MLB DFS Caught Looking Strategy for Friday 7/3/15

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Season long fantasy sports leagues have been around for decades now and have really revolutionized the way both casual and hardcore sports fans look at the game.  But a more recent adaptation of fantasy sports is the daily fantasy sports (DFS) approach where you are only committed to a single day’s worth of games at a time and can win some serious cash on a daily basis.  I personally have become very involved in DFS in addition to all my season long leagues, and so I hope that I can share some of the knowledge that I have gained and provide some helpful tips in that area from time to time as well.

***The primary site that I play on is DraftKings and I am mostly a GPP tournament player (I also play on Fantasy Aces).  So for the most part, any recommendations I make are meant to be for GPP tournaments, not cash games, and are specific to DraftKings (though a lot of the same concepts and picks carry over to strategy on other sites).

RECAP OF THURSDAY JULY 2, 2015 (LATE SLATE)

Thursday’s slate didn’t go so well, particularly because none of the offenses I liked hit it too big.  It was the Red Sox offense who owned the night as they blew up Matt Boyd in the 1st inning.  Overall, they ended up with a 12 runs on 19 hits with 2 HR.  I should have seen it coming, or at least done one Red Sox stacked lineup just in case.  It also didn’t help that Chris Young wasn’t able to escape with a win (or many strikeouts) since his offense couldn’t figure out Kyle Gibson.  But it’s a new day now and we’ll try to get some good lineups rolled out for the holiday weekend.

STRATEGY FOR FRIDAY JULY 2, 2015

As always, the first thing I do for any slate of games is to check the weather, and I’ve outlined a bunch of weather tips for DFS.  So there are a few areas of concern with some possible storms and they are CLE/PIT, MIL/CIN, and PHI/ATL.  Out of the bunch CLE/PIT currently looks like it could get interrupted and then be called early, so using players in that game seems like a risky proposition at the moment.  The MIL/CIN game looks as if it’ll have storms before the game, potentially causing a late start, but then there are also chances of storms during the game.  Proceed with caution there.  The PHI/ATL game has a chance of some popup storms during the game, but it probably wouldn’t be anything to make a huge impact, so I would say this game is fine.  But remember to check the forecasts as it arrives closer to game time!

UPDATE (1:50 PM PST): CLE/PIT is looking okay to play.  MIL/CIN got a lot worse and now is in danger of being postponed.

UPDATE (2:25 PM PST): Now CLE/PIT is looking like the one in danger, with MIL/CIN looking fine.  I hate weather.

PITCHERS

THE FAVES:  

We’ll start at the top here with Clayton Kershaw.  He’s the top priced option on the board, but for very good reason.  He faces a Mets offense that has hit an extreme rough patch with Lucas Duda in a 7 for 52 (.135 AVG) slump in the last 14 games and Michael Cuddyer dealing with a knee injury that he received an injection for to shelve him for at least another day or two probably.  Without Duda hitting and Cuddyer’s mere presence in the lineup, the Mets lineup looks very crummy.  Then after Duda and Cuddyer their next two most threatening hitters are Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy, who are both left-handed and Kershaw should be able to handle them easily.  Since Duda began his slump, the Mets offense has scored a total of 23 runs in 14 games (1.64 runs/game) and have only eclipsed 2 runs twice in that span.  It should be smooth sailing for Kershaw and I would fire him up despite the lofty price tag.

The next two highest priced options on DraftKings are Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Archer who are squaring off against each other at Yankee Stadium.  I like both of them tonight, but if I had to pick one, I would lean toward Tanaka because of the current form of the Rays offense.  They just came off a 4-game series versus the Indians where all of Cody AndersonDanny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco limited the Rays to 1 or 2 hits each, and although Corey Kluber didn’t join that party, he struck out 14 Rays.  The poor series versus the Indians left the Rays with the 6th highest strikeout rate versus righties, the 7th lowest ISO versus righties, and the 5th lowest wOBA versus righties.  Also, Tanaka’s best game of the season came against the Rays where he shut them out for 7 innings allowing just 2 hits while striking out 8.

Michael Wacha is another one of the higher priced options to like tonight as he gets a home matchup against the Padres.  The Padres were shutout twice in a row over the weekend by the Mariners, but they were able to score 5 runs yesterday in a game that the Cardinals had a left-handed rookie pitcher start.  The Padres are more successful against lefties because of their righty dominant lineup, so I wouldn’t expect them to show up and hit Wacha well tonight.  The Padres have the 5th highest strikeout rate versus righties, the 8th lowest ISO versus righties, and the 4th lowest wOBA versus righties.  Wacha has been seeing some regression lately as his ERA and WHIP have been slowly rising, but also rising has been his strikeout rate.  His strikeout rate was just 4.42 K/9 after his first 6 starts of the season, but over his last 9 starts he is striking out just about a batter per inning (55 K in 55.2 IP).  So this should be a great matchup for him and he gets the added bonus of facing Andrew Cashner who has just been a wreck as of late, which will leave him in a decent spot to land a win.

His price isn’t quite low enough to call him a “sleeper for cheaper,” so I’ll include him as a fave play for Friday. Ubaldo Jimenez is coming off a game where he pitched 8 shutout innings versus the Indians and he really has been solid all year long.  He faces the White Sox on Friday and although the White Sox are middle of the pack when it comes to striking out, they are dead last in the Majors in total runs scored, they have the 5th lowest ISO versus righties, and the 7th lowest wOBA versus righties.  The caveat with Jimenez is that he will be on the road tonight where he has a 4.35 ERA this season, as opposed to a 2.06 ERA at home.  But otherwise it is a nice matchup and he’s also in a great spot for a win squaring off against John Danks.

SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:  

We look to one game for two “sleepers for cheaper” tonight, and that game is the A’s versus Mariners, Jesse Chavez versus J.A. Happ.  Both are nice cheaper options tonight, but I do lean towards Chavez because of how much more comfortable he is pitching in his home park (2.16 ERA) and the Mariners having one of the worst offenses in the league.  The Mariners rank in the dead middle at 15th in ISO versus righties like Chavez is, but they have the 3rd highest strikeout rate and 3rd lowest wOBA versus righties.  For Happ, he faces an A’s offense that is more dangerous against right-handed pitching, and he has done well versus them in two starts this season already.  But Chavez would be the preferred choice here.

If you want to get really deep into the pitching pool with a lot more risk, then take a look at Adam Morgan of the Phillies.  Morgan falls into that category of mediocre pitching prospects who get called up and somehow shut down their opponent in his first start as he held the Cardinals in check for 5.1 innings with 6 K’s a couple weeks ago.  The lefty is getting another start on Friday, this time at Atlanta against a Braves offense that has both the 2nd worst ISO and wOBA versus left-handed pitching this season, and they are still without their best hitter, Freddie Freeman.  Without Freeman, the Braves has scored just 23 runs in 12 games (1.92 runs/game) and have only eclipsed 2 runs 3 times in those 12 games.  Morgan doesn’t profile as a big strikeout pitcher, but he surprised the Cardinals with the K’s and the unfamiliarity factor could continue to play a role in his first tour of duty.

THE NOT SO FAVES:  

I am going to pass on Garrett Richards today who will be starting at Texas.  Richards velocity has been down all season long, about 1 MPH slower than last year, and it was that increased velocity last year that led to his big success.  His average velocity was as high as it’s been this season in his last start, but I just can’t trust him here on the road in a hitters park.  He has only had a strikeout per inning in 3 of his 14 starts this season (but one of those doesn’t really count because he had 1 K in 0.2 IP while getting blown up at Yankee Stadium).

Julio Teheran may look like an attractive play against a last place Phillies team, but Teheran has just been disastrous this season giving up 4 or more runs in half of his 16 starts.  And the Phillies offense has been coming alive as of late with an average of 5.81 runs/game over the last 11 games.  If you’re looking for a mid-tier pitching option, I would look elsewhere.

STACKS

A strategy that has worked since the introduction of DFS is stacking multiple players (3-6) from one offense.  However, in certain situations it may be more beneficial not to stack as it is becoming more contrarian not to do full stacks since so many people are doing it now.  But for the most part, stacking (mini-stack at the very least) seems to be a component of most winning tournament lineups.

BIG BOY STACKS:

It’s always nice to pick on Kyle Kendrick and his 6.07 ERA with 23 HR allowed in 16 starts.  You would think that because he is a Rockies pitcher, he only gets bombed at home.  But nope, he just gets whooped anywhere he goes (6.70 ERA at home, 5.60 ERA on the road).  Plus, he is pitching at Chase Field in Arizona tonight, which next to Coors Field is probably the most hitter friendly park there is.  Earlier this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks bombed him for 8 runs on 10 hits at Chase Field, so there’s lots of good stuff going on here.  The downside is that they will be a highly owned stack as the highest projected scoring team on the night at 5.1 implied runs, but it would be remiss to not at least get some exposure to the Diamondbacks lineup. A.J. PollockDavid Peralta, and Paul Goldschmidt are all primetime plays and then choose from Jake LambAaron HIllWelington Castillo, and Nick Ahmed to fill out the rest of the full stack.

The next “big boy stack” is the Baltimore Orioles.  They get a road match against John Danks and the White Sox.  What is interesting about stacking the Orioles in this spot is that you can do so using some options that may go underowned because some of the usual Orioles suspects like Adam Jones and Jimmy Paredes aren’t as strong of plays on the surface.  Jones, though he does better against left-handed pitching, just can’t seem to figure Danks out as he is 1 for 30 in his career against him.  Yes, you read that right.  For whatever reason, Danks owns Jones.  And all of the switch hitting Paredes’ power this season has come against right-handed pitching.  Of course though if the Orioles can get to Danks early on, then Danks may not last too long.  But I think that it would be possible to get away with using less popular guys like Nolan ReimoldJ.J. Hardy, and Travis Snider in addition to Manny MachadoMatt Wieters, and Chris Davis.  

UPDATE (1:50 PM PST): Snider is out.  Steve Pearce is in play fir the Orioles stack.

SNEAKY STACK:

As noted, the Philadelphia Phillies offense has been producing as of late and Julio Teheran has not. Remember the time a couple weeks ago when the Phillies offense won the day for GPP tournaments?  That could happen here.  Ben RevereCesar HernandezMaikel FrancoRyan Howard, and Cody Asche would be a cheap Phillies stack where you could squeeze in Kershaw at pitcher and still have some good cash to fill out the rest of the roster.

BONUS NOTES

  • The New York Yankees at home against Chris Archer would be nice contrarian stack.  Archer had a troublesome time in his last start against the Red Sox when he allowed 3 home runs because he didn’t establish the fastball early and got punished on his changeup.  If that happens again, then those left-handed Yanks bats could be hitting some over the right field porch.
  • Justin Masterson can either be an extremely sneaky option against a strikeout prone Astros team, or he could be gone by the 3rd inning.  Using Masterson is definitely not for the faint at heart.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers against Noah Syndergaard may not look great, but Syndergaard has struggled from time to time as a rookie.  Against the top offense against right-handed pitching, the Dodgers make for an interesting stack option.
  • I could see them putting up big numbers again, but I envision the Boston Red Sox being a highly owned stack because of facing Dan Straily who is making his first start of the season, and because of the recency bias since they scored 12 runs yesterday.  UPDATE (1:50 PM PST): I’ll be stacking the Red Sox.
  • Overall, I see a lot of offenses that can have great days and be stackable.  It should be an interesting day.
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