WATCH: PITCHER TO CONSIDER – JON LESTER
Today’s main slate features 11 games and starts at 7:05 pm ET. Here’s a data-driven breakdown featuring five key stats, courtesy of FantasyLabs Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Freedman.
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.
9.3 K Prediction – Jon Lester
Today’s slate features three pitchers priced above $10,000: Clayton Kershaw ($13,500), Corey Kluber ($11,700) and Jon Lester ($10,500). While Kershaw and Kluber are clearly both strong pitchers — they lead the slate with WHIPs of .918 and 1.110, respectively, over the last 12 months — the left-handed Lester might actually be the pitcher with the most upside on this slate, primarily because of his matchup. Facing the Padres, who this season are last in the league with a .639 OPS versus lefties, Lester leads the slate with a high 9.3 K Prediction. Although we don’t yet have run projections for the Padres-Cubs game because of the wind at Wrigley Field, the Padres are last in the league this season with 3.70 runs per game. As a result, the Cubs are the second-largest favorites in the slate.
At FantasyLabs we have a proprietary Plus/Minus metric that measures actual vs. expected fantasy production based on the historical performances of previous players at comparable salaries. Per our industry-leading Trends tool, home pitchers comparable to Lester in K Prediction and probability of winning have historically averaged 25.58 DraftKings points with a +5.07 Plus/Minus and 62.5 percent Consistency Rating. Since joining the Cubs in 2015, Lester has been at his best at Wrigley, averaging 21.29 DraftKings points there with a +3.16 Plus/Minus and 63.4 percent Consistency Rating.
For people who want a premium pitcher but don’t want to pay all the way up, Lester is a strong option. If the weather in Chicago ends up being an issue closer to lineup lock — as of writing there’s a 17 percent chance of light rain — then Brad Peacock at $8,100 could be someone to consider. He’s second in the slate with an 8.1 K Prediction, and the Astros are likely to give him ample run support versus the Athletics.
-66 Recent Batted Ball Luck Score – Clayton Kershaw
By most metrics, Kershaw is easily one of the best pitchers in the league — the three-time Cy Young Award winner has a 9-2 record with a 2.23 ERA on the season — but his upside seems limited in this slate. Although the Dodgers are massively favored at home by 1.9 runs over the Mets, who have a slate-low implied total of only 2.6 runs, Kershaw is only sixth in the slate with a 6.5 K Prediction. Although the Mets aren’t great against lefties, their projected lineup has the slate’s fifth-lowest splits-adjusted strikeout rate (23.5 percent) and fifth-highest splits-adjusted wOBA (.313) over the last 12 months. Kershaw is likely to do well against the Mets — but he might not be his full Kershaw-ian self.
On top of that, it’s likely that Kershaw — who over his last two games has struck out ‘only’ 13 batters in 14 innings, averaging 25.55 DraftKings points per start — has been overly lucky lately and could be in line for some negative regression. At FantasyLabs, we have a Recent Batted Ball Luck metric that measures the difference between a player’s percentile rank in batted ball distance and fantasy scoring over the past 15 days. Of all the slate’s starting pitchers, Kershaw has the slate’s worst mark at -66: Even though he’s in the top 40 percent of recent fantasy production, he’s in the bottom 40 percent of all pitchers in batted ball distance. Over the last 15 days, Kershaw has allowed a batted ball distance of 210 feet, which isn’t outrageously high, but it’s high for Kershaw, who over the last 12 months has an average distance allowed of just 198 feet.
Kershaw is literally the best home pitcher in the history of DraftKings, averaging 32.43 points at Dodger Stadium with a +9.41 Plus/Minus. When he’s pitched there at a comparable salary, his Consistency Rating has been an unreal 84.4 percent. Home pitchers comparable to Kershaw on the basis of probability to win, opponent implied total and even his low K Prediction have historically averaged 28.34 DraftKings points with a +7.92 Plus/Minus and 85.7 percent Consistency Rating. However, pitchers with Kershaw’s K Prediction and Recent Batted Ball Luck have averaged just 14.86 DraftKings points with a -1.29 Plus/Minus.
Kershaw’s combination of positive and negative data is rare — and the positive data is likely to prove more predictive than the negative — but his low K Prediction and especially his negative Recent Batted Ball Luck make Kershaw a riskier pitcher than he ordinarily is.
10 Pro Trends – Cody Bellinger, Lorenzo Cain and Lonnie Chisenhall
At FantasyLabs we have what are called “Pro Trends” — angles we’ve identified that historically yield value. Cody Bellinger, Lorenzo Cain and Lonnie Chisenhall lead the slate with 10 Pro Trends. I’ll highlight Chisenhall later, but for now, Bellinger and Cain deserve coverage.
Although he’s the slate’s third-most expensive non-pitcher at $5,200 and has dual eligibility at first base and the outfield, Bellinger isn’t likely to have high ownership. He’s the rare lefty who’s on the negative side of his batting splits against Mets righty Zack Wheeler, and the Dodgers are implied for an unexceptional 4.5 runs. Still, Bellinger is crushing the ball recently with a batted ball distance of 248 feet and fly ball and hard hit rates of 47 and 64 percent, respectively. Historically, batters comparable to Bellinger in lineup spot, Statcast data and Pro Trends have averaged 10.84 DraftKings points with a +2.56 Plus/Minus and 49.0 percent Consistency Rating.
Like Bellinger, Cain isn’t in an exceptional situation, as five teams in the slate are currently implied for more than the Royals’ 4.8 runs, but Cain is the No. 3 hitter on a team facing a rookie with a 6.48 ERA and making only his second MLB start. On top of that, Cain is hitting the ball well right now, with a batted ball distance of 232 feet and fly ball and hard hit rates of 33 and 47 percent over the last 15 days. Historically, batters comparable to Cain in lineup spot, Statcast data and Pro Trends have averaged 10.50 DraftKings points with a +2.03 Plus/Minus and 50.3 percent Consistency Rating.
Stacked with teammates or used individually, Bellinger and Cain both have substantial upside.
78 Park Factor – Left-Handed Indians and Orioles
Park Factor is a 0-to-100 FantasyLabs metric that measures the friendliness of a park based on the handedness of the batter. As they have for several main slates throughout the year, lefties in Oriole Park at Camden Yards lead the slate with a Park Factor of 78. With relatively short distances of 318 feet to the right-field foul pole and 373 feet to right-center field, Camden Yards has been a lefty-friendly venue throughout its existence, witnessing some big slugging seasons from Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson in the 1990s to Chris Davis now.
Of course, the Orioles are without Davis, who is on the disabled list with a strained oblique, and so they have a very righty-heavy lineup. The Indians, however, facing Orioles righty Dylan Bundy, have seven lefties and switch-hitters in their lineup. Third on the slate with 5.1 implied runs, the Indians are in a good spot. While the Indians-Orioles game currently has a 46 percent chance of precipitation, that probably doesn’t hurt the Indians. In fact, the game has a slate-high Weather Rating of 69, as DraftKings hitters have historically benefited from rainy games that aren’t postponed, which could especially be the case today: if weather issues force Bundy out of the game early, then the Indians could leverage their 97 Opponent Bullpen Rating by facing the overworked Orioles relievers for multiple at-bats per hitter. This season, the Orioles bullpen is 28th in the league with a .790 OPS.
One way to get exposure to the Indians without being chalky is to roster the aforementioned Chisenhall, who is expected to bat seventh. With his slate-high Pro Trends, Park Factor and Weather Rating, Chisenhall is in a great position, and he’s crushed the ball recently with a batted ball distance of 249 feet and fly ball and hard hit rates of 64 and 44 percent over the last 10 games. Historically, batters comparable to Chisenhall in Statcast data and Pro Trends have averaged a +1.67 Plus/Minus with a 45.2 percent Consistency Rating.
83 Team Value Rating – Blue Jays
Team Value Rating is a 0-to-100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. Facing the Rangers at the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington, the Blue Jays lead the slate with an implied total of 5.6 runs and a Team Value Rating of 83. With four of their first five hitters priced at least $4,000, the Blue Jays aren’t actually inexpensive, but they also don’t have a batter with a top-10 non-pitcher salary. Relative to their implied total and the other hitters in the slate, the Blue Jays are discounted.
Going against 32-year-old rookie righty Austin Bibens-Dirkx — who swings between the bullpen and rotation as needed and is making just his third MLB start — the Blue Jays are in a good spot. Although their projected lineup has the slate’s second-highest splits-adjusted strikeout rate (29.9 percent) and second-lowest splits-adjusted wOBA (.267) over the last 12 months, the top of Toronto’s batting order is in play. Kevin Pillar has horrible splits against righties, but Josh Donaldson has nine Pro Trends and a recent 54 percent hard hit rate. Jose Bautista is at his best against righties with a .121 ISO differential, and switch-hitters Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak also hit righties well and have recent batted ball distances over 220 feet. If Bibens-Dirkx is unable to pitch deep into the game, the Blue Jays might be able to leverage their 94 Opponent Bullpen Rating by facing the overworked Rangers relievers for multiple at-bats per hitter. This season, the Rangers bullpen is 23rd in the league with a .773 OPS.
If you’re looking for a way to stack the Blue Jays in a contrarian way, consider Russell Martin. Expected to bat seventh, Martin is just $3,800 with dual eligibility at catcher and third base. He’s on the positive side of his splits and has a respectable .214 ISO against righties over the last 12 months. With fly ball and hard hit rates of 40 and 35 percent, he’s making solid contact right now.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mefreedman) 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.