Million Dollar Musings: Friday, July 12th
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Friday, July 12th
And we’re back! I had a restful few days away, hidden away in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Of the many exciting developments over these past few days, none is more potentially life altering than discovering that Three Dollar Cafe in Atlanta now sells bottles of their wing sauce. By incredibly non-random chance, our route to the cabin on Monday took us right by a Three Dollar Café and then a Cold Stone Creamery. Cold Stone is not yet selling ‘make your own sweet cream ice cream at home’ kits, but we’ll see what I can do with this magic wing sauce, and maybe I’ll be halfway to the perfect meal right here in my own home!
There should be nothing surprising about finding out that I ate a lot of food over the break, but what would be shocking to those who know me is that I read TWO entire books. Like, regular human adult size novels. That is about twice as many books as I read in a normal year, happening all in four days. 2019 is to Cheese reading as 2019 is to MLB home runs. Record pace.
So, yeah, I’m ready to get back to it. We’ve got two and half months of baseball left, and it starts……NOW.
Friday Night Pitching
The only top of the line ace on this slate is Gerrit Cole, and he is expensive and pitching in Texas. There are some very obvious bats to spend on, and at first glance it does not look necessary to jam Cole into cash games at all cost tonight. However, let’s not pretend like this isn’t the best pitcher on the board with the highest upside. The added risk of runs pitching in Texas is outweighed by the huge strikeout upside in this matchup. We talk often of the left-handed power of Texas being a threat, and it certainly is, but that also plays into Cole’s hands with his 39.3% K rate to lefties. The Rangers are one of the highest strikeout teams in the league, with five of the nine projected batters above a 25% strikeout rate against righties. Cole clearly projects for the highest score of any pitcher on this slate with a ceiling that dwarfs the competition, and I’m hopeful that the ownership will remain fairly well in check thanks to the salary and the matchup. I am going to start by trying to find cheaper cash game pitching to be able to lock in some better bats, but in tournaments, Cole is my clear top pitcher by a wide margin. I may well end up getting back to him in cash games on two-pitcher sites, but let’s see what we can do without him first.
A PAIR OF UPSIDE RIGHTIES
If we’re just looking at the season numbers and taking them at face value, then Mike Clevinger is the ace of the slate tonight with his 41.7% strikeout rate. Of course, as we know, the problem there is that it’s from two incredible starts back in April before he missed three months with a back injury and then a couple more starts with a sprained ankle. His first two starts off the IL were shaky at best, but in his final start before the break, he struck out nine Royals in six scoreless innings. His velocity is all the way back, and he was striking plenty of batters out even in the two bad starts. So full strength? I am not so sure. The main issue is that with as well as he was pitching in that last outing, they pulled him after 79 pitches and six innings. Of course they’ll want to start building him up from there, but with the break added in, it’s now been eight off days between starts, which, while possibly good for further healing, does not leave me hopeful that this is the start they remove the pitch count shackles. There are plenty of strikeouts in the Twins lineup, but it’s also obvious risk from a Minnesota team with the most home runs in the league. I see very little reason to mess around with Clevinger tonight in cash games at this salary. If I’m going to pay up for this type of upside, I’m just going to find a way to get to Cole, or I’ll just pay down for similar risk and upside at a lower price. I will have Clevinger in my tournament pool, but well behind Cole, and well behind the lefties coming up next.
With Domingo German, it’s a similar situation as Clevinger. German didn’t miss nearly as much time on the IL as Clevinger, but we’re again looking at a guy who made one six-inning start prior to the break, is generally on a tight pitch count to begin with and has had an unusually long break between starts. He threw 80 pitches in his last start, and that is the most realistic range to expect tonight, with 90 being the likely ceiling. His 26.4% strikeout rate is solid, but not at the level of the four pitchers ahead of him. The Blue Jays strike out enough that I would say his per inning upside outweighs his per inning risk, but it just seems like a wonky salary to me on two-pitcher sites for a guy with his limited ceiling. The FD salary is fairer, but there he is less necessary to begin with. He is a good pitcher, it’s a decent matchup, and I fully expect a solid start here. It’s just that he is no higher than 5th on my list, which makes him nothing more than a multi-entry pivot option.
A PAIR OF UPSIDE LEFTIES
In his return from the IL prior to the break, Caleb Smith threw 95 pitches, going six solid innings in Atlanta. While I would love to have seen a few more outings here, on this slate, being at home against the Mets, having seen 95 pitches is plenty good for me. For the season, Smith’s 31.1% strikeout rate trails only Cole and the small sample size from Clevinger. All I need to know about choosing between Smith and Ray is plain to see in the walk rate. Even forgetting the fact that Smith is pitching at home in Miami while Ray is facing a right-handed heavy Cardinals team on the road, these two pitchers have basically the same strikeout rate, but Ray carries a 12.1% walk rate with Smith is down at 7.4%. Ray has walked 3+ batters in 11 of his 19 starts this season, while Smith has walked 3+ batters just twice in 13 starts. That is the whole start and end of the discussion for me. On DK/FDRFT/FD, the salaries are close enough that this an easy choice for me with Caleb Smith as the cash game pitcher tonight. This does not mean I’ve ruled out also using Ray on two-pitcher sites, especially with his discount on Yahoo, but factoring in salary and matchup, Smith is good enough to make me feel better about passing on Cole in cash games tonight.
In tournaments, this is going to come down to the usual Robbie Ray scenario. Because we don’t have a lot of great pitching, at his salary, I expect we’re going to see Ray being pretty popular on two-pitcher sites tonight. If that is how it turns out with our projected ownership, I will not try to go too far overweight on Ray, and be content with more Smith, even if more popular. I do expect we’ll get Ray as a more contrarian option on FD, where I’ll be playing him in some tournament lineups even though Smith is the clearly the better option at his salary.
MID-TIER GPP UPSIDE/DOWNSIDE DART THROWS
Kenta Maeda at Eduardo Rodriguez
Yonny Chirinos at Dylan Bundy
Kyle Gibson at Indians
Felix Pena vs Mariners
Adam Wainwright vs Diamondbacks
Dinelson Lamet vs Braves
Two Shades Of Gray – Sonny Gray at Jon Gray
This tier is a big old mess of some decent to good pitchers in some bad to terrible matchups.
The first thing I’ll note here is that Dinelson Lamet is listed in this section, as well as the next section of cheaper options. His DK/FDRFT salary is goofy, and he is the dartiest of dart throws there. I’ll talk about him more in the next section as it relates to FD and Yahoo.
Kenta Maeda is a good pitcher, but it’s getting way too cute in my opinion to try and find a reason to use him in Boston. I would expect they’ll get four lefties against him, and as good as he can be against righties, why mess with it? On the other side, Eduardo Rodriguez gets the slightly better matchup, but it’s still not a good one. The Dodgers can use the DH spot to add an extra right-handed bat with patience, and with his inability to pitch deep into games to begin with, a good team with a 12% walk rate just doesn’t look like a good matchup here. I would play Rodriguez before Maeda in multi-entry, but I’d first play neither.
Yonny Chirinos has been piling up quality starts and has been just as good on the road as he has at home. He’s survived New York and Boston, so this ballpark alone does not take me off of him tonight. The whole problem here is that we have 16 pitchers on this slate with higher strikeout rates than Chirinos, and there isn’t anything in the way of a discount on two-pitcher sites. His FD salary is quite likeable, and he’s going to stay in my tournament pool there, but his Yahoo salary is absurd. On DK/FDRFT, he lands in the middle where he’s fairly priced for what is a pretty good matchup, but there’s not enough upside in his skill set for me to need it on this slate. He is a safer choice than someone like Robbie Ray in cash games, but at his salary, I’d rather either pay down further in cash games or just take the added risk for the strikeout ability of Ray. I like Chirinos, I see no reason he can’t give us another 15-18 DK points, but it’s just not that useful at this salary.
On the other side of Chirinos, we have a little more strikeout upside with more risk attached in Dylan Bundy. If we only see four lefties for Tampa, I’m going to be interested in the 29% K rate of Bundy against righties. While the home run threat is always there, he’s done a great job of limiting hard contact to lefties, and the homers have come down this season. Most of his power has come against righties, which is also where the strikeouts come. Almost every pitcher on this slate tonight comes with some pretty clear risk, and the upside for the salary on Bundy interests me more than anyone else in this tier. I’ll be on board here in tournaments knowing the risk is high.
Kyle Gibson just hasn’t been good enough against lefties or consistent enough to give me much interest against this left-handed heavy Indians teams. Gibson’s high strikeout games have been few and far between, his slightly above average 23.6% strikeout rate is down to 22% against lefties, and his 52% ground balls to righties are down to 46% against lefties. Those are still solid numbers against lefties, and I am not down on Gibson at all. He is a very good pitcher who I’ve used plenty of times this season and will be using again, but tonight is just not one of those times for me.
Felix Pena has been OK as a primary pitcher, but he’s just simply not getting enough innings. He has reached six innings just twice in 17 appearances this season and while his 25.2% strikeout rate would be plenty good enough as a full workload starter, when we’re stuck looking at 4-5 innings, it is less inspiring. He’s also likely to see six lefties, where his skills drop off dramatically, so this is just a no-go for me tonight.
Adam Wainwright has pitched well recently, and has picked up his strikeout pace as the season moves on. He’s up at a 28.8% rate in his last three starts and has a 25.4% K rate to righties for the season. But tonight, he is likely to see as many lefties as righties, where his strikeouts fall to 17.3% and his walks are up to 13%. Those numbers are just not OK with me, especially when looking at the patience of the Arizona lefties. It’s quite possible Wainwright can work his magic to pitch around the lefties and get a few double plays, but he’s barely on my list at all for this slate. He’s another decent pitcher who will just get left out of my plans tonight.
Ummm, Sonny Gray in Colorado? Over his last four starts, Gray’s 33.7% K rate puts him ahead of everyone else on this slate, and for the season, his 27.8% K rate puts him in his own little tier, trailing the top four, but ahead of pitchers like German, Rodriguez, Maeda, Gibson and Bundy. As exciting as that short term K% looks, that was mostly one huge start against Milwaukee, and otherwise we’re still looking at a guy who has been very up and down with the strikeouts. We’re also looking at a guy who relies heavily on a sinker and a curveball going to Colorado where sinkers don’t sink and curveballs don’t curve. You’re allowed to do whatever you want here in the land of the free, and if one of those things you want to do is playing Sonny Gray at Coors Field, there is a non-zero chance that it works out. But you’ll be doing it on your own, without the endorsement of Uncle Cheese.
Ummm, Jon Gray in Colorado? He’s actually been better at home than on the road this season if you care about that sort of thing, but a deeper look shows he hasn’t really been better: 3.35 ERA, 3.96 xFIP, 24.2% K at home. 4.29 ERA, 3.80 xFIP, 25.6% K on the road. Gray can beat the righties in Coors Field, but the Reds lefties are good enough that it just seems silly and completely unnecessary at his salary.
That’s a whole lot of words to say I don’t like this tier at all. It’s a bunch of pretty good pitchers, but none of them are cheap enough for me to love them in tonight’s matchup. Playable? Yes. Priorities? No.
CHEAPER STUFF AND/OR BETTER MATCHUPS
Mike Fiers and Dallas Keuchel are low strikeout pitchers with the ability to post real-world quality starts in favorable matchups. Fiers has eight consecutive quality starts, but not one of them has come with more than five strikeouts. He can probably continue to get you 30-ish FD points and 20-ish DK points, but without strikeout ability, the ceiling is low and the floor is shaky. Because the White Sox lineup is so bad against right-handed pitching, it is reasonable to hope that we see an outlier strikeout start here, but Fiers’ strike throwing and their lack of patience makes me think it’s more likely we see fewer strikeouts and more easy outs. I can’t project anything more than the same old six innings and 1-2 runs that we’ve seen in all of his recent starts. That’s all fine and good, but he’s too expensive for that.
Dallas Keuchel has struck out 12 batters in 25 innings. Ground balls? Check. Low walks? Check. Good in real life? Check. 11.2% strikeouts in 2019? Not OK. If you want to use him, you can. I get it, but strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. He’s just not cheap enough to make up for the lack of strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts.
The problem with Jason Vargas is not that he isn’t a good real life pitcher. The problem is that he is not cheap. The whole reason to take a shot on a guy like Vargas in a matchup like this is to save money and survive. But on DK, he costs $100 less than Ray, and more than guys like Gibson and Bundy. On FD, you only get to play one pitcher. Do you really want that to be Jason Vargas? He does have two starts over the past month that look like maybe he’s worth it, but these are the numbers against right-handed batters this season – 20.3% K, 10% BB, 44% GB, 39% HH. He’s a below average pitcher and will face nine righties who do not strike out nearly as much as their reputation would suggest. Will Vargas be OK tonight? Probably, yeah. Whoop-dee-doo? You bet. (In case you don’t speak Cheeseian, that means I don’t like him)
If a 20.6% K pitcher like Jason Vargas is in the discussion due to the matchup, then a cheaper 23.2% K pitcher like Chase Anderson needs to be in the discussion against an equally bad opponent. The big difference here is in the ballpark, where the Giants’ numbers are not nearly as atrocious on the road this season. But Anderson’s biggest weakness is right-handed power, and that is one thing that San Francisco doesn’t have. They don’t strike out a lot, but there is a path to some easy innings from all these low power left-handed batters. Anderson is an average strikeout pitcher to both sides of the plate and has been generally good for 5-6 innings of respectable pitching. There is not a big ceiling here with the pitch count, and the floor is low in his home ballpark, so I don’t love it at all. But the salary is quite likeable on two-pitcher sites, and this is the first pitcher we’ve come to so far that might be worth passing on the ceiling for the sake of salary. Part of the reason I’m not planning on getting up to Cole in cash games is so that I don’t have to go quite this low at SP2, but if I had to, I’d be fine with Anderson.
Danny Duffy is OK, Danny Duffy is cheap on DK/FDRFT, and Danny Duffy is at home against the Tigers. It’s not nearly as ideal to use left-handed pitchers against Detroit, but this is still a beatable team with plenty of strikeouts and ranking 28th in ISO against lefties. Duffy has thrown over 100 pitches in three of his last four starts, and between that, the ballpark and the Tigers’ lack of power, there is a decent floor and ceiling to this matchup. It’s close to a toss-up between Duffy and Anderson as the cheap SP2 that would be acceptable in cash games if necessary. Personally, I would take the added pitch count from Duffy as the tiebreaker and consider him to be my preferred cheap SP2 just ahead of Anderson.
On FD especially, and to a lesser extent on Yahoo, Dinelson Lamet is at a weirdly low price point. DK overshot him in the other way making him the 3rd most expensive pitcher on this slate, but that is still more correct than having him all the way down at $5,600 on FD. He’s made just one start after missing more than a year, but he threw 80 pitches in that start with a 33% K rate after a 32% K rate in his three minor league rehab starts. His rookie season back in 2017 before TJ Surgery came with a 28.7% K rate. This is a talented pitcher with all kinds of long term upside. We should assume there will be some rust in his comeback, and the pitch count will almost certainly be monitored, keeping him around 5-6 innings, but even against the Braves, this is too low of a salary for a guy with ace-level strikeout ability. The bottom line is we’ve only seen five innings since 2017, and we do not know what we’re going to get here. But I’ll be heavily invested on FD with the points per dollar upside and a per inning points per dollar upside that is through the roof. It would be great if per inning points per dollar were a thing.
Pitching Cliff Notes
There is a very large mid-tier tonight, in which you can make a case for as many pitchers as you want. If you wanted to spread out in tournaments tonight, I would not argue with you one bit; I’ll just tell you that I am personally going to be crossing a whole bunch of good pitchers off my list and narrowing it down tonight. As for the pitchers that I’m not crossing out, here’s how I see them:
Gerrit Cole is the best pitcher on the slate, and it’s not even close. But the salary is also not close. I do not think it is necessary to force him into cash games, but he is the first name on my tournament list tonight.
If you’re not going to get up to Cole in cash games, Caleb Smith is the choice for me. There is some question about pitch count for all the of the next in line pitchers, notably Mike Clevinger and Domingo German, so out of that trio, I’ll just take the guy pitching in Miami at the lower salary. I have Smith well ahead of Robbie Ray as a cash game and a tournament option tonight, but I would be fine with Ray as cash game SP2 at his salary on DK/FDRFT/Yahoo.
We can look for Mike Fiers and Yonny Chirinos to continue their string of quality starts, and either one is acceptable in cash games. I just don’t love the upside enough to justify the salaries. I would be just as happy saving money with either Danny Duffy or Chase Anderson as a cash games SP2 if needing to go cheaper.
In tournaments, we do have that huge mid-tier where you can use as many options as you want, but I’m going to lean towards sticking with the same group of Cole, Smith, Ray, Clevinger, German or going down to Duffy or all the way down to Dinelson Lamet on FD.
Friday Night Bats
While the pitching was a little light up top and heavy in the muddled in the mid-tier, we do not have the same problem with the bats. The biggest reason behind my unenthusiastic view on paying for Gerrit Cole in cash games is the clear top end of hitting which would be a very scary fade. This is what that top tier looks like:
Coors Field Battle Of The Gray – Reds at Rockies
NY Yankees vs Aaron Sanchez
Houston Astros at Jesse Chavez
There is plenty of offense behind these four teams, but I see it as a necessity to start here at least in cash games and make sure you’re getting a piece of some of these teams. Let’s look at where to focus in these top spots.
The easiest part of this game to break down is the Reds side. Jon Gray has struck out 27% of righties with 6% walks, 51% ground balls and 33% hard hits. He has struck out 23% of lefties with 13% walks , 46% ground balls and 42% hard hits. By all means, play Eugenio Suarez, Yasiel Puig and Nick Senzel in your Reds stacks, but this is all about getting the lefties into cash games first and foremost. These Cincinnati bats have not been priced up appropriately on any site, and I can’t make any case to skip Jesse Winker (16.9% K, .244 ISO, 44% HH) in cash games. As much as Joey Votto is not a DFS superstar at this point in his career, I can’t make much case to skip him in cash games either with his strong plate skills giving him too much on base upside for the salary. Whichever of Scooter Gennett and Derek Dietrich, make the lineup (perhaps both) will be a too cheap option as well. I would start with Winker and Votto if only getting to a couple Reds lefties, but I have no problem using all of them at these salaries. The real discussion starts in tournaments, where the low salaries here are bound to make the Reds wildly popular. This will be a time I’ll go with my preferred strategy of being either far above or far below the field in any given tournament. I have no interest in completely fading the Reds across the board, but there is as much upside in plenty of other spots tonight, and there are many worse pitchers on the board than Gray. So while I’ll get my Reds lefties in cash games and have some stacks, I am nowhere near going all-in on this team tonight across all different tournaments.
The Rockies side is far tougher to break down. Sonny Gray has struck out 30.7% of lefties this season and 25.5% of righties. He’s also over 55% ground balls to both sides of the plate. Those numbers would normally leave me out on Rockies bats as cash game priorities. But as mentioned in the pitching section, a guy relying on curves and sinkers in Colorado is an obvious problem. If not using Cole, salary is basically no issue in cash games tonight, and I’m going to get one of Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon into my lineups. I will lean towards the contact of Arenado or Blackmon, but this is more about positional needs than trying to pick out the right bat here. I plan to build out the rest of my lineup, fitting in whichever Rockie happens to fit best. Despite the Rockies being favored in this game, I would expect that the salaries make the Reds the more popular stack tonight. If the projected ownership shows that, I would be happy to have more tournament exposure to the Rockies side, while favoring the Reds lefties in cash games.
NY Yankees vs Aaron Sanchez
When I first glanced at this slate, my greatest hope was that the presence of a Coors Field game along with Texas would leave the Yankees moderately overlooked in tournaments. Sadly, I think the high projected team total is going to do away with that fairy tale. Aaron Sanchez has the highest walk rate of any pitcher on this slate at 13%, the highest ERA at 6.16 and the highest SIERA at 5.57. He has struck out a pathetic 14.9% of right-handed bats while walking 14.4%. The only issue here is that between that and the 50% ground balls, it’s very hard to pick out an individual bat. He throws just barely a few more strikes to lefties with walks ‘down’ at 11.7%, so I guess if picking someone out, I’d start with Aaron Hicks (.274 ISO, .359 wOBA) or Didi Gregorius (.167 ISO, .367 wOBA). But the right-handed power is so extreme throughout this lineup that the stacking upside is through the roof and my current plan is to just go way overboard on Yankees and just hope that everyone else overthinks it. Similar to Colorado, I would love to get some Yankees bats in cash games, but there is not that one or two guys that stand out as must plays, so I’ll leave it up to positional needs to see who fits best. With the horrendous control from Sanchez and a bad bullpen, it’s a tournament stack first and foremost.
Houston Astros at Jesse Chavez
Chavez is OK, but he’s no Lance Lynn. He has been impressive in the small sample size move into the rotation, but his numbers imply that he’s likely to have some trouble against the right-handed Astros. He has looked very reverse splitsy this season with 26.4% K and an .072 ISO to lefties but just 20% K, 41% hard hits and a .236 ISO to righties. Those 20% strikeouts are not likely to be enough to get past the likes of George Springer (.283 ISO, .407 wOBA, 20.8% K), Jose Altuve (.141 ISO, .304 wOBA, 14.3% K), Alex Bregman (.255 ISO, .401 wOBA, 11.9% K) and Yulieski Gurriel (.214 ISO, .343 wOBA, 12.5% K). Because we have such a loaded high end of bats tonight, I don’t see any need to mess around with Altuve in cash games tonight. I do expect a turnaround, but we’re not scraping for pennies tonight, and Bregman and Springer are just simply better DFS hitters. With Chavez’s splits and plenty of lefties in the bullpen, I’ll leave Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez and Josh Reddick for stacks, though I wouldn’t argue with Brantley’s contact in cash games or Alvarez’ power on his own in tournaments if you wanted to go there.
TIER TWO OFFENSE
Milwaukee Brewers vs Shaun Anderson – Anderson has skated by with a 4.40 ERA on the road this season, but there is a lot of downside from there with a 4.81 xFIP and just 11.5% strikeouts away from home this season. Overall, he has struck out a scary low 8.3% of left-handed batters. His 4.6% walks and 54% ground balls to lefties are both solid, and just good enough that I don’t think we have to be stacking the Brewers, and is enough to keep them behind those top four offenses tonight, but just barely. The beauty of this Brewers lineup is that the four power lefties, Christian Yelich, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas and Eric Thames all have fly ball rates of at least 39% to go with their hard hit rates over 44% and ISOs over .260. With the low strikeouts from Anderson, his ground balls are not nearly enough to think he survives this huge ballpark downgrade, and these are four of my favorite bats anywhere on the slate to look for home runs. These guys can be played together with full stacks, but I am happy to play them on their own, knowing there is clear home run upside in all of them, and they are all likely to see a pitch to hit.
Tampa Bay Rays at Dylan Bundy – Because Bundy has done such a better job this season of keeping the hard contact down to lefties along with the high strikeouts to righties, I am more interested in a full stack here, and hoping Tampa can get themselves into the Baltimore bullpen early in the game tonight. With the extreme fly balls but reverse splits on batted balls, if I were going to pick out a bat here, it would be the low strikeouts and hard hits of Tommy Pham (.207 ISO, 49% HH) or Yandy Diaz (.185 ISO, 43% HH) followed by the lefty power of Austin Meadows (.225 ISO, 44% HH). We should expect to see a home run or two against Bundy, but if they are going to break the game open, it’s more likely against the bullpen, where I’d be looking to have a full stack.
This is the trickiest game on the slate from all angles. These are both good pitchers, good enough that you could make a case to use them in tournaments. But these are also two of the best offenses in the league, and are bound to be somewhat overlooked because of the nature of this slate.
The Dodgers are better suited to face righties, especially with Rodriguez doing such a good job of limiting hard contact to right-handed batters. I really don’t see any reason to pick out individual Dodgers bats in cash games on this slate, and if I were going there in tournaments, it would either be Justin Turner, or trying to get a little sneaky with Cody Bellinger or Max Muncy. Rodriguez has slightly more strikeout ability to lefties, but that also means they are more likely to see a pitch to hit, and he’s also allowed a much higher ISO on more hard hits to lefties. On top of that, Bellinger leads the team with a .359 ISO against left-handed pitching, and Muncy is third at a .263 ISO and second behind Bellinger in wOBA against lefties at .405. I would have to think that whatever ownership does come the Dodgers’ way will start with the righties, so why not just take the better hitters to begin with? In addition, the Red Sox bullpen has seven righties and just one lefty.
On the Red Sox side, the splits are much clearer with Kenta Maeda. He is an ace against righties, but just a below average pitcher to lefties. He has struck out 29.6% of righties versus just 19.6% of lefties along with an 11.1% walk rate and .353 wOBA to lefties. By all means, play J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts in stacks here, but unlike the Dodgers side, the splits do tell enough of a story that I would focus on lefties, putting Rafael Devers (.248 ISO, .417 wOBA) on the top of the list, followed by Andrew Benintendi (.176 ISO, .346 wOBA) and Jackie Bradley (.176 ISO, .335 wOBA)
LA Angels vs Mike Leake – There is no better individual matchup anywhere on the slate than Mike Trout vs Mike Leake. Leake throws a ton of hittable strikes to righties with just a 14.7% K rate and 1.4% walks leading to a 41% hard hit rate and .237 ISO against. He throws mostly cutters and sinkers to righties, and Trout laughs in the face of cutters and sinkers. Even with the game environment being far below the top four offenses, I would be happy to make Trout my main spend in cash games tonight. Past him, it gets a little trickier, with Justin Upton being the next right-handed power bat to look at. Leake is at a more respectable 19.4% K and 55% ground balls to lefties. With those grounders, I want fly balls from the lefty power bats, which puts Justin Bour and Kole Calhoun ahead of the 52% ground balls of Shohei Ohtani. The Mariners bullpen is bad, and Leake is far from blowup proof, so stacking is in play, but it’s not at the level of the top offenses on this slate.
Oakland A’s vs Ivan Nova – Nova fits in alongside guys like Mike Fiers, Jason Vargas and Mike Leake as a low strikeout pitcher who is rarely as bad in real life as it seems like he should be. Most of his 5.58 ERA came from three bad starts early in the season, and recently he’s looked more like the respectable real life pitcher we’ve seen in the past. He has not been quite as splitsy this season as in the past, but is still someone we want to target left-handed batters against first with his low 13.7% strikeouts. Matt Olson (.289 ISO) is the clear top bat for Oakland and someone I would play in any and all formats tonight. As for the righties, Nova is down to 16.8% strikeouts this season with just moderate 46% ground balls and 33% hard hits. He’s really not a bad pitcher to righties, but the extreme hard hit ability of Matt Chapman (47% HH) and Khris Davis (46% HH) should certainly have the advantage here. Deeper into multi-entry, I would say stacking is quite viable, but my first look here is just those top three bats, with Olson in any format and the Matt’s as a mini-stack.
Cleveland Lefties vs Kyle Gibson – On a different slate, I’d be quite intrigued by the Indians, but tonight, they are just barely on the back end of the second tier against a pretty good pitcher in Kyle Gibson. He can be hit by lefties, but he’s basically an average pitcher with 22% K and average ground ball ability. The Twins also have a solid bullpen behind him, so a lot of things would have to go wrong for this to be the winning stack of the night. As far as individual bats are concerned, I really can’t make a case to spend on guys like Francisco Lindor or Carlos Santana when we just have better spots to target tonight.
As I’ve said over and over this season, these full slates have something that is tournament viable in every game. I don’t think I’m doing you any favors by just mentioning every single upside player in the league, because this just leaves us with way too many options to focus on. The more you spread out in multi-entry tournaments, the wider you can cast this net, but with the obvious focus on four or maybe five teams up top tonight, ownership is just not going to be an issue. You do not need to get down this far just to be different when elite offenses like the Dodgers and Red Sox are already going to be contrarian enough.
If you want to start picking out some further off the board bats, here are a few I’m looking at:
Arizona Lefties at Adam Wainwright – Wainwright has a 17.3% K rate with 13% BB and a .241 ISO allowed to lefties. He still gets ground balls at a decent clip, so my first look would be the 44% fly balls of Eduardo Escobar.
UPDATE – Adam Wainwright has been scratched and replaced with Daniel Poncedeleon and the Cardinals bullpen. Poncedeleon has enough strikeout ability, especially to lefties that I am even less interested in Arizona bats than I was to begin with. In a max entry tournament, I’ll keep a few stacks just in case they have to turn to some bad relievers, but this game is not a priority at all.
Tigers at Royals – Spencer Turnbull at Danny Duffy – Nick Castellanos (.250 ISO) is the Tigers righty best suited to face Duffy, while the very splitsy Turnbull leaves us looking at lefties for Kansas City. Turnbull has struck out 27% of righties but just 16% of lefties to go with just moderate ground balls. I would consider Adalberto Mondesi or Alex Gordon, or a longer shot on Hunter Dozier or Jorge Soler while waiting for the Tigers bullpen.
Mariners Lefty Power at Felix Pena – The Angels will have a right-handed opener in Taylor Cole, a right-handed pitcher with standard splits in Felix Pena and a right-handed bullpen behind them. The ballpark in Anaheim is an upgrade for left-handed power, putting Dan Vogelbach (.322 ISO, 46% FB, 44% HH) high on my tournament list with Kyle Seager (.135 ISO, 40% FB, 38% HH), Omar Narvaez (.192 ISO, 40% FB, 33% HH) and J.P. Crawford (.229 ISO, 39% FB, 33% HH) somewhere in no man’s land.
White Sox Power at Mike Fiers – Fiers is going to throw strikes, and he’s going to allow fly balls. Reverse splits power comes first, putting Jose Abreu (.254 ISO) and Eloy Jimenez (.261 ISO) ahead of Yoan Moncada (.255 ISO), but all tournament viable.
Braves at Padres – Dallas Keuchel at Dinelson Lamet – For the Braves, I’d just stack it and hope Lamet pitches three bad innings and it just turns ugly. With the ground balls from Keuchel, it’s all about fly ball power for the Padres, and Hunter Renfroe is the clear leader there with 54% fly balls and 55% hard hits.
Hitting Cliff Notes
I see a very clear top tier of Reds, Rockies, Yankees and Astros, with the Brewers being a close fifth. I would go out of my way to get in those top four teams as much as possible in cash games, with the Reds lefties being easily affordable. I see Alex Bregman as the priority for Houston, and then picking the Rockies and Yankees bats based on salary and positional needs. I lean towards Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius with the salaries, and I would be OK ending up without any Rockies bats if that’s how it works out. This also puts the Rockies up to the top of my tournament list along with the Yankees, as I expect the salaries to dictate the ownership.
Below those obvious teams, I’ll do some tournament stacking, but power hunting comes first with Brewers lefties and bats like Mike Trout, Matt Olson and Cody Bellinger standing out. As mentioned at the top, I am going to make sure I get some top bats in my cash games tonight before I worry about jamming in Gerrit Cole.
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