Thursday, May 6, 2010

Start or Sit: Jeff Niemann at Mariners

In order to not only survive, but do well in fantasy, you have to keep your reality in check and away from your fantasy.

Just because you love the Seattle Mariners, you cannot load up on M's arms nor stock up on M's bats. Doug Fister will get pounded right when you finally decide to start him at home against the Oakland Athletics, and with or without help from his team, Milton Bradley is simply not a fantasy baseball contributor.

I'm talking about the M's not just because it's my hometown team that I've been following since 1990 - after a brief one year infatuation with the San Francisco Giants - but I am conflicted about starting the Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann against them at Safeco Field.

Putting my personal feelings for the M's aside, let's just get to the analysis.

Jeff Niemann vs Seattle Mariners Batters
Niemann's seen relative success against the bats of M's, holding the core group (Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez, Ken Griffey Jr, and Jose Lopez) to BA of .250 or below in six or more plate appearances, except for Chone Figgins, who owns a 4 for 6 mark and 3 RBI. Despite the low BAA, the M's have made their hits count, with 3 of 7 hits being home runs.

Jeff Niemann vs Seattle Mariners
Niemann owns a 1-0 record against the Mariners in three starts, the lone win coming in his away start at Safeco, where he gave up three runs, all of them coming on a HR by Lopez in the 5th. In his second start at Safeco, he went on to give up two more HRs (Russell Branyan and Jr) and ended up yielding four runs in total, the latter two scoring with him pulled from the game. In his start against the M's at home, he gave up three runs, two of which came on a HR by Ichiro. In two starts at Safeco, Niemann has a 4.63 ERA, .094 WHIP and .190 BAA, giving up 6 ER on 8 H and 3 BB to go with 8 K in 11 2/3 IP.

Trends and Injuries
Niemann's K/9 has declined this year while he's been giving up more home runs, both of which are disturbing signs. On the other hand, he still owns an ERA of 2.96 to go along with WHIP of 1.02. His xFIP sits at 4.89, so we can bet that his ERA should balloon at any point.

The Mariners are on a 5-game losing streak as the Rays offense have seemingly awoke from a slumber, having scored 13 runs in the last two games after scoring just 5 in the previous 3 games at home against the Kansas City Royals. During the losing streak, the M's have scored just nine runs, batting a collective .190.

Opposing Pitcher
The Rays face Ryan Rowland-Smith, in a rematch of last September's game in Tampa that the M's ended up winning on what turned out to be a game-winning homer by Lopez in the 8th. The Hyphen is not having the same type of success he saw in the second half of last year after coming off the DL. Currently, he holds 5.28 ERA and 1.38 WHIP overall, but is holding opponents to a .167 BAA at home in two starts. The big Australian left-hander has been pretty tough against the Rays bats, holding them to a collective .233 BA, Willy Aybar, Carl Crawford, and Evan Longoria being the only Rays regulars with .333 or better BA.

The Call: Start
Putting my fondness for my M's aside, I'm cautiously optimistic about Niemann's chance at a win and pretty good peripherals.

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