It’s a bit of a weird Saturday as we do have a split slate, but there are only three games in the afternoon. We do get a full 10 game slate in the evening, so we’ll be focusing on that. I’ll be around in Discord a little bit tomorrow to drop some notes with the early, but this article will focus solely on the evening slate. With 20 pitchers to get to, we may as well get to work and figure out the paths in front of us for Starting Rotation 5.15 and find the green!
Bauer is sure to be popular tonight but it’s hard to find a reason he shouldn’t be. The price is high but you pay for a 34.7% K rate and a 0.81 WHIP, not to mention the 12.5% swinging-strike rate. The Marlins lineup plays to his strengths as well, as he’s better to righties at a 39.8% K rate, .220 wOBA, and a .474 OPS. With the Marlins also carrying a top 10 K rate to righties at 26.1%, it’s not hard to see the upside.
Trevor Bauer, 96mph Fastball and K Scream 😱 pic.twitter.com/UTJTWKn22r— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 5, 2021
Trevor Bauer, 96mph Fastball and K Scream 😱 pic.twitter.com/UTJTWKn22r
His fly-ball rate is never going to be enjoyable since it’s between 45-48% since the start of last year and the HR/9 is 1.43 this season. That’s not particularly ideal but even averaging a bomb allowed per start, the K rate mitigates that facet. Both the cutter and curve have allowed three homers each but they also sport a whiff rate of at least 33.3% and an average under .220. We just have to live with it and watch the strikeouts pile up.
If we knew that Rodon was on a normal schedule and everything was fine, there’s an argument to be had that he’d be a better play than Bauer at the salaries involved. However, Rodon has had this start pushed back with hamstring and back issues, and that’s not what I’m hoping for when spending five figures on a pitcher. There’s a little more risk than normal, and likely pushes the field further to Bauer. We also can’t ignore him with a 37.3% K rate and a 0.29 HR/9. The FIP/xFIP combo is 1.84/2.86 so while they are higher than the 0.58 ERA, nothing suggests that Rodon’s been anything other than dominant to this point.
The pitch mix is relatively stagnant, even though the curve is new. Rodon isn’t throwing it enough to explain the massive leap but the four-seam velocity going from 92.8 MPH to 95 MPH on average definitely helps.
Carlos Rodón, 98mph 🔥…and K strut. pic.twitter.com/2JSYW4YEsW— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 8, 2021
Carlos Rodón, 98mph 🔥…and K strut. pic.twitter.com/2JSYW4YEsW
The difference is massive as last year, teams had a .267 average and a 14.3% whiff rate against it. This year, it’s sporting a .089 average and a 33.1% whiff rate. Rodon has held righties to a .204 wOBA, .422 OPS, and a 34.7% K rate. Kansas City only whiffs 19.9% of the time to lefty pitching but Rodon is pitching so well I’m not even worried about that end of it.
The price is higher than I had hoped, but Anderson does at least possess some ceiling with a couple of starts over 22 DK on the season. His FIP/xFIP numbers are in line with a 3.46 ERA at 3.54 and 3.13 each, so there’s no major red flag there. The K rate has dropped a little bit from last season but it’s still 26.4% so that checks out. Milwaukee still carries a top-five K rate in baseball to righties so the upside is absolutely present. Anderson is generating a 53.5% ground ball rate and the Brewers are right about league-average in that department. I do have one fear with him and it’s the fact the Brewers can load up with potentially five lefties.
When we look at what has shifted this season for Anderson, the lefty splits are easy to single out. In 2020, he faced 71 lefties and they had a .201 wOBA with a 36.6% K rate. This year, they are at .326 for the wOBA and only whiffing 26.9% of the time through 52 faced. The BABIP is .300 but he’s also stranded 84.5% so I’m not convinced he’s been terribly unlucky. Looking at his pitch selection is a bit weird. He’s been pretty hesitant to use the four-seam to lefties, with 81 this year compared to 91 changeups.
Ian Anderson's changeup is a work of art.The @Braves right-hander breaks down how he throws his signature pitch. pic.twitter.com/lkcNJSS1br— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) March 20, 2021
Ian Anderson's changeup is a work of art.The @Braves right-hander breaks down how he throws his signature pitch. pic.twitter.com/lkcNJSS1br
The changeup has been very good with just a .216 wOBA allowed and 20 strikeouts (plus a 44.6% whiff rate) but it just hasn’t come together for Anderson to that side. I think with the salary involved, I’d likely leave him for GPP.
On a better pitching slate, perhaps Garcia doesn’t make the cut. I believe past Bauer, there are questions and paths for failure for just about anyone else but Garcia could also be a gold mine. The big issue for him is the lefty splits. They’re hitting him for a .392 wOBA right now and that is a problem. The Texas lineup will generally feature four lefties, although only Nate Lowe and Willie Calhoun have a wOBA above .305 right now. Garcia has been excellent to righties with a .242 wOBA, 29.2% K rate, and 0.87 WHIP. The theory is if he can avoid Lowe and Calhoun while Joey Gallo and David Dahl say quiet, the path for a good start is right there.
Garcia is interesting because, despite the flaws, the K rate is 28.5% through 30 IP this season. His fly-ball rate is super high at over 50% but at least Texas is 29th in fly-ball rate to righties at 31.2%. Texas also continues to fluctuate between the worst and third-worst K rate to righty pitching, depending on the day. Garcia’s four-seam has a .382 wOBA which isn’t helping but every single one of his secondary pitches have a whiff rate over 42%. That just doesn’t happen on accident and the top three fastball hitters (Nick Solak, Calhoun, and Gallo) are all neutral or negative to the secondary pitches. If Garcia can limit damage to his four-seam, this spot makes plenty of sense.
While the walks weren’t great, this past start was a good step for McKenzie. He got into the sixth inning and he went 13-21 on first-pitch strikes, which was a major focus point heading into that game. It’s been a consistent theme when the start has gone poorly and his rate went from 66.1% last year to 55.7% this year. This spot could breed more success as the Mariners are bottom-six to his entire pitch mix, and the price is still low. For all the issues with McKenzie, some metrics point towards hope like his swinging-strike rate going up to 13.6%. this season. The K rate is also still very strong at 32.1% and it’s mostly just the walk rate at 20.8% that is killing him. Lefties have tagged him for a .430 wOBA but the BABIP is .333, which has to come down at some point.
Triston McKenzie, Nasty 80mph Curveball…and Sword ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/zpFLABJvOO— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 17, 2021
Triston McKenzie, Nasty 80mph Curveball…and Sword ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/zpFLABJvOO
When we look at the pitch mix, I think seeing the four-seam go from 53.3% last year to 68.1% this season is largely a product of his control issues. He’s fallen behind so many times, he’s less likely to go with a secondary pitch and a 92 MPH fastball isn’t likely to survive in today’s MLB. The fact he’s generated a higher whiff rate at 28.9% than the 2020 mark of 23.7% tells you it is a very good four-seam. Throwing it nearly 70% of the time just isn’t going to work out to a high degree. To wit, in the last start, he threw a total of 28 sliders and curves. Those 28 pitches generated 12 swings, eight of which missed. The stuff overall is good, McKenzie just has to find the strike zone more consistently and with the Mariners whiffing 25.2% of the time to righties, this is one of the better spots McKenzie could have.
Aaron Nola – Vinnie Velo just had a very good outing against the Jays and I would very much imagine everyone flocks to Bauer for $700 more. The K rate is respectable at 27.3% and Nola has cut his walk rate in half down to 4%. He sits on a four-seam/curve/change mix and Toronto is the second-best team against the curve, which is a small concern. His splits though are overwhelming for this Jays lineup, as they only play two lefties. Nola has stamped out righty hitters with a .230 wOBA, .524 OPS, and a 29.1% K rate. I will note that Nola is sporting an ERA shift of over four runs on the road, over 6.00. The only reason I say this is because his career marks are a 4.14 ERA on the road compared to a 2.90 ERA at home.
Adam Wainwright – I’m likely not going to use him tonight, so he’s a slam dunk for 29 DK points or higher. Honestly, that’s the last four games with Waino. In the one game I played him, he scuffled to score 10 DK and the other three I’ve left him be and he’s gone for 29+ every time. The Padres are ninth against the curve and would actually be sixth if we take out Fernando Tatis’ rating against the pitch. The 23.5% K rate would be the highest of his 16-year career, which is kind of stunning. It’s not a surprise to see the 31.1% CSW follow right along in those footsteps. With the curve giving up just a .227 wOBA and a 35.2% whiff rate, I wouldn’t ignore him on this shaky pitching slate.
Domingo German – I prefer McKenzie, but if you feel differently you can roll with German. His primary pitch is his curve and Baltimore is 26th against it, which is a nice little checkmark for German. It has only given up a .153 wOBA and he has a 23.7% K rate to go along with it. German is also generating ground balls at a very solid clip of 43.6% and the CSW is 29.5%. The HR/9 of 2.01 isn’t great, but the HR/FB rate is 16.7% should come down a hair. His xFIP is almost dead on the 4.02 ERA so it is somewhat a case of what you see is what you get and German is under $8,000 and in play.
Justus Sheffield – Cleveland is 26th or worse in wOBA, wRC+, OPS, slugging, and OBP against lefty pitching even though they don’t whiff a lot at just 21.2%. Sheffield does not utilize a pitch over 31% to righty hitters which is his sinker, and only Jose Ramirez and Jordan Luplow have an ISO over .155 and a wOBA over .360. I do like that 1-2 punch, but it’s not crazy to play Sheffield. The 4.91 ERA is not matching the 4.32 xFIP and even with a 19.2% K rate, he’s not so pricey you need a ton of strikeouts to make it work.
Joe Ross – Something about being on the road agrees with Ross, as he’s always been better away from home. That trend has continued this year with a 1.23 ERA and he’s holding both sides of the plate under a .265 wOBA. He’s another pitcher on this slate who leans on the sinker, and only Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta look dangerous against that pitch. The K rate is 21.1% which would tie his best mark ever, as would the 29.8% CSW. The walk rate is a concern in the double-digits, but he’s under $7,000 and you could do worse here.
Tyler Mahle – If you play MME, I wouldn’t blame you for a small share of Mahle. I wanted to potentially build a case for him but the Rockies at home have woken up. They are seventh in OPS, third in ISO, and eighth in wOBA to righties in Coors. My train of thought was they would at least strike out because Mahle has a 32.4% K rate, but Colorado also whiffs just 21.4% of the time. With Mahle also having a 10.4% walk rate, it’s only going to take one swing of the bat to ruin his start if he walks a couple of guys in a row.
Chris Paddack – He’s turned into a reverse-splits pitcher with a .375 wOBA and .866 OPS to righties. Now, some of that is the .440 BABIP and his FIP and xFIP are both under 3.00 so perhaps I’m being too harsh putting him out of play. I just do not trust Paddack at all since he has over a season’s worth of poor starts and average results. He has yet to score over 17 DK points and five of six starts have resulted in under 12.5.
Brett Anderson – I suppose you could really test the “lefty pitching against Braves theory” we’ve been playing, but I simply can’t play a pitcher with a 12.9% K rate in DFS. McKenzie is cheaper with a K rate over 30% and even with his issues, that’s just not a choice.
Mike Minor – He managed to grind out 11 DK last game against the White Sox but gave up five runs. I’m not betting on a seven strikeout performance again and will have plenty of White Sox in the lineup. Lefty pitchers against the White Sox lineup do not end well, even with their missing pieces. They are first in every single category except for ISO, in which they sit third and Minor has a fly-ball rate over 41%.
Dane Dunning – The Texas righty has mostly feasted on good matchups while struggling in poor ones and the Astros fall into the poor end of the spectrum for him. They don’t strike out at just 19.6%, which is the best mark in the league. He’s throwing his sinker over 56% of the time to righties and every righty in the Astros lineup has a wOBA of at least .330 against that pitch. Dunning also has a .307 wOBA to righties, which likely doesn’t end well here.
Jorge Lopez – If you want to take a run with him, I guess you could. His .309 BABIP against righties is hurting, and the xFIP is only 3.74. Lopez also has a 22.6% K rate to that side of the plate but he also has a 1.83 HR/9. The 2-6 hitters for the Yanks all have an ISO over .265 against righty fastballs, which is about 30% of Lopez’s mix to that side. DJ LeMahieu only has a .189 ISO, but a .385 wOBA. That looks daunting.
Note – None of the bottom four in salary are in play. Yes, two starting pitchers tonight are $3,900 on DK. There’s plenty of reason to think they could both be in the negatives, and the other two are in very difficult spots.
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