10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Tuesday, July 16th
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, July 16th.
1. If Walker Buehler can sustain his current 27.4 percent strikeout rate and 3.4 percent walk rate until the end of the season, he’d be the youngest pitcher in MLB history to post those numbers in a season at 24 years of age (Ben Sheets did it in 2004 at the age of 25). The strikeouts are continuously rising, and the guy just doesn’t hasn’t issued many free passes all year. Check out his three-game rolling strikeout and walk rates for the year, per FanGraphs:
With a top-10 SIERA at 3.49 (okay, it ranks 10th among qualifiers, but “top-10” sounds more persuasive, right?), Buehler is the closest thing to an ace on Tuesday’s slate. As for matchup, the Phillies are a middle-of-the-pack offense against righties, striking out at a healthy 23.0 percent clip, which ranks in the bottom half of MLB (okay, it’s 16th-lowest in MLB, but “bottom half” sounds more persuasive, right? Right?). He’s certainly the safest option on Tuesday’s slate, and he probably has the highest upside. He’s worth the price of admission, and at DraftKings, he’s not even the most expensive pitcher on the slate; there, you get a $1,000 savings if you choose Buehler over Lance Lynn (which you should).
2. Brandon Woodruff is riding a nine-game streak of 6+ strikeouts at home dating back to April 5th of this season; that’s the second-longest streak in Brewers franchise history, trailing only Ben Sheets’ 14 consecutive games of 6+ strikeouts at Miller Park back in 2004-2005. He’s fanned 10 or more in three of his last four at home, and the only “failure” in that group was 7 ⅓ frames of one-run ball with six punchouts against the Pirates on June 29th. He’s got a 33.1 percent K rate at home! That’s sixth-best in MLB among qualifiers, just a shade below Max Scherzer. The question is, can he keep it going against a notoriously stingy strikeout team in the Braves (21.5% K rate vs. RHPs is 10th-lowest in MLB). I think he can, and I have to think that, because all the other pitchers on this slate are so dang terrible. On a cringe-worthy slate for pitching, Woodruff is a close second to Buehler if you’re looking for any semblance of upside. And if you play at DraftKings, it’s worth noting that Woodruff continues to be puzzlingly underpriced. At just $8,700, he’s just the 11th-most-expensive pitcher, behind guys like C.C. Sabathia (old), Logan Allen (bad), and Dylan Cease (one career MLB start).
3. Among the 60 pitchers who have thrown at least 750 sliders since 2018, Jack Flaherty’s 24 percent swing-and-miss rate on the pitch is tied with Kenta Maeda’s offering for eighth-best. Flaherty hasn’t exactly built upon his excellent rookie campaign of 2018, but he’s still a young, high-strikeout arm with a signature pitch, and he’s priced well below far inferior pitchers on Tuesday. And as long as we’re talking about his struggles, let’s dig in a little. Of the 58 pitchers with at least 240 innings accrued since the start of last season, Flaherty’s 17.2 percent HR/FB rate is third-highest in MLB. In other words, he’s been bitten by some bad home run luck earlier in his career, which should even out. Even against the strikeout-allergic Pirates (19.2% K rate vs. RHPs is third-lowest in MLB), Flaherty is one of the top options on Tuesday.
4. Since the start of June, only one pitcher in MLB (min. 300 pitches) has allowed a barrel on 0.2 percent of pitches or fewer: Andrew Cashner. That’s one barrel in his last 469 pitches thrown. The pitcher whom this humble scribe once referred to as “the most hittable pitcher in MLB” has turned himself into a pretty decent contact manager, which is part of the reason he was able to get himself traded from the Orioles to a contender in the Red Sox. And Since the start of June, Cashner pitched to a crazy 1.41 ERA across 32 innings. Obviously, he’s not going to sustain the .198 BABIP he’s sustained over this stretch, and the strikeouts have been meager even during this “hot” stretch (15.1 percent since June 1st; 16.5 percent for the year). Still, he should get a boost against a Blue Jays team that fans at 24.7 percent rate against righties, eighth-highest in MLB. Look: this isn’t a sexy play. But (as you’ll hear all day), we’re scrounging for anything halfway decent at pitcher tonight, and Cashner is a -182 favorite who should get the win and may cobble together a handful of strikeouts. That’s about as good as you’ll get on this slate.
5. Let’s do some back-of-the-napkin math to see just how insanely good Nolan Arenado is against lefties at home. He’s got 563 career plate appearances against southpaws at Coors Field. Over the past few years before 2019, Arenado averaged roughly 680 plate appearances per year. If we pro-rate his numbers against lefties at Coors to 680 plate appearances (roughly a full season for him), he’d be at 50 home runs and 52 doubles. There’s been exactly one season in MLB history, where a player hit 50 home runs and 52 doubles: Albert Belle’s 1995 campaign. On Tuesday, he’s facing a lefty (and not a very good one) in Drew Pomeranz who’s been crushed by righties this year, allowing them to slash .314/.402/.588. For context, the only two players in MLB (min. 300 PA) who can match that slash line are Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. In DFS, you play Arenado (and Trevor Story, for that matter) against lefties at Coors, or you wish that you had. It’s that simple.
6. Ian Desmond has shaved 15.6 percent off his ground ball rate this year; that’s the most of any hitter in MLB (min. 200 PA). In fact, you have to go all the way back to Jhonny Peralta in 2010 to find another hitter who has reduced his ground ball rate that much from one season to the next. For years, the knock on Desmond was that he hit way too many ground balls, and in 2019, he’s eradicated that issue (and somewhat quietly, it seems). Of course you want to play Story and Arenado, but fire up Desmond and his .377 home wOBA in tournaments, and certainly as part of your Coors stacks.
7. Since 2014, Joe Panik’s .416 batting average at Coors Field is the highest of any player with at least 70 at-bats in that park. And get this: his 1.024 OPS is just a hair below Charlie Blackmon’s 1.026 mark over that span, and it’s better than Nolan Arenado’s 1.020 mark. Let’s be serious: this game has a total of 14.5 runs, which is maybe the highest I’ve ever seen. You’re fitting in whatever Giants and/or Rockies you can afford, and the sites have made Panik extremely affordable ($3,000 at FD; $3,500 at DK; $7 at Yahoo). While he may not have huge power, Panik’s high-contact, spray-to-all-fields approach seems especially suited for the wide outfield of Coors, and that, combined with his crazy-low salary, makes him an ideal play for cash games.
8. The player with the most hard-hit balls over the past calendar year might surprise you: it’s Rafael Devers, with 150 batted balls hit at 95 mph or harder. Devers is doing everything right in 2019: he’s cut his strikeout rate by 9 percentage points (24.7% in 2018; 15.7% in 2019); he’s running more (his 8 steals already matches his career total prior to 2019); he’s hitting for average (.326 for the year, including .340 against right-handers, third-best in MLB behind only Bellinger and Yelich); and he’s added some power (his 17 homers are just 4 shy of his 2018 total). The Red Sox have a huge 6.23 implied run total against Toronto right-hander Jacob Waguespack, and with all the attention on the game in Colorado and other high-offense environments, the Red Sox could go a bit overlooked. That’s a mistake, and Devers should be an integral part of any Red Sox stack.
9. Ketel Marte had 31 barrels in 1,101 career plate appearances entering 2019; Ketel Marte has 31 barrels in 397 plate appearances in 2019. He’s nearly tripling the rate at which he barrels up baseballs, and the results have followed, as his .253 isolated power ranks 26th among qualifiers, among the likes of more established sluggers like Kris Bryant (.254), Trevor Story (.251), and Eugenio Suarez (.249), and Nolan Arenado (.247). Plus, the dude just doesn’t strike out. His combination of a .250+ ISO and sub-14.0 percent K rate is rare in today’s game, and in fact, Alex Bregman is the only other player with that combo this year. His matchup against a rejuvenated Lance Lynn isn’t a gimme, but it is worth noting that lefties put the ball in play far more often against Lynn: while Lynn strikes out 33.3 percent of righties, lefties fan just 20 percent of the time against him. With temperatures in the mid-90s in Texas, hitting conditions will be favorable, as well. I love him as an under-the-radar GPP play on Tuesday.
10. Since 2018, only one qualified hitter in MLB has a .240+ ISO, a sub-18.0 percent K rate, and a hard-hit rate better than 44.0 percent against right-handed pitching, and it’s not Yelich, or Bellinger. It’s not even Mike Trout. The player is Mike Moustakas, who is underpriced across the industry ($3,900 at FD; $4,300 at DK; $15 at Yahoo) with the platoon advantage at hitter-friendly Miller Park. It’s far too early to draw any conclusions about Braves rookie righty Bryse Wilson, but assuming he’s not a young Max Scherzer or Pedro Martinez, it’s safe to say Moustakas has the advantage here. There shouldn’t be too much traction on the Brewers given their modest (for this slate) 5.18 implied run total, but Moustakas has as good as anyone of taking one deep tonight. If he does, you’ll have gotten a low-owned dinger at a bargain price tag.
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!