8 Definitely Interesting, Possibly Helpful MLB Notes for Tuesday, August 20th
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 Friday, August 16th.
Apologies for the abbreviated column today. For those who don’t know, I teach high school English, and with school starting next week, I’m knee deep in meetings about curriculum, how to handle stress on the job, peanut allergies, and gang violence (including a PowerPoint with images of 50 Cent and Wu-Tang Clan…that’s a true story). I’d much rather be digging into tonight’s slate, but as it stands, I’ve got 8 notes to help you build lineups tonight. Best of luck!
1. It’s been vintage Clayton Kershaw since the All-Star break, as the Dodgers ace has struck out 34 percent of the batters he’s faced in six second-half starts; it’s the highest K rate for Kershaw over a six-game span since September of 2017 (see below).
Kershaw shouldn’t have any trouble keeping it going in a home matchup against a Blue Jays team that struggles against lefties (.308 wOBA, ranks 24th). The only question is whether you need to spend “vintage Kershaw” salary on a night when plenty of strong pitchers will be taking the hill in good (see: Shane Bieber) to great (see: Sonny Gray) matchups. The “home” bit matters for Kershaw, as well: Kershaw hasn’t had a home ERA above 2.60 since 2010, when, just to add a random bit of context, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. was 11 years old. If you want safety, he’s the clear top option on Tuesday’s slate, and if you want raw upside, he may have that covered, as well.
2. Sonny Gray is one of two pitchers this season – joining Jack Flaherty – to post three consecutive games of 7+ strikeouts and zero earned runs allowed. He’s the first Cincinnati Red to post such a streak since Jim Maloney, who did it way back in 1968. The Padres are a strikeout-happy squad that fans at a 26.2 percent frequency when facing right-handed pitching. Gray throws with his right hand, and this season, despite being mediocre in the strikeout department in the past, has shown that he possesses strikeout stuff. In fact, the 7.6 percentage point improvement over his 2018 rate (21.1% in 2018; 28.7% in 2019) represents the fourth-largest improvement in MLB, behind only Lucas Giolito, Mike Clevinger, and Matthew Boyd. Gray’s DraftKings price tag of $9,700 seems like an absolute steal, and given his newfound strikeout abilities, there’s a case to be made for ignoring the Biebers and Kershaws of the world and rolling with Gray as an SP1 at two-pitcher sites.
3. Since June 29th, Michael Pineda has a 2.61 ERA and a 13.5 percent swinging strike rate; the only other pitchers with that combination over that span are Jacob deGrom, Mike Clevinger, Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, and Shane Bieber. Pineda has the good fortune of facing the Chicago White Sox, who have allowed a right-handed pitcher to reach 10 strikeouts on nine occasions this year; only the Marlins have allowed more such games to righties (11). It’s the perfect matchup for Pineda, a guy who has allowed too many home runs in the past. With a .141 ISO against right-handed pitching, ranking 29th in MLB (again, the Marlins are the only team behind them), Pineda should be able to keep the ball in the yard while fanning 6-8 South Siders in the process. He’s not exactly a bargain, and given the context of a slate, he’s probably not necessary for cash games, even in this dream matchup. But if you’re looking to differentiate lineups for tournaments, Pineda is in a prime spot for a big game.
4. If the season ended today, the Detroit Tigers’ 74 wRC+ would be the lowest by a team against right-handed pitching since the 2013 Marlins. Hello, Aaron Sanchez. Since the Astros pulled Sanchez from the scrap heap in Toronto, everyone seems to be waiting for him to go the way of Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, and all the other Houston pitchers, that is, to start pumping his best breaking pitch and magically become a far better pitcher. It’s occurred to some extent: Sanchez has thrown 28 percent curveballs since arriving in Houston three starts ago, compared to 22.3 percent this year as a Blue Jay. It would serve Sanchez well to rely heavily on ol’ Uncle Charlie tonight, as the Tigers whiff at an MLB-high 13 percent clip, and not surprisingly, their 26.6 percent K rate against righties is also worst in MLB. Sanchez’s DraftKings and Yahoo price tags of $6,800 and $33, respectively, are especially appealing, putting him into the conversation as an SP2 for those without the stomach for a cheaper Jalen Beeks.
5. Paul Goldschmidt has posted a 147 wRC+ against left-handed pitching in every season since 2012; that’s eight seasons in a row of producing roughly one-and-a-half times as much as a league average players against lefties. Goldschmidt – who at one time was a near auto-play when he faced a lefty – can’t seem to get any respect in the DFS industry, where he remains priced to buy at just $3,800 at FanDuel and $4,300 against Brewers lefty Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez isn’t exactly a pitcher we’d normally go out of our way to pick on, but his .343 wOBA this year says he’s nothing special against righties. Goldschmidt’s power – gone for much of the first half of the season, as he posted a meager .172 ISO – has returned, as his .326 ISO since the All-Star break attests. He’s the same lefty masher he’s always been, and you can get him at a discount on Tuesday. Take advantage while the price is right.
6. There are eight players with 75 steals over the past three seasons, and of those eight, Jose Ramirez has the most home runs, with 88. That’s 40 more than the next-highest player on the list (Starling Marte, with 48 homers). Ramirez can score points with his speed and power, and he’s in a good spot for the steals, in particular on Tuesday. He faces Steven Matz, whose 44 steals since 2017 is seventh-most in MLB. Matz is no pushover, but he is more susceptible to righties in the home run department, as well (1.54 career HR/9 vs. RHBs; 0.58 vs. LHBs). The Indians have plenty of speed in addition to Ramirez (Lindor w/ 18 steals on the year, Mercado w/ 11, Puig w/ 16), making the Tribe an interesting spot to target one-offs with sneaky steals upside for GPPs.
7. Only four players have a .340 ISO and 50 percent hard hits at home this year: Cody Bellinger (yeah), Christian Yelich (right), Trevor Story (Coors), and … Joc Pederson. He’s always had prodigious power, and he’s been unloading it at Dodger Stadium this year, despite the park’s pitcher-friendly dimensions. He should be batting leadoff, and he’s an absolute bargain across the industry ($2,900 at FD; $3,800 at DK; $12 at Yahoo) in a matchup against Toronto right-hander Sean “The Canadian Hyphen” Reid-Foley (.366 wOBA vs. LHBs in 2019). Pederson is certainly a flawed ballplayer, and he may never learn to hit left-handed pitching. But when he’s against a righty, it’s rare to find his power upside in the price tier he finds himself in. If I’m looking for salary savings in cash games, Pederson is one of the first names I click.
8. In the past calendar year, here are the top four in barrels:
Mike Trout (61)
Soler’s matchup on Tuesday is both good and bad. Good, because he faces homer-prone Dylan Bundy (1.79 HR/9 since 2017, second-most among qualifiers) in Camden Yards, one of the best power parks in MLB. Bad, because Bundy is much tougher on righties from a strikeout perspective (27.9% career K rate vs. RHBs, 17.9% vs. LHBs). This year, though, righties have been Bundy’s bugaboo; his 2.29 HR/9 against right-handed hitters is third-highest in MLB among qualifiers. Plus, once Bundy exits, Soler will get to take hacks against an Orioles bullpen that (as I’ve written approximately 1,038 times this season) is still on pace to give up more home runs than any other bullpen in MLB history, and by a lot (2.1 HR/9 is worst all time, and next-highest is Seattle, this year at 2019…juiced ball, anyone?). Soler is nobody’s idea of a cash game play at DraftKings, where he’s priced north of $5,000, or Yahoo, where he’s at a Trout-ian $27. He is, however, an excellent low-owned option for tournaments at FanDuel, where he’s more affordable at $3,600.
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!
Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images