So today’s slate offers me a chance to discuss an important DFS concept (albeit one that happens more often in Football and Basketball) – chalk eating, or blocking. Simply put, the pitching on this slate makes me want to hurl – get it? Haha. You may think Sean Manaea is the best option by far, but his early season success is buoyed by a .148 BABIP and a 98.2% LOB rate. But he still may be the best option simply because all the other guys are in between hot garbage fire and a good old fashioned regular garbage fire. When you’ve got a situation such as this – a four game slate with absolutely no decent pitching options, you’re faced with the conclusion that the pitching is pretty much RNG – just a matter of which pitcher gets the BABIP-luck that day and the extra strikeout or two. So what to do? Well, you could try to really split hairs and figure out who has that tiny marginal edge over the other pitchers (but to be honest, I’m not even sure that’s possible here or you’re able to even do that with things that are real and meaningful), or, if you’re lucky, there will be something that points to an overwhelmingly chalk pitcher that allows you to block by simply going along with the field such that even if the choice does bad, you’re still in fine shape in cash because you’re in the same boat as 80% of the field. Today we have that in the form of Sean Manaea because of the public’s ridiculous obsession with recency bias and stat chasing. The public is going to see that 9IP, 11K no-hit gem he threw against the Red Sox, and then the 7IP 7K performance he followed it up with, and assume that he’s going to do something like that again. And while it’s certainly possible, we also know that 2 great starts are not nearly as useful for analysis as his entire body of work throughout his career. But that’s irrelevant here – there are no other good options and as such, the cash play here is just to block the field by picking Manaea. That way, no matter what he does, whether he’s on the good side of RNG and ends up the high scoring pitcher or he’s on the bad side of RNG and ends up the worst, you’re in the same boat as the vast majority of the field. I will say that this is a cash-only play. In GPPs, you’d want to do the exact opposite. Simply put, this is a great spot for GPP players in my opinion as there will be a heavily chalk pitcher who is more likely than other chalk pitchers to disappoint; thus, if you pivot to any other pitcher and he out-performs Manaea (something that is entirely within the realm of reasonable possibilities today), you will have a massive lead on the majority of the field and that’s a huge step towards winning a GPP. I will also say that if you do not believe Manaea will be chalky for whatever reason, then you have to go back to picking between garbage fire and hot garbage fire. But if you agree with me that recency bias, stat-chasing and being the best of a bunch of bad options will render Manaea the chalk – pivot in GPPs and block in cash and win all the monies with the bats.
On to the picks…
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Sean Manaea, SP: $9,000 – He’s basically an average pitcher with above average control in a park that punishes right handed pull power. Thus, he’s probably the best pitching option on the slate, but even if he wasn’t, as noted above, he’s still my cash recommendation because of blocking. The difference between him and anyone else (whichever direction that difference is) is so small, and all the pitchers suck today, such that it’s RNG as to who ends up doing the best. Pick him in cash, block the field and move on.
Any Other SP – Yeah, I don’t like any of the other options. But if you’re a GPP player, I would highly recommend picking anyone else besides Manaea because he’s going to be overwhelmingly chalk and there is a very good chance he disappoints and one (or many) of the other pitchers out-perform him. Given that I don’t like any of other pitchers, my advice is either to just try to find something you like in one of the other seven options, or, build your offense first, and then cross off all the pitchers your hitters are going against and just pick one of the other options – like if you’re running a Red Sox/Angels stack, just throw Jamie Barria out there since he’s not facing any of your hitters.
Boston Red Sox – Mike Minor is throwing a little bit harder as a starter than he has in the past, even though it’s about a MPH harder, he’s still a lefty who should give up a ton of fly balls and not miss too many bats. Mookie Betts is obviously not a play because he used up his allotment of home runs yesterday for today. Just kidding, he’s a top play along with JD Martinez. Vs lefties, Mookie has struck out a ridiculous 7.4% of the time and has a .415 wOBA. JD Martinez since the start of last year has a even more ridiculous .492 wOBA vs lefties (which as it’s known around these parts as a Barry Bonds down year). The other Red Sox are more GPP plays and for stacks since even in this slate there are better values elsewhere.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – We all should be glad we can stick our hands in the Till, man. Yeah, yeah, I’m not sorry. Tillman is hot garbage fire at pitching baseballs. Since the start of last year, Tillman has struck out 13.6% and walked 11.5% and a poor 40% ground ball rate. If you stand in the left handed batters box, he loses all ability to get out anyone with 10.8% strikeouts and 18.2% walks. Yes, that’s right, he becomes an 19th century pitcher who has to put it where the batter wants it. Versus righties he switches the mindset to simply throw it right down the middle and maybe someone will hit one 110 MPH at 5 degrees instead of 26 degrees. Note: often times, they hit it 26 degrees. Mike Trout is the obvious best play here, you don’t need me to tell you that. Justin Upton since the start of last year has a .341 wOBA and a .223 ISO vs righties with 39.5% hard hit ball rate. The rest of the Angels are all playable, Shohei Ohtani has power, but apparently isn’t a good hitter if you don’t throw him 97 mph fastballs off the plate inside. Ian Kinsler is aging hitter and struggles vs major league pitching, but Tillman isn’t a major league pitcher at this point. Kole Calhoun is really struggling now, but over his career he’s got a .327 wOBA vs righties and has a 38.4% hard hit ball rate this year, so he should improve this year (also, that’s vs Major League pitchers, and once again, that does not apply to Tillman).
I’m never going to recommend Albert Pujols since I think he’s the worst hitter who gets regular playing time in baseball and I can’t figure out why he’s hitting 4th, but Tillman might be the worst pitcher in baseball, so this matchup is fairly even. But really, if you want to play any Angels player, it’s probably a good idea in this small slate.
Baltimore Orioles – The projected starter for the Angels is Jaime Barria, a 21 year old strike throwing prospect who won’t miss bats and is an extreme fly ball pitcher. This is good for the Orioles, especially since most of the Orioles are really cheap, although of course this opportunity for value happens on a slate where the pitchers are mostly terrible and cheap. Manny Machado is the best hitter on the Orioles with a .216 ISO vs righties since the start of last year and has come out like gangbusters this year with a .471 wOBA and .294 ISO. Trey Mancini is likely leading off and has a .349 wOBA with a .202 ISO vs righties. And anytime you can get Jace Peterson hitting 2nd with the platoon advantage for under 4k, you have to take it. Adam Jones is in decline (a 30 point jump in BABIP last year probably concealed some of the decline), but you’re searching for a home run for him and he can still hit 1 every 24 plate appearances (Steamer projected). Pedro Alvarez, Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis are acceptable home run hunting options, but not guys to prioritize in cash games.
Minnesota Twins – Reynaldo Lopez throws hard (mid 90s) and is always capable of throwing a pretty good game if balls don’t leave the park. We want to target guys who can hit the ball a long way, especially if they are lefties. Lopez is a smidge better vs righties (9.9% K-BB vs 7.1% K-BB and 37.8% ground ball rate vs 31.8%) so you want to get those lefties, but if a righty fits your lineup better, it’s not the end of the world. Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Logan Morrison are the top plays. Rosario has a .337 wOBA and a .219 ISO in his career vs righties, Kepler has .347 wOBA and .216 ISO and Morrison since the start of last year has a.354 wOBA and a .271 ISO vs righties. Of the same side hitters, Brian Dozier has a .347 wOBA and a .227 ISO vs righties since 2016.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
In a 4 game slate, any game that has the possibility of a PPD is a headache and in Chicago there is >50% chance throughout the game, so make sure to check on that prior to lock. There’s also a small chance of rain in Texas, so it seems like Mother Nature is messing with Texas. My money is on Mother Nature, though I guess that should go in the next section.
Doing Lines In Vegas
Given that I spent the entire introduction talking about a strategy based around the fact that I don’t think Sean Manaea is that good, and Wade LeBlanc is a reliever who is getting the spot start (and the Mariners bullpen isn’t anything special), I’d happily take the over of 8 here, even in a ballpark like Seattle. I also am fine taking the over of 9.5 in Texas because I like to gamble and both Price and Minor are high variance pitchers (as are both offenses), but that spot is far less of an edge given that it’s a run and a half higher, so I’d only recommend it for those really looking for a 2nd spot to gambooool it up.