MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/18/17
Clayton Kershaw- Kershaw, as always, is the most expensive pitching option on the slate. He will face the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, which represents a park downgrade for Kershaw. The park is a bit more concerning than normal since Kershaw has been more home run prone this season than in years past. The White Sox are a relatively tough matchup as well, posting a .352 wOBA and 119 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season while striking out 20.9 percent of the time. The majority of the White Sox lineup will be right-handed. Against righties this season, Kershaw has allowed a .247 xwOBA while striking out 33.3 percent of hitters and allowing 28.2 percent hard contact while inducing 23.8 percent soft contact. If you can afford Kershaw there are certainly plenty of reasons to roster the best pitcher on a slate that lacks other options, but it is highly unlikely that Kershaw emerges as a top point-per-dollar play at his price in a relatively difficult matchup so I, personally, am not planning to force him in to my lineups.
Robbie Ray- Ray is expensive, but significantly cheaper than Kershaw. He will face the Cincinnati Reds in Great American Ballpark. While it is a difficult place to pitch, Ray pitches his home games at Chase Field so it should not faze him too much- just be careful about quickly jumping to Ray’s numbers on the road since this is not the average road park. Cincinnati has been close to average against left-handed pitching this season with a .322 wOBA, 94 wRC+ and 20.8 percent strikeout percentage. Cincinnati’s projected lineup has six right-handed bats, but Ray has struck out 30.3 percent of righties this season. He does allow hard contact to righties, however, so there is risk. Given the choice between Ray and Kershaw at their respective price points, I am leaning Ray.
Brad Peacock- Peacock is much more interesting than I initially gave him credit for on last night’s podcast. Taking a pitcher against the Mariners is always risky because they have a lot of good hitters that do not strike out easily. That being said, Peacock has the highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 31.6 percent with a 12.3 percent swinging strike percentage backing it up. He has struck out 28.9 percent of lefties so the upside is there against the left-handed bats in the Seattle lineup, although it is worth noting that he has allowed 33.3 percent hard contact, 27.5 percent line drives and 43.5 percent flyballs to left-handed hitters. There is likely regression coming for his 0.33 home runs per nine innings on 3.3 percent home runs per flyballs and Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager may be able to take advantage. Peacock has done a good job getting ahead in counts with a 61.2 percent first-pitch strike percentage and Seattle ranks in the bottom half of the league in swing percentage and top half of the league in first-pitch strikes percentage so Peacock has a good chance to be ahead in a lot of counts. All three pitchers mentioned so far carry risk and possess upside. In tournaments, I currently have Peacock behind Ray and ahead of Kershaw at their prices.
Mike Clevinger- I initially thought this would be the day that I end my streak of rostering Mike Clevinger but I am no longer convinced that is the case. The Giants are a tough matchup in terms of strikeout upside, striking out just 19.3 percent of the time over the last 14 days. The game will be played in AT&T Park, however, which is beneficial to Clevinger. In addition, the Giants’ plate discipline numbers suggest that Clevinger could actually have some success. Despite striking out just 19.3 percent of the time over the last 14 days, the Giants have the 11th-highest swinging strike percentage over that span at 10.9 percent. They do not chase a lot of pitches out of the zone, but Clevinger has a below average 27.5 percent o-swing percentage this season so he has not relied on hitters chasing out of the zone to pile up his strikeouts. What stands out for Clevinger is his zone contact percentage. Hitters have made contact with pitches in the zone just 79.3 percent of the time this season, presumably because he has multiple quality off-speed offerings that complement his fastball and allow him to fool hitters. The Giants have the 10th-lowest zone contact percentage over the last 14 days, which indicates that Clevinger could have some success. Also working in Clevinger’s favor is the fact the Giants do not walk often, as their 7 percent walk rate ranks as the 7th-lowest over the last 14 days. If the Giants do not take walks against Clevinger, his stuff is good enough to induce whiffs in the strike zone and it will be difficult for the Giants’ offense to do damage in AT&T Park. It is nowhere close to an ideal matchup for Clevinger, but none of the top options have elite matchups either and they are all pitching in hitter-friendly ballparks. Clevinger makes for an interesting GPP option at a reduced price from Kershaw, Ray and Peacock.
Dinelson Lamet– Lamet is one of my favorite pitching options on the slate- although that is somewhat dependent on the Rockies’ lineup. Lamet has shown excellent strikeout stuff this season, striking out 30.9 percent of hitters with a 13.5 percent swinging strike percentage and 31.2 o-swing percentage. He has been absolutely dominant against right-handed hitters, striking out 37.8 percent while allowing a .291 xwOBA. He has struggled against lefties, however, allowing a .342 xwOBA and 3 home runs per nine innings while striking out a relatively low 25.0 percent. Most of the Rockies’ power comes from the right side of the plate, however, especially with Carlos Gonzalez having a miserable season. Lamet will also benefit from a very pitcher-friendly home plate umpire in Ron Kulpa. There is risk any time you roster a pitcher in Coors Field, but this would be about a $9,000 matchup for Lamet if he were in Petco. The $2,000 discount for Coors Field seems more than fair. It is worth noting that it will be a downgrade to Lamet if Austin Hedges is not in the lineup for San Diego.
Charlie Blackmon has been hitting very well lately and he faces Dinelson Lamet at home in Coors Field. Lamet has allowed 3 home runs per nine innings to opposing lefties and Blackmon has a .281 ISO against right-handed pitching this season. While I have interest in Lamet as a pitching option on tonight’s slate, Blackmon is a very strong play against him.
Freddie Freeman is one of the top hitting options on the slate at home against John Lackey. Lackey is returning from the disabled list and has struggled with left-handed power this season, allowing 1.8 home runs per nine innings. Freeman has been the best hitter in baseball this season. He has a .465 xwOBA and .418 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and is a good bet to do damage against Lackey.
Mookie Betts faces J.A. Happ at home in Fenway. Betts is very adept at hitting flyballs to left field that go just far enough to clear the Green Monster. Happ has not been missing bats in recent starts and has allowed 1.78 home runs per nine innings to opposing righties. Betts has a .344 xwOBA and .236 ISO against left-handed pitching since the start of last season.
Jay Bruce seems like he has been a little underpriced all season long and tonight is no exception. He has a great matchup against Michael Wacha. Wacha has been very good against righties this season, but has struggled with lefties as he has allowed 1.13 home runs per nine innings with a .339 xwOBA. While those numbers are not terrible, they are much worse than his numbers against righties and Bruce and the other power-hitting lefties in the Mets lineup could take advantage. Bruce has a .381 xwOBA and .309 ISO against righties this season and he also ranks 7th in hard contact percentage over the last 14 days with 50.0 percent hard contact and 9.1 percent soft contact.
Anthony Rendon is likely to fly under the radar tonight at a $4,900 price tag against Jesse Chavez, but he really should not. Rendon has been excellent against right-handed pitching this season, posting a .374 xwOBA and .241 ISO. Chavez has struggled with right-handed power, allowing a .359 xwOBA with 2.47 home runs per nine innings. Rendon’s .480 xwOBA over the last month ranks 2nd among all hitters who have at least 50 at-bats in that span, trailing only Justin Turner of the Dodgers.
Joc Pederson has cut back on his strikeouts of late and is hitting the ball exceptionally hard. He will face Miguel Gonzalez in Chicago and Gonzalez has allowed a .351 xwOBA to lefties this season with just a 5.9 percent swinging strike percentage. Pederson has a .369 xwOBA and .248 ISO against right-handed pitchers this season and gets a ballpark boost playing in Chicago.
Chris Davis let us down yesterday against Andrew Cashner, but he gets another chance against Tyson Ross tonight. Ross has allowed a .346 xwOBA to lefties so far this season with just a 7.1 percent swinging strike percentage. Davis has a high strikeout percentage, which Ross should help to alleviate, but his .252 ISO shows that he has the power to do damage when he does make contact. It is worth noting that Ross has a very high walk rate and Davis is one of the few Orioles who walks at a high percentage, so there is the potential for a disappointing stat line from Davis if he does not get pitches to hit.
Joey Gallo has a dream matchup against Dylan Bundy in Camden Yards. Gallo, like Davis, is a strikeout machine who can hit the ball very far when he makes contact. Bundy has struck out just 12.2 percent of lefties this season, while allowing 48.2 percent flyballs (12.7 percent infield flyballs) on 38.6 percent hard contact. This has resulted in 1.42 home runs per nine innings allowed to lefties. Gallo has a .341 xwOBA and .310 ISO against righties this season and always goes overlooked in tournaments because he hits at the bottom of the order for the Rangers.
Eugenio Suarez has a tough matchup against Robbie Ray but there is plenty of upside at just $2,900 on DraftKings. Suarez has a .345 xwOBA and .227 ISO against lefties since last season and Ray has allowed 39.6 percent hard contact with 1.24 home runs per nine innings to righties this season. Suarez is a particularly appealing play on FantasyDraft where he does not have the opportunity cost that he has on DraftKings or FanDuel. Zack Cozart and Adam Duvall are also strong one-off leverage plays against Ray.
Jorge Bonifacio has quietly had a pretty nice season for the Royals. He has a .335 xwOBA and .200 ISO against lefties and will face Matt Boyd in Boyd’s return from the minor leagues. Boyd has allowed a .358 xwOBA and 1.21 home runs per nine innings with just a 15.0 percent strikeout percentage against righties in 52 innings this season. Bonifacio is almost never owned in tournaments but he has some upside in this one- especially because any at-bats after Boyd leaves will be against a weak Detroit bullpen.
Khris Davis is $4,000 on DraftKings and that is too cheap for his matchup with Blake Snell. Snell has flashed potential at times since making his major league debut last season, but he is still very inconsistent. In 44 innings against righties this season, Snell has allowed 42.6 percent flyballs and 37.3 percent hard contact while striking out just 17.7 percent. Davis has not been as good against lefties this season as in previous seasons but that is likely due to sample size. Since the start of last season, Davis still has a .390 xwOBA and .233 ISO against left-handed pitching. Davis ranks 11th in hard contact percentage over the last 14 days with 50 percent hard contact and 9.1 percent soft contact.
Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles are a high-upside stack once again tonight. Tyson Ross has been very good against righties throughout his career and he has allowed just a .305 xwOBA against them so far this season. On the surface, it seems like this would be a bad matchup for the Orioles. Ross’s stuff still does not look good, however, and it is hard to see him being effective against anyone for the remainder of the season. In addition, Ross walks a lot of hitters but the Orioles do not walk often- recording the 3rd-lowest walk percentage over the last 14 days and 2nd-lowest walk percentage for the full season. Ross has allowed 45.9 percent flyballs (and only 5.9 percent infield flyballs) to go along with 21.6 percent line drives against right-handed hitters this season. That is a lot of balls being hit in the air in Camden Yards by a lot of powerful right-handed bats (not to mention Chris Davis and Seth Smith). This appears to be an excellent spot for the Orioles powerful, but inconsistent, offense.
Atlanta Braves- The Braves offer a lot of upside against John Lackey, who has struggled against left-handed power this season and struggles to hold runners. The Braves have a nice combination of left-handed hitters and speed and are playing at home at SunTrust Field, which has favored left-handed hitters this season. They are likely to go overlooked on this slate but they are a very strong tournament stack.
Los Angeles Dodgers- The Dodgers get a positive park shift playing in Chicago and they have a lot of hitters that are looking locked in at the plate of late. Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe and Justin Turner are all in the top 30 in hard contact percentage over the last 14 days (Taylor and Seager in the top 5) and they will face Miguel Gonzalez who does not miss many bats and struggles with left-handed hitters- which bodes very well for Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger. We will need to wait to see how the Dodgers lineup shakes out, but it is likely that all nine hitters are firmly in play tonight.
New York Yankees- There is not much to say about this one as the Yankees will likely be the most popular stack on the slate against Bartolo Colon. Colon allowed 1.57 home runs per nine innings with the Braves this season with just a 4.90 percent swinging strike percentage. The only downside that you need to keep in mind is that the game is being played in Target Field as opposed to Yankees Stadium or SunTrust Field. This is a point in favor of Colon. Also keep in mind that Colon had terrible stuff last season but was able to locate it so well that he had some success. There is a chance that a mechanical adjustment will fix his command issues and he will be relatively effective again at some point this summer. That being said, the Yankees are clearly a high-upside stack if you are willing to stack a highly owned offense on a 15-game slate.
Detroit Tigers- The Tigers went off against a quality lefty yesterday in Jason Vargas and tonight they get a worse lefty in Travis Wood. Wood has allowed a somewhat respectable .332 xwOBA to opposing righties since the start of last season, but only has a 6.7 swinging strike percentage over that span. There is too much power in the Tigers’ lineup to be comfortable allowing them to put the ball in play. They are also incredibly underpriced on DraftKings and FantasyDraft so they are a top team to target if you are looking to pay up for Kershaw or one of the other expensive pitching options.