MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/16/17
Dallas Keuchel faces the Miami Marlins in Miami. Keuchel has been excellent so far this season, pitching to a 2.97 xFIP with a 22.8 percent strikeout percentage, 11.1 percent swinging strike percentage, 21.6 percent hard contact allowed and 28.1 percent soft contact induced. We do not think of Miami as a team that strikes out often, but they are in the top half of the league in strikeout percentage against left-handed pitching this season at 21.5 percent. They have hit lefties well overall, with a .348 wOBA and 114 wRC+, but Keuchel is not an ordinary lefty. Keuchel has been worse on the road than at home throughout his career, so the perceived ballpark boost may not actually be an advantage, but this is still a strong spot for Keuchel to continue his excellent start to the season.
Stephen Strasburg is pitching well this season, although his strikeout numbers have been a bit disappointing. His 23.7 percent strikeout percentage seems like it should rebound toward his 28 percent career norm, however, as his swinging strike percentage and o-swing percentage are in line with his career averages. Tonight, he will face a Pittsburgh team that has been struggling mightily at the plate. As an added bonus, the game will be played in Pittsburgh. There are not a lot of strikeouts in the Pittsburgh lineup based on past history of the hitters, but they have been striking out plenty of late, as they have a strikeout percentage just north of 23 percent over the last two weeks. Strasburg is a strong option facing an ice-cold team in a great pitcher’s park.
Yu Darvish is facing the Philadelphia Phillies in Texas with the wind blowing in. The Phillies are close to league average in terms of wOBA and wRC+ against right-handed pitching, but they strike out at the sixth highest rate in baseball. Darvish has a 25.4 percent strikeout percentage and 10.1 percent swinging strike percentage. He threw just 96 pitches in his last start, after throwing at least 110 in three straight. There is plenty of upside here for Darvish against the Phillies.
Zack Greinke has been electric this season, posting the 2nd highest strikeout percentage (28.4) and the 2nd highest swinging strike percentage (13.5) on this evening’s slate. He has been able to strike out hitters from both sides of the plate, as lefties have gone down on strikes 27.7 percent of the time and righties have struck out 29.1 percent of the time. The numbers against lefties are particularly important, as the Mets have left-handed hitters up and down their lineup. In addition to being able to strike them out, Greinke has done a good job limiting hard contact (30.2 percent) and inducing soft contact (20.6 percent), with just a .285 wOBA allowed despite an average .300 BABIP. There is always risk when targeting a pitcher in Chase Field but, as we saw last night with Godley and Wheeler, they can still have plenty of success.
Eduardo Rodriguez leads the slate in strikeout percentage (29.6 percent) and swinging strike percentage (14.5 percent) this season. Rodriguez was sent to the minor leagues in the beginning of July last season because the Red Sox felt that he was tipping pitches and that it needed to be corrected. Since being recalled to the major leagues on July 16th, Rodriguez has made 20 starts. In those 20 starts, Rodriguez has an average swinging strike percentage of 12.3 percent. He has had a swinging strike percentage over 11 percent in 16 of those starts, including 9 in a row. Rodriguez has had a lower release point since his return to the major leagues, possibly in an effort to disguise his pitches better. Whatever he has changed has worked. Let’s dive in to his pitch mix before and after the demotion (specifically against righties since tonight’s opponent is very right-handed heavy). From the start of last season until July 16th, Rodriguez threw his 4-seam fastball 59 percent of the time to righties, while throwing his 2-seamer 6.5 percent, his change-up 20.9 percent, his slider 4.2 percent and a cutter 9.4 percent of the time. Since being recalled, he is throwing his fastball 58.7 percent, his 2-seamer 7.5 percent, his change-up 18.7 percent, his slider 14.9 percent and he has completely scrapped his cutter, throwing just 3 total cutters since July 16th of last season to right-handed batters. His whiffs per swing have increased on each of the four pitches that he throws, with his 4-seam fastball increasing from 9.8 percent to 11.5 percent, his 2-seam fastball increasing from 3.5 percent to 10.1 percent, his change-up increasing from 14.9 percent to 23.2 percent and his slider increasing from 0 (remember he did not throw it much) to 9.2 percent. In addition to increases in whiffs, his home run percentage on each pitch have dropped significantly, as his 4-seam fastball was hit for a home run by right-handed hitters 1.5 percent of the time before his demotion. His 2-seam fastball resulted in a home run 3.5 percent of the time, his change-up 3.2 percent of the time and his cutter 2.4 percent of the time. His 4-seam fastball has since resulted in a home run 0.7 percent of the time, his 2-seamer 1.83 percent of the time, his change-up 0.37 percent of the time and his slider 0.46 percent of the time (replacing the cutter that was hit for a home run 2.4 percent of the time). In addition to Rodriguez changing himself into an elite strikeout pitcher, he will face a Cardinals team that is poor against left-handed pitching despite having right-handed hitters up and down the lineup. The Cardinals active roster has struck out 22.3 percent of the time against left-handed pitchers this season, with a .307 wOBA and 86 wRC+. Rodriguez has been better against righties than lefties this season, as well, striking out 30.6 percent of righties while allowing just 23.4 percent hard contact and inducing 21.9 percent soft contact. The concern for Rodriguez is the weather in St. Louis, as it is hot and the wind is expected to be blowing out to left field. Still, there is a ton of upside in this matchup at a very reasonable price tag and, likely, low ownership across the industry.
J.C. Ramirez faces a Chicago White Sox team that has been awful against right-handed pitching this season, with a 21.6 percent strikeout percentage, .292 wOBA and 82 wRC+. They have not been quite as bad lately, but this is still an excellent matchup for J.C. Ramirez in a great pitcher’s park. Game log watchers may not be excited about Ramirez as he has scored less than 10 DraftKings points in each of his last two starts. One of those starts was against a very good Houston team that does not strike out often and then second start was against a powerful Tigers lineup. Ramirez did not pitch as poorly as his line indicates in that one, as the Tigers got to him for a couple of home runs early before he turned things around and finished 7 innings on just 99 pitches. His swinging strike percentage has been decreasing as well, but part of that is the matchup with the Astros where he generated almost no swinging strikes. It is a good sign that his velocity ticked back up against the Tigers, after being down for his starts against Texas and the Astros. Ramirez remains cheap across the industry and is in a very nice bounce-back spot against the White Sox.
Bryce Harper is in a bad hitter’s park in Pittsburgh and that is where the negativity ends. Chad Kuhl is a pretty decent pitcher- against righties. He is absolute trash against left-handed hitters, allowing a .406 wOBA and 38.8 percent hard contact to lefties since the start of last season. Harper, of course, is one of the top hitters in baseball and has been absolutely destroying right-handed pitching. He also has the power to hit it out in Pittsburgh, as 6 of the 53 sinkers, thrown in the same velocity range as Kuhl’s, that Harper has hit since last season would have been home runs in Pittsburgh.
Mike Trout has been on fire lately and gets a great matchup tonight against Derek Holland. Holland has somehow put up better numbers this season, but it appears to mostly be smoke and mirrors. Holland is still allowing a ton of hard contact to right-handed hitters this season, with a slate-leading 42.2 percent hard contact allowed to righties and 1.57 home runs per nine innings. It is a great spot for Trout to extend his home run streak to 5 games.
Anthony Rizzo is one of many Cubs in a great spot tonight, facing Bronson Arroyo with the wind blowing out in Wrigley. Arroyo is allowing greater than 2 home runs per nine innings to hitters from both sides of the plate this season, and Rizzo has a team-leading .250 ISO against right-handed pitching since the start of last season. He has not been hitting the ball as hard or for as much power so far this season, but it is still a great spot in great hitting weather against a pitcher who does not get strike outs.
Billy Hamilton is playing opposite Rizzo for the Cincinnati Reds. While a lot of Reds bats are in play because of the weather as well, Hamilton is a strong play because he will be able to run at will against John Lackey who, like several Cubs pitchers, struggles to hold runners. Stolen bases are more predictable than home runs, so Hamilton makes for a strong play because if he can get on base it is likely to be close to the equivalent of a home run. He is a top play in the DraftKings Arcade format as well.
Nolan Arenado is playing against Miguel Sano and the Twins in Minnesota. Sano is probably going to be one of the most popular third baseman on the slate, but Arenado may actually be in a better spot despite being away from Coors Field. Phil Hughes has allowed 1.69 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters since the start of last season and Arenado has plenty of power against righties, with a .238 ISO against righties outside of Coors last season and a .200 ISO against them so far this season. Arenado is one of the top GPP options on the slate.
Paul Goldschmidt has been red-hot and faces left-handed Tommy Milone at Chase Field. There is not a lot of analysis needed for this one, as the Diamondbacks righties are all in good spots against Milone and his 2.08 home runs per 9 innings allowed to righties since last season.
Chris Owings is on the border between value and not-value, but he is underpriced when you factor in matchup and position. The shortstop position is atrocious despite it being a 13-game slate, and Owings should be hitting near the top of the lineup against left-handed gas-can Tommy Milone in Chase Field. Owings has a .367 wOBA and .184 ISO against left-handed pitching since the start of last season and he can take advantage of good running matchups against relievers later in the game if they arise as well. Brandon Drury is also a very strong option against Milone in Chase on the positive side of his platoon split.
Trey Mancini is very inexpensive and has a ton of power upside against Matt Boyd. Boyd has limited home runs to righties so far this season, but is still allowing 38.7 percent hard contact and 55.7 percent of batted balls to be pulled, so that is not likely to last very long. All that Trey Mancini has done in his rookie season is hit the ball hard, as he has a 41.7 percent hard contact rate and 7.9 percent soft contact in 94 at-bats so far this season. He is likely to go completely overlooked because he will probably be hitting toward the bottom of the order, but he has double dong upside against Boyd and a terrible Tigers bullpen.
Mitch Moreland has been hitting the ball hard this season for the Red Sox without much to show for it. Lance Lynn has been solid against righties for the Cardinals this year, but he has been awful against lefties, allowing 2.93 home runs per nine innings with 37.5 percent hard contact and just 8.9 percent soft contact. Moreland is a great cheap source of power if you are looking to pay up for pitching.
Arizona Diamondbacks- are in a great spot against Tommy Milone in Chase Field. As mentioned earlier, Milone has allowed more than 2 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters since last season and the Diamondbacks have plenty of right-handed power in their lineup. Factor in that the Mets bullpen is an absolute mess right now, as seen last night, and the Diamondbacks are one of the top stacks on the slate.
Chicago Cubs– The Cubs are likely to be the highest owned stack on this slate as they face 92-year-old Bronson Arroyo in Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out. I probably “respect” Arroyo more than most people as far as being hesitant to stack against him sometimes. This is not one of those times as he is a flyball pitcher who pitches to contact against a powerful team with the wind blowing out in Wrigley. There is upside up and down this lineup for the Cubs. The downside, other than their popularity, is that the Reds bullpen is very good.
Cincinnati Reds- Stacking the team opposite the chalk, when the chalk is chalk in large part due to the hitting environment, is a very strong tournament play. In addition to the wind conditions, the Reds have speed throughout their lineup and John Lackey has struggled to hold runners throughout his career. Lackey has pitched reasonably well this season, but he has struggled with the long-ball so far. Joey Votto, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler all have an ISO over .200 against righties since last season, and Billy Hamilton has a ton of speed at the top of the order.