James Shields has given up a home run in 11 of 13 games this year. Outside of the first 2 games when he gave up 2 each, he’s given up at least 5 hits a game (he’s gone more than 6 once this year and that was 6.1). He’s walked someone in every single start. This is a more flavorful way of saying what you already know – Shields is terrible and won’t have his option year picked up in 2019 (that’s right, we’re going to have another year of James Shields to pick on). The other plus about this game is it’s in Texas and it’s going to be hot. Also, Shields’ splits this year are hilarious. When a left hander is in the box, he strikes them out 15.7% of the time and walks them 12% of the time (with a normal .313 BABIP), gets a ground ball 35.7% of the time and allows a home run on 23.6% of his fly balls. All of which is leads to an unfathomable 9.17 FIP and a 6.86 xFIP. Yes, loyal readers, James Shields has a FIP over 9 vs lefties. The worst FIP I can find vs lefties is Jose Lima’s 6.14, including an 8.29 in 2006 and Lima’s 8.29 was in only 7 innings. James Shields is having a legendarily bad season vs lefties (he’s actually relatively decent vs righties with 21.2% strikeouts and 8.2% walks for a 4.14 FIP and 4.73 xFIP). So given all of this information, here’s what I would do: play Texas Rangers lefties as much as physically possible, with Mazara and Gallo being the top ones, but all of them are good plays. As for the righties, they aren’t nearly as good as the lefties, first, because each Rangers righty you play is one less Rangers lefty to play if you’re going to have four Rangers, and second, a lot of the Rangers righties are expensive. That said, in a vacuum, the righties are still good plays as it’s hot, James Shields is on the mound and when he’s out of the game, the White Sox gas can of a bullpen will come in and suck. Beltre leads the righties since he hits righties pretty well over his career (113 wRC+) and has hit them well this year (.382 wOBA). Basically, play all the Rangers you can.
On to the picks once James Shields allows another home run to a lefty…
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Corey Kluber, SP: $11,600 – Kluber this year is striking out 35.8% and only walking 5.6%. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and facing a punchless Royals team. While it’s true they don’t strike out, they also don’t walk and are about average for power, so it’s a good (but not great) matchup for DFS reasons. I’d probably take the next guy in cash games because the Padres are a great DFS matchup for opposing pitchers as they offer way more K-upside but Kluber is one of the best in the game and could easily be the top scorer.
Max Scherzer, SP: $11,500 – I don’t know how many times I’ve written about Max Scherzer this year, but he’s still really good and he’s facing the terrible Padres who simply can’t hit AND as previously mentioned, they offer a lot more K-upside, in San Diego, which should help with the occasional home run problem.
Dallas Keuchel, SP: $9,300 – It took a few starts, but last start Keuchel was mostly back, generating strikeouts and ground balls as well as he can. He’s super cheap for his upside and is the top non Scherzer & Kluber option. The A’s actually strike out a lot vs. lefties (6th in the league) and are generally awful (87 wRC+). The upside is there to dominate and be the top scorer – so at $9,300 with a lot of upside, he’s looking like a pretty good GPP pick.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Jordan Zimmermann used to be good, but he’s a guy who has gotten worse in every way. He really can’t get strikeouts (15.1%) and can’t get a ground ball (33.3%) and his walk rate is a career high 6.7%. He’s equally terrible vs righties and lefties, so all Dodgers are in play. Obviously Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Justin Turner are the main plays here, with a wOBA vs righties of .417, .374 and .372 respectively. Everyone else is in play in stacks and one offs in GPPs. If Joc Pederson is batting at the top of the order, he’s pretty much mandatory in cash considering his price of $2,700. If Chase Utley is at the top of the order, he’ll also be a snap play and likely mega chalk.
Charlie Blackmon, OF: $4,900 – I don’t need to waste any time discussing why Blackmon is in a spot to do well. He’s a great hitter, and he’s in Coors versus a non-elite right-handed pitcher. That’s all that needs to be said. He’s the top play of the day if money didn’t matter. What does require some time is whether or not he’s worth the $4,900, particularly on a slate where you are most likely picking either Kluber or Scherzer, who are fairly expensive. Further complicating matters is that the Rangers (who are not particularly cheap) are in an extremely good spot (see above), and the Dodgers (who are also not particularly cheap) are in a quite good spot (also see above) as well, meaning that cramming a lot of value plays into a lineup comes at the expense of the the opportunity cost of not playing a lot of high-priced (but not Blackmon-priced) guys in great spots. I’m not sure there’s a “right” answer, but my suggestion to you, my loyal readers, is to make a lineup with Blackmon and make a lineup without Blackmon (same pitchers) and just see how much you’re giving up in the other offensive spots in order to get Blackmon. My hunch is that it won’t be worth it, but quality value plays may open up in the interim.
Max Stassi, C: $2,000 – You’re going to want savings somewhere and Stassi is as good a spot as any. The catchers who are “good”, and who you want to play if salary wasn’t a consideration, are going to be too expensive for their production and/or for their lineup spot. As readers here have known, I’m a big fan of fat catcher power and Stassi is listed at 5-10 and 200 pounds, which means he has fat catcher power (this year, he’s slugging .473). He’s got the platoon advantage and both Vegas and Teamonator have the Astros total above 5.
Travis d’Arnaud, C: $2,000 – Apparently FanDuel wants this to be 2K catcher day. d’Arnaud doesn’t have fat catcher power, but has some power, has the platoon advantage and is going to bat higher than Stassi, albeit with lower Vegas and Teamonator projection. He’s also facing a worse pitcher in Justin Nicolino rather than the decent Sean Manaea. Whether or you want Fat Catcher Power Max Stassi or Some (but not fat) Power Travis d’Arnaud is going to come down to whether you want the higher total (and fat catcher power) or the better matchup and slightly higher spot in the batting order.
Ender Inciarte, OF: $2,900 – 2 bombs, 2 steals, 3 runs and 2 RBI. Ender Inciarte had quite the game yesterday. Today, he faces Sal Romano, who averages 95.4 MPH on his fastball but only gets swings and misses 8.3% of the time. In the Minors he had a tough time striking guys out where he was never above 7.75 per 9 (except for 2016 when he struck out 8.31 per 9). Romano gets some ground balls, but at 48.3% it’s not something to avoid. Enter Ender, who hits righties solidly, steals some bases and will be batting leadoff at a cheap price for a leadoff hitter with a 5.1 implied total (as of this writing) and is a pretty good money saver.
Freddie Freeman, 1B: $3,900 – All of the above is still true and Freeman is awesome with the bat, smoking righties over his career to the tune of a .392 wOBA. He’s quite good and down a couple hundred from the past week, putting him squarely in play as the cash 1B if you want 4 other Rangers and can’t afford the extra $100 to get to Gallo and makes a great pivot in GPPs.
Hanley Ramirez, 1B: $3,100 – Jordan Montgomery is a pretty generic lefty, who gets average-ish strikeouts, average-ish walks and below average ground balls. The Red Sox offense is pretty generic so far due to some regression from their young guns and the big gaping hole left by David Ortiz. I’m still a believer in some of their young guns to be better than they have shown so far and for Hanley to not be average. Hanley has still hit lefties this year, with a 107 wRC+ and a .340 wOBA. But, those numbers come with a paltry .239 BABIP with a pretty solid 39.2% hard contact, so he should be better going forward and definitely worth this price.
Jason Kipnis, 2B: $2,600 – This is still too cheap for a good hitter batting at the top of the order on a team that can hit vs Ian Kennedy. Kennedy has really struggled this year vs lefties with a 20.2 K% and 10.3 BB% and a 35.8% ground ball rate. I am not actually sure this is a for sure cash play, it’ll depend on some roster construction and value opening up. There are a few other 2Bs who are in solid spots and are cheap enough who are coming up shortly.
Brad Miller, 2B: $2,800 – Brad Miller vs righties has a 110 wRC+ and Erasmo as a starter throws the ball over the plate and hopes it stays in the park. He should be batting at the top of the order. The next one is…
Yoan Moncada, 2B: $2,800 – He’s cheap, will bat at the top of the order, always has platoon advantage and is playing in Texas in a hot weather game. Cashner is not a fun player to target since he’s terrible and doesn’t give up home runs and gets ground balls. But, this game is hot and humid and there should be runs scored.
Astros 7th through 9th batters – If you’re looking for a GPP one-off that’s extra contrarian, allow me to advocate for the guys at the bottom of the order. I mostly just wanted to post their stats. The Astros 7th through 9th (excluding pitchers) are batting a collective .287/.346/.518 – it’s been Bregman, Gurriel, Marisnick and Aoki for the most part. That’s absurd production – there are teams in the league who don’t have a single hitter who is producing at that level. Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying play a guy just because he’s batting 7th for the Astros – if somehow James Harden was signed by the Astros tomorrow and slotted 7th, he doesn’t become a play just because he’s 7th…on second thought, you might want to play James Harden. However, all four of those guys are very good hitters, and if any of them (likely Marisnick, as both Bregman and Gurriel have been bumped up in the order with the injuries the Astros have had) are batting at the bottom, their ownership will be incredibly low – too low for someone who will still get plenty of at-bats as the Astros are a good offense, will still have opportunities to drive in runners as the Astros are very good at getting on base, and they can all hit. I will clarify that not only is it a GPP-only play, it’s really a big-field GPP-only play – the types of fields where having that 1.4% owned home run for $2,300 can really make a difference.
Baltimore Orioles – Normally when I see a lineup that is incredibly right-handed heavy, facing a soft-tossing left-handed pitcher who doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts and doesn’t induce ground-balls, I want to lock-and-load, particularly the righties who have the spirit of Edgar Renteria in them in regards to lefty-mashing. But the Orioles present a problem. First – even though you would think this lineup mashes, so far this season they’ve struggled vs lefties (.320 wOBA and 96 wRC+) – pretty much everyone in the lineup is under-performing this year. Secondly, there’s no one on this team who can be identified as a lefty masher – the only one you can even argue for is Jonathan Schoop (.299/.366/.607, with a wRC+ of 153 against lefties), but this appears to be a one-year fluke – as over his entire career, which gives us the far bigger sample of 534 PAs against lefties and 1430 PAs against righties, he’s actually shown a reverse split (104 wRC+ against righties, 87 wRC+ against lefties). Quick note here: reverse splits for hitters are flukes and not actually true talent reverse splits, just random variation. If this was just a bad left-handed pitcher, I would be more than willing to pass up the opportunity because no Oriole offers extremely good value and there are plenty of other matchups with far more reliable hitters. But Andrew Heaney is a certain kind of fun, he’s a guy who throws the ball over the plate and won’t get swings and misses (last we saw him in 2015, he was at 8.6% swing and miss rate and 17.8 K%). He’s also a heavy duty fly ball guy, with a 38.3% ground ball rate. His AAA Minor League rehab starts this year saw more of the same, with a 20 K%, and a 38% ground ball rate. He’s also pitching in Baltimore which is a decent hitters park. Ultimately, I don’t know what to do here – Andrew Heaney presents a great matchup with his “just throw the ball over the plate and hope they don’t hit it 500 feet” approach to pitching that I just can’t fade the Orioles outright, but since I’m leery of pretty much everyone on the Orioles lineup, I find myself focusing on one specific Oriole (I think they are better as a one off in GPPs to home run chase due to Heaney’s good control and his ability to avoid the walk), not because he’s specifically good (although he is certainly as good as anyone else on the Orioles, except maybe Future Yankee Manny Machado), but rather just because when in doubt, I lean on some of my DFS principles, which leads me to this conclusion – there’s one Oriole I like, and that is…
Tim Beckham, SS: $3,500 – #Respecttheleadoff.
Juan Lagares, OF: $2,300. Speaking of #respecttheleadoff – here’s a great value play if you need it. Lagares is a little above average vs lefties (104 wRC+), and Justin Nicolino is nothing to be afraid of (career 9.9 K% and 6.8 BB%). This isn’t a spot that requires in-depth analysis – if you don’t need the savings, then there’s no reason to even worry about this play – but if the money’s tight, this is the type of spot that can open up money for you then Lagares is a solid play if he bats leadoff.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
Seems like Baltimore is going to rain and rain and then stop raining around 8 pm also a pretty decent chance it’s pouring and thunderstorming in New York and Boston. It’s also 50/50 to rain during game time in Kansas City.
Doing Lines In Vegas
I don’t think much of the Royals offense vs Kluber, so I’d take the under on Royals runs, which is 3.5. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Rangers score more than 7 runs and just obliterate. It’s hot and James Shields sucks. That’s enough for me.