A couple weeks ago in this piece, I wrote that Juan Soto vs. Matt Harvey might be one of the most lopsided matchups in history. Empty the life savings for the Nats stacks, especially Soto, I recommended. Since then, of course, the Dark Knight has gone 3-0 and has the 2nd best WAR among all pitchers. I’m sorry, what? Surely not the Matt Harvey I know.
In that time, Harvey has a 0.00 ERA, a 0.60 WHIP, and a 1.5% BB% in his last three starts. But in the last 15 days he also has a:
5.40 K/9 (62nd out of 70 pitchers)
SIERA of 4.35 (40th)
SwStr% of 8% (55th)
LOB% of 100% (league average is 72.2%)
BABIP of .189 (league average is .289)
All this shows is that even the worst pitchers in the league can have a small sample size where they seemingly dominate. But there will likely always be some luck involved, which is exactly what’s happening here for Harvey. He should be back to his regular shellackings soon. Continue to fade in DFS.
This biweekly MLB DFS piece will look ahead to upcoming series with an eye towards which bats to Stack (rostering multiple players from the same lineup, a key to DFS success) and which bats to Fade (recommended spots to avoid, based on the data). I will also look at pitchers with Potential (high-upside hurlers who might save you a little salary) and arms to Avoid (perhaps pitchers who look promising on the surface but have difficult waters to navigate in the games ahead).
Many teams look mighty different than this time last week. Where do we stack? Where do we fade? We have Coors again this week! Does it matter when even the Rockies players don’t want to be there? Let’s look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we try to differentiate our rosters this week.
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MLB DFS LOOK AHEAD: STACKS AND FADES FOR AUGUST 2-5
Bats to Stack
Atlanta Braves (@ STL) – Whatever you have in your wallet these days, this stack is the place you want to empty it. The cash, the credit cards, your old Blockbuster membership card, the phone number of that girl you never texted, that punch card for a free Blimpie’s sub. All of it needs to come out so you can push your chips in on the Braves this week.
During this three-game series, the Cardinals have apparently decided to roll out the three-headed monster of Jon Lester, JA Happ, and Wade LeBlanc. These three left-handed pitchers are about to get a very unhospitable welcome to Atlanta as the Braves will surely stack their lineup with some right-handed power plus the elite bat of Freddie Freeman.
Somewhere, Bob Gibson and Dizzy Dean are rolling over in their graves at the thought of St. Louis TRADING FOR Happ and Lester and pairing them with LeBlanc in a series that actually counts in the standings.
Some numbers: Atlanta has the eighth-best wOBA against lefty pitchers this season (.325) and that number shoots up to .332 in the last two weeks (post-Acuna injury). Atlanta also has the eighth-highest hard-hit rate against lefties this year (32.5%) and the eighth-highest HR/FB rate. Truist Park has the sixth-highest park factor for runs the past three years (seventh-highest in 2021) and I can assure you there will be plenty of those in the coming days.
Now armed with right-handed bats like Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler to accompany righties Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson, this looks like it could be a red-blooded, red-bird slaughter over the three games these teams meet. Go all in.
Bats to Fade
Cleveland Indians (@ TOR) – I mention the Indians here for one specific reason, particularly after looking at the handedness advantage of the Braves. Typically we like to play this handedness game with our hitting stacks, meaning if the opposing pitcher is a lefty and the lineup is right-handed heavy, it tends to appear “safer” or it presents an advantage for DFS players. The Indians do have that advantage on paper this week.
Cleveland is about to face three straight left-handers, and the Indians primary lineup now consists of eight hitters who would bat right-handed. Only Bradley Zimmer would presumably have a lefty-lefty disadvantage.
I’m imploring you: Please don’t fall for that trap with the Indians versus these upcoming Blue Jays starters.
The Indians – despite this right-handed heavy lineup – only rank 26th in the league in wRC+ against left-handed starters. They also come in at 25th in wOBA and 27th in team OBP against lefties. Don’t be under any illusion they are much better against righties — they are decidedly not. It’s just not a good offense anymore. Regardless, this is a group to fade in the first half of the week.
Beyond just the Indians’ struggles, however, they face two of the league’s toughest lefties in Robbie Ray and Hyun Jin Ryu. Both Ray and Ryu rank in the top 32 pitchers in ERA and WHIP against right-handed batters. Both are also in the top 20 starters in lowest OBP to right-handed batters (both under .280), so they are effectively limiting the damage that side of the plate can cause.
Pitchers with Potential
Los Angeles Angels (@ TEX) – I’m willing to bet even a matchup at home against the Texas Rangers can cure whatever has been ailing Dylan Bundy this season. With Bundy and his 6.66 ERA currently penciled in for Tuesday’s matchup, he looks to be the only shaky Angels pitcher against a Texas Ranger offense that just lost its Chuck Norris when they sent Joey Gallo packing.
The Rangers are currently giving the Rockies a run for their money for the title of the majors’ worst offense. Texas ranks 29th in wRC+ (84), 30th in wOBA (.292), 30th in OPS (.667), and they have the 10th-highest strikeout rate combined with the eighth-worst walk rate.
Plenty of digital ink has been spilled on the resurgence of both Patrick Sandoval and Shohei Ohtani as quality pitchers recently, but I’m also not afraid to pull the trigger on Jose Suarez as an SP2 in two-pitcher formats on Monday. Suarez is only $6,300 on DraftKings (only three pitchers are cheaper) and has shown he can hold elite offenses like the Yankees and Red Sox to two or fewer earned runs over five innings. Utilizing Suarez unlocks a whole host of stacking possibilities on this short slate.
What I like most about this individual matchup is the Rangers have the fourth-highest ground ball rate in the league at 46%. On the other side, Suarez has put up an elite 56% ground ball rate in his time in the majors this year. That’s a match made in DFS heaven when a pitcher gets a bargain-basement salary.
Arms to Avoid
Minnesota Twins (@ CIN, @ HOU) – These upcoming matchups simply just don’t pass the eye test, much less the analytical test, when you consider the opposing offenses and contexts.
Kenta Maeda may be a former Cy Young finalist, but there is nothing you can do to convince me to use him at Great American Ballpark against lefties like Jesse Winker, Joey ‘Bonds’ Votto, Tyler Naquin, and Tucker Barnhart. That park is a launching pad for lefty batters and Maeda has struggled to the tune of a .274/.344/.508 line against lefties on the road this year.
On the other hand, Griffin Jax can’t get right-handed batters out in his short major league sample. He allows a .317/.347/.635 line to right-handers and also allows a .513 slugging percentage when men get on base. He may be a future star in this league, but his growing pains so far are quite clear.
And then we have Bailey Ober in Houston on Thursday against the most potent American League offense. Similar to Maeda, Ober is getting destroyed by lefties this year. In his 100 plate appearances against them this year, he allows a .303/.380/.562 line, so you know players like Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, and Michael Brantley will be salivating at the chance to hit against him at home.
The Twins signaled to the league their intention to fade the rest of this season when they jettisoned Nelson Cruz and Jose Berrios at the trade deadline, so you should have no problem following them with a full pitcher fade.
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