10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Friday, July 12th
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, July 12th.
1. Last year, Gerrit Cole had 12 games of 9+ strikeouts all season; this year, he’s matched that number of 9-strikeout games before the All-Star break. (And, if you want to go back even further, he only had 11 such games during his entire five-year tenure with the Pirates). Even after electrifying in his debut season in Houston in 2018, Cole has summoned his inner Nigel Tufnel and turned the strikeouts up to 11 for that extra push over the cliff this season. Cole is the only true ace on Friday’s slate, which means he’s probably worth paying up for, even though he’ll be pitching in favorable hitting conditions in Texas. There is risk here: Cole got shelled to the tune of eight earned runs allowed the last time he faced the Rangers. But the Rangers strike out at a high 24.8 percent clip against right-handed pitchers this season, which means another high-strikeout game could be in the offing for Cole. His upside, which is pretty close to unparalleled since he’s unlocked his strikeouts in Houston, makes him the top option as an SP1 on Friday.
2. Domingo German has six games of 6+ strikeouts in 90 or fewer pitches; that’s tied for most such games in MLB (Charlie Morton, Sonny Gray, and Kenta Maeda each have six such games, as well). The pitch count limitations are always frustrating, but German has proven that he can get it done even with a short leash. This is primarily due to his elite ability to generate swings and misses; his 14.1 percent swinging-strike rate ranks 13th among pitchers with 70 innings pitched, and he’s situated just between Chris Sale and Matthew Boyd. On Friday, he faces a Blue Jays team that, Vlad Jr.’s Home Run Derby performance aside, is woeful against right-handed pitching, ranking in the bottom seven in MLB in team wOBA (.299, ranks 25th) and wRC+ (85, ranks 24th), not to mention fanning at a healthy 24.6 percent clip (eighth-most in MLB). At over $10,000, German is a tough ask at DraftKings, but he deserves tournament consideration at FanDuel ($8,600) and Yahoo ($45).
3. There aren’t many pitchers who can notch 30 percent strikeouts while holding hitters to a sub-.200 batting average. In fact, the only four to accomplish that combination in 2019 are Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, Lucas Giolito, and … Caleb Smith. On Friday, Smith takes on the division rival New York Mets. He had success against them in his first start of the year, fanning eight batters in just five innings, yielding just two earned runs in the process. He’s a fly ball pitcher who pitches in a huge ballpark (hence the low batting average allowed), and – for the first time in six starts – he’s pitching at home. Given his strikeout upside – he’s reached eight or more strikeouts in more than half of is 13 starts in 2019 – and his low price tag ($8,000 at FanDuel; $8,600 at DraftKings, where he’s somehow priced below both Coors Field pitchers; $45 at Yahoo), Smith is one of the top overall pitching plays in all formats on Friday.
4. Only two pitchers in MLB have struck out 11 batters per nine innings in four straight seasons dating back to 2016: Max Scherzer and … Robbie Ray. Ray has his flaws: the walks, the hard hits, the home runs allowed. But you’ll take all of that if you get close to Scherzer-level strikeouts at a bargain basement price tag. On Friday, Ray faces a Cardinals team that, given their glut of good right-handed hitters, should be a top team against lefties. In reality, the Redbirds have been merely average against southpaws, posting a 100 wRC+ for the year. As the great Dave Potts is fond of saying, if you play Robbie Ray, it’s best to not watch the game, and that’s true here, as well. But with his K upside and at his price tag – at $7,900 at DraftKings, he’s priced the same as Mike Leake – he’s too good to pass up.
5. In his short big-league career of 17 starts, Spencer Turnbull has owned the Kansas City Royals, posting DraftKings point totals of 24.7, 23.6, and 19.9 in his three starts against them. In those games, across 19 innings, he’s struck out 22, walked only 5, and allowed only 5 earned runs. He’s yet to allow a ball to leave the yard against the Royals. Turnbull is extremely cheap at FanDuel ($7,100) and Yahoo ($38), which makes him a very interesting contrarian tournament play at those sites. (But let’s be honest – if you’re at FanDuel or Yahoo and want to go cheap at SP, the price tag on Dinelson Lamet may be too good to pass up).
6. Charlie Blackmon has a .460 batting average at Coors Field; that’s the highest mark this century at home by a player on July 12th (min. 120 PA), with Troy Tulowitzki (2014) coming in a distant second at .417. Only two other hitters this century (Barry Bonds in 2004, Chone Figgins in 2007) have even eclipsed the .400 mark at home by July 12th. While Reds righty Sonny Gray is no joke against left-handed hitters (.242 wOBA and 30.7% strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings pitched this year), I’ll side with the all-time Coors Field great who is riding a 28-game home hitting streak. I love the idea of stacking low-owned Rockies bats in GPPs with everyone else likely gravitating towards the lower-priced bats of the Reds.
7. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the Reds, including Eugenio Suarez. With a 91 wRC+ against right-handed pitching in 2019, Suarez appears to be having a down year against same-handed pitchers. But in fact, he’s posting a career-high 48.3 percent hard-hits with a career-low .274 BABIP. He’s one of only five hitters in MLB (min. 150 PA) to combine a hard-hit rate above 48 percent with a BABIP below .275 (Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, Matt Olson, Smoak) against right-handed pitching. His FanDuel ($3,800) and Yahoo ($16) price tags seem too cheap given his home run upside. He’s not the top option for Cincinnati – that would have to go to one of the lower-priced lefties like Joey Votto or Scooter Gennett or Jesse Winker – but he should have some positive regression coming against right-handed pitching, and that could very easily come at Coors Field.
8. Christian Yelich is batting .329 with an ISO of .378 in the first half of the season; that’s something that has only happened 17 other times in MLB history. Check it out, per the Play Index at Baseball Reference:
So, you’ve got Mike Trout, Albert Pujols in his prime, the Big Hurt, a whole lotta Babe Ruth…I’d say that’s good company. And look at the steal totals from the other instances; nobody has done what Yelich is doing in terms of hitting for contact, hitting for power, and stealing bases (and Babe Ruth, of all people, came closest with 12 steals in his apparently spry and light-footed days in 1920). On Friday, Yelich is at home, and he’s facing Shaun Anderson, who doesn’t strike out anyone: Anderson’s 13.3 strikout rate ranks 143rd of 146 pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Best of all, with so many great offensive spots tonight, nobody is going to play Yelich. He’s as strong of a play as anyone tonight, and the likely low ownership makes him an amazing leverage play in GPPs.
9. Ivan Rodriguez in 2000; Mike Piazza in 2000; Mike Piazza in 1996; Johnny Bench in 1972; Johnny Bench in 1970. Until Gary Sanchez this year, those are the only catchers with 24 homers before the All-Star break in MLB history. Even with a Coors Field game on the slate, the Yankees are the only team with an implied total of 7+ runs. While he may not be a high priority at DraftKings or FanDuel, Sanchez is pretty close to a must-play at Yahoo at $15. Even apart from Sanchez, the Yankees are just so stackable, with crazy upside if you combine Sanchez with a group of power hitters in Encarnacion, Judge, and Stanton, all of whom still retain power against ground ball pitchers (all three have ISOs above .265 and rank in the top 10 in that metric against ground ball pitchers since 2017).
10. Jesse Chavez throws a bunch of cut fastballs (30.1 percent, ninth-most in MLB among pitchers with at least 750 pitches thrown). George Springer hits cut fastballs really well, with a .440 wOBA against the pitch since 2017 (sixth-best in MLB, min. 50 BBE). Springer has improved his overall ISO by .116 this year, the sixth-best improvement in MLB. All the Astros are in play (and Jose Altuve’s $13 tag at Yahoo seems especially egregious), but Springer matches up particularly well given Chavez’s pitch mix. In the extreme hitter friendliness of Globe-Life Park in mid-July, the Astros’ bats, like those of the Reds, Rockies, and Yankees, should be a top priority on Friday.
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!