David and Goliath. The Tortoise and the Hare. “Booksmart” opening up opposite “Aladdin” at the box office last weekend. Some things in life simply don’t seem fair on paper; and while we never know for sure how these underdog stories will turn out, it doesn’t make our initial view of them any less sympathetic.
These were the thoughts rushing to my brain when I saw that poor Jason Vargas ($8,200) was not only going up against the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers this evening, but he was also doing so with Major League Baseball’s ERA leader opposing him on the rubber. Seems like a tall task to ask Vargas to thrive in the spot he’s been placed, yet the 36-year-old’s fate is the key to tonight’s featured MLB Showdown slate on DraftKings.
We’ve got the Mets in California to face the Dodgers. Let’s break it all down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Mets have lost 16 of their past 18 road games after playing the previous day.
— Each of the Dodgers’ past nine games have gone OVER the total runs line.
— The Dodgers are 21-7 at home while the Mets are 12-19 on the road.
— Games at Dodger Stadium average a total of 9.5 runs.
— The average winning margin at Dodger Stadium is 3.7 runs.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Los Angeles Dodgers
EDITOR’S NOTE: Justin Turner and Corey Seager are not in the lineup tonight.
Everything starts and ends on this slate for Los Angeles with Hyun-Jin Ryu ($11,000). The 32-year-old is exceedingly expensive, but deservingly so, with Ryu having yet to allow more than two earned runs in an outing through his first 10 appearances of 2019. Really, he almost has become the left-handed version of Zack Greinke right before our eyes. That comparison stands out for a very specific reason. Not only does Ryu possess the pristine control of Greinke — his 1.7% walk rate is the lowest qualified rate in baseball and is trailed directly by the Diamondbacks’ RHP — the way he goes about avoiding free passes is unique. While most pitchers with a low walk rate can correlate that tendency with a high zone rate, Ryu and Greinke’s stuff allows them to not issue walks while still living primarily outside the strike zone. In fact, among the 14 starters with a walk rate below 5.0%, the pair are the lone pitchers with zone rates under 43.0%. Instead, they induce high opponent chase rates, with both Ryu and Greinke tied for the eighth-highest outside the zone swing rate in the league at 35.8%. These guys don’t just throw strikes for the sake of throwing strikes; they garner strikes on quality pitches. It’s truly a rare skill set.
That’s not all Ryu has going in his favor, either. While New York has enjoyed some decent success versus LHPs this season, it still is one of eight teams that has struck out in more than 26.0% of its plate appearances within the split. It’s a wrinkle that might be necessary for Ryu to live up to his price tag this evening, especially with the propensity of right-handed bats in the Mets’ lineup. It’s really almost funny how that works out. Ryu has shut down opponents in left-on-left situations in 2019, holding LHBs to a .202 wOBA and owning a 19:0 K/BB ratio in those matchups. Generally, New York is quite lefty-heavy, as it has accounted for the seventh-most left-on-left PAs in MLB (215); but injuries to Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and Robinson Cano have robbed it of that tendency. No matter. Ryu also has held RHBs to a respectable .250 wOBA and possesses a pristine 2.66 FIP when facing a right-handed batter.
As for the Dodgers’ positional players, the team hasn’t been nearly as potent against southpaw pitching as it has when facing a right-handed starter, but there are several viable pieces with established track records of hitting LHPs. Justin Turner ($9,000) posted a .433 wOBA within the split last season and has been scorching the ball regardless of opponent handedness throughout the month of May; Kiké Hernandez ($7,200) continues to find himself in the leadoff role versus lefties and owns a .226 career ISO inside the split; while Chris Taylor ($6,600) sports a 122 wRC+ when seeing a left-handed pitcher versus an underwhelming 62 wRC+ when opposed by a right-hander. That last point is key considering Vargas’ lack of longevity. Vargas has worked into the sixth inning once in his seven starts in 2019, maxing out at 89 pitches during that outing. Knowing the Mets’ bullpen will be heavily involved in tonight’s proceedings, finding players with more balanced splits is at a premium. Sure, it’s difficult to afford Cody Bellinger ($10,800), yet the aforementioned Turner and Alex Verdugo ($7,800) also fall into this archetype of player. Though, it should be mentioned that, according the FanGraphs’ metrics, Bellinger has been the National League’s best changeup hitter, and Vargas throws his change more than any other of his offerings (33.4%).
New York Mets
I’ll be honest: It’s hard to come up with positive things to say about Vargas other than he’s cheap. The veteran consistently has exited games early, he’s exceeded 15.0 DKFP just once in his seven starts in 2019 and his fastball velocity has fallen all the way down to an uninspiring 85.7 mph. He’s living out a rather bleak existence as a fantasy baseball afterthought. So, is there any conceivable way Vargas positively impacts this evening’s slate? I just can’t see it. There simply isn’t a path to any volume, whether that be in innings pitched or strikeouts. The Dodgers simultaneously own the National League’s lowest team strikeout rate (19.5%) and its lowest chase rate at 27.5%. Vargas won’t help matters, either. The LHP’s 7.5% swinging strike rate is on pace to be the worst mark he’s pitched to during any “full” season of his career. The impact of not registering a bunch of swings and misses? Contact. That’s equally awful news for Vargas, who has surrendered the ninth-highest barrels per plate appearance percentage of any pitcher with over 90 batted ball events to his name (8.9%). This all ends quickly and poorly for Vargas.
Fortunately, all is not a complete waste for the Mets. Mostly due to the fact Pete Alonso ($7,600) is quite good at hitting baseballs. The rookie has crushed left-handed pitching to the tune of a .389 ISO and a .399 wOBA so far in 2019 — something that is bound to happen when you own the third-most home runs in baseball overall (19). Todd Frazier ($5,200) has been surprisingly great when opposed by a left-handed pitcher, too. In 28 plate appearances within the split, the veteran infielder is slashing .357/.357/.536 with a .377 wOBA. Frazier recently was dropped from the third-spot in New York’s batting order, which is a serious blow to his potential value; however, since that demotion, Frazier is riding a five-game hitting-streak with multiple base knocks in four contests. J.D. Davis ($6,000) is another name to keep an eye on. Davis consistently has found himself hitting second when the Mets square off with a southpaw, and the 26-year-old’s immense raw power always gives him an elevated ceiling. Plus, even if this trio struggles with the red-hot Ryu, there’s always a chance they come through against a Los Angeles bullpen that’s bled runs across the past two weeks. In fact, only the Nationals’ relievers can claim a higher ERA in that span than the Dodgers’ mark of 7.11.
The starting pitching matchup is far too lopsided for me to assume anything except a Los Angeles victory this evening. Hyun-Jin Ryu ($16,500 CP) is an expensive, yet justified, selection as a Captain’s Pick; while Justin Turner ($13,500 CP) and Alex Verdugo ($11,700 CP) represent slightly more cost-effective options. That’s not to say the Mets don’t present their own value, though. Even on a slate with Cody Bellinger, few possess the upside Pete Alonso ($11,400 CP) does on any given night.
Final Score: Los Angeles 6, New York 3
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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.