MLB DFS Evaluations: Return of the King
Welcome to my MLB 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...
The top pitcher for the rate by my ratings is Alex Wood playing at home against the Colorado Rockies. I feel like I write about Alex Wood every single week, and I'm totally OK with that. Wood has been stellar this year, with a 10.4 K/9, a .27 HR/9, and 67% ground ball rate. His OBP of .247 is one of the best marks on the slate, and his WHIP of .9 beats everyone else involved. The Rockies of been one of the best teams in baseball having a top-five record while putting up plenty of runs but, as we all know, they struggle on the road away from their homerun friendly park of Coors. Alex Wood, a lefty, gets to deal with their weak split of 97 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching, and a 22% strike out right to his hand. Alex Wood is still for some reason under the 10K threshold on DraftKings, and until he reaches the elite price that he belongs I'm going to continue running him out in confidence. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball right now and deserves to be treated as such.
Michael Fulmer, Ty Blach, Chris Archer, and Stephen Strasburg all round out the top five ratings for the slate. With the highest rating of 64 coming in at second, which is still 11 points lower than Alex Wood at 75, we don't have very many plus matchups to look at today. Michael Fulmer gets a match up with the strike out heavy San Diego Padres, and Ty Blach gets play at home against the Mets lineup that is much better on the road. Chris Archer plays at home, where he is more dominant, against the Baltimore Orioles who have a stronger split against right-handed pitching but also strike out a ton as a boom or bust team to the core. Stephen Strasburg plays at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who have been much better than expectation this year and I've had and have hit very well, but also have problems with strikeouts in the heart of their lineup. Of the top five pitchers overall, Alex Wood, Chris archer and Stephen Strasburg are going to be the most popular. With elite options on the board today I don't expect ownership to be too concentrated on any one pitcher.
This is a really nice day for GPPs because I like a lot of the pitchers in not so great spots. Trevor Bauer has been a strikeout master this season topping his year long rate of 8.9 K/9 up to almost 11 K/9 on the season. I really like his match up at home against the twins, who have a lot of power but also strike out a whole bunch at 24% against Right-handed pitching. Jimmy Nelson is another pitcher that has been much better this year than his year long stats can show. He gets to play on the road against Atlanta Braves team, but his match up isn't quite as nice as Trevor Bauer's against the twins and Atlanta has actually hit very well at home. Dinelson Lamet for the San Diego Padres will surely be a popular option. His low price tag and high strike out rates, against a team that strikes at 26% of the time against right-handed pitching, will be a nice volatile GPP option for a lot of people to try to get one of the elite pitchers with a lower SP2. finally I have to mention Felix Hernandez coming off of the DL and only costing $5900. I know that is up against the best hitting team in baseball, and I know that he's just coming off the DL and you might have to worry about a pitch count, but he is way too good to cost less than 6K. This is a guy that generally costs somewhere in the five digit range, and I think that it's worth taking a shot on him and GPPs at such a depressed price point against any team in the league.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
Yonder Alonso leads off the hitters with a grade of 78, going up against Mike Pelfrey on the road. Alonso has been a revelation this year, having huge homerun surge after deciding to lift the ball and changes in his swing during the off-season. his 133 wRC+ and 25% linedrive rate against RHP are fantastic marks the slate, and Mike Pelfrey allows a 40% hard hit rate to left-handed hitters. He will hit in the heart of the Athletics lineup, which is something that I feel like stacking today, and I have no problem running him out as one off play either.
Cody Bellinger, Eric Sogard, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Smoak take up the rest of the top five spots for headers on this today slate. Every hitter in the top five has a rating above 70, which gives me plenty of confidence in any of them as either parts of stacks or one offs tonight. We have two Toronto hitters in the top five, Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak, going up against Jakob Junis on the road in Kansas. Josh Donaldson's 175 wRC+ against right handed pitching over the last year on the best marks on the entire slate, and Justin Smoak has been one of the best homerun hitters in the league this year. Cody Bellinger cannot be stopped this year no matter who it's going up against, right lefty, it hasn't mattered. He has 20+ homeruns already and there's no reason to think that he can't do it against Kyle Freeland. Eric Sogard is the odd man out in the top five, since he has no real homerun power. But, he has plenty of opportunity to get on base and the skills to do so, as Mike Foltynewicz has a 1.5 WHIP and a .348 on base percentage, which means Sogard will have plenty of chances at the basepaths. Sogard will more be somebody that I'm looking to use in the stack rather than a one off, but his ability to hit consistently gives him a nice floor in a plus matchup.
You'll notice that we don't have any Washington nationals on the top 25 list, and there's a reason for that. With Cincinnati Reds bringing up their top prospect for pitching in Luis Castillo, we don't have enough stats to really give a baseline on their performance. It's easy to project them each towards their ceiling and give Bryce Harper a homerun, Zimmerman a homerun… all of them homeruns, but instead of doing that I'll just say that you should play the nationals. We know that Louis is a great prospect, but the Nationals are one of the best hitting teams in the entire league and have all the power in the world. They will be very popular but I think that's worth eating the chalk in this instance.
Top 10 Stacks Evaluations
The top stack by rating today is going to be MIL1 playing on the road in Atlanta against Mike Foltynewicz. The stack has a wRC+ of 127, a line drive rate of 22%, and a hard-hit percentage of 34 against right-handed pitching. Foltynewicz has a lot of strike out potential but he can't quite realize it and hasn't put it all together yet. His groundball rate of 42% over the last year isn't bad but he's been getting hit much harder than year long stats show, and has 1.5 HR/9 to show for it. Milwaukee is a stack that has been a significant boom or bust option in DFS this year, since their strikeout rate is so high against every pitcher they face. The stack is really only meant for GPPs, but I think the Brew Crew could lay a lot of points on this Braves team, especially considering they (the Braves) have one of the worst Bullpens in baseball. If they knock out Mike Foltynewicz early, they'll be able to tee off against some bad relievers in a nice hitter's environment.
Toronto, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Houston all take up the rest of the top five spots with all of their first lines. Toronto and Cleveland are both very very high-scoring teams when they're on, and both get very nice matchups against weaker pitchers with low strike out rates. But between those two, the park shifts are very different, with Toronto traveling to a negative park shift and Cleveland coming home to where they hit much better. Atlanta is kind of an iffy stack for me, since I do have Jimmy Nelson rated relatively highly for myself and on his stats on the year. Since Jimmy Nelson turned the corner at the beginning of the year, he's been one of the better pitchers in baseball, and I don't think that I really want to attack that right now even in such a nice hitters park. Houston will not be a popular stack tomorrow, which means they're a decent GPP play considering they're always a threat to put up 7+ runs. There 127 wRC+ versus right-handed pitching and 33% hard hit rate go well together, but Felix Hernandez is somebody who is considered elite even if he is coming off the DL.
We don't see Arizona and as a top stock here, which is kind of odd going up against a fringe starter in the MLB in Mike Leiter. The main reason for that is their weak wRC+ against right-handed pitching, but they put up 5+ runs almost every single time they play at home. Just because they aren't a top rate stack, doesn't mean that they are not a good stack in this instance, and I'll definitely have some shares there. I also wanted to mention that Oakland is a nice stack today against Mike Pelfrey, coming in at the 11th rated stack just a 58 rating just below the rest of the top five.
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Trevor Bauer ($7100)
My favorite SP2 for the slate is going to be Trevor Bauer playing at home against the Minnesota Twins. Minnesota Twins sport a 24% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching, and relatively low wRC+ of 101 against the same split, both marks I'm looking to attack. Bauer has been much better than his number suggest this year, and much better than his year long stats overall. Is 3.81 SIERA is 2.04 runs better than us posted ERA, his 49% ground ball rate is still carrying over, and his legit 10+ K/9 rate is the highest of his career. Even his .349 BABIP is relatively high considering the stats that he's posted, and I'm pretty sure the walks will come down against a strikeout heavy team like the Twins. Trevor Bauer is going to be a forgotten man on the slate considering Michael Fulmer goes up against the San Diego Padres, and Dinelson Lamet will be have people chasing a cheap K/9 of 13 over a small sample. If counting stats weren't enough for Bauer, I believe the Cleveland Indians are going to win this game by a landslide going up against Adalberto Meija, and that means Trevor Bauer is in line for the win as well which is extra points on top of the other projections. I will continue to roll out Trevor Bauer in tournaments until people realize that he's much better than year long stats show, or until they catch up to how good he really has been this year.
Team Stack: CLE1 (Lindor, Kipnis, Ramirez, Encarnacion)
My favorite stack for the slate today is going to be CLE1 playing at home against Adalberto Meija and the Twins. This stack has a wRC+ of 119 against left-handed pitching in a 35% hard-hit rate. With the front of the line up being almost entirely comprised of lefties with Lindor, Kipnis, and Ramirez, we get to attack Adalberto's 1.89 WHIP and .387 on base percentage left-handed hitters. Edwin Encarnacion, a right-handed hitter, then gets take advantage of his 37% hard hit rate versus right-handed hitters, and a measly 7.12 K/9. This stack screams upside, but will no doubt be very popular with the Nationals and the Diamondbacks. Tying this all together is Cleveland's ability to hit better at home, which gives me more confidence than if they were playing on the road in this matchup (which they were a couple days ago and put up 2 HR's before a weather delay). Finally, we get to face the twins bullpen after Adalberto Meija gets knocked out of the game in the second inning, which has been one of the most friendly to hitters in all of baseball giving up almost more homeruns anybody else in the league (1.7 HR/9). Roll out the Indians with confidence today.
Infield Hitter: Yonder Alonso ($4300)
My favorite infield hitter for the day is going to be Yonder Alonzo, playing on the road against Mike Pelfrey and his awful awful homerun splits on the year. Yonder Alonso has been a homerun machine this year in relation to his years past, and Pelfry allows a 40% hard-hit rate to left-hand hitters. Mike Pelfry over the last year is given up 1.4 HR/9 to left-handed hitters, but has only given up .82 HR/9 overall during the year so far. I believe that number is going to regress and there's no better matchup than against the Oakland Athletics who have one of the highest homerun rates this year. Pelfry also sports a 5.6 K/9 on the year and a 70% left on base rate, which means that we should be getting on base often and running people in on homeruns with this team. My only issue with using Yonder is the fact that he plays first base, which is an absolutely stacked position on the slate. You'll be giving up a lot of other great hitters in nice match ups, but I think that Yonder Alonso makes a lot of sense in tournaments for not only the reason of a game theory play and having leverage over other high owned first baseman, but also because Mike Pelfrey is due for some HR regression.
Outfield Hitter: Corey Dickerson ($4700)
My favorite outfielder for the day is going to be Corey Dickerson playing at home against the Baltimore Orioles Ubaldo Jimenez. Corey Dickerson has absolutely destroyed right-handed pitching this year, and has a year-long stat of 129 wRC+ and a 30% hard-hit rate to righties. Jimenez, on the other hand, has only a 41% ground ball right at 30% hard-hit rate to left-handed hitters, and a 2.5 HR/9. On the year, Ublado has been even worse than his year long stats show, with his K/9 down, his WHIP up, and his HR/9 up across the board with stats of 6.8, 4.99, and 2.5 respectively. The Tampa Bay Rays players always fly under the radar, especially on a 15 game slate involving the Diamondbacks, Nationals, and the Cleveland Indians all a nice spots, but I think that would be a mistake to leave Corey Dickerson completely off your radar today. He has shown to be a real player this year, closing the splits and hitting home runs at a consistent rate, as well as getting on base well. I like him as a higher upside one off play to complete your stacks.
Value: Felix Hernandez ($5900)
My value play of the day is going to Felix Hernandez playing at home against the Houston Astros. When we think of value, we generally think of people that are going to exceed their Threshold by the price of that listed on DraftKings. Value, in its most basic form, is how much bang we get for a buck. Without considering any other deeper stats, we know the Felix is generally a 10K plus pitcher, and is priced at only $5900 today. He is no joke almost half his regular price today, and I don't think that I could ignore that price even if I tried. In his latest rehab start, he threw 86 pitches and struck out eight batters over six shutout innings, and even though I'm not really one to take into account AAA stats or rehab starts, it does give me confidence his pitch count will be relatively high coming into this match up, as long as he does well enough to get there. I'm not expecting a complete game shut out from Felix Hernandez, but at $5900 he has the ability to have 25 fantasy points as much is anybody else on the slate.
I have a feeling this will be a very high scoring slate, with many good upside teams in very nice spots. I personally am looking to pay down for pitching and just stack up the ceiling bats, especially with the expensive pitchers in less than fantastic matchups. This is a very nice day to max enter the quarter arcade and get a taste of MME with so many enticing options on the board.
However you play, always remember to have fun!
May variance be with you, and I'll see you at the cash line.
As always, you can find me on Twitter and shoot me any questions you have! I'll do my best to help all the way to lock! Good luck, and I hope you find the green!
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