10 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Wednesday, April 4th
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 Wednesday, April 4th.
A few for the early slate…
1. Luis Severino threw his slider 48.4% (44 pitches) of the time in his first start of the year, something he did just twice in any start last year. In those 2017 starts, he struck out a combined 15 batters over 14 ⅓ innings, allowing just one earned run in the process. Against the Jays in his first start of 2018, he went 5 ⅔ scoreless innings and fanned another seven. His slider is his most effective pitch, ranking fourth since 2017 with a 17.4 pitch value at FanGraphs, and while one start doesn’t represent a trend, if Severino’s slider usage stays in this range, it should be a boon for his strikeout totals. And if he doesn’t, well, he gets the Rays in his second start, which will also work wonders for his strikeouts. In this matchup, particularly if he keeps throwing the slider, Severino has just as much upside as Syndergaard or Kluber.
2. Since 2017, Giancarlo Stanton has a .457 ISO against left-handed pitching, including 16 home runs and 11 doubles. Just for fun, let’s turn ALL of his home runs into doubles and see what happens: .209 ISO. Not GIANCARLO STANTON-worthy, but we cut all his home runs in half…what do you want? Just for context, here are a few notable hitters who were below .209 ISO against lefties since 2017: Jose Altuve, Edwin Encarnacion, Wil Myers, Nelson Cruz. Not too shabby. Yes, Snell is an up-and-coming, talented, pitcher. Yes, he whiffed five times for the first time in his career on Monday (and was roundly booed in his first start at home who want their 500-foot home runs NOW – not tomorrow, not next week, NOW. DFS players can’t afford to be as shortsighted as Yankees fans, which means on a slate that is difficult for hitting, Stanton is the top overall bat to target. Given that everyone will be paying up at pitcher, starting a tournament lineup with Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez is a sure-fire way to capture massive upside at low ownership.
3. Jon Gray has struck out seven or more Padres in seven of his last eight games against them dating back to 2016, and that includes games of 11, 12, and 16 strikeouts. He’s got a 7.45 K/BB rate over his career against the Friars. Obviously, a lot has changed since 2016, and despite their decision to pay first baseman Eric Hosmer $144 million to hit grounders, this team still projects to be plenty bad against right-handed batters. Gray should have no problem piling up strikeouts in this matchup, and he’s the first pitcher to lock in for cash games on the main slate.
4. Since debuting in 2016, Sean Manaea has absolutely stifled southpaws, allowing just a .246 wOBA while inducing 23.9% soft contact to lefties. The only pitchers to match those numbers during that span (min. 60 IP) are pretty good: Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw, and Chris Sale. Of course, we’re dealing with a 64-inning sample size here, and Manaea isn’t likely to ever face more than three or four lefties in a lineup. But that’s what makes Wednesday’s matchup with the Rangers so enticing for his fantasy prospects. Four of the Rangers best hitters – Gallo, Choo, Odor, Mazara – are left-handed, which means that even if Manaea is facing righties, he’ll be facing a watered-down lineup in a pitcher’s park. Even more encouraging, he generated 16 whiffs in his first start of 2018, punching out seven batters in 7 2/3 innings against the righty-heavy (and Trout-heavy) lineup of the Angels. Manaea is primed for a breakout 2018 campaign; don’t miss this buying opportunity while his price is still reasonable.
5. Along those same lines, Aaron Sanchez has also proven dominant at generating weak contact and limiting the productivity of same-handed hitters in a limited sample. Since his first season in 2014, here’s how the Jays righty stacks up in some DFS-relevant categories against same-handed hitters (min. 180 IP):
wOBA – 8th (.255)
HR/9 – 1st (0.43)
Hard% – 5th (24.4%)
GB% – 2nd (60.1%)
K% – 120th (18.6%)
Ah, there’s the rub. Sanchez is in a fantastic matchup for his skill set, as the White Sox’ stable of lefties includes Nicky Delmonico, Yolmer Sanchez, and Yoan Moncada (okay, he’ll be good, but he also strikes out a ton). We’ve seen in recent starts by Jaime Garcia and J.A. Happ that there are strikeouts to be had in this lineup, which means that Sanchez could realistically notch six or so strikeouts, which, when coupled with his contact management, gives him a solid floor. Given his reduced price tag across the industry, he is a viable SP2 in tournaments, as pairing him with Gray, Manaea, or Carlos Martinez will still allow you to fit in most any high-end bat on the slate.
6. Only one qualified hitter in MLB has posted a 134 wRC+ and a 40.0% hard hit rate or higher against righties in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and it’s not Mike Trout, or Joey Votto, or Bryce Harper. It’s Cardinals’ third baseman and CheeseIsGood favorite Matt Carpenter. On Wednesday, Carpenter faces Jhoulys Chacin, who showed some extreme platoon splits in 2017 (.338 wOBA, 33.1% hard hits versus lefties / .266 wOBA, 23.9% hard hits versus righties), and he’s simply mispriced at just $3,700 at DraftKings. Lock him into your cash game lineups.
7. Last year, Nolan Arenado faced a lefty outside of Coors 86 times; last year, Nolan Arenado struck out against a lefty outside of Coors four times. That’s a 4.7% strikeout rate that he paired with a .395 ISO. Absurd. His matchup against Clayton Richard on Wednesday isn’t an ideal Arenado spot (i.e. it’s taking place at PetCo Park rather than Coors Field). But it’s a tough slate for hitting, and with all the high-end arms going in the early slate, salary won’t be an issue, making Arenado a high-priority bat with a super high floor.
8. I know batting average is a dirty word in DFS circles, but…Adrian Beltre has a .298 batting average or better against lefties in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Even better, he’s one of just four players since 2015 (joining Mookie Betts, Martin Prado, and A.J. Pollock) with more extra-base hits than strikeouts against lefties since 2015. He is the OG Lefty Masher. True, Sean Manaea is not a bad left-handed pitcher, and he’s a pitcher we might even avoid on other slates, but Manaea has shown wide platoon splits and a tendency to get hit hard by righties (25.5% hard hits vs. LHB, 35.2% hard hits vs. RHB in his career). On top of all this, Beltre is bargain-priced across the industry. If Arenado is outside your means, Beltre makes a fine consolation prize at third base.
9. Since 2017, only six players have posted a .161+ ISO while fanning at a 12.0% clip or less: Joey Votto, Justin Turner, Jose Ramirez, Yulieski Gurriel, Mookie Betts, and … Yangervis Solarte. Okay, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Solarte ranks last out of those six hitters in just about every meaningful statistic. But he’s also bargain-priced, and he checks all the boxes of an ideal cash game play: great lineup spot, potent offense, excellent bat-to-ball skills, and a fair amount of pop. On Wednesday, he’ll take on unproven righty Carson Fulmer, and he’s once again a reasonably priced priority bat to save a bit of cash.
10. Last year, Jed Lowrie posted a .179 ISO with a 14.6% strikeout rate versus righties, making him just one of 14 players in MLB (min. 400 PA) to do so. If you want to get a little frisky and sort that leaderboard by hard hit rate, you’ll notice that Lowrie is one of only four other to post those numbers in addition to a 35.6% hard hit rate or better. The others? Joey Votto, Mookie Betts, and Robinson Cano. This is a lot like the Solarte note above, and nobody is actually claiming Lowrie is in the same league as any of those three. However, he is an underrated, affordable bat to deploy against right-handed pitchers, and he faces a very hittable one in Doug Fister (.386 wOBA against lefties since 2016), putting Lowrie – along with other Athletics lefties like Matt Olson and Matt Joyce – firmly in play.
Thanks for reading! Stats from this article were pulled from RotoGrinders’ Daily Research Console, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Reference.
Check back for more “10 Notes” MLB articles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the year, and feel free to drop a comment below if you want to leave any feedback or keep the discussion going!