MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/17/17
Chris Archer goes on the road to face the Detroit Tigers today. Detroit has a ton of right-handed bats in their lineup and Archer has plenty of strikeout upside as he has struck out 31.1 percent of right-handed hitters this season. That said, it is a dangerous spot for Archer. It is nearly 90 degrees in Detroit and Archer is a two-pitch pitcher with a hard fastball and a slider. The Tigers are one of the best fastball-hitting teams in baseball, as the entire middle of their order feasts on hard fastballs. It would not be surprising at all to see at least a couple of home runs from the Tigers hitters against Archer, especially when factoring in that he has always been a better pitcher at home and he has allowed 1.5 home runs per nine innings to righties on the road with just a 24.6 percent strikeout percentage since the start of last season compared to 0.6 home runs per 9 innings and 31.6 percent strikeouts at home. With all of the high-upside pitching available on this slate, Archer is a fade in this spot.
Stephen Strasburg got roughed up by the Braves in his last start, but he still showed excellent strikeout stuff as he struck out 10 hitters in 5 innings on a hot day in Washington. Today’s situation is different, as he travels to pitcher-friendly Citi Field on a relatively cool 73-degree afternoon. The Mets will be without Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, making their lineup less dangerous than usual. Three of the four most dangerous hitters in the lineup hit from the left side of the plate, which actually plays in to Strasburg’s strengths as he has been better against lefties than righties with just a .263 xwOBA allowed since the start of last season. He is my preferred expensive pitching option ahead of Archer.
Chase Anderson has been much better this season than in past seasons and his ability to pitch to right-handed hitters appears to be the reason why. Since the start of last season, Anderson has allowed a .343 xwOBA to righties but, since the start of this season, it is just .288. His swinging strike percentage against righties has jumped from 9.1 percent since the start of last season to 11.3 since the start of this season. Digging deeper, he is throwing his curveball 20 percent of the time with a 14.1 whiff percentage this season compared to 14 percent of the time with a 5.9 whiff percentage last season. He is also throwing his cut fastball more, using it 14 percent of the time with a 12.8 whiff percentage this season compared to 6 percent of the time with a 4.7 whiff percentage last season. He is throwing his 2-seam fastball and his change-up less. While he is not getting more movement on his curveball or his cutter to explain the swings and misses, he is throwing each pitch slightly over one mile per hour harder on average than he did last season. In addition, he has a 12.7 whiff percentage on his four-seam fastball this season compared to just 8.6 percent last season. He ranks 14th in baseball in vertical movement on his four-seamer and, while the movement is similar to last season, he is throwing it close to one-and-a-half miles per hour harder this season. Anderson is getting expensive on some sites but he seems to be a legitimately improved pitcher and gets a friendly matchup against the strikeout happy Padres.
Zack Godley could have some weather issues today in Philadelphia but, if favorable weather reports come out, he has a very nice matchup against the Phillies. Godley has shown excellent strikeout stuff this season, striking out a slightly above average 21.2 percent of hitters but demonstrating absolutely elite underlying numbers with a 13.4 swinging strike percentage and a 36.6 percent o-swing percentage. Godley has also been good against hitters from both sides of the plate, with a .278 xwOBA and 12.1 swinging strike percentage against lefties and a .269 xwOBA allowed and 15.1 percent swinging strike percentage against righties. The Phillies have the 4th-highest strikeout percentage against righties in the majors this season and have been below average in terms of production with just a .298 wOBA and 81 wRC+.
Masahiro Tanaka has been an extremely frustrating pitcher this season as he has shown the ability to get a lot of swings and misses and swings at pitches out of the zone, 12.9 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively, but he has also allowed 2.23 home runs per nine innings and has the 11th-highest barrels-per-plate appearance percentage amongst all pitchers with at least 100 batted ball events this season. He dominated the Athletics in his last outing against them and gets a favorable park shift going from Yankees Stadium to the Oakland Coliseum, just know that he remains a risky option that is best served for tournaments as there is power up and down the Athletics lineup.
Adam Wainwright has been up and down this season but he has a nice matchup today against the Baltimore Orioles who have been struggling just about every night it seems. Wainwright has been extremely effective against right-handed hitters this season, allowing just a .287 xwOBA with a 10.6 percent swinging strike percentage. With Chris Davis on the disabled list, the Orioles lineup will likely have only two lefties in Seth Smith and Hyun-Soo Kim. Smith can do damage, but Kim is primarily a pesky slap hitter. If the Orioles replace Kim with David Washington, then there are more strikeouts available for Wainwright. Wainwright is never particularly safe, but he does have upside in a good matchup today.
Dinelson Lamet is coming off back-to-back bad outings but he still has the talent to be a high-upside tournament play than can win a tournament at his price tag. He struggled with lefties in the minors and those struggles have continued in the majors. His change-up is a work in progress and, when it is not at its best, he is unable to have success against them. He has been very good against righties, however, with a .294 xwOBA and 15.8 percent swinging strike percentage. Milwaukee’s projected lineup has three good lefties in the top four spots in Sogard, Thames and Shaw, but no other lefties in the lineup. If he is able to navigate through the difficult top of the order, he should be able to pile up strikeouts throughout the rest of the lineup. He is a high-risk/high-reward option.
Mike Clevinger (Late Slate)- Clevinger has shown elite strikeout stuff this season as he has struck out 28.6 percent of hitters he has faced with a 13.7 percent swinging strike percentage and 31.1 percent o-swing percentage. He has four quality pitches that he can throw and, while lefties have hit him better than righties, he has been relatively effective against hitters from both sides of the plate with a .335 xwOBA allowed against lefties and a .285 xwOBA allowed against righties. There is also a chance he sees a watered-down Twins lineup in the second game of a double-header.
Alex Meyer (Late Slate)- Meyer continues to have success with his hard fastball and sharp-breaking curveball this season. While he struggles with control issues at times, he is striking out 25.4 percent of hitters this season. His swinging strike percentage and o-swing percentage are both below average, which is concerning, but he has upside against this Kansas City team. While Kansas City has hit better of late and is using better lineups that do not include Alcides Escobar at the top of the lineup, their plate discipline numbers are still bad as they have the 6th-highest swinging strike percentage and 4th-highest o-swing percentage in baseball over the last 14 days. A pairing of Meyer and Clevinger gives you all the bats that you want and a ton of upside at pitcher, just do not check your scores until the night is over because there is a good chance it is a roller-coaster ride between the two of them.
Edwin Encarnacion has been feasting on lefties this season and he gets a bad one today in Adam Wilk. Wilk has seen limited time in the majors this season, but he is allowed a .460 xwOBA to righties and just does not appear to be anything more than a fill-in when his team is desperate for someone to eat a few innings. Encarnacion has a .425 xwOBA against lefties this season and has a good chance for another home run tonight against a bad lefty and a weak Minnesota bullpen.
Brian Dozier will face Ryan Merritt in game 1 of the double-header. Merritt does not offer much in the way of strikeout upside and has been worse against righties than lefties each of the last two seasons at AAA. This season in particular, he has really struggled as he has allowed 11 home runs in just 51.2 innings pitched against righties. While some of those home runs may have been the result of playing for Colorado Springs in the Pacific Coast League, those numbers are still worse than last season when he played for the same team. Dozier posts elite numbers against left-handed pitching year after year and is in a great spot today.
Jake Lamb faces Jerad Eickhoff who just not has been able to put everything together this season. He has struggled against lefties especially, allowing a .355 xwOBA and 1.64 home runs per nine innings. Lamb is a better hitter inside Chase Field, but Citizens’ Bank Park is a noted hitter’s paradise as well so Lamb should not suffer too much.
Charlie Blackmon faces Matt Cain and his 5.0 percent swinging strike rate inside Coors Field. There really is not much to say here, as Blackmon has been incredibly productive this season, especially in Coors Field, and Cain is pretty much only capable of pitching in AT&T Park. Blackmon’s .383 xwOBA at home against righties this season is unlikely to be damaged by this matchup against Cain.
Bryce Harper faces Seth Lugo, who has been a somewhat popular topic this week after he threw a gem against the Braves in his first start back from the disabled list. Despite having a very good curveball, Lugo is not a great pitcher and he struggles against left-handed hitters. Since the start of the 2016 season, Lugo has allowed a .367 xwOBA to opposing lefties. Harper, of course, is one of the best hitters in the game and happens to hit from the left side. He will likely come at lower ownership than Blackmon so, if you are not stacking the Rockies, he makes sense as a tournament pivot away from Blackmon. If you can fit him alongside Blackmon that is even better.
Brian Goodwin has shown power since being called up to the Nationals with 4 home runs already. He hit 14 homers in AAA last year, so appears to have some decent power in addition to the ability to steal bases. As mentioned before, Lugo struggles against left-handed hitters. Goodwin is a high-upside value option on this slate as long as he remains near the top of the order for the Nationals.
Carlos Gonzalez has been atrocious this season but he has a prime matchup today in Coors Field against a right-handed pitcher who is incapable of striking anyone, especially lefties, out. While he has been bad, the price point on dynamic pricing sites is so low that the risk is negated and Gonzalez becomes a high-upside play due to his matchup. There are not numbers that are going to suggest he is about to break out, but the presence of Matt Cain is enough for me. If Raimel Tapia starts over Gonzalez, he is a strong value option as well.
Yonder Alonso and Jed Lowrie are both underpriced in their matchups against Masahiro Tanaka. They have both refined their swings this season and it has resulted in a lot more power, as Alonso as a .320 ISO and Lowrie has a .230 ISO against righties this season. Tanaka has allowed a .371 xwOBA against lefties this year along with 2.51 home runs per nine innings.
Miguel Cabrera is dealing with back issues but continues to hit the ball hard, ranking 14th in hard hit percentage over the last 14 days at 50.0 percent with just 2.8 percent soft contact. As mentioned earlier, the Tigers have a number of bats that are capable of hitting the hard fastballs that Archer throws and Cabrera is one of them. He is just $3,600 on DraftKings and offers a ton of upside.
Colorado Rockies- There really is not much to say here. Matt Cain is terrible away from AT&T Park. The Giants bullpen is terrible anywhere. There is upside up and down this Rockies lineup and they are the top stack on the slate. If you are worried about ownership, it is probably a better idea to try and find a creative way to stack them than to fade them.
Cleveland Indians- While I am not a fan of rostering the Indians against lefties or on the road, this game is an exception as the Twins are starting a bad lefty that will most likely not be able to go more than 4 or 5 innings and Twins bullpen has the 3rd-highest xFIP in baseball over the last 30 days. Encarnacion is most likely the only one-off I will be rostering, but stacking the entire team and hoping for a bullpen meltdown makes a lot of sense and has a lot of upside.
Detroit Tigers- While rostering a couple of the Tigers hitters at a time is going to be the approach I use the most, some full Tigers stacks are also in order. The middle of this lineup hits pitchers like Archer extremely well and they are hitting the ball very well right now. Looking at the leaderboard for hard hit percentage over the last 14 days, J.D. Martinez is 2nd, Nick Castellanos is 4th, Alex Avila is 5th and Miguel Cabrera is 14th. Ian Kinsler sits just inside the top 30 at 29th. Justin Upton has plenty of upside as well. Tampa Bay’s bullpen also has not been great lately, ranking 11th in xFIP over the last month.
Houston Astros (Late Slate)- Hitting on the late slate is pretty difficult, but the Astros look like the best spot. Rick Porcello will be on the road in a hitter-friendly park and the Astros have a ton of power up and down the lineup. Porcello is allowing 42.5 percent hard contact overall this season with 1.45 home runs per nine innings. He is prone to giving up a lot of runs in this spot.