MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/3/17
Ervin Santana is expensive as a result of his outstanding start to the season- at least in terms of ERA and other stats that do not really matter. While he has pitched to a 1.75 ERA through the first couple months of the season, Santana’s xFIP is 4.71, he is striking out less than 20 percent of hitters and his swinging strike percentage is just 8.5 percent. His left on base percentage is 91.2 percent, compared to his career average of 73.1 percent. He is going to get worse as the season goes on, there is almost no question about it. Normally, he would not be remotely close to being in play at a premium price but this slate is very short on pitching and he has a tremendous matchup with the Angels in a pitcher’s park in Los Angeles. The Angels have been below average offensively this season, posting a .299 wOBA and 91 wRC+ against right-handed pitching- and those numbers include when Mike Trout is in the lineup. Without Trout, this Angels lineup does not have much to fear. Santana is still overpriced but, if you want to pay up at pitcher in cash games, he has a nice floor in this matchup. He is just not a top point-per-dollar play in terms of upside. In order for him to have tournament upside, you are basically counting on a complete game shut out or something along those lines, especially on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.
Lance McCullers is the clear cut number one pitching option on the slate, although it is a little concerning that he is pitching in Texas instead of Houston, where he has been considerably better thoroughout his career. Still, he has the highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 27.6 percent with a 12 percent swinging strike percentage and 31.3 O-Swing percentage. Texas is a free-swinging team with the second highest O-Swing percentage (31.8) and second highest swinging strike percentage (11.6) in the majors this season. Even if McCullers does get touched up for a couple of runs in a tough ballpark to pitch in, the strikeouts that he is able to compile should still make him the top raw point pitcher on the slate more times than not.
David Price is making his second start back from the disabled list against the division rival Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are a dangerous opponent but they also struggle more with left-handed pitching than with right-handed pitching. Price is a very risky play, but there are reasons to be optimistic after his first start against the White Sox. Chicago has been the best team in baseball against left-handed pitching so far this season and they scored 3 runs in 5 innings against Price. Price was allowed to throw 88 pitches, however, which is a good sign that the Red Sox are not going to be overly cautious with him. While it is obviously just a one game sample size, his strikeout indicators against the White Sox were very good, as he got 11.4 percent swinging strikes and swings at 41.5 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. Perhaps most encouraging is that Price’s fastball velocity sat at 94.6 miles per hour, which is in line with his career average and up considerably from last year’s average of 92.9 miles per hour. Price is a risky tournament option, but he could pay off very nicely on this short slate.
Dylan Bundy is similar to Ervin Santana in that his xFIP is considerably higher than his ERA and his 83.8 percent left-on-base percentage is higher than we can expect him to sustain going forward. He has a difficult matchup against the Red Sox, much worse than Santana’s matchup with the Angels, but he is more affordable- particularly as an SP2 on DraftKings or FantasyDraft. If the Red Sox have a right-handed heavy lineup (their projected lineup currently has five righties), it will strengthen Bundy’s matchup. He has allowed a .306 xwOBA with a 20.7 percent strikeout percentage against righties this season, compared to a .348 xwOBA with a 13.4 percent strikeout percentage against lefties. I normally do not recommend rostering low-strikeout pitchers regardless of their matchup, but on this slate there is merit to considering a pitcher who is a decent bet to pitch 6 or 7 innings because that is more than you can say for a lot of pitchers on the slate. It is also worth noting that this will be the 4th time Boston has seen Bundy this season, which is a bit concerning although he has not allowed more than 3 earned runs in any of the previous starts.
Carlos Correa has been crushing right-handed pitching this season, with a .257 ISO, .406 wOBA and 40.7 percent hard contact compared to just 12.4 percent soft contact. His .407 xwOBA suggests that his impressive wOBA is for real and tonight he will be facing Andrew Cashner who, despite his ability to limit damage so far this season, is not actually good. Cashner has been better against righties than lefties for most of his career, but he has actually allowed a higher xwOBA to righties than lefties this season, despite his walk percentage being lower to right-handed hitters. There should be plenty of baserunners for the Astros and Correa can benefit from hitting in the middle of the order against a bad pitcher in a great ballpark.
Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda will face off against rookie right-hander Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow has issues with his control, but has also allowed 1.77 home runs per nine innings to lefties so far this season with a .340 xwOBA (which suggests, as expected, that his .433 wOBA allowed will come back down to Earth- though he still will be susceptible to left-handed bats). Against right-handed pitching this season, Bruce has a .299 ISO, .384 wOBA and 46 percent hard contact while Duda has a .306 ISO, .399 wOBA and 40 percent hard contact. Bruce’s xwOBA is even higher than his wOBA, at .406, while Duda’s xwOBA since the start of May is an impressive .383. Duda has been especially locked in of late, with a 53.7 percent hard contact rate and just 7.3 percent soft contact over the last 14 days.
Robinson Cano faces Alex Cobb at home in Seattle. Cobb has been a decent pitcher this season, but he has struggled with lefties compared to righties. Against lefties, Cobb is allowing 40 percent hard contact, a .341 wOBA, .352 xwOBA and 1.23 home runs per nine innings. Against righties, he is allowing 34.4 percent hard contact, a .297 wOBA, .276 xwOBA and 0.92 home runs per nine innings. Cano remains an elite hitting second baseman, with a .260 ISO, .393 xwOBA, 36.3 percent hard contact and 8.9 percent soft contact against righties this season.
Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson face Sam Gaviglio, who has managed to strike out just 10.7 percent of hitters he has faced this season with a 5.1 percent swinging strike percentage. In an admittedly limited sample size, he is allowed 2.25 home runs per nine innings to lefties with 32 percent hard contact and 0 percent soft contact. It is not a good sign for Gaviglio that he pitches to contact, has not been able to induce soft contact, and will now be facing two of the most impressive hitters against right-handed pitching this season in Morrison and Dickerson. Morrison has a .312 ISO against righties, while Dickerson sits at .288. They have hit the ball hard 43.6 and 39 percent of the time respectively, with 12.9 percent of Morrison’s batted balls being hit softly compared to 11.4 percent of Dickerson’s. Morrison has an elite .393 xwOBA against righties so far, while Dickerson is at a respectable .345 clip. Gaviglio has allowed just a .306 wOBA to lefties so far, but his .383 xwOBA suggests that should increase rather quickly.
Manny Machado is a very weird name to find in the “value” section, but he is listed at just $3,800 on DraftKings and $3,400 on FanDuel. Machado has been one of the more unlucky hitters in baseball so far this season. For those unfamiliar, xwOBA-wOBA is the difference between a player’s expected weighted on-base average, based on hit probabilities using launch angles and exit velocities, and his actual weighted on-base average. A positive number suggests that the player has been unlucky so far, and this is especially true when the player plays most of his games in a hitter-friendly ballpark (such as Camden Yards in Baltimore). Machado’s .039 xwOBA-wOBA ranks 15th amongst all hitters with at least 100 at-bats this season. His .084 xwOBA-wOBA ranks 3rd out of 62 hitters who have at least 50 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season. This makes sense, as Machado ranks in the top 25 in barrels per plate appearance, the top 10 in percentage of batted balls hit at least 95 miles per hour, and the top 5 in average exit velocity this season- yet he has just a .303 wOBA and 89 wRC+ this season. This is all a very long-winded way of saying that, while his numbers do not show it yet, Machado is hitting the ball very well this season and he is significantly underpriced as a result of bad luck. Machado has a .417 xwOBA and 51 percent hard contact against lefties this season and there is a good chance he has success against David Price tonight.
Brian McCann makes for a fine catching option assuming he cracks the Houston lineup. Andrew Cashner is a terrible pitcher and McCann has been good against right-handed pitching with a .367 xwOBA against them so far this season. The Ballpark in Arlington is a great place to hit and McCann is very capable of posting a big game at a price that is too cheap for his upside in this potent Houston lineup.
Ben Gamel will likely be hitting at the top of the Seattle lineup tonight against Alex Cobb, who it has already been mentioned has been much better against righties than lefties this season.
Despite not demonstrating much power, Gamel has been productive against right-handed pitching this season, posting a .364 xwOBA so far. He is a very reasonably priced outfield option, especially in cash games, assuming he is at the top of the order today.
Houston Astros- We continue to stack against Andrew Cashner and we continue to lose our money. Let’s not change anything today. The Astros, as a team, are tied with the Yankees for the highest wOBA (.351) in baseball and they lead the majors with a 124 wRC+ against righties. As mentioned earlier, Cashner actually has a higher xwOBA against righties than lefties this season (despite a higher walk rate to lefties) so we could see the Astros lineup really do some damage against Cashner despite being predominantly right-handed. Bad pitcher plus great ballpark plus great offense is generally a good recipe for finding a top stack.
Tampa Bay Rays- Sam Gaviglio is not striking anyone out this season and, in a limited sample size, has not shown the ability to generate soft contact against lefties. The Rays have plenty of left-handed power in their lineup with Dickerson, Kiermaier, Morrison and Rasmus likely taking up four of the top six spots. Add in Steven Souza who, surprisingly, has crushed right-handed pitching this season and you have a very potent stack against a starter who pitches to contact and a middle-of-the-pack bullpen.