game against the age-defying Dickey. The knuckleballer is setup for a smooth ride in his own rite, but the biggest threat in the lineup will be the third baseman hitting cleanup.
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Details ($3 Moonshot):
Dustin Pedroia, 2B ($3900)
Home: .312/.375/.479 in 2580 PA
Away: .286/.356/.410 in 2610 PA
Some swings are just built for Fenway. I don't put a ton of stock into home-road splits beyond the basic expectation that players will be a tad better on their home turf, but I take notice in the case of extreme ballparks. The Green Monster certainly qualifies, and though we have grown used to left-handed batters knocking the ball the other way to dent the monster on a regular basis (Yaz, Boggs, Vaughn), Pedroia breaks that mold as a right-handed spray hitter. He hits well everywhere, but the power is a completely different animal for Pedroia in Fenway, with an Isolated Power that is 43 points higher at home for the career Bostonian. He faces a tough matchup with Jordan Zimmermann, but that has been factored into the price so don't look past Pedroia's significant home field advantage.
Seth Smith, OF ($3600)
LHP: .205/.291/.314 in 472 PA
RHP: .278/.359/.483 in 2358 PA
Smith has been deployed exceptionally well in his career, minimizing his exposure to same-side pitchers as 84.5 percent of his career play appearances have come with the platoon advantage. He's facing Brandon McCarthy today, and though he might lose an at bat once the game goes into reliever mode, Smith has started the year on a strong note (five-for-nine with three extra-base hits) and is poised for considerable return on the modest investment in his services.
Smith vs pitch types, (AVG/SLG)
Fastballs (4-seam, sinker, cutter): .288/.504 in 1542 AB
Breaking: .202/.313 in 569 AB
The repertoire paints an intriguing picture in the matchup of Smith and McCarthy. Smith has teed off on hard stuff in his career, posting his strongest numbers against fastballs, sinkers, and cutters. McCarthy brings some variation of the heat three-quarters of the time, which plays into Smith's strengths, but his backup option happens to be Smith's greatest weakness: the curve. Smith has a .188 average with a .252 SLG in 234 at bats that ended on the curveball, including 89 strikeouts, so McCarthy's pitch deployment could play a big role in today's game. The key will be pitch identification, as McCarthy has no discernible pattern with his usage of the curve; he is just as likely to throw it one the first pitch (26 percent in 2014) as with two strikes (also 26 percent).
Gerrit Cole vs. DET ($8600)
I have high hopes for Cole this season, but I will not be investing in him against the Tigers. Detroit has a fearsome offense that is scary enough on paper, but their lineup is a minefield when their hitters are firing on all cylinders. Miguel Cabrera can hit anyone and anything when he's in the zone, and though “in the zone” is a nebulous concept that might be more narrative than statistical fact, gamers might want to jump on board when Cab is hitting well. Further damning to Cole's case is his struggles in limiting the running game, as the right-hander allowed 21 steals last season in 26 attempts (80.8 percent), and he surrendered two more in his season debut to jackrabbit Billy Hamilton. It could be a big day on the basepaths for Rajai Davis.
Danny Duffy at MIN ($7200)
The Twins' weakness versus southpaws was established/mentioned last week (hyperlink), with the bulk of their top offensive players taken down a peg or two when facing left-handers. Brian Dozier is the biggest threat in an otherwise left-leaning lineup. Minnesota has had a helluva time trying to get their offense off the ground, with a team batting average of .197 and just a single home run through the first half-dozen games of the season. Duffy is a risky proposition whenever he takes the mound, but the context in today's game provides a less-intimidating gauntlet.
Shelby Miller vs. MIA ($7100)
Rain threatens to either cut his outing short or stop it before it starts, but his first game of the season opened eyes as to what is in store for 2015. The 95.5 mph average on his fastball was the second-highest single-game value of his career (July 3, 2013), and the radar-gun readings were even more impressive given the early date on the season calendar and the fact that pitchers tend to lose velocity as they age, not gain it. His curveball also had more depth than in previous seasons, and though he still flashed the restricted repertoire that fueled pessimism in the first place, Miller's ability to command his fastball variations and pace-altering curve will ultimately determine his value.
Mark Canha, 1B/OF ($3200)
The latest reclamation project by the Oakland A's, Canha has come on like gangbusters this spring and earned his way onto the everyday roster. His value has also been depressed by his usage pattern: Canha did not play in the A's first two games of the season, but he started in the five-hole in game three and responded with three hits (including two doubles) and 4 RBI. He has played every game since (five in a row), including the last three consecutive ballgames hitting out of the two spot, facing right-handed starters and left-handers alike. It is rare enough to find a player at that low of a price who is hitting that high in a lineup, but one who hit a collective .285/.375/.474 in the minors with a consistent base of all-around skills is particularly rare. His ultra-low price and positional flexibility make him especially attractive, as a team can save their money with Canha and then go big at another spot in the lineup. I don't expect the low cost to last very long, but he will be a staple of my DFS lineups until his price is corrected.
Be very careful of the Miami-Atlanta ball game, as rain is expected in Atlanta throughout the day. It's probably best to avoid players in this contest … click here for updates
Rain is scheduled to start falling in Arlington around 5pm local time (currently 60-70% likelihood), posing a risk to the 7pm ballgame between the Angels and Rangers – click here for updates
Early-morning thunderstorms are predicted in St. Louis, which might cause some delay to the early game, but it's supposed to be clear once the precipitation passes … click here for updates
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