MLB Grind Down: Saturday, August 17th - CHC @ PIT
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh – 1:35 PM ET
Jon Lester is a ways behind Paxton when it comes to talent, but his matchup today is better. The left-hander has a 22.9% strikeout rate on the year, and his 4.23 SIERA and 4.43 ERA are similar enough. He’s allowed 21 homers, but the power risk is mitigated today going on the road to face a punchless Pirates lineup at PNC Park. Lester hasn’t been in great form of late, but he’s fairly priced around the industry and he’ll get a long leash today assuming he can avoid getting blown up. He’s clearly the second-best pitching option on the slate right behind Paxton, though I do think there is merit to just taking the savings on Lester in GPPs on a single-pitcher site like FanDuel. Pittsburgh is a low-strikeout lineup (18% vs. LHP), but they also have very little power (.156 ISO vs. LHP).
Quick Breakdown: Lester is a solid play today, and he makes for a fine SP2 to pair with Paxton.
Steven Brault has a K-rate a shade under 20% on the year with a gross walk rate of 11.5%. His 5.24 SIERA is considerably worse than his 4.33 ERA, and he has only topped out at 86 pitches in his 2 starts since returning to the rotation earlier this month. Having the platoon edge against guys like Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo is potentially advantageous, but this is a scary Cubs lineup in general full of right-handed power threats. Chicago’s projected lineup has a hefty .265 ISO against lefties with a low 19.7% strikeout rate on the season. Brault is cheap enough to deploy as a punt in tournaments, but it’s far from an ideal spot for that.
Quick Breakdown: Brault is the worst pitching option on the very early slate.
Batter Grind Down
Brault has done a serviceable job against lefties (.254 wOBA allowed), but RHBs have a .354 wOBA against him so far this season. Nicholas Castellanos (.489 wOBA), Kris Bryant (.476) and Javier Baez (.432) have absolutely crushed left-handed pitching all season long. While PNC plays down righty power, all 3 still look like stellar plays in all formats, and they make for a nice high-upside mini-stack. Ian Happ, Addison Russell, David Bote and Victor Caratini / Jonathan Lucroy are all cheap with the platoon advantage against Brault, as well. I wouldn’t necessarily shy away from Rizzo in your stacks, either, as he’s been capable enough against same-handed pitching.
Stackability – GREEN
Lester has allowed identical .335 wOBAs to both sides of the plate, but righties (19 HR) have accounted for most of the power against him. There isn’t much to love in the Pirates’ lineup, but Starling Marte stands out as a strong individual option considering his lengthy track record of success against left-handed pitching. Kevin Newman and Elias Diaz are solid cheap options that can help you fill thin positions, while Josh Bell has shown signs of life in recent days following a lengthy slump. Bryan Reynolds is viable if you want to stack Pittsburgh against Lester. The Pirates’ 4.75 implied run total is the lowest on the early slate, but it’s not like Lester is an ace at this point in his career.
Stackability – YELLOW / ORANGE