Welcome to Splitsville -- where we celebrate baseball's purest statistics.
Fantasy owners have all sorts of ways of picking their starting lineups from week to week. Be it two-start pitchers, favorite players or facing the Washington Nationals, there are a multitude of customs used to choose your weapons wisely.
Chances are you aren't checking player splits. Maybe you should be. On second thought, we'll do it for you.
Splits can be any statistic from how well a player hits during the day to how he fares against a certain team or against an individual pitcher. Splits are every nuance of the game expounded over the course of a season or a career, and they can help us predict future outcomes.
Take Willie Mays, for example. You'd probably never want to sit the Say Hey Kid, but maybe you should have when he was facing the Reds and Padres in a given Fantasy week. Mays went just 398 for 1,494 (.266) against those two opponents during his Hall of Fame career.
Each Fantasy week we'll give you five players with interesting splits highlighting their value and five situations where the numbers hint to avoid a certain player.
Without further ado, let's let the splits do the talking.
Five Strikes (positive splits)
Jeff Francoeur, RF, Mets
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Florida, Three games vs. Washington
Analysis: Chicks dig the long ball, and Frenchy digs hitting homers against the Nationals and Marlins. In fact, Francoeur likes hitting period when he goes up against Florida and Washington. With 13 career homers against Florida and 12 against Washington, he has at least four more homers versus these teams than any other opponents he has faced in his career. With 59 and 56 RBI, respectively, against the Marlins and Nationals, only the Mets -- his current team -- even come close in run production (46) allowed to the 26-year-old right fielder. Among the starters he's expected to face, Francoeur owns a .318 career average against Josh Johnson, he is hitting .304 against Ricky Nolasco and has gone 5 for 13 (.385) in his career against Washington's Livan Hernandez.
Joe Saunders, SP, Angels
Upcoming Schedule: April 6 vs. Minnesota, April 11 vs. Oakland
Analysis: Fantasy owners should be starting Saunders in just about all formats this week considering he is a two-start pitcher against the Twins and A's at home. Just in case that wasn't enough incentive, the splits back it up. Saunders is 3-1 in four career starts against the Twins and has owned the A's the last two seasons to the tune of 7-2, with an average of 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His scheduled opponents in those starts -- Nick Blackburn of Minnesota and Oakland's Dallas Braden -- are a combined 1-6 against the Angels over their careers, with a 5.72 ERA for Blackburn and a 4.36 ERA for Braden, who owns the sole victory. Oh yeah, Saunders owns a 91 percent winning percentage over the first month of the season for his career, with a 10-1 record and a 2.51 ERA. It's easily his best month of the season historically.
Miguel Tejada, 3B, Orioles
Upcoming Schedule: Three games at Tampa Bay, Three games vs. Toronto
Analysis: Miggy remembers facing these two teams often from his first stint in Baltimore and there will be some familiar faces this time around. Tejada owns a .311 career batting average in 125 games against the Rays and has hit .293 against the Blue Jays in 127 games. He likes hitting at Tropicana Field in Tampa (.311 career average), and of the six pitchers Tejada is expected to face in the season's opening week, he has batting averages of .300 or better against Matt Garza, James Shields, Brian Tallet and Shaun Marcum. Against Garza, Shields and Marcum, Tejada is a combined 18 for 43 (.419) with 11 RBI.
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Nationals
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Philadelphia, Three games at N.Y. Mets
Analysis: A 38-year-old backstop entering his 20th season in the Bigs, Pudge is a longtime American Leaguer. However, he does have enough experience against NL pitchers to track his trends, and the Mets and Phillies are two teams he's always hit well against. Pudge is batting .310 in 87 career at-bats against Philadelphia -- one of 14 MLB teams he has a career average of .300 or better against -- and he's really assaulted Mets pitching over the years. In fact, seeing as this series will be played in the Big Apple, he's been even better in New York. Pudge hits .358 against the Mets and .375 in New York. He's never hit Johan Santana well -- who does? -- but will also face Oliver Perez and Jonathon Niese, who he has four hits and four RBI against in eight at-bats. Also, taking into account he's a bit of an oddity in that he hits better during the day (.311) than at night (.295), and the Nationals have three day games in the first week, Pudge should have a pretty good opening scoring period.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. St. Louis, Three games vs. Chicago Cubs
Analysis: Of Cincinnati's first six games in the opening week of the regular season, four are to be played in the natural light of the sun. This should have Votto's Fantasy owners licking their chops. That is because Votto, over his three-year career, has been much better when the stadium lights are not needed. In day games, Votto has a career .330 batting average and homers every 15.2 at bats. That compares to night games, when he homers every 24.3 at bats with a .300 batting average.
Five 7-10 Splits (negative splits)
Troy Glaus, 1B, Braves
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Chicago Cubs, Three games at San Francisco
Analysis: As the starting first baseman for Atlanta, Glaus makes his triumphant return to the majors after playing in only 14 games last season due to shoulder surgery. The Braves are thrilled they finally have the right-handed power bat they've been searching for, and Fantasy owners, who can only use him at third base until he gains eligibility at first, shouldn't overlook him as a solid NL-only player and mixed-league sleeper. Unfortunately, Glaus, who spent nine of his 12 seasons in the American League, runs into a buzz saw in the first week of the season. The Braves play three games at home against the Cubs and then head to San Francisco to take on the Giants. Those teams just happen to be Glaus' kryptonite. Glaus struggled against his Week 1 opponents more than any other teams in the majors. He is batting .176 in 74 career at-bats against the Cubs and .192 in 120 at-bats against the Giants. Furthermore, Glaus is just a .159 hitter in 69 at-bats at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
Jake Westbrook, SP, Indians
Upcoming Schedule: April 5 at Chicago White Sox, April 11 at Detroit
Analysis: Having not pitched in the major leagues since May 2008 due to elbow problems, the Indians are asking a lot of Westbrook, as they tabbed him their opening-day starter in Chicago. That means Westbrook will immediately be a two-start pitcher for Week 1, which will hike up his Fantasy starting percentage despite the uncertainty surrounding his return. It doesn't bode well for Westbrook that he not only has to make his first two starts on the road, but they come against two teams he has always had trouble against. Westbrook has a career 6.05 ERA against the Tigers and 4.94 ERA against the White Sox. He is also just 12-19 against those AL Central opponents. Westbrook faces two day games and has been decidedly worse in the afternoon than at night over the course of his nine-year career. In general, he's always struggled in April with a 4.56 ERA and a 6-14 career record in the season's first month. Westbrook should be a nice Fantasy sleeper this season, but with all the uncertainty and negative trends surrounding his first week back since 2008, it might be best you sleep on this two-start hurler.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Toronto, Three games vs. Seattle
Analysis: Hamilton hits better when the sun goes down, but it is going to be baking quite a bit on his tattooed forearms over the season's opening week. The Rangers' slugger, who is trying to bounce back after hitting .268 last season with 10 homers in 89 games, has hit just .239 during the day over the course of his career, compared to .309 under the lights. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners hoping his bounce-back season begins immediately, Texas plays four of its six games in Week 1 under cover of the sun. As a side note, this statistic is contradicted by the fact that Hamilton homers against the Blue Jays and Mariners once every 12 at bats -- a higher rate than any other two teams he has faced in the majors. In fact, he homers every 8.8 at bats against Toronto.
Barry Zito, SP, Giants
Upcoming Schedule: April 6 at Houston
Analysis: The Giants' starting staff is locked and loaded this season, especially when you consider the one-time Cy Young award-winning Zito is probably just the third- or fourth-best starter in the group. Manager Bruce Bochy will hand the ball to Zito in the second game of the season at Houston's Minute Maid Park, where Zito gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings during his only career start at the ballpark. In fact, the Astros have always troubled Zito, who is more than usable in mixed leagues after winning at least 10 games in nine straight seasons and is coming off one of his best years in a long time. Still, due to his past track record of season-opening starts, owners may want to shy away from the Southern California native in Week 1. That is because Zito hasn't won his first start of the year since 2003 -- the year following the Cy Young -- with Oakland. In his last six season debuts, Zito has gone 0-6, giving up a total of 23 runs in 29 1/3 innings.
Chone Figgins, 2B, Mariners
Upcoming Schedule: Four games at Oakland, Three games at Texas
Analysis: The Mariners have made the decision to move Figgins, who previously manned the hot corner for the Angels, to second base. That actually doesn't bode well considering his performances at the plate when playing in the middle of the infield. In 340 career at-bats as a second baseman, Figgins has hit just .268, his worst average at any position. We're not suggesting he's become a forgettable Fantasy option. He'll eventually get comfortable at second and the hits will surely come. Still, in his first week with a new team at a new position and playing seven games on the road, you might want to take a wait-and-see approach. More food for thought: Figgins is just a career .262 hitter against the Rangers and hits worse in Texas (.249). With the final four games of the week being played during the day, he also hits only .278 under the sun.
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