MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/13/17
Clayton Kershaw is the most expensive pitcher on the slate in a road game against the Cleveland Indians. Kershaw has produced more like the Kershaw of old recently, going at least 7 innings with at least 9 strikeouts in three of his last four starts, and recording a swinging strike percentage greater than 14 percent in all three of those starts. The Indians have not been as good against left-handed pitching (.313 wOBA/93 wRC+) as they have against right-handed pitching (.331 wOBA/105 wRC+), which makes sense since the switch-hitters that they have throughout their lineup all tend to have more power from the left side of the plate. While it is not a particularly dangerous matchup for Kershaw, the Indians have only struck out 16.8 percent of the time against lefties this season so it is not a perfect matchup. Kershaw has a high floor in this matchup, but is not a must-play in tournaments on a slate where there is legitimate strikeout upside available for a lower price.
Zack Greinke has been outstanding this season as he has posted a 30 percent strikeout percentage backed up by a 14.5 percent swinging strike percentage that ranks fourth among qualified starters and a 37.5 percent o-swing percentage that ranks first. The Tigers have a lot of power in their lineup, but it mostly comes from the right side of the plate. Greinke has struck out 31 percent of right-handed hitters that he has faced this season, while limiting damage on batted balls with a 44.3 percent groundball percentage and 15.8 infield flyball percentage. While capable of hitting home runs, the Tigers also will strike out as they have struck out an average of 22 percent of the time against righties this season. In addition, Greinke gets a park upgrade going from Chase Field to Comerica Park-though it should be noted that he has not been quite as good on the road this season, striking out 23.5 percent of hitters with a 3.40 xFIP away from Chase Field compared to 34.3 percent of hitters with a 2.69 xFIP at home.
David Price has had excellent stuff since returning from the disabled list, though his results do not yet show it as he has had poor results against the White Sox in his first start and the Yankees in his most recent start. Instead of focusing on the results, however, we should look at some of his underlying numbers. Price’s average fastball velocity in his first three starts is 94.1 miles per hour, which is up from 92.9 miles per hour last season and is in line with his 94.0 mile per hour career average. His 11.2 percent swinging strike percentage is above average and his 36.9 o-swing percentage would rank behind only Zack Greinke among qualified starters. He has a friendlier matchup against the Phillies tonight than in his last start against the Yankees. While the Phillies are not as inept against left-handed pitching as they are against righties, they are still below average with a .310 wOBA, 89 wRC+ and 20.8 percent strikeout rate against southpaws. Price threw 107 pitches in his last start, indicating that he is no longer on any sort of pitch count, and he has as much upside as anyone on this slate.
Marco Estrada has quietly been posting ace-like strikeout numbers this season, ranking 14th in strikeout percentage (27.6 percent), 11th in swinging strike percentage (12.5 percent) and 8th in o-swing percentage (33.5 percent) among qualified starters. While he is not a hard-thrower, Estrada has the most vertical movement on his fastball among all pitchers who have thrown at least 200 pitches this season (and it is not particularly close). He will be facing the Tampa Bay Rays tonight. While Tampa has been surprisingly good offensively, posting a .344 wOBA and 119 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, they have also averaged strikeouts in 25.6 of their plate appearances against righties. The most dangerous hitters in Tampa Bay’s lineup are left-handed, but Estrada has actually struck out a slightly higher percentage of lefties than righties this season with a lower walk percentage. There is a very strong argument for Estrada having the most point-per-dollar upside on the slate on DraftKings where he is available for $2,100 less than Price, $4,200 less than Greinke and $4,900 less than Kershaw.
Brad Peacock let a lot of people down in his last start against the Angels. The thing is, that was a much worse spot for Peacock than people realized. While the Angels are missing their best hitter in Mike Trout, they are a patient and disciplined team that ranks in the bottom five of baseball over the last 14 days in swinging strike percentage, swing percentage and o-swing percentage while ranking in the top five in zone contact percentage. Digging into Peacock’s plate discipline numbers, he has a below average zone percentage at 45 percent and a below average 24.2 percent o-swing percentage. Both of these numbers are in line with his career averages, so it does not seem likely that we see them improve going forward. He has an above average swinging strike percentage, however, which seems to be fueled by a very low (and unsustainable) 77.4 percent zone-contact percentage. These numbers suggest that Peacock does have strikeout upside, as he has shown, but that we should target him in matchups against teams that swing and miss often, swing and miss pitches in the strike zone often, and chase pitches out of the strike zone often. The Angels were the exact opposite of the team that we should look to roster Peacock against. The Rangers, on the other hand, are a much more favorable matchup despite probably being a more dangerous offense overall. For the season, Texas ranks 7th in swinging strike percentage (11.3 percent), 17th in zone-contact percentage (86.0 percent) and 7th in o-swing percentage (31.3 percent). Despite getting Adrian Beltre back from the disabled list, Texas has been even worse in terms of plate discipline over the last 14 days as they rank 5th in swinging strike percentage (12.7 percent), 27th in zone-contact percentage (82.3 percent) and 11th in o-swing percentage (31.3 percent). Peacock faced the Rangers two starts ago and recorded a 12.8 percent swinging strike percentage while allowing just 71.4 percent zone-contact. On the negative side, it is worth noting that Peacock is on short rest as his start was pushed up a day with Lance McCullers being moved to the disabled list.
Buck Farmer has made two starts this season and has fared very well in both. Against the White Sox on May 27th, Farmer recorded swinging strikes on 22.3 percent of his pitches with a 37.9 percent o-swing percentage. His start against the Angels on June 7th was the polar opposite, as he got just 6 percent swinging strikes and just 16.7 percent swings at pitches out of the strike zone, but that is not overly discouraging when you factor in that he was facing the Los Angeles Angels. He still managed to pitch very well in that game, going 6 2/3 innings with 5 strikeouts, 1 walk and 3 hits allowed. Tonight he has a matchup with more strikeout upside as he faces the Arizona Diamondbacks in Comerica Park. Arizona has a .347 wOBA and 22.9 percent strikeout percentage against right-handed pitchers this season. Outside of Chase Field, their wOBA is just .287 and they have struck out 24.6 percent of the time. Farmer had an impressive 12.6 percent swinging strike percentage at AAA-Toledo this season and has plenty of upside at an appealing price point.
Charlie Blackmon will be facing Gerrit Cole in Pittsburgh. While the hitting environment is obviously a downgrade for Blackmon, Gerrit Cole has struggled lately and has been especially bad against left-handed hitters this season. Cole has allowed the highest percentage of hard contact on the slate to opposing lefties this season at 42.8 percent and he has allowed 2.35 home runs per nine innings despite pitching in a spacious home ballpark. In addition, Cole is terrible at holding base runners and Blackmon derives a lot of value from his ability to steal bases.
Miguel Sano faces off against Christian Bergman tonight. Bergman has reverse splits so far this season, allowing 2.25 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters while striking them out just 15.6 percent of the time. This trend is consistent with his career numbers, as he has been more home run prone with a lower strikeout percentage against righties over the course of his whole career. Sano has been one of the best power hitters in baseball this season. He has mashed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .283 ISO, .404 wOBA and 155 wRC+ this season which is backed up by a 52.2 percent hard contact percentage with just 6.7 percent soft contact.
Mitch Moreland has quietly been hitting right-handed pitching very well this season, with a .226 ISO and .370 wOBA. Tonight, he faces Ben Lively who had pretty big splits throughout his time in the minor leagues and does not get many swings and misses. Moreland should be able to do damage against the rookie righty and he tends to be under-owned on full slates.
Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna are in sneaky tournament spots tonight against Jharel Cotton. Cotton profiles as a reverse splits pitcher as his best pitch is his change-up, a pitch that is commonly most effective against hitters of the opposite handedness. Cotton has allowed 1.16 home runs per nine innings to righties so far this season, but his 42.9 percent flyball percentage and 42.4 percent hard contact percentage indicate that he should probably be allowing more. Stanton and Ozuna have both been very productive against righties this season, as Ozuna has a .268 ISO and .400 wOBA while Stanton has a .213 ISO and .350 wOBA. Stanton seems to have made adjustments at the plate recently, however, and has a .272 ISO and .422 wOBA over the last 30 days. One or both of these outfielders make for terrific GPP plays.
Manny Machado returned to the lineup for the Orioles last night and tonight he gets an elite matchup against Derek Holland at a reduced price point because his numbers this season are much worse than they should be based on how he has actually hit the ball. Machado has hit the ball hard 51.8 percent of the time against lefties this season and has a .265 ISO to show for it. Derek Holland has allowed a .392 xwOBA to right-handed hitters this season with 2.26 home runs per nine innings. It is a great spot for a lot of Orioles, Machado included.
Andrew Benintendi is appropriately priced on DraftKings (and is a strong play) but he is less than $3,000 on FanDuel. He has a great matchup against Lively and the up-and-coming star outfielder should be a cash game lock on FanDuel as well as a strong GPP option despite his likely 30+% ownership.
Matt Adams faces Joe Ross in Washington. Ross was electric in his last start, but has struggled overall this season. Even in past seasons when he was pitching better, he has always struggled with left-handed hitters. Ross has allowed a .348 xwOBA to lefties since the start of the 2016 season. Adams has been very productive since joining the Braves and getting a chance to play every day and he is still cheap as he sits at just $3,500 on DraftKings (with first base and outfield eligibility) and $2,700 on FanDuel as a first baseman. Adams’ .271 ISO and .378 wOBA against righties this season suggests he should be much more expensive in a favorable matchup.
Jed Lowrie, like Benintendi, is a strong DraftKings play at an appropriate price point in a nice matchup. On FanDuel, however, he is just $2,400. He has been underpriced for the entire season but he continues to be low-owned. Opposing pitcher Jose Urena has struck out just 12.6 percent of lefties this season with 33.3 percent hard contact. Lowrie has been destroying right-handed pitching all season long, with a .238 ISO and .393 wOBA. Not bad for a nearly minimum priced second baseman.
Trey Mancini has shown his massive upside plenty of times this season as he already has three multi home run games, including one last week when he did not even enter the game until the ninth inning. As mentioned earlier, Derek Holland is awful against right-handed hitters. Mancini will likely be hitting toward the middle of the lineup as the Orioles have placed Chris Davis on the disabled list with an oblique strain. Mancini has a .200 ISO with 38.2 percent hard contact and 10.9 percent soft contact in 78 plate appearances against lefties so far this season. He is especially valuable on sites where he is outfield eligible.
Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles are a team that we normally like to roster left-handed pitchers against. That is not the case today, however, as Derek Holland has been atrocious against right-handed bats this season and the Orioles have right-handed power up and down the lineup. The White Sox bullpen is good against right-handed hitters, which is a concern for the Orioles, but they did use four relievers last night as Mike Pelfrey lasted just 3.2 innings.
Chicago White Sox- Alec Asher added a cutter to his repertoire this season and he is throwing it about 30 percent of the time. This has led to him being very good against left-handed hitters and bad against righties this season. Asher is allowing 1.77 home runs per nine innings to righties with a .347 wOBA this season, compared to 0.86 home runs per 9 innings and a .303 wOBA to lefties. The middle of the White Sox order consists entirely of right-handed power in Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson. There is a ton of upside in rostering the White Sox tonight as people will probably overlook them against a right-handed pitcher and the Orioles bullpen is absolutely decimated right now with Darren O’Day and Zach Britton on the disabled list and Ubaldo Jimenez (yes, he is currently one of their better relief options) likely unavailable as he threw 3.2 innings in relief of Wade Miley last night.
Boston Red Sox- Ben Lively has somehow managed to survive his first two big league starts without much damage against him, going 7 innings and allowing 3 earned runs or less in both starts. He struck out just 3 hitters in those 14 innings, however, and the Red Sox are a more difficult matchup than the Braves or the Giants. It was already mentioned that the left-handed power in the Boston lineup makes for strong one-off plays, but the entire team is a strong stack as well.