10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Tuesday, April 23rd
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 Tuesday, April 23rd.
1. Patrick Corbin has thrown three straight quality starts with at least 9 strikeouts; the only other pitcher to string together three straight games of 6 innings, 3 or fewer earned runs, and 9 strikeouts is Blake Snell. In fact, Stephen Strasburg has only done it one time during his entire tenure with the Nationals. So, it’s safe to say Corbin is paying off his hefty contract, at least in the early going. There’s no question that Corbin is the best pitcher on Tuesday’s slate. There is some question about whether he’s playable in Coors Field. I think he is, for a few reasons. First, there’s research that demonstrates that sliders (Corbin’s money pitch) are comparably more effective at Coors than other pitches. Second, Corbin is priced down to account for the matchup, especially at DraftKings, where he’s cheaper than Zach Eflin and less than a grand more than Daniel Ponce de Leon making his first start of the year. The strikeouts will probably be there for Corbin, and if he can hold the Rockies to 3, 2, or 1 earned run (as he has in each of his last three starts at Coors) rather than 8 earned runs (as he allowed in the Coors start preceding those three), he could easily pay off his reduced salary despite the bad pitching environment.
2. Jose Quintana has increased his swinging-strike rate from 8.0 percent in 2018 to 13.3 percent in 2019; the 5.3-point jump is second-largest in MLB, trailing only Matt Boyd’s 6 percent increase. Okay, that’s great, and Quintana has certainly looked like a different pitcher this year. But we have a long track record of Quintana being closer to an average strikeout guy; he’s never been higher than 9.2 percent in terms of swinging strikes, and nor has he ever reached 27 percent strikeouts over a full season. Furthermore, it’s not as if he’s added a new strikeout pitch, or relied more heavily on an old one. Instead, he’s using his sinker more often, which is a pitch typically designed to induce weak contact, not generate whiffs. These strikeouts are going to come down, and as much as it pains this lifelong Cubs fan to admit, Quintana’s resurgence has been more smoke-and-mirrors than anything. He’s a “name” pitcher on a slate loaded with no-name question marks, but it’s a terrible matchup against the Dodgers. Consider this: the Dodgers are one of the five best teams in MLB in wOBA, ISO, wRC+, BB%, K%…so they’re good. On a slate like this, any pitcher warrants consideration in tournaments, but this is a worst-case-scenario matchup for a guy who has been pitching over his head.
3. Only three pitchers have a hard-hit rate below 26 percent to go with 23 percent strikeouts since last year: Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Nola, and … Zack Wheeler. Wheeler’s full-season numbers don’t look great, and the rise in walks is particularly troubling (7.4% in 2018; 13.7% in 2019). If you throw out the Nationals game, though, in which he uncharacteristically walked seven batters, Wheeler is been exactly who he was last year: a good strikeout pitcher who has an uncanny ability to generate weak contact. And sure, throwing out any pitcher’s worst game will make him look better, but that game was a fluke; Wheeler hadn’t walked more than three in a game since before the All-Star break last year, and his 7.4 percent walk rate in 2018 was well below the league average mark of 8.5 percent. Tuesday’s matchup is horrendous, but as with Corbin, it’s baked into Wheeler’s low price tag. He’s at just $7,900, and Vegas believes he can limit the damage, giving the Phillies an implied run total below four. In cash games today, we want safety, and a matchup against Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins doesn’t scream safety. But who, on today’s slate, do you trust more?
4. Trevor Williams has four consecutive quality starts to open the season, something only five other pitchers (Brad Keller, Gerrit Cole, Jose Berrios, Patrick Corbin, Jake Arrieta) have done this year. He’s got five straight quality starts at home dating back to last season. He’s got a good matchup against a team with the lowest implied run total on the slate (Diamondbacks are projected for 3.57 runs). Is a quality start good enough, though, considering Williams is sporting a 17.2 percent strikeout rate (ranked 73rd of 86 qualifiers)? That depends on the site. At DraftKings, Williams is just $500 cheaper than Patrick Corbin, which is a really tough sell. With the quality start bonus at FanDuel, it makes more sense, where he’s also a bit cheaper at $8,000. Honestly, though, the fact that Williams is a guy worth considering says all you need to know about tonight’s pitching. It’s ugly out there, folks. So ugly that I feel compelled to write about…
5. Homer Bailey, who has six or more strikeouts without allowing any home runs in three of four games this year; he’s one of only 12 pitchers to do that. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause of Bailey’s newfound competence (which is quite a backhanded compliment, but I mean, it’s Homer Bailey. There are no compliments to give that aren’t backhanded). Bailey’s velocity hasn’t spiked, and while there’s some BABIP luck involved (a .273 BABIP will be hard to sustain with 43.1 percent hard hits), his 67.3 percent strand rate could also rise. It’s possible that his success is due to his increasing reliance on his split-fingered fastball, which he’s now throwing as much as almost anyone in baseball at 25.1 percent. It’s a swing-and-miss pitch (53.8% of PAs that have ended in the pitch have been strikeouts), and batters have only managed a .122 wOBA against the offering. That means that some of these gains could be real. The Rays are not an easy matchup, but they fan at a healthy 24.5 percent clip. At just $6,200 at DraftKings, Homer Bailey is…is…in play?
6. With Bailey mowing down hitters and keeping the ball in the park, there’s a new opening for the title of “Most Attackable Pitcher in DFS,” and I’d like to throw out Andrew Cashner for consideration. Here’s why:
— His 5.60 SIERA ranks 86th of 86 qualified pitchers this year.
— His 13.6 percent strikeout rate ranks 85th.
— His 7.2 percent swinging-strike rate ranks 82nd.
— His 48.2 percent hard-hit rate ranks 79th.
Outside of the Nationals bats in Coors, White Sox hitters are top targets today. Two especially noteworthy guys are Jose Abreu (somehow just $2,800 at FanDuel) and Yoan Moncada (who has cut nearly 10 points off his strikeout rate from 2018). Both Abreu and Moncada have doubled their barrel rates since last season, and they’re both tied for fifth in MLB with 12 barrels each. One or both of them will do damage against Cashner and MLB’s worst bullpen (the Orioles’ 6.37 FIP is by far the worst bullpen ERA in baseball).
7. A (probably unnecessary) reminder that Juan Soto is really, really young and really, really good. He’s one of 10 hitters in MLB history with 25 home runs and a .284 average before turning 21, and the list is populated by some of the best hitters of all time. Take a look:
Soto hasn’t been bad this season (117 wRC+), but he’s cooled off from last year’s insane pace. And thank goodness for that (at least for anyone besides Soto himself, Nationals fans, and Juan Soto #1 fan, Sammy Reid). Because of his just-decent start, he’s priced reasonably across the industry in a near-perfect matchup against Chad Bettis at Coors Field. Soto is one of the top overall bats of the slate, and on a slate where we’re forced to save money on pitching, he’s a top priority.
8. Mookie Betts’ BABIP has dropped 114 points since the .368 mark he posted in 2018; that’s the sixth-largest drop in baseball from last year to this year. The .368 mark was always a bit unsustainable, but given his ability to hit the ball with authority and his speed to leg out close plays, it’s safe to say that Betts’s slow start has been more bad luck than anything. It’s jarring to see Betts priced below $5,000 at DraftKings and below $4,000 at FanDuel; we’ve been thrilled to pay $1,000 more than that for Betts in the past. Spencer Turnbull has been excellent in his first four big-league starts (3.86 SIERA, 26.7% K rate), and he doesn’t appear to be a guy we’ll look to go out of our way to attack. But Betts is just too cheap, and the savings makes him a premiere GPP play who shouldn’t garner massive ownership.
9. Zach Davies throws his sinker 63.2 percent of the time; Matt Carpenter has a .422 ISO against sinkers since 2017, second-best in MLB (min. 50 results) after only Evan Gattis. It’s a classic case of “fly ball hitter” versus “ground ball pitcher,” which is a combination that can be exploited. And Carpenter has exploited this matchup in his career, going 10-for-22 with 7 extra-base hits (including 3 dingers) against Davies. Sure, sure…BvP is noise. But in cases like this, when the other factors almost explain the BvP, there’s no reason not to take it into account. Carpenter’s price has fallen across the industry due to a ho-hum start to the year (101 wRC+). Now’s the time to jump back in.
10. Gleyber Torres has added 11.6 percentage points to his ground ball rate from last year (32.8% to 44.4%); that’s the 12th-biggest jump in ground ball rate for a player from last year to this year. That’s not great. But it also might not be sustainable. Torres hasn’t had a ground ball rate this high since high-A ball, back in 2016. He’s a good hitter who can elevate the ball, and we’re getting him at a discount because of a few bad weeks. The Yankees should have no problem getting to Angels starter Chris Stratton, and at just $3,900 at DraftKings and $3,200 at FanDuel, Torres represents one of the better point-per-dollar plays of the slate.
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!