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After one month spent as a visiting blogger for Monday picks, I have returned to the spot where I really broke through in the world of Daily Fantasy Blogging, FanDuel Friday. So we’re back to a one-pitcher site and positions mattering. And on today’s slate, we actually have a perfect example of how positions matter, because Third Base is loaded today. You’re going to have to make a tough choice at third, and that choice  may well be the difference between winning and losing (because if your third baseman stinks, you’re in trouble because with so many good choices in good matchups, odds are the public will get good production at the position). It’s actually to the point where the Braves decision to move Freeman leftward on the defensive spectrum makes everything more complicated – if Freeman was a 1B, he’d be the lockiest chalk-lock of all-time today, and you’d have one less quality 3B to consider. Instead, we have an absolute logjam at 3B, and very little in the way of cash-viable 1Bs. I remember the good ol’ days of one month ago, when Donaldson and Beltre were hurt, Turner and Lamb were overpriced, Machado and Seager were still priced as if they weren’t in massive slumps, and Nolan was priced as if he was playing in Coors even when he wasn’t – you were pretty much looking at either spending up for Bryant, spending down with Gyorko or Castellanos, or splitting the difference with Longoria. Those were the good ol’ days!

On to the picks once Freeman is 1B again…

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PITCHERS

Jacob deGrom, P: $10,900 – I’m going to assume anyone reading this has at least a basic level of understanding of baseball analytics. deGrom is the top choice for pitcher today because he’s in a great matchup (versus a Colorado offense that is best summarized as “two real hitters and a bunch of Coors Field created illusions of decent hitters”) and in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. There’s really not that much more to say for cash games. As for GPPs, I will also assume anyone reading this has at least a basic level of understanding of game theory and contrarian-plays – and since I expect deGrom to be chalk on FanDuel, the questions are: first, is there at least a decent chance that deGrom struggles, and second, are there other pitchers who have a realistic chance of matching (or beating) deGrom’s fantasy output for a fraction of the price or fraction of the ownership. I don’t think there is much of a chance deGrom struggles, but I do see two other pitchers with a realistic chance of matching/beating deGrom.

Charlie Morton, P: $7,700 – To quote a very well known DFS player, “Strikeouts are king in Daily Fantasy.” Mr. Morton gets strikeouts (24.9%). Razz actually projects him to have a better K/9 than deGrom, but since Razz also (correctly) notes that he’s far less likely to pitch deep into the game, deGrom still projects to have more Ks. However, that is based on replaying the slate many, many times – all we need is Morton to match deGrom one time (today) and given the price difference, our GPP lineup will be in amazing shape. If we assume deGrom pitches as well as he has been recently, then we’re looking at something 7IP, 1ER and 8K, which is 46 when you include the Quality Start, and then 52 if he gets the win. So in that case, then it just comes down to whether we get a Morton start like the one on May 8th against Texas (6IP, 1ER, 8K, QS and W, good for 49), or more like his April 10th start against Seattle (5IP, 3ER, 6K, good for 24). In other words, does he get that sixth inning and thus does he get the QS, and does he get the win. Given how good the Astros offense is, the win is a strong probability, but that 6th inning and the QS is going to pretty much be entirely random, which is of course why having QS as a critical part of FanDuel scoring is an absurd part of the scoring system (and that’s saying a lot). But if he does get that 6th inning and the QS, you’re looking at a guy with a very good chance to match deGrom for a fraction of the price. My scorching hot take – A Charlie Morton lineup wins tomorrow’s $3 GPP on FanDuel.

Carlos Carrasco, SP: $9,500 – Carrasco and deGrom are pretty similar pitchers but circumstances lead to deGrom being the better cash play. That said, if deGrom’s ownership is as high as I expect it to be, then going with someone who is fairly similar but in relatively worse circumstances is pretty much the definition of how to win a GPP. Carrasco’s last 2 years have seen him strikeout 26.1% of batters, walk 6% of them, and have an above average 47% GB-rate. He’s really good, and just as an added bonus, the Athletics strikeout 25.4% of the time vs righties, which is 2nd worst in the league. They do have some power and actually have an above average offense vs righties, but those are some of the circumstances I was referring to, and why I’m talking about Carrasco as a pivot off of DeGrom – if the Athletics didn’t have power and weren’t an above average offense versus righties, then you’d be looking at a slate with two top pitching choices for cash and it’d be impossible to distinguish the two.

HITTERS

Kyle Schwarber, OF: $2,300 – This is a comically low price for him. Yes, he was absurdly bad in the first half of 2017 (.178/.300/.394, which is Madison Bumgarner territory, and anyone who ever claims that having Bumgarner DH is the “correct” move should read that again – as great as Bumgarner is as a hitter, his production, when compared to other position players, is about the same as someone who was so bad he had to be sent back down to the minors). And sure, maybe Schwarber’s in some historically bad sophomore slump. However, given that he completely and utterly destroyed the baseball in his 11-game triple-A demotion (.343/.477/.714), and that at $2,300, an 0-4 isn’t nearly as painful as if it was coming from a $4,000 player, you take your chances here with Schwarber. On the off chance Maddon has him batting 9th or something, he’s still a GPP play, but his cash viability becomes negligible.

Joey Rickard, OF: $2,400 – Mike Montgomery is an extreme ground ball pitcher (54.7 GB%) so I do not like Rickard for GPPs, but if you need the room for cash, Rickard is a pretty decent play, as  he’s a leadoff hitter for a team who Vegas has at 5.1 and Teamonator has at a hefty 5.58. Rickard, for his part, has a 109 wRC+, showing he’s not just a crappy hitter batting leadoff you squint to play under the well-established DFS principle of #RespectTheLeadoff.

Manny Machado, 3B: $3,100 – Of qualified hitters, Machado is 8th unluckiest hitter with a .239 BABIP. He’s too good of a hitter to be this price, and he’s a fantastic play regardless of how unlucky he has been, since this isn’t strat-o-matic baseball.

Freddie Freeman, 3B: $3,600 – Freddie being $3,600 at 3B is pretty funny since he’s pretty good and hasn’t missed a beat in the week he’s been back, slugging .731. He’s facing a righty at home, so again, why is he priced at $3,600? FanDuel doesn’t think 3B slugging .745 on the year should be more than $3,600? 3B is pretty loaded today, but Freddie is practically free money and if you have the cash to pay up for him, I would.

Washington Nationals – Facing Tim Adleman is good for your stats. He gives up bombs, he walks guys and misses a below average number of bats. Over his career, righties tattoo him and lefties hit him…well, it’s obscene. Goodwin (if he’s leadoff), Harper, Murphy are the cash game bats you want to use here and the rest of the team are good GPP plays, but likely to be pretty popular.

Milwaukee Brewers – Two Brewers are in Razz’s Top 5 most likely to Homer (Thames and Braun). Three are in the Top 15, four in the Top 20, five in the top 25. Razz recognizes the nice confluence of three factors here – first, Nick Pivetta gives up a lot of bombs (36.3% GB%), second, Miller Park is very home-run friendly, and third, the Brewers (even after adjusting for the ballpark), hit a lot of bombs (2nd in the Majors in HR and 2nd in slugging behind the Astros). Outside of Thames, it’s tough to argue for the cash playability of any of these guys (maybe Villar if he’s leading off since he’s an elite-for-fantasy-purposes base-stealer), but there will be bombs-a-plenty here, so for GPP purposes pretty much the entire lineup will be playable, both as one-offs or as a stack.

Alex Avila, C: $2,700 – Aaron Sanchez throws really hard, but he has had exactly 1 year in his career where he’s had acceptable control and that just happened to be in the big leagues last year when he dominated if you look at his ERA, but was merely good if you go by his peripherals. I’m not a buyer on Sanchez as a good starter which makes the Tigers a pretty good play. The only problem is that you want to target him with lefties and it’s not like the Tigers have a ton of those. Alex Avila has monster splits this year (.424 wOBA vs righties and .211 vs lefties). Given his .426 BABIP vs lefties, I don’t expect him to be “best player in baseball” vs righties, but he should be solid for a catcher and he’s batting 2nd and cheap.

Arizona Diamondbacks – I know R.A. Dickey has been fantastic for 5 of 6 starts, but the longer track record is still that of a mediocre pitcher for 2 years, so I’m going to assume he’s going to turn into that. Even though he’s mediocre, he’s still controlling his BABIP (something that I’m not sure Razz fully compensates for since it’s pretty much only something knuckleballers can do) so picking on him in cash games is rough, but for GPPs, he could always give up a few bombs and the D-backs have some power with Pollock, Peralta, Goldschmidt and Lamb. The rest of the bums are fine in a stack, but I’m not looking to one off any of them.

Houston Astros – The Astros are slugging .500 as a team. Only 49 qualified players are slugging over .500. Two California based teams don’t have anyone who is slugging .500 (Giants and Padres), and a third team only has one guy (in fairness, that one guy is the best player in baseball and was slugging .742 before getting hurt, and returns today). The Astros offense is legendarily good, and when facing Jose Berrios, you want to load up on lefties who he gives up a lot more fly balls (39.8 GB% vs lefties vs 46.5% vs righties), and both strikes out less and walks more. Berrios is actually quite good vs righties (and if he can get through the lefties, he might actually be a solid GPP play, since no one will play him vs a legendary offense) where he strikes out 27.4% and only walks 5.1% (vs lefties he’s at 19.4% and 8.2%). The Astros have a few lefties to look at in Reddick, Beltran and McCann. Reddick has been the best this year, with a .379 wOBA this year vs righties and probably the guy in cash games since he’ll be batting 2nd. The rest of the lineup is obviously in play in GPPs since, again, they are slugging .500 as a team. And since this is my blog, I want to make this point clear – the Astros did a full-blown rebuild that would make Sam Hinkie proud. They were legitimately horrible for a few years as they blew the entire team up and made it abundantly clear to all of baseball that they didn’t care one bit about being competitive for 2-3 years as they were building for the latter part of this decade. And sure enough, it worked. #trusttheprocess. And if any readers are having amensia and don’t remember that yes, the Astros did a full-blown “Trust the Process” movement, this was Sports Illustrated’s cover on June 30th, 2014. #TrusttheProcess, and Sam Hinkie deserved a better fate. The Astros are unequivocal proof that The Process is almost always the right choice for an organization if it is the right choice for the organization.

Robinson Cano, 2B: $3,200 – Tim Adleman should be thankful that James Shields is pitching today, because that’s the only reason Adleman isn’t worst pitcher on the slate. James Shields used to be a very, very good pitcher, even as recent as 2015. But now? Not so much. Shields has been comically bad at giving up bombs this year (32.4 GB%, which would rank 6th worst in all of MLB if he qualified), and if you want to argue “well he can’t be THAT bad, that’s just a small sample size”, it’s not like prior performances were anything good either – he posted a 40.4 GB% last year and his career line is still an underwhelming 44.1%. His K-BB% last year was 6.4% and this year it’s been 6.7%. Now, why did I not just write “Seattle Mariners”? Because a few Mariners are priced so badly that they needed to be separated from simply “anyone on the Mariners”, because they’re not just solid plays as part of a stack, they’re going to be primary cash considerations. The first of them is All-Star Hero Robinson Cano (if only the game mattered!). The future Hall of Famer is still one of the better offensive 2Bs in baseball, and has put up a 131 wRC+ vs righties this season. The gap between the two highest projected second baseman by Razz (Cano and Murphy) and every other second baseman is massive. The difference is that Murphy costs $600 more and bats two spots lower in the lineup.

Kyle Seager, 3B: $2,500 –  Seager struggled in the first half, but all the peripherals are similar to his career, so I expect to hit like he always has in the 2nd half. Facing Shields in the first game back should kickstart that regression. The only caveat with Seager is that 3B is really deep today – pretty much 50% of the 3Bs are playable, and the aforementioned Freeman is an absolute monster play today. But if you need the savings here (especially in cash), Seager is the top option.

Mike Zunino, C: $2,300 – A great fourth player for a Mariners stack, he’s almost always unowned since he bats 8th or 9th in the lineup, he’s cheap, and while there’s a good chance he goes 0-4 (he does have a .223/.288/.455 line, after all), that .455 slugging piques my interest for a GPP play. He’s actually tied for 5th in all of baseball for home runs by a catcher, and the power has always been there (22 home runs in 2014, 12 home runs last year in only 55 games), and 1-4 with a three run home run from your unowned $2,300 catcher is the exact type of thing you look for when you try to build a GPP lineup. Razz certainly sees the same thing, as it has Zunino as tied for most likely to homer today (25% chance for him and for Gary Sanchez, but Zunino saves you $900 and the ownership difference will be massive).

 Nelson Cruz, OF: $3,700 – While his GPP value is through the roof, I’m not entirely sure he’s a great cash play today, as he’s fairly expensive and does not have platoon edge.  His range of outcomes also includes a lot of 0-4s, relative to other high-end outfielders. For example, and this is by no means scientific and violates pretty much every sample size principle imaginable, Nelson Cruz has three 0-point games in his last 10, whereas Ryan Braun has one and Bryce Harper has zero. Braun and Harper’s off-games are 1-4 with a single and nothing else, Cruz’s off-games are 0-4. While three points from a high-end outfielder certainly isn’t good by any stretch, sometimes that extra three points is the cash difference between a win and a loss.

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

The rain today is going to make decisions miserable, but the 3B decision may get easier with rain and thunderstorms in Baltimore, but it should clear later on in the night so it’s just a matter of do they want to make fans miserable to play a game. The rain in NYC is supposed to be around 50% all day, which would make deGrom a riskier play than you’d like in cash games – and if it gets uglier in NYC as the day goes on, then we begin to get into “if the game is ugly enough but still has a non-zero chance of playing, the guy who was going to be the chalk pitcher actually becomes a great GPP play as the rest of the public moves off of him because of the rain” territory, so it’s definitely something to monitor.

Doing Lines In Vegas

The Dodgers should be higher than -120. Straily has been lucky this year with his .243 BABIP. I’m not expecting him to be able to shut down the Dodgers enough for the Marlins to get the win. Also, how in the world is the over/under in San Diego 8? I get that Cueto hasn’t been his normal self so far this year, but he’s not Tim Adleman or James Shields here. And Clayton Richard isn’t that bad either. More importantly, the Giants and Padres offensives are comically bad right now (remember, not a single player on either team has a .500 slugging), and Petco neuters power. Sure, it’s possible both teams can dink and dunk to a 5-4 win, but I mean, this game ends up as a 4-2 victory a vast majority of the time. Take the under here, and pray the BABIP gods are with you and those lazy ground-balls don’t find holes and doody flares don’t fall in for singles.

   
  1. knucks says:
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    Sixers fan here, thx for the shoutout!

    Sam Hinkie died for our sins.

  2. cinthree

    cinthree says:
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    Preach on brother knucks, preach on.

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