More than any other sport, the MLB schedule can get super weird. While the NBA took major steps a few years back to try and even out its day-to-day slate size, baseball’s series-based structure makes a similar facelift impossible. Mondays and Thursdays will always be considered “travel days”, with many teams either not playing on these days of the week or suiting up for afternoon games designed to make whatever long flight is next just a little more bearable.
In any case, the Showdown format was a direct result of this reality. For those not looking to partake in the insanity of the all-too-common 15-game slate, why not simply focus on one game at a time. However, what happens when the whole slate is a Showdown contest? What happens when all but one matchup is taking place prior to 7 p.m. ET? What happens when the White Sox and the Astros meet for the lone primetime baseball game on a Thursday evening in late May? Magic happens, my friends. Magic.
Let’s break it all down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
— The Astros have won 11 of their last 12 night games against American League opponents
— Seven of the last eight night games with the White Sox being underdogs have gone UNDER the total runs line
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Houston AstrosYou’d be hard-pressed to find two more diametrically opposed outings than Corbin Martin ($10,400) has had to begin his MLB career. The first, a nine-strikeout effort against the Rangers, was the continuation of every narrative the fantasy baseball community had heard about Martin coming into 2019. The 23-year-old top prospect had an upper-90s fastball that he used a majority of the time, he had immense strikeout potential, and his win expectancy would be high pitching for one of the league’s best teams. Well, on May 12, Martin checked all three of those boxes. May 18, though? Not as great. Martin took the mound against the Red Sox and walked an infinite amount of batters in comparison to how many he struck out. That’s not hyperbole.
The RHP literally surrendered four free passes and didn’t record a single strikeout. The contrast is made even more interesting when you take into account Texas and Boston’s incredibly similar team batted ball profile. The Rangers possess a chase rate of 29.2%, while the Red Sox sit at 29.3%. Texas has a swinging strike rate of 10.7%. Boston’s is only slightly lower at 10.6%. So, what changed?
Unlike in his first outing, where Martin recorded 10 whiffs on his 80 pitches, the rookie didn’t garner a single swing and miss on a breaking pitch against the Red Sox. I doubt this repeats itself tonight. While Martin does feature his four-seam fastball more than most, there’s no team in baseball more recently willing to assist a pitcher’s pursuit for strikes than Chicago.
In fact, since the beginning of May, the White Sox own the league’s second-highest chase rate (35.6%) and they pair that distinction with baseball’s highest swinging strike rate (13.4%) across the same span. In a not so shocking twist, those traits have led to Chicago striking out in a massive 28.7% of its plate appearances in the month. If Martin hit a bump in the road last week, the White Sox should prove to be the perfect remedy.
As for attacking Lucas Giolito ($9,800), the path to success still appears lined with left-handed bats. Though Giolito’s shown serious signs of coming into his own so far in 2019, LHBs have often been his kryptonite. The 24-year-old surrendered a .361 wOBA to left-handed hitters last season – the highest mark of any pitcher who threw the equivalent of 80-plus innings within the split. Plus, while his numbers against those of the left-handed persuasion have improved on the surface through his first eights starts of the current campaign, you can see the cracks.
All three home runs Giolito’s allowed have come versus a lefty, with LHBs managing to elevate the ball to the tune of a 0.83 GB/FB ratio. It doesn’t hurt that left-handers have been held to a .212 BABIP, either. As such, Michael Brantley ($9,400), Tony Kemp ($6,400), and Josh Reddick ($7,400) are all extremely viable on tonight’s slate; with the latter also likely to continue hitting leadoff in the absence of George Springer ($10,800). Additionally, with the third baseman slashing .297/.447/.730 with a .432 ISO over his last 47 plate appearances, Alex Bregman ($9,800) is never exactly a fade.
Chicago White SoxWhile it might be a tough sell against a team that sports MLB’s best wRC+ at 132, I don’t dislike Giolito in this matchup. The former first-round pick has seen increases across the board so far in 2019, with massive upticks in both his swinging strike rate (11.7%) and his overall strikeout rate (28.6%) leading to a more than respectable FIP of 3.00. You can read more about Giolito’s overall turnaround here; but, specific to tonight, it’s just not the worst matchup he could draw. Even going back to the start of an awful 2018 campaign, Giolito has held RHBs to a meager .285 wOBA in the starts he’s made away from Guaranteed Rate Field.
Houston, even possibly without the services of both Springer and Jose Altuve, Houston relies heavily on right-handed bats. The Astros actually have the fewest left-on-right plate appearances of any club in the American League with 364 and, while those opportunities have led to a decent batting average, the LHBs they do roster have mustered an underwhelming .176 ISO within the split. Based on the opposition and the likelihood of picking up a win, Martin will definitely be the higher owned of the two starting pitchers. Giolito could be a nice pivot play or I can envision a scenario where both enter my lineups.
Now, if that’s a serious strategy you’re looking to execute, you’re going to need to find some super inexpensive bats. Sure, Tim Anderson ($8,400) has a .202 ISO against RHPs so far this season, but he’ll be too pricey. As is Yoan Moncada ($8,200), who also has splits with a huge differential between his success against right-handed pitching and his failures versus lefties.
The first name that springs to mind is Yonder Alonso ($5,600). The downside of rocking with a player currently possessing a .267 wOBA is obvious, but Martin’s pitch selection does create an interesting path to viability for Alonso. Martin’s thrown his fastball 64.9% of the time through his first two outings, with that number even increasing a tick to 65.4% specifically when facing left-handed bats. Alonso has always been a hitter who thrives on hard offerings. Going back to last year, the veteran actually hit 18 of his 22 home runs on fastballs; 15 off of fastballs out of the hand of an RHP. With Alonso still primarily hitting out of the 4 or 5-spot in Chicago’s batting order despite his struggles, he’s the perfect low-cost option to pair with exposure to both pitchers. Eloy Jimenez ($6,200), who knocked out a pair of home runs on Wednesday, is another high-variance option bursting with ceiling.
THE OUTCOMEThough this game has an O/U of nine runs of the DraftKings Sportsbook, I remain steadfast in my belief that it goes under the number. Both pitchers appear to be in at least decent spots and it doesn’t hurt matters that Houston’s bullpen owns the lowest ERA of any relief staff in baseball (2.74). Corbin Martin ($15,600 CP) is more than an acceptable option as your Captain’s Pick on this slate; though, if you want to take a more balanced approach, Josh Reddick ($11,100 CP) isn’t in a terrible spot, either.
Final Score: Houston 4, Chicago 1
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.