MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/31/17
Madison Bumgarner is the most expensive pitcher on the slate as he faces off against the St. Louis Cardinals at home in AT&T Park. Bumgarner’s 23.4 percent strikeout percentage and 9.5 percent swinging strike percentage are not quite what we usually want from the most expensive pitcher on a slate, but he is a perfectly viable option on this six-gamer. It helps that he is pitching at home as well. Bumgarner has a 25.0 percent strikeout percentage and 3.71 xFIP at home this season compared to a 22.2 percent strikeout percentage and 4.03 xFIP on the road this season. Most of the Cardinals’ lineup is right-handed and Bumgarner has been much better against right-handed hitters at home. He has struck out 28.1 percent of righties while allowing 0.91 home runs per nine innings at AT&T this season compared to a 22.2 percent strikeout rate with 1.62 home runs per nine innings to righties away from home. For the season, the Cardinals have a 21.7 percent strikeout percentage with a .335 wOBA and 106 wRC+ against left-handed pitching.
Kyle Hendricks is normally not a pitcher that I would remotely consider at a five-figure price tag on DraftKings, but this is not a normal slate. The wind at Wrigley is blowing in at 15-25 miles per hour and the Braves have the lowest implied run total at just 2.9 runs. Hendricks has a 21.2 percent strikeout percentage this season, though it has climbed to 24.0 percent over the last 30 days- including 26.7 percent against lefties. Atlanta has just an 18.7 percent strikeout percentage against righties this season, but they are below average in terms of wOBA and wRC+. Hendricks’ biggest weakness is left-handed power but, outside of Freddie Freeman and, possibly, Matt Adams, there is no left-handed power on this team. Joe Maddon typically does not let Hendricks go too deep into games, which is another factor that makes his price tag unappealing. If he were the same price as Bumgarner, I would prefer Bumgarner, but there is likely to be a lack of value on this slate since it only has six games so the savings from Hendricks to Bumgarner may prove to be worthwhile.
Marco Estrada started out the season on fire, then was horrendous for about a month, and has been somewhere in between ever since. This is a very dangerous spot for him, a flyball pitcher in Camden Yards against the high-powered Orioles’ offense. He has struck out just 18.9 percent of hitters over the last 30 days while allowing 1.5 home runs per nine innings but, against righties, he has struck out 25.0 percent of hitters while allowing 1.4 home runs per nine innings. This is not a spot to roster Estada with any sort of confidence, as he very easily could get blown up by the Orioles, but there is certainly upside here as the Orioles do have strikeouts in their lineup and Estrada is capable of piling them up. Estrada does have BvP working in his favor as well. The Orioles’ core of Beckham, Machado, Schoop, Jones, Davis and Trumbo (no at-bats listed on Baseball Savant for Mancini) are a combined 18-114 (.158 average) with 35 strikeouts and 6 home runs against Estrada. Factor in that the Orioles are likely to be a popular stack and it makes Estrada worth considering in tournaments as long as you understand the huge risks.
Eduardo Rodriguez falls into the same basket as Estrada. Rodriguez is a talented pitcher and is generally better against righties than lefties, which bodes well for his matchup against the Yankees. He has struck out 25.8 percent of righties this season while limiting them to a .295 wOBA. He has not been as sharp since returning from the disabled list, however, as he has struggled with his command at times. There is still upside for Rodriguez, as he has struck out 22.6 percent of righties with a .320 xwOBA allowed over the last 30 days, but there is certainly risk against this Yankees’ team in Yankee Stadium.
Sean Newcomb benefits from the same weather conditions as Kyle Hendricks but is significantly less expensive. Newcomb has plenty of talent but is also inconsistent, as he struggles mightily to throw strikes- his 39.4 percent of pitches in the strike zone ranks last on the slate. Over the last 30 days, the Cubs have the 11th highest o-swing percentage which at least gives Newcomb a chance at being successful. His propensity to put runners on base lowers his floor and his ceiling on sites that take away points for walks and hits, but his incredibly low price tag makes that less of an issue. He has struck out 22.6 percent of hitters this season, including 21.2 percent of righties. The 1.57 home runs per nine innings that he has allowed to righties is less of concern with the wind blowing in at Wrigley. Similar to Estrada and Rodriguez, Newcomb has plenty of upside for his price but he also has a very low floor.
Michael Wacha has had three terrible starts in a row against the Pirates, Braves and Rays. His underlying numbers do not suggest that he is injured or tired, however. His first-pitch strike percentage was higher than his season average in two of the three starts, as was his zone percentage. His average fastball velocity over those three starts was 95.2 miles per hour, compared to his season average of 94.9. It does not appear to be a physical issue. Tonight, he faces the Giants in AT&T Park. San Francisco has a 19.2 percent strikeout percentage, .131 ISO, .307 wOBA and 89 wRC+ over the last 30 days and playing at home will do nothing to help them tonight. Most of the Giants’ lineup is left-handed and Wacha has shown more strikeout upside against righties than lefties this season, but he has allowed a .325 wOBA to lefties and .328 wOBA to righties so he has been effective against both sides in terms of production. This is not a Giants lineup that strikes out much anyway, so the main appeal is that Wacha should be able to make it through the start without getting hit too hard. Wacha appears to be the primary SP2 in cash games, at least as of now, but it is a great spot to fade in GPPs as we cannot ignore his recent struggles and the lack of upside makes it so a lower-owned Estrada, Rodriguez or Newcomb can pretty easily outscore him and gain ground for you in GPPs.
Giancarlo Stanton faces Ben Lively tonight in Miami. Lively has not shown himself to be a gas can in his brief time in the Majors, but he is a flyball pitcher who pitches to contact. He has struck out just 13.3 percent of righties this season while allowing 45.6 percent flyballs (14.6 of the infield variety is worth noting). Stanton is a strong play against any pitcher, but especially against pitchers who do not generate swings and misses.
Marcell Ozuna benefits from the same matchup as Stanton and will be available at a fraction of the ownership as most people only target him against lefties. Ozuna has a .378 xwOBA and .278 ISO against right-handed pitching this season. If you need more, check this out:
Lively throws his fastball just under 60 percent of the time to right-handed hitters. The left is where Lively locates his fastball to righties and the right is Ozuna’s ISO by zone against right-handed fastballs this season. If Lively lives middle-away, or misses back toward the middle of the plate, Ozuna will be able to do damage with it.
Manny Machado is finally getting the results that he should have been getting all season long based on underlying metrics like xwOBA and average exit velocity. I mentioned earlier that he does not have good BvP against Estrada, but that does not diminish his upside in this spot. Machado has a .424 xwOBA and .368 ISO against right-handed pitching since the start of August and he will now be facing a flyball pitcher who has been struggling, in Camden Yards.
Nick Williams has a .341 xwOBA and .261 ISO against righties since the start of August and he is just $3,100 on DraftKings against Odrismer Despaigne. Despaigne generally does a good job of keeping the ball in the park, but that is still way too low of a price tag for Williams as he is a good young hitter and he is facing a journeyman righty who allows the ball to be put in play.
Ryan Braun has not been good lately, with 31.4 percent soft contact and a 1.91 percent groundball percentage over the last 14 days. Still, a $3,400 price tag is too low for a hitter of Braun’s caliber- especially against a left-handed pitcher. Since the start of August, Braun has a .343 xwOBA and .200 ISO against lefties. While that is a small sample size, the point is just that he has still been pretty good against lefties- plenty good enough for a price tag so cheap. Gio Gonzalez has been very good this season, but he gets a negative park shift going to Milwaukee and he has still allowed 1.19 home runs per nine innings to righties this season.
Miami Marlins- While Lively has not been terrible in the Majors, it seems like it is just a matter of time. He allows more flyballs than groundballs and he does not strike hitters out. Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna have the potential to make Lively’s life miserable tonight and there are plenty of strong complementary pieces around them to fill out the stack with Gordon, Yelich, Realmuto and Dietrich.
Baltimore Orioles- Despite the BvP and Estrada’s upside, we cannot ignore the upside of the Orioles in this spot. Estrada has not been at the top of his game lately and the ballpark will not do him any favors. The Orioles will be popular, and it is definitely a boom-or-bust spot, but they are definitely one of the stronger stacks on the slate.