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Daniel Norris and MLB DFS: Van-living, epic hair flow, and all the strikeouts...

Where the narrative meets the numbers.

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Miami Marlins
Hair. Flow.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I do not know if Daniel Norris still lives in his van, but I hope he does.

Norris once said:

“It’s like a yin-and-yang thing for me. I’m not going to change who I am just because people think it’s weird. The only way I’m going to have a great season is by starting out happy and balanced and continuing to be me. It might be unconventional, but to feel good about life I need to have some adventure.”

First things first, Daniel-san. It is not weird that you live in your van. It is epic.

You can read more about Norris and his 1978 Volkswagon here. Or, just google “Daniel Norris van” and see what lights up your feed.

Yours truly is a self-professed numbers-hater. I love fantasy sports, but what I really enjoy are narratives. So when I stumble across this funky information about Detroit’s starting pitcher while doing my research, I start to get excited. Why, you ask? Because there are legitimate reasons for starting the 24-year-old Tiger today. Reasons that go beyond van-living and hair flow. Though each are equally impressive.

Last year, Daniel Norris (a lefty) allowed a lot of hard contact to right-handed hitters. Nothing crazy about that, other than the amount of hard contact (35.2%). Nearly all DFSers understand splits, though, so this fact is not significant. Anyway, Norris only struck out right-handed hitters 19.7% of the time in 2016, so that’s not great either. Right-handed hitters slashed a healthy .287/.332/.469 with a .341 wOBA against Norris...you get the idea. He wasn’t great against them. So why am I excited for Norris today?

For starters, Norris was dominant against left-handed hitters in 2016. He had a Kershawian 34.2% K-rate against left-handed hitters and only allowed hard contact 25 percent of the time. Lefty hitters managed a below-average .284 wOBA against him and slashed .211/.291/.357. Lefties also had a normal .310 BABIP against Norris, which is right around average. So Norris wasn’t getting lucky, which is nice to see. On that train of thought, right-handed hitters had a .331 BABIP against him, which suggests they may have been a bit lucky.

So, besides the dominance against left-handed bats last season, there is today’s opponent to consider. The Boston Red Sox are generally formidable, but they have been ravaged by the flu to start the season. I am going to discuss each Red Sox hitter in order of today’s lineup, which conveniently appeared as I was writing this! Hold on to your hats, ladies and gents...

1. Dustin Pedroia has been his usual self so far this season with a .312 batting average. Still, in his age-33 season Pedroia is no longer a powerful hitter. He is more threatening against right-handed pitching, but he only managed a .136 ISO against them last season. He should be good enough to finish among the top-10 second basemen in season-long leagues, but for daily purposes he is not a scary individual matchup.

2. Andrew Benintendi was vomiting during the sixth inning of last night’s game, but he must have tested negative for the flu since he is in today’s lineup. He is a left-handed hitter who struck out 36.4% of the time against southpaws last season, though—so I’ll give the advantage to Norris.

3. Mookie Betts might have been available to pinch-hit for last night’s game, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. He did not pinch-hit last night, but he is starting today. It appears that Betts is now over his bout with the flu, and that is a major blow to my Norris love today. Betts is one of the top 10 players in the league and has a career .199 ISO and .354 wOBA against left-handed pitching. Can we do the speedy intentional walk thing with him today?

4. Chris Young still mashes left-handed pitching, as evidenced by his 163 wRC+ against them last season. He has a career slash of .266/.364/.480 with a .365 wOBA and 214 ISO against southpaws. He should always be a candidate for your DFS lineups when there is a lefty on the mound. But today we like Norris, people! Keep your blinders on.

5. Hanley Ramirez is out with the flu, so Mitch Moreland is drawing the start at first base today. Here is where I get excited. Moreland is the #5 hitter for the Red Sox and he is anemic against southpaws. His career slash of .239/.294/.377 (.295 wOBA, .138 ISO) is not scary in the slightest.

6. Steve Selsky is a 27-year-old career minor leaguer who only has 10 major league at-bats against left-handed pitching. He is 5 for 10 with a home run in that extremely small sample, but I am giving the advantage to Norris here.

7. Sandy Leon was a revelation against left-handed pitching last season. He batted .373/.450/.612 with a .239 ISO against them, but he did so with .404 BABIP—which we all know is insanely high. He did this one season after managing only two hits in 34 at-bats against left-handed pitchers...I can’t tell you which is real and it follows that Leon made some adjustments in order to have an impressive 2016 season. But I’m not ready to call Leon a lefty-basher just yet.

8. Pablo Sandoval is a LOST CAUSE against left-handed pitching. He was so terrible from the right side in 2016 that he abandoned switch-hitting altogether. This season, he is trying it out again. Stubborn. Stupid. Advantage, Norris.

9. Marco Hernandez, a lefty, is a decent major leaguer but we like him more against right-handed pitchers. Advantage, Norris.

To recap: Daniel Norris has epic hair flow, lives/lived in a van, dominates left-handed hitters, and is facing a depleted Red Sox lineup that is without the services of Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Some dude named David Ortiz retired, too.

Sign me up for a couple of shares of Norris today. At the very least, I will have fun. And if Norris can navigate a singles hitter, a flu-weakened Mookie Betts, and a career platoon-hitter in Chris Young, he could decimate the remaining Red Sox lineup. We shall see.

What helps you make your roster decisions in daily fantasy baseball? Can you find better reasons than van-living and epic hair flow? I didn’t think so.