This new era of advanced analytics being readily available at our finger-tips is incredible. It allows someone like me to go down a worm hole and ‘waste’ hours upon hours of time sifting through data to determine what’s actionable and what’s just noise from a fantasy perspective. I give waste the air quotes because if you know what you’re looking for it’s not a waste at all and in fact can help us be ahead of the curve in DFS.
Since I’m incredibly generous I decided to share some of my findings with you here in preparation for the start of the second half. You’re welcome. Remember that context matters so all of these players could be worth a start or fade in any specific matchup, but in general they’ve either been incredibly fortunate or extremely unlucky during the first half. I have a decent list for each section below, so if you’d like to see more names you can find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan. Let’s dig in.
Second Half Surge
Michael Pineda- NYY – It’s difficult to get too excited about a pitcher with a 5.38 ERA, unless you realize that ERA is an extremely flawed stat and a relatively terrible way to judge a pitcher’s performance. The Yankee right-hander has the swing-and-miss repertoire that we want in DFS, backed up by his 10.7 K/9 and 13.9 swinging-strike rate, but his batted ball profile shows someone who’s been incredible unlucky. His .349 BABIP-against and 66.7% strand rate are both way off of the league’s average marks (.299 and 72.8%, respectively), and his GB/FB mix should lead him to be much closer to those league averages than he’s been.
My favorite stat for pitcher’s, cFIP, only backs my assertion of Pineda’s second half upside. Click on that link to learn more about cFIP but in short it’s the best singular stat in evaluating a pitcher because it’s both descriptive and predictive which is something we rarely find in statistics. Pineda’s 83 cFIP (100 scale meaning 100 is average- anything under 100 is better than average, above 100 is worse than average) tells us that he’ll be roughly 17% better than an average starter moving forward.
Aaron Nola – PHI – Aaron Nola’s 2016 season got off to an electric start but has stuttered a bit as the season has progressed. Assuming he continues to shoulder a full workload moving forward, I believe brighter days are ahead. Baseball Prospectus’ cFIP loves Nola too, as his 78 cFIP tops the aforementioned Pineda and is among the top-10 among all MLB starting pitchers.
He’ll likely continue to carry a higher than average BABIP (.331) due to his exceptional ground ball rate, but his 60.5% strand rate is hard to fathom and has a lot to do with why his ERA is 1.49 runs higher than his FIP. If he continues to miss bats at the same rate as the first half he’ll likely present a value in the second half.
Proceed With Caution
Julio Teheran – ATL – I’m not going to waste your time here and tell you that Julio Teheran is a bad pitcher who’s just been lucky this year because that’s just not the case. He’s been excellent. He’s also been incredibly lucky at the same time. He’s improved on his strikeout rate while lowering his walk rate, a match made in DFS heaven, but that improved K-rate is far from elite and will continue to make it difficult to pay off on his soaring price tag.
He’s also benefited from a .235 BABIP-against (career mark is .275) along with an 80.1% strand rate which is difficult to maintain if you aren’t an elite strikeout pitcher. He still has exploitable splits when up against left-handed bats, but his 93 cFIP backs up the assertion that he’s not going to just disappear, but on most night’s he’ll be a $9,000 pitcher who’ll be priced at $11,500.
Kyle Hendricks – CHI – Conventional fantasy players will look at Kyle Hendricks’ 2.55 ERA and 1.03 WHIP and think that they have an under-the-radar asset on one of the league’s best teams. None of that matters in DFS. Hendricks is out over his ski’s and will likely burn you in the second half if you’re chasing what appears to be a cheap win.
Ground ball pitchers like Hendricks typically carry a higher-than-average BABIP, but his .245 BABIP-against in the first half is unsustainable and has been a huge factor in his sub-3 ERA to-date. At his current best, he’s a pitch-to-contact ground ball righty that works in and around the zone all night. His 7.84 K/9 is below league average and a spike in BABIP will lead to more runs and a less attractive ‘back of the baseball card’ in the second half of the season.
Second Half Surge
Joey Votto (1B) – CIN – In the first half of the season, Joey Votto has the highest hard-hit contact rate in his career yet his batting average is just .255. Think about that. The career .307 hitter is also yet to hit an infield pop-up, a somewhat amazing feat when you consider the league average is 9.6% on the season.
Yes, he’s striking out more, but his batted ball profile is in line with his career numbers except for his .308 BABIP which sits at .357 for his career. He’s typically hovering around the $3,800-$4,500 range so get in on him cheap while you can. This is a $5,000 hitter.
Matt Holliday (OF) – STL – Matt Holiday has a .241 batting average despite having a hard-hit rate of 40.3%. The only other hitter in baseball with a hard-hit rate north of 40% and batting average below .299 is Milwaukee’s Chris Carter. Holiday’s .248 BABIP has a lot to do with it and his .334 career BABIP leads me to believe there’s a buying opportunity here.
His line-drive rate is a down a bit, but it’s moved to ground balls and not fly balls, something that should positively impact his BABIP, but it hasn’t. He’s also an older veteran, someone that’s not ‘sexy’ to roster in DFS, and that in itself makes him appealing moving forward.
Proceed With Caution
J.T. Realmuto © – MIA – There are so many red flags with J.T. Realmuto, it’s hard to know where to begin. He has been quite a surprise this season, somewhat of an anomaly at one of the most difficult positions to fill on a day-to-day basis and his value has surged with his move to the top of the Marlins order. That’s unlikely to continue with Dee Gordon due back soon, but that’s not the problem here. Realmuto’s BABIP is nearly 100 points higher than his career mark despite hitting more fly balls and pop-ups than ever before.
That’s bad news for his DFS value, and the decrease in at-bats is only going to hurt his volume. His 9 steals have been an added bonus at a spot you don’t expect to get steals from, but those opportunities will decrease because he’s not likely going to be on base nearly as often in the second half.
Ian Desmond (OF) – TEX – Ian Desmond has been a beast in the first half, and is the hitter’s version of the aforementioned Julio Teheran: he’ll continue to be good, just not AS GOOD. He’s always shown the power and speed combination that’s made him an All-Star in the first half, but his below average contact rate has continued and I feel confident in saying his .402 BABIP is not something that he can sustain.
Making contact at a rate 8% worse than league average while paired with a BABIP that high, it’s difficult to not draw the conclusion that his first half will likely be better than what’s to come. Fewer times on base will lead to less stolen base opportunities, and the 15 home runs are propped up by his 21.7% HR/FB ratio, nearly 10% above league average despite no change in his batted ball profile. He’s good, but he’s just not a $5,000-every-day kind of good.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is RyanFix) 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.