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As we head into some of the toughest days of MLB DFS – roster turnover, September call-ups, the siren song of big NFL DFS prizes – I want to start our stacks and fades conversation with an illustration. Here is the Cubs Opening Day lineup from this season:

Happ CF
Contreras C
Rizzo 1B
Bryant 3B
Pederson LF
Baez SS
Heyward RF
Bote 2B

And here is the Cubs lineup from the Sunday Night Baseball contest from yesterday, August 8th:

Ortega CF
Duffy 3B
Happ LF
Contreras C
Wisdom 1B
Bote 2B
Deichmann RF
Alcantara SS

We do have a three-player overlap here, but you know already this is a roster that has completely been turned over in the past month. The question for DFS, then, is, “Who are these guys?” If a team is in a good spot but you don’t know anything about them, how do I know who to play? Sometimes it’s as easy as lefty Anthony Rizzo + righty bad pitcher + reasonable price + good hitting environment = Rizzo is in my lineup. But when the names staring back at you are Ortega, Duffy, Deichmann, and Alcantara, my advice is to just go straight to the bottom of the Barrel.

That’s right: Barrels. If you don’t know much about a guy, try to find his barrel rate, his barrels/plate appearance, and his average exit velocity. There is so much that can be gleaned just from this one set of statistics. For example:

This chart (from Baseball Savant) looks at all players with at least 100 plate appearances this year and compares average exit velocity to expected slugging percentage. You may see that the r-squared is 0.51, which is an exceptionally high correlation. The maximum is 1.0. Care to guess what the correlation is to exit velocity and expected batting average? It’s 0.13. Much less predictive than expected slugging. More bases equals more points in DFS, so go straight to the slugging well of information when it comes to finding out which of these newcomers might best fit your lineup.

This week, find yourself a Patrick Wisdom (team-leading 91.9 average EV, 51% hard-hit rate. and 8.2% barrels/plate appearance), and don’t be afraid to embrace the unknown.

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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 do look different than a couple of weeks ago. But there are still 27 outs and someone has to either make them or avoid them. Where do we stack? Where do we fade? Use your data-mining skills to find the right matchups at an acceptable price. Let’s look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we try to differentiate our rosters this week.


Bats to Stack

Detroit Tigers (@ BAL) – I’m not sure you can find a better park upgrade than the Tigers find themselves in the first half of this week. The last three years, Comerica Park has a park factor of 83 or 17% below the average for home runs. It’s a stifling power environment. However, Detroit travels to Baltimore for a three-game set beginning Tuesday. Camden Yards ranks second for home runs, with a park factor of 124 (24% above average).

On the season the Tigers are a slightly below-average offense, but the additions of Eric Haase and Akil Baddoo, plus a surprising power surge from Jonathan Schoop (.536 slugging over the last week) have produced some Tiger power that would make Cecil Fielder and Hank Greenberg proud.

Over the last 30 days, the Tigers rank top-12 in MLB in wRC+, slugging percentage, fly ball rate, average exit velocity, and barrel rate. Despite some mediocre success from Matt Harvey and John Means, the Tigers should have no issues with these two plus Keegan Akin on Tuesday. Detroit is an ideal secondary stack to be able to afford an elite pitcher plus an expensive stack this week.

Bats to Fade

Chicago Cubs (vs. MIL) – Remember that lovable Cubs team from the intro? Yeah, not so fast. In three of the four games in this home series, the Cubbies will see the Terrible Trio: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta. I would not recommend the Chicago lineup as a place to try and gain leverage and would consider an outright fade when these three pitchers are on the mound.

It just never stops with the Milwaukee starting pitching staff. They are top-5 in strikeout rate, K/9, WHIP, soft contact allowed, and groundball rate for just for giggles. The Cubs certainly drew the short straw this week with no matchups against Brett Anderson or Eric Lauer. They get the gauntlet instead and don’t seem equipped to pass through it.

Over the past 14 days (just before the trade deadline), the Cubs have the highest strikeout rate in the majors, the 10th-lowest OPS, and the fourth-lowest contact rate. Even at Wrigley, the Milwaukee pitchers must be salivating at the prospect of these matchups to come. The Cubs will most likely be a full fade for me the next four days except when they face Aaron Ashby on Tuesday.

Pitchers with Potential

Seattle Mariners (vs. TEX) – After shutting out the new-look, powerful Yankees for 6-2/3 innings last week, the Texas Rangers must feel like a junior varsity squad to Marco Gonzales this week. Truthfully, the Rangers aren’t looking much like an MLB team to anyone these days and are the American League’s best argument for setting up a relegation policy.

Think about this stat for a second. Over the last 30 days, the Rangers’ team OPS is .535. Not OBP. Not SLG. OPS. There are 42 players who have SLUGGING PERCENTAGES higher than that number the last 30 days. The Rangers’ slugging percentage in that time? A whopping .288 – almost 100 points lower than any other team. Their team batting average is .177. Eight pitchers have higher batting averages this season.

So forget that it’s Logan Gilbert, Tyler Anderson, and Marco Gonzales for a moment. It could be Gilbert Gottfried, Pamela Anderson, and Marco Polo out there, and I would still recommend putting them in your DFS lineup. This is a minor league team the Rangers are using the rest of the season, and any pitcher with a pulse (much less 10.56 K/9 like Gilbert) should be in consideration.

Needless to say, fade all Rangers until further notice.

Arms to Avoid

Philadelphia Phillies (vs. LAD) – I’m a little annoyed at how this series ended up falling in the schedule. I would have LOVED to see peak Zach Wheeler against a getting-healthy Dodgers team this week. Instead, we got to see Wheeler destroy an overmatched Mets squad, with a little bit of “you should’ve paid me!” narrative sprinkled in for good measure.

What that means is the Dodgers will line up against Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, and Ranger Suarez this week. All good pitchers, but this Dodgers team looks much more dangerous than it did just two weeks ago and that has me fading the Philadelphia hurlers during their Los Angeles road trip.

With the addition of Trea Turner, the Dodgers now boast a lineup with Turner, Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Will Smith, and Justin Turner. Plus they solved their second base problem with Turner so they can throw Chris Taylor in the outfield. This lineup has an OPS of .807 the last seven days (fifth in MLB) and has a bottom-ten strikeout rate at just 20%. The Dodgers are hitting the ball hard 41% of the time the last week (seventh in MLB) and are looking like the most formidable lineup in the NL over the last month of the season.

Data SourcesFangraphsBaseball Savant

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