10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Friday, May 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, May 10th.
1. Luis Castillo has 46 strikeouts on his changeup this year; the player with the second-most is Kyle Hendricks, at 22. Castillo’s changeup is an utterly dominant offering to both righties (.122 xwOBA) and lefties (.176 xwOBA). It’s the engine driving the Castillo breakout many expected in 2018, so it’s encouraging that he’s using it a ton (31.5 percent, up from 26.4 percent in 2018). Here’s hoping he throws it early and often against the Giants, who, as a team, own a .219 xwOBA against changeups this year, the worst mark in MLB. To be fair, the Giants’ xwOBA against any pitch is likely to be among the lowest in MLB. And that’s why Castillo is one of the top overall arms on the slate on Friday. It also doesn’t hurt that he gets a massive ballpark boost, as he’ll be throwing in Oracle Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly venues around. While Justin Verlander will likely draw more ownership, Castillo has the superior matchup, which makes him an excellent pivot off the likely high Verlander ownership.
2. Only four pitchers in MLB pair a 28.0 percent strikeout rate or better with 28.0 percent hard hits or lower. One is Stephen Strasburg. The other three of are Tampa Bay Rays: Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow. Each of these three Rays starters have all been masterful at combining punchouts and weak contact, and on Friday, Glasnow finds himself in a home matchup against a depleted Yankees lineup on Friday. The strikeouts have always been there for Glasnow, but the low hard-hit rate is a new arrow in the burgeoning ace’s quiver. Perhaps the most radical improvement to Glasnow’s game this year, though, has been his precipitously declining walk rate. With the casualness of a Catholic who decides to forego soft drinks for Lent, Glasnow just decided to stop issuing walks when he changed uniforms. His 4.4 percent walk rate this year is eighth-lowest of 87 qualified pitchers. That’s really, really good. But if you need a visual, I’ve got you covered:
Glasnow made his first start for the Rays on August 1st of last season, at which point he transformed himself into a control artist with a triple-digit fastball and a near-unhittable hammer curve, not to mention a rare combination of strikeouts and ground balls. He fits the bill as an elite tournament option.
3. Zack Wheeler has faced the Marlins four times since 2018, and each time, he’s posted at least 25 DraftKings points. I know what you’re thinking: pitcher versus team stats are stupid. And maybe you’re right. But the Marlins have been a punching bag in DFS since 2018, so it’s sort of shorthand for saying, “Wheeler is a good pitcher who, when he’s facing the worst collection of hitters in recent memory, will probably pitch well.” And wouldn’t you know it, he’s in an excellent matchup on Friday, against the 2019 version of the Marlins. Miami has a .264 wOBA and an .093 ISO for the year. For context: the Marlins have a league-worst .095 isolated power for the season; that’s the same mark as Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta has for his career. There’s a high likelihood that Wheeler, at the very least, is able to avoid too many extra-base hits in this game. If he can rack up a few strikeouts – which shouldn’t be a problem, given the Marlins own the third-highest strikeout rate in MLB against righties at 26.6 percent – he’ll end up being one of the best point-per-dollar arms on the slate.
4. Zone contact rate is a fun stat to look at, because it can serve as a proxy for overall “stuff,” the idea being that your stuff must be pretty good if you can put the ball in the zone, and still hitters swing through it. It’s noteworthy, then, that Jake Odorizzi, with a 75.1% zone contact rate, ranks first in MLB in that metric. Odorizzi has clearly turned a corner this year, with a 3.08 FIP that currently stands as a career-best. Of course, FIP only includes the home runs Odorizzi has allowed, and he’s been rather fortunate in that department, with a 4.9 percent HR/FB that will be impossible to sustain over the full year. That HR/FB rate is fourth-lowest in MLB, and he’s a guy with a fly ball rate just under 50 percent; he will allow the ball to fly out more often than he has. He should be able to avoid the regression monster for at least one more start, though, as he faces an inept Tigers offense on Friday whose 25 home runs are second-fewest in MLB (shocker: the Marlins are dead last with just 24 dingers on the year). At just $8,800 at DraftKings, he’s a viable, high-floor SP2 option who is unlikely to disappoint given his newfound strikeout upside and positive matchup.
5. Only four pitchers in MLB have managed to pair a 51 percent ground ball rate with a sub-29.0 percent hard-hit rate: Stephen Strasburg, Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, and … Pablo Lopez. Lopez is a pitcher who always manages to fly under the radar, but he does a lot of things well: he limits the walks, rarely allows a long ball, and induces plenty of weak grounders. In addition to all that his strikeouts have risen to 25.0 percent this year, a jump of 6.4 percentage points on his 18.6 percent rate in 2018; that’s the 10th-largest strikeout rate improvement in MLB. In a plus matchup against the Mets, who rank in the bottom third of MLB in team wOBA, ISO, and strikeout rate against right-handed pitching, Lopez is a nice mid-range option for GPPs, or potentially even as an SP2 in cash games.
6. Trevor Story has an 1.143 OPS against lefties in Coors for his career (216 AB). League average OPS for 2019 is 0.737. Trevor Story would have to go hitless in 125 consecutive at-bats against lefties in Coors to be brought down to a league average hitter in that split. Against hittable Padres lefty Eric Lauer, Story should be able to avoid that goose egg, and he’ll likely do a lot more than that. The interesting thing about Friday’s slate is that the Coors teams don’t even have the highest implied totals on the board; that honor goes to the Angels against Dan Straily and the Orioles’ horrendous bullpen. In fact, there are six non-Coors teams with implied totals above 5.00 runs. All this means is that ownership on Story (and Nolan Arenado, for that matter) will be spread in other places, making him even more viable for GPPs.
7. Shohei Ohtani has a .430 wOBA (fourth-best in MLB) and .341 ISO (best in MLB) against righties for his career. His 94.1 mph average exit velocity against righties since last year ranks third in MLB; the only batters with higher aEV (min. 100 results) are Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo. Ohtani has murdered righties since coming over from Japan, and he’s in as perfect a spot as you’ll find on Friday with the platoon edge over Baltimore right-hander Dan Straily, who has allowed nearly as many home runs (8) as he has strikeouts (11) this year. If we look at a larger sample and include last year, Straily has allowed a .361 wOBA and 1.6 HR/9 over his last 71 1/3 innings pitched against righties. Ohtani hasn’t yet homered in the three games since his return, but tonight, he’s got as good a shot as anyone of going yard.
8. Since his debut on April 26th, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. has only had pitches go through the heart of the plate 14.7 percent of the time; that’s the lowest of the 164 batters who have seen at least 150 pitches over that span. Yes, he’s been a disappointment so far from a results perspective, but it’s pretty clear why: Pitchers aren’t giving him anything to hit. As a result, his price has plummeted ($3,700 at DraftKings, $2,500 at FanDuel, $9 at Yahoo). Against Dylan Covey (.346 wOBA, just a 13.1% K rate against RHBs for his career), it’s worth taking another shot on Guerrero and hoping Covey gives him a pitch that will allow Guerrero to display his prodigious power.
9. Ian Kinsler is currently being held down by a .182 BABIP; that’s the fourth-lowest of any qualified hitter in MLB, and 100 points below his career BABIP of .282. It doesn’t take Bill James to understand that a .182 BABIP is likely to swing upward in the future, and there may be no better venue for a change of fortune for Kinsler than Coors Field. He’ll be taking swings against Rockies righty German Marquez, which is far from ideal, but again … Coors Field. Marquez has gotten knocked around just like anyone else in Coors this year, surrendering 8, 7, 8, and 10 hits in his four home starts this year. Likely batting leadoff, Kinsler is plenty affordable across the industry at $3,600 at DraftKings, $3,200 at Yahoo, and $11 at Yahoo.
10. Against right-handed pitching, David Peralta has hit .300 in four of his five big-league seasons dating back to 2014 (and he only other players to do that are Freddie Freeman and Jose Altuve). His opponent on the mound, Atlanta right-hander Julio Teheran, has allowed left-handed batters to hit .300 or better in every year since 2013. Batting average isn’t a stat typically used in DFS, and for obvious reasons. But when a trend lasts this long, we can agree it’s a trend: Peralta crushes righties, and Teheran gets hammered by lefties. With so many excellent hitting environments on tap, not many will play Peralta on Friday, which makes him super intriguing as a tournament one-off.
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!