MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/25/17
Zack Greinke headlines the pitching on this slate. He faces the San Francisco Giants at home at Chase Field. Greinke has been excellent at home this season, striking out hitters from both sides of the plate at greater than a 30 percent clip. While his swinging strike percentages have been lower over the last couple of months than they were at the beginning of the season, he has a strikeout percentage north of 30 percent over the last 30 days so we should not be overly concerned. San Francisco is not the easiest team to strike out, with a strikeout percentage of 19.6 percent over the last 30 days, but they also do not have many hitters capable of doing damage against Greinke. On a slate where most of the top pitching options seem somewhat overpriced, Greinke appears to be priced fairly for his matchup.
Justin Verlander is expensive, but he also has a friendly matchup with the Chicago White Sox who may be without Leury Garcia and Yoan Moncada, two of the most dangerous hitters in their lineup. Verlander is appealing because of his ability to go deep in games- he has thrown at least 105 pitches in nine consecutive starts. He has also ramped up his strikeout numbers of late, striking out 29.1 percent of hitters over the last 30 days. There is a bit of sticker shock at an $11,900 price tag on DraftKings, but he still has a nice combination of floor and ceiling at that price.
Chase Anderson is likely to go completely overlooked as the Dodgers have an implied run total of 4.7 runs against him. Anderson has been excellent this year, however, and has historically been better against left-handed hitters which should allow him to neutralize some of the left-handed power threats on the Dodgers. For the season, Anderson has a 25.4 percent strikeout percentage with 0.83 home runs per nine innings allowed against lefties. He has struck out 21.4 percent of righties while allowing just 0.69 home runs per nine innings. Anderson recorded a 13.7 percent swinging strike rate against the Rockies in Colorado in his first start back from the disabled list. He threw just 73 pitches in that game, which is certainly a concern, but the Brewers are in the thick of a playoff race so it is hard to imagine that they treat a veteran starter like Anderson with kid gloves for very long.
J.A. Happ appears to have fixed whatever was wrong with him during his struggles earlier this season. Happ has a swinging strike percentage greater than 12 percent in three of his last four starts and he will face a Twins team that is missing a couple of its’ better right-handed hitters. Happ has struck out 27.9 percent of hitters over the last 30 days, including 30.3 percent of righties. He also has not allowed a home run to a right-handed hitter over that span and has limited righties to 22.6 percent hard contact and 21.0 percent soft contact.
Michael Wacha is coming off a tough couple of starts but his velocity seems fine and he gets a nice matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays. Wacha has been much better against righties than lefties this season, but Tampa will most likely be without either Lucas Duda or Logan Morrison as they lose their designated hitter. Wacha has not been terrible against left-handed hitters, allowing a reasonable 1.11 home runs per nine innings and 29.5 percent hard contact, but his 19.7 percent strikeout percentage is about 5 percentage points lower than it is against righties. At a reduced price tag after his bad starts against the Pirates and Braves, he offers a nice floor and the possibility of a nice ceiling if he is at his best against Tampa.
Jason Vargas is a GPP play only, but he does have upside. Vargas has adjusted his release point and it has made his change-up effective again. He has allowed a .284 xwOBA on his change-up over his last five starts after allowing a .400 xwOBA on the pitch over the prior month. He has recorded swinging strike percentages greater than 13 percent in three of his last five starts, including his last outing against the Indians. Cleveland is a tough matchup, but they have been more strikeout prone of late as they have struck out 20.9 percent of the time over the last 30 days and 21.9 percent over the last 14. It is a tough spot for Vargas, but he will be virtually unowned and has been well on his way to monster games in his last two starts before having one bad inning cost him. He is capable of winning someone a GPP tonight- just do not look at his score until the game is over if you roster him.
A.J. Cole gets the minor league team known as the New York Mets tonight at home in Washington. The Mets are a shell of what they were for most of the season as they traded away Neil Walker, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto injured himself yesterday and is likely done for the season. Cole has been much better against righties than lefties throughout his career but the Mets only have three lefties in their projected lineup, and two of them, Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo, have ISOs below .160 against right-handed pitching. At a cheap price tag, Cole makes for a strong pitching option tonight.
Joey Votto faces off against Ivan Nova tonight in Cincinnati. Nova has been decent this season, but he struggles outside of PNC Park. He has allowed 1.57 home runs per nine innings on the road this season and he has allowed 2.04 home runs per nine innings to lefties on the road. Votto has a .444 wOBA and .277 ISO against righties and his 41 percent hard contact rate over the last 15 days is 7 percentage points higher than his 34 percent season average.
Charlie Blackmon disappointed a lot of people recently when he struggled against Julio Teheran in Coors Field. He gets another chance tonight, however, in SunTrust Park. Although Teheran has been much better lately, including against lefties, I have not found anything that suggests these changes are likely to continue. Teheran has struggled against lefties throughout his career and now he has to face one of the best in the game in a great park for left-handed power. On top of the upside that Blackmon posseses at the plate, Teheran struggles to hold baserunners so Blackmon should be able to run once he is on base as well.
Aaron Judge faces flyball-prone lefty Ariel Miranda tonight at Yankees Stadium. Miranda is capable of picking up strikeouts with a good splitter, but he also makes too many mistakes in the strike zone and has allowed over 2 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters. Pitching in New York is unlikely to do him any favors. Judge has a wOBA north of .400 and an ISO of nearly .300 against left-handed pitching and is in a great spot tonight- as are other Yankees’ righties like Gary Sanchez.
J.D. Martinez squares off against Ty Blach tonight in Chase Field. Blach has, somehow, been decent this season but he does not get strikeouts, is not great at limiting hard contact and does not have an elite groundball rate. He has allowed 1.8 home runs per nine innings to righties outside of AT&T Park this season. Martinez’s .460 wOBA and .356 ISO against lefties over the last year should play very well against Blach.
Josh Donaldson is back at full strength and it is evident in his recent results at the plate. Donaldson’s .482 xwOBA ranks 3rd amongst all hitters who have at least 30 at-bats in August and his .493 ISO ranks 5th. Bartolo Colon is completely reliant on having perfect command and, if he does not, he becomes an easy target for home runs. Donaldson is an elite play tonight.
Sticking with the Blue Jays, Justin Smoak has a .360 wOBA and .260 ISO against right-handed pitching over the last 12 months and Colon has allowed 1.90 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season with a 45.8 percent flyball percentage and 41.9 percent hard contact. Smoak’s $4,400 price tag on DraftKings is about $1,000 too cheap for this matchup.
Dominic Smith is the sole lefty in the Mets’ lineup who has any sort of power that can take advantage of A.J. Cole’s propensity for allowing home runs to lefties. Smith is only 22 years old and showed an improvement in his power numbers at AAA this season, posting a career high .188 ISO to go along with a .391 wOBA. There is significant opportunity cost to rostering Smith at first base, but he does have upside in his matchup against Cole if you are looking for a way to pay up for two pitchers.
Jabari Blash is just $2,500 on DraftKings. He is facing left-handed Adam Conley who is not a gas can by any means. Conley also does not get many strikeouts, however, and Blash has a ton of power when he puts the ball in play. He has a .350 wOBA and .243 ISO against lefties over the last year and that is a lot of upside for a near minimum price tag.
Randal Grichuk is always one of my favorite tournament options as he has all kinds of power and is never owned because he hits at the bottom of the order for St. Louis. Tonight, he faces Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi has always struggled with right-handed power and this season is no different. Odorizzi has allowed 2.45 home runs per nine innings this season to righties. Away from Tropicana Field, he has allowed 3.05 homers per nine innings to righties. Grichuk has a .223 ISO against right-handed pitching and Odorizzi’s relatively low 20.1 percent strikeout percentage means Grichuk has a decent chance to put the ball in play. Paul DeJong is a strong play as well.
Khris Davis has a much higher ISO against righties than lefties over the last 12 months (.291 to .207) yet people continue to consider him a lefty masher. He is facing Nick Martinez, who does not strike out hitters from either side of the plate. Martinez has allowed 2.33 home runs per nine innings against righties this season and Davis has enough power than playing at the Oakland Coliseum does not matter much.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Ty Blach has struggled with right-handed power outside of AT&T Park and he will face an Arizona team in Chase Field that has plenty of it up and down the lineup. As a team, the Diamondbacks have a .354 wOBA and .221 ISO at home this season. The Giants also have had a bad bullpen all season long and it has been no different lately as they have the 6th highest xFIP over the last 30 days.
New York Yankees- Ariel Miranda has struggled with right-handed power this season and now he has to face a lot of it in Yankees Stadium. The Yankees are clicking right now and, as we saw earlier in the season, when they get hot they can post huge games against anyone. The Mariners bullpen has been very good lately, posting just the 23rd highest xFIP over the last 30 days, so that is a bit of a concern if considering the Yankees.
Cincinnati Reds- The Reds will likely go under the radar but they are an excellent stack tonight at home against Ivan Nova and the Pirates. Nova has been home run prone outside of PNC Park, particularly to lefties, and the Reds have powerful lefties in Votto, Gennett and Schebler. The Pirates bullpen has also been overworked a bit lately and they could struggle if they have to relieve Nova early in the game- adding upside to the Reds stack.
Toronto Blue Jays- There is not a lot of analysis that goes in to stacking against Bartolo Colon. If he is not at the top of his game, he will allow a lot of home runs in a hurry. The Jays have plenty of power bats that can take advantage. The Twins bullpen has been strong lately, but Toronto could pile up enough home runs in a hurry against Colon that it is worth the risk.
Honorable Mention: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers