I build most of my lineups organically. That is to say, I’m not on team math. I just watch a lot of baseball and try to catch those observable elements that are lost in the noise of commonly used stats, yet might be predictive. That’s how I qualified for Fanduel’s World Fantasy Baseball Championship Live Final in Nashville last year on a single entry into a very large qualifier. Matt Shoemaker was a dumpster fire last year early on because there was no action or movement on his splitter. Suddenly, he "found it" and became dominant, particularly at home where his fly ball tendencies didn’t cost him as much. That was my ticket to Nashville. His salary next time out didn’t reflect the fact that he was a completely different pitcher with this pitch in his arsenal now fixed. That allowed me to load up on plenty of expensive bats in great matchups.
Some things I’ve picked up:
-Target opposing pitchers that are slow to the plate for stolen bases. Yes, you can pick on the Braves catchers Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, but even more important than catcher pop times (the time it takes from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the time the 2B/SS receives the catcher’s throw) is the time it takes the pitcher to deliver the ball to home plate. More bases are stolen off of the pitcher than the catcher.
-Hot Streaks matter. I look at the last week to ten days. Ideally, if you watch a lot of games, you can spot those guys coming out of a slump that are really starting to barrel up the ball but have been robbed at the warning track or blasts that just went foul, or line drives right at defenders. The pack goes off of box scores and won’t be on them yet.
-Batter vs. Pitcher matters, but often not in a way that is very useful. What I mean by that is some hitters definitely fare better against particular pitchers because they see the ball well coming out of their hand. The problem is BvP stats are usually packaged with a lot of noise leading us astray much of the time. Pitchers might have streaks with increased/decreased velocity, command that comes and goes, or pitches added or removed from their repertoire. You usually have to dig deeper than the stat sheet to get to the truth of the matter.
-Home and Road splits matter for the pitcher regardless of ballpark. Some pitchers are more sensitive than others, or should I say some pitchers adjust quicker/better than others, but there is some variation in the mounds from ballpark to ballpark. It affects the dynamic of pushing off and landing during delivery, which affects release point and command.
Turning our attention to Thursday’s "all-day" slate…
It’s Max Scherzer, and then everyone else. The National League Cy Young award winner at home against the Diamondbacks, who strike out a good bit. It’s going to be difficult not to eat chalk in cash, and in GPP there’s no clear, easy pivot. However, when the talent is thin at the top of the pitching slate, that’s when it makes sense in large tourneys to fade the chalk. If the chalk blows up, that gives you an edge plus a lot of extra salary to throw at hitters.
Danny Salazar leads the league in strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he racks up the pitch counts early. This year, he’s been having trouble locating his changeup early. Hitters then sit on his fastball and pound the young Indian in the early innings. At some point, he "finds" it and it’s smooth sailing from the second or third inning on. Someday soon he’s going to find it out of the gate and will post a 60+ point total on Fanduel. The problem this week is he’s on the road facing a division opponent that sees him a lot. Still, he’s the closest thing to a pivot if you want to get away from Scherzer without sacrificing upside. Ivan Nova at Great American Ball Park is also worth a look. The Pirate is safer but lacks Salazar’s K potential.
Zach Eflin has a good fastball but not much else. On top of that, when he gets behind in the count, he uses his fastball almost exclusively. That’s not a good recipe for success, and a lot of people will stack the Cubs against him. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad play, but here’s the thing. Nobody in their right mind will be using Eflin. For some odd reason, he’s been very effective living off of his fastball. The Cubs haven’t seen him before, so the first time through the order he’ll have that advantage. If you are looking for an insane punt play in a GPP opening up salary elsewhere, this is your guy. There aren’t that many quality pitching plays and if the few at the top of the ledger don’t pan out, with a little luck, Eflin could come away with 35 points and the highest upside possible from your hitters. Just don’t complain if he gets lit up because that wouldn’t be all that surprising.
My favorite bats for Thursday:
1B – Freddie Freeman, Ryan Zimmerman, Yonder Alonso
2B – Daniel Murphy, Jose Altuve, Neil Walker
3B – Jake Lamb, Yangervis Solarte, Yuli Gurriel
SS – Trea Turner, Francisco Lindor, Asdrubal Cabrera
OF – Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Billy Hamilton, Michael Brantley
Stacks to consider: Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates