July 1, 2014
Daily League Strategy
Leake and Locke
DraftStreet offers one of the best lineup constructions in the industry allowing for three pitchers, two starters and a starter/reliever. Additionally, they don’t overvalue the win as it is worth just two points. The rest of the scoring and roster setup can be viewed here if you aren’t already familiar with it.
1. Mike Leake ($16,234 – CIN at SD)
Leake was having a tremendous year entering June with a 2.92 ERA through 11 starts, but then he hit the skids with a three-start run during which he allowed 14 earned runs in just 15 1/3 innings, bumping his ERA up to 3.80. It looked like he was finding his level as a solid-but-unspectacular pitcher, but that turned out to not be the case, as he rebounded to close the month with a pair of eight-inning gems, allowing just two earned runs with 18 strikeouts against just three walks. Leake is tied for third in the league with five eight-plus-inning games. He's tied with Masahiro Tanaka, Julio Teheran, John Lackey, and Dallas Keuchel—impressive company (which feels weird to type considering that Keuchel is in the group, but he's been incredible this year). Leake's opponent certainly plays a factor here in letting him lead my pitching today, but he's been impressive almost regardless of competition this year—the first of those eight-inning gems to cap June was against an explosive Toronto offense—so if he can rip the better teams, what's he going to do against the inept Padres? He already shut them down for eight strong (2 H, 1 ER, and 5 Ks) earlier this year in Cincy, and I think he has a great chance to mow them down again in Petco.
2. Jeff Locke ($12,745 – PIT v. ARI)
Locke has been a different pitcher this year. No one believed in his impressive run last year because the component numbers suggested the wheels were bound to fall off. And they eventually did. He had a 2.43 ERA as late as August 16th, but ended with a 3.52 ERA thanks to an 8.59 ERA in his final seven starts. This year he has a 3.74 ERA through five starts, but his component numbers are pointing to something much better thanks to a newfound impressive walk rate. He walked batters at a 11.8 percent clip last year yielding a 1.5 K:BB ratio, but that's down to just 3.1 percent through fives starts so far with a similar strikeout rate boosting his ratio to 5.8 K:BB in 33 2/3 innings. The Giants ripped him for six earned in 5 1/3 in his debut back in early May, but he has a 2.54 ERA in his last four after being called back up on June 8th. The D'Backs have a .683 OPS against lefties, putting them 22nd in the league, and they also put the ball on the ground the second-most of any team against lefties, which will play right into Locke's 52 percent ground-ball rate.
3. Marco Gonzales ($10,462 – STL at SF)
I'm gambling on the rookie against a sputtering Giants offense. He had three brilliant innings in Coors during his debut before melting down in the fourth, allowing five runs on five hits and a walk. Hard to blame someone for getting knocked around in Coors, especially during their first game as a big leaguer, and I love the fact that he bounced back in the fifth and held the Rockies scoreless despite allowing a couple more hits. I think there will be more good than bad with this rookie, and while he may not be up all season as they get healthy, I'm eager to see what he can do with his chance. The nerves shouldn't be as severe this time around, as this is an easier opponent and a much better ballpark.
1. Kole Calhoun ($5,745 LAA at CWS)
Keep an eye on the weather here as these two teams were rained out on Monday, but if they go then Calhoun is a great play against Scott Carroll. Carroll is allowing a .916 OPS to lefties (.773 to righties) in 146 PA with eight doubles, three triples, and three home runs. Calhoun, meanwhile, is destroying righties to the tune of an .857 OPS with six of his seven homers. He closed June with a .954 OPS including three multi-hit games in his last four and two runs scored in five of his last seven.
2. Anthony Rendon ($6,535 WAS v. COL)
Rockies lefty Christian Friedrich has an 8.10 ERA in two starts this year, allowing a 1.064 OPS thanks in part to three homers. All of his work has come against righties so far - primarily because he has faced Milwaukee both times with their righty-heavy lineup. He wasn’t exactly cutting the minors, though, so while I’m reticent to make any sweeping judgments based on two starts, I’m not seeing a huge turnaround for Friedrich. He had a 7.89 ERA in 13 starts at Triple-A before his call-up. Rendon’s breakout season has been fueled by his destruction of lefties. He’s hitting them at a .963 OPS clip with three homers in 81 PA.
3. Bryce Harper ($6,446 WAS v. COL)
If Monday’s lineup holds, Harper will be the third lefty that Friedrich sees this year after Denard Span and Adam LaRoche. While he was better against southpaws in the minors, he still wasn’t exactly good with a .288 AVG and .775 OPS. I’ll be riding Harper at this lowered price for a while, as it’s just too appetizing to pass up.
4. Anthony Rizzo ($8,200 CHC at BOS)
Rizzo, like our other Anthony selection today, is in the midst of a breakout season. He struggled against lefties over his first three seasons reaching a high of .625 OPS, but this year he’s up to .932. While that’s fueling the breakthrough, it’s his .881 OPS against righties that we are interested in today as he’s facing Clay Buchholz. Buchholz has been impossibly bad this year and he’s always struggled more against lefties save last year when no one stood a chance against him. He’s allowing an .867 OPS to lefties this year and the four homers he’s allowed in 159 PA is more than he allowed all of last year in 232 (three). Rizzo is hitless in his last three, which ties his season-high for a cold spell. I like him to snap out of it on Tuesday.
5. Andre Ethier ($5,832 LAD v. CLE)
Ethier hasn’t been very good this year. Even if you ignore his work against lefties (since we’d never use him in the daily game against a southpaw), he’s only carrying a .709 OPS against righties, well off of his .894 career pace. Last year’s total was a six-year low, but it was still a very healthy .854 mark so this year’s struggles stand out. Alas, he’s got a lefty’s best friend on tap for Tuesday. Lefties have always dominated Justin Masterson with an OPS nearly 200 points higher than his mark against righties (.788 compared to .592). After his best season against lefties last year (.698), he’s having his worst this year at .887. The .313 AVG and .400 OBP are both the highest marks against him since 2009. He’s reported some knee issues dating back to his second start of the season which could be causing the trouble and while he was cleared of issues to pitch Tuesday, I still don’t trust him against southpaws.
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Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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