Today’s main slate features 11 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 tools 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.
9.0 Plus/Minus – Jason Vargas
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. Even though this slate has a few studs in it — Clayton Kershaw ($13,900), Johnny Cueto ($11,500) and Lance McCullers ($10,700) — the pitcher with the best salary-adjusted production over the last 12 months has been Vargas, who’s only $7,400 even though his salary has increased by $1,400 over the last month. Granted, Vargas has appeared in only seven games over the last year (returning from Tommy John surgery in September 2016), but in those starts, he has outperformed his salary-based expectations by 9.0 points per game. Kershaw is second in the slate with a 12-month Plus/Minus of +6.2.
While Vargas scored only 11.05 DraftKings points in his last start, he’s somehow still been a Kershaw-esque force over the last month, averaging 26.0 points per game with a Consistency Rating of 75 percent. Only Kershaw has more points (27.7) than him since the season started. Second in the slate with a 0.914 WHIP and 0.484 home runs allowed per nine innings over the last year, Vargas has a number of factors in his favor. Importantly, he’s third in the slate with 8.1 implied strikeouts, the opposing White Sox are currently implied for only 3.5 runs, and the Sox-Royals game has a forecast with zero percent chance of precipitation. According to our industry-leading Trends tool, previous pitchers with comparable salaries, strikeout predictions, opponent implied totals and precipitation odds have done well with a +3.02 Plus/Minus and 64.7 percent Consistency Rating.
Significantly cheaper than the slate’s studs, Vargas has the potential to outperform almost all of them.
9 Pro Trends – Clayton Kershaw
If you don’t want to pivot away from Kershaw, that’s understandable. He currently leads all pitchers in Pro Trends (FantasyLabs-identified angles that historically yield value), and he’s first, second, and third with a 0.724 WHIP, 10.512 strikeouts per nine innings, and 0.553 home runs allowed per nine innings over the last year. He’s a manimal, and he’ll likely be popular. This season he’s been owned at a 47.9 percent rate in large-field guaranteed prize pools. Our exclusive Volatility Rating metric measures the differences in player ownership at various stakes, and in Kershaw’s last start (Apr. 25) he had a slate-high 16.3 Volatility Rating, as players in the $1,500 Gold Glove rostered him at a substantially higher rate (64.81 percent) than those in the $4 Four-Seamer (44.76 percent) — even though he still was the highest-owned player in the smallest GPP.
Honestly, he should change his last name to “Kerchalk:” There are so many reasons to like him. Over the last 15 days, he’s first, third, and third with a 62 percent strike rate, 21 percent hard hit rate and 87 percent exit velocity. On top of that, he’s easily first with an opponent implied total of 2.4 runs, and the Dodgers have an implied 1.3-run advantage over the Giants. With 8.3 predicted strikeouts and a forecast with zero percent chance of precipitation, Kershaw could dominate. Historically, whenever Kershaw has had a comparable salary, strikeout prediction, opponent implied total and precipitation odds, he has crushed with an absurd +9.69 Plus/Minus and 80 percent Consistency Rating.
His salary makes him hard to roster. Everything else makes him hard not to roster.
.220 ISO Differential – Rickie Weeks
At FantasyLabs, our Player Models present ISO and wOBA based on the handedness of the starting pitcher a player is projected to face in a slate. For instance, since Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen is a left-handed pitcher, Weeks sports in the Models a 12-month ISO of 0.352 against lefties — the slate’s highest mark for a projected No. 4 hitter. In fact, Weeks intrigues in this matchup. The slate’s cheapest cleanup hitter at $2,600, he’s significantly better against lefties than righties with a slate-high 0.220 ISO Differential. Although Weeks is only a platoon player — and one who this season has a disgustingly low .179 batting average, one home run and two runs batted in — he’s on the beneficial side of his splits and has crushed in the past under similar conditions. It’s true that out of all cleanup hitters in the slate he’s second (to Chris Davis) with 0.346 strikeouts per at-bat over the last year, but strikeouts might not be a problem in this matchup, as Chen in the last 12 months has averaged only 7.229 strikeouts per nine innings — the slate’s third-lowest mark. In 2017, he has just 13 strikeouts in 21 innings of work.
Additionally, despite his -0.41 Plus/Minus and 30 percent Consistency Rating this season, Weeks has actually crushed the ball, with a batted ball distance of 250 feet, exit velocity of 93 miles per hour and fly ball rate of 45 percent over the last 15 days. Historically, hitters with comparable salaries, lineup spots, implied team totals and recent batted and fly ball data have outperformed with a +1.83 Plus/Minus and high 50.2 percent Consistency Rating on just 5.0 percent ownership.
The Rays are implied for only 4.0 runs, but their cleanup hitter has some tournament upside.
94 Recent Batted Ball Luck Score – Greg Bird
Bird is similar to Weeks in that he’s been horrifying this season with a .107 batting average, one home run and three runs batted in — but his situation is probably worse than Weeks’, as he’s projected to bat eighth. While the Yankees are implied currently for a respectable 4.3 runs, they’re facing Blue Jays’ righty Marco Estrada, who over his last three starts has outright dominated the Orioles, Red Sox and Cardinals with a 0.95 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 19 innings of work. This season Estrada has especially destroyed end-of-the-order batters, holding them collectively to an average of 4.08 DraftKings points per game, -2.56 Plus/Minus, and 15.4 percent Consistency Rating.
Of course, Bird isn’t a typical No. 8 hitter, and it’s possible that he’s suffered from an inordinate amount of bad luck lately. At FantasyLabs, we have a Recent Batted Ball Luck metric, which measures the difference between a player’s percentile rank in batted ball distance and fantasy scoring over the past 15 days. Of all players expected to start, Bird leads the slate with a ridiculously high mark of 94, meaning that — even though he’s in the bottom 10 percent of recent fantasy production — he’s in the top 10 percent of all hitters in batted ball distance. Indeed, over the last half-month Bird has crushed with a batted ball distance of 256 feet, exit velocity of 95 miles per hour, fly ball rate of 54 percent and hard hit rate of 50 percent. Even though hitters in the bottom-third of lineups have historically averaged a -0.49 Plus/Minus, those same hitters have flashed a +1.52 Plus/Minus and 44.0 percent Consistency with batted ball distances and hard hit rates comparable to Bird’s.
If you’re thinking about stacking the Yankees — who have a slate-high Weather Rating of 60 and whose lefties have a slate-high Park Factor of 81 — consider including Bird. His ownership will likely be low, and he’s on the beneficial side of his splits.
79 Team Value Rating – Indians
Team Value Rating is a 0 to 100 grade showing a team’s value based on its implied run total and collective salaries. Currently implied for the slate’s second-highest total at 4.9 runs, the Indians lead the slate in Team Value Rating. While they’re not especially cheap — only one of the batters projected to hit first through sixth is under $4,000 — they’re also not expensive: None of them is more than $4,300. Facing Tigers lefty Daniel Norris, who’s been hit hard in three of his four starts this year, the Indians could be relatively chalky.
At the same time, some caution is warranted. While the Indians are currently projected to start eight right-handed or switch-hitting batters against Norris, most of them ironically have reverse ISO splits: They hit righties better than lefties. On top of that, Norris’ one good game this year — a 101-pitch, two-hit outing in which he allowed no runs in six innings — was against these same Indians just a half-month ago. We shouldn’t put too much weight in that one performance, but it’s worth keeping in mind, especially since (despite their plethora of Pro Trends) the Indians have a low Park Factor in the 30s at Comerica Park.
It’s possible the Indians, even with the value they afford, are not as desirable as they seem.
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.