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DraftKings MLB Strategy: A Pirates Life

DraftKings MLB Strategy: A Pirates Life
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It’s a Pirates Life for Me: Evaluations Part XVIII

Welcome to my DraftKings MLB Strategy 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 around GPP thoughts and pivots looking to avoid the Chalk and succeed when others fail.


The Evaluations:

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.

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Each stack will have its own grade depending on how the variables shake out in the specific match-up. 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 ground ball 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!

Pitcher Evaluations

Today’s slate offers a more middling groups of pitchers than yesterday, with only a couple elite guys to choose between and then a whole bunch of middle of the road starters that have a decent floor but not a whole lot of built in upside. Up at the top of the pricing are Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, and Jacob DeGrom, followed by a marginally overpriced Jose Quintana and Kenta Maeda, and then a drop off to the middle group as you work your way down. This slate looks like a great opportunity to work with mid ranged SPs and load up on bats.

Top plays at the position:

Pick of the Slate: Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander is the second most expensive pitcher on the slate at $11,900, but is in a much better spot than the two surrounding him. While Greinke faces a contact heavy Giants lineup, and Degrom faces a watered down Nationals group, Verlander gets a White Sox team that more resembles their AAA affiliate at this point in the season. Their 22% strikeout rate and 91 wRC+ to RHP make for a rather easy to navigate group of hitters, and even those numbers are a bit skewed by Delmonico’s success as of late. Verlander has been on a tear with 33 Ks over his last 4 games leading to an average DK score of 29 points, which is more than enough to pay off his price. I think he will be popular, but not quite as chalky as Kenta Maeda (cheaper against the Brewers) but he is running hot and I love the match-up.

Kendall Graveman

Kendall Graveman is not a very good pitcher, but he has shown to be serviceable in DFS with the right match-ups. Today he gets to face a Rangers team that really struggles on the road against RHP (wRC+ of 85 on the road), and they play in one of the worst parks for hitting in the league. Graveman’s game is centered around limiting hard contact, shown by a 29% hard-hit rate allowed and .87 HR/9 over the last year. He also has better numbers against RHH (56% ground ball rate, .78 HR/9, 6.05 K/9), and the Rangers generally role out 5/8 batters to that split. The Rangers are a dangerous team but can get swing happy and rely on a nice home park for much of their success, so I am willing to take a shot with my top rated pitcher here in a top 5 pitcher’s ballpark.

Kenta Maeda

Kenta Maeda should end up the top owned option on the slate, and I have no issue with having him in cash games at all. Rating as my second best option, Maeda has been a nightmare against RHH (.251 OBP, 11.1 K/9), and the majority of the Brewers dangerous hitters come on that side of the plate. While I do worry about Eric Thames and Travis Shaw, I’m not expecting a perfect game and I believe that the strikeout upside is enough to keep him usable.

Other pitchers in consideration for one reason or another:

  • A. Happ (Twins 81 wRC+ to LHP, 27% hard-hit rate, good floor)
  • Adam Conley (Facing the Padres)
  • J. Griffin (Best match-up for strikeouts, good park)

Top 25 Hitter Evaluations

With a lot of less than fantastic pitchers on the slate, but only a couple real bonafide gas cans, ratings aren’t especially high for me on the slate. We have a considerable amount of Pirates in the top ten (foreshadowing to stacks) and some Astros as well. Grades are pretty clustered together with not many hitters jumping off the page for me, so it’ll be a good day to get exposure to multiple spots and try to spread out your core a little more than usual.

Top plays for Hitters on this slate:

Pick of the Slate: Starling Marte

The Pirates get a very nice park shift traveling to Cincinnati (Top 5 park for hitters this year) and get to face Robert Stephenson and a depleted reds bullpen coming away from decimation from the Cubs. Starling Marte has a 114 wRC+ and a 23% line drive rate against RHP, but what I am more after is event upside in a lead off spot with both stolen base and HR upside. Stephenson has an OBP of .378 and a 1.6 WHIP to RHH to go with a 1.95 HR/9, and Marte has a pretty good chance to take advantage of that for a Jack and a Bag. He is my top play on this slate.

Justin Smoak:

Justin Smoak will surely be a popular play on this slate, playing at home against Bartolo Colon in a nice hitters park. With an IRTA of 5.4 and a career ISO of .227 against RHH, he has plenty of power to take advantage of this spot. Colon is not able to force missed bats anymore, and relies on good placement on his 80 MPH fastball, but against LHH he is allowing 37% hard contact and 1.78 HR/9. I know he will be popular, but Justin Smoak is an exceptional play.

Charlie Blackmon:

The Rockies are never a popular play when they are on the road, since the difference between Coors field and any other park is a hard adjustment and they struggle to adjust most times, but I love Charlie Blackmon in this spot. At the lead off, he has a 144 wRC+ and 38% hard-hit rate against RHP, along with a .233 ISO and .373 wOBA. His hard-hit rate is up over the last 15 days, and at $5400 he will carry low ownership. Julio Teheran has been very bad this year, missing bats at a low rate and giving up HRs left and right, and his splits against LHP (6.2 K/9, 1.83 HR/9) accentuate that. For the same reason as Starling Marte, I like Blackmon for his chance at event upside in all areas.

Other hitters in consideration:

  • Josh Reddick (top rated hitter for me, Bridwell a fraud, Low owned with upside)
  • Alex Avila (middle of cubs order, Eickhoff awful splits to LHH, 55% hard-hit rate)
  • Matt Kemp (good offensive environment, reverse splits, Chad Bettis 2.2 HR/9 to RHH)

Top Stacking Evaluations

This slate has 2 options for stacking far above the rest, but plenty of interesting spots for a couple big hitting teams. It is a relatively hard slate to guess ownership apart from maybe the Diamondbacks and the Cubs, so if you like a team I don’t think you’ll really need to find that many different one offs to differentiate.

Let’s break a couple of these spots down:

Stack of the Slate: Pirates against Robert Stephenson

This match-up features a cumulative 4.91 BB/9, a 1.725 HR/9, and a 1.56 WHIP overall, and the Pirates are one of the best on-base teams in the entire league. They make solid contact, so I’m not super worried about the relatively high K/9 of Stephenson, and the Reds bullpen is decimated after getting mopped by the Cubs for the last couple games. When you factor in the positive park shift for the Pirates, I think they have a very good chance of putting up the most points on the slate.

Rockies against Julio Teheran

The Rockies are not as explosive a team on the road, but play in a nice ballpark against a HR prone pitcher in Julio Teheran. This stacking opportunity features a 2.14 K/BB and a 1.49 HR/9, and is mostly centered around the Rockies LHH (Teheran has terrible splits). I would be wary of a full 4 or 5 man stack, but love utilizing the outfield LHH for a low owned mini stack.

Astros against Parker Bridwell

My favorite high upside contrarian stack is the Astros against Parker Bridwell and the Angels bullpen. Parker Bridwell has a great cover story, being 10-1 on the year with a high 2 ERA. His advanced stats paint a vastly different story though, with a 5.49 K/9 and a .267 BABIP to go with a ridiculous 83.8% LOB rate. His 4.94 SIERA is 2.02 runs over his ERA, and that luck is going to run out. No better team to bring him to his realistic performances than the Houston Astros, and they will go underowned thanks to sparkling cover stats and other big teams in “better” match-ups.

Other stacking spots that make sense:

  • Blue Jays (Bartolo Colon meatballs, good offensive environment, lots of power upside)
  • Athletics (largest HR/9 opponent on the slate, always cheap, boom or bust upside)
  • Diamondbacks (chalk stack in good spot, killer at home, Blach contact pitcher)

I think there is a lot of salary relief in the pitching options and it’s going to be a high scoring slate. Don’t be scared to punt your SP2 and go with a big money stack like the diamondbacks or the Astros and hope your bats go off like they should.

Closing Thoughts

I’ll be spending the weekend at the #FWBC in Denver! If you are here, come hang out! If you are not, and are grinding away with the last handful of slates before everyone’s favorite sport right around the corner…

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!