MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/26/17
Madison Bumgarner is the most expensive pitcher going up against the Diamondbacks in Chase Field. Bumgarner has a 23.2 percent strikeout percentage and 9.2 percent swinging strike rate this season. Outside of AT&T Park, Bumgarner has a 21.6 percent strikeout percentage and has allowed 1.1 home runs per nine innings, including 1.34 home runs per nine innings to righties. The Diamondbacks are a much better team at home than on the road with a .353 wOBA and .219 ISO at Chase Field. Paying top dollar for a pitcher with the 5th-highest strikeout percentage on the slate in a great hitter’s park makes no sense.
Brad Peacock is the highest price that I will consider paying for pitching tonight as he takes on the Angels in Anaheim. Peacock has the highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 31.1 percent with a 12.2 percent swinging strike percentage. It is a tough matchup for Peacock, as the Angels do not swing and miss much and they have the highest zone contact percentage in the league over the last 30 days- which matters with Peacock because he does not get a lot of chases on pitches out of the zone. Instead, he relies on getting whiffs on pitches in the zone, as evidenced by his very low 81.5 percent zone contact percentage. We saw the Angels give Peacock trouble back in June, when he was able to generate just 6.6 percent swinging strikes against them, and we could certainly see the same issues tonight. One thing working in Peacock’s favor is that Doug Eddings will be behind the plate and he is right up there with Bill Miller as far as best umpires in the game for pitchers. If Peacock is able to get borderline calls and consistently work ahead in the count, he should be able to get more swinging strikes. He is a viable tournament option, it is just a matter of deciding if you want to pay that much money for pitching on this slate.
Kyle Hendricks has a 20.5 percent strikeout percentage with an 8.2 percent swinging strike rate this season. Over the last 30 days, he has struck out 20.7 percent of hitters so there does not appear to be anything new going on in terms of strikeout upside. He has quietly struggled against left-handed power this season, allowing 1.41 home runs per nine innings to lefties. Over the last 30 days, he has allowed 1.6 home runs per nine to lefties and is allowing a 43.8 percent flyball percentage- an increase over his season average. He has allowed just a .303 xwOBA to lefties over that span, so he is not getting beat up overall, but pitching in Citizens’ Bank Park will not do him any favors. It is a “safe” spot as a big favorite against a Philadelphia team that has struck out over 22 percent of the time in the last 30 days, but Hendricks is also priced up for the matchup. It is also worth noting that Hendricks has thrown more than 100 pitches once in six starts since returning from the disabled list last month. In my opinion, it is tough to imagine that Hendricks offers enough upside to be a strong tournament play at his price- especially assuming that he is popular. He is worth considering in cash games if you do not feel comfortable with other higher upside pitching options.
Dinelson Lamet has struck out 34.7 percent of righties with a .271 xwOBA and 1.07 home runs per nine innings allowed compared to 24.3 percent of lefties with a .318 xwOBA and 1.66 home runs per nine innings allowed to lefties. Lamet has made some improvements against lefties, however. Beginning on June 24th, after his 5th start with the Padres, Lamet has thrown more sliders and less change-ups to lefties. Since that date, he has allowed a .294 xwOBA and only 0.4 home runs per nine innings to lefties- though his strikeout percentage has dropped to 22.0 percent. Since June 24th, Lamet has thrown his slider 37 percent of the time to lefties and 45 percent of the time to righties. He ranks 16th in whiffs per swing out of 87 pitchers who have thrown at least 200 sliders this season. The more righties in the lineup for Miami the better, but they do not have any true power lefties that we should be concerned about. Miami has struck out 18.8 percent of the time over the last 30 days and 17.9 percent of the time over the last 14. Lamet gets a boost if Austin Hedges is behind the plate.
Carlos Rodon has a 26.8 percent strikeout percentage and 10.6 percent swinging strike percentage this season, despite facing the Indians, Red Sox, Astros and Dodgers in four of his last five starts. He has a filthy slider that he throws nearly 25 percent of the time to righties. Right-handed hitters have just a .178 xwOBA against the pitch with a 19.9 percent whiff percentage. Rodon ranks 33rd out of 87 pitchers in whiffs per swing on his slider but, again, he has had a very tough stretch of strikeout matchups. Rodon also has not been reliant on swings and misses to get strikeouts. He ranks 30th out of 174 starting pitchers who have thrown at least 1,000 pitches this season in percentage of pitches that are called third strikes. Over the last 30 days, he ranks 15th out of 139 starting pitchers who have thrown at least 300 pitches. The Tigers will have a right-handed heavy lineup and Rodon has struck out 27.0 percent of righties this season. There is certainly risk for Rodon, but he appears to be a legitimate ace and he has plenty of upside in this spot. Also worth mentioning, Kevan Smith is a better pitch framer than Omar Narvaez. In a small sample size, Rodon has seen a sizeable boost when Smith is behind the plate.
Mike Clevinger has the fourth highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 26.6 percent with a 12.9 percent swinging strike percentage that is tied with Lamet for the lead. He has struggled lately, however, allowing a .358 xwOBA and 2.0 home runs per nine innings over the last 30 days. He has maintained a 24.4 percent strikeout percentage over that span, however. His velocity is fine and the movement on most of his pitches appears fine as well, so I am chalking his poor performances up to a combination of tough matchups and random bullpen appearances. He has four very good pitches, with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a slider that ranks 4th in whiff per swing percentage, a curveball than ranks 7th in whiff per swing percentage and a change-up that ranks 11th in whiff per swing percentage. The horizontal movement on his slider has been down a bit in August, but he has allowed a .211 xwOBA with a 24.4 whiff percentage on the pitch so I am not overly concerned. Kansas City has just an 18.3 percent strikeout percentage over the last 30 days, but they have the 5th-highest swing percentage and 6th-highest o-swing percentage in the Majors over that span so Clevinger could have some success since he gets so many whiffs on all of his pitches and the Royals will chase. In his first start of the season, he had an 8.8 percent swinging strike rate and 24.1 percent o-swing percentage against Kansas City. In his next start, however, he had a 16.9 percent swinging strike percentage and 44.7 percent o-swing percentage. It is a nice boost for him if Mike Moustakas is out of the lineup.
Buck Farmer is getting the start for the Tigers. He started four games earlier this season and pitched a total of 17.2 innings. He allowed 5 home runs in those four starts, but he did flash some strikeout potential as he struck out 29.3 percent of hitters with a 15.0 percent swinging strike percentage. He has struck out 22.0 percent of hitters at AAA this season with a 12.0 percent swinging strike percentage. He has allowed a higher flyball percentage to righties than lefties. He has also allowed 7 home runs in 61.0 innings to righties compared to 2 home runs in 62.2 innings to lefties at AAA. He has allowed a higher flyball percentage to righties than lefties throughout his career in the Majors as well. In his brief time in the Majors this season, he allowed a .186 xwOBA to lefties and a .346 xwOBA to righties. His change-up appears to be his best pitch, which explains why he is better against lefties than righties. He has the 7th-highest whiff per swing percentage on his change-up among all starters who have thrown at least 50 change-ups this season. He throws his change-up 30 percent of the time to lefties but only 10 percent of the time to righties. Farmer has upside against the White Sox for sure, especially if Leury Garcia, Moncada and Delmonico are all out of the lineup, but there are risks as well because of how home run prone he has been to right-handed hitters. At his price, he is certainly worth considering in tournaments.
Anthony Rizzo has a .372 wOBA and .231 ISO against righties this season. He grades out as the best play against Lively, as he has a .426 xwOBA and .288 ISO against right-handed sinkers since the start of last season. He also has a .393 xwOBA and .200 ISO against right-handed curveballs.
Jose Abreu is in a nice spot against Farmer. We know that Farmer is vulnerable to right-handed power and Abreu has a .216 ISO against righties this season. He is also hitting the ball well recently, with a 40.0 percent hard contact percentage, 42.2 percent flyball percentage and 22.2 percent line drive percentage over the last 14 days.
Joey Votto has a .433 wOBA and .272 ISO against righties this season. Votto has a .489 xwOBA and .337 ISO against a combination of fastballs and sinkers greater than or equal to 93 miles per hour this season. It is worth noting that Votto has struggled against Cole in his career, going 4-for-17 with 8 strikeouts, 6 walks, 0 extra base hits and an average exit velocity of 82.2 miles per hour.
Logan Morrison has a .501 xwOBA and .540 ISO against the sinker/cutter combo that Leake throws approximately 70 percent of the time to left-handed hitters this season. Overall, he has a .272 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and he gets a park boost going to St. Louis where it will likely be warm and humid this evening. If Morrison is not in the lineup, Lucas Duda has a .393 xwOBA and .226 ISO against the sinker/cutter combo this season and a .288 ISO overall.
Nick Williams is the lone left-handed power threat for the Phillies, posting a .363 wOBA and .219 ISO this season. Hendricks has allowed 1.6 home runs per nine innings to lefties over the last month with a flyball percentage north of 43 percent. If you want to leverage against Hendricks, Williams is your guy at $3,100.
Billy Hamilton is in a great running matchup at a reasonable $3,900 price tag. He pretty much always goes overlooked when the Reds stack is not popular. He makes for a great value option.
Brandon Moss has a .227 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and he has a 53.9 percent hard contact percentage with 0 percent soft contact over the last 14 days. In typical Moss fashion, he has also struck out 40 percent of the time over that span. He is a nice boom or bust option at a cheap price if you need a cheap outfielder.
Tampa Bay Rays- The Rays are underdogs on the road in St. Louis, but they make for a high upside stack against Mike Leake and the Cardinals. Leake has not been effective after a nice start to the season, in large part because he has been unable to command his sinker. When you throw 90 miles per hour, not having command can lead to a lot of trouble. Left-handed hitters have a .419 xwOBA and .118 ISO against him since the start of July, while righties have a .329 xwOBA and .196 ISO. My main takeaway from those numbers is that we should just target whatever hitters have power against Leake. Morrison/Duda was already mentioned, but Steven Souza, Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Wilson Ramos and even Evan Longoria fit the mold as well as they have all posted respectable power numbers against Leake’s sinker/slider combo. The Cardinals bullpen has the 3rd-highest xwOBA against lefties in baseball over the last month, adding upside to a lefty-heavy Rays stack.
St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals are a stack or fade spot to me, with the exception of Paul DeJong or Randal Grichuk. Blake Snell lives and dies with his fastball command. When he is on, he is able to locate it on the outside corner away from right-handed hitters. If that is the case, the majority of these Cardinal hitters will struggle. If he does not have his best command, however, there are plenty of St. Louis hitters that have big time power against lefties. It should favor the Cardinals that Snell will be pitching outside in the humidity of St. Louis instead of at home at Tropicana Field.
Cleveland Indians- The Indians are a better offense at home and when they face right-handed pitching. Both of those are the case tonight as they face Jason Hammel. Hammel has allowed just 1.04 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season, but he has allowed a .266 ISO to lefties over the last month. Lindor, Bruce, Encarnacion, Santana and Ramirez all have ISOs over .200 against right-handed pitching this season. The Royals bullpen ranks 5th-worst in xwOBA against lefties over the last month.
Chicago Cubs- Ben Lively has not proven to be a gas can in his brief time in the Major Leagues, but he does allow a lot of flyballs and does not get a lot of strikeouts. He allows a higher percentage of flyballs to righties than lefties as a result of throwing his sinker more often to lefties, but he does not have a high groundball percentage against either side of the plate. While this Cubs team has disappointed us plenty at the plate this season, there is still significant upside against a young flyball pitcher who pitches to contact in Citizens Bank Park.