MLB DFS Picks: Horton Hears a McHugh
Horton Hears a McHugh: Evaluations Part XXI
Welcome to my MLB DFS picks 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 evaluating 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 on 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 (FanGraphs.com), so literally, anyone could build it (if you have more free time than you know what to do with it, 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.
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 follows:
- 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, 10, and 15 points (depending on importance and percentile) which adds up to 100. The grade that each Pitcher, Hitter, 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!
Today's slate is jam-packed with usable options and has a lot of routes to go if you would like to start in any pricing tier for your SP1. Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish are sure to get the majority of ownership in cash games, but there are some obviously mispriced pitchers that warrant plenty of consideration in GPPs. Ownership levels should not be an issue, so the idea is to play the best options in your lineups and differentiate with bats here and there.
Top plays at the position:
Pick of the Slate: Collin McHugh
Collin McHugh is one of the mispriced pitchers on the slate, coming in at just $8,000 playing at home against the lowly White Sox. Although they have been hotter a bit as of late, this is still a team that sports a 101 wRC+ and 24% strikeout rate to RHP. This game will be played in Houston (a negative park shift for the White Sox) and offers McHugh a good chance at counting stats as well as a win. With a 7.85 K/9 and 27% hard-hit rate allowed, McHugh has plenty floor for consideration in this matchup and his price makes him a very affordable GPP option with plenty of upside.
Zack Godley is my top-rated pitcher on the slate, coming in at a respectable 64 overall, and plays in San Diego against the Padres. He would be my favorite option on the slate if it weren't for a slightly elevated price tag and less than fantastic park for pitchers. Godley has a 9.6 K/9 and a fantastic 56% groundball rate and will face a team with a 97 wRC+ and low 30% hard-hit rate against RHP, giving him probably the best skillset for cash games on the slate. I prefer him over Max Scherzer for a cheaper tag that will allow some bigger bats.
Chris Archer has had 3 bad starts in a row, and there is concern that his forearm is injured and he is playing through it (badly). That's all fine and dandy, but this is an elite pitcher that is being priced far too low for his upside in any matchup. At $7,900, he is the 10th most expensive pitcher on the slate, and for that price, you are getting an 11.17 K/9 (2nd best on the slate) and a 3.4 SIERA (2nd best on the slate) so it's obviously a hell of a bargain. The Cubs are a tough matchup (114 wRC+/33% hard-hit rate) but that is all baked into Archer's price tag. He deserves a long hard look in GPPs.
Other pitchers in consideration for one reason or another:
- Max Scherzer (Highest K/9 on slate, has cool eyeballs)
- CC Sabathia (Twins look lost against LHP, good matchup for strikeouts)
- Aaron Nola (been an Ace since the ASG, Dodgers still very cold)
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
This slate has a couple very obvious spots for bats and a couple others that may go a little under the radar. The most obvious spots in my evaluations are the Diamondbacks RHH (J.D. Martinez, Paul Goldschmidt) and the Oakland Athletics power righties. Surprisingly, the Seattle Mariners bats don't rate very well against Martin Perez even though the total is one of the highest on the day, but his home/road splits are pretty drastic so that makes some sense. Overall, The sheets like the chalk, but there are a couple spots worth looking at elsewhere.
Top plays for Hitters on this slate:
Pick of the Slate: Joey Votto
Going to start off with a more contrarian play and tout some Joey Votto playing at home against Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals. Flaherty has been decent this season but gives up the long ball like no one's business in his small sample size (sitting above 3 HR/9). Joey Votto is having another fantastic year and is always under owned on a full slate. His 174 wRC+ and 25% line drive rate to RHP are both high upside marks, and even if he doesn't get a HR with every at-bat Flaherty will probably still let him on base (1.7369 WHIP) and get us some points. I love Joey Votto in all formats.
Jose Martinez has 21 HRs since joining the Diamondbacks and has a 217 wRC+ (highest applicable on the slate) against LHP. His 55% hard-hit rate and .309 ISO in split are both the highest on the slate, and The Diamondbacks are facing a bad arm with a bad bullpen. Travis Wood and his 37% groundball rate will just be serving up meatballs to Martinez, and if he doesn't go yard I'll be amazed. J.D. Martinez is a cash game staple.
Charlie Blackmon will be very hard to fit, but that will only do more to keep his ownership low in a nice spot. Johnny Cueto has been anything but himself this year, with career-worst marks in both ERA and WHIP, and faces a Rockies team that needs to win out for a chance at the playoffs. I expect Blackmon to be a driving force for the team with so much on the line, and he has the skills to do it. A 148 wRC+ matched with a 24% line-drive rate and a 40% hard-hit rate give plenty of HR upside and with Cueto's problems letting people on base this year he has stolen base upside as well. Blackmon is a great GPP play on this slate.
Other hitters in consideration:
- Ryon Healy (Chad Bell Sucks, the Athletics have been hot, Park upgrade)
- Justin Bour (Seth Lugo and the Mets bullpen are awful, calls himself the Bournado)
- Daniel Murphey (good park upgrade, rookie pitcher that can't induce groundballs)
Top Stacking Evaluations
The Diamondbacks are the clear-cut top option on the slate as far as my evaluator is concerned, but some surprising options pop pretty well for me as well. It's generally an odd sign when teams like the Athletics are a better option than the Astros, but in context it makes sense. This slate should have very little chalk since most of the pitchers are competent and the ones that don't face bad teams, so don't worry about that too much when stacking them up.
Let's break a couple of these spots down:
Stack of the Slate: Diamondbacks against Travis Wood
With a Daily Stacking Average of 66.13 and an SP/BP rating of 82, the Diamondbacks own the two highest individual marks on the slate. That, of course, sets them up well to be the highest overall grade by a significant margin, and earns them my favorite stacking spot. The Diamondbacks get to face Travis Wood and the Padres bullpen in San Diego, once known as a pitchers park but much more offensive than in year's past since some remodeling. This matchup features a 2.24 K/BB and a 1.85 K/9 (best on the slate), as well as a 5.43 aggregate FIP for the team. The Diamondbacks are a murderers row for most LHP and Travis Wood doesn't have the skill to navigate this safely. I believe the Diamondbacks will be the heaviest chalk, but still under 20% across the board.
Athletics against Chad Bell:
I hate stacking up bad teams, but the Athletics have been on a tear over the last month and continue to hit HRs at a massive rate. Anchored by Matt Olson (14 HRs in his last 20 games), the young bats for the Athletics have been a nightmare, and get a matchup with Chad Bell and the Tigers depleted bullpen. This opportunity for the Athletics is a 4.075 BB/9 and a 1.56 HR/9, both top 3 on the slate. The .308 batting average allowed and 1.72 WHIP (highest on the slate) will lead to a lot of chances for RBIs. Only a GPP option, but plenty of upside.
Astros against Lucas Giolito:
Lucas Giolito is an incredibly talented young arm, but he does give up the long ball at a significant rate as he learns to control a game. The Houston Astros are the best team in baseball and are getting healthy at the right time, and now get to tee off on a rookie arm and the worst bullpen in the league. This matchup gives the Astros a 7.085 K/9 (bottom 3 on the slate) as well as a 1.745 HR/9 (second highest on slate), as well as a remarkably low BABIP of .221. There is a lot of room for regression with Giolito, and the Astros are the best team in the league to bring it. The Astros may go overlooked with the Diamondbacks chalk, and that makes them my favorite GPP option.
Other stacking spots that make sense:
- The Rockies (Playing for their playoff hopes, Cueto has been awful)
- The Red Sox (Been on fire, play great in Camden Yards)
- The Yankees (heating up for the playoffs, Berrios can get rocked, Twins BP is bad)
Being able to play multiple sports in DFS at any one time is both a blessing and a curse. It requires a lot of attention and dedication to grind both MLB and NFL, and can get to everyone now and then. Remember to keep yourself in the right state of mind and don't get overwhelmed! Being comfortable is something taken for granted, and it can lead to the difference in your decisions that make you a winner or a loser.
We have 2 weeks left of MLB until the playoffs, and then it's NFL and NBA until Spring! Let's go out with a bang.
May Variance be with you, and I'll see you at the cash line.
As always, you can follow me at @PayDirt_DFS on twitter! Thanks for reading!
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