Panda's Bears and Bulls: MLB 8/27 Slate Breakdown
We’ve got a little bit of a strange slate today, with 6 games and a 6:37 EST start time and the last game scheduled for first pitch at 7:10 EST. Since we’re locking early, let’s not waste any time.
PHI @ WAS
Spencer Howard is a big time prospect making his 4th major league start. All has not gone well for him so far, but he is coming off his most successful start of his career, although it wasn’t without issues. We obviously don’t have much to go on and the sample size is small, but he has been brutal to left-handed bats so far. Check these numbers out:
.544 wOBA, .423 ISO, 10% K-rate, and 34.8% HC allowed.
Yes, that’s what Howard has given up to LHB’s so far. Sure, that’s in only 30 plate appearances, but we have to use what we have. On the flip side he’s been very successful against righties, with just a .100 ISO allowed and 27.6% K-rate.
So, let’s state the obvious, we should have some interest in the Nationals LHB’s. We can expect to see as many as 5, with Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, Asdrubal Cabrera, Luis Garcia, and Eric Thames. All 5 hit RHP well, with “(player-popup #adam-eaton)Adam Eaton”:/players/adam-eaton-13612’s .160 ISO and 36.6% HC rate being the lowest of the bunch. It only goes up from there. They’re fairly cheap too, outside of Juan Soto, but a guy who is hitting .380 with 8 HR’s in 20 games, isn’t going to be cheap. If making multiple stacks there’s nothing wrong with mixing in the RHB’s and betting on the talents of Trea Turner and Howie Kendrick or snagging your catcher here, but the lefties should be the majority.
Max Scherzer gets the start for the Nationals, and is the premier pitching option on the slate. Although there’s some evidence of decline, it’s not enough to be concerned, and most of the decline is taking place with struggles against LHB’s. Fortunately for Max, the Phillies only have two real lefties of consequence to throw at Max in Didi Gregorious and Bryce Harper. He’s still dominating RHB’s, with a 37.5% K-rate and that’s what matters most here. I have no hesitation to deploy Max as the SP1 of the slate.
BOS @ TOR
Hyun-jin Ryu has rallied after a couple of rough starts to begin the season. He’s sitting on a 3.14 xFIP and 26.8% K-rate, which is pretty much inline with his last couple of seasons. The numbers put him easily as one of the top 3, if not 2 options on the slate, behind Max Scherzer. The Red Sox have a couple lefty mashers, most notably JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts, with Christian Vazquez, Michael Chavis, and Kevin Pillar not far behind, but as a whole this is a league average offense against left-handed pitching. On a bigger slate or a slate with better pitching options, I would be more intrigued by a contrarian Red Sox stack. They’re fairly priced, Sahlen Field, where the Jays are playing now, has definitely had a hitter lean so far (6th in HR’s, 4th in runs scored on ESPN’s park factors), but ultimately unless hedging against Ryu, it just doesn’t add up here. It wouldn’t hurt to leave any of the RHB’s I mentioned in your pool as one-offs, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
Chris Mazza is basically a right handed 30 year old minor league journey-man. In 11 big league appearances between this year and last, we’re looking at a 5.12 xFIP, 17% K-rate, and 39% HC allowed. Not too good. He comes with traditional splits, but his numbers against RHB’s are nothing to shy away from. Piled on top of that, the Red Sox bullpen is 3rd worst with a 5.73 ERA. So, we could see some fireworks and it’s no surprise that the Blue Jays have the highest implied total on the board at 5.9.
There’s not going to be anything sneaky about a Jays stack, but that’s not a reason to avoid it. The Jays have the 3rd highest team .ISO against RHP, and as mentioned above, the park the Jays are playing in has been a strong spot for offense so far. All the LHB’s check out well here, while Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez each hit RHP very well, especially sinkers, sliders, and cutters, which is the bulk of Mazza’s repertoire.
OAK @ TEX
Jordan Lyles has been getting rocked, and there appears to be no end in sight. In fact, of his last 3 starts, each has gotten consecutively worse. In 2018, Lyles struggled more with RHB’s, then in 2019, struggled more with LHB’s, and now in 2020 it’s back to RHB’s, which is a nightmare for him in this spot. Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, Ramon Laureano, and Mark Canha all had .ISO’s over .200 against RHP last season. Throw in “(player-popup #matt-olson)Matt Olson”:/players/matt-olson-17887’s massive power numbers against RHP, and things don’t look good for Lyles. After Lyles would be the 4.99 xFIP of the Rangers bullpen, which is 6th worst in baseball. It’s easy to see how the Rangers have given up 10 and 14 runs in his last two starts.
Chris Bassitt is pretty average. The Rangers offense is pretty bad. It’s an extremely small sample size, but it’s worth noting that the Rangers have hit Bassitt well in the past. Frankly though, I hope we can continue to find better offenses to stack, then reasons to reach for loading up on Rangers, who are bottom 5 against RHP in most categories. Also, even though the match up is above average, I hope we don’t have to over pay for an average pitcher like Chris Bassitt. We’ll circle back around if necessary when we recap at the end, but my first instinct is to leave this alone.
BAL @ TB
John Means had a nice start to his career, but it’s been a slow downward spiral for the most part ever since. We’re looking at a below average pitcher with a 5.32 xFIP between this season and last, a fairly low 19% K-rate, but what he has going for him is the ability to limit hard contact. Despite that he’s still allowed a .240 ISO to RHB. He mostly relies on a decent change up and low 90’s fastball. The issue here for the Rays is, most of their line up doesn’t hit change ups too well. I, personally, don’t want to go overboard here. The O’s bullpen has actually been about league average this year too. Two names though do jump out here, that I do want to mention. The first is Mike Brosseau, who has a .227 ISO against change ups, a .270 ISO against LHP, and in 9 career plate appearances against Means has 4 hits, 3 of which were HR’s. The other is Hunter Renfroe who has a .230 ISO and 44.7% HC rate against change ups. Renfroe is pretty cheap, and definitely has the pop to get one out tonight.
“(player-popup #ryan-yarbrough)Ryan Yarbrough”:/players/ryan-yarbrough-38042’s days of long relief and guessing whether he’ll come in after Ryne Stanek are over. He even got up to 97 pitches in his last start. The issue here is the strikeouts aren’t there and the O’s have been one of the best offenses in baseball against LHP so far. Tropicana field is definitely a pitchers park, Yarbrough is solid in real life, and the Rays have a top 10 bullpen, but the O’s 3.4 run implied total seems low. Honestly, I’m kind of torn here, as pitching as a whole on this slate is weak, and Yarbrough feels “safe,” but there appears to be some overlooked upside in the O’s here. Ultimately, I’ll lean towards trusting the market, and bet on Yarbrough, but if through the day that 3.4 goes up (now 3.7, was 3.4 late last night), I may shift positions here. I will point out, if nothing else, Renato Nunez and Hanser Alberto have hit Yarbrough well in a small sample, and Ryan Mountcastle is dirt cheap and has hit well since joining the big club. He’s a legit power prospect who hit 25 HR’s in AAA last year and has a 50 futures value on Fangraphs.
MIN @ DET
What a rough start for Matthew Boyd. There’s some reason to be optimistic he’s rounding into form though. In his last 2 starts, against the solid offenses of Cleveland and the White Sox, Boyd compiled a 2.79 xFIP/2.92 SIERA, 36.6% K-rate, and only 30% HC rate. The issue is still the 2.89 HR/9 over those 2 starts and his 2.51 HR/9 on the season. Here’s something else positive, despite how dangerous we know the Twins can be, their numbers against LHP aren’t what you might think. They’re 29th with a surprisingly low .108 team ISO, 21st with a 90 wRC+, and 21st with a .686 OPS. Today’s projected Twins lineup also has a 24% K-rate.
So, what does this mean? Well, for me when I said Ryu was the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher on the slate, I was contemplating putting Boyd ahead of him, if for no other reason then he’s cheaper with greater K upside. This is obviously a risky spot, but I lean to having much more interest in Boyd then I do these Twins. As an added bonus, BVP is on his side as well. In 189 plate appearances, the Twins roster is hitting .226 against Boyd with 56 K’s and only 5 HR’s.
Randy Dobnak is just way too expensive on DK to mess with. He’s been great, but he does it with a 62% ground ball rate, not his measly 13% k-rate. He has to be perfect, and he’s been close to it, because if he starts giving up runs, he’s not getting the K’s to cancel them out. I’m just not paying that price for a pitcher who averages 14.9 DK points, and has shown no upside.
In the last two blogs I’ve done, I’ve campaigned for the cheap Tigers bats, and I don’t mind them here again, just not with the same enthusiasm as before. Victor Reyes stands out most, likely to be leading off, with better numbers against RHP, and just a 35% GB rate himself. He also has the speed to beat out an infield grounder and swipe a bag. Christin Stewart, Jacoby Jones and Isaac Paredes are also suitable options, but none of them are guys I’m going out of my way to play, but are decent fillers if needing a cheap bat.
MIA @ NYM
Sixto Sanchez is one of the elite prospects in baseball, making his 2nd career big league start. Before that he had never pitched above AA, but put up strong numbers there with a 8.48 K/9, 2.53 ERA/2.92 xFIP and average 47.9% groundball rate last season. In his debut he threw 5 innings of 3 run, 6 hit ball with 4 K’s and most impressive probably, 0 walks. Control is key with young pitchers. You don’t want them serving up meatballs at the plate, but if they can not beat themselves and walk runners they give themselves a chance. His 1.66 BB/9 in AA last year is evidence this wasn’t an anomaly. On a slate where you might need a cheap SP2, to play Max and stack the Jays or A’s, who aren’t cheap themselves, Sixto Sanchez is probably our best option, ahead of Howard and Means.
I want to get this blog up, so I’m going to move on here. We still don’t know who for sure is pitching for the Mets today. We’re showing Walter Lockett here on RG, but nothing official has been announced, and I don’t want to write up what ifs anymore than we already do in DFS.
I will update later on the Mets pitcher vs. Marlins bats, and add more to the recap below most likely.
Looking things back over, I don’t hate taking shots on Means as a pivot off Sanchez, who I suspect will get touted throughout the day. I believe I’m still off Bassit, as I’m really coming around on Boyd, as I went over the numbers. His upside is significantly higher, and this is shaping up as a potential, put it all back all together spot. Who cares if he gives up 3 HR’s, if he gets double digit strikeouts and keeps guys off base otherwise, right?
Mini Stack and one-off options: