Panda's Bears and Bulls: MLB 9/4 Slate Breakdown

We’re going to try and get back to a true, traditional, Bears and Bulls MLB breakdown today. We’ll go over the spots I’m bullish on, the spots I’m bearish on, and where I’m truly neutral. As someone who plays primarily on draftkings, this blog is more geared with that site in mind, as that’s where my personal focus is, but I do like to try and incorporate thoughts on Fanduel, as pricing discrepancies definitely make the slate slightly different on each site.

We’ll go over the pitching options first, and we’ve got some stuff to mull over on DK. They’re giving us multiple decent cheap options to pair with multiple decent expensive options, but on FD it looks much more cut and dry to me.

BULLS:

Carlos Carrasco

We’ll start with Carrasco, who I like a lot more on FD, and he’s my favorite “cut and dry” option I mentioned above, but he has appeal on DK as well. If the wind blowing out at Wrigley makes you nervous even more appeal can be layered on, but more on that later. Things are always dicey with Carrasco, as he tends to give up a lot of hard contact (42% between this and last season), and with that can come some home runs, and more so he has a tendency to unravel at times. If he catches a bad break or two on a base hit or missed called 3rd strike, it can affect his composure on the mound. When he’s on though, and stays on he can be one of the best commodities in DFS pitching.

He’s priced as the 3rd most expensive pitcher on each site, but has as high of a ceiling as anyone, and on FD the gap between him and Yu Darvish seems too big. He brings his 28% K-rate from 2019 and 20 to the Brewers line up and their 27% K-rate against RHP this season. The Brewers offense has struggled mightily against RHP this season too, with a 4th worse .145 ISO, and they’re 3rd worse in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. Oh, and that 27% K-rate is 2nd worst. Sample size and all, but their offense numbers are worse on the road too. So, this is a pretty good setup here for Carrasco.

This is where I would hitch my wagon on FD, and he’s more than worthwhile as an SP1 on DK.

Yu Darvish

If the wind wasn’t blowing out at Wrigley, I’d have no hesitation just calling Darvish your SP1, and point out all his upside and sparkling stats, but the wind is blowing out. Saying a windy Wrigley is comparable to Coors might be an overstatement, but it’s not a crazy statement. OK, let’s pump the brakes and step back, to glare at those sparkling Darvish 19-20 combined stats:

3.41 xFIP (down to 2.99 so far this season), 31% K-rate, 45% GB rate, 34% HC allowed, 32% FB rate (may be important here).

Those are pretty good numbers, and they’re better than Carrasco’s.

Let’s look at that wind really quick. Yes, it’s blowing out to right field, but at 10 MPH, which is something, but not significant and the wind will dissipate as the night goes. Really, the wind might not be much of a factor here. Also, as I started writing about Darvish, I see the Vegas totals have also popped up. The Cardinals only have an implied total of 3.7, so maybe a slight wind bump there, but this isn’t one of those crazy 12+ runs implied total Wrigly wind games.

OK, so let’s throw the wind out the window, outside where it belongs and get all our furniture and knick knacks back in place.

Yu Darvish is the best pitcher on the board. Oy, and as I write this, the Cards implied total is already rising to 3.9.

Here’s the thing. Darvish has a high K-rate, swinging strike rate, and doesn’t allow a lot of fly balls. For Wrigley to turn into a launching pad for the Cards tonight, they’re going to have to do two things: Make contact, and get the ball up and in the air. Without those things, the wind is null and void and doesn’t change Yu’s upside at all. So, this shouldn’t really change our opinion of him at all. With the price gap much more significant on FD, I do prefer Carrasco there, but on DK, where the price gap is much smaller, you can definitely make a case for Darvish as your SP1, and if ownership leans to Carrasco being the higher owned of the two, I wouldn’t mind going the contrarian way one bit.

Jack Flaherty:

On FD where Flaherty is more expensive than Carrasco, I don’t really see the point in going here other than to be different. On DK, it’s a different story, where he’s 9.4K and there’s a decent gap between the two, and even more so between him and Darvish.

Flaherty is not a 9.4K pitcher. Let’s throw out this season for a minute, and look at his numbers from last year, actually let’s look at his numbers from last year, compared to Yu and Carrasco.

Flaherty: 3.64 xFIP, 3.68 SIERA, 30% K-rate, 7% BB rate, 37% HC
Carrasco: 3.50 xFIP, 3.53 SIERA, 28% K-rate, 5% BB rate, 40.5% HC
Darvish: 3.51 xFIP, 3.55 SIERA, 31% K-rate, 8% BB rate, 31.6% HC

Is there anything that stands out between these 3? Maybe Darvish’s lower hard contact.

Why is Flaherty 9.4K, compared to Carrasco’s 10.2 and Yu’s 11K tag?

Frankly, the numbers aren’t that much different this year either. The one thing standing out is Flaherty’s K-rate is down to 23%, but his swinging strike rate is sitting at 14.4%, which is pretty high for a 23% K-rate, and is actually higher than his 13.7% swinging strike rate last season that came with that 30% K-rate. So, the K’s should be coming.

Another reason Flaherty hasn’t been able to flash his true upside yet, is the covid outbreak in the Cards organization has thrown off his workload. After throwing 89 pitches in his first start, he didn’t make a start for 3 weeks, then was held to only 41 pitches, then built up to 64, and finally back up to 83 in his last start, where he can continue to hopefully go up from there.

All in all, yes the match up is tough, but this is a great pitcher priced like a good pitcher, and will certainly be in my DK player pool tonight.

BEARS:

The entire mid-tier and Dylan Bundy.

I have no interest here tonight. DK drew some pretty defined lines, and I like what I see outside of those lines. I’m talking about everyone from 8.7K Dustin May to to 6K Tyler Anderson. All of these guys will get X’d out for me tonight. On DK, if you like someone in this group go for it. I get the appeal of someone like Corbin Burnes or Lance McCullers.

On FD if you want to take a shot on McCullers, go for it. Call me neutral on him there. I guess you can on DK too. The volatility is still there, and this Angels lineup is pretty decent and they just don’t K much. “(player-popup #dylan-bundy)Dylan Bundy”:/players/dylan-bundy-13839’s price is also much more palatable on FD, but the shine on that start to the season is wearing off quickly.

BULLS:

The other side of the line.

DK has given us 3, maybe even 4 cheap sub-6K options to work with that in my opinion are quite reasonable to pair with any of Darvish, Carrasco or Flaherty.

Let’s start with the obvious one:

Dane Dunning

FD has priced Dunning up accordingly with his results, but DK is still skeptical keeping him down at 5.8K. Dunning is making his 3rd career start, getting the Royals who he dominated in his last start.

Let’s first look at what we know about Dunning’s past, and present, then try to determine his future, specifically 8:05 EST tonight.

First off, this guy was a 1st round pick. Picked 29th by the Nationals, and moved to the White Sox with Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez for Adam Eaton. Wow, who won that trade? I guess the Nationals since they got Lopez out of their organization.

In all seriousness, this guy was a legit prospect. In 2018, he started in high A ball, and dominated, after spending most of 2017 there. By dominated I mean a 1.88 xFIP and 11.47 K/9. He moved up to AA and made 22 starts in 2018 there turning out a 2.76 ERA, 3.18 xFIP and 10.2 K/9. Pretty good.

Then the bad happened, and he underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2019.

Fast forward, through 2 innings of spring training work and further rehab work at the White Sox alternate training site, he was called up and made his big league debut on 8/19 against the Tigers. He started out extremely well before faltering in the 5th inning, and giving up 3 ER’s before exiting after 4 ⅓ innings. The 7 K’s still lead to a respectable fantasy performance.

The question there lies in, did he struggle after the Tigers hit around a couple times and saw him or did he get tired, topping out at 73 pitches.

I reference this because his start is against the Royals who have already seen him in his last start. He dominated the Royals in that start for 5 innings, with 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 7 K’s and 79 pitches.

Two starts, whatever, but we’re looking at 1.92 xFIP, 40% K-rate, 5.7% BB rate, 52.6% GB rate, and 37% HC rate. Sparkling.

The Royals are at best average against RHP, and really somewhere between average and bad, in the land of below average.

So, basically I spent a lot of time writing building to this. Dunning is an elite SP2 on DK, but he’s probably going to be what we know as “mega chalk” and due to the small sample size, and the Royals now more familiar with him and what he offers, there’s definitely reason to go underweight.

It’s not like we don’t have some decent cheap pivots, like..

Yusei Kikuchi

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first: The Rangers strikeout in bunches to LHP. Make that bushels. Their projected starting lineup has a 36.4% K-rate against LHP, between this season and last.

So, yeah that’s something to be interested in.

Let’s get a 2nd thing out of the way. Kikuchi wasn’t that good last season. Let’s follow that up with a 3rd thing. Kikuchi didn’t leave Japan for the states, because he sucked in Japan. To sum up his time in Japan going back to 2010, it’s this, a 2.50-3.00 ERA and 8-10 K/9. I’m not going to pretend to know the quality of the leagues he was in and all that. I can say in 2017 he had a 1.97 ERA and 10.4 K/9 and in 2018 a 3.04 ERA and a 8.5 K/9.

So, I mention this because it wouldn’t be weird for him to come into a new league and adjust to life in America and struggle his first year. Like any player moving from the minors to the big leagues, Sometimes there’s an adjustment. So let’s throw out last year for a minute and look at just this year through 5 starts:

3.52 xFIP, 25.7% K-rate, 50% GB rate, and 38% HC.

Pretty nice numbers. In fact you probably never would have guessed they were Kikuchi’s if I didn’t tell you.

Now, he is sitting on a 6.12 ERA, and has given up 4 or more runs in 3 of his 5 starts, but he has an unreasonable .358 BABIP, and his high 9.5% BB rate, should hopefully level out against the Rangers pretty low 6% BB rate.

So, hopefully with the BABIP gods on his side, an opponent evening out of the BB rate and a jump in the K-rate, Kikuchi could put together a high quality fantasy performance for us at a $100 discount from Dunning.

Taylor Clarke

OK. Leading up to this point I had every intention of selling y’all on Taylor Clarke and his 4.8K tag on DK. After prepping to actually write the paragraph(s) and looking deeper, I’m taking a step back. I might still have some, and I don’t think he’s an awful play. He’s super cheap. Stretched out to 81 pitches in his last start, so he could go further tonight. That last start was against his opponent tonight, the Giants. It was quite the start as well with 5 innings of 1 run, 7K ball. There’s nothing to suggest though that he can repeat that performance.

Let’s look at the next guy…

Kyle Cody

Here we have a similar situation as Dane Dunning, but even less to really look at.

Before this season he hadn’t even pitched above high A ball. Ultimately missing a chunk of 2018 and all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. I won’t even get too deep into the minor league numbers, because they’re scarce and A ball.

The scouting report says he has command issues, and there’s definitely signs of that in his limited big league work with 3 walks in 4 ⅓ innings. What he had in the minors though that he’s shown so far this year is a decent K-rate, and so far he’s struck out 37.5% of batters, with a 14.5% swinging strike rate to back it up a bit.

This is his first start, and the most he’s thrown is 40 pitches, so we’re not looking at a lot of work, but he’s going to get the chance to replace Mike Minor in the rotation. Hopefully we can expect 50-55 pitches tonight, and that could be enough for 4 to 5 innings of work, especially if his command doesn’t get out of control.

The bottom line is, this Mariners offense isn’t that great. Their projected starting lineup has a 33% K-rate on the year. So, if Cody can pitch clean, the chance of a 4 or 5 inning, 5 K type game isn’t far-fetched.

I wouldn’t go overboard here, but there are paths to him out scoring Kikuchi or Dunning and he will be in my pitcher pool tonight.

The bull bats are pretty cut and dry up top tonight. I doubt I’m going to see anything that everyone else doesn’t. There’s some OK, contrarian type spots as well, I’m more neutral on, while a few spots I have no interest in, that should be obvious as well, with some harder to cut. I’ll say this really quick, no matter how many line ups you make, whether it’s 1 or 300, you’re not going to play everybody. There is such a thing as spreading yourself too thin. The goal is to condense everything as much as possible, hoping your condensed pool has the right pieces, then giving yourself as many chances as possible with those right pieces.

Let’s get the spots I have the easiest time cutting out the way first.

BEARS:

Rockies- Away from home. May is solid enough. Chances you need them are close to nil.

Brewers- This one isn’t easy. As I mentioned when writing up Carrasco, he can lose his composure and get beat around at times, so there’s temptation to hedge. Again though, you have to make cuts, and with my expected Carrasco exposure, I don’t want to bother here.

Indians- Burnes has been solid enough, I’m not going to trust the Cleveland bats to do enough to warrant exposure. Even if Burnes struggles a bit there’s that mighty, elite Brew Crew pen waiting.

Angels- I don’t trust McCullers a lot here, but I don’t have so little faith that I want to use lineup space on the Angels here. The guys you’d really want to build around are pricey, and although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Angels scored 6 or more runs here, I just think the odds are much higher that I don’t need exposure.

Astros- I also don’t trust this Dylan Bundy, but that doesn’t mean I need to load up on Astros. They’ve been OK, but not elite offensively, Bregman is still out, pitchers park, so and so forth. I feel comfortable with no exposure here.

OK, well of the 18 offenses in play tonight, we cut away 5 before I took pause.

OK, let’s move to the offenses I know I love tonight now and we’ll circle back to inbetweeners later:

BULLS

New York Mets

Well, first thing, DK moved the Mets bats pricing back to normal. That’s OK.

Jake Arrieta is making his 7th start of the year, so let’s begin by looking at his numbers this season:

4.60 xFIP, 4.98 SIERA, 16% K-rate, 9% BB rate, 42% HC rate, and 48% GB rate.

These numbers are all worse than last season, and sample size and all, but Arrieta has gotten progressively worse each season over the last few seasons, so a further decline isn’t surprising.

His splits have also become more glaring as the years go by. Last year it was a .221 ISO and 42% HC allowed to LHB’s. This season it’s a .244 ISO, but just 34% HC. Last year he also had a 2.04 HR/9 to LHB’s.

His numbers against RHB’s aren’t great, but more serviceable, so, we really want to focus on the LHB’s, which is just fine since the Mets are loaded with LHB’s.

Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, Robinson Cano, and Jeff McNeil are all we really need to focus on. Sure, you can play Pete Alonso or nab Wilson Ramos to be your catcher in stacks, but those 5 will be the majority.

As an added bonus the Phillies bullpen has a nice juicy 6.69 ERA on the year.

Phillies

On the other side of the game we have the Phillies. Let’s state one thing, Rick Porcello hasn’t been that bad this year.

His 6.00 ERA is countered by his 4.11 xFIP and 4.60 SIERA. The problem for Porcello has been the .389 BABIP. Combined with the low K’s and swinging strike rates, 18.5% and 5.9% respectively, and 46% HC.

Basically, luck or not, when Porcello has been bad, he’s been bad. He’s already had a 6 inning, 10 hit 4 run game against the Phillies earlier this year. His combo of hard hits and lack of ground balls, is where the damage can pile on.

There’s no magic stat for me to pull out here, but this is a risk reward gut call as much as anything for me. This Phillies lineup can be dangerous, and Porcello has been pretty up and down, and on down start this can get ugly.

Between this year and last, Andrew McCuthen, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Jay Bruce, and JT Realmuto all have .190 + ISO’s against RHP, and HC rates above 37%.

White Sox

Brady Singer has been holding his own without getting roughed up too bad. The poor guy’s last 4 starts have been, Twins, Twins, Twins, White Sox, and now the White Sox again.

It’s worth noting each start against the Twins got consecutively worse.

5 Innings, 2 runs, 5 hits, 4 K’s, 2 BB’s
5 ⅔ innings, 3 runs, 4 hits, 2 K’s, 4 BB’s
4 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits, 3 K’s, 0 BB’s (well 0 BB’s is good)

I point this out, because he’s seeing the White Sox for a 2nd consecutive start.

Here’s his last one:

5 innings, 3 runs, 4 K’s, 5 hits, 2 BB’s.

Not bad, but if we can guess that it’s going to be worse this time around, then that’s a bump for the Sox.

Singer’s 4.45 xFIP is fine for a rookie, so is the 52% GB rate, but the 9.5% BB rate, along with 47% HC is not good.

We don’t have a ton to go on, but he’s been basically splits neutral with some positives and negatives to each side of the plate so far, so I’m not going to be picky about the handedness of the stack. I’d rather focus on high ISO’s and hard contact, which the Sox have a lot of.

This is a dangerous line up, so it’s really just picking what fits. The ISO’s and hard contact of Jose Abreu (.330, 57%) Eloy Jimenez (.278, 53.5%) and Luis Robert (.309, 55.2%) against RHP so far this season, is obviously what jumps out first.

Dodgers

The Dodgers have the highest implied run total on the board right now at 5.6 and at first glance it’s easy to see why. The Dodgers are stacked and facing that Antonio Senzatela guy.

Senzatela has actually been really good this year though, at least really good compared to his past.

There’s nothing really different here though. It’s the same pitches, the same low K-rate, the same ground ball rate, which has always been fine, the same 38% hard contact. Guys just aren’t getting hits here, or at least hits of consequence.

The main thing, briefly mentioned above, that Senzatela can hang his hat on is his 50%+ ground ball rate over the years. The problem with that though is, against teams like the Dodgers, who don’t hit ground balls, your super power has found it’s kryptonite. That’s part of the reason the Dodgers are the one team that’s really gotten to Senzatela this year when he gave up 6 runs and 7 hits in 5 ⅓ innings earlier this year (at Dodger Stadium too).

In fact, small sample BVP warning here, but historically the Dodgers have hit Senzatela well:

Enrique Hernandez: 3-5, 2 doubles, 1 HR
Mookie Betts: 1-3, 1 HR
AJ Pollock: 6-11, 3 doubles, 1 HR
Cory Seager: 4-9, 2 HR’s

Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger also have HR’s.

Senzatela really has no significant splits, so you can safely play hitters from either side of the plate against him.

Diamondbacks

I like the Diamondbacks here a lot as a semi-sneaky stack.

Last year the D-Backs were an elite offense against LHP and no not everyone is still here. Most notably Wilmer Flores and Adam Jones, but there’s still lefty mashers in this line up.

Last season against LHP:

Ketel Marte – .297 ISO, 38% HC
Eduardo Escobar – .257 ISO, 47% HC
Carson Kelly – .310 ISO, 59% HC
Nick Ahmed – .248 ISO, 46.6% HC

Those numbers haven’t translated to 2020 yet, but these guys didn’t miraculously forget how to hit LHP.

Throw in Christian Walkers current .219 ISO and 36% HC and you have yourself a decent 5 man stack.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t heard Oracle Park isn’t what it used to be.

Left-center field was moved in 5 feet.
Straight away center was moved in 8 feet.
Right-center field moved in 6 feet.

Big deal, right? Well now this season Oracle ranks 14th in HR’s, 5th in doubles and 10th in runs allowed according to ESPN’s park factors. That’s up from 29th, 27th, and 29th respectively from last year.

Let’s also point out that the lefty they’re facing is Tyler Anderson, who isn’t that good to begin with.

Let’s look at the numbers between 2019 and 2020:

6.01 xFIP, 18% K-rate, 10% BB rate, 33% GB rate, 36% HC.

Not good.

Versus Lefties:

.441 wOBA, .333 ISO

Versus Righties:

.370 wOBA, .235 ISO

What a disaster.

Tyler anderson has faced the D-Backs twice this season:

9 shutout innings, with 3 hits, and 4 K’s. Good!
4 ⅓ innings, 6 ER’s, 3 K’s, and 9 hits. Bad!

Who knows, what we’ll get today? I like the chances though that these D-Backs bats start hitting LHP like they used to and Anderson continues his run of below average pitching, in a park that at this point has become average instead of abysmal to offense for Arizona. I hope you like words that start with A.

Oh, and the Giants bullpen has the 2nd worst xFIP in baseball at 5.59.

Neutral:

OK, now that my Bullish offenses for tonight are out of the way, as well as my absolute definitive Bearish offenses are as well, we can circle back to those other 8.

I’ll say this if you like any of them go for it.

I’ll comb over them quickly here:

Royals- Strictly like as a hedge or more really leverage play to Dunning. Would anyone really be shocked if this kid struggled heavily at some point? He’s a young dude never pitching past AA until a couple weeks ago. I however am highly unlikely to go here, unless I see Dunning projected for somewhere in the area of 40-50% ownership, and unless I make a heavy dose of line ups (100+).

Cardinals- Could the wind impact things? Could Darvish lose his control? Sure. That’s my only hesitancy. Again, like the Royals, I’m highly unlikely to go here and will most likely have 0 Cardinals.

Cubs- Same as Cardinals. This is a wind play, but frankly the implied run totals lead me to believe there isn’t much to this one tonight. I’m highly unlikely to go here.

Rangers- Kikuchi could struggle and if he does will give up runs. The Mariners bullpen might be the worst in baseball. The Rangers are incredibly cheap, which would be very helpful in fitting in double aces. I could see myself going here sparingly tonight, and probably more likely than any of the 3 offenses I’ve mentioned in this section, but they’re still a big cut away from my top 5.

Mariners: Same thing as the Rangers, really. Kyle Cody could struggle with his control and be out quick. News flash: Rangers bullpen isn’t very good either. The Mariners are basically average against RHP. I could see myself working in a few stacks or one-offs here once I start getting away from my Bulls.

Padres: The San Diego lineup is legit. If you weren’t stacking them before, after the deadline it’s even funner, sort of. Luzardo is good, but he’s young, and giving up 41% HC to RHB’s. On the other side of the coin, the Padres have been pretty good against LHP. I have no issues with a Padres stack on their talent alone, but the Coliseum is a hitters park, Luzardo is good, like I mentioned, and the A’s bullpen is still elite.

Athletics: This comes down to how much you believe in the magic of Zach Davies. He’s been great this year. Almost too good to believe it though. I wouldn’t go crazy, as the A’s are expensive and I don’t see anything of note to put them with my Bulls, or put them ahead of the other offenses here in neutral land, but they may be worth some exposure once you’ve over run the Bulls.

Giants: Taylor Clarke is meh. Meh. If you’ve read all of this novel, you’ll know I almost wrote him up, and admitted as such before making a minor retraction. This Giants offense can hit. It’s not a team to stream pitchers against at this point, but no one is confusing them as a team of all-stars. They also are coming off the Coors slide, where teams at times don’t hit as well after leaving Coors. It’s a thing, not an auto-lock thing, but there’s evidence. Trust me, or don’t. I don’t hate the spot, but besides my Bulls, I’d probably put them behind the A’s, Padres, and even maybe Rangers or Mariners for places to look if you really need to spread out or just completely disagree with me.

Whew.

So, we’re looking at for me at least:

Carrasco, Darvish, Flaherty on the high end. Paired with Dunning, Cody, and Kikuchi on the low end.

Building mainly around the Mets, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks.

Then possibly sprinkling in Padres, A’s, with a little hedge job of Rangers and Mariners, and if you’re really feeling like going big, you can stretch yourself with Giants.

That’s a wrap folks.

Thanks for making it to this point and hope all who read it, enjoyed it. Thank you.

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