MLB Deep Dive – 4/24/17
Zack Greinke [RHP – ARI] vs. SDP – The former Cy Young winner is no longer elite, but he’s still an above average pitcher when crossing paths with above average matchups. The San Diego Padres pose an above average matchup for Greinke, who just tossed eight one-run innings against them at Petco last week. While this isn’t the same punchless Padres team from seasons past, but they still rank bottom-five in wOBA and top-10 in strikeouts vs. right-handed pitching in 2017. Greinke is a -159 ML favorite at home, while San Diego owns a sub-4 implied run total against the D-Backs’ right-hander. Unfortunately, Chase Field significantly favors the hitter, and Greinke isn’t exactly discounted across the industry. He does, however, limit same-handed hitters to a .286 wOBA with only .80 HR/9 allowed over his career, which should help him limit the damage in the desert.
I’ll likely spend down on pitching tonight in an attempt to load up on bats, as only two games on this nine-game slate own sub-8 totals. Coors Field sports a 12-run total, while Rangers Ballpark houses a 9.5-run total and Miller Park is always liable to erupt. Greinke is a solid option at $9,400 on DraftKings but paying five figures for him on FanDuel seems unwise. Ultimately, I’ll probably roll the dice on some mid-range arms and hope they can continue to pitch above their heads.
Jason Vargas [LHP – KC] @ CWS – Let’s get one thing straight — Vargas is doing almost nothing different from what he’s done in previous campaigns. Through three starts in 2017, the veteran lefty is sporting a .44 ERA while striking out batters at a ridiculous 31 percent clip. He owns a 13.4 percent swinging strike rate, is inducing ground balls at a 53 percent clip and has yet to allow a home run. In no uncertain terms, the results have been elite. The real question here is ‘why?’
The only change I’ve been able to detect in Vargas is his Zone%, which at 51.9 percent is up significantly from his career. He’s always been a command pitcher, and his ability to locate pitches has prompted a higher swing rate and a significantly lower contact rate, especially in the zone (72.3% Z-Contact). Aside from those tweaks, Vargas is doing everything exactly the same as he always has; velocity, movement and pitch mix remain nearly identical to his career averages, yet he’s missing far more bats in the process. Amazingly, Vargas’ .286 BABIP against is actually higher than his career average BABIP of .284! I’m not suggesting Vargas will continue to pitch at an elite level, but it’s feasible to believe he could continue to pitch effectively. He throws a plus changeup and locates well, which will allow him to compensate for a sub-stellar 87 MPH fastball.
Paying $8,000 for a 34-year-old southpaw who’s never posted elite results in his career generally doesn’t make much sense, but Monday’s matchup with Chicago may force our hand. Sure, the White Sox have performed much better against lefties than they have against righties this year, but the sample is tiny and they still own the lowest implied run total of any team on Monday’s slate. Vargas’ changeup should help him navigate around the stable of right-handed bats scattered throughout this lineup, while the chilly temperatures in Chicago will mitigate the home run threat. You could definitely do worse than Vargas on a night where pitching is absolutely dreadful.
Amir Garrett [LHP – CIN] @ MIL [RHP] – Amir Garrett is your prototypical tournament play on Monday, facing a Brewers squad that ranks atop the league in wOBA (.383), ISO (.256) and K-rate (30.2%) vs. left-handed pitching this season. I don’t see there being a middle-of-the-road outcome for Garrett, who will either rack up 8-plus strikeouts in another elite performance or get hammered at Miller Park by a power-packed Milwaukee offense. The Brewers are the most Jekyll and Hyde team in baseball right now, and there’s no way to truly predict their performance on a game-by-game basis. Moreover, Miller Park is a top-five power park for lefties and righties alike, which won’t do Garrett any favors if his swinging strike rate comes back down to earth.
Batters are whiffing on an eye-popping 67 percent of swings against Garrett’s slider this season, which is unsustainable in every sense. It is a plus pitch, though, along with his changeup, which has a near 11-MPH velocity gap from his four-seamer. Garrett’s fastball is the pitch that could get him into trouble on Monday, sitting at 92 MPH with no movement at all. With more scouting available on Garrett now, hitters could be waiting to smash the four-seamer into orbit.
I’m viewing Garrett as a boom-or-bust tournament play against the Brewers, as he remains cheap enough to warrant serious consideration across the board. I don’t feel comfortable deploying him in cash games, though, with this being an all or nothing matchup in Milwaukee. Fortunately, this slate is much better suited for GPPs anyway.
Brett Anderson [LHP – CHC] @ PIT – In a nutshell, Anderson is an extreme groundball pitcher who induces soft contact and doesn’t allow many home runs. He doesn’t strike many batters out, either, but generally manages to yield solid real-life results on the mound. On Monday, solid real-life results may be exactly what we’re looking for in cash games. Pitching prospects are grim, and nearly all of the high-upside arms available are also very volatile. Anderson doesn’t offer a high fantasy ceiling, but he should be in line for a very serviceable start against the Pirates, who continue to struggle against left-handed pitching.
On the year, Pittsburgh owns a paltry .279 wOBA vs. LHP, while sporting a bottom-10 ISO (.130) and eighth highest K-rate (23.1%) across 208 plate appearances. Their sub-4 implied run total paired with a meeting inside the pitcher-friendly PNC Park makes Anderson a viable low-end option on Monday. Furthermore, he’ll draw strong odds to earn the win against this Marte-less Pirates squad; Chad Kuhl has been pitching well but still faces a tough opponent in the Cubs’ offense.
Jesse Chavez [RHP – LAA] vs. TOR – Maybe the Blue Jays have turned a corner, tallying 18 runs over their last three games, but they still own a far from formidable lineup with Josh Donaldson sidelined. Edwin Encarnacion’s departure and Donaldson’s injury have placed Toronto in a serious hole, ranking them near the bottom of the league in nearly every relevant offensive statistical category this season. Chavez isn’t especially good, but he isn’t terrible, either, and he’ll draw an opportunity to post a solid line on a night where the Jays own a 3.8-run implied total inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium. In tournaments, Chavez makes for an intriguing pivot away from the more popular options on this nine-game slate (Vargas, Garrett).
Trea Turner [SS/OF – R] @ Anderson [LHP] – Washington’s 23-year old phenom opened his 2017 campaign in a rut before hitting the disabled list with a strained hamstring. He’s back, though, and I couldn’t care less about his sluggish start. Turner’s game is designed to smash at Coors, where the spacious outfield turns routine singles into triples and the altitude shapes pop flies into 400-foot home runs. Turner is 3-9 with a double, RBI, walk and two strikeouts since returning, but Monday’s road tilt with Tyler Anderson marks his best matchup yet.
Anderson has allowed a .342 wOBA to opposing righties over his short career (430 BF) with a .203 ISO and 15.6 percent HR/FB rate. His ability to generate ground balls at an above average clip keeps him from being a complete dumpster fire at Coors, but Anderson is still far from being a shut down pitcher. Moreover, Anderson has gotten off to a brutal start in 2017, allowing five home runs in only 19.2 IP, while serving up a 41 percent hard hit rate to opposite-handed bats. If there was ever a time for Turner to enjoy his first big game of his sophomore campaign, Monday would be the time.
Ryan Zimmerman [1B – R] @ Anderson [LHP] – The oft-injured first baseman has managed to stay healthy through the first month of baseball, and the results have been stupendous. Zimmerman’s six home runs and 16 RBI are tied for seventh and eighth most in baseball, respectively, while his 77 percent O-Contact rate is up more than 10 percent from his career. He’s batting cleanup for a Nationals team that in only 62 plate appearances vs. LHP (fewest in baseball by a wide margin) leads the league in both wOBA and ISO. Since the start of 2016, however, Washington ranks second in wOBA (.339) and first in ISO vs. lefties, so their early season performance should not be chalked up as a fluke.
Zimmerman has excelled against southpaws over his career, so assuming he can stay healthy for one more night, the veteran infielder should continue to stay hot against Anderson. Washington owns a 5.7-run implied total on Monday inside the most hitter-friendly park in baseball, which paired with their ability to destroy left-handed pitching should yield very positive results.
Brian Dozier [2B – R] @ Perez [LHP] – This tilt between Phil Hughes and Martin Perez owns the second highest run total on the night (9.5 O/U), and there are plenty of hitters to target on both sides of the field. Dozier leads off inside one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks around, where he’ll draw the platoon advantage against a very hittable southpaw. Dozier boasts a career .239 ISO and 46 percent flyball rate vs. left-handed pitching, and although Perez does a solid job of inducing ground balls, he also owns a 12 percent K-rate and 4.56 xFIP vs. right-handed bats.
Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Turner [RHP] – Since 2015, Arenado has hit 71 home runs vs. right-handed pitching, recording a long ball for every 13.8 at bats. Even better, Arenado has tallied an extra-base hit per every 6.8 at bats over that span, sporting a ridiculous .299 ISO across 1071 plate appearances. Those numbers include road games, so feel free to use your imagination to dream up what he’s been able to do at Coors.
Arenado faces a righty in Jacob Turner on Monday, who was called up from Triple-A to make his first Major League start since July of last year. Turner allows a career .371 wOBA and .215 ISO to opposing righties, with a well below average strikeout rate and 1.48 HR/9 surrendered. He’s positioned to get smoked tonight, as evidenced by the Rockies’ Goliath implied total of 6.5 runs. You know what to do here. Obviously, Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] and even Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] are in play. You can pretty much make the right decision by closing your eyes and clicking on a random Colorado bat this evening.
Ryan Braun [OF – R] vs. Garrett [LHP] – With everyone justifiably flocking to Coors bats on Monday, Ryan Braun makes for one of my favorite overall tournament options against Amir Garrett. As earlier noted, Cincinnati’s rookie left-hander is dealing right now, but this matchup with Milwaukee could create some trouble. The Brewers are chock full of power throughout their lineup, and when they aren’t striking out, they’re generally hitting home runs. Braun, specifically, boasts a jaw-dropping .434/.289 wOBA/ISO vs. southpaws over his career, and now he draws a matchup with a rookie left-hander at Miller Park.
While everyone scrambles to buy their tickets to board the Garrett Mobile, we should maybe be looking to sell ours at a premium and purchase tickets to ride the Brewers Bus. They’re no lock to do damage on Monday, but this is undoubtedly one of the best GPP spots on the board. Braun simply offers too much upside with the platoon advantage to ignore.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joey Votto [1B – L] @ Garza [RHP]; Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Anderson [LHP]; Jayson Werth [OF – R] @ Anderson [LHP] [GPP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Liriano [LHP]; Miguel Sano [3B – R] @ Perez [LHP]
Rougned Odor [2B – L] vs. Hughes [RHP]/Brad Miller [2B – L] @ Jimenez [RHP] – Odor and Miller both draw very favorable matchups with weak righties on Monday, but they’re priced much lower on FanDuel ($3,200/$2,900) than they are on DraftKings ($4,700/$4,500). While I wouldn’t blame anyone for targeting Coors bats at the second base position on FanDuel, Odor and Miller are simply too cheap to ignore. Both face aging righties who have been trashed by left-handed hitters, and both are playing in very hitter-friendly venues. I don’t think you can go wrong here, seeing that you’re getting a discount no matter which direction you take. In case you were wondering, each of these second basemen possesses ample power vs. RHP at their position.
Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Chacin [RHP] – Jhoulys Chacin has been stellar in two home starts this season, but unsurprisingly struggled on the road against Atlanta and L.A. Dodgers. I don’t see any way Chacin doesn’t stumble again on Monday when he faces the Diamondbacks inside Chase Field. The veteran right-hander’s career numbers against left-handed bats are far from stellar, especially considering he strikes them out at a meager 14 percent clip.
Lamb has tuned up opposite-handed pitching over his career, and he’s been even better to start his 2017 campaign, sporting a .455/.320 wOBA/ISO split with four home runs and 15 RBI across 50 at bats. His price tag continues to climb, but Monday is no time to jump off the wagon. It’s hard not to love Lamb in a game where the D-Backs own a whopping 5.1-run implied total at home.
Nomar Mazara [OF – L] vs. Hughes [RHP] – I’d be surprised to see the Texas bats go quiet on Monday when they face Phil Hughes inside Rangers Ballpark. Hughes isn’t missing any bats this season, but he’s also generating ground balls at a career-low 26.9 percent clip. Hughes also owns a dismal 51 percent hard hit rate against in 2017, which will do him no favors at one of the most homer-happy parks in baseball. No strikeouts, no ground balls, no safety of pitching inside a spacious venue. Hughes should be in for a very long night, and Mazara should be able to capitalize. The young outfield has hammered right-handed pitching thus far, and now he’ll face one of the juiciest matchups he’s seen all season. Mazara and Carlos Gomez [OF – R] both make for very strong mid-range plays in the Rangers’ outfield.
HONORABLE MENTION: Corey Seager [SS – L] @ Cain [RHP]; Joey Gallo [3B – L] vs. Hughes [RHP] [GPP]; Eric Thames [1B – L] vs. Garrett [LHP]; Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] @ Cain [RHP]
Jeremy Hazelbaker [OF – L] vs. Chacin [RHP] – We’ve already outlined Chacin’s struggles in hitter-friendly venues, so we won’t spend any more time picking on San Diego’s righty. All you need to know here is Hazelbaker is cheap and is poised to lead off with the platoon advantage at a great hitter’s park. We aren’t going to get any massive fantasy performances from the former Cardinal, but he could easily see five plate appearances at the top of Arizona’s lineup, and is a lock to get some very hittable pitches against Chacin. Hitting ahead of Goldschmidt and Lamb virtually guarantees Hazelbaker will be seeing a lot of strikes. Now he’ll just have to do something with them.
Robinson Chirinos [C – R] vs. Hughes [RHP] – Chirinos was good to us the other night, smacking two home runs at a dirt cheap price point. He remains affordable on Monday in a plus matchup with Phil Hughes, and should once again be firmly in play if he continues to bat sixth in the Rangers’ order. Loading up on Texas bats is a solid approach tonight, especially when Chirinos will cost you next to nothing at the weakest available position. He packs enough power in his bat to easily take Hughes deep in Arlington, where balls have been known to take flight.
Jorge Polanco [SS – L/R] @ Perez [LHP] – Polanco has been batting second against lefties, which immediately makes him a viable shortstop option against Martin Perez. Believe it or not, Polanco owns a .380 wOBA and .204 ISO in 103 career plate appearances vs. southpaws, so targeting him against a sub-par lefty makes plenty of sense. If you aren’t paying for Trea Turner at the top of the position, you could do a whole lot worse than Polanco if he continues to hit behind Dozier on Monday.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joc Pederson [OF – L] @ Cain [RHP]; Shane Peterson [OF – L] @ Jimenez [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Gonzalez [RHP]; Jordy Mercer [SS – R] vs. Anderson [LHP]
TOP TOURNAMENT STACKS
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Garrett [LHP] – Garrett has been stellar through his first major league starts, meaning many will look to avoid targeting opposing bats. The Brewers are so chock full of power, though, that they could erupt for a huge night if Garrett’s fastball gets pounced on. Milwaukee’s power from the right side of the plate is uber-enticing tonight, especially considering they’ll be hitting inside a top-five power park in baseball.
Colorado Rockies vs. Turner [RHP] – Turner isn’t a major league pitcher and that will show on Monday. When a team has a 6.5-run implied total like the Rockies do tonight, I shouldn’t need to elaborate on why they’re a top target.
Washington Nationals @ Anderson [LHP] – Since the start of 2016 the Nationals lead the league in ISO and rank second in wOBA vs. left-handed pitching. Trea Turner is back in the fold and Washington boasts a stable of right-handed power throughout their entire lineup. You can create so many different variations of this stack on Monday, and I have trouble believing they’ll fail to produce against the flailing arm of Tyler Anderson.
Texas Rangers vs. Hughes [RHP] – The Rangers come alive in Arlington, and Phil Hughes will make sure of it on Monday. Hughes doesn’t generate strikeouts, is sporting a career-worst 27 percent GB-rate, and is as homer-prone as they come in his 11th MLB campaign. You have to love these Texas bats tonight, especially considering they pack power from the top to bottom, including Joey Gallo all the way down in the 8-hole.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chacin [RHP] – Chacin’s two strong starts this season have come at Petco Park. He’s struggled in his two road starts and should struggle again on Monday. The D-Backs should tune him up at Chase Field, and we won’t have to pay a premium for a good number of lefties in this lineup.