MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/30/17
The final weekend of the regular season is upon us and it is ugly. As always, this article is meant as an early look at the slate that will be enhanced by the Deeper Dive show in the afternoon. That is especially the case today as a lot depends on what lineups teams actually use as many try and get a look at their younger players. That said, be sure to tune into the Deeper Dive at 5:00 p.m. as EMac and myself do our best to further break down the slate once some of the lineups have been released.
Corey Kluber headlines the slate in a matchup at home against the Chicago White Sox as he looks to lock up the Cy Young award. Since returning from the disabled list in the beginning of June, Kluber has struck out 36.9 percent of hitters while pitching to a 2.17 xFIP, inducing 25.7 percent soft contact and allowing just 25.1 percent hard contact. The White Sox projected lineup has just three left-handed hitters and Kluber’s strikeout percentage against righties over that span climbs to 39.4 percent. He is a clear-cut top option on this slate.
Max Scherzer is right behind Kluber in terms of price and he, too, is in a great spot against a Pittsburgh Pirates team that was dominated by Stephen Strasburg last night. Scherzer has some of the most absurd numbers against right-handed hitters that we have ever seen as he has allowed a .191 wOBA while striking out 43.2 percent of right-handed hitters that he has faced this season. Like the White Sox, Pittsburgh’s projected lineup has just three left-handed hitters so we should see Scherzer have a dominant game in this matchup. The only drawback for Scherzer is that the Nationals have nothing to play for as they cannot improve their standing in the National League. Still, we saw Strasburg pitch 7 innings and throw just shy of 100 pitches last night so there is no reason not to expect a similar leash for Scherzer. His $12,500 price tag on DraftKings is actually a bit of a discount so we should not be concerned about him at all.
Jake Junis stands out as a strong mid-tier pitching option, especially in tournaments. He will face a Diamondbacks’ lineup that has some dangerous hitters but that is much more productive at home than on the road. Since August 24th, Junis has made seven starts. Over those seven starts, he has thrown his slider 35.4 percent of the time. This is important because he has a very good slider. Over that span, he has a 20.0 percent strikeout rate and 3.95 xFIP despite some very tough strikeout matchups in Cleveland twice, Minnesota, Toronto and the Yankees. From the start of the season until August 24th, Junis had an 18.2 percent strikeout rate and 5.45 xFIP. Junis’s slider has the 4th most horizontal movement of any starting pitcher who has thrown at least 200 sliders this season. The top 5 is Darvish, Chacin, Kluber, Junis and Clevinger, so he is in very good company. Away from the friendly confines of Chase Field this season, the Diamondbacks have struck out 24.1 percent of the time with a .301 wOBA and 81 wRC+. Junis has a higher ceiling in this matchup than people may realize by just looking at his game logs.
Mike Trout homered twice last night and gets another nice matchup tonight against Andrew Moore. Moore does not have overpowering stuff and relies on good command in order to be effective. If he misses his spots by a little bit, hitters can do a lot of damage. Moore has struck out just 14.0 percent of right-handed hitters while allowing 1.60 home runs per nine innings on 37.8 percent hard contact this season. Trout has the advantage in pretty much any matchup, but that is certainly the case tonight against Moore.
Giancarlo Stanton remains one home run shy of 60 and he has a couple more games to do it. Tonight, he will face right-hander Lucas Sims who has some potential but has had a bit of an issue with home runs since coming to the major leagues. Against right-handed hitters, Sims’ 38.3 percent flyball percentage is identical to his groundball percentage. He has allowed 1.95 home runs per nine innings to righties and struck out just 18.9 percent. While Miami is a more favorable ballpark for pitchers than Sims’ home field in Atlanta, it does not matter all that much for Stanton since his home runs go so far. A flyball pitcher who does not get a lot of swings and misses is a good matchup for Stanton.
Joey Gallo let me down in a big way last night but I am not going to shy away tonight against Daniel Gossett in Texas at a very low price tag across the industry. The price tag is warranted if you look at his recent results as he is clearly not hitting well, but now that the price is down there is massive upside to rostering him- especially against someone like Gossett who has struck out just 13.6 percent of lefties this season (yes, I know I said the same thing about Alcantara last night). He will once again be a mainstay in my lineups.
Chris Taylor may be a sneaky play tonight as he is probable to return from an ankle injury he sustained a couple of days ago. Taylor is too cheap for a game in Coors Field, especially against German Marquez who, while he is a quality pitcher, has allowed 2.0 home runs per nine innings to righties this season and 2.20 to righties in Coors Field. Taylor has gotten a bit of a reputation as a lefty-masher but his ISO against righties is actually higher than against lefties this season at .219. If he is back atop the Dodgers’ lineup it is a great spot to roster him at lower ownership than we normally get on a $3900 power hitter leading off in Coors Field.
Texas Rangers- I would like to go back to the well one more time on this Rangers’ team that has let me down relentlessly over the last month. They face another right-hander that will pitch to contact tonight in Texas. The ballpark is not as much of a benefit this time of year as it is in the summer, but it is still not a bad place to hit. I refuse to believe that these guys are just no longer capable of hitting baseballs and, instead, I want to load up at them at their reduced price tags. Most of the Texas stack (excluding Gallo) was 5-8 percent owned last night despite their phenomenal spot. Assuming we get them at similar ownership after they sucked again last night, that is just a play that you have to continue to make in tournaments.
Cleveland Indians- The Indians always have as much upside as anyone, especially as a full stack. They lack some of the huge power upside in the middle of their lineup that other teams have but they are able to put together plenty of doubles and some stolen bases so they still do very well as a stack. Carson Fulmer is a talented prospect but still has room to improve and these Indians’ hitters are tough outs for anyone. Add in a bad bullpen behind Fulmer and it is a nice spot for Cleveland.