MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/3/17
Alex Wood is the most expensive pitcher on DraftKings and FantasyDraft and the second most expensive pitcher on FanDuel. Wood has been excellent this season, striking out 28.2 percent of hitters that he has faced with an excellent 13.0 percent swinging strike percentage and elite 36.0 percent o-swing percentage, while pitching to a 2.83 xFIP. He has a tough matchup tonight with the Braves, however, at SunTrust Field. The Braves have struck out an average of just 19.1 percent of the time against left-handed pitchers this season with a .333 wOBA and 102 wRC+. Wood faced Atlanta two starts ago and had his worst outing of the season, allowing 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings with 4 strikeouts. His underlying numbers were some of the worst of his season as well, recording a 9.0 swinging strike percentage and 26.4 percent o-swing percentage that were both well below his season averages. Wood is a viable option any time he steps on the mound because of how good he has been this season, but there are other pitchers that I prefer on this slate.
Corey Kluber is one of the pitchers that I prefer to Wood, especially on DraftKings and FantasyDraft where he is available for less money. On paper, Kluber’s matchup with the Yankees is scary as the Yankees possess a dangerous offense. The matchup is really not that bad, however. The Yankees are projected to have six right-handed bats in their lineup and just about all of their power comes from the right side of the plate. Kluber has been dominant this season, particularly against right-handed hitters. Kluber has struck out 37.6 percent of righties that he has faced this season while allowing just a .251 xwOBA. There are plenty of strikeouts in the Yankees lineup, as all of the right-handed hitters in the projected starting lineup have struck out at least 22 percent of the time against right-handed pitching this season, with the exception of Ronald Torreyes. Kluber has also been better at home than on the road this season, striking out 38.7 percent of hitters (compared to 31.5 percent on the road) with a 2.15 xFIP. He is my number one pitching option, not that that is going out on any sort of limb.
Collin McHugh has made two starts for the Astros since returned from the disabled list and his numbers look very good. He has struck out 25.6 percent of hitters, with a 12.0 percent swinging strike percentage and 33.0 percent o-swing percentage. McHugh is featuring a slider, which is new to him, and it has mostly replaced his cutter. The slider has looked incredibly good so far, as McHugh has thrown it about 33 percent of the time to right-handed hitters and has recorded a 28.2 percent whiff percentage on the pitch. McHugh has had tremendous movement on the pitch, as it would rank 6th in horizonal movement among all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 200 sliders over the last decade. It ranks fifth behind Darvish, Chacin, Kluber and Clevinger in horizontal movement this season. His curveball, which he will likely throw more tonight than he did in his first two starts because of the number of lefties in the Rays lineup, would rank 19th in horizonal movement and 25th in vertical movement this season. The number of lefties in the lineup for Tampa should not dissuade us from McHugh- he had a higher strikeout percentage and fewer home runs per nine innings against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters last season.
Adalberto Mejia is an average pitcher at this point in his career, but his strikeout numbers appear to be trending upward. Mejia has matched or eclipsed his 9.3 percent season average in each of his last five starts, including tough matchups with the Angels, Yankees and Tigers. Tonight, he will face a Texas offense that has struggled away from Globe Life Park and that has struggled against left-handed pitching. As a team, Texas has struck out 26.4 percent of the time with a .301 wOBA and 81 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season. On the road, they have struck out 27.4 percent of the time with a .298 wOBA and 84 wRC+. Mejia is certainly in play as a cheap SP2 in tournaments tonight.
Sean Newcomb is a clear case of a pitcher being too talented for his price tag, regardless of matchup, as he is just $5,200 on DraftKings and $10,400 on FantasyDraft. Newcomb has struck out 22.5 percent of hitters this season, with a 12.2 percent swinging strike percentage and 32.1 percent o-swing rate. The Dodgers have been very good against left-handed pitching this season, but Newcomb still has plenty of upside at his price point. In his start against the Dodgers two starts ago, Newcomb had an 18.3 percent swinging strike percentage and 30.9 percent o-swing percentage en route to 9 strikeouts in 6 innings pitched. This slate does not feature many expensive hitters that are in great spots, so it is questionable if we will need the savings that Newcomb offers, but he is a viable GPP option with upside if you need a cheap SP2.
Manny Machado faces a lefty tonight in the Tigers’ Matt Boyd. Boyd has allowed 1.31 home runs per nine innings and a .344 xwOBA to right-handed hitters this season. Machado has been very good against left-handed pitching this season, recording a .390 xwOBA and .219 ISO. He has hit into bad luck all season long so we are expecting his numbers to improve by the end of the season and a matchup with Boyd is not one that we should avoid.
Jose Altuve has only recorded a .328 xwOBA against left-handed pitching this season, but that can likely be attributed to sample size as his xwOBA against southpaws since the start of last season is .362. He has still hit them for power this season, posting a .221 ISO. Blake Snell has allowed 1.56 home runs to righties this season. Altuve has been on fire for the last month-plus and is in a nice spot against Snell. The downside for Altuve is that Snell is good at holding runners, so Altuve will probably have trouble recognizing his stolen base upside- at least while Snell is in the game.
Jose Abreu faces Rick Porcello in Boston. Most of the White Sox lineup should be in the minor leagues, but that is obviously not the case for Abreu. Abreu has hit right-handed pitching for power this season, with a .350 xwOBA and .216 ISO, and he now will take aim at the Green Monster in left field. Porcello has allowed over 38 percent hard contact to righties this season, with a pull percentage greater than 43 percent, so Abreu has a good chance to pull a hard hit ball toward the monster.
Eric Hosmer has finally figured out how to stop hitting the ball on the ground. His groundball percentage has decreased each month of the season so far and, as a result, his power numbers have improved. He has a .379 xwOBA and .227 ISO against right-handed pitching since June 1st and he will face Yovani Gallardo tonight in Kansas City. Gallardo has done a good job limiting damage from lefties this season, but Hosmer has emerged as one of the better hitters in baseball so he still has the advantage in this matchup.
Andrew Benintendi has a nice matchup against Miguel Gonzalez of the White Sox. Gonzalez has allowed a .362 xwOBA to left-handed hitters this season and Benintendi has a .337 xwOBA and .162 ISO against righties. While it is not an ideal matchup because Gonzalez is not particularly easy to run on, Benintendi still has upside at a $3,600 price tag on DraftKings ($7,200 on FantasyDraft) and a $3,100 salary on FanDuel.
Logan Forsythe has a tough matchup against Sean Newcomb, but he has been very good against left-handed pitching this season. He has a .399 xwOBA and .186 ISO against lefties. Newcomb has allowed just a .314 wOBA and 1.05 home runs per nine innings to righties this season, but at $2,900 on DraftKings, $5,600 on FantasyDraft and $2,700 on FanDuel, Forsythe gives plenty of upside while allowing you to save salary.
Mike Napoli has been average against left-handed pitching in terms of xwOBA this season at just .327, but his .320 ISO indicates he has a ton of upside for a cheap, low-owned tournament play. Adalberto Mejia is a decent pitcher, but his 17.8 percent strikeout percentage against righties means that Napoli has a good chance to put the ball in play, which gives him the advantage over Mejia.
Jean Segura has not hit right-handed pitching well this season and he has a tough matchup tonight against Trevor Cahill. Segura has just a .281 xwOBA and .121 ISO against righties this season, but he is not on this list for his bat. He is here for the stolen base matchup. Shortstop is a relatively weak position tonight and Segura is at one of the lower price points we have seen him at this season. Cahill is one of the easiest pitchers to run on in baseball and Segura has stolen 13 bases this season after stealing 33 for the Diamondbacks last season. If he can get on base, he could have a home run worth of points by the time he scores.
Houston Astros- The Astros are in a prime spot against Blake Snell. The Astros have plenty of hitters in their lineup who do not strikeout easily and Snell has been inconsistent with his command and control this season. If the Astros are able to work deep in counts, it is likely that they can force Snell to make mistakes because of his command issues. They are always a strong stack and they have a good matchup tonight against Snell.
Detroit Tigers- The Tigers are underdogs on the road in Baltimore, but they have a great matchup against Chris Tillman. Tillman has been incredibly inconsistent this season, to the point that it seems like he may be pitching through some sort of injury. Tillman has been particularly susceptible to right-handed power this season, and the Tigers have a lot of it. Tillman has struck out just 18.1 percent of righties, while allowing 2.63 home runs per nine innings. The middle of the Tigers order, from Upton through Castellanos, make for elite plays and they can be complemented by virtually anyone else in the lineup if you want a full stack. The risk is that the Orioles bullpen is finally healthy, so there is a good chance that the Tigers are not able to add runs on late in the game if it stays relatively close.
Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles struggle against left-handed pitching, but Boyd tends to struggle against right-handed power and the Orioles have plenty of that. Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini make for a strong core in Orioles stacks and they can be joined by guys like Jones, Beckham and Castillo that have home run upside. The Tigers have had one of the worst bullpens in baseball all season and weakened it at the trade deadline, so the Orioles should have scoring opportunities throughout the game.
Los Angeles Dodgers- It was mentioned earlier that Newcomb is a viable pitching option because he is too talented for his price. While that is true, these Dodgers bats have hit left-handed pitching very well this season and they will be able to take advantage if Newcomb is off his game. Los Angeles has a .360 wOBA and .218 ISO against left-handed pitching as a team this season, and even Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger can hold their own against southpaws. Including one or both lefties in a stack is a strong way to differentiate, as people tend to avoid lefty-lefty matchups and Newcomb has actually been better against righties since his time in AAA.