MLB DFS Evaluations: Astros’nomical Choices
Welcome to my MLB DFS Evaluations article! Here I will take a data-driven approach to Baseball as it pertains to both Pitchers and Hitters alike.
I'll be using an evaluation system that I developed over the last couple months with the goal of producing the most actionable advice possible with the help of macro and micro analytics! There's a whole bunch of math going on, but it is all for a good cause, I promise.
As you read through this beautiful piece of work, keep in mind that MLB is a sport that thrives on variance. My article is based mostly around GPP thoughts and pivots looking to avoid the chalk and succeed when others fail.
First off, I'll need to give a little information about my evaluator, the data points on which it reads, and how the eventual grades are derived. The entire thing is based in Microsoft Excel, using data found on FanGraphs, so literally anyone could build it (if you have more free time than you know what to do with, that is). It uses a complex set of formulas and equations to build into master sheets, which are populated with daily information, and sent to another page for daily use.
The Pitcher grades are developed for each individual pitcher, and the Stack grades are developed for each stack of 4 hitters in order on a team. The Stacks are as follows:
- ARI1 (The first 4 batters in the lineup for Arizona)
- CIN2 (The 3-6 batters in the lineup for Cincinnati)
- MIL3 (the 5-8 batters in the lineup for Milwaukee)
Each stack will have its own grade depending on how the variables shake out in the specific matchup. Speaking of variables, for Pitchers, we are dealing with 14 separate weighted variables, while Hitters run 15 separate weighted variables. The overlapping variables are as follow:
- Stadium (Where the game is played)
- Avg (The pitcher's allowed hitting average)
- WHIP (Walks, Hits per Inning Pitched)
- GB% (The pitcher's groundball percentage)
- HH% (The pitchers allowed Hard Hit percentage)
- HR/9 (How many HR's the pitcher allows per 9 innings)
- K/9 (How many strikeouts the pitcher gets per 9 innings)
- wRC+ vs L (Offensive value against Lefties)
- wRC+ vs R (Offensive value against Righties)
- Team LD% (The average of a stack's Line Drive percentage)
- Team HH% (The average of a stack's Hard Hit percentage)
- SO% vs L (The average of a stack's Strikeout percentage to Lefties)
- SO% vs R (The average of a stack's Strikeout percentage to Righties)
- Total (The implied runs total for a stack)
For Hitters, we have an extra variable in Home/Away, since Away teams are guaranteed a chance at bat in the 9th inning and Home teams are not. These variables have been chosen because I believe they are actionable and show true value when deciding on where to attack in DFS. Each one is weighted with values of 3, 5, and 10 points (depending on importance and percentile) which adds up to 100. The grade that each Pitcher or Hitting Stack gets is then displayed using a formula that adds all those variables up!
Now that we have all the verbiage out of the way, let's get down to business...
Alex Wood is back in my article! Everything feels right in the world when I get to talk about one of the (still) underrated Aces in the league. If Alex Wood was on a team that didn't also have the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw, he would be talked about significantly more. But that's okay, because I probably talk about him plenty. But let's check in on his stats for the year, shall we? Alex Wood is sitting at a 10.73 K/9 and a 2.43 BB/9, good for a 24% K/BB (top 95th percentile), a .92 WHIP (96th percentile), a 1.66 ERA which is backed up by a 2.03 FIP and a fantastic 2.83 SIERA. To put that in perspective, he has a better SIERA mark than his god-like teammate Kershaw. He's pretty good, and so is Alex Wood. The Atlanta Braves travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers, so Wood is pitching in a nice park against the weak split (85 wRC+ to LHP, down from 105 to RHP), while the dodgers have won 11 of their last 14 games. I like his odds to be successful in this spot from pretty much every angle (skill, matchup, park, run support, etc.).
After Alex Wood, the drop off for my ratings is pretty significant and eventually gives up Max Scherzer, Jeff Samardzija, Trevor Cahill, and Paul Blackburn to finish up my top 5 Pitchers. Due to the nature of this slate, I don't think that it's sufficient to just give a tidbit of info for my top 5, so I'm going to run through some thoughts for pitchers that I like overall:
- Max Scherzer travels to the Diamondbacks in Arizona, and there is obviously plenty of upside here but some relatively unknown downside as well. Max Scherzer is pretty damn good, but has always been someone that struggles on the road against LHH. Even after the introduction of his new “Power Slider” this year, he is still giving up a .300+ Slugging percentage and a .271 wOBA. I really worry about him against the likes of David Peralta and especially Jake Lamb. Now, to be fair, I'm still expecting around 7 or 8 Ks at the very least, but I think for the money you can grab Chris Sale or Alex Wood for the same upside.
- Jeff Samardzija plays at home against the San Diego Padres, who have a strikeout rate of 23% against RHP and a lowly 96 wRC+ to the handedness. They also only have a 30% hard-hit rate, so the homerun concern is lessened. Samardzija has one of the best K/BB ratios in the entire league (24%, with only 1.02 BB/9) so the chances to pitch deep into the game are very good in the padres are swing happy in this matchup. Plus, he will be very low owned, which is great in GPPs.
- Chris Sale never looks good in my ratings because he doesn't induce groundballs and he doesn't really limit hard contact. He just throws really hard, and has a nasty slider to compliment. Against the Angels I don't really see a lot of upside, as they have one of the lower Strikeout rates in the league to LHP (19%), and with Trout back they have some real firepower going through the middle of the line. I prefer Scherzer even in Arizona, as well as Alex Wood (because he is awesome).
- Trevor Bauer plays at home against the Bluejays, and his price has actually dropped since being about 90% owned during his last start. Believe me, I understand that the Jays bats are kinda scary, but Bauer is definitely better than his price tag shows today. With a strikeout rate of 21% and a hard-hit rate of 34% to RHP, we actually get the “weaker” split here, and I would be hard pressed not to take advantage here. To just put this in perspective, Bauer has been a slightly better Yu Darvish this year. He shouldn't be this cheap.
- Anibal Sanchez will probably be the chalky cheap pitcher for the slate up against the Minnesota Twins, and there's certainly good reason for the ownership. The Twins strikeout at a 23% rate to RHP, and since being removed from the bullpen and thrown back into the rotation he has posted a 7.67 K/9 next to a 1.23 BB/9, which shows the upside he can have here. His .255 BABIP worries me a little bit, but I really like the price and I think he is worth the ownership in cash games. Give me Bauer in GPPs still, though.
- I'm not entirely sure yet, but I have a hunch people will try to make Yu Darvish a good option. I'm not on that train, as the Rays have been one of the best teams in the league this year (looking into playoffs) and their team is built to mash RHP. I would rather take Bauer at SP2, and let people chase a strikeout rate that doesn't exist anymore.
This slate is insane. We have options up and down the board, and zeroing in on any one pitcher is going to be very difficult. I suggest Max Entering today and trying to get exposure to a whole bunch of different spots, since we have some many high upside plays on the board for us. It gets even crazier with hitters and stacks.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
Jumping right into things, we have Andrew McCutchen playing in Coors against Jeff Hoffman and the Rockies arms. Andrew McCutchen has been on fire since the beginning of June, and earned his rightful place in the 3 hole as a result. His 117 wRC+ against RHP is technically a weaker side, but he owns a 24% linedrive rate and a 37% hard-hit rate against the handedness. We know that linedrives are gold in the Colorado air, as they travel farther and higher than any other ballpark, so his penchant for keeping the ball in the air against RHP is very nice here, especially since it is a reverse split. Jeff Hoffman has been good on the road, but struggles in Coors since he is a heavy Curveball thrower, and with 35% hard hits allowed to RHH and a 1.7 HR/9, Andrew McCutchen makes a lot of sense.
Daniel Nava, Chris Taylor, Josh Harrison, and Justin Bour are the rest of my top rated hitters. Daniel Nava is a weak hitter, but has been doing well lately with an 18 point performance in his most recent game, and now gets Matt Garza and that awful Brewers bullpen. He is absolutely a platoon hitter, with a 122 wRC+ to RHP (40 to LHP), and a 30% linedrive rate, and at $3300 you could definitely do worth for the price. Chris Taylor plays at home against (INSERT BRAVES PITCHER HERE, since Jaime Garcia got traded to the Twins we aren't quite sure who will be pitching, so let's leave a bookmark here). Josh Harrison is basically the same story as Andrew McCutchen, playing in Coors with a nice linedrive rate (22%) and a split advantage against Jeff Hoffman. Justin Bour is playing in Great American Ballpark against a total gascan and has been hitting homers like it's his freaking job (because it literally is), but we will get to the Marlins power bats a bit later on. Just know that he has a 112 wRC+ to RHP and a 40%+ hard-hit rate, while Homer Bailey gives up 1.3 HR/9 to LHH. That's basically dong-city.
Most of the top 25 hitters for my ratings come in the form of a couple spots: Coors (both sides), the Marlins, the Dodgers, and the Nationals. But that mostly forgets the fact that the Houston Astros take on Ubaldo Jimenez in Baltimore, and that might be the best spot of all. I'm very interested to see where the chalk lands since we have so much firepower on this slate. I'm almost tempted to just throw my top 25 hitters into our optimizer and enter whatever comes out the other side, but let's take a look at stacks to see if anything sticks out.
Top Stacking Evaluations
Well something definitely sticks out like a sore thumb here, that's for sure. The Miami Marlins playing in a great hitters park against one of the most homerun prone pitchers in the league in front of the bullpen giving up the most homeruns. The Marlins actually have the highest rating that I've produced since creating this metric for myself, so that's nice too. This matchup features some of the best marks available on the slate by a longshot, including a 7.69 ERA (4.8 SIERA), a low 7.64 K/9 (hits all over the place), a very high walk rate (4.25 BB/9), and a 66% LOB percentage which is the lowest on the slate. All of the power hitters are in play here, as well as Dee Gordon for steals. It's also always nice to get the discount on Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour at their respective positions, while other's pay up for the same upside.
Next up we have the Houston Astros up against Ubaldo Jimenez and the Orioles bullpen. I'm not sure that I need to say much more than that. We have the best hitting team in the league up against a pitcher that gives up 2.42 HR/9 and walks almost as many batters as he strikes out. If the Astros don't score 10 runs in this matchup I will be very, very surprised.
The Royals against James Shields and the White Sox bullpen come in a stark 3rd place with a rating of 71. I'm not sure that I love the Royals, even against one of the best matchups we can find. They have been very hot lately, putting up almost a full run more per game than their season average (4.2), and are coming off a monster performance against Michael Fulmer (19 hits, 10+ runs). If you believe in Hot Streaks, I think you have to have some exposure. This matchup features a 1.75 K/BB rate (second lowest on the slate) and an aggregate 5.1 SIERA (highest on the slate), with a 1.89 HR/9. The Royals are really a team built to hit down the lanes and get RBI by means other than power, so against a team that struggles with FIP numbers, this could be a dream spot.
Ervin Santana is pitching against the Tigers, and he sucks, so you might consider them. But I rant enough about that, and just think that there are way better spots to attack today. I don't need to go there, my point has been proven on Ervin in past games.
Like I said, this slate is incredible. My top 5 stacks didn't even mention Coors, the Nationals in Arizona, or the Phillies against Matt Garza and the Brewers. I definitely am going to need to do a periscope or a live video or something to go over all of these sots to attack. The only good part about this is that ownership should be mostly spread out well, besides some inflation on the Astros, so we really don't have to worry about stuff like that.
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Max Scherzer ($12700)
Okay, so I really like Alex Wood (as always) but I have a feeling people will be skipping over Max Scherzer on this slate and that's something that interests me. Scherzer has 10+ strikeouts in 9 of his last 10 starts, doesn't walk people often, and gets to tee off on a diamondbacks team almost completely comprised of RHH (his strength). His 11.51 K/9 over the last year is the highest on the slate, and his SIERA is second highest just behind Chris Sale. People really don't like attacking the Diamondbacks at home, and with Chris Sale projected to be a bigger favorite against the Angles who lack the power necessary to really get to him, I am hoping that Scherzer and his upside are less owned. The Diamondbacks have a strikeout rate of 22% to RHP and a hard-hit rate of 37%, so there is definitely as much ceiling as floor for him here, but with a majority RHH team, we really only have to worry about David Peralta and Jake Lamb (and Paul Goldschmidt, to a lesser extent). With low priced options like Trevor Bauer and Anibal Sanchez to throw into SP2, I am confident I will be able to fit him with some of my favorite stacks, and I think you can too.
Team Stack: Houston Astros
I'm not getting cute here. The Astros are the best team in baseball, they have a wRC+ of 129 to RHP, are playing in a park upgrade after resting for a day, and face Ubaldo Jimenez who gives up over 2 HR/9. After that, they get what is graciously called the Orioles bullpen, which would get blown up at a high school reunion pickup game. Don't overthink it, eat the chalk and make the money.
Infield Hitter: Justin Bour ($4600)
With so many good options to take, Justin Bour may go overlooked. That will be a mistake by a lot of people, but not by you and I. Bour has been incredible this season, on pace to break most of his single season records including HRs and OBP. He gets a matchup with Homer Bailey and the Reds in Cincinnati, which is a very good park upgrade for him and the rest of the power hitters on the Marlins. Justin Bour has a 112 wRC+ to RHP and a 40% hard-hit rate, and while he is technically better against LHP (weird, I know. Never thought of him as a reverse split guy), he still destroys the ball against RHP. Homer Bailey is one of the worst pitchers in baseball, giving up 2.53 HR/9 and allowing a .365 avg against, meaning that we can assume the homerun that Bour hits is going to be a couple RBI as well. I love him in this spot, make sure not to overlook him.
Outfield Hitter: Josh Reddick ($4400)
Josh Reddick is going to be very popular, but I don't mind it. He sets up really well in this spot against Ubaldo Jimenez in Baltimore. His 129 wRC+ to RHP along with a lowly 12% strikeout rate are a great combination, and a 24% linedrive rate gives good confidence that the ball will carry when he makes that contact we know will come. Jimenez is alright against RHH (alright, still bad, but better than LHH I guess) but when he faces a lefty he falls apart completely, with an inflated WHIP (1.49), low groundball rate (39%) and gross HR/9 numbers (2.7, highest on the slate). Reddick is a bit cheaper than the big Houston bats, but still costs quite a bit. He will be very chalky but the chances of him having 10+ points in this spot are probably slightly better than him not meeting value, and I think at that point he needs consideration regardless of ownership. If you are going with an Astros stack, you will likely already have him, but I love him as a one off piece to a Marlins stack as well.
Value: Miguel Rojas ($2400)
Miguel Rojas is back! If you've been reading my stuff for a while, you'll recognize that name. Before he went on the DL, he was a great source of value pretty much every day. He has really good vision and is fighting for a starting job with the Marlins through this trade deadline. He can hit, rack up Xbh, and even get some steals, all for basement prices. I've talked about the Marlins matchup plenty, and I'm assuming he will be in the lineup hitting 6th or 7th, I really like his upside in a game I think he gets 5 AB in, and for his price if you can grab a hit and 2 runs scored, maybe an RBI, you'll have greatly paid off the cost. While everyone else pays up at SS for Corey Seager or Zack Cozart, You can easily differentiate by going here.
On slates like this one, it almost feels like I have to max enter. You can drive yourself crazy trying to build a single lineup with as many options and routes as we have tonight, and trying to do so is mostly not necessary. I would suggest finding a couple teams you want to stack up and maxing out whatever GPP your bankroll is comfortable with. Taking down a GPP will likely require the absolute nuts today, so good luck to you all! I hope someone here takes everything down.
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