What do Hugo Simpson, Cobalt Blue, Rico Dredd, Swingin' Chad Ghostal, Nemesis Prime, Serena, Ursula Buffay, Lore and a song by They Might Be Giants all have in common? They're all evil twins, an under-appreciated fictional device used to emphasize the traits of the original character. Or if you can't buy the twin idea, think about the alternate universes of "Star Trek" (yes, that's three references in one week, and two in this paragraph) and "South Park" where a well-applied goatee easily identifies the antipodean doppelganger. Can you think of a better (or cheaper) story-advancing technique than gluing a fuzzy mustache on David Hasselhoff?
At the beginning of the season we've seen starters pitch like Sandy Koufax one week and Sandy Olsson from "Grease" the next. Or he's throwing like an ace this year but has come up deuces in the past. The question is, which start better reflected what we'll see the rest of the season? I'll look at some of these pitchers and either put your mind at ease, or help you decide it's time to take your slow-witted starter out to the fields to "talk about the rabbits."
And hey, where else will you get "Knight Rider" and John Steinbeck references in back-to-back paragraphs? Okay, beside a Nando DiFino column, that is.
Bait and Switch?
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
Half of being superhuman is being human, but no one was going to out-pitch Felix Hernandez on Wednesday. If Matsuzaka gave you those Seattle game numbers every start you'd complain only about the strikeouts. Your ratio expectations should be more in line with the Seattle game, but those are still below my expectations (4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP). For the season, he should give you a strikeout per inning (as he's done so far), which is his greatest value to you. He'll have the occasional masterful game, but curb your expectations.
Evil Twin? Yes, but that's still pretty good.
Greg Maddux, Padres
I'm not sure if starts against the Giants actually count this year. While the second game may be a high-point for Maddux's 2007 campaign, he is still capable of shutting teams down better than he did against Colorado. His strikeouts have slowly drifted toward the 5.0 K/9 level, but he still gets more than 50 percent of his outs from ground balls. As long as his defense can protect him, Maddux should see the same numbers he did in '06, with a chance of slightly better ratios.
Evil Twin: No, but the good Khalil Greene and Marcus Giles must also show up.
Gil Meche, Royals
Meche took a step in right direction by increasing his K/9 from 5.2 in 2005 to 7.5 last season, and he likely ends 2007 between those values (he's currently at 6.3). Meche's problem, though, is walking batters and giving up homers. Don't expect him to surrender three home runs every outing, but don't expect zero, either. By going from a bad team to another bad team, Meche is setting himself (and you) up for the same ratios and wins as last year. He may be the weakest No. 1 in all of baseball.
Evil Twin: Yes, and an expensive one at that.
Oliver Perez, Mets
Perez is the essence of duality with yin and yang existing not in harmony, but out of necessity. Lest you think the Mets have totally cured Perez of his wildness, we get his quick third-inning exit after walking seven. His track record tells you these two games are in line with what you should expect, and you'll just have to ride it out. Being in the Mets rotation probably means more starts for Perez because of their injured starters, and more wins by virtue of their offense and bullpen.
Evil Twin? Yes, but with redeeming win and strikeout qualities.
Curt Schilling, Boston:
Schilling has a history of wanting to throw the ball 100 mph in big games and has to calm himself down. But a closer look at Schilling's splits for the past three years shows that he has had problems with the Royals (2-2, 3 SV, 4 GS, 4.60 ERA) and also is un-Schilling-like at Kauffman Stadium (1-2, 3 GS, 6.52 ERA). His follow-up performance at Rangers Ballpark was much closer to what we should expect from Schilling, barring any injuries.
Evil Twin? No, as long as he stays away from the Royals.
Matt Cain, Giants
Okay, so I'm not counting starts against the Giants, but what about starts by them? In some ways Cain's first start was better than his second, especially with regards to control and efficiency. Even if he hadn't given up his first hit in the seventh inning, there was no way his pitch count was getting him to the ninth. The expectations are high for Cain, and he should meet them with respect to strikeouts, but this team is not good enough to get the 15 wins you want.
Evil Twin: Yes, but relative to the high expectations for him.
Erik Bedard, Orioles
Bedard was a much stronger pitcher in the second half of 2006, but that's no excuse for not getting out of the fifth inning against the Twins. In the Yankees game, if any player but Alex Rodriguez comes up in the first, we're likely looking at a shutout. The Orioles play the Yankees and Red Sox frequently, which puts a ceiling on Bedard's wins. Expect more of the latter game from Bedard with great ratios -- after he pitches enough to absorb that first game -- and above-average wins.
Evil Twin: No, but perhaps they're Evil "Twins"...
On the Rebound?
Ramon Ortiz, Twins
Ortiz was as bad at home as he was away the past three years and had an ERA over 6.00 in domes. So the question becomes, "Can a 33-year-old righty recapture the potential that he's met only once?" I'm giving a qualified "yes." "Yes" because stops in Cincinnati and Washington will kill any pitcher's value, but "qualified" as he's uncharacteristically turned into Brad Radke this year by relying on fly-ball outs. If he continues this, he'll likely get killed in hitter-friendly parks, but enjoy the ride until then.
Evil Twin: In the past, but beware the short-fenced ballparks.
Rodrigo Lopez, Rockies
There are two stats that measure how well the defense has done preventing hits (hit rate) and preventing baserunners from scoring (strand rate). Usually pitchers hover around the league averages, but the past two years, Lopez has been on the wrong side of both, which suggests bad luck. How many pitchers come to Coors Field to improve their stats? This year I say there's one, and he's not untouchable. Since he has good control and walks less than the league average, keep an eye on how many of his fly balls leave the park.
Evil Twin: No, but don't look for perfection.
Daniel Cabrera, Orioles
Arg, only heartache and despair lie this way. We've all ridden this train before. There's nothing aberrational about the results of that first game. In fact, it's that second game that you should ignore. I know Cabrera is on everyone's sleeper list, and with a second year of Leo Mazzone's coaching, he should show more control, but I've been burned too many times by him to chance my season on one good outing. If he can keep his WHIP under 1.30 by the end of May, then we'll talk.
Evil Twin: Yes, there is no good Cabrera twin.
David Young is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at MrSnappy@TalentedMrRoto.com