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Playing the matchup game

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You will hear the statement on television and radio on occasion, and even more often among fantasy owners who check out split statistics and batter versus pitcher numbers on a more frequent basis, "Pitcher X 'owns' Hitter Y."

It is simply a fact that some pitchers "own" some hitters and the reverse is also true that hitters "own" pitchers. Whether they see the ball better or are just in the head of the other athlete, there are some matchups that should be avoided or pursued whether it makes sense or not.

Matchups are particularly important, maybe the most significant statistic, in daily play leagues.

For a small sample of these important statistical anomalies lets look at just one of Friday's games - the New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays.

It appears to be a great pitching matchup - C.C. Sabathia against James "Big Game" Shields. Sabathia was 19-8 last season with a 3.00 ERA, a 1.226 WHIP and 230 strikeouts in 237 1/3 innings. Shields was equally tough, with a 16-12 record, a 2.82 ERA, 1.043 WHIP and 225 strikeouts.

Most fantasy owners would want to avoid these two pitchers if they could. But that should not be the case in every situation.

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria has a very good batting history against five-time All-Star Sabathia and should be started without fear on Friday. In 30 career at-bats against Sabathia, Longoria is batting .333 with a stunning OPS of 1.333. Included in that total are four homers, or 6.5-percent of all the home runs that Sabathia has yielded in the last four seasons.

On the other hand, Rays' catcher Jose Molina is 0-for-14 lifetime against Sabathia.

When the Yankees are at the plate, Robinson Cano is 22-for-57 (.386) against Shields with four home runs, 11 RBI and a 1.161 OPS - well above his lifetime .308 batting average and .843 OPS.

Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson, who hit 41 HR and knocked in a league-high 119 runs last season has struggled mightily against Shields. In 43 at-bats, Granderson has managed just three hits (.070) and struck out 13 times. I know it would be hard to sit the man who finished fourth in last year's MVP balloting, but the statistics don't lie. He probably won't do well on Opening Day.

Teammate Mark Teixeira is also a candidate to grab a seat on your fantasy bench. Teixeira has faced Shields on 41 occasions and produced just six hits - all singles, while striking out 13 times. That's a .146 batting average with an OPS of .385.

Both Granderson and Teixeira should put up excellent fantasy statistics this season, it's just unlikely to start on Opening Day.

Here's a tidbit of information from another Friday game which should change some fantasy lineups. Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt might be one of the few hitters in baseball who likes seeing Tim Lincecum throwing on the mound. Goldschmidt may only have played 48 major league games, but he is 5- for-9 (.556, 1.889 OPS) off the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner and taken him deep on two occasions. If you were looking for a replacement for the aforementioned Teixeira, the 24-year-old Goldschmidt could be your best play.

The moral of this story is don't simply avoid good pitchers or start great hitters. Do the research, check out the numbers, and your fantasy team will see better results.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at

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