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Putting early hot and cold streaks into proper fantasy perspective

One big game from Andrew McCutchen changed his 2018 season statistics in a hurry. That's just one of many reasons to keep the right perspective when dealing with small sample hot and cold streaks early in the season. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

A lot can happen in a week. It always does. However, when it comes to the first week of the baseball season, fantasy managers who have spent a long winter anxiously awaiting stats that count are very prone to getting hoodwinked by extreme starts to the campaign that typically won't be indicative of future results.

This is particularly true when it comes to extremely high batting averages out of the gate or extended oh-fers to start the season. When a .250 hitter has a sudden run of multihit games in the summer, he's considered to be "hot" -- but the expectation is that at some point, his bat will once again return to "normal." When a .320 hitter is mired in a 1-for-20 slide just after the All-Star break, it's all but laughed off, and both forgotten and forgiven once he gets back on track.

Yet, when the only sample you have is the extreme streak, it's hard not to have it color your perception of the player -- not only in the present, but also for many weeks to come. It's very dangerous to let these first impressions linger for too long, lest your opinion of these players cause you to be unable to value them properly going forward and potentially wreck your season as a result.

Let's take a look at Andrew McCutchen of the San Francisco Giants. He started the season 2-for-24 (.083) with six strikeouts -- and negative fantasy points as a result. But on April 7, he went off with a 6-for-7 night including three extra-base hits -- one of which was a walk-off three-run blast in the 14th inning. Suddenly, he's batting .258 on the season and has 16 total fantasy points for the week and he's in no danger of being on the most-dropped list.

Conversely, how much louder would the boos be for Giancarlo Stanton if not for his 2-HR, 16 fantasy point Opening Day? Since then, he's managed to go just 4-for-37 (.108) with 19 strikeouts, and his overall fantasy point total remains at 16. Yet, if Stanton goes 2-for-4 with a few balls either slamming into or sailing over the outfield wall in his next outing, all is likely to be sunshine and rainbows.

Having six (or more) hitless games in the first week of the season will be a double-digit point albatross on your batting average for the rest of the season. So even if Jose Ramirez (2-for-33) or Gary Sanchez (2-for-32) were to end up batting .300 over their next 500 at-bats, that still would only get them up to .280 on their baseball card. It's that big of an impact.

On the flip side, a super-hot streak is not likely to have as much of an impact going forward. A quick look at the top-10 list in terms of 2018 batting average yields us such names as Rhys Hoskins, Chris Owings, Ryan Flaherty, Dansby Swanson, Didi Gregorius and Matt Chapman, all of whom are batting at least .370.

Last season, Yunel Escobar, Marcell Ozuna, Asdrubal Cabrera and Odubel Herrera were all in the mix of early batting leaders at some point during their respective teams' first eight games. However, when all was said and done, this quartet, who had hit a combined .400 to kick off the season, hit a combined .289 for the season -- and .281 if you started counting at Game No. 9.

In other words, a hot streak gets more diluted and means less as the season wears on. However, a slow start remains a batting average albatross the rest of the way. If you know a player's poor first week is driving down his stats but trust his track record and recent performance, you can use that to your advantage at the trading table in May or June. Keep this in mind when looking at the numbers, because it can help you to spin the statistics in a way to ensure you're the one coming out ahead in terms of value when making trades going forward.