As we get into September with the expanded rosters, I do feel there are some pieces of advice that I can offer — stuff that may not be entirely obvious, or things that may be obvious but are worth being reminded of once again. Let’s take a look at some general strategy, along with some specific picks for your FanDuel tournament today.
First, now that there are expanded rosters, players that normally would have PH or PR risk during the season now see that risk extremely amplified. For example, Matt Holliday has not finished a game he has started in September (he’s started 6 games for the Rockies in September). Because the Rockies now have more than 3 bench players, any time Holliday gets on base in a close game, he will be pinch-run for (meaning the pinch runner gets the 3.2 if he scores, not Holliday). Additionally, he will be swapped out for a defensive replacement (if he is not pinch-run for), and sometimes that will cost him an additional at-bat. In the 2 games Curtis Granderson has started for the Brewers, he has been hit for in the 5th and the 6th inning. While I will concede those are two of the most egregious examples, the fact remains that players who have been pinch-hit, pinch-run or defensive-replacement risks throughout the season become extreme risks at this point, so tread very carefully.
The second point is that the bottom-barrel hitters at premium defensive positions also see an increased replacement risk. During the season, with a 3- or 4-man bench, a manager would have to weigh whether or not to aggressively hit for his replacement-level hitting shortstop early in the game against the fact that he had only 2 or 3 guys on the bench to tactically use. Now he has far more options, and the difference between that shortstop and some AAA call-up is small enough that he’s going to make that move every time. For example, Orlando Arcia has started 6 games in September, and has been hit for twice (it’s not a coincidence that those 2 games were the 2 games that the Brewers were losing at the time he was hit for). Tony Wolters has been hit for 3 out of the 4 games he’s started in September.
Now, I’m sure you are saying: why would I be playing these guys in the first place, regardless of the increased risk of being hit for? And while that is a fair question, every so often there’s a slate where a position is completely worthless, and the cheap punt who is in a lineup with a juicy match-up, on a slate with a premium pitcher or premium bats in good match-ups, suddenly becomes attractive. The problem is that, in September, that cheap punt may be good for only 2 at-bats instead of 4 or 5, and given that he’s probably close to worthless at the plate, those extra 2 at-bats are huge in terms of getting him the 3 or 6 points you need to make playing him worth it. So while none of what I just wrote is specific to your DFS slate today, take those two pearls of wisdom with you as you build your lineups throughout September.
On to the picks…
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Clayton Kershaw, P: $11,500 – Kershaw has struck out 24.6% of batters this year, but has gone back to just not walking anyone. Since he walked 4 Angels on July 15th, he’s walked 4 batters total. He’s by far the best real-life pitcher on the slate — it’s not even remotely close.
Eduardo Rodriguez, P: $8,600 – Rodriguez has a 26.1% strikeout rate and a 7.5% walk rate. He’s a solid pitcher and may be a better DFS pitcher than Kershaw due to DFS pitcher scoring being so overwhelmingly tilted to strikeouts. Rodriguez is capable of putting up a boatload of strikeouts at any time, but he still hasn’t mastered right-handed batters (23.5% strikeouts and 8% walks), and the Blue Jays lineup is loaded with righties, as in, Rodriguez will likely see 9 righties, which will most likely keep him from going more than 6. But can he outvalue Kershaw? Sure, it could happen, but I’m not enthused with the possibility.
Jed Lowrie, 2B: $3,700 & Matt Olson, C/1B: $3,600 – Oakland gets to face Dylan Bundy, who gets tattooed by lefties. With an 18.1% strikeout rate and an 8.5% walk rate, Oakland lefties are a top play. Lowrie (.374 wOBA) and Olson (.343 wOBA and .244 ISO) are the top plays. Bundy vs righties is still pretty good (30.4% strikeouts and 6.3% walks), but he doesn’t get any ground balls at all (36%), so you can play Khris Davis (.376 wOBA and .309 ISO) who has the power to launch balls off Bundy, and Matt Chapman (.387 wOBA and 22.9% strikeouts), who avoids the strikeouts, and be totally fine.
Boston Red Sox – Sam Gaviglio throws the ball over the plate with good enough stuff to get to 20.8% strikeouts and 6.7% walks to go with 47.4% ground balls. The combination is actually pretty good, but he doesn’t throw hard (he averages 88 mph) and has never had a strikeout rate this high in the minors; thus, we can be pretty confident that he’s not going to be as good as his peripherals have been in the majors. The Red Sox’s top 2 bats, as everyone knows, are Mookie Betts and JD Martinez. If you’re paying up for Kershaw, you’re likely not going to be able to afford these two. Andrew Benintendi and his .387 wOBA for $3,800 is a nice piece at an affordable price. Mitch Moreland (.339 wOBA and .218 ISO) gets you access to the Red Sox at a cheap price. Note: the Red Sox have been chalky (or at least have had a decent amount of ownership) the last 2 days, only to be epic disasters, so you GPP players out there may be looking at a spot where the Red Sox will be extremely underowned for what they are, due to recency bias.
Jay Bruce, OF: $2,500 – Let’s try this again. After what should have been Jay Bruce chalk night, Jay Bruce is still too cheap for an above-average bat with the platoon advantage against a young pitcher who doesn’t miss bats (18.2% in AAA this year) and had an average-ish walk rate (7.9% in AAA).
Minnesota Twins – Heath Fillmyer is a jabroni. He has a putrid 14.1% strikeouts and 11.1% walks. He does have a 49.7% ground ball rate, but that doesn’t make up for the miserable other skills. Any Twin is playable, but his 14.4% strikeout and walk rates vs lefties mean we do prefer lefties vs him. Jorge Polanco (.371 wOBA), Eddie Rosario (.360 wOBA) and Jake Cave (.344 wOBA) are my 3 favorite plays, but honestly, given the prices for Twins players, you can play anyone, just depending on how the lineup shakes out.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
Everything looks pretty clear today.
Doing Lines In Vegas
I know the Mets’ offense isn’t exactly inspiring, but 7.5 as a game over/under feels low given the pitchers involved. Take the over.