10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Tuesday, May 14th
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, May 14th.
1. In his first eight starts in a Rays uniform, Charlie Morton has compiled a strikeout rate above 30 percent, a HR/9 below 0.5, and a ground ball rate north of 50 percent; the only other pitcher in MLB with that combination is Luis Castillo. Morton has remained as reliable as ever since his move to Tampa. He’s relying on his dominant curveball more than ever, throwing it 34.7 percent of the time, and opposing batters have been utterly helpless against the pitch, managing just a .097/.135/.125 slash line in plate appearances ending with the curve. I’m burying the lede, though: Charlie Morton faces the Marlins, and Charlie Morton knows how to throw a baseball, which, by default, means you should play Charlie Morton. It’s hard to express how unbelievably bad the Marlins are, but I’ll try. Their 27.1 percent strikeout rate against righties is highest in baseball, while their 7.6 percent walk rate is second-lowest. In 1,078 plate appearances against righties, they’ve managed 19 home runs; for context, in 163 plate appearances this year, Christian Yelich has 16 homers all by himself. Their .262 team wOBA against righties is roughly equivalent to the career wOBA (.260) of Zack Greinke. That enough piling on? Morton is a top priority in all formats, even on a slate with lots to like at pitching.
Sale is chapter 11,078,123 in the book titled Reasons Not to Care About April Stats in Baseball, and it’s hard to know what’s changed for him. There was certainly some bad home run luck early that is starting to even out: he’s now carrying a 17.1 HR/FB rate (and this is low, after two homerless outings), when he’s never had a mark higher than 12.5 percent. The strikeouts have resurfaced for Sale, too, as he’s fanned 42 batters over this four-game stretch (against just six walks), and that’s why, even though Charlie Morton is in a superior matchup, Sale is back to being a “don’t overthink it” SP1 virtually any time he’s in a halfway decent matchup. And he is on Tuesday: the Rockies on the road are always bad, and this year is no different, as their 72 wRC+ away from Coors ranks 28th in MLB. Even better, his price tag isn’t outlandish anywhere across the industry, and he should probably be the anchor with which to start cash game construction.
3. Caleb Smith has the longest active streak with five straight games of 25+ DraftKings points. And it’s not like he’s put up those totals in cupcake matches; over that stretch, he’s faced the Phillies twice, the Nationals, the Indians, and the Cubs. It’s a small sample, sure, but Smith is looking every bit the full-fledged ace. With just a .309 team wOBA, a below-average 96 wRC+, and an MLB-high 30.6 percent strikeout rate against lefties, the Rays don’t represent as scary a matchup as one might think. Smith is still priced below $10,000 at DraftKings, but this may be the last start you get him at that price; take advantage and use Smith in any format that rewards quality starts with 8+ strikeouts (which Smith has reached in four consecutive starts, and so therefore, logically, he has to get again, right?).
4. Let’s play a game of blind resume! Okay, below you’ll find some DFS-relevant 2019 stats for two noteworthy pitchers:
|Stat (Home, 2017)||Pitcher A||Pitcher B|
Okay, so that’s a lot of numbers, but the conclusions are pretty easy to draw. These pitchers look nearly identical in terms of underlying metrics (K%, BB%, hard hits, SIERA). But while Pitcher A and Pitcher B couldn’t be much more different in terms of batted ball luck. You might even argue that if Pitcher B had been a little luckier, he’d be better than Pitcher B given the latter’s tendency to give up home runs.
Pitcher A is a guy with a Cy Young award, an MVP, seven All-Star appearances, and (one day) an invitation to Cooperstown on his ledger; it’s Justin Verlander. It might interest you to know, then, that Pitcher B is Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff has quietly strung together several excellent starts (he’s got 6+ strikeouts and only one earned run allowed in three straight). On Tuesday, he’s in a tough, though not insurmountable, matchup against the Phillies, and he’s squarely in play for tournaments.
5. Luke Weaver has subtracted 3.4 points from his walk rate from 2018 to 2019 (8.9% in 2018; 5.4% in 2019); that’s the sixth-largest decrease in MLB. He’s also added 7.3 points to his strikeout rate (19.9% in 2018; 27.2% in 2019), which represents the fourth-largest increase in baseball. Of course it’s still too early to know if any of these changes will stick, but fewer walks and more strikeouts is generally a recipe for an improved pitcher, and 2019 Luke Weaver is a vastly better pitcher than the 2018 version. Pittsburgh is a far more competent team against righties than lefties, but even so, their modest 4.16 implied run total coupled with Weaver’s newfound consistency means Weaver is a viable arm in the mid-range ($8,800 at DK; $9,400 at FD; $41 at Yahoo). He’s more of a tournament play, though, given that paying just a bit more will give you access to the upper tier at pitcher, which is a place we want to do our shopping on Tuesday.
6. Carlos Correa has improved his hard-hit rate by 20.2 percentage points (28.8% in 2018; 49.0% in 2019); that’s the largest increase in MLB. He’s also doubled his barrel rate from 2018 to 2019 (7.0% in 2018; 14.4% in 2019). After battling various injuries over the last two seasons, it’s possible that Correa is finally approaching full health, a notion which should strike fear into pitchers across MLB. First up? Tigers left-hander Ryan Carpenter, a 28-year-old rookie with a 7.90 ERA (supported by a 7.54 FIP) and 13.2 percent strikeout rate across 27 1/3 big-league innings. Okay, it’s a small sample, yada yada yada, but Carpenter hasn’t been much better in the minors. He’s not good, and Correa and the rest of the Astros hitters (except maybe Tyler White?) are. Astros bats should be a top priority in all formats on Tuesday.
7. Khris Davis hit two dingers on Monday, his 19th multi-homer game since 2016, the most in MLB. For a bit of context as to how hard it is to hit two homers in a game, consider: Davis’s 19 such games over that span is the same as J.D. Martinez (10) and Paul Goldschmidt (9) combined. Davis is somehow priced at just $4,000 at DraftKings in an excellent matchup against Mike Leake, who has allowed a .347 wOBA and 1.7 HR/9 to right-handed batters since the start of 2018. The price plus the recency bias means there’s nothing sneaky about Davis, but you just don’t find his home run upside at this price. He’s maybe the first hitter to lock into cash game builds tonight.
8. Felix Pena throws his slide piece nearly 40 percent of the time against lefties this year, a fact which could doom him to a rough evening against the Twins. Why? Jorge Polanco has a .419 wOBA against right-handed sliders since 2017; that’s the third-best mark in MLB behind only Joey Votto and Mike Trout. “ Against the same pitch over the same span, Eddie Rosario has a .315 ISO, fourth-best in MLB, behind only Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, and Charlie Blackmon. I’m far more interested in lefties against Pena (career .336 wOBA against LHBs) than righties (career .280 wOBA against RHBs), which means Max Keplar may be in play, as well. A Twins mini-stack could be an underappreciated path to finishing in the money this evening.
9. Edwin Encarnacion has a .281 ISO against ground ball pitchers since 2017; that’s fourth-best in MLB, behind only Mike Trout, Khris Davis, and J.D. Martinez. On Tuesday, he faces the extreme ground ball tendencies of Brett Anderson, owner of a career 53.6 percent ground ball rate against right-handed batters. Encarnacion is doing what he does this season, as he’s well on pace to surpass 30 home runs for the eighth consecutive season. If he manages, he’ll be the first player since Mark Teixeira to do so eight years in a row. With a high 4.45 implied total, the Mariners should do plenty of damage against Anderson, and I like some of the other righties (Domingo Santana, Mitch Haniger) quite a bit, as well, as under-the-radar options.
10. J.D. Martinez has a 75-point gap between his wOBA (.381) and xwOBA (.456); that’s the second-largest gap among hitters with at least 100 PAs. Martinez is not having a bad season, but this indicates that there’s plenty of room for improvement, and that a power surge could be imminent. Tonight seems like a good time to start, as he’ll have the platoon advantage over Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland. Martinez has absolutely dismantled lefties over the past three years, with a hard-to-believe wRC+ of 200 against southpaws over that span. For his part, Freeland has generally been considered a pitcher to avoid, but man, is he getting torched this year. He’s allowing 1.81 HR/9, and a 44.1 percent hard-hit rate allowed to righties says that Martinez could do some damage.
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!