Each week, I will review my top picks from my weekly Matchup Report. I am going more in-depth with my weekly start/sit advice than I have in the past, and I want to share the lessons I am learning from this more detailed process. In looking at variables ranging from opponents’ batted ball tendencies to hitters’ track record against power and finesse pitchers, there is much to be learned from taking stock of how my recommendations panned out.
I hit the target on several of my Week 1 recommendations, but none was a better call than tabbing Ervin Santana as my top “start” candidate among streaming options. In CBS leagues (which are generally deeper than those on ESPN or Yahoo), Santana was started in only 57 percent of leagues in Week 1, yet he finished the scoring period as the highest-ranking starting pitcher in both categories and points formats. I cited Santana’s mastery over righties, and while he matched the major league average with a 46 percent platoon advantage rate, he held the Royals’ and White Sox’s right-handers to a .118 batting average with no extra-base hits. Santana finished the week 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and seven strikeouts.
Here are some of the other recommendations that worked out (start rates are from CBS leagues):
Travis Shaw (recommended start, 21 percent started): Shaw’s strong flyball tendencies are a great fit for Miller Park, and he had a seven-game home schedule. Five of those games featured right-handed starters, though it helped Shaw that Brewers manager Craig Counsell also started him against the two lefty Andersons, Tyler and Brett. Shaw finished the week with a .280 batting average, one home run, five doubles, six RBIs and three runs.
Jorge Polanco (recommended start, 6 percent started): I thought Polanco had a chance to generate some power with a schedule loaded with extreme flyball pitchers. He batted .389 with one home run, two doubles, four RBIs and three runs. He outperformed Javier Baez and Tim Anderson, both of whom were recommended sits.
Matt Moore (recommended sit, 69 percent started): I had concerns about the flyball-prone Moore pitching at Chase Field, and those fears were realized when he gave up three runs on eight hits (five doubles) and two walks over 5 1/3 innings in his lone start.
A number of recommendations, however, did not go as planned:
Aledmys Diaz (recommended sit, 89 percent started): I anticipated an unproductive week for Diaz due to a slate of games at Busch Stadium against a mostly-tough set of starting pitchers. I did acknowledge that Bronson Arroyo and Scott Feldman posed favorable matchups for Diaz, but didn’t think he would do enough damage against them to salvage his week. I was wrong. Diaz went 3-for5 in the game started by Arroyo, which included two home runs off the 40-year-old. For the rest of the week, Diaz went 5-for-22 (.227) with no home runs, two doubles, no RBIs, two runs and two stolen bases.
Matt Kemp (recommended sit, 89 percent started): Despite missing the last two games of the week with a hamstring injury that has since landed him on the DL, Kemp had a productive scoring period, going 8-for-16 with two home runs, four doubles, four RBIs and two runs. I worried about the dearth of flyball pitchers on Kemp’s schedule, but he smashed two homers off Matt Harvey and hit a double off Jacob deGrom. It may not be accurate, however, to categorize Harvey as neutral in regard to flyballs, despite his career 45 percent ground ball rate. His grounder rate was just 41 percent last season, and in his start against the Braves, he yielded ground balls on 39 percent of hit balls.
Asdrubal Cabrera (recommended start, 51 percent started): I thought Cabrera would have a big week, fueled by home starts against lefties Jaime Garcia, Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley. Last season, Cabrera slashed .333/.383/.556 against lefties at Citi Field, but last week, he went 1-for-8 with a single against the three lefty staters. He has an .899 OPS overall this season, so there is no reason to think there is something amiss with Cabrera. If there was an error in making this call, it’s that Cabrera has been a better power-hitter as a left-handed hitter since he resurrected his career a season-and-a-half ago. I likely gave too much weight to Citi Field’s park factors for right-handed hitters.
I also recommended that owners sit Nomar Mazara and Manuel Margot. Given that they were started in 36 and 10 percent of CBS leagues, respectively, that was not exactly going out on a limb, yet they were among the biggest producers in Week 1. Mazara’s outburst was hard to foresee, as he has begun the season with an enormous increase in his hard contact rate. Time will tell if this was a precursor to a massive breakout. As for Margot, I focused on the wrong part of his game. I did not like his matchups for base-stealing (though he did manage to steal a base off Yasmani Grandal), but overlooked his potential to contribute with extra-base power. He hit two homers against Matt Cain and two doubles off Madison Bumgarner, so he may be predisposed to hit for power against flyball-leaning pitchers. Margot has too few major league plate appearances to allow us to draw conclusions, but this is a trend I will be watching this season.
Statistical credits: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.
Photo credit: By Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.