One of the keys to winning at fantasy baseball formats with daily transactions is to look at match-ups on a day to day basis. That holds true whether you’re in a daily contest format that allows you to turn over your entire team each day, or a more traditional daily transactions format, where you’ll be focusing on rotating some of your more marginal players between your lineup, your bench, and the waiver or free agent pool.
When evaluating the beginning of the season, matchups can be a little tricky to evaluate. While we know for sure which opposing team everyone will be facing, and which park they’ll be playing in, it can be difficult to gather complete information on starting pitching rotations. That makes it hard to fully assess how favorable the schedule will be to various hitters. I won’t even be trying to calculate daily ratings until Saturday. That said, based on what we do know, we can identify some teams and players that may be in particularly good situations on Opening Day and for the rest of the initial series of the 2009 season.
Cleveland Indians – Playing at Texas. Indians hitters will be in a good park for hitters, facing a weak pitching staff with no ace and a questionable bullpen. The only slight minus is that they’re on the road. Grady Sizemore is almost certainly the most valuable hitter for Opening Day if you play in a daily format that allows complete lineup turnover each day, and likely will be the most valuable outfielder for the entire opening series. Victor Martinez will be a clear standout at catcher as well. Players like Choo and Peralta may offer good value in salary cap leagues.
New York Yankees – Playing at Baltimore. Another situation where a road team will be facing a much weaker than average Opening Day starter. That’s going to give Yankees hitters a nice start to the season, and will also give Sabathia an excellent chance of winning his first start. Depending on the format, Teixeira may be worth just about as much as Pujols for Opening Day, at a far lower cost. Other hitters like Cano and Jeter will move way up relative to the elite players at their position, again offering potential bargains in salary cap leagues.
Arizona Diamondbacks – At home against Colorado. This is a great situation for Arizona players. At home against a team with weak hitting and weak pitching. It’s made even better for their hitters by the fact that they play in a good hitters park. Like Sabathia, Webb should have an excellent chance of picking up an Opening Day win, and also like Sabathia, Webb is efficient enough that he may pitch deeper into the game than most starters are able to at the beginning of the season. I don’t consider any of Arizona’s hitters really elite, but in salary cap games there may be one or two who offer good value given the situation they’ll be facing in their opening series, and in Yahoo leagues it’s worth taking a look at any unowned hitters on their team who might be useful for a spot start in your lineup.
Speaking of Yahoo leagues, several weeks ago I discussed the value of relief pitchers with starting pitcher eligibility. At this point, it looks like there are at least three who could have substantial value at the beginning of the season. Hong-chih Kuo I’ve already discussed. He’ll contribute wins, strikeouts, and excellent ratios, while filling a starting pitching slot on your roster that will rarely be used for an active player otherwise. With the Seattle closer job still open, and Brandon Morrow not yet able to pitch more than a few innings, I think there’s a good chance that Morrow will move back into the closer’s role for the Mariners. And the Brewers have already announced that with Trevor Hoffman out to start the season, Carlos Villanueva will get first shot at being the fill-in closer.