August 8, 2014
Daily League Strategy
Riding Out Slumps
With DraftKings’ acquisition of DraftStreet, I will now be using that site’s dollar values to select my players of the day.
1. Jered Weaver ($8,400 LAA vs. BOS)
DraftKings could realistically have a $1,000-plus difference between home and away Weaver; he’s that different of a pitcher. However, they don’t severely raise his price for home starts, and for that we should be thankful. He is still an ace-caliber arm at home with a 2.66 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 3.1 K:BB ratio in 84 2/3 innings compared to his 4.80, 1.37, and 2.0 marks, respectively, on the road. He has just 14.2 points total in his last two starts, both on the road, including a 0.7-point masterpiece in Baltimore. His two starts before that saw him post 20.7 and 26.4 points, both at home, including the latter against the same Orioles that pounded him in their own ballpark. Since their mass excavation, the Red Sox are scoring just 3.5 runs per game, albeit in just six August games. Although, it’s not like their 3.8 runs per game average in the four months before that were particularly impressive.
2. Jose Quintana ($8,300 CWS at SEA)
Quintana has been a hidden gem this year. Being on an anemic White Sox team and overshadowed by Chris Sale has kept Quintana out of the spotlight. He had a pair of rough starts in early June that saw him allow 10 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings against the Angels and Royals, but he has been on fire since then with a 1.69 ERA in his last nine starts along with 56 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings of work. He’s averaging 21.8 PPG in that span, well above his season mark of 17.1 and at a level that puts him on par with the likes of Zack Greinke (21.9 PPG season average) and Garrett Richards (21.1 PPG). Additionally, he gets a Seattle Mariners team toting the second-worst OPS against lefties this year at .637. He already has a gem against them this year where he went 7 1/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts… and got a no-decision. The bullpen blew it when they had a chance to defeat Felix Hernandez as the M’s won it in 14.
3. Chris Tillman ($6,800 BAL vs. STL)
I’ve had an interesting season with Tillman. I was big on him this year, thinking he could improve his home run rate and cut that 3.71 ERA from 2013. Alas, he *did* cut his home run rate and yet still emerged from his first 13 starts with a 5.20 ERA. I started to distance myself from him, cutting him from a couple teams and no longer using him regularly in daily, even as his price plummeted. He has somehow completely turned it around in his last 11 starts with a 2.38 ERA in 72 innings, but I’ve been a bit skeptical about rejoining the party because of his modest component numbers. He has stopped walking guys with just 20 in these last 11 starts, but he’s also stopped missing bats with a whopping 40 strikeouts. He was never a huge strikeout guy, but his 6.0 K/9 is the worst we’ve seen since 2010, and he is way down from last year’s 7.8 K/9 rate. He’s still been able to find success with these modest skills because he has all but eliminated the homer with 0.5 HR/9 rate. Don’t walk guys and then let them score via the homer and you can have some real success! I also like the fact that he’s fanned six in three of his last four outings, good for 21 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings of work.
1. Brandon Moss ($3,900 OAK vs. MIN)
This might be a season-low price for Moss. He was at $5,000 as recently as July 30, and while he is slumping a bit, I still this it’s worth jumping in at this sub-$4,000 cost. In the last calendar month, he has a .597 OPS in 95 PA, but his power is still there with four homers (30 HR pace in 162 games). In the five game period that has seen his price drop $1,100 dollars, he has a horrific .056 AVG and .302 OPS—stats worthy of a $1,100 drop, and yet I still feel confident about getting on board with Moss. In fact, this is one of those situations where I’ll ride Moss at this low price for a couple of days even if I get saddled with an 0-for-4 tonight against Kyle Gibson.
2. Mark Trumbo ($4,000 ARI vs. COL)
This is another player I’ll be using throughout the weekend even if I don’t get instant results tonight. However, we are joining a more fruitful situation with Trumbo (not that Moss set a high bar), at least in the short-term. He has an .839 OPS this month (mind you, just six games of action) and he enters a series against the lefty-laden Rockies, which offers Trumbo an opportunity to get really hot. He has a .906 OPS against southpaws this year and a career mark of .824, which is nearly 100 points better than his .731 against righties. The Rockies are currently rolling with five lefties, so Trumbo gets three straight at home this weekend. Too bad it’s not in Coors, but Chase Field is quite friendly for batters, too.
3. Michael Brantley ($5,200 CLE at NYY)
Let’s get back into some big-spending ways with Brantley! He didn’t have a huge April to spur his breakout season (.756 OPS), but he has been unstoppable since with July’s .868 OPS standing as his lowest OPS by month since April, yielding a .926 composite in the 371 PA since May 1. He has the multi-hit games fueling his .320 AVG, the all-fields power putting him on pace for 44 doubles and 24 homers, and a sterling 13-for-14 speed record that has him pacing toward 20 stolen bases. He does it all by holding his own against lefties (.732) and destroying righties (.956). Esmil Rogers makes his first start of 2014 on Friday night with his severe platoon split in tow. He has an .868 OPS against lefties for his career (.779 v. RHB) and an obscene 1.089/.601 split in his small 25-inning sample so far this season.
4. Jose Altuve ($4,800 HOU vs. TEX)
Altuve hasn’t had back-to-back hitless games since July 4 and 5. In his 26 games since then, he’s hitting .325 with a .780 OPS, which has actually brought down both figures (he was at .338 and .817 on July 5) despite the fact that he’s only given us two scoreless nights. The top scoring second baseman (9.3 PPG) is still the most expensive at the position, but he’s dipped below $5,000 after spending what seemed like an entire month north of that figure. He has killed the Rangers this year with a .350 AVG against them, and I just don’t see Miles Mikolas giving him a second straight 0-fer. Mikolas has had major trouble with righties this year, to the tune of an .818 OPS, well above his .703 clip against lefties. He doesn’t have an answer for righties, as the changeup isn’t an option and the curveball seems to be a lefties-only pitch (16 percent usage vs. LHB; 6.4 percent vs. RHB).
5. Kole Calhoun ($3,600 LAA vs. BOS)
Calhoun has been a staple within this space thanks to big improvements against righties while still holding his own against lefties (after an impressive, but weird reverse split last year). He’s only averaging 5.0 PPG in his last 10, but that’s actually pretty impressive when you consider his .157/.225/.198 line in that time. Allen Webster has just 10 MLB appearances on his ledger, but they really haven’t gone well as a whole, with an 8.22 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in 38 1/3 innings. Lefties are just 3-for-17 against him this year, but they also have seven walks, yielding a .176 AVG and .417 OBP. Southpaws had a .391/.456/.797 line against him last year in 79 PA, though.
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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