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

Alright, so my intentions of doing an MLB breakdown or blog everyday is being tested. Tested, ironically by my two kids returning to school, which for us is remote learning. So, now I’m a DFS player, blogger or breaker downer of MLB slates, parent and part-time teacher. Not really in that order. As I adjust to my new job, I will hopefully be able to learn to juggle my time better, and provide these breakdowns consistently and at the quality I’ve set precedence for and hopefully beyond.

So, for today I’m going to do things a little differently. This will be more focused specifically on what I see on this slate when I take my initial look. Then what I find when I go a layer or two or sometimes three, deeper and ultimately my goal in building line ups (obviously to win, but how I plan to win) and what I see as the best approach. So, this will be more thoughts based today, than statistics based, I imagine, I’m writing this intro before I actually start breaking it down, but trust me I looked at the stats, and basically build everything around stats, because the stats don’t lie and have no feelings.

*Wrote this intro before I did anything else. Boy, was I wrong about it being more thoughts based. Anyway..

So, let’s move along…

Starting my day on the “starting line ups” page here on RG, I can get myself a pretty nice quick idea of what this slate looks like. I can see the obvious of who is playing who, more importantly who is pitching and what kind of weather we’re dealing with. Everything starts with the pitchers for me and I assume everyone else.

Today, we have three clear cut aces, in Yu Darivsh, Trevor Bauer, and Clayton Kershaw, then a whole lot of average or worse. So, we’re definitely going to want to at least start our builds with one of these 3, if not 2 on DK, and certainly 1 of them on FD.

Let’s look at the stats real quick (all from 2020):

Darvish – 2.74 xFIP, 2.93 SIERA, 33% K’s, 4.2% BB’s, 41% GB’s, 43.6% HC
Bauer – 2.75 xFIP, 3.08 SIERA, 35.9% K’s, 7.6% BB’s. 38.7% GB’s, 41.3% HC
Kershaw – 2.45 xFIP, 2.85 SIERA, 30.6% K’s, 4.5% BB’s, 63.8% GB’s, 36.3% HC

They’re all pretty even actually. Kershaw’s K’s are noticeably lower, but the ground balls are higher and the hard contact is lower. Bauer has the highest K rate, but the highest walk rate too, and lowest ground ball rate.

On DK Kershaw is cheapest at 10.5K, with Bauer at 10.9K and Darvish at 11.5K. When actually looking at the stats above, you could make an argument that the prices should be in total reverse.

On FD, Darvish is the most expensive as well at 11.5K, but then it’s Kershaw at 11K, and Bauer at 10.8K.

Since these 3 pitchers are pretty tightly together state wise, let’s look at their opponents offensive stats against pitcher handedness.

Reds vs RHP: .192 ISO, .314 wOBA, 91 wRC+, 24.4 K%
Cubs vs RHP: .209 ISO, .332 wOBA, 106 wRC+, 26.2 K%
D-Backs vs. LHP: .100 ISO, .265 wOBA, 61 wRC+, 21.4% K%

Well, one thing is definitely not like the others. The Diamondbacks continue to struggle against LHP this year, while Cubs and Reds have been solid against RHP, with the caveat being the higher K-rates.

Let’s look and see if they’ve had any recent struggles or success against their opponent:

Bauer 8/29 vs Cubs : 5 ⅓ IP, 3 ER, 5 K’s, 4 hits, 2 BB’s
Darvish 8/29 at Reds : 6 IP. 0 ER, 8 K’s, 7 hits, 2 BB’s
Kershaw 8/2 at Diamondbacks : 5 ⅔ IP, 0 ER, 6 K’s, 3 hits, 0 BB’s
Kershaw 9/3 vs Diamondbacks : 6 IP. 0 ER, 8 K’s, 1 hit, 2 BB’s

Well, one thing is not like the others. Maybe this was pointless. Are we really going to write off Bauer because of a one mediocre start against the Cubs? No, but look at that 2 game dominance for Kershaw against the Diamondbacks.

Let’s now look at current implied run totals and odds:

Cubs: 3.6, +137
Reds: 3, -149
Diamondbacks: 3.4, -273

It must be said, without getting deep into weather, the game time temp at Wrigley is 64 degrees with the wind blowing in at 13 MPH. That’s not quite as significant as last night’s wind, which I believe was 18 MPH, but still noticeable. Take those temps and that wind, and Wrigley becomes a very difficult park to hit in. We saw Tyler Mahle and Alec Mills both dominant last night and neither are anywhere near the skill levels of Bauer or Darvish.

OK, I think that’s enough. When glancing over all of this, Kershaw is actually probably the best all around option when taking everything into account. Yes, K’s are king in DFS and he has the lowest K-rate of the group, but not by much and the Diamondbacks due have the lowest K rate of the three offenses, but Kershaw has averaged over a K an inning in both starts against the D-backs this year.

So, what does this mean for me? I just spent a bunch of time explaining that I have no favorite. I will have tons of exposure to all 3 of these pitchers, and most likely try to have the large majority of my builds contain two of these pitchers. But, Panda I need to know! I’m only making one line up, put your foot down and make a call! OK, fine. On FD, I’m going Bauer based on him having the highest K-rate, and Cubs having the highest K-rate, plus the weather. Then I prefer the safety and slight discount of Kershaw, then Darvish third. On DK, it’s the same. I might slightly prefer Darvish’s upside in general to Kershaw, but if I take two pitchers from the same game, I’m only getting at most 1 win, slightly capping the upside. Can Kershaw get the W, and still not outscore a no-decision or even loss from Darvish? Of course, but they’re close enough that those 4 win points can definitely put Kershaw ahead of Yu, especially from a point-per-dollar sense with him being 1K cheaper.

OK, so before looking to see if we can find any cheaper viable SP2’s, let’s look to see if we can find any good cheap stacks or bats, that will make fitting two of these guys together on DK a viable move.

As a baseline, Kershaw and Darvish leave you 3.5K a bat on DK, which seems reasonable so we’ll keep that amount in mind. Obviously, Kershaw and Bauer would leave a little more and Bauer and Darvish would leave a little less.

The first spot where we can find plenty of cheap bats that might be worthwhile is the Marlins. Miami gets Tommy Milone, who by the way is absurdly priced on DK. Milone is sort of OK, and has had some bad luck this year, 5.30 ERA, but a 4.18 xFIP, with an unrealistic .360 BABIP allowed. Beyond the 4.18 xFIP is an average 22.4% K-rate, a low 2.5% BB rate, 34.5% GB rate and high 47.4% HC. These numbers are basically in line with last season, except the higher hard contact.

The numbers aren’t much different between this year and last with his splits, but for sample size, let’s include last season to get an even bigger sample size and break this down.

Milone vs LHB : .332 wOBA, .282 ISO, 26.3% K’s, 40% GB’s, 41.7% HC
Milone vs RHB : .326 wOBA, .228 ISO, 19.1% K’s, 35.7% GB’s. 38.8% HC

Not a huge difference, and overall not that good. So, let’s see what Marlins hit LHP well and are around that 3.5K threshold on DK:

Garrett Cooper (3.5K) : .172 ISO, 39.2% HC
Brian Anderson (3.6K) : .188 ISO, 46.2% HC
Corey Dickerson (3.2K) : .240 ISO, 29.6% HC (meh)
Jon Berti (3.1K) : .205 ISO, 27.3% HC (meh)

These aren’t sparkling numbers, but neither are Milone’s and the Marlins implied run total is sitting at 4.3, which is pretty much smack dab middle of the slate.

Let’s see what else we can find…

OK, this is going to seem like recency bias, but let’s look at these O’s. Specifically DJ Stewart (2K) and Ryan Mountcastle (3.6K). Stewart has an unsustainable 4 HR’s in his last 3 games, but a .236 ISO and 32.5% HC against RHP between this season and last. He won’t be flying under anyone’s radar though and will be a staple of a lot of 2 ace builds, so there’s definitely merit to jumping off, but he’s so cheap a 0 zero won’t crush you either. Mountcastle is a legit power prospect who in 56 big league AB’s is hitting an impressive .339 with 4 HR’s, a .250 ISO against RHP 38.7% HC. I don’t need to tell you Rick Porcello is an average pitcher.

OK, the cheap special of the night, and likely the ultimate double ace stack, everyone’s favorite to load up on, the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers get Julio Teheran, who isn’t awful, but has a tendency to melt down and cause himself trouble with a high double digit walk rate, that comes with a low ground ball rate and high hard contact, which makes him a multi-run HR or bases clearing gapper waiting to happen.

Let’s look at Teheran’s splits combining last year and this year:

VS LH : .332 wOBA, .194 ISO, 19.4% K’s, 13.5% BB’s, 35% GB’s, 43% HC
VS RH : .302 wOBA, .151 ISO, 21.8% K’s, 8.8% BB’s, 42.3% GB’s. 38.5% HC

Numbers against RHB’s are OK at best, and against LHB’s is exploitable, so let’s look at the Rangers bats against RHP:

Leody Taveras (2.1K) : .261 ISO, 40% HC
Shin-Soo Choo (2.6K) : .203 ISO, 41.9% HC
Ronald Guzman (2.6K) : .333 ISO, 69.25 HC
Joey Gallo (3.8K) : .167 ISO, 48.8% HC

I also want to make note of Anderson Tejeda, who is a legit power prospect with some wheels, who is 2.9K and has 2 HR’s in his first 20 big league AB’s.

Let’s now look at the Pirates.

Dane Dunning has been pretty intriguing so far, and despite getting roughed around a little bit against the Royals in his last outing, the overall numbers are still pretty good.

Quick look : 3.20 xFIP, 30.5% K rate, 50% GB’s, 28.6% HC. Excellent.

What he does have though is a high 10.2% BB rate, and some sort of significant splits. Sample size alet! We’re dealing with 23 LHB appearances. Yes, just 23, but we need to uncover all these cheap bats that could unlock some huge fantasy scores with these high ceiling pitchers. So, anyway, let’s look at Dunning’s numbers against LHB’s so far:

.378 wOBA, .200 ISO, 34.8% K’s, 13% BB’s, 45.5% GB’s, 41.7% HC

The K’s and ground balls are solid, but beyond that are things we can exploit.

Adam Frazier (3.2K) .141 ISO, 31.% HC (OK, these aren’t good, but his GB rate is low and should lead-off).
Bryan Reynolds (3.1K) .183 ISO, 44.7% HC
Colin Moran (3.6K) .174 ISO, 37% HC
Gregory Polanco (2.8K) .209 ISO, 48.8% HC
Josh Bell (3.1K) .274 ISO, 46.1% HC

I want to clarify that these are last year and this year’s numbers combined.

OK, so to fit two aces we have 3 worthwhile stacks in Miami, Texas, and Pittsburgh. I also pointed out the 2 power bats in Baltimore.

Let’s look at some other individual bats, before we dive into our non-double ace avenues:

Ozzie Albies (3K) : Albies is expected to back in the lineup today, and projected to be hitting 9th. He’s hit lefties better (.174 ISO, 41% HC vs RHP) historically and is a nice 0-10 with 1 K in his career against Lopez, but this is still too cheap for a hitter of his pedigree.

Jeff McNeil (3.5K) : McNeil (.231 ISO, 39.5% HC vs RHP) got off to a slow start, but is crushing now with 3 HR’s in his 3 last games.

Justin Upton (2.6K) : Upton, like McNeil got off to a slow start, but is picking things up with a .387 AVG, 2 HR’s, 9 RBI’s and an average of 10.4 DK points over his last 10.

Jo Adell (2.1K) : Another Angel who is heating up. Adell is not only the top prospect in the Angels system, but a top 15 prospect in all of baseball. Like a lot of young bats, he struggled upon arrival, but seems to be getting comfy. In 96 total AB’s were looking at a .188 AVG and 3 HR’s, yet in the last 33 AB’s we’re looking at a .278 AVG and 3 HR’s.

For the sake of time, from here I’m going to just list names of cheap bats that’ll be in my pool that are projected to be in the line up. Hopefully the names are linked to their player cards and you can check out their stats and splits yourself to see why I’m intrigued. Not sure what I do that causes sometimes the names to be linked and sometimes not?

Darin Ruf (always a pinch-hit risk though), Austin Slater, Michael Brantley, Yulieski Gurriel, Khris Davis (hit a HR yesterday, breakout coming?), Samuel Hilliard.

OK, so you hate those bats and think there’s no way you can make a line up with 2 aces and be satisfied. Understandable.

In my opinion we have 3 potential SP2’s priced reasonably with just enough upside that they could, with the better bats we’d be able to afford to close the gap on the 2 ace builds, assuming they come through.

The first is Dane Dunning. I won’t get too deep here, as I discussed him when bringing up the Pirates. We still have a 30% K-rate, against a projected lineup with a 26% K rate against RHP. So, although I do believe he is potentially beatable, there’s also paths to big upside. He also got to 88 pitches in his last outing, up from 73 then 79, so we know the leash is there.

The other is actually his opponent JT Brubaker who gets a tough spot against the White Sox. At first glance this is an easy pass, but a closer look suggests he might not be in that bad of a spot. First let’s look at the numbers:

4.37 xFIP, 24.1% K’s, 9.8% BB’s, 43.1% GB’s, 34.7% HC

OK, first let’s address the walks. They’re a little high, but the White Sox themselves have a pretty low 6.2% BB rate against RHP. 2nd, the K rate is nothing special, but OK, it also comes with a 9.6% swinging strike rate, which suggests there may be some luck there. On the other hand, this projected White Sox lineup has a 27% K rate against RHP.

Let’s look at the splits:

Vs LHB – .355 wOBA, .138 ISO, 21% K’s, 39.5% HC
Vs RHB – .250 wOBA, .122 ISO, 29% K’s, 27.6% HC

Big difference, and guess what? The White Sox only have 3 LHB’s in their line up. Moncada, Grandal, and Mazara, and Grandal the switch hitter, hits lefties better, although the numbers against righties are still solid.

It’s a risky play, but Brubaker’s numbers aren’t bad, especially when you break into the splits, and the White Sox with only 3 LHB’s, albeit strong ones, are not fully equipped to take complete advantage here.
My last option is Pablo Lopez, who at 7.6K is not at a huge discount, but in ways is safer and has more upside than the previous two. Let’s look at the numbers:

3.28 xFIP, 23.6% K’s, 5.6% BB’s, 59.6% GB’s, 33.3% HC

Pretty good.

The Braves will only throw 3 LHB’s at Lopez today, one of which is Ender Inciarte, another who is Albies, and of course Freddie Freeman. Lopez’ numbers aren’t even bad against LHP, but (.144 ISO allowed, 17% K’s, 33.8% HC), but look how great his numbers are against RHB’s:

,221 wOBA, .067 ISO, 33.3% K’s, 6.1% BB’s, 67.5% GB’s, 32.5% HC.

Those are elite numbers. It’s not just sample size either, as other than the rise in K’s these aren’t super far off from his past numbers. Add in that the Braves lineup today has a 27.1% K rate against RHP and the upside is there. I’d much rather play Lopez in a tough spot, then some of these other worse pitchers in better spots like Tyler Anderson, Porcello, or Teheran.

OK, so those are my alternative SP2s.

Now with that out of the way we can discuss some more expensive stacks. I’m not going to go too deep here as they’re pretty straight forward.

Here they are:

New York Mets
LA Dodgers
Oakland A’s
San Diego Padres

The Mets get the low K’s, 40% HC and 4.89 xFIP of Jorge Lopez. Lopez has allowed a .245 ISO and 43% HC to LHB’s specifically between this season and last. Pretty ugly for a team that has the .184 ISO of Brandon Nimmo, .261 ISO of Michael Conforto, .289 ISO of Dominic Smith, .214 ISO of Robinson Cano, and .231 ISO of previously mentioned Jeff McNeil. You can certainly mix in the RHB’s of Peter Alonso (.300 ISO) and JD Davis (.194 ISO). All these numbers are between this year and last year and against RHP.

The Dodgers get the low K’s, 39% HC, and 5.52 xFIP of Taylor Clarke. Clarke can get crushed by both sides of the plate, allowing a .242 ISO to lefties and a .272 ISO to righties. Basically you can play anyone here and it should be no surprise the Dodgers have the highest implied total on the board. It’s limited sample of 78 plate appearances, but it’s worth noting Edwin Rios has a .343 ISO against RHP and is cheap. He helps to fit in stacks and you can use him in double ace builds too.
I don’t know a ton about Luis Garcia. I know he’s an average at best prospect who hadn’t pitched past A ball until 5 days ago. Yes, he pitched fairly well against the Angels for 4 ⅓ innings, giving up 1 run, with 2 K’s 1 hit and 3 BB’s. That’s what makes the A’s interesting here. There’s nothing to suggest he’s truly big league ready and this is circumstantial as the Astros are depleted and they’ve played 14 games in the past 11 days with multiple double headers. Knowing little about Garcia, it’s hard to recommended specific bats, but if they play for the A’s and can swing a bat well, I have interest.

The Padres get the forever mediocrity of Antonio Senzatela. He’s magicianed (I made up a word) his way to 13 innings of 1 run, 11 hit ball against these Padres this year in two starts. Senzatela isn’t awful (4.10 xFIP this year with 49.3% GB’s, and 35% HC), but he’s highly beatable and with a low 15% K-rate, the ball is likely to end up in play. This is just the leveling of what is right and the balances of nature. No way in my mind can I comprehend Senzatela putting together another elite start against this line up. If the Padres finally get to Senzatela, it’s the awful 6.95 ERA of the Rockies bullpen.

I could continue and make a case for the Mariners, Giants, building on Upton (if he’s in the line up) and Adell to a fuller Angels stack with Trout and Rendon. I like those spots too, but as far as expensive stacks those are my favorites.

So, that pretty much sums it up from every angle. Hope this was informative and worth the read. I want to wish you all good luck with your builds and results and thanks for reading. I do want to add if you want you can follow me on twitter @PandaDFS, where I always post a link to this blog when it’s fully done if that’s helpful to anyone.

As always ,thanks for reading.

About the Author


  • ifthethunder

    My commitment to MLB is being tested by the fact there are so many sports right now. And I have better results in some (PGA, NASCAR, for instance) than baseball. Nonetheless, here we are.

    Nice blog as always, Panda!

  • Pandamonious

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    Thank you. Appreciate it.

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