MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/21/17
Carlos Martinez is the most expensive pitching option tonight on a slate that does not have much to like at the position. He has a dangerous matchup against the Reds in Cincinnati. Martinez is worse against lefties than righties and those struggles have been amplified when he is on the road this season. He has allowed 1.76 home runs per nine innings to lefties on the road this season with a 21.9 percent strikeout percentage and 13.5 percent walk percentage. The Reds’ projected lineup has five lefties in it- four of which are competent with a bat in their hands (sorry Tucker Barnhart). In two starts against Cincinnati this season, Martinez has not had a ton of success. On April 9th, Martinez went 5 innings and allowed 5 earned runs with 3 strikeouts, a 5.6 percent swinging strike percentage and a 25.0 percent o-swing percentage. On June 5th, Martinez went 6 innings and allowed 4 earned runs with 8 strikeouts, a 7.3 percent swinging strike percentage and a 19.6 percent o-swing percentage. There is merit to considering Martinez since this slate does not offer much in the way of pitching, but I think there is more risk than reward in this matchup and will likely be looking elsewhere.
Dallas Keuchel has a much friendlier matchup than Martinez as he faces the Chicago White Sox at home in Houston. While we usually tend to shy away from paying up for Keuchel because of his lack of strikeout upside, he is certainly in consideration on this slate because of his high floor. Most of the White Sox lineup will be right-handed and Keuchel has struck out just 17.8 percent of right-handed hitters this season. At home, he has struck out 19.8 percent of righties. He has also induced over 69 percent groundballs against righties at home, however, with a higher percentage of soft contact than hard contact. Strikeouts are king in DFS but, on a slate like this where there are not any high upside matchups that we can be confident in, it is a good idea to turn to Keuchel who offers the ability to limit damage. It is worth noting that the Astros have already clinched their division and there is no reason for them to push Keuchel deep into this game, which further limits his ceiling.
J.A. Happ has been up-and-down this season and will face a Kansas City team tonight that exploded for 15 runs last night. It will be tough for Happ to pile up strikeouts in this matchup as the Royals as a team are very good at putting the ball in play. The pitchers who have the most strikeout success against Kansas City are pitchers who work out of the strike zone and have good enough stuff that they induce a lot of swings and misses when hitters chase out of the zone. Kansas City is a very aggressive team, they are just good at making contact with pitches out of the zone. Happ has an above average o-swing percentage, which means that he gets plenty of swings at pitches out of the strike zone. His 73.1 percent o-contact percentage is high, however, so the most likely outcome is that the Royals chase pitches out of the zone but they are able to make contact with them. This limits Happ’s strikeout upside. It is not all bad, however, as contact on pitches out of the strike zone is more likely to be weak contact than contact on pitches in the zone. On an ugly slate, Happ is a viable option because 6 or 7 innings with 4 or 5 strikeouts is more than acceptable at his price tag as long as he limits the runs against him.
Adalberto Mejia faces the Tigers in Detroit. Mejia has held his own against right-handed hitters this season, allowing just 1.09 home runs per nine innings while striking out 18.0 percent. He is a flyball pitcher, but that should not hurt him in Comerica Park. While his numbers against righties are not worth getting excited over, he is only $5,400 on DraftKings. As mentioned several times already, there really is not much pitching to get excited about on this slate so taking the savings and hoping for a quality start with a handful of strikeouts from Mejia is not a bad idea.
Matt Carpenter led off last night’s game with a home run and he is in a good spot again tonight against Homer Bailey in Great American Ballpark. Bailey has struck out just 15.2 percent of lefties this season and Carpenter’s flyball percentage is up 16 percent from his season average over the last 15 days. Hard hit flyballs in Cincinnati often turn in to home runs and Carpenter is very affordable.
Nick Castellanos has been fantastic against left-handed pitchers, posting a .403 wOBA and .328 ISO against southpaws over the last 12 months. I mentioned earlier that Mejia holds his own against righties, which is true, but Castellanos has the advantage in any matchup against a league-average lefty.
Manny Machado is questionable to play tonight after missing last night’s game with an illness. If he does crack the lineup, he will be one of many Orioles’ righties that are in a good spot against Matt Andriese. Andriese has struck out just 18.1 percent of righties this season while allowing 2.29 home runs per nine innings and 39.4 percent hard contact. Machado is the best hitter on the Orioles and, while the illness is reason to be concerned, we should assume he is good to go if he is in the lineup.
Lucas Duda is just $3,700 on DraftKings and faces Gabriel Ynoa in what is, essentially, a bullpen game for the Baltimore Orioles. In a very limited sample size, Ynoa has struck out just over 13 percent of lefties with 1.54 home runs per nine innings this season. More importantly, Duda has massive power against right-handed pitching and gets a ballpark boost as he hits in Camden Yards with the short porch in right field. Roster Duda with confidence, especially because he is likely to be available at lower ownership than he should be since he plays the same position as Matt Carpenter.
Max Kepler is the most affordable member of the Twins lineup in a matchup against Jordan Zimmermann in his return from the disabled list. Zimmermann went from awful early in the season to mediocre over the middle stages, but we should not expect him to be at the top of his game coming back from the disabled list with no minor league teams available to rehab with. Overall this season, he has struck out 15.6 percent of lefties while allowing 1.82 home runs per nine innings. Furthermore, we do not know how long Zimmermann will be allowed to pitch even if he is pitching well. This has the makings of a game where the Twins’ hitters get plenty of at-bats against the bullpen.
Hunter Renfroe came through for us in a big way last night and he gets to face another lefty against tonight in Tyler Anderson. Anderson is a competent pitcher, but he is not as good as Patrick Corbin or Robbie Ray- the other lefties that Renfroe faced recently. He homered twice off Ray last night (and just got under a high flyball to center field in his first at-bat). The big different for Renfroe against lefties is that his strike out percentage is close to half of what it is against righties. He is a very powerful hitter and his flaw is his ability to make contact. He does that much better against lefties than righties. Anderson is not bad, but he has allowed 1.84 home runs per nine innings against righties outside of Coors Field so far in his career. Renfroe is way too cheap because is salary is derived from his average performances (which includes a lot of at-bats against righties). He is a top play on the slate.
Minnesota Twins- As mentioned earlier, Zimmermann is a huge question mark in his return from the disabled list and the Tigers bullpen behind him is one of the worst in baseball against hitters from either side of the plate. The Twins’ projected lineup has 7 left-handed hitters so this is a lineup that we would expect Zimmermann to struggle against even if he were not returning from the disabled list. While Comerica Park diminishes power, this has the potential to be a game where the Twins string together multiple big innings.
St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals have power up and down their lineup and they get a positive park shift as they play in Cincinnati. Homer Bailey shows flashes of upside at times but still struggles with his command which leads to too many pitches in the middle of the plate and a lot of home runs for opponents. While the Cardinals are mostly right-handed, they all hit righties for a lot of power and this is a team that can be stacked many different ways as the hitters at the bottom of the order usually have plenty of power as well.
Houston Astros- Houston faces Carson Fulmer who struggled in the minors this season and has been less than impressive so far in the major leagues, allowing 2.0 home runs per nine innings and pitching to a 6.01 xFIP in his first 18 innings. The Astros have upside throughout their lineup and, like the Twins, they will face a weak Chicago bullpen once they get Fulmer out of the game.
Baltimore Orioles- It remains to be seen what the Orioles lineup looks like as Machado missed yesterday’s game with an illness and Beckham missed the game after having a wisdom tooth removed. If they are back, this lineup becomes very dangerous against Matt Andriese. Andriese does not have an out pitch against righties and as a result gives up a lot of hard contact and home runs. The Orioles have a lot of right-handed power in their lineup and could take advantage of Andriese if they are at full strength. It is also relatively warm in Baltimore today so we could see the ball carry.