You’re probably rostering a high end starting pitcher tonight, which means you’re in the market for some value in your lineup. The Rays are implied for just over four runs tonight, which finds them somewhere around the middle of the board. They’re also facing Shohei Ohtani, which makes you think they’re not going to be finding their way into a lot of lineups tonight. That might be a mistake for a few reasons. The first of which is the park itself. Statcast’s new Park Factors tell us that this is not only a smash spot for LH power, but the smash spot in the majors with a 141 HR Factor for batters from that side of the plate over the last three years. This is information many players probably aren’t aware of yet. There’s also the Tampa Bay offense itself. They do strike out a ton, but there are still several quality batters in this lineup. Austin Meadows (145 wRC+ .271 ISO vs RHP since 2019) costs less than $4K on either site tonight and may be one of the top values on the slate. Brandon Lowe (136 wRC+, .248 ISO) costs less than $3K on FanDuel. Ohtani struggled early last time out before righting the ship in Texas, but he’s also walked 13 of the 62 batters he’s faced this year, which can run up his often limited pitch count quite quickly. The bullpen for the Angels has struggled with a 4.75 ERA over the last month too, though all estimators are more than half a run below that. The Tampa Bay lineup may have some unsuspected value tonight, especially from the left side.
Erick Fedde has a 4.42 ERA that’s above all of his estimators, but in this case, it may be the estimators that are off. The 25.8 K% is supported by just a 7.3 SwStr% and he’s been lucky that just two of six Barrels (10%) have left the yard. Oddsmakers have the Braves at 4.5 implied runs tonight, good enough for just the fourth highest spot on the slate. They may be under-estimating the Atlanta offense against Fedde here. While the Braves generally have only two LHBs in their lineup (.335 wOBA, .375 xwOBA vs Fedde since 2019), RHBs hit him just fine too (.321 wOBA, .347 xwOBA). Ronald Acuna has a 217 wRC+ over the last 30 days and a 98.4 mph EV on fly balls and line drives this year. Add in his 141 wRC+ and .272 ISO vs RHP since 2019 and it might not be a stretch to call Acuna the top overall bat on the slate tonight. You’re paying for your Braves tonight, but Freddie Freeman (168 wRC+, .298 ISO vs RHP since 2019) is reasonably $3.7K on FanDuel with Austin Riley (142 wRC+ last 30 days) priced just $4.1K on DraftKings moving up to the middle of the order recently.
It’s fairly obvious at this point that the Detroit bullpen is the one to attack on any given slate, especially behind a young pitching staff that doesn’t generally pitch deep into games. A trip to Fenway behind Casey Mize, who LHBs exceed a .400 wOBA and xwOBA against since last year, only enhances the value of Boston bats, but this is going to be no secret tonight. The Red Sox have the highest implied run line on the board (5.18).
It may be skipping the attention of players how bad the Kansas City bullpen has been though. They have a team 5.77 ERA and 4.96 FIP over the last 30 days out of their relievers. Brady Singer has been pretty good, but his 9.2 SwStr% does not support his 26.3 K% and his .297 career wOBA against LHBs is pushed up to a .332 xwOBA by Statcast. This could be an undervalued spot for someone like Jose Ramirez (162 wRC+ last 30 days), a switch hitter who doesn’t suffer no matter who the Royals bring to the mound.
A couple of surprisingly poor bullpens over the last 30 days have been the Braves (4.97 ERA, 4.83 xFIP) and Twins (5.24 ERA, 4.96 FIP). Not only are you likely to see a lot of the Minnesota bullpen with Lewis Thorpe starting, but Taylor Rogers and Hansel Robles have been worked extensively early in the week, so you’re likely to see the bottom end of it. What’s more, the Rangers have just a 3.69 implied run line in Minnesota tonight, but seven of nine projected starters exceed a 100 wRC+ overall this year. Nick Solak is at 156 and has a 139 wRC+ vs LHP since 2019. The Atlanta bullpen will be active behind a returning Max Fried as well. Trea Turner has had some success against Fried too (.471 xwOBA with two XBHs in 15 PAs). It may be difficult to find much further value in that lineup though. The Philadelphia bullpen is the last one to mention, with a 5.57 ERA and 4.93 FIP over the last 30 days. Neris threw 40 pitches on Monday and Coonrad 28 on Tuesday too, while Chase Anderson rarely goes deep in his outings, but good luck finding a productive bat in the Milwaukee lineup these days.
Top upside spots on the main slate, as determined by opposing strikeout rates, belonging to pitchers costing less than $9K go to Lewis Thorpe (vs Rangers), Martin Perez (vs Tigers) and Shohei Ohtani (vs Rays). This is a mess of unfortunate circumstances. First, in that the Rockies, Orioles, Mariners and Marlins are off the main slate, removing many of the worst offenses in the majors from our choices tonight. Next is the misfortune of having these three pitchers land in the top spots tonight. Thorpe lasted just 60 pitches and four innings in his lone start April 16th, striking out just two of 15 Angels, and last pitched on April 20th. He now has 49 major league innings under his belt with a few spot starts included. The results are a 10.5 K-BB%, 37.9 GB%, 87.5 mph EV and 7.8% Barrels/BBE. The 5.88 ERA is about a run above estimators due to a .395 BABIP. He is at least the minimum on DraftKings if players are looking for a pure punt to pair with Bieber. How much trouble can he get in here? The projected Texas lineup has four batters right in the middle above a 28 K% vs LHP since 2019.
With a 20.8 K%, 8.3 BB%, 36.2 GB% and 88.2 mph EV, there’s really nothing Martin Perez is doing to help the Boston rotation, but he’s somehow allowed just three Barrels (4.3%), only one of which has left the yard. And he still somehow had a 4.90 ERA. It could be even worse. Maybe not against the Tigers though. Six of nine projected starters exceed a 23 K% vs LHP since 2019. Paying more than $6.5K for Perez at Fenway feels very uncomfortable though. Ohtani would be a great option were he available as a pitcher tonight. He is not however.
If you don’t want to pay up for pitching on FanDuel and are still looking for a Quality Start…you may be out of luck, but Chris Bassitt and Ryan Yarbrough could be considerations. Beware Bassitt’s strikeout boost over his last three starts though, as he’s faced the Tigers, Orioles and Rays. The Blue Jays will present a tougher test, but he does face them in a favorable environment at home. Yarbrough has actually averaged more batters per start than anyone except Shane Bieber today. He has a league average 11.2 SwStr% that projects a better strikeout rate than his current 18.1%, In fact, he is up to 21.4% over his last four outings, but it’s really superior control (4.2 BB%) and contact management (83.4 mph EV) that defines him and he’s been doing it for long enough at this point that we can probably spit on his 6.40 DRA (where does that even come from) and perhaps even his 4.86 ERA, more in favor of his 3.86 xERA. He’s the only pitcher on the board who’s made more than three starts with an ERA at least a run above his xERA. The matchup obviously looks much better if Anthony Rendon remains out for the Angels.
The last guy who deserves some recognition is J.T. Brubaker in San Diego tonight. He’s $7.5K or less on either site. A 26.5 K% (13.6 SwStr%) paired with a 4.4 BB% and 54.2 GB% are showing Pittsburgh fans what a breakout looks like before a pitcher leaves the team. His 2.63 ERA is a bit below estimators because the 91.2 LOB% is about 10-15 points too high, but none even reach four. The Padres have just a 91 wRC+ and 10.8 HR/FB vs RHP this year.
Shane Bieber, Yu Darvish and Walker Buehler are your $10K pitchers on Wednesday night with Freddy Peralta the only other one reaching $9K on either site. Starting at the bottom, Peralta has been missing bats at a beyond elite level this year (40.2 K%, 14.7 SwStr%), though we probably shouldn’t expect him to sustain those numbers. The issues with his price tag today are walks (12.5%), Barrels (11.8%, 36 GB%) and workload. He hasn’t faced more than 22 batters in a start this year because he’s quickly running up his pitch count with all the walks and he has yet to cultivate a quality third pitch that would inspire confidence in sending him through the order a third time. He’s also in the most hitter friendly run environment of the four in Philly.
Darvish has the top matchup among high end pitchers, hosting the Pirates in a negative run environment. They have just an 86 wRC+ and 8.9 HR/FB vs RHP. Five batters in the projected lineup exceed a 23 K% vs RHP since 2019. All of that said, there are some things to watch for in his profile, including a reduced swinging strike rate (11.9%) and a 29.8 GB% that’s more than 10 points below his career rate. They’re not things to be concerned about in this matchup necessarily though. However, they may push the decision towards Bieber, who has a low of nine strikeouts over six starts. His 2.76 ERA is pretty damn close to, but actually above all his estimators. Here’s the crazy thing for a pitcher in 2021. He’s averaging more than three times through the order per start. There are actually five batters in the Kansas City projected lineup above a 25 K% vs RHP since 2019.
Buehler has his own merits, most glaringly a cool/cold day in Chicago with the wind blowing in at Wrigley. The Cubs have a strong, somewhat contact prone lineup with only four of eight projected above a 24 K% vs RHP since 2019. Buehler has started to realize that the fastball isn’t working this year. It’s down a mph, has a .378 xwOBA and has been responsible for three of his four HRs surrendered. After giving up a home run on his first pitch of the game, a fastball to Jesse Winker last time out, he threw his cutter a season high 28% of the time the rest of the way. That’s double his rate this season and last season for the pitch. The curveball (18.9%, .250 xwOBA, 40 Whiff%) is really the pitch he needs to get to more often though. Considering all factors and price tags, Bieber is probably your top overall arm on the slate with potential value running fairly close among the three. In terms of ownership, Darvish may be most popular due to perceived matchup strength. If Bieber finds himself projected at lower ownership, he’s probably the best play. Buehler is likely the GPP leverage play though. Be sure to check ownership projections when they update later this afternoon.
One spot that may go over-looked on this slate is in Oakland, where the A’s have a 4.4 implied run line that’s closer to the middle of the board than the top. Sure, Oakland is a pitcher friendly park, but the majority of the lineup still carries a .200+ ISO vs LHP since 2019 and only the two men at the bottom carry a wRC+ below 100 vs LHP over that same span. Anthony Kay gets the start for Toronto tonight and although he’s shown a reverse split in, he’s only faced 177 batters in his career and RHBs have done just fine with a .322 wOBA (.324 xwOBA) in 115 PAs against him. When considering just this year, Elvis Andrus is the only projected batter below a 110 wRC+ overall. Players can differentiate with Matt Olson, who doesn’t seem to have an issue with same-handed pitching (109 wRC+, .251 ISO since 2019). He’s tops in the lineup with a 173 wRC+ overall this year and would likely have an advantage against RH bullpen arms when Kay exits the game. Lastly, when considering weather environments around the slate, Oakland may not be as prohibited as it generally is in terms of favorability for hitters.
You’re playing on DraftKings and have rostered Jacob deGrom (or Trevor Bauer or Aaron Nola), so you’re halfway home in terms of pitching tonight. Now, you just have to pair him with a cheap secondary arm. If we consider only those priced below $7.5K, then Alex Cobb just misses the cut and we are looking at Cole Irvin on down. Irvin struck out 20 of his last 72 (11.3 SwStr%), but faces a powerful and predominantly RH Toronto lineup. Eric Lauer is low upside in Philly. Kyle Gibson is viable for $7.2K in Minnesota. He’s pitched great since Opening Day, but has just a 20 K% and hasn’t allowed a HR yet, so the numbers look a bit better than they will eventually be. He faced a dangerous lineup that has had success against him. Mike Minor faces a Cleveland lineup that doesn’t strike out much and hits LHP well. Shane McClanahan blasted 98 mph heat at the A’s for four innings, striking out five of 15 batters (23.7 SwStr%) in his first regular season appearance. When Oakland batters did make contact, half of it was on the ground, but with a 94 mph EV. The issue here is that he throws either his fastball or slider over 80% of the time. He does have a changeup, but it’s not very good at this point. The Rays will likely continue to limit the workload in the early going. He threw 59 pitches first time out. He faces Mike Trout in L.A. tonight.
Now that we’ve found some fault in all the $7K arms (they’re priced that way for a reason), let’s cover some remaining options. Joe Ross ($6.9K) is in a tough spot in a hitter friendly park against the Braves. Jorge Lopez is in a high upside spot in Seattle and is a viable option here. Mitch Keller (in San Diego) has been a mess. Michael Fulmer has improved, but the Tigers are still limiting his workload. He’s also at Fenway. Anthony Kay has to face a powerful RH lineup in Oakland and likely won’t exceed twice through the order. Sam Hentges is making his first major league start in Kansas City and may not go very far. Johan Oviedo costs $6.6K and faces the Mets at home. St Louis is a very pitcher friendly park, which should be enhanced by cold temperatures tonight. He’s struck out 11 of 37 with a 17.9 SwStr% and half of his 22 batted balls have been on the ground (two Barrels). His velocity has been up more than a mile per hour, which has helped his three non-fastball pitches all to at least a 40 Whiff% so far. While it’s far too early to call this a breakout, he may be worth a GPP flier as your secondary arm at such a low price with a likely ownership rate in the single digits.
One of the more hitter friendly environments on the board tonight (by both park effects and Weather Edge) is in Washington, where the Braves reside near the top of the board at 4.76 implied runs. The reason is fairly easy. Batters from either side of the plate exceed a .330 wOBA and xwOBA against Joe Ross since 2019 with LHBs having the most success (.373 wOBA). Freddie Freeman (169 wRC+, .300 ISO vs RHP since 2019) and Ozzie Albies (104 wRC+, .194 ISO) both exceed a 120 wRC+ overall over the last 30 days. That part’s easy.
On the opposite end, the Nationals sit in the middle of the board with 4.24 implied runs. Nobody is going to be looking at them against a pitcher who has struck out 32.1% of batters with a 14.6 SwStr% this year. However, 19 of his 34 Ks in just two of his five starts. He’s also allowed five HRs on 10 Barrels (15.2%) with a 91 mph EV. While his 2.96 ERA meets his 2.86 SIERA, a 4.66 xERA is much higher. There some opportunities with cheap Washington bats tonight. Only Trea Turner costs more than $4K on DraftKings or $3K on FanDuel. Ynoa has exhibited a massive reverse split in his short career (RHBs .366 wOBA, LHBs .263). However, Statcast has batters from either side of the plate within a .355 xwOBA. Aside from Turner (123 wRC+, .215 ISO), both Josh Bell (126 wRC+, .262 ISO) and Kyle Schwarber (112 wRC+, .268 ISO) have had success against RHP since 2019. Both exceed a 95 mph EV on fly balls and line drives overall this year. The only other batter in the projected lineup who can say that is Yadiel Hernandez (96.4 mph), who has a 156 wRC+ since being called up.
Kyle Gibson has been great since Opening Day, surrendering just three earned runs over five starts. The 20 K% (12.5 SwStr%) is not very impressive, but he’s never gotten the strikeouts that his SwStr% suggested he was capable of. Gibson does continue to keep the ball on the ground (53.1%), but has been lucky that none of his five Barrels (5.2%) have left the yard. That could change facing his old team in his old home in Minnesota. If you filter Baseball Savant’s Daily Matchups page for at least 15 PAs and sort by xwOBA, not only do you find two players above .370 against tonight’s opposing pitcher, but both Josh Donaldson (134 wRC+, .263 ISO vs RHP since 2019) and Nelson Cruz (147 wRC+, .281 ISO vs RHP) exceed a .600 xwOBA against Gibson. Donaldson (.635 xwOBA) has three HRs and a double over 18 PAs, while Cruz (.605 xwOBA) has a one home run and double. RHBs have a .323 wOBA (LHBs .337 wOBA) vs Gibson, whose run of good fortune (at least as far as home run suppression goes) could come to an end tonight. And if it’s neither of them, rookie Alex Kiriloff has been smoking the ball and has a 100.2 mph EV on fly balls and line drives this year and now a .344 ISO vs RHP in his short career.
The two worst bullpens over the last 30 days remain the Tigers and Reds. When adding ERA, SIERA, FIP and xFIP, then dividing by four, they are the only two teams above five. Unfortunately, the Reds are off the main slate, but the Tigers are in a great spot to target at Fenway. Last season, Michael Fulmer was an easy pitcher to load up against, but seems a bit healthier this year. A more than two mph velocity increase and increasing his slider usage to 33.6% has helped Fulmer increase his strikeout rate to 23.5% (13.7 SwStr%). It’s also caused a stark decrease in both exit velocity (86.1 mph) and Barrels (5.1%) with an increase in ground ball rate (47.5%). This is no reason for concern though, because the Tigers are remaining conservative with him, not allowing Fulmer to exceed 78 pitches yet. We’ll still see plenty of the worst bullpen in baseball in Boston tonight. Rafael Devers is averaging 101 mph on fly balls and line drives and has a 170 wRC+ over the last 30 days.
Let’s also note that the Kansas City bullpen is at 4.97 over the last 30 days after being smashed by Cleveland last night. Mike Minor has no real split since 2019 with batters from either side of the plate around a .300 wOBA against him and the Indians are a bit better vs LHP. Jose Ramirez (141 wRC+, .259 ISO vs LHP since 2019) plays well no matter which side of the plate he’s batting from. One other eye catching stat from last night was Harold Ramirez with the two hardest hit balls in baseball last night according to Statcast at 114.5 and 113.5 mph. Franmil Reyes had the fourth hardest hit ball last night (112.3 mph). Max exit velocity is often a good predictor of power.