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In the early going of the 2021 season, the pitchers are getting the better side of the battle. In 2020, a season in which people complained about pitchers dominating the game too much, teams scored 4.65 runs per game, with hitters putting up a .245 batting average and .740 OPS. This year, it’s 4.30 runs per game, with a .232 batting average and .699 OPS.
Last season, hitters struck out on 23.4% of plate appearances. This season, the rate is up to 24.5%. Now, it’s still early and as the weather warms up it tends to help out hitters but it’s still worth keeping an eye on the dominance of pitchers.
Here are some Monkey Knife Fight picks to consider when playing Tuesday’s MLB action on MKF.
Corey Kluber LESS THAN 4.5 STRIKEOUTS
After basically two lost seasons, maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that Kluber is having trouble this season. He has yet to make it through five innings in his first four starts and since he is averaging less than a strikeout per inning it is not easy to bank on at least five strikeouts.
Giancarlo Stanton LESS THAN 1.5 TOTAL BASES
Stanton is a long way from his peak performance right now, slugging .400 on the road and .350 against left-handed pitchers. The Orioles have rookie lefty Bruce Zimmermann on the mound and he has been an average starter which might be too much for this version of Stanton to handle.
Cedric Mullins MORE THAN 1.5 HITS + WALKS
The Orioles center fielder has reached base multiple times in four straight games and has back-to-back three-hit games. He has reached base multiple times in eight of 11 home games, too. Is 2021 Corey Kluber the one to stop this momentum?
DJ LeMahieu LESS THAN 1.5 TOTAL BASES
So far this season, LeMahieu has struggled to drive the ball, slugging .346 against left-handed pitching and .441 on the road, neither of which makes it likely that he is going to accumulate at least two total bases, something he has managed in just four of 11 road games this season.
Kenta Maeda LESS THAN 5.5 STRIKEOUTS
There has been a big drop-off from last season, when Maeda was runner-up in the American League Cy Young voting. He got hit hard in his last start but his first three starts were mediocre so the overall results is a 6.11 ERA and 1.87 WHIP and he has only pitched 17 2/3 innings through four starts. He has recorded six or more strikeouts once in those four starts.
Aaron Civale MORE THAN 4.5 STRIKEOUTS
Cleveland’s third-year starter has been effective early in this season, with a 2.42 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. He has five or more strikeouts in three of his four starts and against a Minnesota lineup that has a relatively high road strikeout rate (27.4%) Civale should be able to continue his recent success.
Franmil Reyes MORE THAN 1.5 TOTAL BASES
There is a big difference right now between Reyes at home and on the road. At home, he is slugging .857, compared to just .250 on the road. Since he is at home, might as well ride that wave.
Max Scherzer MORE THAN 8.5 STRIKEOUTS
The veteran Nationals starter does have the advantage of going deeper into games than most pitchers and he has recorded at least nine strikeouts in three of his four starts this season.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. LESS THAN 1.5 HITS + WALKS
Vladdy has only played six “home” games so far this season but has a .571 on-base percentage in those games. He has reached base multiple times in 11 of 21 games overall, though, and facing a pitcher of Scherzer’s quality does make that a more daunting task.
Bo Bichette LESS THAN 1.5 TOTAL BASES
The numbers are similar for Bichette. In six home games he is slugging .760 but has multiple total bases in just seven of 21 games overall. Can Scherzer shut down both Guerrero Jr. and Bichette? That might be asking a lot but the odds are leaning in that direction.
Garrett Richards LESS THAN 4.5 STRIKEOUTS
Is there a particularly good case to be made for Richards right now? He has a 6.48 ERA in four starts for the Red Sox and has not recorded five strikeouts in any of his four starts. He also is matchup against a Mets lineup that has a low (21.7%) home strikeout rate.
David Peterson MORE THAN 4.5 STRIKEOUTS
The Mets lefty did not have a great strikeout rate as a rookie but then opened the season with 15 strikeouts in 10 innings through his first two starts. He got hit hard last time out and only lasted 3 1/3 innings, striking out three, so there is some risk but if Peterson can really miss bats, getting five strikeouts is not an unreasonable expectation although the Red Sox do have the fourth lowest road strikeout rate (22.1%).
Brandon Nimmo MORE THAN 1.5 HITS + WALKS
Nimmo is an on-base beast, who has a .543 on-base percentage in eight home games and has reached base multiple times in 11 of 16 games this season.
J.D. Martinez LESS THAN 1.5 RUNS + RBI
As great as Martinez has been early in 2021, the vast majority of his production has come at Fenway Park in Boston. In 14 road games, he has a total of 13 runs plus RBI combined so it’s optimistic to count on him getting two.
Mike Foltynewicz MORE THAN 5.5 STRIKEOUTS
An encouraging sign for the Rangers starting pitcher is that his velocity is back. He is averaging more than 94 MPH on his fastball, after he was throwing 90 MPH in his one start last season. He also has 22 strikeouts in 22 innings, including six strikeouts in his last start against the Angels.
Jose Quintana MORE THAN 5.5 STRIKEOUTS
The veteran lefty has a shocking 17 strikeouts in 10 innings this season but also gets to face a Texas Rangers lineup that has the highest home strikeout rate (30.5%) so far this season so, strangely enough, Quintana might keep this going for at least another game.
Mike Trout MORE THAN 1.5 HITS + WALKS
The Angels superstar has a .545 on-base percentage against right-handed pitchers and on the road. He also returned to the lineup Monday after missing three games and recorded four hits.
Shohei Ohtani MORE THAN 1.5 TOTAL BASES
A day after he pitched and hit second in the Angels lineup, Ohtani may just be a DH against the Rangers. He has a .714 slugging percentage on the road and .679 against right-handed pitching, both of which suggest he should be able to get multiple total bases. He is currently averaging 3.2 total bases per road game.
*The contests listed in this article are subject to change leading up to opening pitch of each respective game*
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