September 19 Main Slate Pitching Thoughts
Ever have one of those weeks where work and personal and family obligations hit you all at one time? That was me last week! I’m trying to go strong on my pitching thoughts all the way to the finish of the season (before turning my focus to hockey!), and last week, all kinds of other stuff got in the way of that. I’m still here, and I’m back for a Monday slate! I know many of you have turned your focus to football, and so you have a little less time to look at baseball. Let me help fill that gap for you today!
Onto the slate!
The Game: SF Giants (Bumgarner) @ LA Dodgers (Kershaw):
Your top two pitching options tonight have both pretty juicy matchups. They are both priced about the same, Madison Bumgarner at $12,600 and Clayton Kershaw at $12,500. This is a game we need to look at pretty closely.
Let’s start with Bumgarner. The first thing you have is “an elite lefty against the Dodgers.” The Dodgers have been pretty awful this year against lefties. Much of that is because they have a slew of left-handed hitters, and they are all worse in that L/L matchup. But the K upside increases, and the damage downside decreases, making MB enticing simply because he throws with his left hand. Throw on the fact that Bumgarner is elite himself (27.7% K rate and numerous other stats I could, but won’t, mention) and is pitching in LA, which is a tough place to hit at night, and this looks really good.
There are a few things which concern me, though. First of all, one of Bumgarner’s biggest strengths is his IPs. He’s a good bet for 6+ every time out and, in fact, averages 6 2/3 IP per start. Which is amazing. Since the start of August, though, that has fallen to just barely over 6. That includes 3 outings where he only went 5 innings (and failed to get to 100 pitches in each of those—something that had happened just once since the start of May). This limits his upside a small bit. Second, obviously going up against Kershaw, the win chance is diminished. Finally, he has pitched twice in LA this year (back in April and a month ago), and neither line was very inspiring. In fact, they were two of his worst outings this year. These are not massive red flags, but they are things you should consider.
As for Kershaw, the case for him is much stronger. He comes in at virtually the same price, which for him is a pretty nice discount. The Giants are a light-hitting bunch, by and large, and that’s been particularly true when playing on the road in LA this year (6 games, .206 BA, .271 SLG, 20.3% K rate (which is higher than their season average)). Kershaw has been lights out since returning from injury, though his IPs have been low first because of pitch count, and then because of rain delay. I don’t expect either will be an issue tonight. His SwStr% is an insane 15.8%, and his K rate is a similarly insane 32.8%. He strikes out 40% of the lefties he faces, and he has a ground ball rate over 50%. He walks no one. The only warning flag is (potentially) that SF Ks less versus lefties than one might like to see (a low 18%). Kershaw, though, is matchup-proof; he went 8 innings and struck out 13 against the Giants back in June. I have no concerns tonight.
What do you do? Kershaw will be popular tonight, as he should be. Usually, you have to pay $13k+ or even $14k+ to get him, so $12,500 is nice, and this is a great matchup, too. I don’t like Bumgarner as much, though he has a high floor and nearly as high an upside. You won’t be alone in pairing them both, if you did that, but I don’t recommend it tonight. In the end, either is fine for cash or GPPs, but I strongly prefer Kershaw. He’s a good play tonight, despite his popularity.
Every other game:
Noah Syndergaard ($11,600): He makes for a great pivot from either Kershaw or Bumgarner. His SwStr% (14.5%) and his K rate (29.3%) clock in just behind Kershaw, his batted ball profile is similar (lower Hard-hit%, similar GB%), and he has an even better matchup against the lowly Braves. Really, the only thing making him “not Kershaw” tonight is his walks. Though Thor keeps a very nice walk rate, Kershaw is other-worldly. At $11,600, you do get a small discount. Somewhat remarkably, he has yet to pitch against his division foe this year, but I see nothing in this matchup that frightens me even a little. If there is something that will depress Kershaw and/or Bumgarner’s ownership tonight, it’s Syndergaard. Very strong play for cash or GPPs. None of these three plays, though, qualify as “contrarian” (except maybe MadBum), but they don’t need to, even for GPPs.
Rick Porcello ($9,700): After the “big 3,” there’s a pretty big drop-off in salary, and until you get a bit lower, I expect there to be a big drop-off in ownership level, too. Porcello is the first victim, but low ownership may be a mistake. Certainly, he does not have quite the same K upside—as he was and is a pitch-to-contact guy—but he has finally become the pitcher the Tigers had hoped they were getting when they got him a number of years ago. His numbers suggest he has gotten a bit “lucky” this year (hard-hit rate of 31.1% but a HR/FB% of 9.1%), but he’s been very solid, and faces a BAL team that can strike out. They can also, hit for power, of course, which makes this a riskier proposition. You can look at his last start to see what’s possible: 8 IP, 4 hits, 1 R, 6 Ks (25.6 DK pts) against this same BAL team (took the loss). The weather is a bit of a wildcard here tonight, but Porcello is on fire, and there’s a lot of lower-owned upside to be had here. I like him better for cash than GPPs, but 30 points isn’t out of the question.
Carlos Martinez ($8,300): Another big price drop, though is one is Coors-based. It’s worth digging into his numbers a little bit because you can expect ownership to be next to nothing. Generally speaking, Coors is dangerous for guys who allow lots of hard hits, lots of fly balls, and/or who don’t strike out a lot. Pitchers who do better tend to do the opposites of those things: they don’t allow many hard hits, they keep the ball on the ground, and they can get Ks.
How does Carlos Martinez stack up? Pretty well. He has a SwStr rate of 9% this year and a K rate of 20.9%. Not elite, but solid, and he has been flashing his elite K abilities from time to time (over his last 4 starts, he’s bumped his average up significantly). His ground ball rate is 55.8%, which is excellent. His hard-hit rate is 28.7%, which is pretty good (league average is 31.5%). He has just one career start in Coors (last year), where he went 6.1, yielding 8 hits, 1 BB, 2 runs, and getting 4 Ks with a win (16.85 pts). I see a similar line as being probable and perhaps 20+ points as his upside. He’s a big risk for GPPs, but for me, the bigger risk is that he’ll rack up ground ball outs rather than Ks. If you think the Ks will be there—or could be there—then he makes for a good GPP play.
Taijuan Walker ($8,100): I hope you played him last start like I suggested might be a good idea! I think his price hasn’t come up enough for his skill set, now that he has apparently turned things around. I’m not saying he’ll go out and throw another CGSO—as TOR is significantly more dangerous than LAA—but his K upside is still there, and he’s got a friendly ballpark. Given who else is on the slate tonight, I think this might be the last chance you get to grab him at low-ish ownership.
Jason Hammel ($7,700): “With the way Hammel has been struggling recently, I’m not particularly interested in him.” That’s what most people will say, and they won’t be wrong. Hammel has been struggling, and you’ve got enticing options elsewhere up and down this slate. But don’t ignore his crazy home/road splits (.245 v. 350 wOBA; 22.9% vs. 19.2% Ks; 28.0% vs 36.7% Hard; 50.5/34.2% v. 36.1/41% GB/FB ratio). Also, CIN is significantly less dangerous on the road. Since the start of August, Hammel has given up 7 HRs and 22 ERs in 8 starts—that’s bad. All 7 of those HRs, and 21 of those 22 ERs, were yielded on the road (4 starts). He has 30-point upside in him, so it’s not the craziest idea to throw him in a GPP. He’s not the safest option out there, but who is going to have the guts to play him? A Walker/Hammel pairing gives you bats that the Kershaw/MadBum/Syndergaard crowd won’t be able to play…
Marco Estrada ($7,500): Pitching through extreme pain (herniated disc in his back). His results have fallen off as a result. Though I generally don’t mind a fly ball pitcher in a park where HRs go to die, I think this is an unwise play tonight. If he were facing a team with big K upside (TB, HOU, BAL), I’d like the play, but Seattle avoids Ks a little better than average. Fade for me tonight.
A.J. Cole ($7,400): He’s been pitching very well. Racks up Ks, keeps hard hits to an absolute minimum (22.5%!), and has a respectable SIERA of 4.00. He struggles to go deep into games, and he’s an extreme fly ball pitcher. There isn’t a ton of power on this Marlins squad, there’s enough that I’m given a bit of pause about Cole tonight. I like him well enough for cash games, but I don’t see a dominant outing tonight. If the Marlins had better K upside, I’d be more for it.
Tyler Anderson ($6,900): He has better peripherals across the board than Carlos Martinez does! Except for GB rate where he’s 4% less than CarMart’s excellent number. He may be seen as a risk against STL—especially with all the great righties they have—but he’s not a much bigger risk than Martinez is. Aledmys Diaz at $4,400 is a steal, though. I am not playing Anderson tonight, but I’m also not very interested in stacking STL.
Brad Peacock ($6,700): Mildly interesting option that is certain to go overlooked. The big problem is his pitch-to-contact ways against an OAK team that doesn’t K much. But this one is in Oakland, which is a nice park boost, and Peacock did just pitch pretty well against TEX. A repeat of his score from that game (18.5) isn’t out of the question. He’s playable in both formats, though I think his upside is lower than most.
Wei-Yin Chen ($6,400): Likely on a pitch count. Not interested.
Martin Perez ($6,200): Keeps churning out results, despite his exceptionally low Ks. He keeps the ball on the ground and rarely has a low floor. With low Ks, his margin for error is low, but LAA really struggles at the plate, outside of Mike Trout. They also don’t strike out, and so you’re looking at a lot of ground balls tonight, but is that such a bad thing? I worry that Trout or Pujols or someone will run into one—and with Perez’s walk tendencies, that could be harmful—but he’s in play if you need a cheap cash play and 3X salary is not out of the question.
Braden Shipley ($6,000): He’s been a bit of a nightmare lately, but you never know when he’s going to spring his considerable upside. A game at Petco might do that for him, but I also worry a ton about the power SD can flash. He pitched in Petco back in August and got smacked around (7 runs, 7 hits, 5 Ks). I think he’ll be more popular than he should. He could do nicely, but people will be drawn to his salary and his opponent, and you could benefit greatly by fading. An interesting item of note: right handers don’t hit many fly balls against him (21.1%) but hit the ball a ton (40.5% hard-hit rate). Lefties (41.8% and 36.9%, respectively) are the way to go. With such a low K rate as Shipley has, those high-K, high-power lefties for SD (e.g. Schimpf) are squarely in play.
Jharel Cotton ($5,900): He’s got some very, very cheap value. Over two starts, he has a double-digit SwStr% (10.2%) but a 10.4% K rate, which is insanely low. His two starts were against LAA and KC, which helps explain it. Today, he gets the Astros, which should help that K upside immensely. You might worry about all those fly balls, and that’s fair, but it helps that this game is in Oakland. He’s riskier than others might think, but at $5900, if he keeps the swinging strikes up, he could reach 3X-4X value with low downside risk. He’s young, though, and rookies are notoriously inconsistent. He’s not a lock, but worth seriously looking at.
Dylan Bundy ($5,500): GPP option only. I love his swing-and-miss stuff, and I love that his Hard% is low (27.5%), but I dislike the matchup, I dislike the 9.1% walks, and I dislike all the fly balls. His price is low enough, and his ownership is low enough, that I don’t think you’re crazy if you play him.
Tim Adleman ($5,400): I don’t like this matchup. He has been remarkably effective given his stuff, and he has the sort of high-K, high-BB stuff that can be nasty one day and yield ugly results the next. Righties don’t K against him, and lefties hit a lot of fly balls. He has surprised nicely, but I don’t see a single matchup I like very much.
Jhoulys Chacin ($4,500): You might think that this is a good spot based on his last outing where he put up 19.7 DK points against a tough SEA team. Don’t. He’s a major risk based on his ground ball tendencies as TEX crushes ground ball pitchers. He doesn’t K enough guys to be worth it, and the downside risk is crazy. I’ll pass.
Aaron Blair ($4,100): He’s Jhoulys Chacin but with worse results and more ground balls. There’s not much to like here.
Clayton Richard ($4,000): He’ll be popular, and he should be. The D-Backs K a ton against lefties, and this one is in Petco. The last time he had this matchup (D-Backs at Petco), he went 6, gave up 2 unearned runs, and got 5 Ks (20.5 pts). No reason he can’t do that again. For those rostering a high-dollar pitcher, Richard is the safety valve. He’s not risk free, but there’s no excuse for him being the minimum price!
That’s all I’ve got!! The bottom line is that there are a lot of great GPP plays and lots of ways you can construct a winning lineup tonight. I don’t recommend stacking up on P, as you’ve got Clayton Richard down here, but you could go with any number of mid-priced guys and achieve some good fantasy success tonight.
Good luck everyone!
About the Author:
Dr. Mike Hass is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan and a lawyer who lives in Washington DC. He started playing DFS a couple years ago when he no longer had time for season long leagues, and has been hooked ever since. He plays most DFS sports but he focuses most of his time on MLB, especially pitching. He started posting his pitching analyses on Twitter @msonichdrhass last season mostly because it helped him organize his thoughts. Eventually, there were enough people reading, and asking for it daily, so he now does it as regularly as possible (around family and career). He’s primarily a GPP player, but also writes advice for cash games, too.