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…
Top graded pitcher for the slate tonight is Michael Fulmer playing at home against the Chicago White Sox, who have been a very lucrative matchup for RHP up to this point in the year. The White Sox have gotten to some good pitchers this year, and did very well against Chris Sale a couple games ago, so this isn’t as much of an autoplay as you would assume. However, their strength is to left handers as their wRC+ to RHP is 11 points lower than against LHP, and their 24% Strikeout rate to RHP is one of the highest on the slate. Fulmer has not been fantastic this year, and has a K/9 less than 8, but we know he has all star potential from his performances over the last calendar year. His low WHIP (1.08) and good OPB (.292) make him a great option today.
Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw, and Ty Blach (because he definitely belongs in this upper tier) all round out the rest of the top 5 ranked Pitchers for the slate. Clayton Kershaw will be incredibly popular against the strikeout happy Brewers, but I’m getting a little gun shy with him. He has already given up 10 HRs on the season, and I’ve noticed him forcing his 4 seam since his slider has been acting weird. What that means is he basically has a curve and two fastballs, which won’t be enough to get through a power hitting lineup in a hitter’s park. I’m going to fade Kershaw, and it’s terrifying, but I can’t trust him right now. Strasburg against Oakland in a nice Pitcher’s park is very appealing, especially with the low HH rate he was given (27% over the last year), and Keuchel gets a Rangers lineup that is much weaker against LHP (22% SO rate, 18% LD rate), so I prefer to attack those matchups than a heavy hitting Brewers squad.
Jose Urena is going to regress today. Don’t miss that.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
Matt Kemp leads all players in my ratings, and that should come to literally no surprise to anyone. His matchup is against the gas-can known as Bronson Arroyo playing in the hitter friendly park in Cincinnati. Bronson Arroyo gives up over 2 HR/9 and Matt Kemp has been mashing for the better part of this season, but especially lately since Freeman went down. His 125 wRC+ to RHP and 37% HH rate are more than enough to get to Bronson Arroyo, and it’s not like we are scared of the Reds bullpen. Matt Kemp will surely be very popular but he is definitely a good play.
Miguel Cabrera, Corey Seager, Nick Markakis, and Tyler Flowers level out the top 5 hitters for the day, and against it’s pretty easy to understand why we have so many Braves hitters (guess what the top stack are) going up against Bronson Arroyo. Corey Seager gets a juicy matchup against Jimmy Nelson in Milwaukee. His 169 wRC+ against RHP over the last year is very good, but his recent performances have left a lot to be desired. With that being said, Nelson gives up 36% Hard hits to LHH and has a 1.46 WHIP, so if there is a spot for Seager to live up to that wRC+ this would be a nice one. Miguel Cabrera plays at home against Derek Holland who has been the White Sox’s best pitcher, but he has a lot of regression coming. His 4.56 SIERA is almost double his current ERA, and the Tigers can put up a lot of runs fast. Miggy has a 30% LD rate (!!) and a 47% HH rate (!!!!) to LHP, that doesn’t bode well for Holland here.
Our top hitters mostly consist of Braves and Dodgers, but we do have a couple Tigers players spread out and the occasional one of. This is actually really nice considering the high powered stack in other spots (more on that later) and it’ll make it nice to have some good add ons to complete the lineup.
Top 10 Stacks Evaluations
Man look at all those Braves stacks! Bronson Arroyo is very bad, we love attacking him in DFS. But, I have a little bit of a problem with Braves stacks today because I kind of feel like they lack realistic upside. I mean, we have Hamilton and Matt Kemp who can hit 30 point ceilings based on separate avenues (steals and HRs), and Ender Inciarte is not awful, but otherwise we have a whole bunch of base hit champions that don’t really have the power we want in GPPs. I would basically say it like this: The Braves are going to put up 8 runs in this game, but may only muster 3 HRs between Kemp, Flowers, and maybe Phillips? They will be very popular, and I understand why, but I just don’t see the upside.
I very much prefer a Dodgers stack against Jimmy Nelson. Nelson might not give up as many HRs relative to Mr. Arroyo (1.21 compared to 3.13) but both allow a HH% over 30 percent and Nelson allows more hitters on base (.368 to .338 for Arroyo), and is playing in hitter friendly Milwaukee. They (Dodgers) have a 134 wRC+ against RHP and a gross 39% HH rate. While everyone else focuses on the Braves the Dodgers might actually be under owned, which is something we always like in GPPs.
We also have mentions of the Tampa Bay Rays against Christian Bergman and the Detroit Tigers against Derek Holland. My favorite stack just misses the top ten, as I am in love with the Diamondbacks tonight. Jose Urena has narrowly escaped being destroyed in his last couple matchups, as he allows a lot of people on base and can’t strike anyone out (1.36 K/BB). Urena also has a large disparity between his ERA and SIERA (1.9 runs between the two), meaning that he has basically survived awful pitching to look respectable. My favorite piece of this stack is the Marlins bullpen which is the worst in the league throughout this season, allowing 4.33 walks per 9 with an aggregate 4.23 SIERA. This combination should mean a monster amount of runs for the Diamondbacks.
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Michael Fulmer ($8000)
Michael Fulmer hasn’t been incredible this year, but has shown the ability to go deep in games and flashed nice upside. His 1.99 BB/9 is of the best in the league, and his 1.1 WHIP gives a lot of confidence in being able to limit base runners. The White Sox have a 96 wRC+ against RHP and a 24% SO rate, meaning that we have a lot of upside for a pitcher that is not even close to the upper tier of pricing. We also love that Fulmer, over the last year, has only allowed .7 HR/9 and a 28% HH rate, so even guys like Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu will be less terrifying. This is a great day to be different at Pitcher with all the expensive guys in tougher matchups, and it lets you allow a nice upper tier stack in a good matchup.
Team Stack: ARI1 (Blanco, Peralta, Goldschmidt, Lamb)
Jose Urena has been absolutely atrocious this year, but his surface stats don’t say it. We can leverage that by focusing on the more important advanced stats. His SIERA says that he should be allowing 5 runs per game and his K/BB OF 1.36 means that he is walking a batter almost as often as he gets a strikeout. Against a very dangerous Diamondbacks team, that will cause a big BABIP problem. Once Urena gets knocked out in the 3rd inning, we get to face the worst Bullpen in the league that can’t get anyone out at all. This just sets up for a 10+ run game and I want the big bats, and what’s more I know that Goldschmidt will be less than 10% owned (as will Lamb, for that matter). This is your GPP moneymaker.
Infield Hitter: Miguel Cabrera ($4200)
Derek Holland has been very good this year, or at least relative to his career stats. We can look at that one of two ways: He is either becoming a very good pitcher, or he is going to regress to the gas can we all know and love. My guess is that he falls back a bit, and there is no better matchup to keep him honest. Miggy has a 167 wRC+ to LHP to go with a ridiculous 30% LD rate and a 47% HH rate, while Derek Holland only allows 37% GBs and a 38% HH rate to RHP. There are a lot of very good First Base options on this slate but I’m not sure that any have the double-dong upside that Cabrera possesses in this spot. It interferes with my Diamondbacks stack, but I’m just going to lock him in today. Miggy is fantastic today.
Outfield Hitter: Matt Kemp ($4600)
So, I’m not super into the idea of stacking the Braves, but I am all about Matt Kemp. He is in the middle of a power surge and faces Bronson Arroyo. Load him up and eat the chalk.
Value: J.T. Riddle ($3000)
I’ve been using Riddle as a punt play for the better part of the last week, and he has shown good upside in being able to hit the ball long as well as get on base relatively consistently. You have to go back to May 24th (7 games ago) to see his last goose egg, and they like to hit him up in the order if the matchup is right. Over the last 15 days, he has struck out 25% of the time but is making good contact with 48% HH and a 20% LD rate. Patrick Corbin has been super pedestrian this year, with average or below numbers in almost every area from his K/9 of 7.34 to his 1.55 WHIP. I will be stoked if he hits in the 2 hole like they have tried him before, but at his price I’m still okay with the end of the order for a couple base hits.
This is a very nice slate to practice some heavy fades and be different. A lot of the very good pitchers and hitters alike are in less than fantastic matchups, and I think things like that require a lot of thought. It makes sense to follow the field in cash games with someone like Kershaw, because at 70% ownership you aren’t really falling behind the field if he does well or does badly. But in GPPs, I think with a matchup that is able to go either way, it makes sense to take a chance on a less popular spot. Especially with hitters, variance is your friend.
Speaking of variance…
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!