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.
In the last article in this series (Opening Day), the statcast values were a relative success. Andrew Benintendi homered and Yasmani Grandal double donged, but Jonathan Schoop came away with the ol’ goose egg. Two out of three ain’t bad, but we want to hit the nuts!
Here we go for today:
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Joc is arguably my favorite hitter in all of DFS to target vs right handed pitching, and today is no different. His ownership should be up a good amount after having a monster game on Opening Day, but simply because he hits lower in the order his ownership never seems to reach insane levels. Today’s matchup is even sweeter for Joc, however. Left handed hitters are naturally low ball hitters with more upper cut swings, so they tend to perform well against stuff lower in the zone and really struggle with pitches like fastballs up in the zone. This is particularly true for Joc and lines up perfectly with his counterpart today, Trevor Cahill. Cahill somewhat revived his career last year in the bullpen for the Cubs, but he relies heavily on keeping the ball down and inducing ground balls with his sinker. He can run into trouble against lefties because of their natural ability to thrive against stuff down in the zone. In the last 2 seasons, Cahill has thrown his sinker about 40% of the time to left handed hitters and has induced very, very few swings and misses. Meanwhile, Joc has completely crushed sinkers with an average exit velocity sitting over 100 MPH against them. So Cahill is going to use the sinker often, is unlikely to get Joc to swing and miss, and Joc is going to hit the ball very, very hard. Pretty much the dream scenario here, right? Toss in a couple at bats against the abysmal Padres bullpen, and you’ve got my favorite play of the night in Joc.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
C-Dick has been a DFS favorite going back to his days in Colorado, and he draws a matchup with another DFS darling tonight in Michael Pineda. Pineda possesses electric stuff, but he really only uses two pitches (Fastball/Slider) and frequently leaves pitches up in the zone and/or getting too much of the plate which opens him up to a ton of hard contact. Corey Dickerson has a lot of volatility and swing and miss in his game, but when right handed pitchers make mistakes, he has the power to really make them pay. As I mentioned, Pineda really just throws those two pitches, and while last year was a bit of a down year for Dickerson in against that combo, in 2015, he averaged a 95.7 exit velocity against 93-96 MPH fastballs and 98.8 against sliders from right handed pitchers (2016 was 92.9 and 89 mph respectively). Just one mistake from Pineda and Dickerson can easily deposit a ball into the right field bleacher at the Trop tonight.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Cano’s opposing pitcher, Charlie Morton, actually came out of the gates on fire last season before tearing his hamstring legging out a bunt attempt. I’ll be anxious to see how he looks tonight, but regardless Cano is going to be a really tough out. Morton relies largely on a 2 seam fastball (which he ramped up the velo to 94 MPH last year) and curveball combo to lefties, and he’s also another ground ball pitcher who keeps the ball down in the zone. This all plays right into Cano’s strengths, as he hammered two seam fastballs from righties at an average EV of 95.6 MPH last year and curveballs at 94 MPH. I really like Cano’s chances at a breakdown game tonight.
Good luck tonight!