10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Friday, August 31st
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 31st.
Friday, August 31st
1. Over his last 16 starts dating back to June 1st, Zack Wheeler has allowed more than 30 percent hard contact … twice. That’s incredible. But just for some added context, let’s compare him to another pitcher. Let’s say, I don’t know … Homer Bailey, who has allowed more than 30 percent hard hits in 15 of his last 16 starts. What that tells us (besides the coldest of cold takes that Zack Wheeler is better than Homer Bailey) is that Wheeler has consistently been able to limit the damage. On Friday, he’ll be throwing in AT&T Park, one of the premiere pitcher’s parks in MLB, and he’ll be taking on the Giants, who, as a team, have hit barely more home runs than Christian Yelich in the month of August (an MLB-low 14 to Yelich’s 11). Barring some horrible BABIP luck, there’s almost no way Wheeler doesn’t post at least a solid outing on Friday. On a slate without a must-have ace in the upper tier, that’s enough to make him my preferred cash game SP1.
2. Before the All-Star break, Luis Severino reached six innings in 14 of 20 starts (70 percent); after the All-Star break, he’s made it to six innings just once in seven starts (14.3 percent). It hasn’t been an issue of a short leash with Severino; he’s thrown at least 95 pitches in every start since the break. He’s just become less and less efficient with his pitches, which is limiting his ability to go deep into games. Now, as a massive -325 favorite (at time of writing) in a cupcake matchup against the Tigers, owners of the MLB’s worst wOBA (.288) and wRC+ (78) against righties, Severino is in an excellent spot for one of his vintage eight-inning, 10-strikeout performances (and it’s worth noting that he had exactly that line against Detroit earlier this year). However, given his recent bout of inefficiency, he absolutely can be faded in tournaments at a relatively high $11,300 price at DraftKings.
3. No pitcher in MLB has seen a steeper drop off in strikeouts from 2017 to 2018 than Corey Kluber, whose K rate dipped 34.1 percent in 2017 (third-best in MLB, just a shade below Scherzer at 34.4%) to 20th at 24.6 percent (just a shade below German Marquez at 25.1%). With each passing start, 2017 is looking more and more like a complete outlier year for Kluber. Check out his DraftKings points per game by year since 2014:
2014 – 24.0
2015 – 22.4
2016 – 22.9
2017 – 30.0
2018 – 22.1
Despite the perception that he is having a “down” year, Kluber is right in line with his career norms prior to 2017. So maybe Kluber isn’t the Scherzer or Sale ace we thought he was. But he’s still a guy with a 2.91 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, a combo matched only by Scherzer, Sale, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and Aaron Nola. This is still a very good pitcher, and we no longer have to pay top dollar for him ($10,300 at DraftKings). On Friday, Kluber is at home, where strangely, he’s been better at racking up strikeouts at home (27.1% K rate at home; 22.3% on the road this year). At a $1,000 discount off of Severino, Kluber is a high-upside arm to have exposure to in tournaments.
4. Andrew Suarez is one of just two pitchers (min. 40 IP) with a .291 wOBA and ground ball rate better than 55 percent at home; the other player is Lance McCullers. Suarez is not a top-of-the-rotation arm, but he does pitch in ideal park, and he does limit the damage by keeping the ball on the ground. Ranking 29th in wOBA (.287), 28th in ISO (.128), and 28th in wRC+ (80) against lefties (not to mention having a 24.5 percent strikeout rate that is second-highest in MLB), the Mets represent a best-case-scenario matchup for Suarez. I wish he were a bit cheaper, as $7,800 doesn’t allow much upside, but Suarez, like Wheeler, is in a spot where he should have no trouble posting a quality outing. I’m not even opposed to using a Wheeler/Suarez combo in cash games and hoping for a low-scoring pitcher’s duel.
5. Since June 27th (11 starts), Mike Fiers has posted an astonishing 1.79 ERA; that’s his lowest over any 11-game stretch since 2012. Take a look:
But there’s a reason DFS players tend to look dubiously upon traditional stats like ERA. A quick peek below the surface says that Fiers has been lucky and is due for some regression. Over that same stretch, Fiers’ 94.2 percent left-on-base rate is the highest in MLB (min. 40 IP), his .251 BABIP is well off his .291 career mark, and he’s got a dangerously high 40.3 percent hard-hit rate. To be clear, Fiers isn’t a total gas can; his 3.40 FIP says that even with the good fortune stripped away, he’s still pitched well over this recent stretch. But I’m just not interested in paying $9,600 for a regression-bound pitcher with a below league average strikeout rate of 19.6 percent.
6. This year, Homer Bailey has allowed left-handed hitters to slash .302/.360/.577 against him; to illustrate how utterly terrible that is, consider that the only three qualified hitters in MLB with that slash line are Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez. The Cardinals don’t have too many left-handed bats to take advantage of Bailey (although, let’s be honest – Bailey’s .365 wOBA allowed to RHBs says he’s pretty platoon-agnostic). But they do have one lefty, a guy by the name of Matt Carpenter, who, if his current .302 ISO holds, could be the first Cardinals hitter with a .300+ ISO since Albert Pujols in 2009. Carpenter is pricey, but he’s a great bet to go yard on Friday.
7. Only three players in MLB are members of the illustrious 47/47 club (47% hard hits, 47% fly balls…it hasn’t caught on yet, but don’t worry – it’ll get there): Joey Gallo, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Olson. For this note, we’re concerned with Olson, who’s simply too cheap at $3,900 at DraftKings in a matchup with Mike Leake. Typically, we want to avoid boom-or-bust hitters like Gallo and Olson in cash games, because oftentimes they simply don’t make enough contact to unleash the damage they’re capable of. When the opposing pitcher is Mike Leake, however, who owns an 11.9 percent K rate against lefties (ranked 96th of 98 qualifiers), Olson becomes much more viable, especially given his price tag. As always, Olson could go 0-for-5 with a few punchouts, but the risk is mitigated given the matchup.
8. Since 2017, Tyler Glasnow has allowed 31 steals, tied for fourth-most in MLB. Let’s compare his IP to the players tied with him or ahead of him on the list:
Outside of Steven Matz, all of these guys needed over 300 innings to allow roughly the same number of steals as Glasnow in only 141 2/3 innings. That’s just impressive. Given the positive hitter’s environment in Globe Life Park and the stolen base upside, a mini-stack of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez holds a lot of appeal (and if you’re feeling really frisky, you could even throw in Greg Allen for the wrap-around stack, assuming he’s in the 9 spot in Cleveland’s order).
9. If you’re looking for a sneaky tournament play, consider this: Jose Quintana throws the eighth-most curveballs in MLB (24.6%), and Maikel Franco has the third-best wOBA (.457) against the pitch since 2017 (min. 50 PA). It’s a very small sample, and Franco has certainly had his ups and downs as a big-leaguer. But given his affordable $3,900 tag and what he’s shown about one of Quintana’s preferred pitches, he’s worth considering as a one-off if you’re trying to be different in large-field tournaments.
10. Giancarlo Stanton has hit 65 balls at 110 miles per hour or greater this season; that’s most in MLB and 21 more than second-place Nelson Cruz (44). That’s the same number of 110-MPH hits as Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, and Manny Machado combined. Stanton is an absolute freak, and on Thursday, he hit his much-publicized 300th home run, becoming the fifth-fastest player to reach that milestone. On Friday, Stanton’s in another great home run spot against Tiger’s right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, whose 45.8 percent fly balls allowed to righties means Stanton should have no trouble elevating one into the Yankee Stadium seats. And for whatever reason, Stanton continues to be just a bit too cheap at DraftKings at just $5,000. If you can afford him, he’s an elite play in all formats.
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!