My goodness was it fun to have baseball back yesterday! Between the articles, bets, and calls in the Discord, we had a very solid first day of action. I will remind you guys to not get too crazy with the bankroll. MLB is a grind and is tough as far as the variance. Play within the means, be smart with it, and we’re going to grow that bankroll, continuing with the Starting Rotation 4.2!
Note – The numbers under the pitcher represent how often he threw a pitch. The number in the parentheses is how the opposition ranked against said pitch type in 2020 until 2021 data stabilizes.
Blake Snell ($9,700 DK/$9,500 FD)
FB – 50.6% (29th) CH – 19.8% (29th) SL – 15% (4th) CB – 14.6% (7th)
Well, it took all of one day for the starting pitching to look like it got hit with an ugly stick. Yesterday it felt like we had options. Today is different for sure. Snell lands atop the board here but I think the field will take one of two paths. The first is to just lock in Snell. The only other ace-style pitcher on the slate is Trevor Bauer, but he’s in Coors Field. The second path could be to just pay down and get the bats they want. I lean most take the best pitcher they feel comfortable with, hence Snell.
That’s not to say there aren’t concerns here. For one, Arizona carried the seventh-best K rate against LHP last season at just 21%. The pitch data is either good for Snell or quite bad for Snell, pending which pitch he’s using. The pitch mix is not guaranteed to be the same since he’s with a new team. All in all, Snell is likely the “safest” option on the board. Even if the strikeouts aren’t flowing, The D-Backs struggled in other ways against the southpaws last season. They were no higher than 25th in OBP, slugging, OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ through last season. The only real addition to the lineup is veteran Asdrubal Cabrera so Snell stands to likely be popular on both sites.
Pablo Lopez ($7,000 DK/$7,800 FD)
FB – 55.1% (26th) CH – 29.8% (3rd) CT and CB were under 9% of the time
I’m going to come clean right now and flat out say I have a very pro Pablo Lopez bias. I think he’s extremely talented and it’s only a matter of time before he really puts it together. He’s still barely 25 years old and this is an interesting spot for him. For one, he’s always been better at home with a career 3.28 ERA compared to 6.11 on the road. I do have some concerns about the Rays lefties in this matchup because Lopez gave up a .310 wOBA and a 14.7% K rate to that side of the plate.
However, the righties whiffed 36% of the time against Lopez. The projected Rays lineup A. loses the DH and B. has four lefties in it. The Marlins righty is dependent on the four-seam and change, having at least a 15% whiff rate on those two pitches. His fastball used to be a weakness but has steadily improved over the past three seasons to the point it was his highest-valued pitch last year. Lopez is cheap and has potential here even with some potentially scary LHH like Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe in the batter’s box. We would back off this pick if the Rays really overloaded on LHH.
Honorable Mention – Possibly Ryan Yarbrough, I’d want to see how popular he’s projected to be
Jesus Luzardo ($7,900 DK/$7,200 FD)
FB – 53.3% (21st) SL – 22.4% (9th) CH – 23.9% (25th)
This is a slate to take some risks so let’s get nuts. Luzardo is one of the most talented pitchers on the slate for just pure stuff and filthiness. He flew through the minors and did scuffle a little bit in his first “full” season last year with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.37 HR/9. There are some encouraging signs underneath for Luzardo. His fly-ball rate was just 30.7% and the hard-hit rate was 32% so there’s nothing totally egregious there. Luzardo also still struck out a hitter per inning, which is nothing to sneer at.
Here’s what gives me some strong encouragement. Firstly, Luzardo was excellent at home last year. That’s not a huge shock as Oakland checked in at 31st in runs and home runs last year in park factor. Luzardo also struck out lefties over 25% of the time and the Astros are suddenly a little bit lefty-heavy. Sure, they still have Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa. The loss of George Springer is a big deal for the Houston lineup and Luzardo likely has three lefties to face in the heart of the order. This spot is certainly dangerous, but there’s a wider range of outcomes and one includes a strong start from the A’s youngster. The pitch data is encouraging for Luzardo and on this slate, he’s worth some exposure.
Yusei Kikuchi ($6,000 DK/$7,500 FD)
CT – 39.9% (26th) FB – 37.7% (8th) SL – 16.1% (2nd) SF thrown 6.3%
When we’re talking about safe options for tonight, we’re really not going to find them on this slate as far as there not being nit-picks. I feel like Coors Field (especially the Dodgers bats) will be the focus of salary spent. There’s not a ton of great options at pitcher so the field will try to win with the hitters and not blow up with their pitchers. Kikuchi is carrying some momentum from spring training where his fastball had some serious life to it and hit up to 97 MPH. With the Giants ranking 26th against his primary pitch last year, I am interested.
Now, we have to talk about the drawbacks here. The Giants were quietly elite against the lefties last season. They finished top-four in average, OBP, slugging, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ last year against southpaws. That is hard to get by in this spot but if Kikuchi is figuring out how to pitch in the majors, we want to be ahead of the curve. The fact he’s the cheapest starter on DK does help his case, but do not think there isn’t significant risk in playing Kikuchi. He could check in chalky just because of the price and if that’s the case, he’d be my SP2 for cash games. I would just prefer to go GPP-only here.
Honorable Mention – Johnny Cueto, (FD only)
Note – So we haven’t talked about Trevor Bauer much unless it’s been in passing. It’s easy to say “He’s in Coors” and be done with it but that’s not good enough. Does he have upside, even in a tough environment? Of course, he does. The man is the reigning and defending NL Cy Young. However, there are some frightening metrics overall for Bauer. His strand rate was 90.9% last season. That’s just not happening again. His ERA was 1.73 and the xFIP was 3.25 which means he’s due some home run regression as well.
That would be backed up by the massive 47.8% fly-ball rate that Bauer displayed last year. There are not many worse parks to have a monster fly ball rate. It led the league last year and for some context, Gerrit Cole was second at 43.1%. Cole had an 18.7% FB/HR rate while Bauer was 12%. Colorado also only whiffed 22% of the time at home against RHP last year, 21st in the league. The lefties had the advantage on Bauer with a .258 wOBA and a 1.89 HR/9 last year. There are some serious red flags here and I would rather play some Rockies LHH ahead of Bauer.
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Friday Free Bet
Orioles O 3.5 Runs
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