Today’s main slate features 14 games and starts at 7:05 pm ET. Here’s a data-driven breakdown featuring five key stats, courtesy of FantasyLabs contributor Matt LaMarca.
FantasyLabs is a daily fantasy tool and real-time analytics platform that enables players to test theories, create and backtest models and construct customized lineups. In this piece, I leverage the same tools used by co-founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) for each slate.
10.7 K Prediction – Max Scherzer
Today’s slate features two of the preeminent strikeout pitchers in baseball in Max Scherzer and Chris Sale. Each pitcher is leading their respective league in strikeouts, with Sale holding a slight lead at 191 to 183. Today’s slate features an interesting dilemma between these two pitchers, with one holding the superior matchup and one offering more strikeout potential. Sale’s matchup against the Angels has resulted in an opponent implied team total of 2.9 runs and a projected margin of victory of +1.3 runs, however, their projected lineup has a 12-month splits-adjusted strikeout rate of just 19.9 percent. The result is a K Prediction of 7.7 that ranks just fifth on the slate, which is lower than you’d expect to see from Sale. Scherzer, meanwhile, has a brutal matchup in Arizona against the Diamondbacks, who are averaging the sixth-most runs per game and have the fourth-highest wOBA this season against right-handed pitchers. One area where they do struggle, however, is with strikeouts, and Scherzer’s K Prediction of 10.7 is the largest on the slate by a wide margin.
A K Prediction above 10 is very rare, with only 29 prior occurrences in our Trends tool database. At FantasyLabs, we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual versus expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous players at comparable salaries. Those pitchers have posted a massive historical Plus/Minus of +6.31, and Scherzer has personally averaged a Plus/Minus of +7.96 in his five prior instances. Scherzer has also posted 15-day/12-month distance and hard hit differentials of -2 feet and -6 percentage points, so he’s in solid recent form.
With Sale and Alex Wood providing more safety with their opponent implied team totals and projected margin of victories, Scherzer could have lower than normal ownership by his standards. Combining that with his strikeout upside, Scherzer looks like an ideal target for DraftKings tournaments.
139-Foot Recent Batted Ball Distance – Alex Wood
Alex Wood has been an absolute monster over his last 10 games, returning value in each contest and posting an average Plus/Minus of +10.83. He appears to be in another great spot today against the Atlanta Braves; he’s the largest favorite of the day with a projected margin of victory of +2.0 runs, and his opponent implied team total of 2.8 runs ranks first as well. His K Prediction of 8.3 is second only to Scherzer, and pitchers with comparable K Predictions, opponent implied team totals, and projected margins of victory have a historical Plus/Minus of +6.61 and a Consistency Rating of 75 percent.
As impressive as all that is, the most elite data point for Wood might actually be his recent Statcast data. He allowed a batted ball distance of only 139 feet in his last start, which is absolutely incredible, and pitchers with comparable distances have a historical Plus/Minus of +7.33. If we reduce the trend to look only at pitchers with comparable strikeout upside to Wood, the number increases to a ridiculous +8.90 and a perfect Consistency Rating of 100 percent. Wood comes at a discount of $1,600 compared to Sale and $900 compared to Scherzer, and you could make a strong case that he’s the best option of the three today regardless of salary.
12 Pro Trends – Charlie Blackmon
At FantasyLabs, we have what are called “Pro Trends” – angles we’ve identified that historically yield value. The Rockies continue their homestand with a matchup against the Pirates today, and no one should be happier that they’re staying in Colorado than Charlie Blackmon. He’s scored double-digit fantasy points in 10 straight games, and he leads today’s slate with 12 Pro Trends. His numbers at Coors continue to be absolutely ridiculous – he’s posted a .525 wOBA and .428 ISO in Coors this season – and the Rockies lead the slate once again with an implied team total of 6.2 runs. Leadoff hitters at Coors with comparable implied team totals have a historical Plus/Minus of +2.44.
Blackmon also continues to crush the baseball, with an average distance of 271 feet over his last 10 games. That kind of distance is always positive, but it’s ideal at Coors, where batters with comparable distances have a historical Plus/Minus of +2.73. He’s also facing Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams, which puts Blackmon on the positive side of his splits: He has a .412 wOBA and .316 ISO against righties over the past 12 months.
The only downside with Blackmon is his current salary of $5,700. He’s been worth every penny of late, but at that steep cost it might not be possible to stack Blackmon with some of his teammates and still be able to afford one of the top pitchers. With two other teams implied for six-plus runs on this slate, it’s possible the Rockies bats could have lower than expected ownership for that reason.
100 Park Factor – All Rockies and Pirates Batters
Park Factor is a 0-to-100 FantasyLabs metric that measures the friendliness of a park based on the handedness of the pitcher. Coors Field has been in full effect this week, with the Rockies and Padres combining for 15, 16, and 22 runs during their three-game series. There’s a reason that the Coors game almost always has the highest total of the day, with the conditions resulting in an absolutely perfect setting for hitting. All batters benefit from a Park Factor of 100, and they’ve historically averaged more fantasy points and a higher Plus/Minus than at any other stadium.
Blackmon obviously leads the way for the Rockies, but there are plenty of other batters for Colorado in good recent form. Gerardo Parra has a 15-day/12-month distance differential of +29 feet, and batters with comparable differentials have a historical Plus/Minus of +2.83. DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, and Mark Reynolds have also posted differentials of at least +13 feet, meaning each of the batters projected to bat one through five have relatively significant increases over the last 15 days. A one-through-five Rockies stack will cost a whopping $25,000, but rarely will you see a group of batters in better recent form at Coors.
The Pirates’ implied team total of 5.4 runs ranks fourth today, but, unlike the Rockies, most of their batters are relatively affordable. Only two of their projected starters have salaries above $3,900, and hitters priced below $4,000 have a historical Plus/Minus of +1.23 at Coors. Cheap batters hitting in the top-five have been particularly valuable, with an average Plus/Minus of +2.18, which should make Josh Harrison, Josh Bell, and David Freese appealing options at their positions. Bell and Harrison have also posted 15-day/12-month distance differentials of +7 feet, so they’re also in solid recent form.
102 Team Value Rating – Kansas City Royals
Team Value Rating is a 0-to-100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. The Royals are implied for a whopping 6.1 runs today, and yet as a whole, they’re extremely cheap: No batter costs more than $3,900, and four have salaries of $3,400 or less. They’re facing White Sox right-hander James Shields, who has been a home run machine over the past 12 months; his average of 2.67 home runs per nine innings allowed is one of the worst marks in baseball. His past-year WHIP of 1.68 is the second-worst mark on today’s slate, so it’s not like he’s struggled exclusively with the long ball either.
The 6.1 implied team total is eye-opening; you just don’t see it that often outside of Colorado. Removing Coors Field, Chase Field and Wrigley Field from the sample leaves only 464 instances out of over 145,000 in our database where a player has had an implied team total of at least six runs, and those players have a surprisingly-low Plus/Minus of +0.56. Filtering the results further, batters priced below $4,000 have stumbled to a Plus/Minus of just +0.05, and their average ownership of 12 percent suggests that these batters have historically disappointed a lot of people. Despite what appears to be a great spot for Kansas City, some fade consideration in tournaments could be warranted.
One batter who does stand out, however, is projected No. 9 hitter Alex Gordon. His spot in the order should keep his ownership level reasonable, and he’s posted a 15-day/12-month distance differential of +39 feet over his last nine games. At only $2,300, he has some appeal as an outfield punt option.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) 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.