The Clayton-a 5000: Evaluations Part XIX
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 DraftKings MLB is a sport that thrives on variance. My article is based mostly around GPP strategy 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 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 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 Draftkings MLB. 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!
And today, we witness the return of the God himself, Clayton Kershaw. And he literally could not have drawn a better match-up. This slate also offers some other pitchers that don’t matter near as much, but if you are playing on Draftkings you’ll have to have someone to go with Kershaw and it’s worth breaking down some of the better options. Overall, we have some safe cheaper options like Mike Leake and or maybe Tanner Roark, who are both in strikeout friendly match-ups. We also have some nice GPP shots, like Reynaldo Lopez and Buck Farmer. But whatever you do, just lock Kershaw. Free play today.
Top plays at the position:
Pick of the Slate: Clayton Kershaw
Again, this isn’t hard and overthinking things can do a lot more damage than it can good. Clayton Kershaw is making his first start off the DL and draws a road stint against the Padres. He has the lowest OBP and WHIP available on the slate (.227 and .86, respectively) and the second highest K/9 (10.36), while having the softest available matchup. The Padres strikeout 29% of the time and have a 70.19 wRC+ to LHP, while only producing 19% hard contact. We only have Kershaw projected for a very conservative 15 outs, but he still rates as a positive expected value past threshold. Don’t overthink it, just lock him in.
Joe Biagini gets a matchup with the Baltimore Orioles in Camden yards, and will be only his second start since being demoted to the bullpen. I think that Biagini is bad, but I don’t think that he is necessarily as bad as his price tag shows. His FIP and xFIP are both sitting right around 4 while his ERA has been inflated to 5.4 from some relatively bad BABIP luck (BABIP at .313 while AVG. is a respectable .263). The Orioles aren’t exactly a soft matchup, but they only have a couple hot bats right now and hold a 23% strikeout rate to RHP. He’s not a cash game play but I think he is too cheap and had some bad luck, so I’m willing to give him a go in GPPs.
Pitchers that face a team multiple times In a short span give me some pause, because Hitters that continue to get Abs against the way a guy pitches can lead to some patterns being figured out, but I really like Luis Castillo today. He plays in massive PNC park against the Pirates, who have been ice cold of late and striking out at a much higher clip than usual (3 games of 15+ strikeouts in last 6). Castillo is really coming into his own as a starter and sports a 8.95 K/9 with a 56% groundball rate, and against a team with a 95 wRC+ to his handedness in a pitcher’s park, he should have a nice floor.
Other pitchers in consideration for one reason or another:
- Buck Farmer (huge strikeout potential, great price)
- Mike Leake (Facing Athletics in a pitcher’s park, safe skillset)
- Mike Clevinger (good K/9, been pitching well, Tigers in rebuild mode)
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
The slate features some hidden gems that we can already see by taking a look at my evaluations, but will definitely be ran by some easy chalk options as well. The most popular hitters on this list are going to be the Diamondbacks and Rays, as both draw great matchups with different focal points (Diamondbacks in Coors against a lefty, Rays face a fireballer with a HR problem). Surprisingly we don’t have many Rockies bats, even though Taijuan walker has been allowing hard contact all year, so that might be a GPP play with lower ownership than usual.
Top plays for Hitters on this slate:
Pick of the Slate: J.D. Martinez
The Diamondbacks travel to Coors for a faceoff with Kyle Freeland, and J.D. Martinez happens to be very good against LHP. How good you ask? He has a 200.91 wRC+, a 50% hard-hit rate, (including a .309 ISO), and a 29% linedrive rate against the handedness, all marks that are top 5 on the slate. Take all of that and put it in Coors where the ball is traveling farther than anywhere else and you have yourself just about the best play you could want on the slate. Find value elsewhere while you lock in Martinez.
Jose Abreu is never highly owned at a deep 1st base position, but I think he definitely needs consideration on this slate considering matchup and price. He is only $4100, but has topped 20 fantasy points in 3 of his last 10 contests and sports a .257 ISO and 208 wRC+ against LHP. His 37% hard-hit rate over the last 15 days is one of the highest deltas on the slate and we know that Blake Snell has a lot of issues with not only getting guys out, but keeping the ball on the ground (37% groundball rate, 1.308 HR/9 to RHH). He’s a killer GPP play and a nice option if you can’t afford Paul Goldschmidt.
While everyone focuses on Giancarlo Stanton in a matchup with walking HR derby Nick Pivetta, my evaluations like Marcell Ozuna a bit more. First-off he is $4600, which is a good thousand cheaper than Stanton, and his numbers against RHP are slightly better from a volatility standpoint. Whereas Stanton is an extreme flyball guy, Ozuna comes in with slightly less air under the ball, resulting in a higher linedrive rate (20% vs Stanton’s 17%) and better hard-hit numbers as well (40% vs 38%) It’s a marginal difference but if you are looking to avoid chalk as well as save yourself a little cap, I love Ozuna as a one-off or a way to make a very contrarian Marlins stack with him over Stanton.
Other hitters in consideration:
- Justin Upton (Why is he only $3700 that’s a gross misprice, good park)
- Adam Rosales (very cheap in Coors, been hitting well recently, lefty masher)
- Eric Thames (heating up again, Tanner Roark can’t strike people out, good hitter’s park)
Top Stacking Evaluations
When it comes to stacking on this slate, It’s really no competition at the top spot with a couple tiers worth considering a little farther down the list. There are a couple interesting conflictions between SP/BP ratings and stacking averages like the Brewers (7th best matchup, but 17th worst stacking score) that may show room for GPP consideration, but there are really only a couple realistic options for cash games.
Let’s break a couple of these spots down:
Stack of the Slate: Diamondbacks against Kyle Freeland
This stack features the best stacking average for the players in volved, as well as a very nice SP matchup with Kyle Freeland and the Rockies arms. The Diamondbacks are a team that is considerably better against LHP (125 wRC+ and a cumulative 35% hard-hit rate) and now get a massive park upgrade to the best hitting environment in the league. The largest argument I have against this stack is the low HR/9 allowed of 1.1 from this team, but it’s not near enough for me to consider another route from a floor perspective. Surprisingly, and kind of annoyingly, they are very easy to fit with options like Adam Rosales and Chris Iannetta well below $4k, and need to be a staple in cash games.
Angels against Cole Hamels:
Cole Hamels‘ home/road splits are well documented at this point, and the Angels get to make the trip with a couple shiny new toys to try out in a nice hitting environment. This matchup features the second best K/BB ratio for hitters available at a straight 2 per, as well as a low BABIP that needs to regress some to meet a cumulative 4.62 SIERA. Cole Hamels himself has a lot of regression coming according to advanced stats, with a 3.78 ERA and a SIERA of 5, which is being held up by an unsustainable BABIP of .240 (for comparison, Clayton Kershaw has a .251 BABIP). The Angels will be low owned with the Diamondbacks in Coors, but make for my favorite GPP stack of the day.
Marlins against Nick Pivetta:
This is mostly an upside play, and a way to get exposure to Giancarlo Stanton while bypassing some of the chalk by stacking around him. I actually don’t think that Nick Pivetta is awful, and most of his advanced stats agree with a high K/9 and disagreeing ERA/SIERA numbers show him regressing quite a bit, especially in the HR department. But until that happens, we should be taking shots on power bats against him for his egregious 3.0 HR/9 to RHH. A plus side is of course getting to attack one of the worst bullpens in baseball with the Phillies, and taking Stanont with Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon, and Christian Yelich will help differentiate you while also keeping your ceiling high.
Other stacking spots that make sense:
- Blue Jays (stacks are cheap, Gausman is #bad)
- Rays (second best rated stack, Reynaldo Lopez lets a lot of people on base)
- Yankees (Doug Fister sucks and the stacks rate well, but a good bullpen keeps opportunity in check)
Today is literally all about the Diamondbacks and the Angels for me, and neither is impossible to fit with Kershaw. This should be a mostly straightforward slate in terms of lineup construction.
With football right around the corner, we are all drowning in work. Rebuilding optimizers, pumping out projections, writing every article under the sun. It’s hard to focus on ourselves and our social lives right now while we make the transition. Sometimes it gets to be a lot to handle and you just gotta take a couple days off to get your head straight!
If you’re like me, that means video games and golf. Both of which I’ll be doing a lot of next week before NFL officially begins.
But until next week, let’s keep making money playing some MLB DFS shall we?
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!