It’s a dream that’s changed completely with every man who takes the mound now throwing 95 mph, but there was a time in my youth when my Dad used to tell me to do things left-handed in hopes it would help me make the majors. He’d tell me I didn’t need to have a high velocity, just the fact that I’d be throwing southpaw would be enough. In this way, the goal – I guess – was nothing more than to be a LOOGY. Well, spoiler alert, I didn’t brush my teeth lefty. There are millions of dollars down the drain, right? However, the intent of the idea rings true. Who wouldn’t want a front-row seat to every game with the responsibility of maybe having to toss five pitches three times a week? My only amendment? If I were left-handed, I’d definitely want to pitch in the National League West.
Three of baseball’s top five teams in left-on-left plate appearances reside in the NL West: the Giants, the Rockies, and, somewhat surprisingly considering their aggressive platoon usage, the Dodgers. Its an odd wrinkle of MLB, but one that I’m sure neither Clayton Kershaw ($11,400) or Joey Lucchesi ($9,000) have too much issue with. Each LHP will toe the rubber this evening, opposite each other, when San Diego takes on Los Angeles. Who will be the better play? Let’s dive into that question in advance of tonight’s featured Showdown slate on DraftKings.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
— The underdogs have won each of the last three games between the Padres and Dodgers
— The ‘Inning 1 UNDER 0.5 runs’ market has hit each of the past six night games for the Padres against NL West opponents
— The Padres have trailed after three innings in each of their last five Thursday games
— Each of the last seven games against NL West opponents for the Dodgers has gone UNDER the total runs line
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Los Angeles DodgersI recall writing something similar about Madison Bumgarner a few weeks back; but for all the worry and postulating about Kershaw being over the hill back in March, the veteran is putting up the exact numbers we’ve come to expect the past three years. In the 336.1 innings Kershaw threw from the beginning to 2017 to the end of 2018, opponents slashed a lowly .219/.255/.362 with a .265 wOBA and 1.1 home runs per nine. This season, across 18 outings, opponents are slashing a near-identical .224/.263/.372 with a .269 wOBA and 1.1 home runs per nine. Sure, the velocity loss on Kershaw’s fastball has continued. Where the pitch sat at a career-low 91.3mph average in 2018, it’s now at an even more tenuous 90.5mph in 2019; however, that fact hasn’t changed anything from raw results to the usages of his slider or curveball. He’s just simply the same guy we’ve come to know the past couple seasons: not quite the best pitcher in baseball, yet certainly All-Star caliber.
Heck, Kershaw’s been even better in his past four starts, specifically. In a stretch that he began against these very same Padres at Dodger Stadium on July 5, the left-hander has posted a pristine 1.44 ERA and 1.90 FIP within that span of time, relying heavily on a massive 35.0% strikeout rate. Its also not as if the sudden spike in strikeouts is tied to scheduling. Though San Diego does sit with the seventh-highest team strikeout rate versus LHPs in 2019 (25.4%); Philadelphia, Miami, and Washington all rank in the lower half of the league. Knowing this, it’d be difficult to not see Kershaw as extremely viable on tonight’s slate. However, it should be noted that the recent trade of Franmil Reyes is actually a detriment to the 31-year-old. Reyes, despite being right-handed, had hit only three of his 27 home runs off of lefties so far this season and had gone down on strikes in 30.3% of his 76 plate appearances within the split. In fact, going back to last month’s matchup, Reyes struck out in two of his three at-bats versus Kershaw. At least he was consistent.
So, what about all those left-handed Dodgers’ bats? While its impossible to say that Cody Bellinger ($10,800) is ever a poor DFS option on any given day, using LHBs with Lucchesi on the mound isn’t exactly an obvious path to success. The 26-year-old has been masterful in suppressing dangerous batted ball events from lefties all year long, inducing a 63.1% ground ball rate and 33.3% soft contact rate from the 98 left-handed hitters he’s seen. This ability has translated into Lucchesi owning the lowest expected wOBA against LHBs of any starting pitcher in baseball at a mere .231. Its not as if Bellinger, Max Muncy ($9,200), Joc Pederson ($8,000), Corey Seager ($7,400), or Alex Verdugo ($6,800) can sit back and wait to exploit the Padres’ bullpen, either. Kirby Yates possesses an otherworldly .217 xwOBA when opposed by an LHB in 2019 and San Diego’s relievers as a whole sport the league’s lowest xFIP at 3.92. With that being the case, I’d focus my attention on just these three names. Justin Turner ($8,400), who’s .252 ISO versus LHPs is 91 points higher than his mark against righties; Tyler White ($5,000), who hit fifth in his debut for Los Angeles on Tuesday in a matchup with the left-handed Kyle Freeland; and A.J. Pollock ($7,200), who batted from the leadoff spot in that same contest and can claim a .433 wOBA in his 49 plate appearances within the split this season.
San Diego PadresThe possibility of Lucchesi being a serious option on this slate does mostly boil down to how many left-handed bats Dave Roberts is willing to stuff into the Dodgers’ lineup, yet the young lefty’s handedness splits aren’t the lone area of concern. To be perfectly blunt, Lucchesi has fallen apart whenever he’s been forced to pitch away from Petco Park in 2019. Lucchesi has posted an ugly 6.48 ERA in the eight outings he’s made on the road, with his opponent slugging percentage jumping from .312 at home to a far more robust .509. The left-hander’s DFS outputs reflect this pattern, too. Lucchesi has averaged just 10.9 DKFP in those eight starts, with his most recent effort – a matchup with the Cubs at Wrigley – equating out to an embarrassing -4.1 DKFP. It’s not as if fantasy viability is completely dependant on Lucchesi himself, either. Los Angeles simply hasn’t been a squad that’s allowed opposing pitchers to thrive. Not only do the Dodgers own the National League’s highest wOBA (.339) and wRC+ (112); but they also possess the NL’s lowest chase rate (28.4%) – generally a huge indicator of a team that won’t strike out in excess. Aside from being a relatively high-leverage variance play, I can’t see myself using much of Lucchesi this evening.
The Padres’ offensive pieces are a different story. With a roster construct that heavily favors right-handed hitters, San Diego has many players with solid numbers against LHPs to choose from. However, Manny Machado ($7,800) is the guy that seemingly checks every single box. The former All-Star has crushed left-handed pitching in every opportunity he’s received so far this season, slashing .378/.477/.838 with an eye-popping .524 wOBA and 233 wRC+. He’s also got the results specifically versus Kershaw if that’s your cup of tea. The sample is extremely limited, with Machado spending a majority of his career in either the American League or as Kershaw’s teammate, but the third baseman has clubbed a pair of long balls off of the Cy Young Award winner in nine plate appearances. In conjunction with his overall success within the split, it’s not something I’d ignore entirely. Other Padres to look at include Fernando Tatis Jr. ($10,000), Hunter Renfroe ($7,600), and Manuel Margot ($5,800), with the latter of particular interest. Margot’s at-bats have come a little more consistently in recent months and, the last time San Diego faced a lefty, the 24-year-old was slotted in the two-spot. Considering Margot has a .523 OBP and a 1.198 OPS in his last 44 plate appearances opposed by a southpaw, I’d be shocked if Andy Green doesn’t go back to that well this evening.
THE OUTCOMEThere are three different options to consider when building your Showdown lineups for tonight’s slate. There’s the route where you pay up for the red-hot Clayton Kershaw ($17,100 CP) as your Captain’s Pick. There’s the more balanced approach that involves utilizing one of Manny Machado ($11,700 CP) or A.J. Pollock ($10,800 CP) at 1.5x value. Or there’s the frugal path, which involves trusting Manuel Margot ($8,700 CP) to continue raking within the split, but also opens up almost any other lineup combinations imaginable. I’m inclined to play it conservatively, yet know that my exposure will be high to all four names listed.
Final Score: Los Angeles 5, San Diego 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.