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…
Another Week of Alex Wood receiving my highest grading, no more need to go into detail there. I actually have a little worry about him right now. His Velocity has been consistently droping on his fastball all year (down to 91 MPH from 95 to start the year) and it’s becoming harder for him to strike batters out, while allowing some very solid contact. We saw in the last start, with the Braves pretty much hitting him at will. I had 100% of Alex Wood in MME that night, and it wasn’t good. Even though he rates out very well here, I’m not going to be playing him I don’t think. The Giants have a minimal strikekout rate (15% to LHP) and if Wood can’t get those strikeouts, he definitely can’t pay off his price on either site. I’m hoping that the Dodgers put him on a DL stint when Brandon McCarthy is healthy, or he’s going to run out of steam very quickly.
Some Other thoughts on Pitching Options tonight:
- Tanner Roark plays at home against the Colorado Rockies, and although he doesn’t have a whole lot of strikeout upside (7.79 K/9 on the year) he does do a very good job of limited the long ball, and the Rockies aren’t really a strong baserunning team. Their wRC+ to RHP is 86.64, good for one of the lowest applicable on the slate, and their 33% hard-hit rate isn’t even to take advantage of a relatively low .9 HR/9 from Roark. He will more than likely be an undervalued option, but I like him in cash for a floor.
- Dallas Keuchel is fresh of the DL, and faces a team with a whole lot of power against LHP. I have a little worry here, as pitcher fresh off a DL stay typically need a game or two to get back to form, but Keuchel is an elite pitcher that relies more on command and inducing groundballs. The Tigers are not a good team, and I have faith that this should be a nice warm up game back for Dallas, but I would stay away in cash simply because we don’t know if his form will be back up to par.
- Danny Salazar has a great matchup for his strength, and a lot of upside today. The White Sox have a 24% strikeout rate against RHP, and also much less power at only 30% compared to 36% against LHP. We all know by now that Salazar has GPP winning upside but HRs will always be a legit worry. With the White Sox’ having much less power to his hand, I think those concerns are at least lessened here.
- Brent Suter has been pretty good this year in his 4 starts, but draws a difficult matchup at home against the revitalized Cubs. The reason that I mention him is that he is very cheap, and the Cubs are less potent against LHP. They have more strikeouts (21%) and less power (27%) against lefties, and the best weapons they have against the handedness in Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist have both been less than fantastic lately. I think Suter is worth a look in GPPs as a salary saver.
- Jaime Garcia is not really a very good pitcher, but the Oakland Athletics are not really a very good team. They have the highest applicable strikeout rate on the board (29%) and will be playing at home in a serious pitchers park. I expect Garcia to be very highly owned, but he makes a lot of sense as a cheap SP2.
The Pitching is interesting today. We have a couple great options that are maybe a little less great due to circumstance, and a couple bad options that may be worth a look because of the situation they are in. I think a lot of people will be on Jose Quintana and Jaime Garcia, as both have strikeout heavy matchups, and I don’t necessarily have any issues with Garcia but Quintana is terrifying. The Brewers have been a great team this year and even better against LHP (117 wRC+ vs 110) and they are playing in a Hitters park as well. An equally as profitable matchup would be Masahiro Tanaka against the Tampa Bay Rays, and he costs less and will have significantly lower ownership. Overall, I don’t think that we will have gross ownership on any one pitcher tonight, so don’t put too much thought into that if you can stand it.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
So let’s see what we have here! Lots of Houston Astros (more on that in a bit), a lot of Cubs, a couple Dodgers and a couple Indians. And then we have some one off plays that look great in individual matchups. Anthony Rizzo leads off my ratings with an 84 overall, a very good mark, facing off against Brent Suter in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is one of the top hitter friendly parks in the league, and the Cubs have found their offense since the ASG. Anthony Rizzo has 5 double digit performances over the last 15 days, and owns a wRC+ of 146 against LHP over the last year. His 9% strikeout rate is fantastic and ensures plenty of contact and balls in play, and the only issue I can see here is limited power against lefties (27% hard-hit rate). Brent Suter has actually been very good in his 4 starts this year, with a 4.4 K/BB ratio and a 3.92 SIERA, and his year long stats don’t reflect his performances as well as I believe they should. Rizzo rates very well, but this is more a floor rating than a ceiling rating. I would much more expect 3-4 with 2 1b, a 2b, and 2 RBI than a couple of homers.
Jose Altuve and Derek Fisher are hitters 2 and 3 in my evaluations, and they play in Detroit against Jordan Zimmermann and the Tigers. We are assuming that George Springer will miss another game, moving Altuve into the leadoff spot and hoping that Fisher continues out of the 2 hole. Jose Altuve has been out of his mind over the last year, and comes into the game with the longest active streak in his league (15 games). His 157 wRC+ and 22% linedrive rate will matchup very well with Zimmermann’s 36% hard-hit allowed to RHH. Derek Fisher has limited plate appearances (hence the large discrepancy in wRC+ splits) but has shown to be very good against RHP so far. He will be a cheap way to access the Astros stack and has a very good chance to take advantage of Zimmermann’s 2.24 HR/9 to LHH.
A couple other spots that I wanted to bring up:
- Nick Williams is a rookie that is just swinging for the fences at every AB. Julio Teheran has not been able to strikeout people out this year (5.5 K/9 to LHH) and the Braves bullpen is atrocious. Plus, no one will be on him.
- Chris Taylor is a lefty masher leading off for the Dodgers playing against Matt Moore in LA. Matt Moore is a contact pitcher that has never shown a ceiling, and can’t induce groundballs (38%). Taylor’s 157 wRC+ is a great number, and his 30% linedrive rate is fantastic.
- Chris Davis up against Andrew Cashner in a hitters park. I don’t really like the Orioles overall (will go over that) but I love Chris Davis, as LHH have been the way to attack Cashner this year (39% hard-hit rate, 1.43 HR/9) and Davis gets a huge park boost.
- Joey Votto gets Vance Worley who is a relief pitcher at best, and has been one of the worst arms in the league, while Votto hits RHP for 174 wRC+, 26% linedrives, and a 36% hard-hit rate. That’s about as sure a 15 points game you’re going to find.
Overall, my ratings love attacking Brent Suter, but I think that his performances this year warrant a little hesitation there. It makes more sense to me to have shares of Anthony Rizzo, and then throw together some other studs from the top 25 for a great lineup.
Top Stacking Evaluations
Okay, we have a lot of good spots to attack. Anything over an Overall rating of 60 is worth considering in tournaments, and anything above 70 is worth cash consideration, and we have 5 teams that meet that bill. I’m going to talk through them from the top and try to narrow things down a little bit since I am a bigger fan of single entry stuff and would prefer to lay my hat on a single spot if I can.
The Houston Astros are graded out the best for me overall, with high marks in both the SP/BP rating (an evaluation of the starting pitcher and bullpen behind them) and the daily average rating (an evaluation of how the team itself stacks up in terms of splits and specific areas to the starting pitcher). An Overall score of 73.67 is 7 points above the next closest team and is my top spot for cash. The go up against Jordan Zimmermann and the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, and even though we can assume they will be missing key players in George Springer and Alex Bregman, they are still a potent squad and the best team in baseball. Zimmermann used to be an alright pitcher, but that’s not the case this year as his 6.41 K/9 and 1.88 HR/9 are both some of the worst marks on the slate. The bullpen offers very little help, walking over 4 batters per 9 innings with a 1.51 HR/9 as a group, and an awful 10.3% K/BB. The Astros will be very popular, but that’s perfectly fine. There isn’t a better spot on the slate and splits aren’t an issue against a pitcher that is bad all around.
The Baltimore Orioles will also be a popular team to stack tomorrow. They come in as my number 2 overall rated stacking opportunity with a pristine matchup in a great hitters park against Andrew Cashner, who is bad at all things pitching. Well, almost all things pitching. See, Andrew Cashner may walk as many batters as he strikes out (1.15 K/BB ratio), and he has a 5.62 SIERA which is about 2 runs over his ERA. But the one thing that he doesn’t do is give up HRs, as his .67 HR/9 on the year seems to be legit. He has an extreme groundball tendency against RHH (58%) and the Orioles are a team built almost exclusively of the handedness. The only hitters that I like in this situation are LHH Chris Davis and Seth Smith, and I’m not really thinking I will be stacking this team at all. I will let that to the masses.
The Cleveland Indians against Derek Holland are next, with a grade not even a full point below the Orioles, playing in White Sox Territory. The Indians have been on a bit of a tear lately, coming out of a homestand where they put up 10 runs 2 separate times, spurred by huge performances from Edwin Encarnacion and Bradley Zimmer. Derek Holland is actually pretty good against LHH, with a 53% groundball rate and .95 HR/9 to the handedness, and the Indians themselves aren’t really that great against LHP. There is of course plenty of merit to stacking a championship caliber team against such a bad pitcher, but the only pieces I would want here are Encarnacion and Austin Jackson. Not a stacking spot for me, but plenty of potential for runs either way.
Finishing out my top stacking spots are the Texas Rangers at home against Chris Tillman, and the Cincinnati Reds facing Tom Koehler and the Miami Marlins Bullpen. I personally love stacking against Miami, as they have a bottom 5 bullpen and none of their arms are extra special. Vance Worley certainly fits the bill as “Not special” with a 6.06 K/9, 1.1 HR/9, and a 5.15 SIERA. With this being said, the Reds make a lot of sense as a sneaky option to stack with guys like Joey Votto, Adam Duvall, and Scott Schebler for very cheap. The Rangers, on the other hand, have a great matchup with Chris Tillman and the Orioles bullpen, but have been so incredibly inconsistent that I’m pretty much done stacking them. If they score more runs that the Astros against Jordan Zimmermann than I will accept my loss.
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Danny Salazar ($9500)
Danny Salazar looked way too good in his last outing to not be given another shot in such a soft matchup. After being on the DL, he torched the Bluejays to 8 strikeouts and only a single hit, and if he can do that to a good hitting team I have plenty of confidence in him against the White Sox. Now, I know that one of the reasons he did so well against the Bluejays was because they don’t have very many LHH and that is Salazar’s weakness (36% groundball rate, 2.54 HR/9). The White Sox, while having plenty of LHH (5 rolled out last game) don’t really have any good LHH. Melky Cabrera is okay, Yoan Moncada will be great one day, and then you have Yolmer Sanchez (meh), Omar Narvaez (lame), and Alen Hanson (nerd). I’m not scared of any of those lefties, and if Salazar gives up a HR or two that won’t be the end of the world for me because I pretty much expect it whenever he touches the mound. The White Sox have a 24% strikeout rate and only a 30% hard-hit rate to RHP with only a couple hitters that we should worry about, and that’s not enough to get me off the upside that Salazar has. I will have him in both GPPs and any cash games I decide to play.
Team Stack: Cincinnati Reds
So, in cash, I’m obviously going to tell you to play the Houston Astros. Don’t get off that in cash, but I think the reds are a fun stack in GPPs. Most people know that Vance Worley is absolutely awful, but I don’t think that it will be enough to get people off of the Orioles or the Astros in single entry GPPs. Worley has a 5.15 SIERA which is a whopping 2.56 runs above his current ERA, and allows a .356 OBP while posting a 1.48 WHIP. He’s VERY bad. Against RHH, he gives up 1.355 HR/9, and against LHH he allows a 43% hard-hit rate, so you know the HRs are just lagging a little behind. What is understated about this matchup is that it is literally a full bullpen game for the reds against a bottom 5 bullpen in baseball. Worley is a relief pitcher spot starting, and I can’t imagine he goes more than 4 innings if he even lasts that long. I love a leadoff stack with Billy Hamilton who should have plenty of times to get on base and rack up steals, and letting Joey Votto and Adam Duvall just tee off on some bad arms.
Infield Hitter: Chris Davis ($3800)
Even though I am mostly going to fade the Orioles today, I will be getting Chris Davis everywhere that I can. First off, $3800 is too cheap for someone with his upside playing in such a great hitters park against such a bad pitcher. His wRC+ of 108 and hard-hit rate of 43% against RHP are a good combination against a pitcher that allows 39% hard contact and 1.43 HR/9 to LHH. First base is a loaded position today but I am most confident in Davis from both an upside and value perspective.
Outfield Hitter: Austin Jackson ($3400)
The Indians will likely be a very popular stack today, but I’m thinking people will only be stacking the top of the order instead of the middle and back. Austin Jackson is a young kid with a lot of power, and has been making great contact lately with at least one hit in 4 straight games, and 2 or more in 3 of those. He is a RHH that hits with regular splits and owns a 168 wRC+ to LHP (small sample obviously, but been good) as well as a 20% linedrive rate and 35% hard-hit rate. Derek Holland is good against LHH but struggles badly against righties, allowing 41% hard contact with a measley 37% groundball rate, which causes 2.16 HR/9 by RHH. Jackson is cheap and has been very efficient, I love him as a one off play today.
Value: Ryon Healy ($3200)
Ryon Healy has been bad, but that’s okay because his price just keeps dropping. He is only $3200 playing against Jaime Garcia (who will be the chalk pitcher, by the way), and has been a guy that just destroys LHP through his career. His 160 wRC+ and 34% hard-hit rates are some of the best qualified marks on the slate and Jaime Garcia gives 1.45 HR/9 to RHH. This isn’t an ideal hitting environment as the Athletics park is very pitcher friendly, but I can’t pass up the value of him at third base when I am paying up elsewhere. He offers much more upside than any of values and I am going to chase it until it hits.
I’m very happy to be writing about baseball, because Adam Hadwin is breaking my heart. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts, next thing you know Football will be back!