10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Friday, August 16th
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 16th.
1. At the tender age of 35, Charlie Morton is having perhaps his best season in his first year in Tampa, posting a career-high 30.5 percent strikeouts. If he can keep that above the 30 percent threshold, he’d be just the fifth pitcher aged 35 or above to do so in a season in MLB history, joining Randy Johnson (who did it five times after turning 35…no big deal), Nolan Ryan (who did it twice), Justin Verlander (twice), and Curt Schilling. Morton has four 10-strikeout games in his last eight starts dating back to July 2nd (and in fact, only Verlander has more with five), and it’s very possible he reaches double figures in punchouts again on Friday. Why? Because he’s fortunate enough to face the Tigers squad of anonymous “big-leaguers.” The Tigers’ projected lineup – Dawel Lugo, Victor Reyes, Harold Castro, Jake Rogers – reads more like a list of AI-generated video game players than a real MLB lineup. (But wait – there’s a special appearance by former “lefty masher” Jordy Mercer!) Against right-handed pitching, the Tigers rank 27th or worse in strikeout rate (25.9%, 29th), wOBA (.290, 29th), ISO (.150, 28th), wRC+ (78, 29th), walk rate (7.1%, 27th), swinging strike rate (12.8%, 30th)…so basically, if you name a stat that matters even a little bit, the Tigers rank near the bottom of the league in it. Although Justin Verlander is likelier to go deep into the game, I actually prefer Charlie Morton on Friday, primarily due to matchup.
2. Luis Castillo’s breakout has been largely fueled by his super elite changeup, a pitch that he throws nearly one-third of the time (32.8%, fourth-most among pitchers with 1,500 pitches) and that has resulted in a crazy 127 of his strikeouts. For context, no other pitcher has even reached 60 Ks on their changeup. It’s lucky for him that on Friday, he faces the Cardinals, whose .240 wOBA against right-handed changeups is second-worst in MLB this year. The game is being played in hitter-friendly Great American
Small Park, which would seem like a problem. Only it hasn’t been for Castillo; his 0.66 HR/9 at home is fifth-best among qualifiers. From a pure upside perspective, there’s no real case to be made for Castillo over Justin Verlander or Charlie Morton. But he does provide a bit of savings off those guys, and he’s in a sneaky good matchup given his pitch mix.
3. Since the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Brewers have a wRC+ of 69 against left-handed pitching; that’s worst in MLB. Just a few nights ago, Mike Minor torched them for 11 strikeouts over 8 shutout innings, and the last six lefty starters they’ve faced since August 1st have allowed a combined 6 earned runs, and they’ve averaged 27.7 percent strikeouts. Patrick Corbin is next in line, and he makes for an awesome low-owned GPP play, simply based on the Brewers’ reputation. Corbin has absolutely loved pitching in Nationals Park, as his 1.78 ERA attests; that mark ranks second in MLB only to Hyun-Jin Ryu (who is straight lapping the field with an asinine 0.81 home ERA).
4. Only two pitchers in MLB (min. 60 IP) have combined a 54 percent ground ball rate with 25 percent strikeouts this season. One is unsurprising: it’s the aforementioned Luis Castillo. The other pitcher is less obvious, and less expensive: it’s Adrian Houser of the Brewers (and it’s also interesting that Houser’s 3.82 SIERA this year is actually better than Castillo’s 3.96 mark). Houser’s strikeout and ground ball powers were on full display in his last start, a six-inning gem in which he struck out 10 and had 75 percent ground balls. Here’s the full list of players (min. 6 IP) who have posted 10+ strikeouts with 75 percent ground balls in a game this year: Castillo, Chris Sale, Aaron Nola, Stephen Strasburg, and Houser. His matchup with the Nationals is average at best; while the Nats only strike out 21.7 percent of the time, their .322 wOBA and .179 wOBA place them in the bottom half of MLB against right-handers. And while it’s always risky to place too much emphasis on one start (or in Houser’s case, 63 innings of mediocrity followed by six innings of brilliance), Houser is just $6,600 at DraftKings. With plenty of bats worth spending up for, he’s in the conversation as an SP2 at two-pitcher sites (he’s only $27 at Yahoo, as well, just $2 over the minimum).
5. Joe Musgrove has faced the Cubs three times since joining the Pirates, and he’s allowed a total of two earned runs. In fact, he’s the only player with an active streak of four starts against the Cubs with 1 or fewer earned run allowed. He’s posted 20+ DraftKings points in three of these games. Musgrove has been inconsistent as they come, but there is moderate strikeout upside here; his 11.7 percent swinging strike rate ranks 27th among qualifiers, among the likes of Jon Gray and Madison Bumgarner. Like Houser, there’s plenty of matchup-based risk in rostering him (which is why Vince Velasquez, in a more favorable matchup with the Padres, will likely be a more popular SP2 option). But Musgrove has fared just fine against the Cubs’ core: Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber are a combined 2-for-34 with nine strikeouts against Musgrove. The SP2 picture is an interesting one on Friday, and Musgrove is another name to consider.
6. Charlie Blackmon continues to amaze at Coors Field. If the season ended today, he’d be just the eighth player in history (min. 200 PA) to bat .400 and slug .800 in his home park in a season (and in fact, it’s such a rare feat that Barry Bonds only did it once in his career, and Babe Ruth only did it twice). Check out the list, pulled from the Play Index at Baseball Reference:
Blackmon should have no trouble putting bat to ball with authority against Marlins righty Sandy Alcantara, who is much more vulnerable to lefties like Blackmon (1.31 HR/9, 13.4% K rate) than righties (0.75 HR/9, 20.9% K rate). Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story will likely be more popular, but Blackmon with the platoon advantage is just as dangerous in this matchup.
7. The leader in hard-hit (95+ MPH) balls over the past calendar year is not only Rafael Devers; it’s Rafael Devers by a long shot. Devers has 200 batted balls hit that have exceeded 95 MPH, 19 more than second-place Mookie Betts (181). For reference, the 19 hard-hit balls that separate Devers from Betts is the same number that separates Betts (181) from Josh Bell (162), who ranks 10th on the list. There’s rarely a case for playing a third baseman besides Nolan Arenado on a Coors Day (and please…if you’re playing at Yahoo, just slot in Arenado at $18 and don’t look back. There are 13 third basemen more expensive than him. Lunacy.). But Devers, in a matchup with Orioles right-hander Aaron Brooks (.370 wOBA, 2.55 HR/9, 41.2% hard hits vs. LHBs in 2019), not to mention the Orioles’ historically bad collection of relievers, rivals Arenado for top overall third baseman of the slate.
8. Take a look at Aaron Judge’s HR/FB rate by month this year:
March/April – 35.7%
(Judge missed the month of May due to injury)
June – 33.3%
July – 30.8%
August – 9.1%
Judge’s career HR/FB rate is 31.1 percent, and yet in August, he’s homering on less than 10 percent of fly balls. He’s an obvious positive regression candidate, and currently, his price is drastically reduced across the industry ($3,800 at FD; $4,300 at DK; $15 at Yahoo). At these prices, you almost have no choice but to continue plugging Judge in, particularly in a matchup at home, where he’s posted a career .327 ISO (.215 on the road), 51.9 percent hard hits (43.5% on the road), and 182 wRC+ (113 on the road). Aaron Judge is not done hitting home runs, and you’ll want him on your roster once his fluky low HR/FB corrects itself.
9. Since 2018, only five players (min. 200 PA) have a .275 ISO and a .320 average against left-handed pitching: J.D. Martinez, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Ketel Marte (pretty big surprise in and of itself, but not the punchline), and … C.J. Cron. On Friday,Cron faces Rangers lefty Mike Minor on Friday. Minor, to be clear, has been very, very good against opposite-handed hitters, allowing just a .289 wOBA and fanning 25.2 percent of righties he faces. But Cron is priced to buy at just $3,700 at DraftKings, and if you want exposure to Coors Field (you probably do) and expensive pitching (you probably do), you’ve got to make sacrifices somewhere. Cron offers power upside, particularly given that he’ll be playing at hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in temperatures near 100 degrees, and he’s inexpensive. That may be enough.
10. Josh VanMeter is not only the King of Strangely-Lacking-in-Spaces Last Names; he’s also the King of Round Numbers, as he’s hitting a clean .300 with exactly 50 percent hard hits in precisely 100 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this year. There aren’t very many players hitting .300 on 50 percent hard hits: in fact, VanMeter joins only Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Freddie Freeman on the short list. Now, we’re obviously dealing with an incredibly small sample here. But we’re dealing with an incredibly small salary, as well, as VanMeter is cheap across the industry in a plus matchup against Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright (.362 wOBA allowed to LHBs in 2019). VanMeter should occupy a spot near the middle of the Reds’ order, and he’s a fantastic cash game salary saver.
Bonus Note (featuring a player who has been so bad I felt guilty including him as a part of the main article…):
11. There are 367 hitters who, since 2017, have 500 plate appearances. Over that span, Lewis Brinson’s wRC+ of 48 ranks…366th, ahead of only Jeff Mathis. His .239 wOBA also ranks 366th. The guy who was the centerpiece in the Christian Yelich deal has been an abomination in the majors both before and after arriving in Miami. I mean, his .239 on-base percentage since 2017 is worse than that of both Zack Greinke (.269) and Clayton Kershaw (.245). But here’s the thing: if you could get Greinke or Kershaw as a hitter for $2,200 at DraftKings in a Coors Field game, you might consider it, because it frees up salary to roster the guys you actually do want to pay American dollars to play. That’s the situation on Friday. Brinson faces a good, right-handed pitcher, and he strikes out an unsightly 31.9 percent of the time against righties for his career with an unsightlier wRC+ of 39. And yet, there he is, at $2,200…
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!
Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images