As is my custom, I’m going to be light on the preamble so that I can get into today’s overview. My view for this is to point someone in the right direction, not to cheaply offer up picks. If you want that sort of lameness, search for it on the Twittersphere. Here, I’d love to have a conversation. I’ll kick it off, and anyone is welcome to comment here or on Twitter and keep it going so we all enter the slate a wee bit smarter.
For today, I’m going to roll game-by-game with some initial thoughts and research, and we’ll see how that goes. Basically just what sticks out with pitchers and opposing lineups—not a lot else in the overview.
STL @ PHI
A big massive “no” to Wainwright in this space. A 6.4% swinging strike rate, corresponding 18.0% strikeout rate and double-digit walk rate (10.1%). You can hang your hat on the 49.7% ground ball rate, but I won’t. The best matchup is a lefty bat—so far they are managing a .398 wOBA, 12 walks, and 14 strikeouts against Waino. What up with ya, Bryce Harper? Cesar Hernandez has apparently been hot—I wouldn’t know, haven’t rostered him. Maybe I should.
Nick Pivetta makes his return from Triple-A. You can’t make me. Pivetta had one walk against nine strikeouts versus righties prior to being sent down, but they were slashing .359/.381/.538 with a .386 wOBA (.300 is average). Sounds good, right? Well, lefties had seven walks against seven strikeouts with a .405/.480/.786 slash and gargantuan .508 wOBA. What up, with a Cardinals stack? Mmmhmm. I could see Matt Carpenter back in the leadoff position in this one, honestly (since Fowler has struggled in the role over the weekend). Then that rough row of righties in Goldy, DeJong, Ozuna, and Jose Martinez. Yadier too, if he’s cheap. This looks ugly for Pivetta. And if Carp is down in the order a bit, so be it. Perhaps his ownership may reflect that. I’m still loading up on Carp today, and praying for a big day (yes he’s on my TGFBI squad).
DET @ BAL
The Orioles have a hefty 26.4% strikeout rate against southpaws (8th-worst). They also don’t walk, ranking 28th against lefties with a 5.8% walk rate. How about Renato Nunez? Six homers against lefties already? Trey Mancini looks like the next best bet, but I wouldn’t be excited for either against Boyd. I don’t really dig that Boyd will probably face eight right-handed bats in a hitter’s haven...but it’s Baltimore, man.
Bundy has a hefty K-rate to righty bats, at 29.1%. He also has a 10.3% walk rate and allows an insane 3.21 HR/9 to righties. In fact, eight of the 12 homers allowed by Bundy have come at home. It’s his worst split. The Tigers have 32 homers as a team against righty pitchers, second-worst in the league behind Miami. But Ronny Rodriguez does have a .260 ISO in the RvR split, albeit with a 31.4% strikeout rate. This game is just boom-or-bust all around. Maybe Bundy strikes a ton of Tigers out, because they’ll probably have seven right-handed bats in the lineup. Or maybe Rodriguez or Castellanos find a way. Or the ghost of Miguel Cabrera? I mean, against a homer-prone pitcher at Camden Yards...when else? I like Rodriguez among the righties the best, and my next favorite bat would be Christin Stewart. In summation: I lean towards fading Bundy and selecting my favorite Detroit one-off or mini-stack.
TOR @ TAM
Richard has too small a sample for this year, but last year he gave up 17 of his 19 homers to righty bats. A whopping 30 doubles, too. The downside is an obscene ground ball rate—73.0% to lefties and 52.7% to righties a year ago. But he doesn’t strike many guys out and allows a lot of hard contact, especially to righties. It’s a shame that Yandy Diaz won’t be around for this one, but we can settle for Avisail Garcia and Tommy Pham. The Rays have a poor .141 ISO (22nd) and league-worst 30.5% strikeout rate against southpaws, but Garcia the noted lefty-basher is slashing .291/.396/.687 in this split. There’s some risk with his 25.5% K-rate, but his 12.7% walk rate helps and Richard doesn’t strike many hitters out. Pham is more of a floor play with a 20.3% walk rate and .118 ISO in this split. Pham has 13 walks against 14 strikeouts in this split. The sneaky LvL split belongs to Brandon Lowe (.200 ISO, 54.8% K-rate) and Austin Meadows (.182 ISO, 28.6% K-rate). Holy mackerel at Lowe’s strikeout rate in this split. Safe to say Garcia is my favorite play here.
Ryan Yarbrough threw 99 pitches in his last turn, managing 7 1⁄3 innings against the lowly Indians. The Blue Jays are a breeze of a matchup, with only 11 homers (26th), a .226 BA (24th), 26.1% K-rate (9th-worst), .128 ISO (24th), and 69 wRC+ (28th) against lefties. Fire up Yarbrough as an SP2, but I imagine he’ll be a popular choice. Smoak has more walks (11) than strikeouts (7) against lefties, so he looks like your safest bet...but Rowdy Tellez actually leads Toronto in homers against lefties, with three. See what I mean? Trust Yarbrough.
SF @ MIA
I’m honestly probably staying away, outside of considering either of these pitchers as an SP2. My knee-jerk reaction is to not go out of my way for either, but if they made the bats work and let me work up to a stud pitcher I could talk myself into either. I’d imagine Richards is the more popular play, but he has the tougher matchup. The Giants have a .157 ISO against righties (26th) and strike out 24.3% of the time (11th-worst). Meanwhile, the Marlins have the worst power in baseball in this split, with a mere .103 ISO and a 25.8% K-rate (4th-worst). In summation, the Marlins strike out more and are far less powerful. Yes, it’s a cavernous home park. Man, I hate recommending Samardzija. But with all these righties (probably 7 of 9 Marlins hitters) up against him, you gotta consider it. I wouldn’t be chasing a one-off in this spot, but if I did it would be Curtis Granderson, who has the highest fly ball rate (48.4%) in this split and should leadoff for Miami. Just know the .202 ISO comes with a Keon Broxtonian 32.5% K-rate...never said it was good, did I?
On the Giants’ side, it’s a Brandon Belt or bust day. But man, I hate hitters in this park.
CLE @ BOS
Oscar Mercado ($3,700) and Jackie Bradley Jr. ($3,300) are both hot. David Price left Saturday’s start early with the flu—how do you not know you are sick before you toe the rubber? Anyway, I wonder if that will depress his ownership a bit...if so, I’ll probably buy him against Cleveland. I won’t presume to tell you who Zach Plesac is, but the DK notes tell me he’s a fastball/changeup guy without a third pitch. Advantage, Red Sox. The same Red Sox who just scored 12 runs on Monday, on the strength of JD Martinez’s double-dong day and a whopping 13 hits. The 2-5 Boston bats are my favorite, as Benintendi has been pretty boring lately.
For Cleveland, maybe Lindor or Luplow if not using Mercado? At least those guys are over the 40.0% hard contact threshold. Luplow’s 40.7% fly ball rate and 48.2% pull rate against lefties are niiiiiiice. If you want to consider Jose Ramirez, I think you can. A 52.8% fly ball rate, 39.6% pull rate, and 35.9% hard contact rate are pretty solid. I mean, he’s only $3,500...
WAS @ ATL
Trea Turner (66.7% FB rate, 46.7% hard%) and Anthony Rendon (50% FB%, 50% hard%) are not good matchups for Max Fried (who has been very good in 2019). Of those two, Turner ($4,600) is far more affordable and knocks out a sometimes tricky shortstop position. On Atlanta’s side, peep these numbers by one Brave bat versus righties in 2019: 16.5% walk rate, 11.8% K-rate, .418 OBP, .500 SLG, .188 ISO...Freddie Freeman is your guess? Wrong! Those belong to Nick Markakis, who can hang his hat on a 32.0% line drive rate and a 43.4% line drive rate in this split. Freeman obviously has a better chance to go yard, but I’m just sayin’—Markakis has been good. As a unit the Braves make the third-most hard contact in the league against righty pitching, behind only Texas and St. Louis (another yikes for Pivetta). Atlanta is also upper third in walk rate and strikeout rate, so Strasburg better bring his A-game. Honestly, I like both of these pitchers but I fear Washington’s lineup less. But I like Strasburg more. When I’m this torn I’m probably staying away...maybe that’s my Atlanta homerism getting in the way, but I think it’s a good game all around for this tilt.
CHC @ HOU
It’s easy enough to consider the top four projected Cubs (Schwarber, Baez, Rizzo, Contreras) against Corbin Martin, who has come unglued lately. You know the drill with Houston—these guys don’t strike out a ton and they have a lot of pop. Reddick, Correa, and Bregman are the clear top three. Did you know that Bregman has a .194 BABIP in this split? Bet that goes up today...
KC @ CWS
This isn’t a cheese matchup by any stretch for the red-hot Giolito. The Royals have the 10th-best strikeout rate versus righties (21.8%) and are 11th in ISO (.185). I don’t always check, but it appears that Giolito allowed 26 stolen bases in 2018—or 12 more than Jon Lester in about eight fewer innings. In fact, Giolito allowed the most steals in the MLB a year ago. Boyd (18) and Bundy (17) were also on this unfavorable list, FYI. Anyway, like I said...this is not really an easy one for Giolito, especially if the Royals take advantage with their speed. For what it’s worth, Giolito has stopped the bleeding so far in 2019, with only one swipe allowed.
Keller is another Richard type. A worm-killer, lots of ground balls, not a lot of home runs. You’d like to see his opponent be a really patient one—so how do the White Sox fare in this regard against righties? Especially the lefty hitters, as Keller has 26 walks against 22 Ks in that split. On a macro level, the Sox walk 7.2% of the time against RHP, which is the second-lowest mark in the MLB (only the Padres walk less). Yonder Alonso’s 12.7% walk rate is above-average, and his 23.6% K-rate is tolerable—but the .088 ISO is really poor. Abreu or Moncada are our best bets for power, followed by Tim Anderson. In general, though, I don’t really dig the Sox. They have the sixth-worst ground ball rate in this split, at 45.4%. They rank next to last in hard contact rate, too (32.4%). Only the Orioles are worse.
MIL @ MIN
The Twins bash righties with a .251 ISO (1st) and 19.7% K-rate (4th-lowest). Not good news for Davies, who isn’t a bad pitcher but who struggles more against hitters from the left side (.335 wOBA, 49.3% FB%). The Twins can trot out Kepler, Polanco, Rosario, Marwin, and even Jason Castro from that side. Davies also has 12 walks against only 13 strikeouts in this split...yikes.
The Brewers perform better against southpaws, with a .191 ISO (11th) and 22.6% strikeout rate (13th-best). Still, Martin Perez has been very good to both handedness this year, though his walk rate does balloon to 11.4% against righty bats. This isn’t the easiest matchup, but it is softened by Grandal being worse in this split (we like him as LvR). I’d probably still lean towards Perez if I had to pick a side.
ARI @ COL
What, you want analysis? It’s two mediocre or bad pitchers in Colorado. Pick any bats you like, but especially the right-handed ones against Merrill Kelly, who has shown fairly even splits so far but whose fly ball rate and HR/9 balloons against righties. Lefties have a superb 32.5% line drive rate against him, though. Honestly just pick either side, but allowing more homers to righties is a scary proposition with Arenado and Story on tap. Senzatela has been bad against both sides, but he does have over a 50% ground ball rate to both handedness. Pick your favorite fly ball hitters from Arizona, if you must. Maybe Cron will actually get to start today...
LAA @ OAK
Montas will surely be a popular choice against the Angels, but he’s more of a floor play to me given that the Angels have the lowest strikeout rate in the MLB in this split, at 16.5%. They also rank 12th in walk rate (9.3%) and ISO (.180), and those numbers should tick a little bit more upward with a healthy Shohei Ohtani in the lineup now.
This is Tropeano’s first action of 2019, and it seems like he’ll be the primary pitcher behind an opener today. Last year he showed reverse splits, allowing more homers, fly balls, and hard contact to right-handed hitters. I see you, Matt Chapman.
TEX @ SEA
Marco Gonzales at $6,900 seems cheap, right? He doesn’t strike out many hitters, but he’s far better against lefties with zero homers allowed and a .287 wOBA so far in 2019. That 53.8% ground ball rate to lefties might save him against Joey Gallo. It’s the ever popular RvL split that we want against Gonzales, so it’s Andrus, Pence, Forsythe, and Asdrubal that you can consider. For what it’s worth, the Rangers strike out 28.8% of the time against lefties, the second-worst rate in the league behind Tampa. They have some pop with a .191 ISO (11th), but this is a park downgrade and Gonzales is at home. I could see him limiting the damage and disappointing folks who use Texas.
I have zero interest in Sampson, as the Mariners are at home and have a .220 ISO against righty pitchers. Their 24.8% K-rate (7th-worst) isn’t special, but this team can do some damage. Vogelbach, Bruce, Haniger, and Encarnacion are the mainstays, Omar Narvaez too if he gets a prime lineup spot as a catcher. Sampson has allowed six of seven homers to righty bats and has a .402 wOBA against them—compared to one homer and a basically average .311 wOBA to lefties. Lefties have a 0.47 HR/9, compared to a sizable 1.98 HR/9 by righty bats. That said, Sampson allows more fly balls, a greater pull rate, and more hard contact to lefty bats (but he’s bad against both). You can go either way, in my opinion.
NYM @ LOS
My initial reaction is that Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis should bat first and second and have the RvL split in their favor against Rich Hill. I imagine they are pretty cheap. All six homers that Hill has allowed have been to righty bats, so other than these two you can consider Pete Alonso, obviously (and he’s the premier play). I’m not into a Mets stack, I was just saying that the top two should be cheap and in a favorable split if you were desperate. Hill has a startingly low 5.6% hard contact rate to lefty hitters, a byproduct of the small six inning sample size. Last year lefties actually had a higher HR/9 against him (1.64 to 1.26). Conforto does have a couple of bombs and a .188 ISO against lefties, so I suppose there is a chance.
Steven Matz has allowed nine homers this year, and eight have been to right-handed hitters. A 1.98 HR/9 to righties is not encouraging against these Dodgers, He does have a hefty 51.6% ground ball rate to lefty hitters, and he generates soft contact 21.9% of the time against them. So perhaps there’s a chance that Bellinger doesn’t go nuts today...but Bellinger does lead LA with six homers against lefties. As for Dodgers righties, Kike Hernandez (4), Max Muncy (4), Justin Turner (3), and Chris Taylor (3) have the most dongs so far. Bellinger (14.3%), Kike (16.7%), and Turner (22.5%) have the best strikeout rates to go along with their power. Muncy is striking out 29.5% of the time in this split, while Taylor is at 23.1%. Oh wow, holy Justin Turner batted ball profile against lefties: 23.4 line drive rate, 59.6 fly ball rate, 57.5% hard contact rate. Wow! Kike is at a 55.1% hard contact rate and Bellinger is at 52.7%. Muncy is at 50% even...this looks like a really dicey spot for Matz...
That’s about it for me! Hope an “overview” of sorts helps start someone off. Obviously not a lot of talk of park factors and weather here...but maybe this speeds up someone’s process a bit!