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2021 Fantasy Baseball and MLB DFS: A recent look at the LvL split

Houston Astros against lefties, please.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

There are names we know already, right? Jordan Luplow is a noted lefty basher, as is Nelson Cruz. But Luplow is well known despite being a platoon player—that righty versus lefty split is often targeted in MLB DFS, so guys like Luplow don’t stay hidden. As for Cruz, he’s nearly universally owned and no secret against southpaws—again, righty versus lefty is pretty popular.

What I want to mine more for are sneakier splits. Lefty versus lefty is my choice for today. A second installment on this topic will probably be righty versus righty—I know some hitters get a boost there, and those reverse splits are sneakier than the RvL one. But today is lefty on lefty, and I’m sorting for 2020 and 2021. I don’t want to go back very far, but I want a larger sample than just the 2021 season.

Initially I’m going to look at volume. Even if the production hasn’t been there over the last 75 games or so, I think it’s important to see which players teams are trusting in this split. After volume, I’ll pass over the skill sets.

LvL Plate Appearances, 2020-2021 (as of 4/19/2021)

Only these hitters have over 100 PA in the LvL split over the 2020-2021 seasons:

Joey Gallo, Rafael Devers, Kyle Tucker, Alex Verdugo, Mike Yastrzemski, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Seager, and Max Muncy.

That’s it, that’s the list. Cavan Biggio (97 PA) and Michael Conforto (96 PA) round out the top 10. Some thoughts on some of these...

Kyle Tucker should regress (positively)

Tucker is intriguing. He has a .226 OBP against lefties since 2020 began, but that comes with a minuscule 16.0% strikeout rate and an unsightly .177 BABIP. His .192 ISO in the split will certainly play, though, and if he continues getting LvL opportunities I’ll be buying into some regression to the mean. We’ll need to see where he slots into Houston’s lineup when everyone finally gets healthy, so stay tuned to that.

Yaz is sneaky good against lefties

Mike Yastrzemski (99 PA) is a cheat code. He’s one of the best performers in this split, despite the negative home environs. He also ranks fourth in plate appearances versus southpaws over this 2020-2021 time frame. And among hitters in this split with at least 70 PA over the last two years (31 hitters), his 13.1% walk rate (7th), .523 SLG (5th), .267 ISO (5th), and 137 wRC+ (6th) are all pretty stellar. And for reference, his .315 BABIP over this time frame was normal, ranking 14th. Yaz on the road against a lefty pitcher...that’s something I’ll be targeting in DFS contests. Maybe even at home, too. But definitely when he gets a park boost.

Other Noteworthy Things

Lefty Rockies are a little sneaky...

Charlie Blackmon and Raimel Tapia have the two highest batting averages in this split over the 2020-2021 time frame. Maybe that’s a Coors Field thing? I know that besides the thin air, the park itself is large, lending itself to plenty of base hits—and both of these hitters are good runners. Anyway, that’s a sneaky deal perhaps, if the Rockies catch a southpaw and you’re trying to differentiate in DFS contests. I’d imagine more ownership would run towards the right-handed sticks. Again, that RvL split is pretty darn tempting in general, for most people.

For what it’s worth, Colorado lefty Ryan McMahon is also on the list of hitters with at least 70 PA versus lefties over the 2020-2021 time frame. He’s only managed a .235 batting average over that time, but his six homers are tied for second among these lefty hitters. Only Juan Soto (7) has more over this time frame. Corey Seager, Brandon Lowe, and Joey Gallo are the other names tied with McMahon in homers over this stretch. That’s pretty powerful company to be in. Maybe just let McMahon play, Bud Black.

Don’t be afraid of Cavan Biggio...

For all the people freaking out over Cavan Biggio, he and Christian Yelich lead this sort in on-base percentage by a WIDE margin. Again, the sort is lefty versus lefty, minimum 70 PA over the 2020-2021 time frame...it’s Yelich (.430 OBP) and Biggio (.427) at the top, with Bryce Harper (.397) and Juan Soto (.390) a distant third and fourth. That’s some pretty esteemed company for Biggio. Just let the man draw his walks, steal his bags, and score his runs...okay Charlie Montoyo?

Juan Soto is ridiculous

Speaking of Juan Soto...his .406 ISO in this split is insanity, and blows away everyone else. Second in the sort is the aforementioned Ryan McMahon, all the way down at .324. Christian Yelich (.317) and Brandon Lowe (.313) round out the rest of the second tier, while Mike Yastrzemski checks in at a distant fifth with a .261 ISO. Again, holy smokes at Soto. He’s still just 22 years old. Let’s hope the shoulder injury that just landed him on the injured list is nothing major.

Low K-rates and High ISOs in the LvL split belong to...

Only four hitters had a strikeout rate below 20% and an ISO worth anything at all. They were:

Juan Soto (14.1% K-rate, .406 ISO)
Michael Brantley (16.0% K-rate, .197 ISO)
Kyle Tucker (16.0% K-rate, .192 ISO)
Didi Gregorius (19.6%, .259 ISO).

Other guys were under 20% but with horrible power numbers:

Jeff McNeil (.070 ISO)
Anthony Rizzo (.097)
Charlie Blackmon (.121)
Raimel Tapia (.090)
Eddie Rosario (.063)
J.P. Crawford (.077)
Jake Cronenworth (.053).

And just to not be all arbitrary, Corey Seager (20% K-rate) was right at the strikeout threshold with but with a shiny .239 ISO. So that will play.

To Sum Up...

I lied about the Rockies. They aren’t the team you want against a lefty, at least not if you’re chasing power upside (given those low ISOs by Blackmon and Tapia). Maybe in a sneaky “cash game” build, if that’s your jam.

The team you want against lefties is the Astros. Holy Michael Brantley AND Kyle Tucker against a southpaw—at least when it comes to not striking out and to showing some power. And you know who didn’t show up on this list because he got hurt in 2020? One Yordan Alvarez (a lefty) who has a career .310 batting average and very tolerable 22.8% strikeout rate against southpaws. He also carries a .324 ISO. So yeah, all the Houston lefties when there’s a southpaw on the mound. Then add in the righty stick of your choice.

Aside from the Houston stack, I remain enamored with Mike Yastrzemski. The home park is a nice smokescreen, but he’s quietly a stud in this split if you can tolerate some of the strikeouts (which really aren’t obscene given the current era of baseball).

What say you all? Are there any lefty versus lefty batters that I missed? Any sneaky splits that you already know of or take advantage of?