As part of a new daily feature at MLB.com, we’ll be breaking down every matchup on the schedule to help give fantasy players an edge, whether it’s in daily contests or season-long leagues. The “Fantasy Daily Dish” will break down every starting pitcher on the slate, as well as all of the notable hitters in that particular game. We’ll dive into all the specifics of a given matchup looking for everything from batters who thrive against certain pitch types to hot/cold streaks to platoon splits — and everything in between.
With a number of aces on the mound and plenty of tantalizing matchups for some of the game’s best hitters, Tuesday’s busy slate will force daily fantasy players — and season-long managers — to make some difficult choices when it comes to filling out their lineups.
Not only are each of the reigning Cy Young Award winners set to take the mound, along with a handful of potential 2021 Cy Young contenders, but there are also a couple pitchers looking to reestablish themselves after missing substantial time due to injury.
In an attempt to help with that conundrum, here’s a game-by-game breakdown for Tuesday in the latest edition of the Daily Dish:
Red Sox (Pérez) at Twins (Happ), 2:10 p.m. ET
Red Sox SP: Martín Pérez
Key stat(s): 29.5 hard-hit percentage since 2019 (third-best in MLB)
2020 stats: 3-5, 4.50 ERA, 17.6 K%
Breakdown: Though Pérez has struggled over the last few seasons (4.96 ERA since 2019), he’s actually limited hard contact better than almost any other pitcher during that span. Only Ryan Yarbrough (25.7%) and Kenta Maeda (28.7%) have better hard-hit percentages among pitchers to throw at least 500 pitches since ’19. He also ranks third in average exit velocity in that span, though he’s not going to miss many bats (15.0% career strikeout rate and just a 19.1% whiff rate since Statcast began tracking in ’15).
Byron Buxton: Along with being off to a red-hot start at the plate this season, Buxton has teed off against cutters — Pérez’s most-used offering — over the last few years, hitting .429 (12-for-28) with nearly as many home runs (five) as strikeouts (six) since 2019. That includes going 3-for-3 with a pair of homers against cutters this season.
Nelson Cruz: Like Buxton, Cruz has been a force at the plate this season. Unlike Buxton, however, the cutter has given Cruz some issues recently. Since 2019, he’s just 13-for-61 (.213) with 17 strikeouts and a .393 slugging percentage against the pitch.
Twins SP: J.A. Happ
Key stat(s): 2.05 ERA vs. Red Sox since 2015
2020 stats: 2-2, 3.47 ERA, 21.4 K%
Breakdown: Happ has dominated the Red Sox throughout his career, particularly of late, going 10-1 with a 2.05 ERA in 18 starts against Boston since 2015. That includes putting up a 0.66 ERA (one earned run in 13 2/3 innings) last year. Current Red Sox players are hitting a combined .211 with a .601 OPS in 186 career plate appearances against Happ.
Xander Bogaerts: 8-for-47 (.170) with 10 strikeouts and zero homers lifetime vs. Happ.
Rafael Devers: 5-for-29 (.172) with six strikeouts lifetime vs. Happ.
J.D. Martinez: After a down year in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, Martinez has looked far more like the player who ranked fourth in hard-hit percentage from 2015-19. He ranks among the league leaders in barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity this season — and that was all true even before his monster three-homer performance on Sunday.
Athletics (Luzardo) at D-backs (Gallen), 3:40 p.m. ET
A’s SP: Jesús Luzardo, LHP
Key stat(s): .621 opponents’ slugging percentage vs. four-seamer this season
2020 stats: 3-2, 4.12 ERA, 23.8 K%
Breakdown: Luzardo is leaning heavily on his four-seam fastball this season — throwing it on 60.1% of his pitches — but he’s not sneaking it past anyone. Opponents are 10-for-29 (.345) against the pitch with two homers, two doubles and just an 8.5% whiff rate. The velocity (95.1 mph average) is still there, and his curveball and changeup are still working (opponents are 0-for-9 against those two pitches this season), so he could turn around his 6.10 ERA sooner than later.
David Peralta: Hitting .245 with a .382 slugging percentage and a .687 OPS vs. left-handers since 2018 (.300 BA, .515 SLG, .872 OPS vs. RHP).
Asdrúbal Cabrera: 1.006 OPS and 6.8 HR% vs. left-handers since start of last season (.701 OPS, 3.2 HR% vs. RHP).
D-backs SP: Zac Gallen, RHP
Key stat(s): .098 opponents’ batting average vs. curveball last season
2020 stats: 3-2, 2.75 ERA, 28.2 K%
Breakdown: Gallen will be making his first start of the season after missing time due to a right forearm hairline stress fracture of the radial head that he sustained during batting practice this spring. The injury caused him to feel discomfort throwing his curveball, though he’s since been throwing all of his pitches at the club’s alternate training site without any discomfort. It’s unclear if he’ll be on any type of pitch count coming back from the injury or what lingering affects it may have on his curveball, so it might be best to wait and see how he fares in his first start before rolling him out there.
Matt Chapman: Hit a 104.0 mph home run on Monday for his second homer in his last five games after recording zero extra-base hits in his first six games this season.
Mark Canha: Has reached base safely in 10 of 11 games this season while scoring an MLB-leading 12 runs atop Oakland’s lineup.
Matt Olson: 3-for-21 in last six games.
Mariners SP: Justus Sheffield, LHP
Key stat(s): 46.9 hard-hit percentage since start of last season (fourth-highest in MLB, minimum 150 batted balls)
2020 stats: 4-3, 3.58 ERA, 20.7 K%
Breakdown: Sheffield allowed a lot of hard contact in 2019 and ’20 — and his ’21 debut was no different. Half of the 18 balls the White Sox put in play against Sheffield had an exit velocity of at least 95 mph — and the overall average exit velocity was a whopping 95.5 mph. Sheffield deploys a three-pitch mix, throwing his sinker for nearly half of his pitches, while using a slider and a changeup for the other half.
Cedric Mullins: Mullins leads the Majors with 17 hits and he has at least one hit in all nine games, including a 5-for-5 performance on April 4.
Trey Mancini: Has homered in back-to-back games.
Orioles SP: John Means, LHP
Key stat(s): 33.5% whiff rate through two starts
2020 stats: 2-4, 4.53 ERA, 23.9 K%
Breakdown: Though Means put up a 4.53 ERA last season, that doesn’t tell the whole story. He not only had a 3.02 xERA (1.51 lower than his actual mark), his other expected stats were also considerably better than the actual numbers (.190 xBA, .220 actual BA; .376 xSLG, .451 actual SLG) — a sign that he could be in for a bounceback season in 2021. That’s panned out so far, as he’s put up a 0.77 ERA and racked up nine strikeouts over 11 innings in two road starts against a pair of potent lineups — one against the Red Sox and the other vs. the Yankees. Means throws his four-seamer 52% of the time and it’s easy to see why: Opposing batters are hitting .168 (16-for-95) with 33 strikeouts against the offering since the start of last season.
Dylan Moore: Moore hit .333 with six home runs and a .693 slugging percentage against fastballs last season.
Kyle Seager: 8-for-15 (.533) with two home runs and eight RBIs over last four games after starting 3-for-20 (.150) with zero RBIs in first five games.
Ty France: Hitting .324 with a .910 OPS this season.
Mariners (Margevicius) at Orioles (Kremer), Game 2
Mariners SP: Nick Margevicius, LHP
Key stat(s): Has thrown four-seamer 64% of the time since start of last season
2020 stats: 2-3, 4.57 ERA, 21.2 K%
Breakdown: After a pair of relief outings, Margevicius will make his first start of the season. His last appearance came on April 6, when he was tagged for four runs off four hits (including a pair of homers) over 3 2/3 innings. The good news is he threw 76 pitches, so he should be relatively stretched out, but the bad news is he’s allowing a hard-hit percentage of 60% on the young season. He throws a steady diet of 90 mph fastballs, though he’ll also mix in some breaking balls (curveball and slider), against which opponents hit just .162 last season.
Maikel Franco: Franco has thrived against four-seamers, hitting .341 (28-for-82) with three homers since the start of last season.
Orioles SP: Dean Kremer, RHP
Key stat(s): 96.9 mph average exit velocity in 2021 debut
2020 stats: 1-1, 4.82 ERA, 26.5 K%
Breakdown: Kremer was hit hard in his season debut against the Yankees. He allowed an average exit velocity of 96.9 mph on nine batted balls, though the two hardest-hit balls came off the bats of Giancarlo Stanton (116.3 mph) and Aaron Judge (109.9 mph) — two of the most powerful sluggers in the sport. Still, he may not be as fortunate to allow only four hits (all singles) if that trend continues, and just as concerning, he walked four batters in just three innings of work.
Moore: Moore hit .333 with six home runs and a .693 slugging percentage against fastballs last season (Kremer threw fastballs on 65 of his 85 pitches in his lone 2021 outing).
Phillies (Anderson) at Mets (Walker), 4:10 p.m. ET (Game 1 of seven-inning doubleheader)
Phillies SP: Chase Anderson, RHP
Key stat(s): 16.2 barrel percentage last season (highest in MLB, minimum 100 batted balls)
2020 stats: 1-2, 7.22 ERA, 24.7 K%
Breakdown: Anderson was hit hard last season, allowing an MLB-high 16.2 barrel percentage — and he served up a pair of barrels in his 2021 debut against this Mets club. He’s going to use mostly a fastball-changeup approach, while occasionally mixing in a curveball. Along with allowing the highest barrel percentage last season, he also ranked in the eighth percentile or worse in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA and xERA.
Michael Conforto: 3-for-15 (.200) in his career against Anderson, though all three hits are home runs.
Pete Alonso: 98.1 mph average exit velocity this season (ranks fifth among players with at least 10 batted balls); hit a 114.2 mph double off Anderson in first meeting this season.
Francisco Lindor: Though Lindor is still looking for his first extra-base hit in a Mets uniform, his 41.2 hard-hit percentage is right in line with last season when he put up a career-best 41.1 hard-hit percentage. Those numbers could play well in this matchup, given Anderson’s tendency to allow solid contact.
Mets SP: Taijuan Walker, RHP
Key stat(s): .167 opponents’ BA vs. four-seam fastball since start of last season
2020 stats: 4-3, 2.70 ERA, 22.2 K%
Breakdown: Walker impressed in his 2021 debut, unleashing a four-seamer that averaged 95.4 mph — up from 93.2 mph last season. That could be trouble for opposing hitters, who already struggled to a .156 average against the pitch last season. Walker also has a solid slider, against which opponents hit just .151 last season with twice as many strikeouts (16) as hits (eight).
Bryce Harper: Has homered in back-to-back games after tallying just one extra-base hit (a double) in first seven games; career 1.021 OPS in March/April, more than 100 points higher than any other month.
Rhys Hoskins: Hitting .167 with five homers and 117 strikeouts against sliders since 2018.
J.T. Realmuto: Realmuto’s average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are right in line with previous years, but his average launch angle is -0.5 degrees, thanks to a ground-ball percentage of 69.5%. If he starts putting more balls in the air, the home runs will come.
Alec Bohm: 6-for-29 (.207) with 12 strikeouts and zero homers in his career against pitches 95 mph or faster.
Phillies SP: Aaron Nola, RHP
Key stat(s): Career-high 33.2 K% last season
2020 stats: 5-5, 3.28 ERA, 33.2 K%
Breakdown: Nola went from being primarily a fastball-curveball (35% each) pitcher in 2019 to using a more balanced four-pitch mix in ’20 that saw him throw his changeup (27.4%) more than any other pitch, followed closely by his curve (26.7%), four-seamer (25.3%) and sinker (20.7%). The result was career highs in both strikeout percentage (33.2%) and whiff percentage (31.2%). This year, however, he’s primarily used his four-seamer through two starts (43.8% of his pitches), while almost completely abandoning his sinker for a new cutter that he was working on this spring (9.7%). Overall, his whiff percentage has dipped to 19.5% and his K% sits at 22.9%, though his pitch selection will be an intriguing storyline as the season goes on.
Conforto: 7-or-40 (.175) with one home run and 15 strikeouts in his career vs. Nola.
Alonso: Three career homers vs. Nola, his most against any pitcher.
Mets SP: Marcus Stroman
Key stat(s): 59.7 ground-ball rate since 2015 (highest among SP)
2020 stats: N/A (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 K in 2021 debut)
Breakdown: Though he averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings in his 11 starts with the Mets in 2019, Stroman has never been a big strikeout pitcher (7.3 career K/9). Instead, he thrives with inducing ground balls, something he did very well in his ’21 debut against this same Phillies team. Stroman recorded 13 of his 18 outs on the ground, while posting an 83% ground-ball rate. He used his new split-finger changeup just seven times, though it will be interesting to see if that changes as the season goes on.
Padres (Snell) at Pirates (Kuhl), 6:35 p.m. ET
Padres SP: Blake Snell
Key stat(s): 52.8% whiff rate on breaking balls since 2018 (best among SP)
2020 stats: 4-2, 3.24 ERA, 31 K%
Breakdown: Though it may be (understandably) overshadowed by Joe Musgrove throwing a no-hitter, Snell is off to a great start in San Diego, racking up 16 strikeouts and a 1.86 ERA over 9 2/3 innings in his first two starts with the Padres. His breaking pitches continue to stifle hitters, with his slider getting a 54.2% whiff rate to this point and his curveball forcing a 44.4% whiff rate. Since the start of last season, opponents are just 8-for-87 (.092) with 53 K’s against those two pitches.
Phillip Evans: Slashing .406/.457/.750 (1.207 OPS) with three homers in nine games.
Pirates SP: Chad Kuhl, RHP
Key stat(s): Eight walks in seven innings this season
2020 stats: 2-3, 4.27 ERA, 22.3 K%
Breakdown: Kuhl has allowed seven runs in seven innings this season despite allowing only three hits. The reason? Walks. He has eight of them in those seven innings, while throwing more balls (69) than strikes (66). That comes on the heels of allowing the second-highest barrel percentage in the Majors last season, while ranking in the 10th percentile or worse in xwOBA, xSLG, walk percentage and fastball spin rate. This is a tough spot for Kuhl — and a great spot for the Padres offense.
Manny Machado: Don’t be deterred by Machado’s .793 OPS. His 98.4 mph average exit velocity ranks second in the Majors behind only Aaron Judge, and nobody has more hard-hit balls (22) than Machado. Those are encouraging numbers, especially in this prime matchup.
Wil Myers: Has reached base safely in all 11 games this season, including a three-hit, five-RBI outing on Monday; he has an 1.110 OPS overall
Eric Hosmer: Kuhl has allowed an .857 career OPS to left-handed hitters (.708 OPS to right-handers), while Hosmer has an .825 career OPS vs. right-handed pitchers (.665 OPS vs. LHP).
Yankees (Taillon) at Blue Jays (Ryu), 7:07 p.m. ET
Yankees SP: Jameson Taillon
Key stat(s): Zero two-seam fastballs in 2021 debut
2020 stats: N/A (4 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 7 K’s in first start this season)
Breakdown: Making his first big league start in 707 days, Taillon looked sharp in his 2021 debut. He’s ditched the two-seamer that he threw nearly 20% of the time in ’19, instead relying primarily on three pitches — his four-seam fastball, slider and curveball — while mixing in just a few changeups. His changes are similar to the ones made by teammate Gerrit Cole after he — like Taillon — left the Pirates.
Notable Blue Jays hitters
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Guerrero is off to a red-hot start this season, thanks to putting the ball in the air far more than last season, with a groundball rate of just 39.1% this season, compared to 54.6% in 2020 and 50.4% in ’19. It hasn’t mattered what pitchers throw him. He’s 7-for-17 (.412) with a home run against fastballs and 4-for-10 (.400) with a homer against breaking balls.
Bo Bichette: His whiff rate has increased from 21.6% last season to 28.9% this year, despite his chase rate dipping from 43.4% to 35.9%. His exit velocity (89.8 mph) is right in line with ’20 (89.2 mph), indicating good things to come.
Rowdy Tellez: 1-for-25 this season (lone hit was a single on Monday).
Blue Jays SP: Hyun Jin Ryu
Key stat(s): Allowed 3.6 barrel percentage since start of last season (best in MLB)
2020 stats: 5-2, 2.69 ERA, 26.2 K%
Breakdown: Ryu has picked up right where he left off last season, inducing plenty of weak contact and lots of ground balls. That includes a solid Opening Day performance against this Yankees club in which he made just one crucial mistake that resulted in allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings. Ryu left a fastball out over the plate, which Gary Sánchez promptly turned around for a two-run homer.
Gary Sánchez: Hit a 107.2 mph home run off Ryu on Opening Day (Sánchez is 2-for-4 with two homers in career vs. Ryu).
DJ LeMahieu: 6-for-29 (.207) with zero extra-base hits lifetime vs. Ryu.
Aaron Judge: 99.7 mph average exit velocity (best in MLB).
Giancarlo Stanton: Has four of the eight hardest-hit balls this season, including the second-hardest (117.1 mph).
Rangers (Gibson) at Rays (Yarbrough), 7:10 p.m. ET
Rangers SP: Kyle Gibson, RHP
Key stat(s): .361 opponents’ batting average vs. sinker since 2020
2020 stats: 2-6, 5.35 ERA, 19.3 K%
Breakdown: Gibson relies primarily on his sinker (35.6% of his pitches since start of last season), but hitters have feasted on that pitch recently. They hit .362 with a .543 slugging percentage against the offering last season, while whiffing only 11.4% of the time. That came after opposing batters hit .304 with a 12.3 whiff percentage against Gibson’s sinker in 2019. It’s been more of the same so far this season, with opposing batters going 5-for-14 (.357) and posting a 96.4 mph average exit velocity off his sinker — all while he’s throwing the pitch 36% of the time.
Randy Arozarena: Career .389 hitter with 17 home runs and a .968 SLG (including postseason) against fastballs (four-seam, two-seam, sinkers, cutters), compared to hitting .257 with three homers and a .390 SLG against all other pitches.
Mike Brosseau: He could be a sneaky play here if he’s in the lineup, as he’s hitting .439 (18-for-41) lifetime against sinkers.
Yoshi Tsutsugo: Along with being off to a slow start this season (5-for-27, zero homers, 11 strikeouts), Tsutsugo is 4-for-27 (.148) with nine strikeouts in his career against sinkers.
Rays SP: Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
Key stat(s): 84.5 mph career average exit velocity (best in MLB since 2018)
2020 stats: 1-4, 3.56 ERA, 18.8 K%
Breakdown: Yarbrough’s game is pretty simple: Allow opposing hitters to put the ball in play and get them out. He’s not going to strike out a ton of players (20.0 career K%) and he won’t walk many (5.6 career BB%), but he’ll certainly limit hard contact. He’s ranked among the league leaders in average exit velocity allowed in each of his four seasons, while his 84.8 mph career average exit velocity is the best among starting pitchers since he entered the big leagues.
Joey Gallo: Has an identical .825 OPS against right-handed and left-handed pitchers; his home run rate is actually slightly higher against southpaws (7.2%) than it is against righties (6.4%).
Nate Lowe: After starting the season on a tear (.381, three homers and 14 RBIs in his first five games), Lowe is 0-for-17 with eight strikeouts over his last five games.
Marlins (López) at Braves (Fried), 7:20 p.m. ET
Marlins SP: Pablo López, RHP
Key stat(s): 85.2 mph average exit velocity since start of last season (fifth-best among SP)
2020 stats: 6-4, 3.61 ERA, 24.6 K%
Breakdown: López increased his strikeout rate from 18.6% in his 2018 debut season to 20.3% in ’19 to 24.6% in ’20. He did all of that while limiting hard contact and putting up a high ground-ball rate. Now, with a 1.54 ERA through two starts, he appears poised to take the next step in ’21, though this potent Braves lineup will certainly test that theory.
Ronald Acuña Jr.: 15-for-26 (.577) with nine extra-base hits and a 1.882 OPS over his last seven games; he’s also 5-for-14 with two home runs and a 1.256 OPS against López.
Ozzie Albies: 0-for-13 lifetime against López.
Freddie Freeman: 5-for-35 (.143) this season, though four of the five hits are home runs.
Marcell Ozuna: After ranking among the league leaders in barrel percentage, average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage last season, Ozuna’s numbers have decreased in each of those categories, while his K% has jumped from 22.5% to 36.1%. He’s still looking for his first extra-bit of the season; his 10-game streak without an extra-base hit is his longest since July 2018 (14 games).
Braves SP: Max Fried, LHP
Key stat(s): 23.8 hard-hit percentage allowed (lowest in MLB)
2020 stats: 7-0, 2.25 ERA, 22.3 K%
Breakdown: After not allowing more than five hits in any of his 11 starts last season, Fried has served up six and eight, respectively, in his first two outings this season. Strangely enough, his strikeout and whiff rates have actually increased, but the contact he has allowed has been a bit louder than last season. He’s allowing a hard-hit percentage of 37.5% (23.8% last season) and an average exit velocity of 88.2 mph, while opponents are hitting .385 (5-for-13) against his four-seamer, a pitch against which they hit .198 last season. With the supporting metrics still there, those numbers will likely come back down soon.
Starling Marte: 4-for-21 (.190) with one RBI over the last six games after going 7-for-10 over a two-game span from April 2-3.
Jesús Aguilar: 7-for-37 (.189) with zero home runs and eight strikeouts against fastballs since the start of last season (Fried has thrown fastballs on 46.2% of his pitches in 2021 and 51.9% in ’20).
Cubs (Hendricks) at Brewers (Woodruff), 7:40 p.m. ET
Cubs SP: Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Key stat(s): 8.0 K/BB last season (best in NL)
2020 stats: 6-5, 2.88 ERA, 20.3 K%
Breakdown: Hendricks struggled a bit in his 2021 debut, allowing three runs in three innings against the Pirates. Most surprising was the fact that he walked three batters after issuing only eight free passes in 81 innings last season. He returned to his dominant self on Wednesday, spinning six scoreless innings against the Brewers while striking out six and walking one. He’s going to attack the strike zone with the best of them, relying on a four-pitch mix (sinker, changeup, four-seamer and curveball) to limit hard contact. He’s allowed an average exit velocity of 85.7 mph since 2017, third-best among active starters.
Christian Yelich: Day to day with back soreness (check status before game).
Lorenzo Cain: 5-for-27 with zero extra-base hits in career vs. Hendricks.
Keston Hiura: 4-for-12 with a home run, four RBIs and a stolen base over the last three games after starting the season 0-for-19
Omar Narváez: Though he’s hitting .440 with a 1.197 OPS in eight games this season, he’s 0-for-11 with three K’s lifetime vs. Hendricks.
Brewers SP: Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Key stat(s): .179 opponents’ BA vs. four-seam fastball since start of last season
2020 stats: 3-5, 3.05 ERA, 31.1 K%
Breakdown: Woodruff dominated the Cubs on Wednesday, striking out eight and walking none over seven innings of one-hit ball. He relies heavily on fastballs, throwing his four-seamer 34% of the time and his sinker another 30%. That’s been enough to stifle Chicago’s top hitters (detailed below) throughout his career.
Anthony Rizzo: 2-for-15 (.133) with zero extra-base hits in his career vs. Woodruff.
Kris Bryant: 2-for-16 (.125) with eight strikeouts in his career vs. Woodruff.
Javier Báez: 1-for-12 (.083) with five strikeouts in his career vs. Woodruff.
Team: .164 batting average through 10 games (last in MLB).
Nationals (Strasburg) at Cardinals (Flaherty), 7:45 p.m. ET
Nationals SP: Stephen Strasburg, RHP
Key stat(s): 13 swings and misses in 2021 debut
2020 stats: Pitched only five innings (first ’21 start: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 8 K)
Breakdown: After undergoing season-ending surgery to alleviate carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand last season, Strasburg looked like his typical self in his return to the mound Wednesday. He struck out eight batters while holding the Braves to one hit over six scoreless innings. He forced 13 swings and misses — five with his changeup, four with his four-seamer and two each with his curveball and sinker. His velocity was also right in line with his 2019 numbers, an encouraging sign for Strasburg and the Nats.
Notable Cardinals hitters
Paul Goldschmidt: 71.0 hard-hit percentage (third in MLB) and 96.0 mph average exit velocity (tied for seventh) this season.
Nolan Arenado: Had reached base safely in all nine games this season before going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Monday.
Yadier Molina: 91.3 mph average exit velocity and 48% hard-hit percentage this season (84.7 mph, 25.4% last season).
Cardinals SP: Jack Flaherty, RHP
Key stat(s): 34.5% whiff rate in 2020
2020 stats: 4-3, 4.91 ERA, 28.8 K%
Breakdown: There were understandably some concerns when Flaherty followed up his disappointing 2020 campaign with a rocky Opening Day performance in which he was tagged for six runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings against the Reds. He bounced back nicely on Wednesday, striking out six while turning in six scoreless innings of one-hit ball against the Marlins. That’s the Cy Young-caliber pitcher we saw for much of 2019, and the peripheral stats suggest that version of Flaherty never really went away. His strikeout numbers in 2020 (10.9 strikeouts per nine innings, 34.5% whiff rate) were right on par with the elite numbers he put up in ’18 (10.9 K/9, 31.6% whiff rate) and ’19 (10.6 K/9, 30.9% whiff rate).
Notable Nationals hitters
Juan Soto: Juan Soto: 98.2 mph average exit velocity (third in MLB, minimum 20 batted balls); 75.0 hard-hit percentage (second); 25.0 barrel percentage (tied for fourth).
Kyle Schwarber: 2-for-18 with seven strikeouts in his career vs. Flaherty.
Tigers (Boyd) at Astros (Odorizzi), 8:10 p.m. ET
Tigers SP: Matthew Boyd, LHP
Key stat(s): 54 home runs allowed since 2019 (eight more than any other pitcher)
2020 stats: 3-7, 6.71 ERA, 22.1 K%
Breakdown: After averaging 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 2019, Boyd saw that number drop to 9.0 in ’20 when he also allowed a 10.9 barrel percentage (fifth-highest among SP). He’s allowed only one barrel through two starts this year, while working in his slider and changeup a bit more. The four-seamer is still his most-used pitch, though he’s throwing it only 39.4% of the time compared to 50.3% last year. Though he’s throwing it less, it’s still getting hit hard, with opponents going 6-for-16 (.375) against his fastball compared to 4-for-29 (.138) against everything else.
Carlos Correa: After slashing .264/.326/.383 (.709 OPS) with five home runs during the 2020 regular season, Correa has slashed .345/.424/.701 (1.125 OPS) with nine home runs since the start of the ’20 postseason.
Alex Bregman: Has three barrels on 24 batted balls this season (12.5%) after recording only five barrels on 128 batted balls (3.9%) all of last year.
Yuli Gurriel: 94.9 mph average exit velocity (12th in MLB).
Jose Altuve: Ranks in 90th percentile or better in xBA and xwOBA after finishing in the 12th percentile in xwOBA and 27th percentile in xBA last season.
Astros SP: Jake Odorizzi, RHP
Key stat(s): Threw 90 pitches in Thursday outing at alternate training site
2020 stats: 0-1, 6.59 ERA, 20 K%
Breakdown: Odorizzi will be making his Astros debut after he went unsigned until March 8, giving him a late start to Spring Training. That said, he has been built up, throwing 90 pitches in a Thursday game against the Rangers’ alternate training site club. Odorizzi was limited to just four starts in an injury-plagued 2020 campaign, but he was an All-Star in ’19 when he posted career highs in K% (27.1%) and whiff rate (27.7%).
Wilson Ramos: 101.2 mph average exit velocity (best in MLB among players with at least 15 batted balls).
Jonathan Schoop: 12-for-34 (.353) with five extra-base hits and a .980 OPS in his career against Odorizzi.
Angels (Bundy) at Royals (Duffy), 8:10 p.m. ET
Angels SP: Dylan Bundy, RHP
Key stat(s): 47.5% whiff rate on slider since start of last season
2020 stats: 6-3, 3.29 ERA, 27 K%
Breakdown: Bundy’s resurgence with the Angels last season was fueled by relying more on his offspeed stuff and less on his four-seamer. The result was a slider that produced a 50% whiff rate and a curveball that, while used sparingly (11.7% of the time), held hitters to an 0-for-12 mark. He used that curve a bit more in his first two starts (17.9%), while his overall whiff rate (29.3%) is identical to his career-high total from last season.
Salvador Perez: 92.3 mph average exit velocity and 60.0 hard-hit percentage (both up from last season when he hit .333 with a career-high .986 OPS); has also drawn as many walks (three) in seven games this year as last season (37 games).
Jorge Soler: 6-for-43 (.140) with 23 strikeouts against sliders since start of last season. Ranks among league leaders in average exit velocity and barrel percentage, though ranks in the bottom-5 percentile when it comes to K%.
Royals SP: Danny Duffy, LHP
Key stat(s): .173 opponents’ BA vs. sliders since start of last season
2020 stats: 4-4, 4.95 ERA, 23.6 K%
Breakdown: Duffy posted a career-high 23.6 K% in last year’s abbreviated season, though his career mark is a more modest 20.8%. While he threw his four-seamer 39.4% of the time last season, he also deployed four other pitches consistently: slider (17.2%), changeup (15.2%,), sinker (14.1%) and curveball (14.1%). The slider was the most effective, holding opposing hitters to a .188 average and inducing a 34.5% whiff rate.
Shohei Ohtani: .718 career OPS and 2.1 HR% vs. left-handers (.903 OPS, 6.2 HR% vs. RHP).
Mike Trout: Ranks in the top 10 in barrel percentage (22.7%) and hard-hit percentage (63.6%) while posting a .545 OBP and 1.394 OPS this season; has homered in four of the last six games.
José Iglesias: 11-for-29 (.379) with a 1.041 OPS and only two strikeouts in his career vs. Duffy.
Anthony Rendon: 27.7% whiff rate against sliders last season, by far his worst against any pitch (next worst: 16.1% against curveballs).
Indians (Bieber) at White Sox (Giolito), 8:10 p.m. ET
Indians SP: Shane Bieber, RHP
Key stat(s): 41.7 K% since start of last season
2020 stats: 8-1, 1.63 ERA, 41.1 K%
Breakdown: How’s this for a pitchers’ duel? Bieber has picked up where he left off last season, racking up an MLB-leading 24 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. He continues to deploy a devastating breaking ball, which has accounted for a 56.3% whiff rate since the start of last season (best among starting pitchers).
Notable White Sox hitters
José Abreu: Three career homers vs. Bieber (tied for the most by any player against Bieber).
Yoán Moncada: 11-for-68 (.162) with 33 strikeouts against breaking balls since start of last season.
Yermín Mercedes: Has reached base safely in all eight games this season; hitting .500 (16-for-32) with five extra-base hits and a 1.337 OPS.
White Sox SP: Lucas Giolito, RHP
Key stat(s): 33.1 K% since 2019 (6th in MLB)
2020 stats: 4-3, 3.48 ERA, 33.7 K%
Breakdown: Giolito struck out 42.9% of the batters he faced over his first two starts, as he continues to prove he’s one of the elite strikeout pitchers in the big leagues. Over the last three seasons, only five pitchers have a higher K% than Giolito: Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and … Bieber. Feel free to target this matchup for either pitcher, but it may be wise to look elsewhere for hitters.
Franmil Reyes: 0-for-7 with 5 K’s in his career vs. Giolito.
Reds (Castillo) at Giants (Gausman), 9:45 p.m. ET
Reds SP: Luis Castillo, RHP
Key stat(s): 210 strikeouts with changeup since 2019
2020 stats: 4-6, 3.21 ERA, 30.5 K%
Breakdown: Castillo had a disastrous Opening Day start, allowing 10 runs (eight earned) while failing to record a strikeout over 3 1/3 innings against the Cardinals, but he bounced back Wednesday with five K’s over seven scoreless frames vs. the Pirates. Castillo’s velocity is down approximately 2 mph on each of his pitches, though that could just be a result of still ramping up this early in the season. Regardless, he still has the most devastating changeup in the game, as his 210 strikeouts with his change since 2019 are 92 more than the next-closest pitcher.
Mike Yastrzemski: 15-for-30 with two home runs and a .900 slugging percentage against changeups since start of last season.
Brandon Crawford: 35-for-214 (.164) with four homers and 42 strikeouts against changeups since 2018.
Giants SP: Kevin Gausman, RHP
Key stat(s): Opposing hitters are 0-for-15 vs. his splitter this season
2020 stats: 3-3, 3.62 ERA, 32.2 K%
Breakdown: Gausman has been dominant through two starts, posting a 1.32 ERA over 13 2/3 innings, though his xERA sits considerably higher at 3.31. Regardless, his splitter — a pitch against which opponents hit just .097 (7-for-72) last year — has remained untouchable in 2021, with hitters going 0-for-15 with five K’s against the offering.
Eugenio Suárez: 0-for-7 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending in splitters since 2019.
Tyler Naquin: 78.3 hard-hit percentage (leads MLB) and 97.7 mph average exit velocity (third).
Nick Castellanos: Free-swinging slugger ranks in the 97th percentile or better in xBA, xSLG and xwOBA this season, though his 43.3 chase percentage puts him in the third percentile and his 61% swing rate ranks among the highest in the league.
Rockies (Senzatela) at Dodgers (Bauer), 10:10 p.m. ET
Rockies SP: Antonio Senzatela, RHP
Key stat(s): 13.1 K% since 2019 (second-lowest among pitchers with 200 IP)
2020 stats: 5-3, 3.44 ERA, 13.5 K%
Breakdown: Senzatela isn’t going to miss many bats — his 13.1 K% since 2019 is the second-lowest among all pitchers with at least 200 innings, ahead of only Brett Anderson (12.9%). And while this game isn’t being played at Coors Field, that hasn’t mattered much for Senzatela, who has a 4.97 career ERA at home — and a 5.07 ERA away from Coors. He also has a 6.70 ERA in 11 career appearances against the Dodgers, including giving up seven runs off nine hits over 3 1/3 innings in the second game of this season.
Max Muncy: 48.1 hard-hit percentage and 11.9 K% this season; 16.0 BB% since 2018 ranks fifth in MLB behind only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Carlo Santana.
Corey Seager: 97.3 mph average exit velocity (third-highest in MLB); 7-for-17 (.412) with two homers off Senzatela.
Mookie Betts: Day to day with stiff lower back (hasn’t played since April 6).
Dodgers SP: Trevor Bauer, RHP
Key stat(s): +3.9 inches of rise above average on four-seam fastball last season (most in MLB)
2020 stats: 5-4, 1.73 ERA, 36 K%
Breakdown: Bauer has picked up with the Dodgers right where he left off with the Reds, racking up a 39.2 K% and 34.4% whiff rate through two starts — both up from his NL Cy Young Award-winning campaign last season. Though he has one of the most unhittable fastballs in the sport right now, it hasn’t really mattered what pitch he throws — since the start of last season, opponents are hitting .147 against Bauer’s four-seamer, .171 vs. his cutter, .083 vs. his slider and .175 vs. his curveball. Oh, by the way, Bauer took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Rockies en route to striking out 10 batters over 6 1/3 innings in the second game of the season.
Charlie Blackmon: 4-for-12 with one home run and a 1.051 career OPS vs. Bauer.
Trevor Story: 13.9 barrel percentage, 92.4 mph average exit velocity and 50% hard-hit percentage this season (all would be career highs).