For those of you that have been following the ever growing trend of analytics in baseball, you are probably familiar with the latest addition to Major League Baseball’s statistical portfolio called Statcast. On a basic level, Statcast presents fantasy players with tremendous insight into what’s really happening on a baseball field. It brought together a missile defense technology from a company called Trackman with a German company called ChyronHego to track and measure the movement of both the baseball and the players on the field.
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With this technology, we can gain a greater understanding of not only what is happening in a baseball game from a traditional baseball statistic perspective, but also why these things are happening and what is more likely to occur in the future. From a predictive sense, we’d much rather use a hitter in DFS who is consistently squaring the ball up and driving it (which you can see in his exit velocity) even if he isn’t necessarily having success in a traditional sense with hits, homeruns, etc. In fact, the Tampa Bay Rays don’t judge their hitters based on batting average at all, but instead focus on the players exit velocity.
We are really just scratching surface with this data, but even at this point, it can be incredibly beneficial in examining hitter or pitcher performance and often times can point you in the direction of low owned DFS plays, as hitters may be really hitting the ball well but getting unlucky with the actual results.
One of my favorite strategies in DFS is utilizing Statcast data to match up a pitcher’s repertoire and tendencies vs each handedness of hitter and matching that up with the strengths of a hitter based on exit velocity (and at times launch angle). At times, we may have sample size issues in these cases, but many times you will get greater insight into a batter vs. pitcher matchup. It’s really more of a batter vs. pitch type analysis, as opposed to the traditional Batter vs. Pitcher (BvP) data that many will reference in DFS research.
So far this year, the statcast values have been relatively successful with 3 of the 6 players highlighted hitting home runs. We’ll look to improve upon that record tonight!
Jake Lamb, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Death, taxes, and Jake Lamb against right-handed pitching. If you’ve been playing MLB DFS for even a little bit, you probably don’t need any Statcast data to tell you Jake Lamb is in play against right handed-pitching, particularly bad right-handed pitching like his opponent tonight, Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin brings a fastball/slider combo to the table which allows him to handle righty bats pretty well, but he really struggles with lefties. Since the beginning of last season, Jake Lamb has an average exit velocity over 94 MPH against all 3 of Chacin’s primary pitches (4 seam fastball, 2 seam fastball and slider), as well as an ISO over .300. Lamb’s upper cut swing (average launch angle just under 20 degrees against these pitch types) helps offset Chacin’s groundball tendencies in this matchup, giving him a ton of upside tonight.
Adam Lind, 1B, Washington Nationals
Here’s a name you won’t see brought up in most places tonight. Adam Lind was acquired by the Nats this offseason to backup Ryan Zimmerman at first with another power lefty bat. He has started all of 2 games so far this year, so there’s a decent chance he doesn’t even crack the lineup, but if Nats manager Dusty Baker were smart, he’d deploy Lind tonight against Julio Teheran, who dominates righty bats but struggles tremendously with lefties. Teheran brings a 5 pitch arsenal to the table, but about 70% of his pitches to lefties are fastball/slider, which is where Lind really excels. Although it was a small sample, Lind particularly crushed slow fastballs (around 89 MPH) with a 96.5 MPH average exit velocity and 29.5 degree average launch angle, which is ideal for home runs. He hit the slider even harder, with a 98 MPH average exit velocity and 20 degree average launch angle. On a night with a bunch of elite pitching to target, if Lind finds his way onto the lineup card, he’s an elite value play with a ton of upside in this matchup with Teheran.
Hanley Ramirez, 1B/OF, Boston Red Sox
Since returning from injury, Hanley has been hitting the ball extremely hard (44% hard contact rate) and seeing the ball extremely well (11% walk rate vs. 13% strikeout rate). He’s also elevating the ball with an elite 29% line drive rate and a solid 32% fly ball rate, but he hasn’t come through with a ton of results yet. Hanley has been a true lefty masher for most of his career, and he gets a matchup tonight with Francisco Liriano, who is handing out hard contact like candy to righties so far this year (50% hard contact vs 6% soft contact). When you look into Liriano’s pitch types, the matchup gets even juicier for Hanley. Liriano is predominately a 2 seam fastball, slider, changeup guy, and Hanley this plays right into Hanley’s wheelhouse. Against 2 seam fastballs from lefties last year, Hanley averaged a 97 MPH exit velocity with a .450 ISO. Looking at sliders, you see a 98 MPH average exit velo with a .300 ISO. And while he didn’t hit the changeup quite as hard (87 MPH exit velo), he still managed to do a ton of damage, as evidenced by his .450 ISO. Just for fun, if you go back to 2013 (pre-Statcast era) for Hanley, you’ll see ISOs of .538, .471 and .909 against these 3 pitches from Liriano. Those numbers are, um, not bad. Make sure to get some Hanley exposure tonight!
Good luck tonight!