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…
Pitcher Ratings start off with Eduardo Rodriguez and Rich Hill tied for the #1 grade in my evaluations. Of the two, there is a very obvious better choice, but I think that it is interesting they have an equal evaluation for me. In cash games, Rich Hill is the clear choice, but he also comes in as the priciest option on the board and I think in GPPs it would make some sense to look at Eduardo. Both Hill and Rodriguez have high K/9 rates (10.63 and 9.77, respectively) and great OBP rates (.284 and .293, respectively). Eduardo Rodriguez faces a Yankees lineup that has been cold lately, but also must play in a very nice park for RHH hitting. His splits are noticeably worse towards that handedness as well (.38 HR/9 to LHH, 1.17 HR/9 to RHH) so there is a lot of risk involved, but I do believe in the upside as well. Rich Hill on the other hand plays at home in a big park against a team that strikes out at a 25% clip to LHP, good for 3rd highest applicable on the slate. Rich Hill is the chalk cash pitcher on the slate, and I don’t think there is a big reason to fade him at all.
Some Other thoughts on Pitching Options tonight:
- Jameson Taillon comes in third with a grade of 64, and faces off against a Toronto Blue Jays team that has been boom or bust (more bust) all season. They sport a 20% strikeout rate to RHP, which isn’t something that is really eye popping, but his 52% groundball rate and .88 HR/9 are both good marks, especially for his price. His strength is against LHH, but his splits aren’t anything to really be concerned with. My worry here is that the Tigers were able to get to Taillon a couple times in PNC park and this is a pretty distinct negative park shift for him. If he can get through the front of the order a couple times I think he will own the rest, but I do have some issues with him from a floor perspective.
- Jon Gray gets to face off against the Miami Marlins in Miami, and is coming off his best start of the season so far. Since his DL stint, he has seen a pretty significant drop in K/9 (from 9.8 over the last year to 8.82) and he has had a lot of issues in allowing base runners. The Phillies pushed him to a 5+ FIP in his last start in Coors, and now faces a Marlins team that can actually make you pay if they catch you. I think that he has been slightly better than his ERA and such show, and he should rebound, but this is kind of a hard spot to start a rebound. The Marlins are a balanced team with LHH/RHH, and each gets their perks against him. His price is a bit too high for me in this spot, but he does have a great chance to get the win and if you think his strikeouts are trending back up, he will be a low owned GPP option.
- We have been attacking the White Sox for a couple weeks now, and now it is Danny Duffy‘s turn. The White Sox continue to strike out at a fairly egregious to LHP, with a 28% rate and only a 17% line drive rate meaing they are either high lifting, grounding out, or striking out. Danny Duffy isn’t anything special as an arm, with a fairly pedestrian K/9 (7.91 K/9) and 4.49 SIERA, but this is definitely a matchup he can win. I would like for it to be in a more neutral park, and his price might be a little high for me with Hill up top, but he represents a very good SP2 if you can afford him.
- Ubaldo Jimenez is very bad, but he faces the Athletics in Oakland and I think he might be a good option today. The Athletics strike out to RHP at a 27% clip, the second highest applicable on the slate, and have to play in one of the most extreme pitchers parks in the league. Ubaldo Jimenez is a guy that struggles badly to LHH, but the As are built up of almost entirely RHH and he has great numbers to that side of the plate with a 51% groundball rate and a 1.26 WHIP (1.52 to LHH). At $6500, He is a low floor SP2 with a decent skillset for the matchup.
This slate has some great priced options, and some obvious Chalk. I think that there are a lot of different ways to go, and with a full slate we aren’t going to have to worry about percentages besides Rich Hill who I think will be 30% in the main GPPs. It’s a good slate for both GPPs and Cash builds, so spread it out a bit and get exposure to all your favorite thoughts.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
The Rockies are going to be playing against Jose Urena in Miami, and they are popping in my evaluations quite a bit. Charlie Blackmon, Gerrardo Parra, and Carlos Gonzalez all rate above a 70 overall for me for a couple different reasons. Jose Urena has been pretty good this year (on the surface) but definitely has some negative regression coming his way according to some advanced stats (5.07 SIERA, 33% hard-hit rate, .3505 OBP). The Rockies are pretty bad on the road, and only have a combined wRC+ of under 90 to RHP, but Urena is somebody that lets a bunch of baserunners on and that’s one of the Rockies strengths. Blackmon is making a run for the NL MVP this year, and Gerardo Parra has been a revelation for them this year, so I love them in this spot (both have a 24% linedrive rate and a 38% hard-hit rate to RHP).
Other Thoughts on Hitting for tonight:
A couple other spots that I wanted to bring up:
- Miguel Cabrera is playing against Kyle Gibson at home in Comerica Park, and is in a fantastic spot. Kyle Gibson gives up 37% hard-hit rate to RHH and Miggy has a 127 wRC+ to his handedness, as well as a massive 45% hard-hit rate. His average exit velocity is 95 mph, which is in the top 1% of the league and this slump won’t last forever.
- Justin Turner has been absolutely raking lately, and gets to face a total trashcan in Clayton Richard. Richard has a good groundball rate (50% to RHH) but gives up a lot of hard contact which leads to a 1.57 HR/9 to righties. Justin Turner has a 161 wRC+ to LHP and I want to ride this hot streak while it’s going.
- Matt Carpenter finally broke out of a 35 game homerun drought a couple days ago, and draws a nice spot against Mike Foltynewicz at home. His 119 wRC+ isn’t anything super high, but his 25% linedrive rate and 43% hard-hit rate against RHP are things I want to take advantage of on this slate.
For me, it’s going to be all about the Rockies and Tigers as my main source of one offs for the slate. I don’t necessarily think that a lot of the players in my evaluations make for great stacking pieces, especially because of the park factors and lack of HRs allowed by the opposing bullpens (more on that in a few) but you could do much worse obviously. Also, don’t forget about Mike Trout on this slate, he faces a rookie and is pretty good in case you haven’t heard.
Top Stacking Evaluations
Starting off the top of my stacking options are the Rockies against Jose Urena and the Marlins arms, playing in Miami. The Rockies offense isn’t especially potent on the road, but that just keeps them low owned in nice spots like this. Jose Urena has a very low strikeout rate (6.22 K/9) and an OBP north of .3, as well as a scary low BABIP of .239 (hello normalization!). His 3.7 ERA is not going to last, and I think there is a good chance it gets inflated in this matchup. If Urena does end up getting knocked out early, the Rockies will be facing one of the worst bullpens in the league, sporting a 1.64 K/BB and a combined 5.46 xFIP. The Rockies will have plenty of baserunners and lots of chances to rack up runs, and I think 7+ is very possible here in a low owned matchup.
Some more thoughts on stacking opportunities:
- The Brewers play at home against Homer Bailey, who is a total gascan, and I’m not sure they will be as heavily owned as they should be in such a primo spot. This matchup features a 1.7 HR/9 (4th highest on the slate), a 1.71 WHIP (highest on the slate), and a 5.21 FIP. This spot would rate even better if the Brewers as a team rated well, but they are quite a bit better against LHP. Regardless, it’s a very nice spot for a team that has plenty of HR potential with guys like Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, and Domingo Santana.
- The Mets play in Philly against the Phillies arms and Nick Pivetta, and rate especially well in the form of team stack scores, but not necessarily matchup scores. The Mets have 5 hitters with a wRC+ over 100 to RHP, and Pivetta struggles to keep the ball on the ground period. He got lucky in Coors, but the Mets are starting to heat up a bit and coule do some damage here. As always, we love attacking the Phillies as they have a total disaster of a bullpen, and against a flyball pitcher allowing 38% hard contact, there is a lot of upside to be had.
- The Tigers face off against Kyle Gibson and the awful Twins bullpen, and are playing at home. Comerica park has been a big downer for the Tigers power this year, Which is not something we like up against such a HR prone situation. Kyle Gibson and the Twins are giving up 1.34 HR/9 (5th highest on slate), but have also been racking up strikeouts at a decent 20% rate since the all star break. I think a lot of people will be on the Tigers, but the downside is maybe more significant than the upside available. I like the big bats in the Tigers lineup but I’m not super into a full stack, even if they rate well.
There are a couple spots on this slate that will attract a lot of ownership, but I see a couple contrarian options that could work out just as well. I can pretty much guarantee that the Astros will have much heavier ownership than the Rockies, and the Tigers and Athletics might end up being in the high teens of ownership as well. With some high priced options in pitching, I love the idea of having a high priced stack to differentiate.
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Jameson Taillon ($8100)
As one of my favorite GPP options on the slate, I’m going with Jameson Taillon as my pitching pick. Taillon has one of the highest groundball rates on the slate at 52%, and the Blue Jays are a team that struggles with groundball pitchers a lot. His 3.99 SIERA is lower than his current ERA and he still has some positive regression coming his way in terms of BABIP and FIP (.289 and 3.36, respectively). The Jays have been getting kind of hot lately, but not in the middle of the lineup where Kendrys Morales can’t stay healthy and Justin Smoak has cooled off almost completely. Taillon and his 8.79 K/9 have plenty of upside against a lineup with a 20% strikeout rate and low linedrive rate (19%). I think he is on the upswing after a great game against the Padres and deserves another start for your teams.
Team Stack: Milwaukee Brewers
I think that when you consider the options in terms of all three main areas of stackability (matchup, ability, environement) the Brewers make the most sense to me. This is a team that is stronger against LHP, but still has plenty of power against RHP and is playing in a great offensive ballpark at home. Homer Bailey is ultra bad, with a 1.48 HR/9 and uninspiring 5l48 K/9. He got absolutely brutalized by the Cardinals in his last start, and I would be shocked if the Brewers couldn’t do the same. I will say that Bailey has been relatively unlucky this year in terms of an inflated BABIP (.389) and LOB rate (58%), but we are searching for HRs with this play. I love Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, and any of the heavy hitters available for a slump discount in a great hitting environment against a homerun prone pitcher. Not to mention that the Reds bullpen has been bottom 5 all year, and bottom 3 in the league since the ASG. Time for the Brew Crew.
Infield Hitter: Justin Turner ($4600)
Justin turner has been killing it lately, with 4 HRs in his last 4 games, and those homers that I was looking for in the beginning of the season have finally begun to make an appearance. He faces off against Clayton Richard, a groundball LHP, who has been alright as an innings eater this year but still has struggles when it comes to certain players. Turner has a 161 wRC+ and 22% linedrive rate to LHP, as well as a huge 45% hard-hit rate. He is hitting the ball very well right now, and I don’t think that it stops here. Richard gives up a .387 OBP and 34% hard contact to Justin Turner‘s handedness, and being in the middle of the order we can take advantage of a weak 69% LOB rate. I love Justin turner today and think he will be underowned, get him in your lineups.
Outfield Hitter: Gerardo Parra ($4100)
As stated plenty of times in this article, I love the Rockies bats on this slate as an underowned source of power and points. Gerardo Parra is constantly forgotten hitting in the heart of the order and today gets a chance to go up against Jose Urena. Urena generally makes his money by inducing groundballs and hoping that fielding bails him out, but against LHH he has only a 35% groundball rate. That is good news for Parra who is in the middle of a career year, and should be hitting with men on base basically every time he is up to bat. His wRC+ to RHP over the last year is less than desired at only 96, but his 24% linedrive and 38% hard-hit rate are up there with the best of them, and if Urena can’t keep it on the ground he is going to bleed xBH to these lefties. At $4100, he is much cheaper than a lot of other OF options people will be drawn to and he has the ability and opportunity to put up 20 fantasy points here at a discount.
Value: Logan Forsythe ($3400)
Logan Forsythe was brought onto the Dodgers specifically to platoon against LHP, as they knew they had a specific weakness there. He has done his job well (not great, but well) this year and owns a 125 wRC+ to lefties, as well as a 33% linedrive rate and 35% hard-hit rate to the handedness. As mentioned above with Justin Turner, Clayton Richard is a groundball pitcher but gives up a lot of hard contact to RHH, so I really like having a mini stack with turner and Forsythe as low owned and relatively cheap options if played together. With 5 double digit games in his last 9, Forsythe has been consistent enough to be considered in matchups with even good LHP, not to mention this one.
I hope everyone is enjoying the week! This is a special one for me, as I get to hang out with a whole bunch of people I respect a lot and watch/play golf all weekend. Hopefully yours is just as radical!