Million Dollar Musings: Friday, September 14th
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Friday, September 14th
Happy Friday! We’ve got a full 15-game slate on tap tonight and it is absolutely loaded with pitching. I could make a case for at least 15 pitchers, probably more. Anytime we get these slates with this many options in different pricing tiers, it is important to re-iterate that you should be using your own opinion on these guys. I’m going to tell who I prefer and why, but there are a lot of closely bunched choices. It is very easy to disagree on the plays in these different tiers, and there are multiple paths to lineup construction and risk tolerance. The important thing is to know why you are playing who you are playing, and what the realistic range of outcomes is.
With that, let’s jump into this huge group of pitchers, starting with the one that doesn’t need much explanation.
FRIDAY NIGHT PITCHING
THE ACE, THE VERY EXPENSIVE ACE
Max Scherzer at Braves – Scherzer is all alone at the top of the list tonight. The other pitchers who can get within striking range of his upside have even tougher matchup than this, so it adds to his advantage. He leads the slate with a 34.4% K rate, a 2.31 ERA and 2.71 SIERA. The walks remain low, and his strikeouts are showing no signs of dropping off, as he surges to the finish line with double digit strikeouts in six of his last nine starts. With his strikeouts being lower to lefties and a solid group of contact lefties in the lineup, we shouldn’t expect a peak game, but he is as matchup proof as they come, and even if he lands down in the 6-8 K range, he can still pile up points with easy fly ball outs and innings.
The whole issue here is the extreme salary, which is considerably higher than a strong second tier of pitchers. On FD, I think he needs to be played in cash games. On DK/FDFRFT, you are looking at a tougher decision that comes down to your trust level in two of the pitchers in the $9k/$18k range. Personally, I have enough of an issue with all them and so much more faith in Scherzer, that I plan to use Scherzer as my cash game SP1 and pay down at SP2, but it is not at all clear cut on this slate. In tournaments, he’s not a key piece at all, as it will be too hard to get the top bats with him, and he’s almost certain to be matched in points per dollar by multiple pitchers in the second tier.
A LOADED SECOND TIER
Masahiro Tanaka vs Blue Jays – When the good version of Tanaka shows up, it is truly magical. That last start in Seattle was just dominant, with 10 strikeouts in eight shutout innings. He’s been good far more often than not recently, reaching seven innings in each of his last three starts, and allowing 0-2 runs in 8 of his last 10 outings. His strikeout rate for the season of 25.2% comes in just ahead of Berrios, Syndergaard, Archer and Hamels, while his 5.6% walk rate is lower than all of them. Since the All-Star Break, everything has gotten a little better, with a 26.5% K rate and 4.4% walks. With so many pitches in the strike zone, it usually comes down to how many home runs he allows. Those home runs have been held in check since the start of July, outside of one start at home against the Rangers. But that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. There is more than enough power in this Blue Jays lineup to cause him trouble tonight, and he’s priced like a guy without risk. I love the strikeouts and walks so much that I will still be in play here in tournaments, and I do like him quite a bit more than any of the options in this next tier, but where his salary is, he is well behind Scherzer on my cash game list, and if I’m not paying up for Scherzer in tournaments, then I’m more going to be looking to pay down for high end bats. I love Tanaka, I would expect another strong 6-7 inning game with at least a strikeout per inning, but there’s not much realistic upside left at this salary.
Walker Buehler at Cardinals – Buehler has been fantastic in his rookie season and they’ve managed his innings enough that he appears to be getting stronger at this point, whereas some of these other pitcher may be slowing down. His strikeout rate has gone from 27.6% on the season to 30.1% since the All-Star Break to a 32.2% rate in the past month that trails only Scherzer on this slate. He has strong control with 50% ground balls and a huge 26% soft contact rate to right-handed batters. While the Cardinals are a tough lineup with some good righties, Buehler’s skills line up favorably here to keep piling up strikeouts and quality starts. It’s all going to come down to the pitch count which is always a risk with the Dodgers, but they’ve given him a surprising amount of leash recently. He has topped 100 pitches in three of his last six starts, and has topped 90 in eight of his last nine. That’s been good for at least six innings in five of his last six starts. At that level, Buehler becomes my top option in this tier. He has shown the steadiest skill set of all these pitchers and is considerably cheaper than Tanaka. If fading Scherzer in cash games on DK/FDRFT, Buehler is a strong candidate for that spot, and he’s definitely near the top of my tournament list on all sites.
Jack Flaherty vs Dodgers – The last two starts for Flaherty are a cause for concern, as is the tough matchup with the Dodgers. Prior to these last two start, Flaherty was looking like a top of the line ace, including a 10-K game against these Dodgers in late August. But in his last two starts, he has walked nine batters in 10 innings, and while that could just be random noise, he is getting up to as many innings as he’s ever pitched in a season, and it’s possible he’s getting a bit worn down. His overall strikeout rate of 29.9% is still in ace territory, but there are a lot of pitchers on this slate who have some upside with risk, so I don’t think it needs to be chased. If this were a better matchup tonight, I’d be willing to roll the dice and write off those last two starts as outliers, but given his splits and the strong Dodgers lineup, he is way out of the cash game discussion for me, and just moves to the multi-entry tournament range. This Dodgers lineup has a ridiculous amount of power along with low strikeouts and high walks. The DK/FDRFT salary is low enough that I might have a couple GPP shares, but this will not be a core play for me tonight and I would rather play his opponent Buehler.
Cole Hamels vs Reds – The magic has worn off a little bit recently, but it’s been a couple tough assignments, travelling to Washington and Milwaukee in his last two starts, and he’s still managed to keep the damage to a minimum even with the strikeouts dropping below a K per inning in those outings. Overall, we’re still looking at a guy who has seen a significant boost in his strikeouts since the trade to Chicago, with a 25.5% K rate in 39 innings in the month of August. Outside of that last start in Washington, his control had also been consistently better than what it was earlier in the season. His biggest concern is right-handed power and there just isn’t much of that to worry about here. Certainly Suarez is a tough matchup, but this is fairly neutral matchup. He is a bit cheaper than Buehler on DK/FDRFT, and the skills are close enough that I would be fine to pivot down to Hamels if needed in cash games. I don’t see any reason to go this way on FD where he’s the fourth most expensive pitcher, but he’s going to be a common piece in my tournament builds on DK.
Jose Berrios at Royals – The matchup looks nice, but the skills have been just mediocre for the past couple months. It’s been nine starts since he struck out more than six batters in a game, and since the All-Star Break, he has a 23.6% strikeout rate that isn’t bad, but certainly isn’t ace caliber, especially when combined with a 10.6% walk rate. As the control has gone a little bad, it’s not just the strikeouts that are down, but the innings as well. He pitched acceptably against the Royals team last weekend, allowing just one run in six innings with five strikeouts. It’s all just quite uninspiring what we’ve seen from him. The hard contact has been up along with the walks and the decrease in innings. The overall numbers still look strong enough that he looks like a value play in this ballpark, but for me, this is the toughest decision on the slate. This current version of the Royals isn’t terrible. We’ll need to see how the lineup sets up, but the projected lineup has just three batters with strikeout rates over 22% and seven batters with hard hit rates above 37%. It’s not that they’re good or anything to be afraid of, but they aren’t so bad to outweigh his current form. His salary is the lowest in this tier and I understand why he might make your cash game cut, but he misses mine. I’ve got him behind Tanaka, Buehler and Hamels on my tournament list.
Noah Syndergaard at Red Sox – The salary looks a little low for the name value on Syndergaard, but when looking at the matchup along with what he’s done most of this season, he may be a little overpriced if anything. He had one great start at San Francisco where he looked the ace from the past, but otherwise, he’s been a below average strikeout pitcher for most of this season, instead focusing on limiting hard contact, which he does at an elite level. Over his nine starts since the All-Star Break, he has allowed just 19% hard contact with 52% ground balls. That’s good stuff in real life when combined with good control, but with the strikeouts down at a below average 20.9% over that stretch, it doesn’t leave him with much room for error. He has the most difficult matchup of any pitcher on the board tonight, which is enough to fade him completely until you get deep into multi-entry. I am still a fan of Syndergaard and fully believe in his talent, but this is just not the night for him.
Robbie Ray at Astros – It worked out last time, so I’ll say it again. The best time to play Robbie Ray (arguably the only time) is when nobody else is going to be playing him. This matchup looks terrible against a right-handed heavy Astros team, and he is more likely to come out with a disaster, but, this guy is as matchup proof as they come. That works in both the good way and the bad way. When he’s on, which hasn’t happened a lot this season, he can strikeout anybody. Two of his best starts of the year were at Colorado and at the Dodgers, while two of his worst were at San Diego and at home against Colorado. It’s really Robbie Ray vs himself. His 31% strikeout rate is the 2nd highest mark on this slate, trailing only Scherzer, but his 12.8% walk rate is the highest on the slate. His 44.9% hard hits allowed are the 2nd highest on the slate. The danger here is incredibly obvious. Plus, we have to add in the fact that he is clearly overpriced for this matchup and slate. I would’ve guessed we’d be able to get him in the salary range of Chris Archer and Gio Gonzalez, but instead he’s up there with Flaherty, Syndergaard, Hamels and Berrios. This just adds to the idea that nobody will play him. The risk with Ray is far higher than with those four names I just mentioned, but they are not can’t miss plays either. Would you be stunned if the pitcher with the highest strikeout rate struck out the most batters? I would not. If you’re building just a couple main lineups tonight, I don’t recommend Ray, he is much more likely to lose it for you than these other pitchers, but once you start getting 10 lineups in, I will take some shots on this upside. It’s in there.
A FEW DOLLARS CHEAPER
Dallas Keuchel vs Diamondbacks – Keuchel is priced up on FD, and is not an option at all for me there. But on DK/FDRFT, he starts a new pricing tier and becomes relevant. As usual, we have to decide between the low upside of Keuchel at a discount vs the higher upside of pitchers like Flaherty, Hamels, Berrios, etc, who are also riskier and more expensive. While I was complaining about Berrios not striking out more than six batters in his last eight starts, Keuchel has only passed that 6-K barrier three times in the entire season in 30 starts. When I say there’s not a lot upside, there really isn’t. His 17.5% strikeout rate doesn’t even crack the top 20 on this slate, but his 54% ground ball rate is the highest on the slate and his 28.8% hard hit rate is the second lowest behind Syndergaard, just ahead of Scherzer. He’s very good at what he does, and it’s usually effective in real life. Arizona further dampens his already low strikeout expectation, and they also have a ton of hard hit ability throughout the lineup. There is almost no case to be made for Keuchel in tournaments, but I would say he’s completely fine in cash games if you just happen to have this much salary left for your SP2. I think the better play is to either find a way up to the tier above or to pay down even more.
Chris Archer at Brewers – Archer just hasn’t been there this season, there’s not much more to say. The peripherals aren’t terrible, but this is not the Chris Archer we’ve known in the past. I’ll just hope he figures something out in the off-season so we can play him again in 2019, but going into this ballpark with the left-handed power on Milwaukee, I just have no interest outside of a multi entry tournament dart.
Gio Gonzalez vs Pirates – Gonzalez is right in this same pricing tier as Eflin and Anderson on DK/FDRFT, and is the third guy in this mix for a cash game SP2 to pair with Scherzer. He has looked a little better recently and more like his usual self, but still, his usual self is nothing special. For the season his 19.9% K rate is lower than both Eflin and Anderson, while his 10.6% walk rate is higher than both. When I talked about drop-off in skills for Eflin over the past month, they have dropped off to the same point that Gonzalez is at, with a 18% K rate and 9% walks over the past month, while doing his usual decent job of limiting hard contact. The Pirates aren’t great, but they can get fully right-handed, where Gonzalez strikeout rate drops and his walks go up, at 18.7%/11.8% on the season. It’s also a significant ballpark upgrade for Pittsburgh, and with every game being playoff level for Milwaukee, they are not going to be shy about pulling Gonzalez at the first sign of trouble, and he gets himself into trouble a lot. I’d play him before Archer I suppose, but I am not planning to use either pitcher in this game.
Zach Eflin vs Marlins – Eflin has not looked sharp recently, and if this was any matchup other than the Marlins, I would not have a hard time staying away. But it is the Marlins, and the price is right. He has allowed at least three earned runs in five straight starts, and has failed to reach six innings in the last four. His 6.2% walk rate for the season is up to 9.3% over the past month and the 22% strikeout rate is down to 17.8% with a 1% drop in swinging strikes. There’s nothing wrong with his velocity, but he has started using considerably more changeups over the past three starts, even though it’s clearly not working. This may well be a case of a young pitcher just getting tired towards the end of his first full season. With all that being said, he’s still limiting hard contact, and it’s not as if he’s been awful, he just hasn’t been good. You really don’t have to be good against this Marlins team at this salary, and at least with Eflin, we’ve seen upside from him this season. The Marlins projected lineup has a laughable .125 ISO and .292 wOBA and an OK pitcher can beat that. My expectation here is that six innings is the max we’re going to see and with where his strikeouts have been, a K per inning seems like a best case realistic scenario. That is all fine enough as a cash game SP2 on two-pitcher sites, he seems less likely to implode than these other cheap pitchers, but I’m not enthused about playing him in tournaments, especially if he’s going to be popular.
Tyler Anderson at Giants – The overall numbers show a completely average pitcher in every category. 22.4% K, 8.1% BB, 34% hard hits, 4.21 SIERA. Oddly, he has struggled more on the road this season with a 5.37 ERA away from Coors Field and it’s mostly been due to an elevated HR/FB%, which shouldn’t be a huge issue travelling to San Francisco. His 21.6% strikeout rate on the road and 20.9% strikeout rate since the All-Star Break all just imply an OK pitcher that should be matchup dependent. The Giants simply don’t have much left in their lineup to scare left-handed pitching after the losses of McCutchen and Posey. Their 22.9% projected K rate is higher than we’ve seen from most of these other matchups on the slate, they don’t walk much at 6.2% and only Longoria and Hundley have any sort of sample size of power against lefties. For me on this slate, I’m trying to find a way to get up to Scherzer in cash games, and this salary on Anderson is the way to make that happen. It is either Eflin or Anderson to start as my SP2, and I’m leaning towards Anderson. On FanDuel, I don’t love the idea of paying down in tournaments with so many upside pitchers, but Anderson is the guy whose clearly too cheap, as the 22nd highest priced pitcher on this slate. He’s in the tournament mix there due to the salary.
Jorge Lopez vs Twins – The overall numbers for Lopez are not exciting with a below average 18.4% K rate, high 11% walks and high 43% hard hits allowed, but it’s only been 48 innings and five starts, and the last two have looked like a new pitcher. He has thrown 15 innings, allowing just two runs on six hits with a 12:1 K:BB ratio. It’s been plenty of good luck on low BABIP with no lean towards soft contact or ground balls, but as long as he’s not walking anyone and showing at least moderate strikeout ability, there’s no reason he can’t have another decent outing here against the Twins. Against this team last weekend, he was throwing a perfect game through eight innings, and there is no reason to expect anything near that level, but we don’t need that type of performance here at this salary tonight. We don’t have even enough of a minor league track record to say where he is going to go next, but I’m willing to take some shots on two-pitcher sites here tonight. I have him just behind Anderson and Eflin on my list.
THE CHEAP LONG SHOT
Robbie Erlin vs Rangers – Erlin is a total wild card here tonight, but he’s the one dirt cheap option that I think is worth a look on the two-pitcher sites. He’s given up a lot of runs recently, but there is nothing off about his peripherals, he’s just seen a high .376 BABIP over the past month. There isn’t a ton of upside here, but he has one of the lowest walk rates in the league at just 2.7% for the season and he has a big 61% ground ball rate to lefties which helps offset the Rangers power. Texas will lose a DH and the righty power is just not a huge concern here. There is a twinge of strikeout upside, but really, we are just looking at a guy who doesn’t walk anybody and can hope to get some easy innings with his ground balls to lefties and some righties with unexciting power in this ballpark. This is the ticket to get to the expensive bats in tournaments and I think it’s worth a few shots.
Erlin is the only thing that hits my list as a cheap play tonight. The things I might point out as cheap nonsense just aren’t cheap. James Shields and Chris Stratton might have all hit the discussion if they were in the $5/$10k range on DK/FDRFT, but they are essentially the same salary as Anderson, so they miss my cut. I suppose you could throw a dart at rookie Luis Ortiz against the White Sox, but he is not a high strikeout prospect and projects to have some power issues in Baltimore. If I was confident that Marco Estrada were full strength, or if this game were in a better ballpark, maybe I’d take a shot there, but as it is, I just want bats against him. Josh Tomlin is cheap against the Tigers and throws strikes, but he’s been in the bullpen all season and has absolutely no upside. The other cheap pitchers are only slated to pitch an inning or two, so there isn’t anything to see there.
PITCHING CLIFF NOTES
OK, so let’s sort this out. On FanDuel, I strongly recommend paying for Max Scherzer in cash games. He’s clearly the best pitcher and there are enough value bats to make it work. If you’re not willing to spend that, I prefer Masahiro Tanaka followed by Walker Buehler. I don’t like the idea of going super cheap in cash games at pitcher, but if you were doing it, Tyler Anderson is the guy.
On DK/FDRFT, the salary is tougher on Scherzer in cash games, but that is still where I’m planning to start. That will leave me in the Tyler Anderson / Zach Eflin camp for SP2. The next possible path is to skip the extreme salary on Scherzer and start with Tanaka or Buehler as your SP1, while sticking with the cheaper Anderson/Eflin range for SP2 and having more salary for your bats. The third path is to take two pitchers from that loaded second tier, where I would want Buehler as the SP1 and one of Cole Hamels or Jose Berrios as the SP2.
It is wide open in tournaments tonight and unless something ends up looking extreme in the ownership projections, I don’t plan to worry about that at all. I’m just going to play who I want to play. These are my personal rankings for tournaments, but the gaps are extremely close, so again, if your rankings look different, that is OK.
FD – Scherzer, Buehler, Anderson, Tanaka, Hamels, Ray, Flaherty, Eflin, Berrios
DK/FDRFT – Buehler, Tanaka, Scherzer, Hamels, Ray, Anderson, Erlin, Flaherty, Eflin, Berrios
FRIDAY NIGHT BATS
With so many good pitchers on the mound, there is really not much to love with the bats tonight. There are always cases to be made for hitters against good pitchers, but I’m going to be crossing off at least half the teams on this slate for my main core bats tonight. I’ll talk through a couple stacks to consider, and some spots for power and value hunting, but there is less than usual worth talking about tonight.
Yankees Power or Stack vs Marco Estrada – There are a few good home run spots on this slate, but this one takes the cheesecake, as they say. Estrada is an extreme fly ball pitcher who has allowed a 1.80 HR/9 on the season with a 56% fly ball rate and has fallen off the map recently with nine homers allowed in his last five starts with his strikeout rate dropping to just 12.7% over those five starts and his walks coming up to 11%. When he’s at his best, this is not a great pitcher to stack against, but he is not at his best. There were reports prior to his last start that he’d been dealing with back soreness and they even contemplated putting him on the DL. The safe play is to assume he’s healthy and just hunt for individual power bats, but given how few elite spots there are for teams to stack tonight, I plan to go heavily on all these Yankees bats in all formats.
Estrada has allowed a ridiculous .280 ISO to right-handed batters and .212 ISO to lefties, and that does not bode well here. These Yankees power bats line up better against fly ball pitchers to begin with, and even at high ownership, this is where I’m starting tonight. Giancarlo Stanton (.204 ISO) is my top play on the slate. He has not lived up to his lofty expectations, but he still has a 47% hard hit rate over the past month and fly ball pitchers are his wheelhouse. Speaking of houses where wheels are kept, Gary Sanchez (.217 ISO) has a career .596 slugging percentage against fly ball pitchers and is underpriced for the catcher spot on DK. I love Miguel Andujar (.219 ISO) here, I love Luke Voit (.339 ISO) here, I love Didi Gregorius (.238 ISO) here and I love Aaron Hicks (.188 ISO) here. Oh, also, I love Andrew McCutchen (.148 ISO) and Gleyber Torres (.175 ISO). Outside of Gregorius on DK/FDRFT, the salaries are not extreme here, and I will go out of my way for some Yankees exposure in cash games on all sites.
Cubs Lefties vs Matt Harvey – Harvey has absolutely been a better pitcher in the second half this season, and this is not the must-attack guy that he was with the Mets. But, left-handed power is absolutely still a thing, and with the Cubs strong and patient lineup, it’s also quite possible they get into the bullpen early enough to make this a stack. But for the most part, I want a few left-handed bats here and that’s about it. Harvey is solid enough against righties that Javier Baez and Kris Bryant only come into play if full stacking the Cubs. Against lefties, Harvey has a below average 18.7% K rate with 43% fly balls and 40% hard hits allowed, leading to a .356 wOBA and .236 ISO against. Anthony Rizzo (.223 ISO, .389 wOBA, 9.8% K) and Daniel Murphy (.191 ISO, .369 wOBA, 9.4% K) are two of my favorite cash game plays on this slate. I may not be able to afford Rizzo if using Scherzer, but Murphy is an easy cash game fit on DK/FDRFT. Kyle Schwarber has missed a few days with a sore back but should be in the lineup tonight and is a top tournament option with his .276 ISO and 42% hard hits against righties. If we don’t see Schwarber back in there, then Ian Happ (.197 ISO, 43% HH) would be the higher risk power option to look at.
Tigers Power at Josh Tomlin – Tomlin allows home runs like they’re going out of style. He has an absurd 3.56 HR/9 in his 55 innings this season and a career 1.67 HR/9. He throws a ton of strikes with no swing and miss ability while allowing fly balls at a 45% rate this season and 39% for his career. With just 3.9% walks, 3.6% career and just a 16.3% K rate, you can always count on seeing pitches to hit. The unfortunate thing here is that Detroit just doesn’t have much power worth looking at. Nick Castellanos jumps out here and is one of the top plays on this slate for home run hunting with his 47% hard hits against right-handed pitching. After Castellanos, it would be Jeimer Candelario (.166 ISO) next in line. After those two, the guy to consider is rookie Christin Stewart, who had 23 HR in Triple-A this season after 28 HR in Double-A last season. He has a lot of raw power, and the strikeouts will be an issue against most pitchers, but that is just not a concern with Tomlin, so I’ll take some shots here.
Indians Righty Power vs Matt Boyd – Boyd is a good pitcher, and a on a different slate, I might have even considered him as a pitching option, but with the options available tonight and this tough matchup, he falls into the play-against category. Where he runs into trouble tonight is with his 48% fly balls to right-handed batters and an Indians team with four big righty power bats up top. I can’t prioritize Jose Ramirez (.216 ISO, .361 wOBA) and Francisco Lindor (.219 ISO, .431 wOBA) on this slate, but of course always play them if you just happen to have salary sitting around. The more realistic target here is Edwin Encarnacion with his 43% hard hits and 50% fly balls against lefties. I’m mostly taking a wait and see approach on Josh Donaldson after missing so much time, but if we knew he was at full strength, this would be a lock button play at this salary. As it is, he’s more just a guy I’d put into soe mini stacks along with Encarnacion. We also have a reasonable catcher option on DK with Yan Gomes (.212 ISO, .388 wOBA) and some potential savings with Brandon Guyer (.224 ISO, .358 wOBA) who would be a very useful salary play if in the lineup.
Houston Righty Power or Stack vs Robbie Ray – Just as Ray is worth a play in tournaments for his extreme strikeout upside, a full stack is completely in play against him, as he has the ability to pitch himself into big trouble early and often. If stacking, you can just go straight 1-4 or 5, with a few versions where you swap out Tyler White for Yulieski Gurriel or Marwin Gonzalez for Carlos Correa. If looking for one bat here, it’s clearly Alex Bregman with the lowest strikeout rate on the team at 10.1% vs lefties and a .262 ISO and .412 wOBA. We’re starting to get to the point where we can believe these strong numbers from Tyler White. At 64 PA against lefties, he leads the team with a .327 ISO, .451 wOBA with a solid 81% contact rate. I would also look at Jose Altuve (11.8% K) and Yulieski Gurriel (11.3% K) who both have the contact to fight through the K’s of Ray. For the most part, this is a pay up for Bregman or full stack.
Boston Stack – Just in Case
I don’t have any interest in stacking against Noah Syndergaard. But, I would have all kinds of interest in the Red Sox against the Mets bullpen. We’ve seen quite a few times this season when Syndergaard has been held to 5-6 innings, and there’s also the chance that he is not quite fully healthy after being hit in the ribs in his last start. (He is reportedly completely OK, so that is not a likely scenario). There is just so much contact up and down this Red Sox lineup, that if they can get a little help from good old Mr. BABIP, maybe they can get into the Mets bullpen early enough that they don’t have to see any of the better arms that they have back there. This is a very longshot kind of thing, and I would be 20+ lineups in before getting to a Boston stack, but I’m just looking for anything and everything with upside tonight.
The 42-104 Orioles take on the 57-89 White Sox in a thrilling battle of baseball prowess this weekend in Baltimore. Cue up those VCR’s. Maybe even a DVR if you are from the future. As awful as this series is in real life, it does have some DFS intrigue.
The Orioles Luis Ortiz will make his first career start and doesn’t project to be a great major league pitcher right away. He’s fought injuries his whole career in the minors so we don’t have a lot of numbers to go on, but he has never shown more than average strikeout ability and has allowed a lot of fly balls at times. His control is usually solid, implying that he’ll be throwing hittable strikes, and in this ballpark, I am interested in playing for some power against him in this first start.
There is plenty of power worth looking at for Chicago, starting with Daniel Palka (.261 ISO), Yoan Moncada (.189 ISO) and Nick Delmonico (.169 ISO) from the left-side and both of Jose Abreu (.200 ISO) and Avisail Garcia (.197 ISO) from the right-side, who will both benefit if Ortiz does end up being a fly ball pitcher. Because of the chance for a rookie pitcher to be overmatched and a bad Baltimore bullpen, I would certainly consider a stack here, although it looks a little too pricey on DK/FDRFT. I would mostly be looking at the savings on Delmonico there, while on FD, Palka and Garcia are both very cheap and playable on their own.
James Shields continued to bounce around between good and bad starts, with the numbers showing a guy who should be expected to allow some power to right-handed batters. His control is sketchy enough to lefties, that if you wanted to try and stack it with Cedric Mullins and Jonathan Villar getting on base ahead of the righties, it’s somewhat viable, but Shields has been good enough often enough that I don’t really want to play this bad of an offense on a full slate. I would say Trey Mancini (.185 ISO) or Adam Jones on FD (.153 ISO) are somewhat viable at their salaries, though just barely. Tim Beckham does not have inspiring skills, but he is dirt cheap, and if you get down to a point where you just need a cheap SS, he’s a fine punt. Overall, I don’t plan to land on much here with Baltimore and I much prefer the White Sox side here.
Phillies Righty Power vs Wei-Yin Chen – Chen’s huge home/road splits have continued with a 9.35 ERA with a 2.2.8 HR/9 on the road vs 1.77 ERA at home with a 0.63 HR/9. That big of a gap is certainly fluky and not sustainable on either side, but as a guy who allows a lot of fly balls, it makes sense that the home runs will go up away from his friendly home confines. He has also seen a stark drop in K’s on the road, with just a 14.3% K rate this season. The combined numbers against right-handed batters are a 17% K rate with 43% fly balls and 31% hard hits allowed. While Rhys Hoskins is high on the list, it’s Wilson Ramos who is my preferred play here with his team high .250 ISO and 42% hard hits against lefties this season. He is the only catcher in the same tier as Gary Sanchez on DK, and a viable play at the C/1B spot on FD along with Carlos Santana and his .222 ISO plus elite plate skills against lefties. If we get Aaron Altherr and Jose Bautista in the middle of the lineup, they are both cheap enough to take some GPP shots on with both guys over 37% hard hits and 44% fly balls against lefties.
This is an easy game to lose in the shuffle on this slate, but there are some things worth looking at on both sides. On the Tampa side, it’s mostly due to salaries, as they have plenty of respectable bats below the $4k mark on DK and the $3k mark on FD. Edwin Jackson has below average strikeouts to both sides of the plate, allowing 45% fly balls to lefties and more hard hits with no ground ball lean to righties. The problem is that Oakland’s bullpen is strong, and if Jackson is not on his game, they will not leave him in to get shelled. Ji-Man Choi looks legit with his .275 ISO and 45% hard hits but he doesn’t come at enough of a discount to stand out. The bottom of the lineup has some cheaper power with guys like Jake Bauers (.194 ISO) and Brandon Lowe (.221 ISO) but nothing here should be a target as much as just ways to fill in a last spot or two.
Oakland is going to see the usual bullpen game from Tampa. The problem here is not only are several options available for the next guy in, but they haven’t even been letting their ‘primary’ pitchers pitch enough innings to matter recently. We basically need to ignore the matchups and just look at the overall skills of the Oakland bats which basically just leaves the big three of Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman as power one offs. Ramon Laureano has been priced up to the point where he is no longer on my list and this is not a team I’m personally considering as a stack tonight.
Washington Power at Kevin Gausman – Gausman has had a nice run with Atlanta and is a solid real life pitcher. But the strikeouts are way down at 17% since the All-Star Break and he has a history of reverse splits power that makes Anthony Rendon (.197 ISO) and Ryan Zimmerman (.216 ISO) somewhat intriguing contrarian plays. Even though the reverse splits have been more of a thing for Gausman, there’s not a huge gap to lefties this season at 19.4% K, 46% GB and 32% hard hits allowed. I’d be perfectly happy with the power of Bryce Harper (.272 ISO) or Juan Soto (.219 ISO) in tournaments tonight as well.
The Pirates aren’t a good enough team to stand out on a full slate, but I certainly expect a few runs against the mediocre numbers of Gonzalez against righties. Starling Marte (.198 ISO, 36% HH), and Francisco Cervelli (.127 ISO, 35% HH) are the best things here, and maybe a cheap Jordan Luplow on FD can be looked at, but this is a spot I’ll mostly avoid on all sides.
The Brewers bats have a lot more to like, and despite the long term skills of Chris Archer, he has been a guy to play against this season, especially with left-handed power, where he’s allowed a .187 ISO on 39% hard hits and a simply average 21.9% strikeout rate. Travis Shaw (.290 ISO, .378 wOBA, 40% HH), Mike Moustakas (.236 ISO, .348 wOBA, 44% HH) and Christian Yelich (.249 ISO, .404 wOBA, 48% HH) are among my favorite tournament plays on this slate, and if we get Curtis Granderson (.212 ISO, .363 wOBA) in the lineup, he makes for another interesting option.
Even though Jose Berrios doesn’t look great, this is still a talented pitcher and really not a guy to pick on with a full slate. The Twins side has some cheap bats worth a look as fill INS. As mentioned in the pitching section, that last start from Lopez as almost certainly an outlier, though we still don’t know what his baseline talent level is. He just hasn’t shown enough strikeout stuff or the ability to limit hard contact to where I’m ready to avoid cheap bats against him. Logan Forsythe and the lefty outfielders are very cheap, especially Forsythe on DK/FDRFT and Jake Cave, Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman on FD. Cave has looked the best of the group with a .226 ISO, and Kepler has the fly balls to keep me interested. Forsythe is nothing more than a punt if you just need the salary for other things.
Mariners at Angels – Seattle Bullpen at Matt Shoemaker
For Seattle, they fall pretty far down the list tonight, but Nelson Cruz remains just way too cheap on DK/FDRFT. The guy is a superstar, priced like an average hitter. Matt Shoemaker allows a lot of fly balls to right-handed batters, 50% since last season with no ability to limit hard hits. You could add Mitch Haniger to the list, but Cruz is the standout here with his .270 ISO and 40% hard hits.
The Angels are going to face a bullpen game for Seattle, likely seeing a mix of right and left-handed pitchers, and with so many arms available tonight, we really can’t break down the matchups. This is going to leave me with Mike Trout as an elite play based on his individual skill set being better than anything Seattle has to offer, but everything else here as just a deep GPP salary play only. It would be fine to use someone like Taylor Ward or Jose Briceno as a cheap last piece on DK/FDRFT, and Justin Upton remains way too cheap for his long term skills, and has started showing signs of life with a home run last night after a triple on Wednesday. I see this mostly as a game to skip, with the exception of the three big outfielders, Trout, Cruz and Upton.
HITTING CLIFF NOTES
This entire slate looks like the Yankees, and then a whole big tangled mess of kind of OK stuff. This is likely to leave the Yankees with some pretty extreme ownership in tournaments, and I will be playing this the way I usually attack these situations. If I agree strongly with the chalk being the best play, which I do in this case, I’ll go all-in or all-out in different tournaments. I want to be way ahead of the field on Yankees stacks when I play them, but I will pick out some spots to fade them completely so that I’m not fully invested in a popular spot that does have a path to a disappointing game.
If you’re looking to avoid the Yankees, my first look would be to avoid stacking and just pick out your top bats, which may lead to a couple mini stacks, but I don’t see other teams that look so good that I want to jam in sub-par plays. If you need to stack outside of New York, I have the White Sox next on my list.
As far as those one-offs and mini stacks, my preferred spots are Brewers Lefties, Cubs Lefties, Phillies Righties, Indians Righties, and Astros Righties.
Let’s take a look at some potential salary savers to help make those Scherzer lineups work tonight:
FD – Avisail Garcia, Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico, Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez, Wilson Ramos, J.T. Riddle, Jay Bruce, Brandon Lowe, Jake Bauers, Brandon Guyer, Christin Stewart, Jordan Luplow, Logan Forsythe, Jake Cave, Max Kepler, Joc Pederson, Chase d’Arnaud
DK/FDRFT – Nicky Delmonico, Trey Mancini, Aaron Altherr, Jake Bauers, Brandon Lowe, James McCann, Brandon Guyer, Yandy Diaz, Daniel Murphy, Ian Happ, Brandon Dixon, Yulieski Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez, Logan Forsythe, Jake Cave, Taylor Ward, Jose Briceno, Chase d’Arnaud, Evan Longoria
AFTERNOON LINEUP BUILDING NOTE
Just an update here as I’m going through my lineup building. As much as I wanted to make it happen, I have shifted off Scherzer in DK cash. I made it work OK with a Scherzer/Anderson combo, but going down off Scherzer (to Tanaka or Buehler, even Hamels if you want) makes such a tremendous difference with the bats, that’s where I’ve landed. I am sticking with Scherzer in FanDuel cash games as I like the value plays better there.
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