MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/22/17

 

PITCHING

 

David Price is the most expensive option on the slate against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.  It is a huge park boost for Price going from Fenway to Los Angeles and he has been better than people give him credit for this season.  He had a string of difficult matchups that he struggled in when he came back from the disabled list, but he has generally been good in the matchups that we would expect him to perform well in and his stuff and peripherals suggest he should continue to pitch well moving forward.  Price has struck out 22.4 percent of hitters he has faced this season with an 11.6 percent swinging strike percentage and 34.9 percent o-swing percentage.  The issue with Price is that the Angels are not an easy team to strike out as they have struck out just 19.2 percent of the time against left-handed pitching this season and 18.5 percent of the time over the last 14 days.  The Angels have just a .296 wOBA and 88 wRC+ against lefties this season and we should expect Price to pitch well, it is just a matter of whether or not we really need to pay all the way up for him in this spot with some of the other pitching options on the slate.

 

Chris Archer is in a great matchup at home against the Texas Rangers.  Archer has the second highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 28.7 percent and it is backed up by a 13.2 percent swinging strike percentage and 31.6 o-swing percentage.   He has allowed a .315 xwOBA to lefties and a .275 xwOBA to righties with a strikeout percentage over 28 percent to hitters from both sides of the plate.  Archer has been especially good at home, striking out 32.7 percent of hitters with a 2.92 xFIP this season.  It is a ballpark downgrade for the Rangers who have struggled away from home this season.  While Texas has struck out just 18.6 percent of the time over the last 14 days, it is worth noting that their plate discipline numbers do not look particularly good over that span.  They have the 7th-highest swinging strike percentage in baseball at 11.3 percent and the 11th-highest o-swing percentage at 30.7 percent.  These numbers suggest that their lack of strikeouts is more likely the result of a small sample size and/or facing bad pitchers than any sort of adjustments at the plate.  Archer should be able to have his way with these Texas bats tonight and he is the preferred expensive pitching option in any format.

Masahiro Tanaka has a difficult matchup against the Seattle Mariners, who have struck out 20.8 percent of the time with a .333 wOBA and 111 wRC+ against right-handed pitching this season.  There are some things to like about this matchup for Tanaka, however.  First, the game is being played at Safeco Field so he gets away from Yankees Stadium, which should help with his home run problem.  Second, he has outstanding plate discipline numbers that we cannot ignore in tournaments regardless of matchup- especially when he is available at a discount compared to the other top arms.  Tanaka leads all qualified pitchers with a 38.1 percent o-swing percentage and he trails only Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber with a 14.7 percent swinging strike percentage.  He appears to have made some adjustments after a rough start to the season in terms of results, and his numbers are even better over the last 30 days.  His 17.6 percent swinging strike percentage trails only Sale and Kluber (17.7 percent) and his 41.9 percent o-swing percentage leads second-place David Price by about 2.5 percentage points.  While the Mariners are not an easy matchup, there is reason for optimism when digging into their recent plate discipline numbers.  Over the last 14 days, the Mariners have just a 9.0 percent swinging strike percentage but they have swung at pitches out of the zone 30 percent of the time.  As mentioned, Tanaka is the best pitcher in baseball at getting hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone.  His 52.9 percent o-contact percentage over the last 30 days ranks as the 15th best in baseball so, not only is he getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, he is getting whiffs on pitches out of the zone.  The Mariners’ lack of swings and misses recently can be attributed more to their 67.1 percent contact rate on pitches in the strike zone than to their ability to lay off pitches out of the zone.  Since Tanaka is very good at avoiding contact out of the zone, it is likely that we see more swings and misses than usual from the Mariners tonight.  Archer is the superior cash game play to Tanaka but Tanaka deserves tournament consideration because he is available at a discount and he should be low owned in a tough matchup against Seattle.

 

Danny Salazar makes his return for the Cleveland Indians.  He went 6 innings and threw 84 pitches in his last rehab start so it seems unlikely that he will be limited much if at all tonight against the Jays.  Salazar has struggled with home runs and walks this season but also has the highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 30.9 percent with a 15.8 percent swinging strike percentage and 30.7 percent o-swing percentage.  Most of the Toronto hitters that pose a home run threat are right-handed and Salazar has struck out 36.6 percent of righties with a 40.6 percent groundball percentage, 15.4 percent infield flyball percentage, 20.0 percent soft contact, 25.7 percent hard contact and a .289 xwOBA.  He has been more home run prone to lefties, allowing 2.7 home runs per nine innings and a .400 xwOBA despite a respectable 24.4 percent strikeout percentage.  There is risk in rostering Salazar but he makes for an excellent tournament option on any site where he is priced down as he has plenty of upside at home in this matchup against the Jays.

 

Sean Manaea will almost certainly be in 100 percent of my lineups on DraftKings and FantasyDraft regardless of if it is a cash game or a tournament.  He is also a top option on FanDuel but he is at least reasonably priced over there.  Manaea has had a ridiculously difficult schedule so far this season and it has kept his numbers down from where they otherwise would be- and they are still excellent.  Manaea has struck out 24.3 percent of hitters and posted a 13.1 percent swinging strike percentage and 32.1 o-swing percentage this season and, it is worth repeating, 13 of his 17 starts this season have come against teams that rank in the bottom 10 in the league in strikeout percentage so these numbers should be better than they are.  He is an absolutely elite pitcher.  Manaea is very good against hitters from both sides of the plate, but most of the Mets’ dangerous hitters are left-handed and Manaea has allowed a .267 xwOBA with a 13.6 percent swinging strike percentage (from Baseball Savant so the league average is closer to 11.5 percent than 10.5 percent because foul tips are included).  DO NOT read too far in to his strikeout numbers against left-handed hitters this season.  He has struck out just 15.3 percent of lefties this season but that is most likely just noise.  In addition to facing hitters who do not strike out, he had no issue with lefties last season as he struck out over 26 percent of them and his delivery in general is a nightmare for left-handed hitters as he steps toward the first-base line and fires across his body.  Cannot express enough how much I like Sean Manaea tonight.

 

Jeremy Hellickson has some weather issues in Philadelphia as there may be rain in the area and it is hot and humid.  If the rain holds off, however, it is a high-risk/high-reward spot for Hellickson.  Hellickson is having a very weird season.  His swinging strike percentage is down from 10.8 percent last season to 8.3 percent this season, his o-swing percentage is down from 32.9 percent last season to 30.2 percent this season, his o-contact percentage is up from 65.4 percent last season to 76.4 percent this season and his strikeout percentage is down from 20.0 percent last season to 13.1 percent this season.  All of this, but his stuff appears to be more or less the same.  My theory has been that he was tipping pitches and that eventually we would see his numbers jump and be more in line with last season.  I do not know if my reason was right, but my prediction for his numbers has come true.  In his first 13 starts of the season, Hellickson had a swinging strike percentage greater than 8.5 percent just one time.  In his last six starts, he has topped 10.5 percent four times.  His pitch mix does not appear to have changed much.  His velocity on his fastball is up a little bit but not all that much.  I am sticking by my originally theory.  But whatever it is, it appears something has definitely changed for Hellickson.  He has gotten 23.8 percent whiffs on his changeup (which he throws 30 percent of the time to hitters from both sides of the plate) over that span compared to 17.4 percent for the season- down from 28.1 percent last season.  Hellickson will face a Milwaukee team that leads baseball in strikeout percentage over the last 30 days and over the last 14 days so the upside is certainly there- as we have seen recently for Chad Kuhl, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon and Aaron Nola.  It is a risky play, but he is cheap and will not be owned.  If the rain holds off, a combination of Manaea and Hellickson with whatever bats you want is a great way to be contrarian in tournaments.

 

Hitting

 

High-Priced

 

George Springer will face Chris Tillman in Camden Yards if the rain holds off.  Tillman has been bad this season and he has been extremely home run prone against right-handed hitters, allowing 2.3 home runs per nine innings to go along with the .404 wOBA and .351 xwOBA he has allowed to righties.  Springer has a .373 xwOBA and .270 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and should be able to have success in this matchup.

 

Logan Morrison faces Andrew Cashner.  Cashner has somehow been able to escape damage in most of his starts this season despite walking a lot of hitters and not striking out very many.  Morrison has been an excellent hitter against right-handed pitching this season, recording a .405 xwOBA and .333 ISO.  Cashner has only allowed 1.1 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season, but it is hard to imagine someone with an 11.5 percent strikeout percentage having much success against Morrison.

 

Justin Bour will face Robert Stephenson who, in a limited sample size this season, has allowed 56.5 percent hard contact and 3.52 home runs per nine innings to left-handed hitters.  Bour gets a major park boost going to Cincinnati.  He has crushed right-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .395 xwOBA and .254 ISO. He is an elite first base option.

 

Cincinnati Reds’ righties Zach Cozart, Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez are all in great spots at home against Chris O’Grady.  O’Grady has not been missing bats in the majors, recording just a 7.6 percent swinging strike percentage in his first couple starts while allowing 58.1 percent flyballs.  He has induced just 5.3 percent soft contact against right-handed hitters while striking out only 15.4 percent and getting only 21.1 percent groundballs.  That is an awful combination for Great American Ballpark.  Cozart has a .334 xwOBA and .247 ISO against lefties since the start of last season while Adam Duvall sits at .345 and .275, respectively.  Suarez leads the trio in xwOBA at .352 with a .246 ISO.

 

Charlie Blackmon faces Chad Kuhl in Coors Field.  Blackmon has a .391 xwOBA and .445 ISO at home against right-handed pitching this season.  In addition to being right-handed, the battery of Kuhl and Cervelli is not good at holding runners.  Blackmon has stolen base upside to go with all of the upside he brings at the plate.

 

Aaron Judge broke statcast last night and he will be back for more tonight against Ariel Miranda.  Miranda is a pretty decent pitcher, but he has allowed 2.02 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters this season.  Judge has a .445 xwOBA and .294 ISO against left-handed pitching since the start of last season.  As always, he is a high-upside option.

 

Value

 

Tommy Joseph has a nice matchup against Brent Suter if the weather cooperates.  Suter does not have good stuff and it seems like it is just a matter of time before teams start to hit well against him.  Joseph is very cheap at just $3,100 on DraftKings and he has a ton of upside with a .359 xwOBA and .292 ISO against lefties since the start of last season.

Alex Avila has a .443 xwOBA and .234 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and he will face Kyle Gibson tonight in Minnesota.  Gibson has allowed a .341 xwOBA and 1.45 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season.  Avila is one of the top catching options on the slate.

Yonder Alonso is very cheap for a matchup against Zack Wheeler.  Wheeler has allowed 2.06 home runs per nine innings with 38.4 percent hard contact and just 12.1 percent soft contact.  He has struck out 24.5 percent of lefties, but that number also seems to be coming back down to Earth after a very impressive start to the season.  Alonso has a .388 xwOBA and .290 ISO against righties and should have a little more ease hitting it out of Citi Field than the Coliseum.

Mike Moustakas is in another great spot tonight against Mike Pelfrey.  Pelfrey is not as bad as people think he is (rant likely incoming on the Deeper Dive show later), but he does struggle with lefties.  He has allowed 2.23 home runs per nine innings to left-handed hitters with a 42.4 percent flyball rate.  Moustakas has been a surprise offensively this season, posting a .353 xwOBA and .287 ISO against right-handed pitching this season.

Joc Pederson faces Julio Teheran tonight in Los Angeles.  It would be better if this game were in Atlanta, but it is still a great spot for Pederson.  He has a .358 xwOBA and .236 ISO against righties this season and Teheran has sucked against lefties for his entire career.  This season, Teheran is striking out just 14.3 percent of lefties, while allowing 1.76 home runs per nine innings and a .368 xwOBA.  The strikeouts are important because Pederson usually drives the ball when he makes contact, it is just a matter of making contact.  The rest of the Dodgers’ lefties are strong plays as well, particularly Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager.

Stacks

 

Houston Astros- Houston is in play pretty much every day and tonight they will face Chris Tillman in Baltimore.  Tillman has struggled mightily this season and we can expect that to continue tonight.  Along with being bad in general, Tillman has been especially vulnerable to right-handed power which the Astros have plenty of.  Tillman is good at holding runners, which takes away a little upside from some of the Astros, but there should be more than enough upside still there in this spot against Tillman and a depleted Baltimore bullpen.

 

Miami Marlins- I was not on the Marlins yesterday against Bailey but that is not the case tonight against Stephenson.  Stephenson has shown good strikeout stuff but has also given up a lot of hard contact, flyballs, and home runs.  There are not a lot of high-strikeout hitters in the Marlins lineup, so this matchup seems to favor them as they will be able to hit flyballs in a hitter-friendly stadium.

 

Cincinnati Reds- The Reds are also facing a flyball pitcher in Chris O’Grady.  O’Grady has benefitted from pitching in Miami’s spacious stadium for a couple of starts but he will not have that luxury tonight.  The Reds lineup was just released and there is plenty of right-handed power from Cozart down through Kivlehan.  Do not be afraid to include Joey Votto in a stack either, as people will probably shy away from the lefty-lefty matchup even though Votto is capable of hitting against anyone.

 

Washington Nationals- Anthony Banda will make his debut for the Diamondbacks tonight.  He is their top pitching prospect and has very good swing-and-miss stuff.  He struggled in the PCL with the long ball this season, however, and pitching in Arizona does not alleviate those concerns.  Factor in that he is facing a high-powered offense that is good at putting the ball in play and it is a very difficult landing spot for his major league debut.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates- The Pirates will probably be popular again tonight after scoring double-digit runs last night.  German Marquez has had some success this season, but his strikeout rate takes a hit at home and he is a curveball-dependent pitcher that does not profile well in Coors.  The Pirates are an offense that will put the ball in play and they get one of the biggest ballpark shifts possible going from Pittsburgh to Colorado.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers- The Dodgers are likely to go under the radar tonight with all of the other great spots, a late start time, and a relatively low 5.0 implied run total but they have as much upside as anyone.  As mentioned earlier, Teheran does not strike out lefties very often and allows a lot of hard contact and home runs.  The Dodgers are stacked with power-hitting lefties that should be able to take advantage.  The Braves do have three lefties in the bullpen, which is concerning for a full Dodgers stack.