MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/29/17
There is a lot of pitching to discuss on this slate, so I will break them down in to tiers based on price. As always on slates like this, I am going to do my best to just provide the information for you and, if you want to know who I actually am rostering, you can check out the Deeper Dive show at 5:00 EST.
Corey Kluber is the most expensive pitching option on the slate and he is also the most talented pitcher on the slate. He is in a great matchup against the Chicago White Sox, as well. Kluber has struck out 35.5 percent of hitters this season while recording a 16.0 percent swinging strike percentage and 35.3 percent o-swing percentage. He ranks 3rd in strikeout percentage, 2nd in swinging strike percentage and 4th in o-swing percentage among qualified starters this season. Kluber did not show any ill effects from his stiff neck in his last start against Toronto, posting an 18.3 percent swinging strike percentage and 37.7 percent o-swing percentage. The White Sox do not have a formidable lineup, as there is a steep dropoff from Jose Abreu to everyone else in the lineup. Kluber should be in line for a big game against his division rival.
Zack Greinke will leave Chase Field to face the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Greinke has been elite in his own right this season, striking out 27.5 percent of hitters with a 13.3 percent swinging strike percentage and 36.3 o-swing percentage. The Cardinals have several young hitters in their normal lineup that will offer strikeout upside for Greinke. While Greinke’s numbers for the season are excellent, he has been a bit more inconsistent lately than he was early in the season. He has failed to record a swinging strike percentage greater than 10 percent in 4 of his last 7 starts (14.2 percent in his most recent start, however). He has also struggled away from Chase Field this season, which is odd as it is one of the worst places in the league to pitch. Still, it is worth noting that his strikeout percentage on the road this season is 21.4 percent, compared to 31.8 percent at home, and his xFIP on the road is 3.70 compared to 2.96 at Chase Field. Greinke is a strong option against the right-handed heavy Cardinals, just keep in mind that there are some relatively minor red flags.
Dinelson Lamet has flashed excellent upside in his first major league season. The rookie has struck out 29.8 percent of hitters that he has faced, with a 13.8 percent swinging strike percentage and 31.0 percent o-swing percentage. He has been much better against righties than lefties, striking out 36.5 percent of righties with a .241 wOBA allowed, compared to 24.0 percent of lefties with a .414 wOBA allowed. Lamet will face the Pittsburgh Pirates who, while they do not have a lot of strikeouts in their lineup, are likely to feature a predominantly right-handed lineup. Their projected lineup currently has just one left-handed hitter. Lamet’s mid-range price point makes him an attractive option as long as there are not a surprising amount of left-handed hitters in the lineup.
Kevin Gausman has been excellent lately, averaging a 14.3 percent swinging strike percentage over his last 7 starts, which coincides with him throwing his splitter more often. He faced this Texas team last week in Camden Yards and dominated them, striking out 33.3 percent of the hitters that he faced with a swinging strike percentage of 16.5 percent. Tonight’s game will be in Arlington, however, where it is likely to be very hot and the ball should fly. He is still an intriguing option in tournaments as long as Caleb Joseph is catching him, however. Joseph is the 5th-best pitch-framer in baseball and also calls for less fastballs and more offspeed pitches from Gausman than Welington Castillo does. The result is that Gausman has a 3.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a .739 OPS and 4 home runs allowed in 52.0 innings pitched with Joseph behind the plate this season, compared to a 1.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a .993 OPS and 15 home runs allowed in 60.0 innings pitched with Castillo as his catcher. If Joseph is behind the plate, Gausman may be able to pile up enough strikeouts that the unfriendly pitching environment does not matter much.
Kyle Hendricks threw 92 pitches in his first start back from the disabled list. Tonight he will face the Brewers in Milwaukee. As we know, the Brewers are a powerful offense that is also very strikeout prone. Hendricks had a below average 8.7 percent swinging strike percentage against the White Sox, but his 39.6 percent o-swing percentage was impressive. His 42.9 percent first-pitch strike percentage is concerning but it is possible that it was just rust and that he will be back to normal in this start. There is certainly risk for Hendricks, but he is capable of paying off his mid-range price tag in a big way if he is on his game and able to command his pitches.
Trevor Cahill will make his first start with the Kansas City Royals as he faces off against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox are a dangerous offense with plenty of hitters who are difficult to strike out. Still, Cahill’s 27.4 percent strikeout percentage, 12.8 percent swinging strike percentage and 32.4 percent o-swing percentage suggest that his inexpensive price tag has the tough matchup baked in. He is not an option in cash games as there are pitchers with higher floors, but he is an intriguing tournament option because his talent far exceeds his price.
Mike Leake is coming off of a fantastic start against the Colorado Rockies after struggling in previous starts. Leake has been inconsistent all season and is generally not in play for DFS since he does not get many strikeouts. He will be facing a right-handed heavy Diamondbacks lineup that struggles away from Chase Field, however. Leake has struck out 22.5 percent of right-handed hitters this season with a 50.8 percent groundball percentage and .289 wOBA allowed. The Diamondbacks may have just two lefties in their lineup and Jake Lamb is day-to-day so he may not be one of them. If the Diamondbacks run out a lineup of right-handed hitters plus a pitcher, Leake will be firmly in play as a cheap SP2.
Tim Adleman faces a Miami team that can be difficult to strike out but that also is likely to have a lot of right-handed hitters. I broke down Adleman in the first edition of the In Case You Missed It podcast last week (shameless plug) and said that he is someone that we should consider against righty heavy lineups, especially away from Cincinnati. Adleman has struck out 26.6 percent of righties this season and his .290 xwOBA allowed suggests that he has been better against righties than his .350 actual wOBA shows (and/or that he plays his home games in a great park for hitters). Although the Marlins do not strike out much as a team, there are still some hitters in the lineup that will strike out and Adleman is a low-owned tournament play that could pay off very nicely, especially in larger field tournaments, as long as the Marlins have a mostly right-handed lineup.
Freddie Freeman did not come through against Jake Thompson last night but he has a very nice matchup tonight against Jerad Eickhoff. Eickhoff struggled a lot earlier in the season but seems to have finally found his stuff. Still, Eickhoff is more effective against righties than lefties and Freeman is one of the best left-handed hitters in baseball, as evidenced by his .61 xwOBA and .377 ISO against right-handed pitching this season.
Anthony Rizzo is in another great spot tonight against Junior Guerra. Guerra was effective against left-handed hitters last season but he has not been the same this season. Guerra has allowed a .367 wOBA and 1.98 home runs per nine innings to left-handed hitters this year. Guerra’s batted ball profile really stands out, as he has allowed 47.5 percent flyballs (13.2 percent infield flyballs, though) with a 41.5 percent pull percentage. As we know from DraftCheat’s video on hitters, Rizzo pulls almost all of his home runs so it is nice to get him in a matchup where the opposing pitcher will allow him to pull flyballs. Rizzo has a .395 xwOBA and .232 ISO against righties this season and should be able to take advantage of this matchup.
Chris Davis is a high-risk/high-reward play any time he takes the field as he probably either going to strikeout, walk or homer. Tonight he will face Rangers’ righty Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who has struck out just 6.3 percent of left-handed hitters this season. Anytime Davis faces a righty who does not get strikeouts, it makes him a strong play since he is usually able to drive the ball when he does make contact. He has a .270 ISO against right-handed pitching and Bibens-Dirkx has allowed 2.41 home runs per nine innings against right-handed pitching this season.
Adam Duvall faces left-hander Adam Conley is Miami. The ballpark is not ideal and Conley showed in his last start against Texas that he is capable of occasionally shutting down an opposing lineup. We should not expect that to be a regular occurrence, however, and Duvall should have the advantage against Conley. Duvall has a .38 xwOBA and .304 ISO against left-handed pitching this season and, with so many good pitchers pitching on this slate, he has one of the easier matchups available even though Conley is not a gas can.
Eugenio Suarez has the same mediocre matchup as Duvall, but is worthy of consideration as he is inexpensive and has plenty of power. Suarez has posted a .210 ISO and .357 xwOBA against lefties this year and is a strong option on this slate, despite the bad ballpark and a less than perfect matchup, simply because he is facing a lefty who does not get many strikeouts.
Ryon Healy will face Twins’ lefty Adalberto Mejia tonight in Oakland. Mejia is a decent pitcher, but Healy has been extremely good against southpaws this season. Healy has a .356 xwOBA and .270 ISO and has plenty of upside for his inexpensive price tag across the industry.
Matt Adams has the same friendly matchup against Jerad Eickhoff as Freddie Freeman. Eickhoff has allowed 1.52 home runs per nine innings this season and has been more effective against righties than lefties throughout his career. Adams has shown plenty of power since being acquired from the Cardinals, recording a .38 xwOBA and .271 ISO against right-handed pitching this season.
Chicago Cubs- There are not a ton of spots to love on this slate, but the Cubs stand out above the rest as they will face Junior Guerra in hitter-friendly Miller Park. As mentioned earlier, Guerra is giving up a lot of pulled flyballs to left-handed hitters and we can expect the Cubs lineup to have plenty of them. In addition, Guerra has not been good against righties- an issue that dates back to last season. He has allowed 2.87 home runs per nine innings to righties, so power-hitting righties Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras are all strong options along with the lefties.
Atlanta Braves- While I am high on Eickhoff’s short term outlook, this is not a great spot for him against the Braves. We have seen Atlanta be a pesky offense all season long and this is a spot where they can probably get to Eickhoff. Eickhoff has struggled with lefties even in seasons that he has pitched well overall, and the Braves will most likely have Inciarte, Freeman, Adams and Markakis all in their top six spots in the order. Having to deal with all of those lefties is likely to make life difficult for Eickhoff. On top of that, both lefties in the Philadelphia bullpen pitched yesterday, with Adam Morgan throwing 17 pitches and Hoby Milner throwing 35. At the very least, the left-handed arms will not be fresh and there is a chance that Milner will get the day off because of his elevated pitch count last night.
Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles are in a hit or miss spot against Bibens-Dirkx. At times this season, we have seen him be very strong against right-handed hitters as he comes in from the bullpen and shuts down an offense for 2-3 innings. On the other hand, he has allowed 2.00 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters and 2.41 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season. The Orioles just saw him about a week ago in Baltimore, so their familiarity with his delivery may help them. Texas is likely to be the hottest weather on the slate again tonight and we shouldn’t be afraid to target the Orioles bats in tournaments.
Texas Rangers- Speaking of hit of miss spots, the Rangers will face Kevin Gausman who has been an absolute gas can this season, except for when he is pitching like one of the top pitchers in baseball. As mentioned earlier, Gausman has extreme splits depending on who his catcher is. If Caleb Joseph is behind the plate, the Rangers will still have plenty of upside because of the hitting environment, but they will be a much lower probability play. If Castillo is catching, the Rangers jump near the top of the list of teams to stack tonight.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Arizona is in a low probability spot against Mike Leake, but the upside is there. While we know that the Diamondbacks struggle away from Chase Field, it is important to keep in mind that a lot of those numbers are from when A.J. Pollock, J.D. Martinez and, at times, David Peralta were not in the lineup in the first couple months of the season. They are all healthy now and pose a much more dangerous threat to opposing pitchers. Leake has been very good against right-handed hitters this season, which gives him the advantage against Arizona. We have seen Leake struggle at times, however, and when he is not on top of his game he can get blown up very quickly as his raw stuff is not good enough to overcome command issues. The Diamondbacks are not likely to be the top scoring team on the night, but they also should come at next to no ownership and have a ton of upside- especially if Jake Lamb is healthy and in the lineup.