MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/30/17
Dallas Keuchel [LHP – HOU] is the type of pitcher who should feast on the Rangers, a K-heavy team that relies on home runs to power their offense. Texas is tied with Houston for the league lead in home runs, but they rank only 16th in long balls against left-handed pitching, while striking out at the fifth highest clip. Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus are the only two righties with sub-20-percent strikeout rates against southpaws, too.
Keuchel’s 65.9 percent groundball rate leads the league by a considerable margin, and his 0.82 HR/9 allowed is impressive enough to combat a power-laden Rangers squad. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Keuchel has tossed 12.2 one-run innings with 14 strikeouts against Texas this season, and he should post similar results on Wednesday inside the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field.
Keuchel doesn’t have electric stuff, but he is one of the very best command pitchers in the game. Houston’s ace left-hander leads all pitchers in CSAA (5.92%) despite ranking towards the bottom of baseball in called strike probability. He hits his spots with robotic precision, and that should work heavily in his favor against the free-swinging Rangers. Keuchel is a -186 “home” favorite on Wednesday, while the Rangers own the lowest implied run total (3.5) on this nine-game slate. He is easily my top pitching option across the industry.
Jose Berrios [RHP – MIL] is rather expensive tonight, which keeps him from being a priority option atop the pitcher position, but he still has value in a plus matchup with Chicago. Matt Davidson (40% K), Adam Engel (35.7%), Tyler Saladino (27.3%), Tim Anderson (26.8%), Leury Garcia (22%) and Avisail Garcia (21.1%) all strike out at a 20-plus-percent clip vs. RHP, and the White Sox continue to run out a Triple-A lineup — even more so now that Nicky Delmonico and Yoan Moncada are on the disabled list.
What makes this matchup most interesting for Berrios is Chicago’s righty-heavy lineup. Berrios is holding same-handed hitters to a .282 wOBA this season with a 3.89 xFIP and only 0.84 HR/9 allowed. He’s also striking them out at a 24-percent clip compared to a 20-percent K-rate vs. left-handed bats. The White Sox only healthy left-side (or switch) hitters are Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Omar Narvaez and Alen Hanson, all of whom own virtually zero power vs. RHP (except for Garcia to some extent).
Berrios is a slate-best -220 ML favorite at home tonight, while the White Sox own the third lowest implied run total (3.8) on the night. Jose Quintana [LHP – CHC] is also a -200 ML favorite against a Pirates team that’s tied with Texas for the lowest expected run total (3.5), but he doesn’t have nearly as much strikeout upside in his respective matchup, as Pittsburgh strikes out at a bottom-10 clip vs. LHP. I much prefer Berrios here, and also expect him to receive ample run support with the Twins facing Derek Holland.
Jason Vargas [LHP – KC] is not a pitcher I generally like to target, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Wednesday’s slate offers virtually zero pitching talent in the middle or lower tier, forcing us to look at Vargas for value. The positive aspects of this matchup with Tampa Bay is their proclivity striking out, as only the Brewers are striking out at a higher rate than the Rays (26.2%) vs. left-handed pitching. Tampa has also been far less potent against southpaws than they have against righties, with bottom-five ranks in both wOBA (.300) and ISO (.146) this season. Moreover, the Rays lack talent from the right side of the plate, as Steven Souza has performed almost exclusively against same-handed hitting this season, Evan Longoria has been dreadful against LHP (.286 wOBA), Trevor Plouffe was DFA’d and Adeiny Hechavarria is just bad at baseball.
Sure, Vargas has been worse against left-handed hitters from a wOBA standpoint this year, but there isn’t a lefty in Tampa’s lineup with a sub-20-percent K-rate vs. same-handed pitching. Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson are the only two left-handers with wOBA’s north of .280 vs. LHP, too. Vargas has struggled to strike lefties out, which would generally be a concern, but you’d think the Rays might facilitate some easy punchouts tonight. This isn’t a play you feel good about, but more so one you’re considering by default.
Homer Bailey [RHP – CIN] isn’t a pitcher I’m ever willing to roster, but I may legitimately consider getting some tournament exposure tonight. The Mets are a shell of the team they trotted out on opening day, as Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson have all since departed or hit the disabled list. Terry Collins is now working with a cast of unwanted rejects, and I’m not even sure a matchup with Bailey at Great American Ballpark can save them. They’ve replaced a number of low-strikeout hitters with K-heavy bats like Amed Rosario (34.2%), Matt Reynolds (30.6%) and Brandon Nimmo (26.9%).
Look, rostering Homer Bailey is never a sure thing. Actually, this season it has been a sure thing, but not in the way we’d be hoping for tonight. Having said that, the veteran righty is still throwing mid-90’s fastballs, has a near double-digit swinging strike rate, and has racked up 17 strikeouts over his last 13.2 innings pitched. There’s definitive risk here, but he isn’t any sketchier than the likes of Rafael Montero, Travis Wood, Ty Blach or any other scrubs in this price range. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bailey post serviceable fantasy totals against a skeleton crew of a Mets squad.
Brian Dozier [2B – R] is my top hitting option on Wednesday’s slate, squaring off against Derek Holland at Target Field. The Twins boast a slate-high 5.8-run implied total against a putrid southpaw who’s serving up a .404 wOBA, .269 ISO and 2.35 HR/9 to right-handers this season. Holland’s 26 home runs allowed to righties is tied with Ariel Miranda for the league-worst mark, while his 5.93 xFIP ranks dead last in baseball by a considerable margin. Holland has been even worse on the road, where righties are hammering him to the tune of a .427/.337 wOBA ISO.
Dozier has enjoyed considerable success against southpaws this year, with a .411 wOBA, .250 ISO and 90 MPH AEV. He’s in line for another big night against Holland, and needs to be considered the top play at his position and a top overall option across the board. I’m willing to pay a premium for Dozier against what is arguably the league’s worst starting lefty.
Byron Buxton [OF – R] is a fortune on DraftKings (much less expensive on FanDuel), but that won’t keep me away from him on Wednesday. Consider all of the abovementioned information and combine that with Buxton’s stellar performance in August — he’s worth the asking price tonight. Buxton is also sporting a strong .379 wOBA vs. LHP on the season, a figure that has spiked to .567 since the start of July.
We can’t quantify when hot streaks are going to start or end, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Buxton continue his surge tonight. This matchup with Holland is simply too attractive to ignore, and although Minnesota bats will be chalky across the industry, there’s no reason they should fail to produce. If you still aren’t sold, the White Sox bullpen owns a league-worst 5.27 xFIP since the All-Star break, while also ranking dead last in K-rate (17.4%) and SIERA (5.07) over that span.
Joey Votto [1B – L] might be baseball’s most underrated player every single year, and 2017 is no different. Not only is votto torching same-handed pitching to the tune of a .422/.297 wOBA/ISO, but he’s predictably smashed opposite-handed pitching as well, with a .432 wOBA, .267 ISO and 11-percent K-rate this season. His splits at Great American Ballpark are even more staggering, but I’m sure you’ll take my word for it.
Rafael Montero has some redeeming qualities, but I’ll take Votto in this matchup one hundred percent of the time. Votto feasts on fastballs and sliders from right-handed arms, is one of baseball’s most patient hitters at the dish, and routinely seems to go overlooked. If I’m paying up at the position I’ll be siding with Votto over all of the high-end options. That said, Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] makes for a very solid play against Ivan Nova, who has allowed multiple home runs in five of his last 10 starts.
HONORABLE MENTION: Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] vs. Nova [RHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Graveman [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Happ [LHP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] vs. Nova [RHP]
Jorge Polanco [SS – L/R] is yet another Minnesota bat I’ll be loading up on tonight, as he has not only been on a torrid run in August, but faces Derek Holland inside the neutral Target Field. Polanco’s season splits are slightly misleading — showing that he’s been considerably worse against left-handed pitching — but he’s actually hit southpaws for more power over his career, and owns a .455 wOBA against them this month. The truth, however, is that Polanco has simply been too good to ignore on a night where the Twins boast a slate-high 5.8-run total against a bottom-five lefty in baseball. Polanco and Buxton also offer stolen base upside, which boosts their value on Wednesday night.
Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R]/Justin Turner [3B – R] don’t seem like obvious plays tonight, but they actually make for great options at their respective price points. Not only have Taylor and Turner crushed left-handed pitching this season, but Robbie Ray has been very susceptible to right-handed power — especially at home. I feel pretty certain that Ray will struggle tonight, facing a Dodgers team that ranks second in both ISO (.202) and wOBA (.346) this year. Ray has been far less effective at Chase Field, too, where he’s ceding a .336 wOBA and 1.73 HR/9 to the opposition.
Taylor and Turner are very much underpriced on DraftKings, likely due to a matchup with Ray, but I’ll take these saving all day long on a night where the Dodgers own a respectable 4.8-run implied total in Arizona. Believe it or not, Ray is allowing 45-percent hard contact and 41-percent fly balls at home this season, which is further compounded by a 40-percent hard-hit rate vs. RHH on the season.
Billy Hamilton [OF – L/R] is going to run absolutely wild on Montero if he gets on board tonight. Montero has caught only one of 11 base stealers this season, and ranks fifth worst in SRAA on the year. Hamilton will probably go overlooked here, but I’d urge you to reconsider; Montero is walking lefties at a 10.5 percent clip while owning a 1.68 WHIP against. Hamilton will be afforded a variety of ways to get on base tonight, but all that matters is he reaches safely in some form or fashion. I can almost guarantee that if he does, Hamilton will rack up a ‘Hambone Home Run’ with two swipes and a run scored.
Mike Moustakas [3B – L] has emphatically, yet somehow rather quietly murdered right-handed pitching this season, sporting a .374 wOBA and .294 ISO as we close out the month of August. He’s hitting 49-percent fly balls, too, which should serve him well against Odorizzi, who’s serving up a whopping 51-percent fly balls to left-handed hitters in 2017. Odorizzi isn’t recording enough strikeouts to mitigate his flyball problems, and his 2.17 HR/9 allowed evidences that problem. The Royals boast a nice 5.1-run implied run total at home tonight, and Moustakas remains affordable across the industry. The third base position is also rather weak, so targeting Moose in cash makes plenty of sense at a mid-range price point.
HONORABLE MENTION: Yasiel Puig [OF – R] @ Ray [LHP]; Lorenzo Cain [OF – R] vs. Odorizzi [RHP]; Kennys Vargas [1B – L/R] vs. Holland [LHP]; Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] vs. Nova [RHP]; Asdrubal Cabrera [2B/SS – L/R] @ Bailey [RHP]
Andrew McCutchen [OF – R] has cooled off after a red-hot hitting streak in July and early August, but there’s absolutely no reason he should be $3,400 on DraftKings and $2,800 on FanDuel. Jose Quintana is a respectable southpaw, but he’s allowed the fifth most home runs to right-handers this season (20) and is evidently very susceptible to power from opposite-handed bats.
McCutchen, on the other hand, is absolutely murdering lefties to the tune of a .452 wOBA, .390 ISO, 52-percent flyball rate and 43-percent hard-hit rate across 126 PA. His 90-MPH AEV isn’t too shabby either. I simply see no reason to ignore McCutchen at such a ridiculous salary. Sure, he’s been a bit underwhelming of late, but that doesn’t mean he can’t heat up again in a plus matchup with Quintana.
Mitch Garver [C/1B – R]/Chris Gimenez [C – R] should be your complimentary pieces to a Twins stack, as both are dirt cheap options at a weak catcher position. Neither Garver or Gimenez have been especially impressive at the dish, but they’ll both draw the platoon advantage against Holland and their team owns the highest implied run total (5.8) on Wednesday’s slate. I’ve been siding with Gimenez over Garver when both are in the lineup, but only because Garver has been the more popular punt. Gimenez does offer some power against left-handed pitching, though, and, anecdotally speaking, seems to have some big games every couple of weeks.
Nevertheless, these two backstops are easy plays on Wednesday, and both are in play assuming each of them is slotted into the Twins lineup. Salvador Perez [C – R] and Austin Barnes [C – R] are also viable values at the position on a night where there’s no way to spend.
Brandon Nimmo [OF – L] has struck out quite a bit vs. RHP but he’s also been serviceable at the plate, with a .363 wOBA across 67 PA. I’m not looking to target many Mets bats, even against Homer Bailey, but Nimmo figures to be a solid value at the top of the lineup. Great American Ballpark is one of the most hitter-friendly venues in baseball and Bailey has proven susceptible to implode. If you’re looking for a cheap bat at the outfield position, you could do a whole lot worse than Nimmo.
HONORABLE MENTION: Salvador Perez [C – R] vs. Odorizzi [RHP]; Kike Hernandez [SS/OF – R] @ Ray [LHP]; Ezequiel Carrera [OF – L] vs. Porcello [RHP]; Matt Olson [1B/OF – L] @ Bridwell [RHP]; Wil Myers [1B – R] vs. Blach [LHP]