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…
Our best overall rating comes from Stephen Strasburg playing in Philadelphia against the Phillies. He comes in with a score of 76 overall, which isn’t incredible, but is the best score by a wide margin. In fact, the Rating difference between him and Kenta Maeda (63) is as large as the difference between Maeda and the 6th overall (Dallas Keuchel, 50). This makes sense, considering Phillies problems facing Righties (94.28 wRC+ to RHP) and his elite OBP and WHIP. His combination of command and strikeout upside (10.8615 K/9) make him a very attractive option in both cash games and GPPs. He should be a building block for your day.
The #2 overall rating for Pitchers today goes to Kenta Maeda, who plays on the road against the San Diego Padres. With a rating of 63 overall, he may lack the safety that you want in cash games, but he makes for a very interesting GPP option as an SP1. Kenta Maeda was very good last year, but played well above the numbers and has faced some early regression to the mean in a couple categories, but still has a lot of upside in the right matchup. His biggest issue has been the homerun ball, as evidenced by his HR/9 (1.205), but he should have little worry about that coming into this game as the Padres have a team HH% of just 29% against RHP. His K/9 (9.1) is not impressively high on this slate, but he is one of the only cheap flamethrowers on the slate with equally as consistent command (1.165 WHIP). Maeda is a nice GPP option with similar upside to Francisco Liriano and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The 3rd, 4th, and 5th highest scores are all bunched together (58, 58, 56 respectively) and belong to Andrew Triggs, Michael Fulmer, and Yu Darvish. Andrew Triggs and Michael Fulmer will be dueling in a nice pitcher’s park and make for a contrarian pairing, while Yu Darvish gets a nominal park upgrade himself (Seattle). Of the three, Andrew Triggs has the best matchup for strikeout upside (OAK 23% SO rate to RHP), but also faces the best wRC+ of the three at (128 to RHP). Yu Darvish may fly under the radar with Strasburg in the much better matchup, but he should not be ignored in GPPs where his upside is unmatched by anyone on the slate. The cheaper options on this slate are all very shakey, but Eduardo Rodriguez has plenty of room to move against a Minnesota squad that packs a punch but also has issues with strikeouts (HH% of 34%, SO% of 25%), and could fit very nicely for some salary relief.
Top 25 Hitter Evaluations
Best rating for all hitters involved on the slate in an 83 overall belonging to Paul Goldschmidt. He obviously gets huge boost from the park shift here (coming from Arizona to the almighty Coors), and facing a rookie in German Marquez who just ate the Diamondbacks alive during his last start. Now, while it is true that they couldn’t get any runs on him during the last meeting, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t hit him. Marquez is very beatable and sports a 39% HH rate to go with a 1.46 HR/P to right handed batters. If you go over to the Premium Tools and check out the Batted Balls stats, you can find that Goldschmidt has been on fire recently, with 39 balls in play over the last 15 days to go with a 44.4 HH%, which is 13.9 percentage points over his yearly average. Plus, it’s Coors, man.
Andrew Benintendi comes in at a close second in the ratings with a score of 78 playing on the road against Phil Hughes. Now, I’m not a fan of the park shift, as Minnesota has been a park that limits HR power to LHH, but I am a fan of Benintendi against RHP. I am an even bigger fan of a matchup with meatball tossin’ Phil Hughes, who gives up a 40% HH rate and a .408 OBP to RHH, as well as a mediocre 6 K/9. Benintendi is a guy that can destroy most Righties in the league with a wRC+ of 150 to go with a SO% of only 14% to RHP. We get the added be benefit that this is not Coors, man, so his ownership should be very low in a great matchup. Killer GPP play.
This top 25 list is mostly populated with Coors players (Arizona and a couple Rockies guys), Dodgers players (mostly Left handed Hitters), and the occasional spots here and there from the Cleveland Indians. Every time that Coors is on a slate, the hitter will automatically get a sizeable park shift boost and a ratings boost in these sheets, and we almost always want to focus on the opposing team as they are not used to the altitude change, giving them a bit more juice. Some players like Jose Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi can be nice underowned pieces to add to stacks, as they both rate very highly and warrant consideration even over a couple diamondbacks. Eric Thames has some incredible numbers, but they have already began regressing towards the mean (27 BIP, 22% HH rate over last 15 days). This is a nice top 25 list that includes lots of different teams, giving plenty of flexibility in one offs and mini-stacks.
Top 10 Stacks Evaluations
The top stack of the night does not belong to COL or ARI, but actually belongs to BOS1. At a score of 83, this is a highly rated matchup with a lot of upside against a mediocre pitcher in Phil Hughes. The Red Sox have a team wRC+ against RHP of 128.6, the third highest applicable on the slate, and sport a very low 14% SO rate. They also hit righties harder, as shown by a team 35% HH rate. Phil Hughes is very bad to both sides of the plate, and should get knocked around until he is pulled by a Red Sox team that is coming out of the power slump they were in to start the season. His 1.58 HR/9 and 41% HH rate allowed should cause some fireworks.
The second team in the ratings is the other pair of Sox, as CWS3 (hitters 5,6,7,8 in the order) comes in with a score of 70 overall. The White Sox have been a source of pitching friendliness to start the year, but have since woken up in the last couple games, scoring 5 or more runs in 7 of the last 10 games played. They are a team that has a very high wRC+ to LHP and the backend of the order sits at 144.5 (thanks to Matt Davidson who has been the best power hitter on the team since the start of the year). Wade Miley has made some mechanical adjustments to his pitching this year, and has seen some good (11 K/9) and bad (5.52 BB/9) results, but the power surge of the White Sox can’t be ignored and if runners are getting on base they can eat Miley alive.
We see some Rockies and Diamondbacks love up in the top ten scores, as well as MIA1 and LAD3. Today sets up very well as a GPP day in my opinion, with many different directions you can go to find upside. While stacking the Diamondbacks in cash will be the optimal strategy, you can make arguments for any of the other teams on this list in Large field tournaments. Boston against Phil Hughes during a power surge could be a great source of runs, while Miami against a pitcher with a 5+ BB/9 rate and a 1.4 HR/9 sounds like a Giancarlo Stanton grand slam just waiting to happen. There are some very fun offerings over on Draftkings today for Cinco De Mayo, and it couldn’t come on a better day!
Top Picks for the Slate
Pitcher: Stephen Strasburg ($10600)
Stephen Strasburg has been a model of consistency this year, with a 3.09 ERA being as deserved and telling as possible. In each start so far he has allowed a couple runs, but that has been offset by the Nationals ability to give him run support and a good stream of strikeouts to help prop up his 20.8 FPPG. Earlier in the year, Strasburg hung 23.6 points on the phillies by striking out 8 and allowing 5 hits and 2 ER, which is more than enough to get you through in cash games. The Phillies started out the year seeing the ball very well, but have sense been striking out more, with the majority of the team having less than 35 balls in play in the last 15 days. Strasburg has only had one elite outing (31 points against the Braves), but I really think we see his best game of the season today. In GPPs, I think you could make an argument for Darvish, but in cash it’s not a contest for me. I’m taking the consistency of Stras and running with it against a weak Phillies team.
Team Stack: BOS1 (Pedroia, Benintendi, Betts, Ramirez)
The best projected stack for me today is BOS1, and I see very little reason to go anywhere else for my pick for the slate. Phil Hughes is, and always has been, not great. Through the year he has a .304 Avg and a 1.43 WHIP, to go with a 14% SO rate. Now, his walk rate is only 3.4%, meaning that the OBP he sports (.35) is coming almost entirely from balls that are hit into play and not walks. This group of hitters represents a very nice combination of patience, power, and speed, and can rack you up points in a hurry the moment any of them get on base here. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi both have very above average numbers to RHP (wRC+ numbers of 150 and 142, respectively) and while Benintendi will get the side of Hughes that can’t get anyone out (.408 OBP, 1.96 WHIP), Mookie will get the side of him that gives up the dongs (32% groundball, 1.87 HR/9 to RHH). Both side of the plate have their perks in this spot and this stack represents the best of all worlds. It is riskier in cash games, but I think this stack is killer for GPPs.
Infield Hitter: Paul Goldschmidt ($5500)
I know, I’m being really chalky today. But the slate plays well to it, and I have way more reasons to get on Paul Goldschmidt like everyone else than I have reasons to fade him! First off, his 15 day stats are just great (44% HH rate up 13.9% on the year, 25% LD rate, and 36 balls in play) and now he gets to take that momentum into Coors field and face a rookie righty that gives up 1.45 HR/9. The only pause I have here is that Marquez just shut out the Diamondbacks in another very nice hitters park, and sports a 50% GB rate to RHH. But, he was hittable in the last matchup (Goldy still hit 8 points) and Coors field was not nice to him in a home debut against the nationals, where he gave up 8 runs in 4. Goldschmidt is an elite play in all formats, and should be where you start each build.
Outfield Hitter: Mookie Betts ($4800)
While Mookie Betts has not been incredible, there are few matchups that can kick start some fire like this one. While he has had mostly soft contact over the past 15 days (59%), his LD rate and Flyball rates have both been healthy (27% and 35%), making me believe that he is making fine contact, just maybe been a bit tentative. Luckily for us, Phil Hughes allows a staggering 41% Hard hit rate to RHH so Mookie should have no problem generating power in this one! If he is hitting the ball with power and is able to maintain his batted ball rates, this is a player that has 3 HR upside in any park. We have been waiting through a bit of fantasy slump for Mookie Betts, but I do believe he wakes up in a big way here. He is well worth the price tag, and will come at lower ownership with Coors on the slate.
Value: Miguel Rojas ($2100)
And now for some sweet, sweet salary relief! Let me introduce you to Miguel Rojas, who has been super cheap and a great source of cheap hits most of the year. He gets a matchup with a Syndergaard replacement by the name of Rafael Montero who owns an absolutely Siegeregious 5.8 BB/9 overall, a .430 OBP and a 2.1 WHIP to RHH. What I’m trying to say is that this pitcher can’t get anyone out, and Rojas will be no different. He doesn’t usually hit high in the order, but has maintained a .309 Avg and a .735 OPS, while averaging 4.8 FPPG. If you go look him up in the Batted Balls stats, you will see that his HH rate (23%) and LD% (30%) are both way up on the year, meaning that he is hitting things well and into the outfield. I think he has a decent floor for the price, and allows you to get the big bats in Coors without too much sacrifice!
Last week, I went a little more in depth on the hitters through the first part of the year and developed a rating systems for them. I threw everyone in, and showed the results. Bryce Harper topped that list and we saw a couple interesting names that have been doing very well (one was Miguel Sano, who has been raking this past week). This week, I wanted to turn that spotlight over to the mound and take a look at how each pitcher has performed up to this point!
Below you will see the top 25 pitchers according to my rating scale. Some will not be a surprise (looking at you, #1), while some will be pretty odd (looking at you, #5):
Chris Sale, who has been on an absolute tear to start the season, has the best rating so far and is tied with James Paxton which is pretty interesting. Kershaw is having problems with the HR ball up to this point, and Syndergaard can’t get any help to keep batters from running in. One thing I love to focus on is ERA-SIERA, which basically shows how “lucky” a pitcher has gotten in keeping his ERA low compared to how he has pitched. We see that Kenta Maeda has a differential of 2.91, with an ERA of 6.58 but a SIERA of 2.91, meaning that he should start seeing things fall his way sooner or later, and we can account for that by getting on him before the public.
Maybe as early as today?
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!