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Before the baseball season begins, when fantasy players are prepping for draft day, a difficult decision and common debate fodder is how much focus one should put on pitchers vs. hitters. Opening Day proved to be a win for the pitcher-centric fantasy players. As long as they chose the right ones, of course. But there was plenty of great pitching to go around. Six starting pitchers led their team to a dominating shutout on April 5th and 6th. Some were big-time names while others were a bit more surprising, and some might still be in your free agent pool as you read this (hint: go get them).
The first was Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals ace who was coming off of a 20-9 season last year. Through six innings, Wainwright didn’t walk a single batter and recorded six strikeouts against the up-and-coming Chicago Cubs on Sunday. This stellar performance certainly bodes well for those who took Wainwright hoping he could continue his career stellar production.
Apr 6, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Kendrick pitched 7 shutout innings to pick up the win as the Rockies beat the Brewers 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Kendrick of the Colorado Rockies didn’t appear to have the stuff the rest of the day’s starting pitchers did; the 30 year old had a 74-68 record going into this season, his first in a Rockies uniform. He probably wasn’t even drafted in your fantasy league. Nevertheless, Kendrick certainly looked worthy of opening the season for the Rockies as he pitched seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP. Kendrick’s control helped him get the best of every batter he faced.
Like Kendrick, Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz went undrafted in most standard leagues. Also like Kendrick, Buchholz exceeded expectations by throwing for seven shutout innings. He ended the day with a 9-1 strikeout to walk ratio, a .57 WHIP and a seemingly easy win. Fantasy players who drafted Buchholz may have gotten a steal thanks to his low stock after his abysmal 2014 campaign. If the Red Sox are able to find their stride, Buchholz will end up much closer to his 12-1 2013 season than many may have predicted. If either Kendrick or Buchholz are still available in your league, I suggest picking him up for your worst starting pitcher.
Taking the place of Justin Verlander as the Detroit Tigers #1 starter is no simple task. David Price definitely fit the bill on Monday. Price was incredibly efficient in 8.2 innings, one out away from a complete game shutout, throwing 75% of his balls for strikes and not walking a single batter. Even more promising is that the Tigers were able to give Price more than enough run support even with Miguel Cabrera going 0-4, largely due to Yoenis Cespedes’ and J.D. Martinez’ big hits in the early innings.
Apr 6, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel (60) delvers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
If you predicted that Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros would be getting a win on Monday, you were probably an optimistic Astros fan. Jose Altuve is the sole potential stud in the lineup, and the Astros were going up against Corey Kluber, reigning Cy Young winner. Apparently, all they needed was Altuve on the offense combined with seven innings of shutout pitching by Keuchel. While his performance wasn’t quite as dominant as other pitchers on this list (he walked three batters and only struck out four), Keuchel proved that he belonged at the top of the rotation and showed promise as a developing player who has improved every year since he came to the pros in 2012.
The Oakland Athletics‘ Sonny Gray ended the season openers in the same fashion that Wainwright began them: with a near no-hitter. Gray went eight innings only giving up one hit, in the 8th, and one walk. He didn’t even need to hit 100 pitches to take down the Texas Rangers for nearly the entire game. With so much turnover in the roster, the Athletics are still tough to predict. However, it appears that they have at least found a consistent #1 starter in Gray.
Regardless of format, having one or more of these stud pitchers was a possibility. If you are one of them, make sure you screenshot your league’s standings or your head-to-head matchup and brag about your one-day dominance. Like with all things fantasy, it probably won’t last very long.
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