As we approach the conclusion of the regular season, expect wild things to happen in the chase for the final playoff spots. Teams that need to win games often end up producing in a big way, making the Cardinals and Orioles interesting options for tonight’s action.
St. Louis Cardinals – I’ve written about them before I’ll say it again: you’re crazy to bet against this team this time of year. The healthy Cardinals (Berkman is still on the DL) are batting .297 against Mike Leake and are treating every game like a playoff game. Two of their best hitters (David Freese and Matt Holliday) lead the way against the Reds righty, combining for a .474 batting average with only a single strikeout. Skip Schumaker could be a sneaky play in daily fantasy baseball leagues, as he has knocked in 5 runs in 6 career at bats against Leake. Look for Rafeal Furcal to set the stage, and the big bats (Beltran, Holliday, Freese, and Molina) of St. Louis to cash him in more often than not.
Adam Jones – The upstart O’s have stayed in the playoff picture all season long, and their stud outfielder figures to get them one day closer to the postseason with a big effort against Brandon Morrow and the Toronto Blue Jays. Jones is batting .364 against the righty with an impressive .682 slugging percentage (38% of his hits have gone for extra bases). Those numbers are impressive, and when you combine them with the fact that he hits better at home (41 point rise in batting average, more runs, more RBI, and more SB’s), he becomes a can’t miss player in daily fantasy baseball leagues.
Players to avoid:
Jayson Werth – The bearded wonder has put together a solid month, batting over .370 and raising his batting average 37 points in the process. However, that trend figures to slow against his former team, as Roy Halladay has held Werth to a .200 batting average. More telling than the low batting average is the high strikeout rate (1 strikeout every 2.14 at bats) and slugging percentage (.200). Base runners are hard to come by against Doc, and with Werth’s tendency to strikeout, he is likely to waste any opportunities that present themselves. His hot streak is not a fluke, and the Nats outfielder will be Werth considering as the season progresses, but Halladay will limit, if not completely nullify any value he has in daily fantasy baseball games.
Mark Teixeira – With the Yankees slugger recovering from a minor wrist injury, it is possible he is left out of the starting lineup today. Even if he plays, he should be left out of your daily fantasy baseball lineup, due to his lack of success against Justin Masterson. Teixeira has only one hit in 11 career at bats (.091), and the power packed New York lineup has had surprisingly little success (.248 batting average and a .277 slugging percentage) against the Indians righty. If I’m spending top dollar on a player, I want to make sure he is in the lineup and that he has a good chance to produce, neither of which fit Teix tonight.
Detroit Tigers – This recommendation comes down to trusting past results. The struggling Dan Haren walks into Detroit with nearly a 5 ERA and more losses than wins … so why not roster every single Tigers player? Subtract the injured Victor Martinez, and the current Tigers are batting only .225 against Haren and slugging .331. They have nearly as many strikeouts as hits, and Haren has actually put together a solid strikeout to walk ratio (4.1:1) on the road this season. The middle of the Tigers order (Cabrera, Boesch, Fielder) has combined for a .190 batting average with only one extra base hit, and if Haren can navigate that trio, he should have a quality outing. Yes, I realize that betting on a pitcher who has been bad and typically gets worse as the season progresses is a risky maneuver, but on a day where there are 15 games, you can do better.