Welcome to my MLB 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…
Best grade for the slate today goes to Joe Biagini playing at home in his second rotational start against the Seattle Mariners. Joe Biagini is the cheapest starting pitcher on the slate, but he really shouldn’t be. The reason makes sense in a vacuum, since he is on a strict pitch limit (70 pitches for today), but we only care about what he is able to accomplish in the pitches allowed. During his last start he threw 52 pitches en route to 15.8 points on 4 Ks, 2 hits and 1 R (unearned), and that score alone would be enough to meet not only cash value but also GPP thresholds as well. Seattle is a team that we can attack frequently with strikeout RHP due to their low power (29% HH rate) matched with higher SO5 (20% compared to 18%), and although this is a nice offensive park the price and relative upside are intriguing for Biagini.
The second best rating belongs to Clayton Kershaw who, egregiously, is not the most expensive pitcher on the slate (That belongs to Johnny Cueto). I do not care if he was playing in a stadium on Mount Everest, or the Moon, or whatever, Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and should always be the highest priced player on the slate. Now there is always cause for concern in using a pitcher in Coors, and I probably wouldn’t recommend there in cash, but the Rockies are considerably weaker to LHP (a full 15 points below their 110 wRC+ to RHP) and since most people can only remember as far back as the most recent comparable situation where Kershaw got knocked around a bit in Coors, He makes for a fantastic GPP play. That is, until everyone plays him because for some reason he isn’t the most expensive pitcher on the slate.
Mike Leake, Tanner Roark, and Miguel Gonzalez round out the top 5 pitcher ratings all tied with a 63 overall. Mike Leake is interesting, as most people are still terrified of the defending champs even though they shouldn’t be (15th best team in the league by Fangraphs, 92 overall team wRC+) and Mike Leake has been great this year with a 1.79 ERA (although a 3.8 SIERA). Tanner Roark gets the Phillies which is still a nice matchup on paper, but I won’t be attacking them. They have been very good at making contact, and Roark has strikeout issues as is. Miguel Gonzalez has pitched pretty well to start the year and get the Padres, so he is firmly in consideration in GPPs.
I wanted to mention that I have some interest in Josh Tomlin as a GPP target as well. He has always been subpar and pointless in DFS (unless we are stacking against him) but this year he has quietly been pitching pretty well. His problem has always been HRs, but to this point in the year he is sitting at .89 HR/9. His SIERA is 3.8 which is a whopping 3.32 points below his current ERA, and the culprit has been allowing baserunners to score and being BABIP’d to death (his LOB% is just 52%, well below league average). I think the Twins represent a nice spot for him to lower that ERA and have a nice game. The Twins have Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano, but apart from that we have a whole bunch of guys well below league average wRC+ that have issues with SO% and rely on walks and base hits. With Tomlin carrying a 2% walk rate on the season, they will have to make consistent contact to get to him and I’m not sure that they will do that for a full 6 innings.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
The best overall rating sits on the shoulders of Josh Harrison, playing in Arizona against Patrick Corbin. Now, I know that the Pirates are bad right now. I agree with that, and they are having a lot of trouble hitting anything. But Josh Harrison has continued to be good and has only slumped while injured with a foot injury (averaging 7.2 points on the season with 5 HR). Playing in Arizona against the Diamondbacks is a significant park upgrade from one of the worst hitter’s parks in the league, and a matchup with Patrick Cobrin represents much softer than his previous 2 contests. With a wRC+ of 144 over the last year to LHP and a 23% LD rate, Harrison has all the tools to take advantage of this matchup. Even better will be his single digit ownership as people stay far away from the Pirates after yesterday’s performance against Greinke.
Right behind Josh Harrison is his teammate Francisco Cervelli, Meaning that I’ll probably have some Pirates stacks in GPPs today! All the same reasons apply to Cervelli as did Josh Harrison. Cervelli has still been mashing in his last 15 days with a wRC+ of 181 and a HH% of 35%, and brings that into a matchup with a weak LHP. If he ends up hitting second in the order again, he is basically a must play for me at the Catcher position.
I got to add a new little piece to my ratings the other day! Right before the wRC+ splits is a column labeled Rating L15, which is a calculation of how effective a hitter has been over the last 15 days. It weighs things like HH%, LD%, wRC+ and other important indicators to show who has been locked in lately. Some good examples of this are Yonder Alonso, Matt Carpenter, and Justin Turner all rating very highly. In cash games, it’s super important to ride the chalk and take hot bats, so this is something that can really help that process.
Top 10 Stacks Evaluations
The top rated overall stack is NYM1 on the road against Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers. I can totally get behind this stack in all formats and for a couple different reasons. First off is the wRC+ of 115 to RHP, as this stack is comprised of Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce who both just destroy lefties. Second, Matt Garza has a lot of potential but hasn’t put it all together yet, and his BABIP/SIERA both point towards him being a high 3s ERA guy, not the current 2.5. Third is the great park shift going to the Brewers home park that is one of the top 5 parks for offense. NYM is the best GPP option on the board for me, and can provide a couple one offs as well.
LAD and WAS both make multiple appearances in the top 10 spots, as one is playing in Coors (LAD) and one is up against a pitcher that has a 3.6 (!!!) HR/9 rate going over the last year of play. The lowest HR/9 on this list goes to Matt Garza, but with the way the Mets are built and the park upgrade they get, it’s something that I am less concerned about. Today will basically be about one decision: Are you stacking the Dodgers, or are you playing GPPs? Tyler Chatwood is very good on the road but can’t keep the ball in the park and the Dodgers have a 145 wRC+ to RHP. The math there isn’t hard, we all know where you are going in cash games.
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Joe Biagini ($4800)
We are going to go right ahead and start out cheap with my top overall rated pitcher, Joe Biagini. At just $4800, Biagini is costing less than 18 hitters that can be rostered today. Although his ceiling is capped at just 70 pitches, I am confident that gives him more than enough room to pay off such a tiny salary. In his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays, He was fantastic with 4 Ks and only 2 hits, and now playing at home against the weak split of the Seattle mariners I think he has at least a similar line in him. The Mariners only have a 91 wRC+ to RHP and a 29% HH rate to boot. Match that with Biagini’s ability to keep the ball on the ground (54% GB rate) and keep it in the park (.449 HR/9 over the last year) and I could really see him excelling in this spot. The most important part here is of course price, since you will need all the salary relief you can get to fit the Coors bats. I know he will be popular, but this is some chalk I’m willing to eat.
Team Stack: OAK1 (Joyce, Lowrie, Davis, Alonso)
There are so many things to like about the Athletics in this spot and if you can ignore the fact that they are, in fact, the Athletics, it’s going to be a really fun day to roster them. The projected first 4 batters for the order are Matt Joyce (121 wRC+, 37% HH rate to RHP), Jed Lowrie (24% LD rate, 32% HH rate to RHP), Khris Davis (130 wRC+, 41% HH rate to RHP), and Yonder Alonso (One of the hottest hitters in baseball). Their opponent, Andrew Cashner, has a 42% HH rate and only a 37% GB rate to LHH, as well as a 1.59 HR/9. The Athletics get a huge park boost coming from a pitchers park to a friendly hitter’s park. Finally, Cashner is due for some mean regression on the year, as his sub 2 ERA is less than half of his 6.4 SIERA, meaning he has gotten really lucky to work out of the situations he has been in. But that’s okay, everyone pays their dues, and the Athletics are here to collect.
Infield Hitter: Josh Harrison ($3800)
Josh Harrison hitting leadoff against Patrick Corbin in a hitters park is something fantastic that a lot of people are going to miss out on. I’m going to be on that train, and I think you should be too. Over the last 15 days, he has a 53% FB percentage matched with a 32% HH rate, meaning he is hitting hard and up in the air. On top of that are his year long numbers of 145 wRC+, 23% LD rate, and 37% HH rate to LHP overall. Let’s not forget that Corbin averages 36% hard hits to RHH and only 7.36 K/9, much less than the 10+ he can serve to LHH. I like this spot a lot and think that Harrison has the upside and ownership discount you could need to win a GPP.
Outfield Hitter: Jay Bruce ($4600)
I really want to have exposure to some LHH against Matt Garza, and there’s not really a better way about doing that than taking the single best offensive weapon that the Mets have, Jay Bruce. Over his last 15 days, he has a 60% HH rate, a 24% LD rate, and is striking out only 19% of the time (very low for a power hitter). Matt Garza gives up 1.5 HR/9 to LHH and it’s probably going to be something more like 3 in this game, and Bruce is going to get his. The thing that I like most about this matchup is the overall scoring environment. Both of these teams face mediocre pitchers so there should be plenty of scoring from both sides, keeping things close and competitive. There’s no doubt in my mind that Garza will give up 5 ER in this spot, and Bruce with his 134 wRc+ to RHP over the last year will definitely be involved. Get a piece of this game in your lineup however you can, my choice is Jay Bruce.
Value: Matt Joyce ($3200)
Matt Joyce is part of my favorite stack for the day, and should hit leadoff for the Athletics against Andrew Cashner in Texas. Joyce owns a 121 wRC+ against RHP to match a 37% HH rate, and both of those with the benefit of a huge park upgrade give him a lot of upside. At just $3200, you are paying for a back of the order bat in a prime position against a pitcher doomed to regress, and that’s something to take advantage of today. Although he hasn’t been great at the plate in May hitting just 9 – 28, those hits have been really hard with just 7% of his contact being soft over the last 15 days. Andrew Cashner allows a .39 OBP, 43% Hard contact, and 1.59 HR/9 to LHH and Joyce is one of the best in his lineup. Even if he doesn’t get a HR, he should easy get on base 2 or 3 times and get some runs with the hitters around him.
Why is Kershaw not the most expensive Pitcher?
Slate like these are tailored towards GPPs. There are a thousand different stacks and options and plenty of different pitchers to take and consider. My best advice today would be to have fun, play light, and get weird.
May variance be with you, and I’ll see you at the cash line.
As always, you can find me on Twitter and shoot me any questions you have! I’ll do my best to help all the way to lock! Good luck, and I hope you find the green!