10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Friday, August 10th
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, August 10th.
Friday, August 10th
1. In his last start, Gerrit Cole notched his 17th eight-strikeout game of the season, tied with Max Scherzer for second-most in MLB behind only Chris Sale. For context, Cole had 20 games of 8+ strikeouts in 2016 and 2017 combined. However, Cole’s newfound strikeout abilities have obscured the fact that in 2018, he also has a career-high in walks (8.5%), fly ball rate (43.0%), and hard hits (33.5%). What this says is that while a Verlander-like implosion may not be likely, there is a very good chance Cole gives up some runs in this one. Also worth noting is that Cole has faced this same Mariners team already this year and posted good-not-great numbers (5 strikeouts and 25.6 DK points on April 18th, 8 strikeouts and 22.8 DK points on July 30th). Another eight-strikeout outing would certainly be fine for cash games, but we’re at a point in the season where a top starter is getting rocked nearly every night, so given his hefty $12,500 price tag at DraftKings, there’s nothing wrong with fading Cole in tournaments and save a little cash for bats.
2. Starting pitchers have recorded 10+ strikeouts in an MLB-high 12 games against the Texas Rangers. And in addition to the obvious guys who have done it (Cole, Morton, Verlander, Bauer), the Rangers have also been punched out 10+ times by immortals like Jason Hammell, Jordan Zimmermann, and Zack Godley. Given some of the power bats in Texas’s lineup, Masahiro Tanaka may give up a home run on Friday. He may give up two home runs on Friday. Hell – he may give up two home runs just to Joey Gallo. But even if he does, this is an elite control pitcher (6.3 BB% on the year) who is really finding his groove since returning from the DL, with 26 strikeouts and just one earned run over his last three games. Given the Rangers’ free-swinging approach, Tanaka could come close to, or even surpass, Cole’s strikeout total, and at significant savings.
3. Only 4.5 percent of the hits against Zack Wheeler has allowed have resulted in extra bases this year; that’s tied with Miles Mikolas for the lowest rate in MLB. It makes sense, as Wheeler’s 25.0 percent soft contact rate is third-best in baseball behind only Sale and deGrom. The Marlins have developed the reputation as a pesky team, but with seven and nine strikeouts against two contact-heavy teams (Braves, Pirates) in his last two, Wheeler has shown he can possesses some sneaky K upside. And sure, two games is two games, but even looking further back, Wheeler he has upped the strikeouts overall recently. Since June 17th, he’s posted a 26.8 percent strikeout rate, a mark that, if you squint, looks a lot like teammate Jacob deGrom’s 27.9 percent rate over that same span. Wheeler is priced up into tournament-only territory at DraftKings ($10,100), but given his ability to generate weak contact, his increasing strikeouts, and the positive matchup (Marlins rank 27th in wOBA and dead last in ISO against RHPs), Wheeler is super interesting for tournaments.
4. Speaking of soft contact, Zach Eflin’s 28.4 percent against righties is second-best in MLB, trailing only Wheeler. That’s important, as he could face up to six right-handers in the Padres lineup, with a few non-threatening lefties (Hosmer, Galvis, Spangenberg) sprinkled in. Of course, I’m burying the lede – the Padres are as whiff-happy as they come against righties, tying the White Sox with the highest strikeout rate in MLB against right-handed pitching (25.7%). At $8,500, Eflin is priced in a mid-range that could go a bit underowned given the presence of true minimum-priced pitcher in a great matchup (the Pirates’ Clay Holmes is just $4,000 in AT&T Park against the Giants).
5. Okay, let’s play Blind Resume. Below, you’ll see a few 2018 DFS-relevant stats for two pitchers, one of whom is pitching on today’s slate. Let’s take a look:
|Stat||Pitcher A||Pitcher B|
Okay, so there’s a lot to get to here. First, let’s look at the similarities. Both of these pitchers get above average strikeouts and show elite control with identical 1.74 BB/9 marks (league average this year is 3.26). Pitcher B actually has been a bit better at keeping the ball in the park. Both allow a bit too much hard contact, as well.
And that’s where the similarities stop. Pitcher B, it seems, has really been a victim of bad luck, with a high BABIP and strand rate leading to a bloated 4.58 ERA. The SIERA tells a different story, that these pitchers have been nearly identical this year from a skills perspective.
If you’re still reading (sorry – long explanation there), you might be surprised to know that Pitcher A is Zack Greinke, widely regarded as a top-10(ish) pitcher in MLB, while pitcher B is Shane Bieber, widely regarded as one of Justin Bieber’s long-lost relatives prior to this year. On Friday, Bieber looks to correct his surface numbers, as he finds himself in an excellent matchup against the White Sox. The South Siders are tied with the Padres for the highest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching in MLB at 25.7 percent. And while Bieber is priced up to the point that he doesn’t make sense for cash games, he does possess plenty of tournament upside in this matchup.
6. We’ll keep this one short. Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson have absolutely crushed in Coors Field. Since 2014 (the year of Joc’s debut), Pederson has a .341 ISO in the park, second-best of any hitter with 100 plate appearances (and he may be first once yesterday’s home run is factored in). Kemp isn’t too far behind, with a .308 mark that ranks sixth; his 1.091 OPS is third-best in the park over that stretch, as well. Yes, Jon Gray appears to have turned things around, which means that Dodgers bats may not be high-priority spends on this slate. But Gray has shown, just as many pitchers have, that Coors Field is the great equalizer. If Pederson, Kemp, and other Dodgers bats go underowned because of Gray’s recent turnaround, a Dodgers stack is very appealing for tournaments.
7. Since 2014, only four players have posted four seasons of a .300+ batting average against right-handed pitching (min. 250 PA): Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Jose Altuve, and … David Peralta. Peralta has continued mashing righties this year, and he’s been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break, slashing .426/.451/.676. On Wednesday, he recorded his fourth game of 4+ hits since the All-Stark break; no other player has more than two over that span. Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani has been punished by lefties throughout his career, and this year is no different, as evidenced by his .410 wOBA and 43.8 percent hard hits allowed to lefty bats. DeSclafani’s 45.7 percent fly ball rate against opposite-handed hitters means Peralta shouldn’t have any trouble elevating pitches, which could mean a big game in power-friendly Great American Ball Park. With a hefty $5,500 at DraftKings, Peralta may not be the best point-per-dollar play on the day, he’s got a 71.87 PlateIQ rating, best of any hitter on the slate, and he (and the rest of the D-backs) should go somewhat underowned. This makes him super interesting as a tournament one-off or as part of a D-backs stack.
8. In 915 career at-bats against lefties, Giancarlo Stanton has a career .340 ISO. This year, the league average ISO against lefties is this year is .162. This means that Stanton would need to go exactly 1,000 at-bats without a home run against lefties to fall down to a .162 ISO, this year’s league average. So, maybe that’s just an overly complicated way of showing something we already know: Giancarlo Stanton is the lefty masher of all lefty mashers (I can almost feel Carty cringing through my computer screen). Against Mike Minor, who allows 40.4 percent hard hits and 45.4 percent fly balls to righty bats (seventh-highest in MLB among qualifiers), Stanton feels to cheap at just $5,100. He’s clearly the best homer bet of the day, and he’s arguably the best high-end bat to spend up for in cash games.
9. Since July 14th, the Detroit Tigers have 14 home runs; since July 14th, Matt Carpenter has 14 home runs. This version of Carpenter hits a home run seemingly every day, and as if his recent hot stretch isn’t enough, he finds himself in one of the premiere matchups on the slate against Royals right-hander Burch Smith, who is helpless against lefties with a .394 wOBA and 40.9 percent hard hits allowed to them this year. And if that’s not enough, once Smith is out of the game, Carpenter will take his hacks against a Royals bullpen that has an MLB-low 17.7 percent strikeout rate and a 4.49 SIERA, also worst in MLB. Like Peralta, Carpenter may see suppressed ownership simply because his price tag is so high. If that’s the case, he’s one of the best tournament plays on the slate.
10. Since July 1st, Mike Moustakas has a .200 BABIP on 43 percent hard hits; the only other player in MLB (min. 100 PA) is Chris Davis. It’s never a great thing to be included in a stat with Chris Davis, but we all know Moustakas is a better overall hitter than Chris Davis. The point is Moustakas has been the victim of some bad luck, plus a bad ballpark for lefty power (Kauffman Stadium), and we’re already seeing his fortunes change in Milwaukee, with homers in back-to-back home games at Miller Park (not counting last night’s game, when he went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter). Moustakas is in an excellent matchup for homers against Braves righty Kevin Gausman, whose 1.47 HR/9 is 11th-highest in MLB. Reasonably priced at $4,500 at DraftKings, Moustakas makes for an excellent tournament play if you’re home run hunting.
Thanks for reading! Stats from this article were pulled from RotoGrinders’ PlateIQ tool, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Reference.
Check back for more “10 Notes” MLB articles every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year, and feel free to drop a comment below if you want to leave any feedback or keep the discussion going!