MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/27/17  

 PITCHING 

Jon Lester faces the Chicago White Sox at hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field.  The White Sox are not as good against left-handed pitching as their season long numbers indicate.  They got off to a very hot start against lefties and they also had Todd Frazier, now of the New York Yankees, in their lineup for most of the season.  The White Sox have the 15th-highest xwOBA against lefties this season, and the 24th-highest since May 1st, despite ranking 8th in actual wOBA for the season.  All of this is a long way of saying we should not be overly concerned about the matchup for Lester.  The bigger issue is the price point.  Lester is $11,900 on DraftKings, $10,000 on FanDuel and $23,100 on FantasyDraft.  Lester’s 24.9 percent strikeout percentage and 11.3 percent swinging strike percentage this season are good, but not quite what you normally look for in the most, or second-most, expensive pitcher on a slate.  He has a very narrow margin for error at his price point and for that reason, combined with his likely popularity, I will be looking to fade him in tournaments even though he is certainly a viable option.

Chris Archer is in a very dangerous spot on the road against the New York Yankees.  Archer has historically been better at home than on the road, and Yankees Stadium represents a huge park downgrade for Archer.  Since the start of last season, Archer has allowed 1.5 home runs per nine innings while striking out 25.2 percent of hitters on the road, compared to 0.9 home runs per nine innings with a 31.2 percent strikeout percentage at home.  That being said, Archer still has a lot of upside in this matchup.  Most of the Yankees’ power comes from the right side of the plate and Archer has struck out 29.6 percent of righties this season (though he has struck out just 24.7 percent on the road).  He is a viable option in tournaments while Lester is the preferred option in cash games.  There is nothing wrong with fading both expensive pitchers, especially in tournaments, however.

Zack Godley will face a Cardinals team that is projected to have 6 right-handed hitters plus a pitcher tonight in Busch Stadium.  Godley, as you know if you have been following us at FanVice for most of the season, has been phenomenal this season.  He has struck out 26.2 percent of hitters this season while recording a 14.6 percent swinging strike percentage and 35.8 percent o-swing percentage.  His 81.1 innings pitched are not enough to qualify for major league leaderboards but, if they were, he would be tied with Masahiro Tanaka for the 4th-highest swinging strike percentage (sandwiched between Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw) and he would trail only Tanaka, Zack Greinke and Sale in o-swing percentage.  Godley has an elite curveball that he throws more than 30 percent of the time that ranks as the 7th-fastest curveball among all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 200 curveballs this season and has generated the second-highest whiff per swing percentage amongst those pitchers.  The Cardinals projected lineup features six right-handed hitters and a pitcher.  Godley has struck out 27.7 percent of righties this season, with a 1.54 groundball-to-flyball ratio and a .244 wOBA allowed, and the Cardinals’ projected lineup has an average strikeout percentage of 23.2 percent against right-handed pitching since the start of last season with just three hitters below 22 percent- plus a pitcher.  Godley is my top pitching option on the slate despite the high Vegas total.

C.C. Sabathia is an interesting option against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight.  Sabathia started the season out terribly, but has rebounded nicely.  He does not possess great strikeout stuff, striking out just 18.9 percent of hitters this season, but he has an excellent matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Tampa Bay only has five hitters on their roster who have been above average hitters against left-handed pitching since the start of last season, and two of them are left-handed.  Sabathia has allowed just 11.2 percent hard contact to lefties this season with 30.2 percent soft contact so we should probably not be too concerned about Dickerson or Morrison.  If we look to Tampa’s lineup the last time they faced a lefty, we can expect a lineup that has a strikeout percentage of 23.4 percent.  That lineup did not have Morrison or Dickerson but, as mentioned, their addition is not likely to hurt Sabathia.

Luke Weaver is inexpensive across the industry tonight and comes with a ton of upside.  Weaver posted a 27.0 percent strikeout percentage in 36.1 innings in the majors last season and has a 27.3 percent strikeout percentage in his 66.0 innings at AAA-Memphis this season to go along with an 11.5 percent swinging strike percentage.  Arizona’s projected lineup only has two lefties in it, leaving six righties and a pitcher to face Weaver.  Weaver struck out 43 righties in 36.2 innings in the minors this season and has struck out 27.5 percent of righties so far during his time in the major leagues.  Arizona has struggled mightily on the road this season, striking out 24.4 percent of the time with a .301 wOBA and 80 wRC+ and they rank 24th in xwOBA against righties away from Chase Field.  Vegas has Weaver as a -122 favorite in this matchup as well.

Hitting

High-Priced

Anthony Rizzo is very likely to be the highest owned hitter on the slate but, aside from that, there is nothing not to like.  Mike Pelfrey has been relatively good against right-handed hitters this season but he has struggled with lefties.  Pelfrey has allowed a higher percentage of flyballs than groundballs to lefties this season and it has translated to 2.02 home runs per nine innings.  He also does not strike hitters out as he has struck out just 14.3 percent of the lefties he has faced this season.  Rizzo has been elite against right-handed pitching, posting a .391 xwOBA and .224 ISO this season.  He will also benefit from a positive park shift as this game is at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Michael Conforto faces Luis Perdomo in San Diego.  Perdomo has been better against lefties this season than in previous seasons, but he is still striking out just 11.7 percent.  Conforto has demonstrated phenomenal power this season with a .306 ISO against right-handed pitching.  While it is not an ideal matchup because of Perdomo’s elite groundball rate, rostering Conforto in tournaments makes a lot of sense since he should come at relatively low ownership and he should be able to put the ball in play.

Aaron Judge is a great option tonight against Chris Archer.  There is obviously risk in rostering Judge as he faces a quality right-handed pitcher who strikes out a lot of hitters.  Still, Judge has obviously been a phenomenal hitter this season, posting a .445 xwOBA and .333 ISO against right-handed pitchers.  He has also shown the ability to handle hard fastballs as he has a .254 ISO on right-handed fastballs thrown greater than 93 miles per hour since he debuted last season.

Dee Gordon is an elite second base option if Devin Mesoraco is the catcher for the Reds as he should be able to run on a Stephenson-Mesoraco battery.  Stephenson has allowed 3 stolen bases in 30.0 innings this season and Mesoraco has allowed 22 of 29 attempted runners to steal successfully.  Gordon is close to as fast as they come, so he should be able to take advantage of the reasonably good matchup and has a good chance to be the highest scorer at a weak second base position.

Value

Jose Abreu has mashed left-handed pitching since the start of last season to the tune of a .398 xwOBA and .237 ISO.  He will face Jon Lester, but he is priced down for the matchup on dynamic pricing sites.  Lester has also been home run prone against righties this season, allowing 1.57 home runs per nine innings.  Abreu makes for an excellent tournament pivot off of Rizzo.

Eugenio Suarez has a .348 xwOBA and .240 ISO against left-handed pitching since the start of last season and will face flyball-happy left-hander Chris O’Grady.  O’Grady has allowed a 48.1 percent flyball rate to righties so far this season and Suarez is available at value price across the industry.  The downside for Suarez is that the game is in Miami instead of Cincinnati, but the price more than makes up for the risk.

Kyle Schwarber has not been as bad as most people seem to think this season, posting a .362 xwOBA and .248 ISO against right-handed pitching.  As previously mentioned, Pelfrey has struggled mightily against lefties.  Assuming Schwarber remains in the middle of the order for the Cubs, he will be one of the top value options on the slate.

Todd Frazier and Clint Frazier both are nice value options in tournaments against Archer.  As mentioned before, Archer has allowed 1.5 home runs per nine innings on the road since the start of last season.  Both of the Frazier’s have shown the ability to hit hard fastballs, which Archer relies on nearly 50 percent of the time against righties.  Todd has a .374 xwOBA and .296 ISO against fastballs from righties that are greater than 93 miles per hour since the start of last season and Clint, in his very limited big league sample size, has a .357 xwOBA and .364 ISO.  Clint has shown impressive bat speed since being called up as his 62.0 mile per hour estimated swing speed tied for 32nd out of 417 hitters who have had at least 40 at-bats, so it makes sense that he would not struggle with hard fastballs.

Stacks

Chicago Cubs will be the most popular stack on the slate and for good reason.  The Cubs will have plenty of left-handed bats in their lineup that can take advantage of Pelfrey and they also have players that are capable of stealing bases, which is a big weakness for Pelfrey.  Target the lefties and anyone with any speed when stacking the Cubs.  It also works in the Cubs favor that the White Sox have now traded every effective arm that was in their bullpen earlier this season.

New York Yankees are a very high upside leverage stack that is a strong play on this short five-game slate.  Archer is prone to giving up home runs on the road and the Yankees have plenty of powerful hitters who can hit Archer’s hard fastballs.  In addition, the Tampa Bay bullpen has been a major weakness this season.  If the Yankees can get a few home runs off of Archer, they may be able to add on later in the game.  Archer also figured to carry some ownership on this slate, which makes the Yankees stack more powerful.

Cincinnati Reds face lefty Chris O’Grady, who they just saw last week in Cincinnati.  As mentioned, O’Grady gives up a ton of flyballs so targeting him with powerful righties like Adam Duvall and Eugenio Suarez makes sense, but a full stack is in play as well.  The Marlins bullpen has struggled over the last month and the Reds could be in for a big night if they can get O’Grady out of the game early.