10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for May 19th
This MLB season, 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 MLB notes for Friday, May 19th.
1. Chris Sale is in the middle of a well-publicized streak of seven straight games with 10 or more strikeouts. If he reaches eight, he’ll be the first to reach that number since…Chris Sale in 2015. That’s pretty good. For a bit more context, consider this: Sale’s 78 strikeouts during this seven-game stretch is 72 percent of what his opponent on the mound, Oakland’s Kendall Graveman, posted over 31 starts in 2016. Sale is the clear, don’t-overthink-it, can’t-miss (if there is such a thing in baseball) cash game pitcher on Friday, even with his elevated price tag.
2. Only one player has two games of 10+ strikeouts and zero earned runs this year, and surprisingly, it’s not Chris Sale. It’s Alex Wood, who’s done it in his last two starts and is the largest favorite of the slate in a home matchup with the Marlins. With a new vote of confidence by Dodgers brass, who are claiming Wood’s rotation spot is safe, he shouldn’t be on any sort of pitch count moving forward. Despite the tough matchup (the Marlins quietly rank fourth in MLB this year in wOBA and wRC+ against left-handed pitching), Wood is cash game playable, and he should be extremely popular given his recent performance.
3. One more Wood note: among pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched, he’s the only one who ranks in the top five in K%, GB%, SIERA, Hard%, and HR/9. He’s throwing his changeup more than ever, and it’s leading to some ridiculous results against righties this year (.202 wOBA, 33.7% K rate). Righties have a .025 ISO against his changeup this year (one double in 139 pitches thrown, per Brooks Baseball), and it could help neutralize the power bats of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.
4. Jacob deGrom has allowed three or more earned runs in five consecutive starts; only Kyle Gibson, Jordan Zimmermann, Jake Arrieta, and Tom Koehler have longer active streaks. His much-maligned teammate, Matt Harvey, has also allowed three or more earned in five straight starts, and these days, being next to Matt Harvey on any type of list should be reason for pause. Still, deGrom is due for some positive regression. His 5.46 ERA during that stretch can be largely attributed to bad luck, and there’s really no reason why his .345 BABIP and 17.5% HR/FB rate on this season (both career highs) would hold over the long haul. But the run prevention has been bothersome for those who have relied on deGrom’s safety in cash games, and on a slate with guys like Chris Sale and Alex Wood, deGrom is far from a must in cash games in a matchup with the Angels.
5. Only five pitchers in baseball have a strikeout rate greater than 28.0%, a walk rate below 8.0%, and a swinging strike rate above 13.0%. Here they are: Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Michael Pineda, Zack Greinke, and Nate Karns. Karns faces the Twins on Friday, which isn’t a perfect matchup, as Karns’s historic reverse splits (.334 wOBA vs. RHB, .310 wOBA vs. LHB for his career) could spell trouble against the likes of Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano. But there are a few really encouraging signs that Karns’s breakout campaign is legit. First, he’s raised his ground ball rate almost 15 percentage points from last year (40.3% in 2016, 55.2% in 2016). And second, his ridiculously high 22.9% HR/FB rate, which will come down, says his 4.46 ERA is a bit fluky, and we could see it drop closer to his 3.21 SIERA in the future. While he still feels a bit risky for cash games, his price makes up for it: at DraftKings, he’s priced below Matt Moore, the pitcher who has allowed 17 barrels, tied for the most in MLB. That’s just too cheap.
6. Luis Severino got dinged up a bit in his last start, allowing three earned runs and not making it out of the third inning before being yanked. But looking closer at the numbers, he was the victim of some misfortune in that game. He had a .600 BABIP, the second-highest of any game in his career, and he managed to allow just a 20.0% hard contact, his second-lowest of any game this year. The swinging strike rate has been in single digits for three straight games now, which is a concern. But Houston was a terrible matchup for Severino, and as a young pitcher, he’s bound to have the occasional bad outing. Against the strikeout-prone Rays (the team that, let’s not forget, struck out 11 times against Severino on April 13th), Severino checks all the boxes for an awesome tournament play: massive strikeout upside, lower ownership because of recent performance, great price, and a big ballpark that reduces the likelihood of home runs.
7. This season, Jered Weaver has struck out 12 right-handed batters…which is just barely more than the number of home runs he’s allowed to righties (10). Yes, it’s PetCo, which is more of a pitcher’s park, but Paul Goldschmidt is still an elite play, as are the other righties (and lefties) for the Diamondbacks.
8. Speaking of Diamondbacks lefties, here are the hard hit rate leaders among the 22 players with a .380 wOBA against right-handed pitching since 2016 (min. 300 PA): Matt Carpenter (46.7%), David Ortiz (46.2%), Freddie Freeman (42.7%), Miguel Cabrera (41.9%), and Jake Lamb (41.1%). Lamb is clearly the outlier on that list in that his track record is nowhere near the other four. However, he’s a legit power hitter against righties, and in a matchup against Jered Weaver, he should be the chalk option at third base on Friday.
9. Since 2015, the leader in hard hits against lefties is not Nelson Cruz, or Paul Goldschmidt, or Miguel Cabrera; it’s Franklin Gutierrez, with an absurd 48.9% hard hit rate over a sample of 356 plate appearances. He’s cheap across the industry, and if he gets a a decent lineup spot, he provides the savings needed in order to fit in a high-priced Chris Sale.
10. For his career, Chris Davis has a 27.7% K rate against ground ball pitchers, which doesn’t sound good, until you consider that his strikeout rate spikes to 32.4% against all other pitchers. Historically, Davis has much preferred to hit balls low in the zone, which explains the massive gap in his production betweeej ground ballers and fly ballers (.816 career OPS vs. FB pitchers, .943 career OPS vs. GB pitchers). And he’s really preferred when that ground ball pitcher is Aaron Sanchez, against whom Davis has belted four home runs in 18 at-bats. Friday’s matchup presents one of the rare times that a boom-or-bust hitter like Davis becomes cash game playable.
Thanks for reading! Stats from this article were pulled from RotoGrinders’ Daily Research Console, FanGraphs, and Baseball Reference.
Check back for more “10 Notes” MLB articles throughout the year, and feel free to drop a comment below if you want to keep the discussion going!