We are about to see one of the truly unique pitching experiments finally played out in the big leagues on Tuesday. The Houston Astros are scheduled to start Lance McCullers who will be fresh off the injured list. He is expected to be followed in that game by usual starter Jake Odorizzi in the “piggyback” role. Presumably both pitchers would go around four innings if all is going according to plan.
Savvy DFS players have been gaining leverage from the “opener” situation for a couple years now, by rostering the low-priced long-inning man when they have favorable situations. Will this piggyback concept change the way we play DFS? If we know a starter likely won’t go five and qualify for the win, is he strong enough in four innings or two times through the lineup to warrant a roster spot? Or do we fade the starter so we can roster the piggyback, hoping for a strong performance and the win? It’s a wrinkle in our game we should pay attention to and see it gains traction.
This biweekly 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).
Right off the bat we have a full Monday slate after getting only three games last Monday. In the four days ahead we have pitchers returning from injury, several intriguing pitcher matchups (who’s staying up late for Bundy vs. Manaea with me?), and we have games at Coors Field again! Let’s look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we build our rosters this week.
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MLB DFS Look Ahead: June 14–June 17
Bats to Stack
Cleveland Indians (vs. BAL) – I’m not exactly sure what dirt Matt Harvey has on everyone associated with Major League Baseball, but it must be big. It’s the only explanation for why he is still in a major league rotation a good six years after he should have hung up his Dark Knight cape. And he is just one piece of a truly gross puzzle of Orioles pitchers to start the week.
Enter the Indians who will look to send Harvey, Keegan Akin, and Jorge Lopez back to Charm City less than charmed by their performances. Baltimore is bottom-10 across a whole host of stats for starting rotations this year. They are some of the worst in HardHit% allowed (42.3%), average exit velocity (90 mph), SIERA (4.39), CSW% (26.8%), and K-BB% (13.7%).
Despite a game straight out of bizarro world on Sunday that saw the Indians get shut down by a rookie and Shane Bieber get rocked by the Mariners, the Indians have been mashing lately. They rank top-12 in MLB since June 1 in wRC+, SLG, OBP, and Contact%. Stack up the Indians against Baltimore this week and be glad you did.
Bats to Fade
Colorado Rockies (vs. SDP) – Fade the Rockies at Coors? Explain yourself, sir. Alright, well here’s my thinking on the issue of Rockies’ bats at home this week. First the strategic side of the issue. In MLB DFS, we know many (if not most) players in a large-field tournament are going to blindly follow the herd towards the Coors bats just like the zombies they are. Fading one side of this contest gives you immediate differentiation in your lineups.
Second, this is a historically bad offense in Colorado this year. Their 76 wRC+ this season is the lowest in a full season since the 2013 Miami Marlins ended with 74. The Rockies are bottom-five this season in HardHit% (35%), BB%, and Swing%. So they are up there hacking, not making hard contact, and not walking. This isn’t a recipe for Coors success.
And third – perhaps most importantly – is they will face Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Dinelson Lamet the next three days. Those guys are just three of the most important parts of the machine that is the San Diego pitching staff that ranks second in SIERA and K% this season.
Pitchers with Potential
Oakland Athletics (vs. LAA) – Anytime we see the Oakland staff pitching at home against a mediocre to poor lineup, we need to sit up and pay attention. Only Oracle Park in San Francisco has been better at suppressing runs than the Coliseum the last three years, including allowing 21% fewer home runs than league average.
Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, and Cole Irvin are scheduled to take the bump the next three days against an Angels squad that ranks 23rd in the majors in road wRC+. I am especially interested in Just Another Manaea Monday (great Bangles song) as he comes in at $9,900 on FanDuel in the first game of the series. And then there’s Montas, fresh off 6.2 innings, eight strikeouts, and just two earned runs against the Royals last week.
The Angels already enter this series with the lowest walk rate and the fifth-lowest slugging percentage on the road this year, and I just can’t see any way this isn’t an offensive drought the next three days for the Halos.
Arms to Avoid
Philadelphia Phillies (@LAD) – This one is simple calculus, really. To start the week, the Phillies will roll out Spencer Howard (exciting young rookie), Zach Eflin (had some brilliant stretches this year), and Zach Wheeler (legitimate ace in 2021). But the problem is they all have to roll up to the House of Pain in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers possess the highest wRC+ of any home team this season.
Even though its park factor may just be middle of the road the last three years (ranked 15th overall), Dodger Stadium has become a place of nightmares for opposing pitchers, especially this year. The Dodgers rank in the top ten in BB%, OBP, SLG, HardHit%, and wOBA among all home teams this season.
The Dodgers just keep finding ways to come at you. Corey Seager sidelined with injury? Here’s Cody Bellinger back in the lineup. Max Muncy on the IL? Here is Gavin Lux roping doubles and driving in runs. It’s relentless for the opposition, which spells out an F-A-D-E fade for me.
I will, however, be glued to the Wheeler/Kershaw matchup on Wednesday. That’s about as close as we get to must-see-TV in mid-June.
Data Sources: Fangraphs, Baseball Savant
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