Alex Wood. He has a 33.1% K rate, 7.6% BB rate and a 62.8% gb rate. All are elite and combine for a 2.17 xFIP, 48% better than league average. How is he doing this? Well, his starts have been @Cubs, @Arizona, @Giants, vs Giants, vs Pittsburgh and @ Colorado. Outside of the Cubs there aren’t any powerhouse offenses, but it’s 2 games in hitters havens, one of which he got hit around (Arizona) and the other he destroyed the Rockies, and loyal readers know what I think of the Rockies (hint: it rhymes with schmucks). He’s facing the Marlins this fine Friday and although the Marlins are an above average offense vs lefties this year, they don’t walk (8% BB-rate, 24th in the league) and are 16th in K rate (21%). Even though they have been above average so far, I don’t believe them to be an above average offense with the bottom of the order as bad as it is right now and nothing too good versus lefties outside of Stanton and Ozuna. Wood’s velocity has been ticking up after dropping to 88-89 in 2015. In 2016 it was 91-92 and he’s come out this year gassing it up to 93 (he only throws sinkers, very few 4 seamers). The other thing with Wood that keeps his price down is he hasn’t been allowed to go past 6 as a starter, in fact it’s a Dodger philosophy to (correctly) not let your starter go through the lineup more than 3 times and frequently it’s even less. Since Dave Roberts took over the Dodgers, no team has let their pitchers face fewer batters per start. The Dodgers starters have faced 22.3 batters per start, with the Reds coming in 2nd at 22.87. The Dodgers starters are also 2nd in fWAR since Roberts took over. The average fWAR rank of the non-Dodgers bottom 10 is 23.1. Most teams who don’t let their pitchers go far into games do it for good reason, the pitchers aren’t very good. The Dodgers let their pitchers air it out for 22.3 batters and then pull them to get better pitchers in. Given the times through the order penalty, this makes sense and is the future of baseball. But, in the meantime, for DFS, when there are teams like the White Sox (what?) and Giants who just let their pitchers throw until Dr. James Andrews tells them to stop, you will want to avoid non Kershaw Dodgers pitchers unless the price and matchup is right. This is especially true for FanDuel, because the QS bonus is a significant part of a pitcher’s overall DFS production, and the QS bonus requires you to pitch at least 6 innings.
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Chris Sale, SP: $12,000 – After a few months of stupidly dabbling with trying to pitch deeper into games and not striking guys out last year (thanks, White Sox Coaches!) Sale is now intelligently back to striking out everyone in sight and not walking guys. He’s a top DFS pitcher who gets a ballpark upgrade and is not facing an elite offense. Lock and load Sale in cash and GPPs.
Jacob deGrom, SP: $10,400 – deGrom is ace #2 on today’s slate. After a year of averaging a touch over 94 mph, he’s back to his 2015 velo when he struck out 27.3% and walked 5.1% of batters. This year he’s both striking out more (32.4%) and walking more (9.7%). I expect both the walks and Ks to come down along with his BABIP (.345) and his home run per fly ball (17.5%). His xFIP is 2.90 compared to 2.92 in 2015. He’s an ace and at $1,600 cheaper than Sale, you can get out of that iffy punt you like (such as a certain Royals SS I’ll get to later) and on to a real hitter.
Taijuan Walker, SP: $7,600 – The Padres are terrible vs righties with the 2nd worst K rate (25.3%), 7th worst BB rate (7.3%) and a really bad .299 wOBA (which is 6th worst). Walker is above average in strikeouts, walks and ground balls (at least this year) and gets a massive park upgrade going from Arizona to San Diego. We’ve seen guys throw elite games all year vs San Diego and Walker’s price is cheap for his upside and is in play in GPPs to get the elite bats.
Michael Conforto, OF: $4,200 – Conforto has hit at every level until last year in MLB. He smokes righties (.367 career wOBA), and Nolasco is a fly ball pitcher who is average at missing bats giving a nice advantage to Conforto.
Jay Bruce, OF: $4,000 – You want to use Bruce vs fly ball pitchers and Nolasco is just that. 40% is enough of a ground ball rate that Bruce should be a good target and in play in cash and gpps.
Charlie Blackmon, OF: $4,100 – Blackmon has continued his power surge from last year and Lisalverto Bonilla doesn’t have anything to get lefties out. While Cincinnati isn’t Coors, it is plenty friendly to left handed power. A quick note that the Rockies are a strange team (as mentioned earlier, I think they colossally suck and are vastly overrated) and if they decide to just roll a bunch of righties, Bonilla becomes a deep GPP play, but if the Rockies do the smart thing and get lefties into the lineup, even guys like Tony Wolters, stack away.
Detroit Tigers – Nick Martinez as a starter in his MLB career has struck out 12.2% of hitters, he has walked 8.5% of hitters and has a 39.4% GB rate. Nick Martinez does 0 of the 3 things you need to do to be a successful Major League pitcher. He’s barely passable vs righties and not a Major Leaguer vs lefties. Kinsler, Castellanos, Upton and Avila are all usable in cash games and if Collins hits high up in the order, he’s a cash game lock at his price.
Bryce Harper, OF: $4,900 – RA Dickey vs Bryce Harper is not fair for Dickey. Harper, when healthy, is probably the best hitter in baseball and he’ll have platoon advantage against Dickey. It’s pretty simple that Harper is cash and gpp playable, especially since his price is down a bit from the mid 5k range.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Jered Weaver is now famous for throwing about as hard as an 18 year old youth travel team pitcher (he’s actually throwing .5 mph harder this year). He doesn’t strike anyone out (12.6% this year) even though he misses more bats than you would think (8.4% swing and miss rate) and also doesn’t walk anyone (5.5%). He gives up tons of home runs, even in San Diego, so he’s obviously someone we want to target with power hitters. Weaver doesn’t have big time split to target, so you can play righties or lefties against him. Peralta, Goldschmidt, Lamb, Tomas are the power guys to target for cash games and gpps. And if Blanco leads off, he’s cash game playable, as he’s super cheap and he’ll likely be a cash game lock in Sale lineups (They could do something stupid like lead off Fuentes and hit Blanco 8th, then Fuentes is borderline cash playable). If Herrmann is playing, as he should be, he’s cash game playable as he’s only $2,300. Everyone else on the team is playable in stacks. The only downside with this matchup is it’s in San Diego, but 450 foot bombs aren’t staying in any MLB park.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B: $3,600 – It seems like Matt Moore has been around forever, but he only threw ~336 innings pre Tommy John and he was a bit overrated before the surgery (ran xFIP of 4.35 and 4.32 his 2 seasons prior to TJS). Then it took a long time to come back from surgery and he lost some of his strikeout ability and way cut down on his walk rate. The gain in walk rate doesn’t offset the loss of strikeouts. Along the way his velo dropped from 96-97 to 95-96 to 92-93 where he is now. Jedd Gyorko came out of nowhere last year to slug .495 en route to a .339 wOBA. So far this season, he’s made last year’s “fluke” look paltry by batting .331/.383/.593 (which translates to a .413 wOBA). Mike Matheny treats him like he’s a replacement-level hitter, which he is most certainly not. He’s a guy with average contact skills but good amount of power, but San Diego nuked his power and while his overall numbers in San Diego were downright laughable – which is why his .243/.306/.495 numbers in St. Louis seemed to come from nowhere, when in fact that’s pretty much what he will do if given a normal amount of at-bats playing in any stadium that isn’t San Diego. So while lineup construction likely won’t take you to Gyorko, he’s definitely worth putting in a GPP for that nice 18.7 you get if he goes yard off of Matt Moore.
Alcides Escobar, SS: $2,200 – Look, Alcides Escobar sucks at hitting major league pitchers. I’m not going to cherry pick some stats to try to somehow argue otherwise. But there’s a reason good DFS players say “Respect The Leadoff” – DFS is a cumulative score game and opportunities are another important facet in producing points. The Royals are currently projected, by Teamonator, to be the 2nd highest scoring team today (behind only the Tigers). That means that the lineup will cycle through a few times. If Alcides is batting leadoff, he is a strong bet to get that 4th and 5th at-bat that a lot of the options in this price-range won’t get. He’ll also have the platoon edge against a not-particularly-good Hector Santiago for the first few at-bats. Even the worst hitters, if given 5 at-bats, can luckbox a hit or RBI. And DFS-Bot loves Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez, so if Escobar does make his way on base, there’s a good chance he gets driven in. Further, he’s a SS – almost all of the good value plays today are 1Bs and OFs, which entails taking a roster spot away from Goldschmidt or Harper if you go that route. On the other hand, SS as a whole is rather uninspiring, so you’re not facing a big opportunity cost, and using Alcides to save money allows you to spend more money on the elite bats. Finally, if you’re using Chris Sale, you’re going to need multiple value plays, regardless of position, so look Alcides way and hope he luckboxes into some points. Note – if he’s not batting leadoff, ignore this entire paragraph. But if that means Whit Merrifield (2B, $2,600) is batting leadoff, the same exact analysis applies, in fact you can feel moderately less nauseous rostering Whit since he’s replacement level as a hitter instead of 34% below average.
Lorenzo Cain, OF: $3,400 – Unlike Alcides, Cain can actually hit, particularly against left-handed pitching – he sports a solid .302/.361/.464 against lefties for his career, which translates to a .354 wOBA. Hector Santiago is an unimpressive left handed pitcher (5.08 xFIP the last 3 years), and as noted in the Alcides paragraph, DFS-Bot is quite enamored with Lorenzo Cain, currently ranking him in the top 10, making him one of the top value plays in addition to one of the top plays.
Salvador Perez, C: $3,300 – It’s certainly a steep price for a catcher, and Perez is pretty awful to watch at the plate, since he seemingly has no plan at the plate except, swing. He’s got average contact skills with good power for a catcher, but because of the aforementioned lack of a plan at the plate, he seems to swing wildly between 0 point 0 for 4s while seeing 5 pitches with 4-5 with 2 doubles, a bomb and seeing 6 pitches. Like I said, he’s awful to watch hit. But, he’s the living embodiment of fat-catcher power hitter. He sports a career .272/.303/.436 line, and the last few years he’s had much more power (he’s 27, chill out there steroid freaks). There’s a reason Hittertron has him as the 8th most likely player to hit a HR (and the only catcher in the top 25).
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
While there are no tornado watches today, few games that might affect pitchers. Baltimore might have some later game rain. Cinci looks to be drizzly all game. St. Louis looks to have late game rain. As of now, all of them look to be more of a delay possibility than PPD.
Doing Lines In Vegas
As of right now, the o/u for Washington/Atlanta is 9 – I say as of right now because it opened at 8.5, and looks like it’s going to continue to rise, so by the time you read this it could be a juiced-9 or possibly 9.5. That said, I’d still take the over – R.A. Dickey isn’t good, the Nationals destroy right handed pitching, and while the Braves offense is definitely unimpressive without Freddie Freeman, it’s not at the level of say, the Giants or the White Sox (when facing a righty). When we add the fact that Sun Trust park has played as a far more favorable park to hitters than Turner was, we have what looks like a very good spot for runs to be scored and that over to be met. The Tigers implied line is 4.9 runs at the moment, so those who have access to online sportsbooks where they will have team totals may want to look at the Tigers team total – my guess will be it’s a juiced 4.5, and that’s certainly a spot worth playing, as I fully expect the Tigers to just obliterate Nick Martinez.