Saturday brings us some split slate action and before we get into that, we have to shout out our man Matt Vecchio. This man is printing money over in NASCAR and is just wildly knowledgeable about the sport. He guided me to a top 30 finish and all I know about NASCAR is the cars go fast, Ricky Bobby-style. Do yourself a favor and get on board! Now we can talk about the six and eight-game slates in the MLB DFS Starting Rotation 9.18 and find our paths to green!
It doesn’t matter where he’s pitching, Max Scherzer is an elite option. He has somehow found a whole new level as a Dodger. Mad Max can smell a championship and in eight starts, he’s struck out at least six hitters and made it through five innings in every single one. The ERA is 0.88 and he has 72 strikeouts over that time. I’m simply not fading that. His seasonal metrics remain elite with a K rate over 35%, a swinging-strike rate inside the top five at 16.4%, and everything has gotten better in Dodger blue. You just play him and count the strikeouts and on a six-game slate with no other realistic ace options, it’s even harder to pivot away.
Mad Max is going to be insane levels of chalk because of the 11 other options, I’m not sure many are good. The only other two that I think have pathways to succeed are Luis Gil and Nick Pivetta. I know that skips over Sonny Gray but I’m just not on board with him against the Dodgers. They have had their issues and Luis Castillo smoked them last night, but that puts the Dodgers one day closer to going off.
Anyways, let’s talk about Gil. He’s only made five starts and totaled 25 innings in the majors so we still don’t have a strong track record to fall back on. It’s noteworthy that the 4.76 xFIP is a good deal higher than the 2.88 ERA he’s managed so far. The good news is he’s also sported a 29.6% K rate and that can help mitigate any damage he allows. The swinging-strike rate is 12.8% and he’s mostly just used his four-seam and slider so far. They both have a whiff rate over 28.5% and the four-seam is sitting at about 96 MPH. There are some fly-ball tendencies since both sides of the plate are over 50% and the walk rate is very high at over 13%. Cleveland is at a 23.9% K rate this season and just a 7.5% walk rate, so even with his warts, Gil is in play.
Playing Pivetta isn’t going to be super comfortable either but the matchup does help. Chris Sale struggled to strike hitters out last night but Baltimore is much worse against righty pitching, so that helps. They are inside the top 10 in K rate at 24.6% and are no better than 20th in OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+. Pivetta is another player that I don’t expect to just totally cruise but he is better against the right side of the plate and he carries a 26% K rate into this spot. The WHIP, wOBA, HR/9, and xFIP are all lower for Pivetta against righties, and Baltimore is projected to send out seven. It’s also nice to see the Orioles are -10 in FanGraphs rating against the slider and Pivetta uses that pitch a lot against righties. It has a .325 wOBA but that’s not a strength for Baltimore, leaving Pivetta as my likely SP2.
MLB DFS Starting Rotation 9.18 Afternoon Stacks
It’s time to play “how many Rays can I fit with my pitchers of choice” i.e. everyday life for Brian. They dare Tarik Skubal…sort of. Detroit has limited him to 50 and 49 pitches in his last two starts so I’m not as concerned with the matchup here for Tampa as far as Skubal goes. They’ll get the bullpen so I like fitting in lefties like Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows because some may shy away from the lefty versus lefty matchup. Punts like Kevin Kiermaier and Brett Phillips could really help fit Scherzer and then you can roll from there, depending on the Tampa lineup. This isn’t our usual pitch type breakdown but I’ll take Rays against Detroit every day.
I’m mostly building the Tampa stack around my Rockies stack because they have the tools to smash Patrick Corbin. My first two in the lineup without fail are C.J. Cron and Trevor Stroy. They are perfect compliments to the Rays because Wander Franco is on the IL and the Rays don’t have a “must-play” first baseman. Corbin throws the sinker about 37% of the time against righties and it’s giving up a .217 ISO and 45% hard-hit rate. Story and Cron wreck that pitch with ISO’s of .352 and .414 along with wOBA’s of .483 and .607. They are also over a .385 wOBA and .265 ISO against lefties on the season. If you don’t want to go Lowe, Brendan Rodgers is the best statistical lefty masher in Colorado and you could run that trio and roll Tampa around them.
It’s going to be hard to not lock in Corbin Burnes. He almost threw a no-hitter the last time on the mound and the last time he saw this Cubs lineup, he whiffed 15 hitters across eight of the most dominant innings of the season. Burnes has everything we want out of an ace. He has both sides of the plate under a .245 wOBA, the xFIP is no higher than 2.45 against either side, both sides whiff at least 34% and the WHIP is no higher than one. He should be one of the front runners for NL Cy Young, even if he likely doesn’t win it. The Cubs offense has been peskier than perception since the deadline as they are 15th in ISO but the K rate is flirting with 30%. I’m simply not going to pass that up.
If we can find the offense to make things work, we have to talk about my main dude Lance Lynn as well. At least that was my train of thought before I saw DK has him under $9,000, which I will gladly take. I will not fade Burnes for him but would love to go double ace because Lynn should be facing a righty-heavy lineup and that’s been a big boost for him this season. Everything in his fastball-heavy arsenal plays better against the right side since he has a .227 wOBA, 31.2% K rate, 2.71 FIP, and just a 25% hard-hit rate. Texas is just at a 22.9% K rate since the deadline but they also rate 27th against the fastball and 28th against the cutter. With Lynn throwing a sinker, four-seam, or cutter almost 92% of the time, this checks the boxes for the big guy.
Yusei Kikuchi has been a tough guy to be on the right side of this season, to be sure. The Royals don’t offer us a lot of strikeouts against lefties since they sit under 20% for the season but they do have the sixth-highest ground ball rate at 45.1%. Kikuchi matches that with a 49.4% rate himself and the Royals have not hit lefties well since the deadline. I grant you, the K rate is the best in the majors in that span but they are no higher than 13th in OPS, OBP, wOBA, wRC+, and they are 29th in ISO. If Kikuchi can keep the ball in the yard and on the ground, he could get deep into this game with 4-6 strikeouts and still make it work. His cutter has been his wort pitch by results with a .367 wOBA but the Royals are only 22nd against that pitch.
The last pitcher in consideration (and I promise that I’m not trying to skimp, these slates just aren’t great for pitching, gang. There are some tough matchups on the board and I’m happy to take a stand) is Lance McCullers. We quickly touched on this in Friday’s article but McCullers wound up starting tonight instead. Lefties can get to him but Arizona is also striking out at the seventh-highest rate at 24.7%. His curveball surprisingly only has 45 strikeouts and he throws it almost exclusively to lefties. That helps explain why his K rate against lefties is 25.3% and it is 29.4% against righties. I don’t think he has the highest ceiling but I don’t have a big issue past I’ll just play Lynn.
MLB DFS Starting Rotation 9.18 Stacks
It’s a bit of a weird slate because there aren’t a lot of pitchers that I want, but there aren’t a lot of pitchers that scream go all-in on stacking against them. Where I land is in GPP, let’s take a shot at getting in on the Yu Darvish regression. He has a wOBA over .300 since July and he’s using the cutter the most against righty hitters at around 38%. It just so happens that A. His cutter has given up 10 home runs and has a .360 wOBA and B. there’s a trio of Cardinals that smash righty cutters. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Tyler O’Neill are all priced like Darvish has been pitching well lately and all of them have at least a .352 wOBA and .222 ISO against that pitch type. O’Neill especially stands out with a .504 wOBA and 68.4% (!) hard-hit rate.
After that, I’m looking at some cheaper Angels since the A’s are throwing Daulton Jeffries and he has a 4.88 xFIP, which could be exploitable. The strikeout upside is negligent at 13.8% and he uses a sinker over 33% of the time. I know he’s been struggling lately, but Shohei Ohtani is about as cheap as we can get him and hammers sinkers with a .522 ISO and .564 wOBA along with a 344-foot average distance. We can then add on Brandon Marsh and maybe even a cheap Luis Rengifo who both have an ISO of .200 against the sinker as well.
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