THE BAT X's Top Contrarian and Chalk Plays for Opening Day
Baseball is back, and that means one thing… THE BAT is back also! And it’s better than ever, with Statcast data being incorporated into a brand new set of projections dubbed THE BAT X! Barrels, launch angle, exit velocity, sprint speed, and 150+ variations on them have been fully incorporated into what were already the most comprehensive projections available. You can pick up your copy of THE BAT X now, but for Opening Day, RotoGrinders has asked me to write an article about the play THE BAT X likes the most.
Good Chalk Pitchers
Shane Bieber vs. KC (DK: $10,300 | FD: $10,200)
Because of the delayed season and shortened “Spring Training”, pitchers are at various stages of being stretched out. Some will only go 60 or 70 pitches tonight, while others could eclipse 100 easily. THE BAT is the only system, as far as I know, designed to project pitches first, base innings projections off of them, and then scale raw stats to those projected innings. I’ve also built in the ability to manually adjust pitch counts, which is perfect for the situation we’re facing.
Bieber was reportedly throwing 90-95 pitches two weeks ago, so he figures to have one of the longest leashes on the whole slate, giving him a big relative boost to most pitchers. He’s a top 10 SP talent in MLB and he also faces one of the weaker offenses on the slate… and one that strikes out at an above-average rate to boot. He’s an elite play.
Justin Verlander vs. SEA (DK: $11,400 | FD: $11,200)
Verlander worked up to just 74 pitches in his final Summer Camp appearance, so he’s likely to be limited to 90 pitches tonight, 95 max. Still, that’s enough to make him the top raw points pitcher on the slate for THE BAT. After all, there’s nobody in his talent tier on the slate (deGrom, Scherzer, Cole, et al are missing) and he faces what figures to be a putrid Mariners offense. Unless you pay very close attention or live in Seattle, you may only recognize four or five names in that lineup tonight. The price is a bit high for me on FanDuel, especially if he garners heavy ownership, but he’s an option for DK cash. The thing that has me most hesitant is the possibility of him getting ejected in the second inning. If the Mariners throw at Houston to make a statement about the sign-stealing scandal, Verlander may well retaliate by throwing at them, after a warning has been issued, and could be gone.
Worst Chalk Pitchers
Aaron Nola vs. MIA (DK: $9,100 | FD: $9,900)
Nola against the Marlins at a significant discount from Verlander and Bieber looks appealing at first glance, and under normal circumstances may even be a lock. But he only worked up to 62 pitches in Summer Camp. Even if he gets to 80 tonight, that’s just not enough for me.
Best Value/Contrarian Pitchers
Andrew Heaney at OAK (DK: $8,000 | FD: $6,700)
Despite once being the top pitching prospect in baseball, Heaney is one of the most underrated pitching talents in MLB. Oakland’s offense isn’t one of our first choices to attack, usually, but this season is starting in the middle of summer. It’s over 70 degrees everywhere, over 80 degrees in most games, and nearly 90 degrees in a couple… except in Oakland, where it will be 53 degrees at gametime. That is a MASSIVE weather advantage, and the price is certainly right. Heaney’s biggest issue is the long-ball, but the park and weather should help with that, and that kind of boom-or-bust profile is perfect for GPPs regardless.
Nathan Eovaldi vs. BAL (DK: $7,100 | FD: $7,100)
Eovaldi should be completely stretched out, and he faces the Orioles with Tommy Milone taking the mound opposite him. Milone wouldn’t crack the rotation for a lot of teams, but he starts Opening Day for the O’s. Eovaldi has the best Win projection of any non-Verlander/Bieber pitcher tonight, and his ability to go deep gives him massive price-considered upside.
Best Chalk Stacks
Boston Red Sox vs. Tommy Milone
Boston makes up all 50 of THE BAT’s top 50 price-considered DraftKings stacks tonight and 70 of the top 100. Even with Mookie Betts gone, they’re just too cheap against a horrible lefty in the best hitters’ park on the slate. They’ll be popular, so load up in cash games and in GPPs find ways to be contrarian around them.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Jeff Samardzija
The Dodgers make up another 20 of THE BAT’s top 100 price-considered DraftKings stacks tonight and project for nearly the same number of runs as Boston overall. It’s possible their higher prices lead to less ownership than Boston despite being just as good in a vacuum, but they’ll likely draw plenty of ownership themselves. They’re the best offense in baseball, are the best-suited NL team to the Universal DH, and face one of the weakest pitchers going tonight. Moreover, Jeff Samardzija’s stuff has reportedly looked worse in Summer Camp. These are the clear top two raw offenses tonight.
Worst Chalk Stacks
Houston Astors vs. Marco Gonzales
Vegas has Houston on par with LA today, but THE BAT projects them for .7 runs less than Vegas and a full run below LA. And that’s before accounting for any possible projection inflation from the cheating scandal. Yordan Alvarez seems likely to miss the game, and Marco Gonzales is one of the least-stretched out pitchers, so they’ll face a heavy dose of the bullpen. Then there’s the risk of mass ejections. Fighting is outlawed under COVID-19 protocols, and if the M’s start hitting Astros with pitches, they may want to make their own statement by fighting back. Considering this risk and the low projection, they’re an easy full-fade for me.
Best Value Stacks
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Jack Flaherty
The Pirates are the ultimate Vomit Stack ™ (credit Blender) tonight against one of the top pitchers on the slate. However, St. Louis is the hottest environment tonight at 89 degrees and despite Flaherty being a near-elite starter, his wide platoon split makes him susceptible to lefties, which the Pirates project to run out six of. They’re so cheap you could 5-man stack them and only spend $15,000 DraftKings (i.e just $3,000 per spot) and then load up on chalky Red Sox or Dodgers bats, Verlander, Bieber, or whoever else you want and still be super-leveraged.
Baltimore Orioles at Nathan Eovaldi
If the Red Sox moneyline leads to Eovaldi drawing ownership at his low price, the Orioles would be a great leverage stack, particularly on FanDuel. They make up 23 of THE BAT’s top 100 price-considered stacks. They’re not good, but they get a massive park upgrade going into Fenway, have some players with pop, and are priced right.
Honorable Mention: San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies
Manny Machado, SDP vs. Madison Bumgarner (DK: $4,000 | FD: $3,000)
Apparently, DraftKings and FanDuel still think Bumgarner is good. He’s not. And now he’s no longer pitching in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park. THE BAT, Steamer and ZiPS Projected 2020 ERAs for Bumgarner: 4.68, 4.72, 4.29. He’ll be a common target early in the year if hitters like Machado are priced down against him. Sure, Machado had a down year himself last year in every meaningful regard, but we have to expect positive regression for a guy who was elite previously. Bumgarner is four years removed from anything that could be considered elite, so no such regression should be expected for him.
Jay Bruce, PHI vs. Sandy Alcantara (FD: $2,100)
Bruce is old and boring to some, but to me he’s a solid hitter in a good matchup for free. Last season, his xwOBA was in the 70th percentile, his Barrel% was 93rd percentile, his Sweet Spot Launch Angle was 99th percentile, and Exit Velocity on Flyballs was 85th percentile. There’s swing-and-miss in his game, but Citizens Bank Park is a perfect fit for his still-massive power and Alcantara is a bottom-4 pitcher on the slate.
Rob Brantly, SFG at Ross Stripling (DK: $2,000)
There’s so much hitting to like tonight, that you may need an outright punt or two to get everything you want. If you aren’t including a catcher in your stacks, Brantly is your man. He’s not good, but it’s a park upgrade, a non-elite opposing pitcher, and he’s free. One of the benefits of a good projection system is that it’s willing to make a call like this that the human brain just wouldn’t be willing to make. Nobody looks at Brantly and says, “Yup, I want him, he’s my dude.” It’s a gross play. But a projection system can measure exactly how gross and whether it’s still good enough for the price. In the case of Brantly, it is.