10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Friday, April 19th
Welcome to 10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful Notes! In this column, I’ll work to uncover some interesting bits of information that might shed some light on players from that day’s slate of MLB games. This is not a picks column, nor is it a “fun facts” article – it’s something in between.
I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it helps you think about today’s MLB plays in a new way as you build your DFS lineups. Here are 10 Notes for Friday, April 19th.
1. Jose Berrios is throwing his curveball 38.9 percent of the time, up 8.5 percentage points off last year’s 30.4 percent usage; that’s the second-largest increase of any pitcher in MLB. It’s a formula that has yielded positive results, with the Twins ace inching his strikeouts closer to elite territory (27.5%, up from 25.6% last year) and throwing four straight quality starts to open the season. On Friday, he’ll be pitching in Camden Yards, not an ideal pitcher’s environment. Even so, Berrios should do work against a lineup that includes such luminaries as Rio Ruiz, Renato Nunez, and of course, Chris Davis. It’s a bit jarring to see Berrios priced above Justin Verlander, but their projections are closer than you might think, and the Rangers have a shockingly high implied total of 4.02 runs. “Verlander or Berrios” is one of the biggest questions to answer for today’s slate.
2. Madison Bumgarner must have chatted with somebody from the Astros, because suddenly, he’s getting much more spin on his pitches. Check it out:
It’s still not totally clear how well spin correlates with strikeouts, Bumgarner’s adjustments seem to be improving both his Ks and swings and misses, even if only incrementally. His strikeouts are up to 22.6 percent this season (from 19.8 percent in 2018), and his swinging-strike rate is also closer to league average at 10.6 percent (up from 9.2 percent last season). Bumgarner’s matchup on Friday is sneaky good; while we’re obviously dealing with a small sample, the Pirates have an uncharacteristic 30.2 percent strikeout rate against lefties this year, second-highest in MLB. Pittsburgh has long been a high-contact, low-strikeout offense, but they’ve struck out 7, 11, and 11 times against the last three left-handed starters they’ve faced (Matthew Boyd, Patrick Corbin, Jose Quintana). Bumgarner realistically has a shot at eight or more strikeouts in this matchup, which makes him a fantastic tournament play.
3. Carlos Rodon is one of just three pitchers in MLB with four games of 100+ pitches this year (Lance Lynn, Trevor Bauer). In an age when starters get the hook faster than ever, the White Sox continue to give Rodon a long leash, which mitigates Rodon’s tendency to issue walks. The walk issue is always looming, but apart from one start where he walked five batters, Rodon has kept it in check this year. It also won’t hurt that his opponent, the Tigers, reach outside the strike zone 34.8 percent of the time, the most of any team in MLB. At his elevated price tag, Rodon is a tough sell for cash games, but outside of Verlander and Berrios, he seems like the next-best candidate to lead the slate in strikeouts. He’s one of the slate’s top tournament options.
4. It’s time for another Marcus Stroman Slider Watch. For some reason, Stroman fascinates me this year, as he’s keeping his ability to generate grounders while obviously trying to become more of a strikeout pitcher by relying more on his breaking stuff. So far this year, Stroman is throwing his slider 37 percent of the time this year; that’s 10th-most in MLB (min. 200 pitches). If the season ended today (it doesn’t…it’s still April, but just go with it), Stroman would be one of only two pitchers in the last three seasons to pair a 24 percent strikeout rate with a 56 percent ground ball rate (Lance McCullers, 2017). The Athletics don’t represent a great matchup, but at just $7,500 at DraftKings, it’s pretty much baked into Stroman’s price. He’s in the conversation for SP2 at two-pitcher sites.
5. Charlie Blackmon has been a major-leaguer for nine seasons. He’s batted .300 or better at home against right-handed pitchers in…eight of those seasons. And he batted .290 in the other season. Some of those seasons are in small samples, and batting average isn’t a stat we typically use in DFS, for good reason. But it does speak to how consistently great Blackmon has been in his home confines. At DraftKings, there are eight hitters priced at or above Blackmon’s $5,000 price tag, which means fitting him in cash games is not only possible, but fairly easy. At just $3,500 at FanDuel, he’s close to an autoplay. With the platoon edge in a matchup against Vince Velasquez (career .346 wOBA, 1.41 HR/9 against LHBs), Blackmon is a top priority bat for cash games.
6. Cody Bellinger still has a few months before his 24th birthday, and he already finds himself on a list of just 15 players in MLB history with 73 home runs, 27 steals, and a .274 average before the age of 24. Here’s the full list, per Baseball Reference:
Milwaukee right-hander Jhoulys Chacin has been vulnerable to lefties for years, and 2019 has been no different: he’s struck out just four lefties while allowing three home runs against them. Over a larger sample dating back to 2017, Chacin is just one of five pitchers (min. 100 IP) with a .338 wOBA allowed a sub-15.5 percent strikeout rate against left-handed batters (Luis Perdomo, Chris Stratton, Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova). With a positive park shift to Miller Park, Bellinger could easily do damage, and his elevated price tag could suppress ownership somewhat. He’s very intriguing for tournaments.
7. Marcell Ozuna has been unreal over the past few weeks, blasting eight home runs in his last 10 games. It’s the most homers he’s ever hit over a 10-game span. Take a look:
Now, is that alone a good reason to roster him on Friday? Maybe not. Hot streaks end. Home runs ebb and flow. Lines on a graph can only rise so high. But here’s the thing: Ozuna is in a near-perfect matchup witht he platoon advantage against Mets lefty Jason Vargas. Ozuna has crushed lefties throughout his career (131 wRC+), and Jason Vargas is…terrible. Of the 150 pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched against righties since 2018, Vargas’s 6.57 ERA is third-worst; his 2.03 HR/9 is fifth-worst; his .374 wOBA allowed is seventh-worst. Ozuna should tee off in this matchup.
8. Eddie Rosario has 57 homers and a sub-18.0% strikeout rate since 2017; that power-contact combo is rarer than you might think, as he’s one of only eight players in MLB to post that combo, and he’s in elite company (Anthony Rizzo, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, Mookie Betts). Quietly, Rosario just keeps improving himself as a hitter, and as a member of maybe one of the least exciting teams in baseball (sorry, Twins fans), he’s rarely chalk. He faces Orioles righty Alex Cobb on Friday, and he gets a great park bump, as he’ll be taking hacks at Camden Yards. He’s an excellent one-off to differentiate your hitters at the high end.
9. Only three hitters (min. 1000 PA) have a .285 average and 43 percent hard hits since 2016: J.D. Martinez, Paul Goldschmidt, and … Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos is an underrated hitter who, on Friday, finds himself with the platoon advantage against left-hander Carlos Rodon. Full disclosure: I love Rodon today. But the asking price of $3,900 at DraftKings and $2,700 at FanDuel is simply too cheap for a hitter of Castellanos’s caliber, and Rodon has been notably worse against righties throughout his career (.327 wOBA and 1.15 HR/9 for his career, compared to .288 and .076 against lefties). There’s a chance Rodon brings his best stuff and Castellanos strikes out multiple times, which makes him a better tournament play. But you’ll need to save money somewhere, and Castellanos represents solid value.
10. I was skeptical of Adalberto Mondesi at the beginning of the season. I’m becoming less skeptical by the day. Here’s why:
— He has 10 barrels in 2019. That’s tied for seventh-most in MLB.
— 17.9 percent of his batted balls have resulted in barrels. That number ranks just head of Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcell Ozuna.
— He’s already recorded 22 hard-hit balls (95+ mph). That’s the same number as Khris Davis and Ronald Acuna. It’s also just two fewer than the 24 hard-hit balls Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion have combined.
Of course these quality of contact numbers will regress somewhat as the season goes on. But this is not a speedy slap hitter without any real power. Couple that with his ability to produce on the base paths (he’s got five steals already), and it’s clear why he’s one of the highest-priced shorstops on any slate. Here’s why I love him on Friday, though: nobody is going to play him. At DraftKings, he’s priced just below Trevor Story and just ahead of Alex Bregman, two players who should draw higher ownership. At FanDuel, Mondesi is actually a bargain at just $3,700. With a ballpark boost in Yankee Stadium, Mondesi has all kinds of upside for tournaments.
Thanks for reading! Stats from this article were pulled from RotoGrinders’ PlateIQ tool, FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball, and Baseball Reference.
Check back for more “10 Notes” MLB articles every Tuesday and Friday throughout the year, and feel free to leave a question or comment down below!