It’s getting warmer in most parts of the country and that can only mean one thing – Major League Baseball is BACK!! After a challenging season on the diamond last year, MLB is intending to run a complete 162 game schedule and we’re going to be here with a pitching breakdown through it! The goal is to identify the pitchers we want in both Cash and GPP formats using metrics to tell us who we should target so let’s dig into Starting Rotation Opening Day!
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.
Yu Darvish ($10,400 DK/$10,700 FD)
FB – 24.8% (29th) CT – 40.2% (12th) SL – 14.6% (4th) CB – 12.4% (7th)
It’s a bit weird to begin Starting Rotation Opening Day with a pitcher I’m not super excited about. I will not likely land on Darvish, but I believe he might be popular on DK especially. I do think there are reasons to not spend up. Brian outlined this in his fantastic Picks and Pivots article but Darvish was well above career averages last season. He set career highs in left on-base percentage, ERA, FIP, xFIP, and HR/9. Furthermore, Arizona sported the third-lowest K rate against righty pitching last year. If Darvish sticks with his cutter-heavy approach, that could pose an issue against Arizona as well. They were 12th against that pitch last season as a team. When you’re paying this price, you need strikeouts and a lot of them. If Darvish is projecting to be chalky, perhaps we eat it. If not, I’d be happy to go elsewhere.
Luis Castillo ($9,200 DK/$8,900 FD)
FB – 52.3% (19th) CH – 30% (30th) SL – 17.7% (12th)
Over on FD, Castillo feels like a bargain since he’s under $9,000. St. Louis finished with a top 12 strikeout rate against righties last season, making Castillo appealing right off the bat. The changeup data is very intriguing as well. According to BrooksBaseball, the changeup was a big weapon for Castillo. He recorded 54 of his 96 strikeouts last year with the change, generating a swing 61% of the time. With the Cardinals finishing dead last against the pitch last year, that’s a great start for Castillo’s potential success. They were also 22nd or worse in OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+. There’s no getting around this offense wasn’t that great last season.
Now, there’s also no getting around the Cards are a different offense this year. You can’t add Nolan Arenado and not be better offensively. Past that addition, the Cards lineup looks strikingly similar to the 2020 season. It also has to be noted that Arenado finished with a negative FanGraphs rating against the change last year. Castillo looks rock solid by any metric we can trot out.
Tyler Glasnow ($8,800 DK/$10,000 FD)
FB – 60.6% (20th) CB – 35% (10th)
I’m not sure I can properly state my Glasnow love. He’s my dark horse to win the AL Cy Young this season. He just needs to stay healthy, I believe he is that talented. Perhaps the biggest criticism of Glasnow out there is he’s a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and curve. It’s a fair critique since he threw those two pitches over 95% of the time last year. Well, that’s not the case this season. Take a look from MLB.com –
“I know he’s pretty excited about it, and he should be because he feels like he can land that pitch [for strikes] fairly consistently,” Cash said before the game. “With Glas, it’s a lot of fastballs at the top of the zone [and] featuring that snap curveball right off that fastball. … A slider has a little bit more shape, a little bit more tilt to it, and something that he can harness in the zone a little bit better.”
Last season saw Glasnow give up too many runs which can be easy to do with a 1.73 HR/9. However, his K rate spiked to over 38% and his xFIP was 2.75 compared to his 4.08 ERA. His walk rate was a bit high at 9.2% but that was still the second-best mark of his career. Adding a pitch should help keep the ball in the park. Opposing teams teed off on his fastball, hitting a home run 15 times off that pitch. With a new offering, that can quell some of the bombs. With Miami holding a top 10 K rate against RHP last season, I’m in love with Glasnow for this slate. The fish also finished dead last in ISO against righties with the 26th wOBA. Glasnow can offer the upside of any pitcher on the DK side for far less salary.
Kyle Hendricks ($7,700 DK)
FB – 54.5% (30th) CH – 28.9% (22nd) CB – 16.6% (28th)
I have no interest in Hendricks on FD as I’d rather play Castillo if nothing else. DK is a different story since the field will want to fit at least one or two Coors Field bats in their lineup. Many will likely turn to Hendricks, hoping he can pick on the Pirates lineup. It can best be described as “nine players that will try to hit the baseball” because it’s not good at all.
The best hitters would be Bryan Reynolds and possibly Ke’Bryan Hayes, but there are questions about the latter’s qualities as a hitter. The Pirates finished eighth last year in K rate to RHP and were 30th in OBP, slugging, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+. Even with some positive movement, they are still going to be a bad offense. Hendricks doesn’t possess the qualities we typically look for with just a 20.3% K rate but teams make hard contact just 26.4% of the time. He’s not going to be a slate-breaker but a solid outing is all you need.
Honorable Mention – Kenta Maeda (Brian goes deeper in Picks and Pivots, we’ll need to see if he’s chalky)
Note – On FD, I would have a strong inclination to play Shane Bieber in cash. He gets the Tigers, who led the league in K rate to RHP last season. I can’t possibly see him whiffing 41.1% of the hitters faced or stranding 91% of base runners again but even with regression this is still a nuts matchup.
Jack Flaherty ($8,600 DK/$8,600 FD)
FB – 55.8% (11th) SL – 28.7% (26th) CB – 13.6% (29th)
Flaherty had a pretty strange 2020 season. For one, he barely pitched over 40 innings. When we talk about 202 stats, they all need a large grain of salt because the season was so short and different from the norm. In Flaherty’s case, the K rate was in line at 28.8%, his fly ball rate went down to 25.7% and his xFIP was 3.42 compared to a 4.91 ERA. One of the biggest aspects that hurt Flaherty was a strand rate of just 68.8%. In the previous season, he sported an 83.3% strand rate and that is a huge gap.
The Reds lineup can be dangerous as they were sixth in ISO BUT they also were 28th in average and sixth in K rate to righties. The weather is supposed to be quite chilly for Opening Day and that almost always favors the pitcher. The NL lost the designated hitter this year as well, so pitchers will have a slight advantage in that league. Lastly, Flaherty had a 9.45 ERA on the road which drove some of his struggles. I’m not taking a 13.1 and 40.1 inning sample size as an indication of what he can do on the mound.
Brandon Woodruff ($8,000 DK/$8,700 FD)
FB – 65.1% (17th) CH – 17.6% (9th) SL – 10.7% (16th)
When a pitcher goes against names like Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, and Josh Donaldson, that’s not always who we’re chasing. This could quietly be a pretty good spot for Woodruff though. The Twins sported the seventh-highest K rate to RHP at 25.5%. They also finished 22nd in OBP. With a fastball-heavy approach, Woodruff could find success in this spot. It doesn’t hurt him that the Twins will lose their DH in this game either. The flip side of this matchup is Minnesota was top 10 in wOBA, wRC+, and ISO last season. Woodruff was tougher on RHH with a 33% K rate and a 0.96 HR/9 in 2020. With the main power hitters for the Twins being righty hitters, Woodruff could be low-rostered with a big ceiling.
Note – On FD, Gerrit Cole is in play in any format. I tend to prefer him in GPP because I’d just play Bieber in cash. However, Cole draws a good matchup based on the handedness of the Blue Jays lineup. Toronto is projected to have seven of nine hitters on the right side of the plate and Cole dominated righty hitters last season. He only allowed a .201 batting average and a .250 wOBA to that side of the plate. The other wild card is who’s catching Cole. The Yankees have stated that Gary Sanchez will catch Cole to start the season. That didn’t go super well last season through 46 innings. Cole sat at a 3.91 ERA, .776 OPS, and 12 of 14 homers came with Sanchez as his catcher. That doesn’t mean there’s not a ceiling to be had but Bieber is the safer play.
Every day, I’ll have one prop that I’m chasing for free in the article. Anything else that I’m playing will be located in our Premium Sports Bets!
Thursday Free Bet
Padres O 4.5 runs, -132 on DK SportsBook
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