Today’s main slate features 14 games and starts at 7:05 pm ET. Here’s a date-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.
9.1 K Prediction – Clayton Kershaw
Even though Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel, Yu Darvish, Michael Pineda and Michael Fulmer are in the slate, ownership is likely to be dominated by Kershaw, probably the best pitcher in the league, with his 7-2 record and 2.37 ERA. In his 11 starts this season, he’s allowed more than three earned runs only twice — and that’s despite already having two Coors Field starts. Only once this year has he scored fewer than double-digit DraftKings points. Of course, that game was just five days ago, when he allowed an uncharacteristic 11 hits and four earned runs in only 4.1 innings against the Cubs, striking out only four batters in his shortest outing of the year. As a result of that game, he owns some rather mediocre Statcast data: Over the last 15 days, he’s allowed a batted ball distance of 213 feet, exit velocity of 92 miles per hour, and hard-hit rate of 34 percent. Even though he struck out 10 batters and allowed only three hits and one run in nine innings two starts ago, his recent form doesn’t look great.
Given that Kershaw is $13,100 and at least $1,100 more expensive than every other pitcher, there is reason to be cautious about him, especially since the projected lineup of the opposing Brewers has a 0.327 wOBA against left-handed pitching, the slate’s second-highest split-adjusted mark. And yet even with that, Kershaw is the slate’s heaviest favorite, as the Dodgers are favored by a slate-high 1.6 runs over the Brewers, who have a slate-low implied total of 3.0 runs. If you add in Kershaw’s slate-high 9.1 K Prediction (not to mention his slate-low 0.902 WHIP over the last year), he looks like the same ol’ Kershaw, despite his struggles last game. 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. Historically, pitchers comparable to Kershaw on the basis of strikeout prediction and opponent implied total have averaged 24.10 DraftKings points with a +3.88 Plus/Minus and 64.3 percent Consistency Rating. When Kershaw, in particular, has previously had similar K Predictions and opponent totals, he’s averaged 29.65 DraftKings points with a +6.55 Plus/Minus and 69.4 percent Consistency Rating.
Either way, the numbers suggest he’s likely to accomplish Kershaw-esque feats today.
81 Recent Batted Ball Luck Score – Jerad Eickhoff
Despite his 0-5 record and 4.74 ERA this year, Eickhoff is not a bad pitcher. He might look like one — but he’s not. In 2015-16, Eickhoff went only 14-17 across 41 starts, but he managed to have a 3.44 ERA and solid 1.136 WHIP. He’s not a strikeout machine — he has a 5.8 K Prediction against the Giants, who are implied to score a mediocre (for this slate) 4.2 runs — but on the season he’s averaging 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which is better than his 7.8 mark in 2015-16. Again, Eickhoff is not a bad pitcher.
For this slate especially, Eickhoff is intriguing. He’s affordable at $6,200, the Phillies are favored over the Giants by 0.2 runs — which isn’t a lot, but it’s something — and the Giants are last in the league with a .635 OPS this season. He has the right matchup at the right price. On top of that, it’s likely that Eickhoff has been unlucky lately as a fantasy producer. He could be in line for positive 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, Eickhoff has the slate’s highest mark at 81: Even though he’s in the bottom quintile of recent fantasy production, he’s in the top quintile of all pitchers in batted ball distance. Over the last half-month, Eickhoff has held opposing hitters to a batted ball distance of 188 feet, exit velocity of 90 miles per hour and fly ball rate of 21 percent. Historically, pitchers comparable to Eickhoff in salary, K Prediction, opponent implied total and Recent Batted Ball Luck have averaged a +2.50 Plus/Minus and 56.0 percent Consistency Rating with only a 5.7 percent ownership rate in large-field guaranteed prize pools.
For players looking to save money at their second pitching spot, Eickhoff is in play.
10 Pro Trends – Aaron Hicks and Austin Romine
At FantasyLabs we have what are called “Pro Trends” — angles we’ve identified that historically yield value. With eight home runs and a .317 batting average in what is shaping into a breakout season, Hicks leads the slate with 10 Pro Trends. At just $4,000, Hicks is projected to bat second for the Yankees, who are implied for a respectable 4.8 runs against the Blue Jays. On the mound for the Jays is the left-handed Francisco Liriano, who has a 6.35 ERA this season and is returning from the disabled list, where he’s been for just under a month with inflammation in his left shoulder. A switch-hitter who’s better from the right side of the plate, Hicks is on the positive side of his splits with a .217 ISO and .442 slugging percentage against southpaws.
Although the Yankees aren’t likely to be extremely chalky, they do own the slate’s fifth-highest implied total, so one way to create relatively rare Yankees stacks is to roster Romine, who also leads the slate with 10 Pro Trends but is projected to bat ninth. Although he’s played only four games in the last 15 days, he’s hit the ball well recently with a batted ball distance of 234 feet and hard hit rate of 44 percent. At $2,500, he’s cheap and on the positive side of his hitting splits.
Batters comparable to Hicks on the basis of lineup spot and Pro Trends have historically averaged a +1.73 Plus/Minus with a 47.7 percent Consistency Rating; Romine, +0.77 and 41.4 percent. Collectively, the offer some inexpensive upside.
78 Park Factor – Left-Handed Red Sox 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 and the starting pitcher. As they have for much of this week, 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.
While the only lefty of interest on the Orioles is the aforementioned Davis — who is on the positive side of his splits against Red Sox righty Rick Porcello — the lefties on the Sox are intriguing. Facing former-starter-turned-reliever-turned-swing-starter Alec Asher, the Sox are implied for a slate-high 5.2 runs. While the top of the lineup is likely to be chalky, it’s also loaded with righties (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez) who are on the negative side of their splits. The lefties, though, are in a position to crush — and most of them are in the bottom half of the lineup and could have reduced ownership. Andrew Benintendi is likely to bat second, but Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley and the switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval are expected to bat fifth through seventh and have strongly positive splits from the left side of the plate. It doesn’t hurt that the wind is blowing from left to right at Camden Yards at nine miles per hour.
If you want to stack the team with the slate’s highest total in a way that isn’t chalky, rostering the middle-of-the-order lefties and switch-hitter will give you a chance.
86 Team Value Rating – Angels
Team Value Rating is a 0-to-100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. The Angles have a total of 4.6 runs, which is respectable but unremarkable in this slate. Nevertheless, they lead the slate with a high Team Value Rating of 86, as they are monumentally cheap: Only one player in their projected lineup — Albert Pujols — has a salary of at least $4,000. Although the Angels this season have the league’s fifth-lowest mark with a .694 OPS and are currently without stud slugger Mike Trout, they are lucky to be facing Twins righty Kyle Gibson, who this season has a 7.85 ERA and over the last 12 months has a 1.66 WHIP. In eight starts this season, Gibson is yet to allow fewer than three runs, and in half of his starts this year he’s allowed at least four runs. The Angels aren’t a potent team, but at least they’re facing a bad pitcher and have a wind of seven miles per hour blowing out from home plate.
Historically, batters in the top half of the order with comparable salaries, team total and wind direction have averaged a +1.04 Plus/Minus and 46.8 percent Consistency Rating. For people who want a cheap stack with upside and likely low ownership, the Angels are an option.
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.