Rockies on The Road: Start/Sit Hitting Decisions for Week 8
Hello everyone and welcome back. It’s Sunday and that means it’s Start/Sit hitting decision time. I looked closer at home/road and left/right splits this week than in the past and rather than focus on which Stars seats are hot, I looked at star players that may be worth benching for Week 8 based on either scheduling disparities or troublesome splits or trends. Sitting Stars has to be tempered with responsible judgment and based on an owner’s alternatives, but it is something to look at each week. Stars aren’t immune. They can be benched if the circumstances justify it.
Start/Sit Hitting Decisions: Sitting Stars in Week 8
It’s difficult to sit a star player. Stars are better than most players most of the time and we have confidence in established players. Even if the statistics suggest an owner should sit a star, it’s easier to start them purely because we feel more confident starting a struggling star than a player who lacks a track record. Stars overcome bad matchups or when they are disadvantaged by the schedule. Even when a star player has a negative split against one type of starting pitcher or is less effective on the road, they are still better than the average player or overcome it often enough that owners are better off starting them even in disadvantaged situations.
That doesn’t mean Fantasy owners shouldn’t at least consider sitting them in certain circumstances. Some analysts disagree with this, but I am not one of them. In weekly and daily transaction leagues, I believe nobody is immune from being benched. It’s not an easy call and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly, but there are circumstances that justify sitting a Star. Sometimes it’s a bad enough sample that’s large enough. Normally, for me, it’s a combination of poor play and bad matchups, backed up by recent as well as career data.
In previous columns, it’s been “Stars on The Hot Seat.” This week, here are a few Stars Worth Sitting, or at least, worth considering and why.
Starling Marte, OF Pittsburgh Pirates
Marte is one of the few right-handed hitters that hits better against right-handed pitchers than left-handers. He has hit more career home runs, (69 vs. 20) and for a higher batting average, (.287 vs. .270), wOBA (.342 vs. .325) and a better OPS (.789 vs. .746) against right-handers than left-handers. He has even been caught stealing five times in 10 attempts against left-handed pitching.
In Week 8, Marte will face five left-handed pitchers in seven games and all on the road, where he has been worse in both 2018 and 2019. In 35 career at-bats against the seven pitchers he will face this week, admittedly a tiny sample, he hasn’t hit a home run and in two of the cases – Matt Strahm and Nick Margevicius – he hasn’t even faced them.
Marte is a “Must-Start” player, but he hasn’t been quite that guy this season. He has only four home runs and six stolen bases while batting .233 in 2019. In order to sit a Top 100, “Must Start” player, your alternatives must justify even considering such a decision, but Marte’s career left/right splits and .246 road batting average and .724 OPS in 2019 provide some of that justification.
Marte hits for power, an above average batting average and he steals bases and he has a seven-game schedule in Week 8. All reasons to stand by the status quo. However, there are splits and scheduling disadvantages that provide at least something to consider in shallower leagues.
Charlie Blackmon, OF Colorado Rockies
Hector Velazquez/Chris Sale/Vincent Velasquez/Aaron Nola/Jerad Eickhoff
Blackmon is in this part of the column because he has a five-game slate as opposed to alternative starters potentially having seven, and they are all on the road. No Coors Field inflation this week. Rockies players almost universally hit better at Coors Field and Blackmon is no different, but he has been even worse in 2019. He has zero home runs, a .221 batting average, and a .558 OPS on the road this season.
Helping Blackmon owners and making the argument for sitting him a little weaker, he has killed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .337 batting average, 1.022 OPS and four home runs, but most of that has been at home as well. Four of his five opponent starters will be right-handed, the fifth being Chris Sale.
Blackmon hits fewer home runs, strikes out more often and has a career batting average of .260 on the road vs. .346 at home, an enormous difference by any measure. And, he has been significantly worse than his career norms on the road than at home this season.
The scheduling disparity, the splits, and the matchups combine to make a compelling case to at least consider sitting the Star. Also, something that helps Marte’s case and hurts Blackmon’s, he isn’t stealing bases anymore. He has only two in 2019. It makes it an easier Start/Sit hitting decision when owners can’t comfortably expect a home run or a stolen base and Blackmon could have as many as 10-15 fewer at-bats than potential alternatives. He might even sit against a tough lefty like Chris Sale, meaning it could be a four-game week, not five. Something to consider in Week 8.
Andrew Benintendi, OF Boston Red Sox
Making a weekly Start/Sit hitting decision for Andrew Benintendi drives me crazy. I am a Red Sox fan, a Benintendi owner and he is a very good player, one of my favorites. Even considering sitting him is against what I want as a fan. Analyzing Benintendi is like watching International Table Tennis. That tiny white ball flying at what seems like hyperspeed back and forth, left to right, right to left, forth and back. It makes me dizzy.
The problem I run into every single week is that Benintendi isn’t an elite player in any category, with the possible exception of batting average in what has become a lost skill in the game. But, he is above average in all of them. Because he isn’t an elite, Joey Gallo/Khris Davis/Billy Hamilton type of player the slightest scheduling disadvantage or a specific opponent or a split of some sort and his above average overall profile can statistically look bad.
I always come to one key question with Benintendi. Is he going to steal any bases or hit a home run this week? Too often I look at the schedule and the matchups, especially when he has home games, and the answer is no. How can I ignore a Start/Sit hitting decision when the answer to whether he is going to hit a home run or steal a base is No?
In Benintendi’s favor, he does have two home runs at home and five against right-handed pitching along with a .294 batting average. Against him, five games as opposed to seven with Gerrit Cole, German Marquez and a left-hander in Kyle Freeland at home on the bump. Once again, I can’t help but think, at least in shallow leagues and maybe even standard ones, that owners may have viable alternatives in better circumstances to succeed than Benintendi in Week 8. I doubt many have better overall players to choose from, but in Fantasy it’s about the categories and with Benintendi the odds are often against him.
Matt Carpenter, 1B/2B/3B St. Louis Cardinals
Mike Foltynewicz/Mike Soroka/Julio Teheran/Drew Smyly/Adrian Sampson/Shelby Miller
The schedule and the matchups aren’t in Carpenter’s favor, making him a debatable Start/Sit hitting decision in Week 8. Carpenter has six games, all on the road and five of the six he faces right-handed pitchers.
Carpenter is batting .202 with a .638 OPS and only seven RBIs against right-handed pitching in 2019. If that isn’t enough, he has a .192 batting average and .648 OPS on the road in 2019 as well. He has only four home runs for the entire season while batting .201, and he is hitting a measly .170 over the last 14-days. If it weren’t bad matchups or splits, he would be a Star on the Hot Seat and if he had a five-game slate, I would have to seriously consider labeling him a Must-Sit.
The standard caveats apply like all Start/Sit hitting decisions. He has six games this week and it’s a small sample, though an ugly one. Carpenter plays multiple positions, which means he is competing for the start against more players that could be significantly worse than he is, even in less than optimal circumstances and what appears to be abysmal splits or conditions. I suspect a lot of owners don’t have enough viable alternatives to bench Carpenter, but they probably should any way. He has been bad all season and this weeks all around circumstances are primed for failure. Bad is bad and recently there has been too much of that from Carpenter.
Finding An Edge: Start/Sit Hitting Decisions for Week 8
One of the places I look to identify sneaky-good plays for my Start/Sit hitting decisions is the left/right and home/road splits. It’s where the most Noteworthy surprises can be found. Platooning and oddities happen and they often slip through the cracks, providing an edge for owners that are paying attention.
Here are a few to consider for Week 8 when making your Start/Sit hitting decisions.
Left/Right and Home/Road Splits
Rafael Devers, 3B Boston Red Sox
Devers is hitting .350 vs righties and .414 at home. This week, he will face four right-handed pitchers and has all five of his starts at home in Fenway Park. The opponents on the bump aren’t easy and he only has one home run at home, but .350/.414 are numbers that suggest good things could happen. NoteWorthy splits for the youngster.
Harrison Bader, OF St. Louis Cardinals
Mike Foltynewicz/Mike Soroka/Julio Teheran/Drew Smyly/Adrian Sampson/Shelby Miller
Bader is batting .182 with two home runs against right-handed pitching in 2019. I like Bader’s overall profile and skill set, which is why I mention him here, but three home runs, zero stolen bases and a .200 batting average along with this week’s left/right splits and I had to mention it. He is owned in less than 28% of Yahoo! Leagues so most owners aren’t rostering or starting him anyway, but the ugliness stood out and I felt a share was appropriate.
Dwight Smith Jr., OF Baltimore Orioles
Jonathan Loaisiga/J.A. Happ/Domingo German/Trevor Bauer/Jefry Rodriguez/Shane Bieber/Carlos Carrasco
Smith is an under-owned (56% in Yahoo Leagues) player with seven home runs and a .280 batting average and he has done most of it against right-handed pitching, of which he is scheduled to face six this week. I don’t love the matchups and he isn’t an easy Stat/Sit hitting decision, but Bauer, Bieber, Carrasco, and Rodriguez have allowed a combined 21 home runs and Smith has hit six of his seven home runs against righties. He is a viable consideration in spite of the names he faces this week. He is at least an intriguing, contrarian Daily Fantasy bargain to target in multiple matchups this week.
The Rangers have six games and will face five right-handed pitchers in Week 8. I am not a huge fan of most of their roster, with the exception of Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor and in deeper leagues, Asdrubal Cabrera, but the splits and the stats are intriguing this week. Here are a few NoteWorthy numbers.
Danny Duffy/Jorge Lopez/Homer Bailey/Miles Mikolas/Daniel Hudson/Jack Flaherty
Vs. Right Handed Pitching
Asdrubal Cabrera: 6 HRs – .247 BA – .806 OPS
Danny Santana: 3 HRs – 6 SBs – .358 BA – 1.001 OPS
Hunter Pence 5 HRs – .340 BA – 1.183 OPS
NoteWorthy Home/Road Splits
Howie Kendrick, 2B/1B Washington Nationals
3 HRs – .395 BA – 1.149 OPS
Kendrick isn’t flashy but the guy can hit and he is doing it well at the moment. He has six home runs and a .306 batting average for the season and is only owned in 18% of Yahoo leagues. He has been hitting just short of .400 at home with an OPS over a thousand and he has six games in Washington this week. With all the injuries Kendrick is guaranteed plenty of at-bats for the foreseeable future, not just in Week 8. He needs to be on owners’ radars.
Luke Voit, 1B New York Yankees
2 HRs – .186 BA – .618 OPS
Voit is having a great season and he has nine home runs against right-handed pitching this season, of which he will face at least four this week. But, he has struggled at Yankee stadium where all six of his games are in Week 8, including one against Blake Snell. I am not suggesting owners bench Voit, but he struggles at home and he is hitting .162 in his last 37 at-bats. NoteWorthy, especially in DFS, where it might be best to avoid him this week.
Brett Gardner, OF New York Yankees
5 HRs – .205 BA
The Short porch is legendary and while Gardner isn’t making a ton of contact, when he does, it goes. And, he has six home games this week. NoteWorthy, especially in DFS.
Yadier Molina, CA St. Louis Cardinals
.190 – 0 HRs on Road
Catcher is an ugly place to roam, so when a split even suggests something gruesome could be coming, it’s best to change lanes and start someone else. That’s the case for Molina this week. Molina, for whatever reason, has stunk on the road this season. Bad plane food or jet lag. Whatever. Owners shouldn’t release him, just look elsewhere for the next seven days only to return next week for better viewing.
You can follow me on Twitter @CJMitch73 or on Facebook in the Fantasy Sports group “A Podcast To Be Named Later” and we will have a Podcast coming in the not-too-distant future, so keep an eye-out.
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