MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/12/17
Corey Kluber faces a weak Detroit lineup that has struggled, predictably, since trading most of their good hitters over the last couple of months. The Tigers have a .309 wOBA, 88 wRC+ and 22.7 percent strikeout percentage over the last 30 days. Since returned from the disabled list on June 1st, Kluber has struck out 37.7 percent of opposing hitters while walking just 4.1 percent. He has a 46.6 percent groundball percentage, 25.1 percent soft contact, 25.8 percent hard contact and a 2.12 xFIP. Against righties, of which there are seven in the Tigers’ projected lineup, Kluber has been even better. Since his return from the DL, he has struck out 40.7 percent of righties with a 2.6 percent walk percentage. He has induced 50.7 percent groundballs with 27.5 percent soft contact, 20.3 percent hard contact and a 1.78 xFIP. Kluber should be well worth the price tonight in his matchup against the Tigers.
Clayton Kershaw struggled in his last start as he allowed 4 earned runs in just 3.2 innings of work against the Colorado Rockies. His velocity was down a tick on all of his pitches which, of course, is a bit concerning since it is his second start back from the disabled list. On the positive side, he threw 86 pitches in that start so it appears he is likely to be close to fully stretched out for his matchup tonight against the Giants. The Giants are a weak offense, posting a .309 wOBA and 91 wRC+ over the last 30 days. There are limited strikeouts in the lineup but, if Kershaw is on top of his game, he can strikeout anyone. Kluber is the preferred option in cash games but Kershaw makes some sense in tournaments since he should come at a discount from Kluber. Just know that this is not peak Kershaw, he is very expensive, and there is risk.
Dylan Bundy let us down in his last start against the Yankees. He got off to a very strong start in that game before imploding in the fourth inning and not making it out of the fifth. There were some risk factors going into that game, however. One was that it was a hot, humid day with the wind blowing out in Camden Yards- difficult pitching conditions for anyone. Another was that he was coming off of a 116-pitch outing against the Mariners and he was pitching on five days rest- the Orioles have been doing what they can to get him extended rest between starts down the stretch as he creates a new career high in innings pitched. Neither of these factors are in play tonight against the Blue Jays. The game will be played in Toronto where the weather is much cooler. Bundy threw just 98 pitches in his last start and has had 7 days off since then. In his career, Bundy has a 2.26 K/BB ratio in 21 starts on 4 day’s rest, a 2.64 K/BB ratio in 13 starts on 5 day’s rest and a 7.20 K/BB ratio in 6 starts on 6+ day’s rest. This season, he has a 1.94 K/BB ratio in 13 starts on 4 day’s rest, a 3.13 K/BB ratio in 8 starts on 5 day’s rest and a 16.00 K/BB ratio in 5 starts on 6+ days of rest. Bundy has a 31.1 percent strikeout percentage with just a 6.3 walk percentage since the start of August. He has been homerun (and flyball) prone, but that is less of an issue in the cool weather of Toronto that in the humidity of Camden Yards. We should go back to Bundy tonight, particularly in tournaments and hope that others are scared off by his last outing.
Sonny Gray almost never is rostered and tonight is likely to be similar as there are a lot of very good pitchers to choose from. Gray is having a resurgent season, striking out 23.1 percent of hitters with a 54.2 percent groundball percentage. He gets a positive park shift traveling to Tampa Bay to face a Rays team that has a .317 wOBA and 97 wRC+ over the last 30 days. There is plenty of upside here for Gray and he is an appealing tournament option.
Eduardo Rodriguez is likely to be popular as he faces an Athletics team that has a ton of strikeouts in their lineup. Rodriguez has had command issues since returning from the disabled list in mid-July, but there are promising numbers from his last few starts. He has had swinging strike percentages of 13.7 percent, 8.2 percent and 13.1 percent. His first-pitch strike percentages of 59.3 percent, 77.8 percent and 64.0 percent compare favorably with his 60.5 percent season average. He also has been able to induce swings on pitches out of the strike zone with o-swing percentages of 30.4, 42.6 and 34.7 percent compared to his season average of 29.8 percent. He has also increased his slider and change-up usage in his last two starts at the expense of his fastballs. Without even considering effectiveness, this is a great sign for how his knee is feeling. He began throwing his cutter when he returned from the disabled list because he said that it put less pressure on his knee when he landed. Transitioning back to the slider is a good sign that he is feeling better and that we may be back to the Eduardo Rodriguez that we saw early in the season and at the end of last season. At a $6,700 price tag on DraftKings he is an excellent SP2 option.
Trea Turner faces Julio Teheran who, we know, is very good against right-handed hitters. Turner is an excellent GPP option, however, because most people know not to target right-handed hitters against Teheran. Turner is an exception because most of his upside comes from his ability to steal bases. Teheran is not good at all at holding runners and, whether Flowers or Suzuki is behind the plate, the Braves do not have a catcher good enough to control the running game on their own. Turner should be able to run at will in this matchup if he can get on base and he should be relatively low-owned.
Charlie Blackmon loses some shine whenever he is not in Coors Field but he gets the next best thing tonight as he travels to Arizona. Chase Field offers altitude and a spacious outfield that can translate into plenty of extra bases for the speedy Blackmon. On top of that, Taijuan Walker has been below average at holding baserunners throughout the last couple of seasons. Blackmon should have the green light if he reaches base. He, like Turner, will probably go somewhat overlooked since there are a lot of strong outfield options and he is not in Coors Field.
Brian Dozier will probably be the most popular player from this list as he faces Travis Wood. Wood has really struggled with right-handed power this season, allowing 1.57 home runs per nine innings. Dozier has a .257 ISO against lefties over the last 12 months and he has slightly higher hard contact percentages and flyball percentages over the last 15 days than his season averages.
Yonder Alonso is too cheap in his matchup against Miguel Gonzalez in Texas. Texas represents a massive ballpark boost for Alonso and Gonzalez has allowed 1.2 home runs per nine innings on 34.5 percent hard contact to lefties this season. Gonzalez’s flyball tendencies do not figure to play well in Arlington and Alonso has the power to take advantage.
Eric Thames has not had the monster season that he appeared he was in line for at the start of the season, but he still has power from the left side of the plate and will be facing Gerrit Cole in Miller Park. Thames has a .278 ISO against righties this season and his line drive percentage over the last 15 days is 12 percentage points higher than his season average which, often times, is a precursor to a home run outburst. Cole has allowed 1.74 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season (and 2.54 away from PNC Park).
Austin Jackson faces Matt Boyd who, despite having good stuff, has struggled with right-handed hitters this season allowing a .373 wOBA and 1.45 home runs per nine innings. Jackson has a .254 ISO against lefties over the last 12 months and will also get to face a terrible Detroit bullpen once Boyd is out of the game.
Cleveland Indians- As everyone probably knows by now, I am a bigger fan of Matt Boyd than most. That said, this is a really tough spot for him against a patient Cleveland team that does not strike out often. There is enough right-handed power in the lineup that can take advantage of Boyd and then the Tigers’ bullpen is likely to give up plenty of runs once Boyd is gone. Be careful with Jose Ramirez. Even if he starts, it is certainly possible that he is the first player to be removed as soon as the game gets out of hand as he deals with a wrist injury that forced him out of last night’s game.
Seattle Mariners/Texas Rangers- This is an interesting game as it is in one of the better hitting parks on the slate with two pitchers who have some potential but also are capable of getting blown up. Miguel Gonzalez is a flyball pitcher who does not get a lot of strikeouts, so Seattle has plenty of upside- especially the lefties. The Rangers are not very good against left-handed pitching but Marco Gonzales has struggled against hitters from both sides of the plate in his limited time in the majors this season. A full game stack is certainly in play here.
Milwaukee Brewers- Assuming the Brewers use a left-handed heavy lineup, they are a sneaky target against Gerrit Cole. As mentioned earlier, Cole has struggled with left-handed power this season (and throughout his career). Facing lefties in Miller Park is tougher than in PNC and there is also like to be plenty of speed in the Milwaukee lineup that can take advantage of Cole’s inability to hold baserunners.
Oakland Athletics- I mentioned earlier that I like Eduardo Rodriguez a lot tonight, and that is true. I will have a lot of Eduardo Rodriguez in my lineups. If you do not roster Rodriguez, however, the Athletics are one of the easiest paths to winning a tournament. They do not project to do well most nights against Rodriguez, but they do have plenty of power in their lineup and they get a park boost for right-handed power going from the Oakland Coliseum to Fenway Park. If the right-handed power in the Oakland lineup is able to get to Rodriguez, you will have a huge leg up on the field as Rodriguez figures to be the most popular SP2 option.