Today’s main slate features seven games and starts at 7:10 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.
8.8 K Prediction – Carlos Martinez
Not only does today’s main slate offer only seven games, but these games are rather unappealing. The slate’s most expensive pitcher at $12,500, Martinez isn’t just $3,400 more than every other pitcher: He’s also $1,300 more than he’s ever been. On the one hand, Martinez easily leads the slate with an 8.8 K Prediction, and the Cardinals are favored by a slate-high 0.7 runs over the Reds, who are implied for 4.2 runs — which is a relatively low total in this slate. With a fastball velocity of 96 miles per hour over the last half-month, Martinez is clearly the slate’s hardest-throwing hurler, and that’s nice. On the other hand, Martinez is on the road at Great American Ball Park, where he has the slate’s second-lowest Park Factor at 39 as well as a 52 percent chance of precipitation. Although the forecast calls for only light rain, it’s still possible that Martinez could be significantly impacted by weather issues, and that’s not what you want when you’re paying up for a pitcher.
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 Martinez on the basis of K Prediction, Park Factor, opponent implied total and likelihood to win have averaged a +2.88 Plus/Minus with a 62.8 percent Consistency Rating. That Plus/Minus isn’t elite, but it’s probably the best you can hope for in this slate. Over his last five games Martinez has averaged a slate-high 25.8 DraftKings points per game. At least he’s in strong form right now.
If the weather in Cincinnati doesn’t clear, Jeff Samardzija is a pivot option. He’s third on the slate in price ($8,900) and K Prediction (6.9), and the Giants are favored over the Brewers by 0.4 runs.
98 Recent Batted Ball Luck Score – Bartolo Colon
Colon is 44 years old. In his 11 starts this year, he’s 2-6 with a 6.99 ERA and a league-high 43 earned runs allowed. He’s a horrible pitcher. Over his last five starts, he’s averaged a disgusting 2.7 DraftKings points per game. On the season, he has a -6.77 Plus/Minus. Out of all pitchers with at least double-digit appearances, he easily has the worst Plus/Minus of 2017. Bizarrely, though, Colon probably isn’t as bad as he seems. Last year he had a 3.43 ERA, and from 2008 to 2016 he had a 3.67 ERA. He’s affordable at $5,700, and the Braves are favored over the Phillies by 0.3 runs — which isn’t a lot, but it’s something.
On top of that, it’s likely that Colon has been extremely unlucky lately as a fantasy producer and 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, Colon easily has the slate’s highest mark at 98: Even though he’s in the bottom three percent of recent fantasy production, he’s in the top three percent of all pitchers in batted ball distance. Over the last half-month, Colon has held opposing hitters to slate-low marks in batted ball distance (162 feet), exit velocity (86 mph), fly ball rate (10 percent), hard hit rate (20 percent) and air time (2.01 seconds), inducing ground balls at a slate-high rate of 75 percent. Historically, pitchers comparable to Colon in Recent Batted Ball Luck have averaged a +3.15 Plus/Minus and 67.8 percent Consistency Rating with only a 4.0 percent ownership rate in large-field guaranteed prize pools. For players looking to save money at their second pitching spot in GPPs, Colon is in play.
Of course, with this slate being what it is, the Phillies-Braves game has a slate-high 65 percent chance of precipitation. If the weather in Atlanta doesn’t clear, Hyun-jin Ryu is a potential pivot. He’s cheap at $6,600, and the Dodgers are favored by 0.5 runs over the Nationals, who have a slate-low implied total of 3.8 runs.
11 Pro Trends – Ben Zobrist
At FantasyLabs we have what are called “Pro Trends” — angles we’ve identified that historically yield value. Even though it’s been 10 days since he last got a hit, Zobrist leads the slate with 11 Pro Trends. On the one hand, Zobrist is the projected cleanup hitter for the Cubs, who are facing Marlins righty Dan Straily. Although Straily is pitching well this year with a 3.56 ERA, he also pitched well last year, when he had a 3.76 ERA — and allowed a league-high 31 home runs. Because of the wind in Chicago, we don’t have implied totals yet for the Marlins-Cubs game, but the Cubs have some upside. On the other hand, there’s the wind in Chicago, which is blowing in from left field at an outrageous 17 mph. Given that the Cubs game has a zero percent chance of precipitation, the Weather Rating of 47 is uninspiring.
Despite his recent struggles and the weather in Chicago, Zobrist is a strong option. He’s cheap at $3,700, he has dual eligibility at second base and in the outfield and he’s crushed the ball recently. Over the last 15 days, he has a batted ball distance of 244 feet and fly ball and hard hit rates of 43 percent. Batters comparable to Zobrist on the basis of lineup spot, Pro Trends and Statcast data have historically averaged 11.23 DraftKings points with a +2.75 Plus/Minus, 51.4 percent Consistency Rating and 10.9 percent ownership rate.
Given his recent struggles, Zobrist could be rosterable at an ownership discount.
67 Park Factor – Right-Handed Cardinals and Reds
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. With no games at Coors and Chase Fields — or even Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards or Globe Life Park — this slate doesn’t have a venue that dramatically juices hitting production. Nevertheless, the righties at Great American Ball Park lead the slate with a Park Factor of 67. Given the probability of rain, the 0.61 humidity, and the wind blowing out from home plate at six mph, the Cardinals and Reds could be in something of a sneaky spot.
The Cardinals are second in the slate with an implied total of 4.9 runs and facing Reds righty Asher Wojciechowski, who last week made his first start of the season, allowing four earned runs in four innings on 69 pitches. The Cardinals righties led by cleanup hitter Jedd Gyorko could crush Woj. And the Reds — while implied for only 4.2 runs — could also do some damage. They shouldn’t be played in a lineup with Martinez, but if the forecast in Cincy stays dodgy the Reds deserve some speculative exposure. If there are rain delays or other weather issues, Martinez could be pulled early, which would give the Reds the opportunity to leverage their slate-high 99 Opponent Bullpen Rating and exploit the tired Cardinals relievers, who rank 23rd in the league with a .756 OPS and 4.60 ERA.
With the likelihood of rain, this game could feature two lineups with elevated upside and reduced ownership.
90 Team Value Rating – Phillies
Team Value Rating is a 0-to-100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. The Phillies are tied for second on the slate with an implied total of 4.9 runs, and they lead the slate with a remarkably high Team Value Rating of 90, as they are monumentally cheap: not one player in their projected lineup has a salary of more than $3,700. No. 2 hitter Odubel Herrera is tied atop the slate with 11 Pro Trends at just $2,900. Batters with comparable salaries and Pro Trends historically have averaged 9.91 DraftKings points with a +3.47 Plus/Minus and 56.1 percent Consistency Rating.
It might seem hypocritical of me to highlight Colon in the pitching section and then the lineup facing him in the hitting section — but both Colon and the Phillies warrant some GPP exposure, even with (or rather because of) the probability of rain. Again, because of weather issues and slate size, options are limited. The Phillies aren’t likely to be as chalky as the Astros, Braves and Cardinals, and they’re significantly cheaper. In GPPs, that makes them strangely attractive.
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.