The past three days, we've had the pleasure of watching baseball games that actually count toward each team's 162-game record. Though it's early, SI.com's experts are ready to weigh in. Michael Beller and Eric Mack offer their thoughts on the first games of the 2013 season. To view their preseason roundtable, click here.
Planner | Waiver Wire | Pitching Report | Trade Tips | Stat Focus | Roundtable | Prospect Watch
Beller: Well here we are, Mack, watching and discussing baseball games that count. I know I'm in the extreme minority on this one, but Opening Day gets me going more than the first Sunday of the NFL season does. I've always been a baseball-first guy, and the fact that we're about to have six months of this sport unfolding before our eyes never gets old to me. In fact, that's why I wish Opening Day was more of a spectacle. I understand the Sunday night game to kick off the season, but why do some teams have to wait until Tuesday to see their first action? Baseball's first day should be nothing but wall-to-wall games; to that end, MLB could take its cues from the NFL and move Opening Day to Sunday. It could scatter games throughout the day so there's constant action from noon until midnight on the East Coast. Now that would truly make Opening Day the event it deserves to be.
But enough about what Opening Day could be, let's talk about what it was. Obviously, we don't want to overreact to any performances, but do you think any player foreshadowed a huge season to come in his first game? I wrote about this on Tuesday, but it warrants repeating: I think Jeff Samardzija is set to take another leap in his development this season, and it all started against the Pirates on Monday. He tossed eight shutout innings with nine Ks, two hits and one walk; his fastball even reached mid-90s heat. Of course, I have zero shares in him. Sometimes it goes that way, I guess. Your turn to shout back across the table at me.
Mack: Personally, I like baseball having three Opening Days: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The NFL has three of them, too -- Wednesday, Sunday and Monday -- by the way. So, you're wrong. In my opinion, the more Opening Day events, the better.
In regard to first impressions, watching Bryce Harper hit two homers on Monday scared me a little. Did I underrate him this season? Is he going to erupt as a .300/40/120 beast? It sure looks like a possibility given his spring and Opening Day efforts.
As for Samardzija, I'm hesitant to get excited about him. Remember, he pitched against the Pirates. The Cubs don't figure to make him a big winner over the long haul, even if that opener can springboard him to a big first half. These are the wait-'til-next-year Cubs, after all.
My favorite part of Opening Day, Beller, was watching your No. 1 man crush Jonathan Lucroy go 0-for-4, but salvage his day with a walkoff sacrifice fly to beat the Rockies (your other man crush). I learned a few things from this game: First, Lucroy stinks at being a teammate -- he vowed to punch the person who pied him in the face in the dugout -- and second, the Rockies don't have enough pitching, so picking them as a surprise team seems a bit misguided.
But enough picking on you for last week's indiscretions. Carlos Marmol already looks like he is going to lose his closer's job to Kyuji Fujikawa, and John Axford looks like he will lead the league in blown saves. Phil Coke is the clear leader of the Tigers' bullpen by committee, something I would have seen had I watched him more closely last October. That way, I could have avoided placing a $6 bid on Bruce Rondon in Tout Wars.
Rondon, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Carlos Marmol are worth cutting in mixed formats. And Jim Henderson is be someone to watch in deeper leagues if Axford's struggles from last season persist this April.
Who do you have as the best current non-closer to own for save chances this season?
Beller: All I'm saying is Opening Day could be an event with even more widespread fanfare if every team started on the same day. As currently constructed, it feels as if there are 15 separate mini-Opening Days; with a change, it could be more like the first two days of the NCAA tournament.
As for Lucroy, everyone is going to take an 0-fer at some point this season -- even Bryce Harper. My man Lucroy came up big when it counted. And who thought the Orioles had pitching or the A's had offense one day into the 2012 season? I'm not ready to write off the Rockies just yet.
Moving to your question, you already mentioned the best current non-closer to own for save chances: It's undoubtedly Fujikawa of the Cubs. He was a dominant closer in six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers, saving 202 games and striking out 510 batters in 369 2/3 innings. I think the only reason he isn't already the closer is to preserve the minimal value Marmol still has on the trade market, but Fujikawa will be closing games for the Cubs soon enough. Other good candidates include Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians.
We briefly touched on how fantasy owners shouldn't overreact to things from baseball's first day, first week or even first month. However, that doesn't mean they should sit idly by without reacting to what happens on the field. Is there any type of player on whose April performance you give a greater weight? For me, if I'm the owner of a guy who underperformed last year like, say, Desmond Jennings, I want him to jump out to a hot start. The last thing a player like that needs is a slow April. Creeping doubt can be dangerous in the head of a baseball player.
Mack: I determine my amount of faith based on a player's draft position and cost. A late-round pick only gets a few days, or a week at most. A mid-round pick gets three weeks to a month. An early round pick gets multiple months, if not the entire first half of the season, before I consider selling him.
I am more inclined to make a rash move with a pitcher, especially a middle reliever or setup man, because replacements for those are a dime a dozen. For example: I am already cutting Jake McGee in Tout Wars, along with Bruce Rondon and Al Alburquerque. I picked those guys late as potential sleepers for saves, but each looks to be too far down the depth chart right now -- no matter what their potential is later in the season. McGee is behind Joel Peralta as Fernando Rodney's handcuff, while Rondon is in the minors and Al-Al is working the seventh in the Tigers' bullpen by committee.
I'm not afraid to have a quick hook. You write the Waiver Wire, so you know the importance of being ready to pounce.
Speaking of pouncing, DraftDay.com is running a fantasy analysts' bracket challenge later this month. Some of the biggest names in the industry are going to go head-to-head in a single-elimination daily tournament against other analysts and a few select fans/readers. You in, or are you too chicken?
Beller: I will indeed be participating in the DraftDay.com tournament. Sounds like a lot of fun. If all goes according to plan, they'll place us on opposite sides of the bracket, and Lucroy will hit a key home run to propel me to a victory over you in the championship.
Back to the wire, though, I think it makes sense to approach adds and drops the way you do. I wasn't suggesting that I'd end up cutting Jennings if he has a poor April (though I was happy to see him go 2-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and a steal on Opening Day). I'm just saying that -- as someone who has invested in Jennings -- I really want him to get off to a hot start after his underachieving 2012.
All right, time to bring it home. I'm looking forward to next week when we've got 10 full days of games under our belt to debate. For now, I'll combine a compliment with a tease for my column for tomorrow. I love the way you've brought WAR principles to your fantasy transaction strategy. It's a stat that can help fantasy owners profit with players they may otherwise overlook.