Today’s main slate features 12 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.
8.8 K Prediction – Jacob deGrom
deGrom has been lights out over his last seven starts, allowing a total of nine earned runs while striking out 50 batters in 53.2 innings. He looks to be in a great spot today in San Diego against the Padres. They’ve been one of the worst hitting teams all season; their .305 team wOBA against right-handed pitchers ranks 27th this season. deGrom’s resulting opponent implied team total of 3.3 runs is the lowest mark on the slate, and his projected margin of victory of +1.0 runs ranks fourth. Petco Park is also one of the friendliest stadiums in the league for pitchers, and deGrom’s Park Factor of 80 is one of the best marks today.
In addition to their poor wOBA, the Padres also have the highest strikeout rate this season against right-handed pitchers at 25.6 percent. deGrom has the third-highest 12-month K/9 on the slate at 9.98, and the combination of strikeout ability and matchup results in an 8.8 K Prediction that leads the slate. 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. Pitchers with comparable K Predictions, opponent implied team totals, and projected margin of victories have a historical Plus/Minus of +3.01.
Additionally, deGrom has been in great form over his last two starts, posting 15-day/12-month distance, exit velocity, and hard hit differentials of -6 feet, -3 miles per hour, and -12 percentage points. Given his matchup, K Prediction, and recent form, deGrom is easily the top pitching option on today’s slate.
110 Recent Pitch Count – Justin Verlander
Verlander hasn’t been very effective recently, posting an average Plus/Minus of -2.11 over his last 10 starts. That said, one thing he has managed to do is throw a lot of pitches. His average pitch count of 110 over his last two starts is a high number for a pitcher in today’s game, and staying in games for that long gives pitchers a chance to rack up strikeouts and hopefully factor into the decision.
For today’s start against the Royals, his opponent implied team total of 4.3 runs is merely average, but his projected margin of victory of +1.0 runs does make him a solid favorite. He’s also posted 15-day/12-month distance, exit velocity, and hard hit differentials of -15 feet, -1 miles per hour, and -4 percentage points, and his K Prediction of 6.4 ranks sixth on the slate. He posted 23.55 fantasy points against these same Royals in his last start, resulting in a Plus/Minus of +9.10.
11 Pro Trends – Tommy Pham, Justin Smoak, and Mike Napoli
At FantasyLabs, we have what are called “Pro Trends” – angles we’ve identified that historically yield value. Three batters are tied for the lead with 11 Pro Trends on today’s slate; that number has historically led to a Plus/Minus of +2.18. All three batters are projected to bat in the top five of the lineup, and all are playing for teams implied for at least five runs. We’ll touch on Napoli in a later section, so let’s instead focus on Pham and Smoak.
Pham has the lowest implied team total of the group at 5.0 runs, and he’s on the negative side of his batting splits facing Rockies’ right-hander Antonio Senzatela. What he has done recently is crush the baseball, posting 15-day/12-month distance, exit velocity, and hard hit differentials of +33 feet, +4 miles per hour, and +14 percentage points. He’s projected to bat second, and batters with comparable lineup spots, implied team totals, and recent differentials have a historical Plus/Minus of +3.41. Given that the Cardinals’ implied team total ranks only ninth on this slate, his ownership levels should be very reasonable.
Smoak is in the middle of a monster season, already setting a new career-high with 27 home runs in 2017. Like Pham, he’s in great recent form, with an average distance of 264 feet, an exit velocity of 98 miles per hour, and a hard hit rate of 59 percent over his last 11 games. Those are elite Statcast numbers, and batters with comparable batted ball stats have a historical Plus/Minus of +1.58.
65 Park Factor – Left-Handed Marlins and Rangers
Park Factor is a 0-to-100 FantasyLabs metric that measures the friendliness of a park based on the handedness of the pitcher. This slate lacks a true hitter’s paradise for batters: There’s no Coors Field, no Chase Field, or even a park like Yankees Stadium available today. Instead, the top Park Factor belongs to left-handed hitters at Globe Life Park in Arlington with a 65 rating. That said, both teams are throwing left-handed starters in today’s contest, and lefty-on-lefty matchups have resulted in an average Plus/Minus of -0.44 for batters. Per our Trends database, that’s been the worst historical correlation between pitcher and batter handedness in terms of fantasy points for offensive players.
One positive, however, is that these left-handed batters have average ownership of only 2.7 percent, and there are select lefty batters who do post solid numbers against southpaw pitchers. We’re currently projecting the Marlins to start five left-handed batters, and lefty first baseman Justin Bour could start as well. Bour playing would be ideal for fantasy purposes: He’s posted a .420 wOBA and .300 ISO against left-handed pitchers over the past 12 months. Ichiro Suzuki is another left-handed batter with positive splits against left-handed pitchers, and he’s also posted a 15-day/12-month distance differential of +15 feet.
The Rangers are projected to start three left-handed batters in Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara, and Rougned Odor. Unlike Bour and Ichiro, however, all three have terrible splits against lefties. That said, with a slate-high implied team total of 6.1 runs, utilizing the left-handed batters could be a way to make a Rangers stack slightly contrarian. It’s likely suboptimal to roster these players against southpaws in the long term, but embracing some volatility to make your lineup unique is typically necessary to win a DraftKings tournament.
92 Team Value Rating – Texas Rangers
Team Value Rating is a 0-to-100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. Despite having a slate-high implied team total, the Rangers are pretty affordable: Choo and Elvis Andrus lead the team with salaries of $4,500, and six projected starters have salaries of $4,000 or less. They’re facing Marlins pitcher Adam Conley, who has a disgusting past-year WHIP of 1.795, and the Rangers’ projected lineup has a 12-month wOBA of .331 against left-handed pitchers.
Napoli was mentioned in the Pro Trends section, and he stands out as an elite option today. His past-year wOBA of .364 and ISO of .257 against southpaws are excellent marks, and he’s absolutely mashed recently with an average batted ball distance of 277 feet, an exit velocity of 97 miles per hour, and a hard hit rate of 52 percent. The distance is particularly impressive, resulting in a 15-day/12-month differential of +57 feet; batters with a comparable differential and implied team total have a historical Plus/Minus of +1.64. At only $3,900, he should be a cornerstone of Rangers stacks today.
Adrian Beltre has the best numbers on the team against left-handers with a wOBA of .439 and ISO of .286 over the past 12 months, and he has a historical Plus/Minus of +2.73 when facing a southpaw at home. Carlos Gomez is second on the team with eight Pro Trends, and has the second-best recent Statcast data with an average distance of 211 feet and a hard hit rate of 42 percent over his last 10 games. Finally, Jonathan Lucroy stands out at only $2,500 at catcher. Projected to bat seventh, he has a past-year wOBA split of .336 and ISO split of .218, and with FantasyLabs projected ownership of only two to four percent, he could be a key diversifying factor for Rangers stacks.
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.