Before we do anything else, HUGE congratulations to Brian for his monster night!! Brian is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, and it’s just fantastic to see the good guys get a giant win! Nobody deserves it more, enjoy it my man!
Friday brings us the monster slate that it always does and the pitching options are very good for a big slate. It looks like we might have to spend some money on pitching tonight, as the options the lower in salary you go get pretty sketchy. We don’t have the true punt that we’ve had recently, but not every slate will bring us that. With so many options to go over, let’s not waste any more time and get right to work in the Starting Rotation 5.14 to find the green!
Mad Max is coming off a monster game and I’m not sure if he heard my caution about playing him, had “new dad strength”, or a combo of both. Either way, he was in vintage form while striking out 14 hitters, and while I don’t expect that many again, it’s hard to argue against him. I’ll admit to being a worrywart with him when he has an average couple of starts. There are so many miles on that arm that it could go away quickly. Paying top dollar for him means we need top production. The metrics are starting to look even better and he has the K rate at 35.5% and the swinging-strike rate is up to 16.2%, both of which are higher than last season. A big reason for that is the O-Swing% (the rate at which a hitter makes contact while swinging at a pitch out of the zone) dropped from 58.8% to 51.3% this season. Looking at three different pitches, it makes total sense –
Max Scherzer, 94mph Fastball, 85mph Changeup and 86mph Slider, Overlay with Tails. pic.twitter.com/5vRzjysHV9— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 9, 2021
Max Scherzer, 94mph Fastball, 85mph Changeup and 86mph Slider, Overlay with Tails. pic.twitter.com/5vRzjysHV9
This is where it gets really good. The biggest shift in his whiff rate from his pitch mix has come from the four-seam and changeup. The four-seam is up to 34% from 28.8% and the change is up to 36.2% from 26.3%. Arizona should feature 5-6 lefty hitters, and Scherzer is using the changeup as his secondary offering to lefties. As in, the man has not thrown a single slider to lefties even though that is the second-most used pitch. The change is arguably his best pitch with a .040 wOBA. The slight downside is his cutter is used to lefties as well with a .305 wOBA, but even that pitch has a 30.4% whiff rate. The top three cutter hitters on the D-Backs are either on the IL (Ketel Marte, Kole Calhoun) or is not an everyday player (Josh VanMeter). Mad Max has lefties down to a .223 wOBA, .169 average, and a 2.32 FIP. This is a fantastic spot for him and he’s going to be popular since he’s cheaper than the next pitcher.
If Glasnow comes in at a very sharp difference from Scherzer in popularity, we need to take advantage of that. I don’t think they are super different in terms of fantasy, with the same floors and ceilings at this point. Glasnow has been letting in some runs and walking some hitters a little bit lately, but the K rate of 39.5% is still third among qualified starters. His swinging-strike rate is just a touch higher than Scherzer at 16.2% and the hard-hit rate is 25%. The fact he gives up a 44.8% fly-ball rate means he’s going toggle up a bomb or two, but a 1.09 HR/9 is very livable when he’s a threat to whiff double-digits every time out. His pitch mix is pretty stagnant to each side of the plate, but when each one features a whiff rate of 32.3%, you can really throw whatever you please to either side.
Tyler Glasnow, 97mph Fastball and 83mph Curveball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/LgpUUvq3SF— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 8, 2021
Tyler Glasnow, 97mph Fastball and 83mph Curveball, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/LgpUUvq3SF
The splits are fairly even for Glasnow but it’s still nice to see lefties are his best side with a .227 wOBA, 6.1% walk rate, and a 2.45 xFIP. Both sides strike out evenly at 39% or just a bit higher and Glasnow’s WHIP to lefties is only 0.72. All in all, there’s nothing wrong with playing Glasnow in any format. I would be shocked if Scherzer is not way more popular, which could make it very interesting to spend $200 more for Glasnow.
If Scherzer is chalk, and Glasnow will carry some attention, where exactly does that leave one of the best pitchers to ever throw? I mean, the metrics would suggest there’s not much reason to ignore him. The Marlins are fine to lefties, but nothing special to be sure. They rank no higher than 17th in all of our offensive categories except for ISO where they are 12th. That comes with the ninth-highest K rate to lefties and Kershaw sits at a 26.1% K rate himself. His past two games haven’t seen him throw more than 71 pitches but the leash is longer than that. He just had a 13 run lead the last start. Both the swinging-strike rate and the CSW are up from last year and sit at 15.6% and 32.2% each.
Clayton Kershaw, 92mph Fastball (foul) and 88mph Slider (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/PPHpnlqquw— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 18, 2021
Clayton Kershaw, 92mph Fastball (foul) and 88mph Slider (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/PPHpnlqquw
I can’t really think of any pitcher that uses the slider as the primary pitch to the extent Kershaw does, but that shouldn’t be an issue tonight. The Marlins rank 7th overall, but breaking it down further is intriguing. Jesus Aguilar jumps off the page and is in fact the highest-ranked slider hitter in baseball. He also sports a .313 ISO to lefties, so that is a clear danger zone for Kershaw. After that, the next two best slider hitters are both on the IL and the third is Corey Dickerson. If you’re worried about playing Clayton Kershaw and his .124 wOBA against lefties because a Marlins lefty hits a slider, I’m not sure that’s the path. Kershaw’s slider boasts a 41.6% whiff rate and he has the right side of the plate under a .300 wOBA as well. He could be a very interesting late-night hammer, even if the upside isn’t as evident as the top two options.
The Orioles offense is not that pretty against righty pitching this season. They are 27th or worse in average, OBP, slugging, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. They’re just under a 24% K rate and Kluber is almost at 23% himself. The walk rate is a little tough to swallow at 11.1% but the positives are the hard-hit rate is 28.6% and the fly ball rate is only 32%. The cutter data looks like it could be an issue but Cedric Mullins is really carrying that metric for Baltimore. Kluber is sporting a 13.4% swinging-strike rate, which is a serious weapon.
Here are the nice metrics for Kluber. His curve and his change are his best strikeout pitches, with a combined 25 of 35 for Kluber so far. He uses the curve to righties and it gets a .277 wOBA with a 31.5% whiff rate.
Corey Kluber, Wicked 82mph Breaking Ball. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/1Z6PI1yduM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 8, 2021
Corey Kluber, Wicked 82mph Breaking Ball. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/1Z6PI1yduM
To lefties, the change is his second-most used pitch (and the curve is third) and the change has a ridiculous 61.5% whiff rate and a .130 wOBA. Baltimore typically has a 5-4 righty/lefty split in their lineup, so that works well for Kluber’s mix. The righty numbers a bit of an obstacle at a 16.3% K rate and a .361 wOBA, but Baltimore might not be able to take advantage. The salary is high but the ceiling of over 20 DK is there as well.
The last couple of starts have been tougher spots for Musgrove for one reason or another, but we may have the spot to get him back on track. It’s seemingly easy to forget, but Big Joe is rocking this season with the ninth-highest swinging-strike rate in baseball at 15.2%, while the K rate overall is seventh at 34.8%. The fly-ball rate is under 30% and his slider is ranked as the second-best slider in baseball. To me, you can’t fake these kinds of numbers seven starts into the season and the slider has been evil so far. It’s only giving up a .061 slugging, .125 wOBA, has 28 of 54 strikeouts, and a massive 44.5% whiff rate. He’s thrown it 94 times to righties and the next closest pitch is his four-seam at 38 times. Considering the Cardinals roll out six RHH and the pitcher spot, I’m over the moon for this slider data.
Joe Musgrove, Wicked 84mph Slider…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/S3jtatbcOG— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 2, 2021
Joe Musgrove, Wicked 84mph Slider…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/S3jtatbcOG
Do you want things to get even better for Musgrove? In part, because the slider has been so good, righties only have a .189 wOBA, .420 OPS, .137 average, 0.61 HR/9, and a 35.2% K rate. Both the FIP and xFIP are 2.30 or lower and that’s with a strand rate of just 69.8%. St. Louis is whiffing 24% of the time and sits 26th in wOBA and wRC+ to righties. Their best slider hitter is Tyler O’Neil but he also whiffs over 32% of the time. We’ll see what the field does, but I am already hoping they pass over Musgrove because he might wind up being one of, if not my favorite plays on the entire slate. My hot take is he puts up a top-three score and is the best point per dollar play on the slate.
This will certainly be a GPP-only play, but the ceiling is there. Peterson has been on the roller coaster all year but does have two starts of at least 21 DK and has one over 34. Tampa has been a very good matchup for lefties so far, as they sit 20th or worse in all of our offensive categories and are striking out 32.1% of the time. That’s a massive number and for some of Peterson’s faults, the 28.6% K rate is super interesting. On the surface, the 5.54 ERA looks poor but the 3.13 xFIP tells us something is a little out of place. His HR/FB rate is 33.3%, fueling his 1.73 HR/9. The strand rate of 61.3% is well below his career mark of 71.3%, while the ground ball rate of 54.5% is very appealing. Even the 12.1% swinging-strike rate and 30.1% CSW tells us Peterson just hasn’t quite put it together….yet.
Tampa will likely put six righties in the lineup and that may well work out nicely for Peterson. His two secondary offerings after the sinker are his slider and change, and both pitches have at least a 31.8% whiff rate. The slider is giving up a .345 average but with a .323 BABIP overall, that almost has to come down. The slider is tied for the strikeout lead at 11 and even though the change has only generated two strikeouts, it has yet to give up a hit (albeit just six BBE). With Tampa’s struggles, I’d be willing to gamble on the ceiling for Peterson as I believe he’s been fairly unlucky so far.
Aaron Civale – By some metrics, he isn’t all that different than Zach Plesac from last night. The K rate from last year looks like it’s not here to stay and is only 18.1% this season, which isn’t all that great. His 2.91 ERA looks excellent, but the 4.11/4.16 FIP/xFIP combo has to be worrisome to some extent. He keeps the ball on the ground at a 51.9% rate but the swinging-strike rate of 8.7% doesn’t give me a ton of confidence. To Civale’s credit, he does have a wOBA under .280 to each side of the plate but we’re relying mostly on run prevention than strikeout upside. It’s hard to not get up to Kershaw, at the very least.
Sandy Alcantara – He will almost certainly get lost on this slate, but maybe he shouldn’t. Alcantara has both sides of the plate under a .280 wOBA although, in fairness, lefties have a 1.67 HR/9 and just a 20.2% K rate. However, LA is only using three lefties in the everyday lineup but only Max Muncy has an ISO over .150 on the season. Alcantara is using the changeup the most of any pitch (under 30% but still) and has only allowed a .180 wOBA and a .140 average against it. He really gets after lefties with it, so that’s a positive in this setting. The four-seam/slider combo is his go-to with righties, and those two have 25 total strikeouts. It’s a very dangerous spot, but with a K rate of 24.2%, you could see a sub-5% Alcantara do some damage in a tough spot.
Adrian Houser – If Ronald Acuna plays, the spot gets a little tougher but Houser is interesting nonetheless. He’s more of an MME player as I don’t think you need to go there, but the ground ball rate over 60% would lead the league if he qualified. His K rate to the right side is over 25% and while the HR/9 looks scary at 1.59, his HR/FB rate is 40% (!). Houser pounds the sinker, especially to the right side of the plate. It’s generating a .245 wOBA, 17 of 31 strikeouts, and a solid 19.1% whiff rate. Well, a solid whiff rate for a sinker anyway. Atlanta is dead last in ground ball rate to righty pitching, but sinkers can be tough. The only righty not named Acuna with an ISO over .175 is Dansby Swanson, so this could work well for Houser.
Zack Greinke – It’s now a string of three straight starts for Greinke without breaking double-digit DK points. I feel like that alone should leave him out of play at $9,500 because it’s pretty absurd he’s still that expensive. His pitch mix is all over the board, so it’s hard to anchor to that. The 18.8% K rate suggests minimal upside at this salary unless he can go seven scoreless innings. Both sides of the plate are over a .300 wOBA and righties are over a .825 OPS, which is a significant number. Texas does lead in K rate to righties but I remain unconvinced Greinke can really make that metric hurt.
Nick Pivetta – It’s a bit odd to see the Angels dead last in walk rate to righties, but that’s about where the good news ends for Pivetta. They are inside the top 10 in all our offensive categories and they only whiff 22.8% of the time. Pivetta is solid with a 23.3% K rate, keeping both sides under a .290 wOBA, and a barrel rate of only 5.4% but it’s just not the spot we need to challenge the Angels. Far be it for me to claim I get it all right, but Musgrove for $200 more seems like an absolute no-brainer.
Steven Matz – We profiled the Phillies top of the order against righty sinkers yesterday, and Matz is throwing his 45% of the time. Righty hitters have been doing the damage so far with a .344 wOBA and only a 17.9% K rate with a 1.69 HR/9 mixed in for good measure. That’s enough to leave me off Matz for this slate.
Drew Smyly – Every team not named the Washington Nationals have hit Smyly so far, who has a 5.42 xFIP, 3.24 HR/9, 19.6% K rate, 51.3% fly-ball rate, and a 7.34 FIP. His four-seam is getting hammered at a .550 slugging, .385 wOBA, and four home runs allowed. Milwaukee is a large strikeout risk but is also top-five against fastballs on the year. The samples are small, but Avisail Garcia, Tyrone Taylor, and Omar Narvaez are the top-three against fastballs and all have at least a .384 wOBA to lefties this season and offer some salary relief.
Johan Oviedo – I know Fernando Tatis is out, but I’m not exactly excited for Oviedo here. San Diego still has some dangerous hitters and both sides of the plater are over a .300 wOBA so far this season. San Diego has the second-best strikeout rate in baseball and there seems to be little reason to go after that.
Wade Miley – I’m generally wary of no-hitter pitchers in the next game and that’s not counting them going into Coors. I’ll give him the ground ball rate of 58.8% could help him survive even in the thin air, but the K rate of 19.7% is unappealing. The Rockies offense has taken a step back but still ranks 10th in slugging, OPS, OBP, and wOBA to lefties on the season. Miley is not the style of pitcher that will typically reward us in this situation, especially coming off 114 pitches last game.
Frankie Montas – Not only has Montas been tough to peg, but the splits also don’t do him any favors here. He should face five righties, if not more in the Minnesota lineup that already only whiffs 23.2% of the time. Montas has struggled to righties with a .364 wOBA, .839 OPS, and just a 16.9% K rate. That’s not enough for this slate in my eyes when it’s pretty crowded overall.
Chris Flexen – I don’t think Flexen is terrible, but what does he do so well to make us play him here? He’s worse to lefties with a .347 wOBA and only has a 16.3% K rate overall. Cleveland’s everyday lineup has six lefties in it and while the quality of those lefties varies, it’s still not a spot that looks great for Flexen. Not one of his pitches has a whiff rate over 27.8% and if he lets up a couple of runs, there’s no way for him to really climb out of the hole.
Vince Velasquez – He’s had a couple of legitimate starts in a row, but I’m not biting yet. I have to admit his curve has made a big difference so far. It’s jumped from a 17.5% whiff rate in 2020 to 33.3% this year, and it does have eight strikeouts so far. The biggest issue for me is he’s still throwing that four-seam roughly 51% of the time and it has a .488 slugging and a .382 wOBA against it. The Jays are seventh against fastballs on the season and ninth in ISO and OPS. Vinnie Velo does have a 31.1% HR/FB rate to righties, which is high but I can’t trust him against a power-laden, righty-heavy lineup.
Matt Shoemaker – Oakland isn’t quite as righty-heavy as in recent year with four lefties in the normal lineup. That’s enough to concern me since Shoemaker gets hammered by lefties with a .431 wOBA, 1.023 OPS, and a 3.65 HR/9. I’m chalking up the last start to Detroit’s stinkiness (it’s a word) than anything else.
Jake Arrieta – I suppose he is fine but the 20.7% K rate doesn’t do much for me, nor does the 4.82 xFIP. Arrieta is turning into a fly ball pitcher so far this year with a 43.6% mark and that’s an issue. Both sides of the plate are over a .300 wOBA and historically, lefties have greater success against him. His sinker is yielding a .467 slugging and .374 wOBA. Considering that’s his main pitch to both sides of the plate, it doesn’t seem like a good mix. I have a bad feeling he might be somewhat popular tonight. The pitchers under $7,000 look mostly pretty average to poor, and people will just continue to attack Detroit. Let’s hope I’m incorrect. It seems like paying up at pitcher is the route, using either Tigers or Brewers as salary relief (as an example), and working your big bats around that.
Riley Smith – We have a 44.1 inning sample size and the K rate is only 16.5%. Righties have a .364 wOBA and lefties have a 5.60 xFIP, so I’ll easily pass.
Griffin Canning – I’m not going to go here, but I want to keep tabs on him again. He exceeded 17 DK against the Dodgers in his last start and the xFIP is down to 4.07 compared to his 5.19 ERA. The K rate has jumped to 26.5%, which would be the best mark of his young career and he’s throwing his slider almost 11% more this season. We like that since it has a 45.9% whiff rate and only a .190 average. Boston is just 13th against that pitch so maybe he grinds out 15 DK, but I don’t have quite enough confidence with a .340 wOBA or higher to each side of the plate.
German Marquez – I want to see the Reds lineup. Both Nick Senzel and Mike Moustakas left the game last night with injuries, but they were down big. If they sit tonight….you could possibly talk me into this. Now, Marquez has a 6.08 ERA and a .332 wOBA at home so it’s still not great. What catches my eye is even at Coors, the HR/9 is just 0.38, the BABIP is .348 and the FIP/xFIP combo is 3.69/4.01. That is not all that bad, but we need the Reds lineup before making a call here.
Dean Kremer – This will be the third time Kremer has seen the Yankees and it hasn’t gone well so far. The 21.9% K rate is moderately interesting at this salary but the HR/9 is 2.08 and both sides of the plate have at least a .355 wOBA. Additionally, the K rate to righty hitting is just 15.2% and that likely doesn’t end well against a righty-heavy Yankees lineup. The same goes for the 4.98 xFIP to that side of the plate as well.
Tarik Skubal – Whew, boy this could get ugly. Skubal has a 3.33 HR/9 and is throwing the four-seam almost 54% and he has a 6.00 xFIP and 7.87 FIP. The scariest part is his strand rate is 86.7% so things might get far worse. When Skubal inevitably gives way, the bullpen is about the worst in baseball. The Cubbies have to be one of the premier stacks of the night. Kris Bryant has a .637 wOBA, .654 ISO, and is the best fastball hitter for the Cubs (23rd overall). Stacking or not, Bryant is one of the best hitters on the board tonight.
Wes Benjamin – We don’t play lefties against the Astros, especially one who has a 6.64 xFIP and more walks than strikeouts through 28 career IP.
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