August 19, 2014
Daily League Strategy
The Melky Way
With DraftKings’ acquisition of DraftStreet, I will now be using that site’s dollar values to select my players of the day.
1. Hisashi Iwakuma ($9,900 SEA at PHI)
Iwakuma has been brilliant this year. In fact, he has arguably topped last year’s breakout season despite a 0.06 increase in ERA (to all of 2.72). He has greatly improved his already-tremendous walk rate to an MLB-best 0.8 BB/9, down from last year’s 1.7 mark. His strikeout rate has dropped by half a strikeout to 7.1 K/9, but his strikeout percentage is essentially flat with just a one percentage point dip to 20.4 percent. Just imagine if he had been able to pitch in April, he would no doubt be tracking toward another strong finish in the Cy Young voting. He was third last year. Iwakuma ended June with a pair of 5 ER duds against KC and Boston, but since then he has a 1.83 ERA in nine starts spanning 64 innings with 54 Ks and an eye-popping 13.5 K:BB ratio.
2. Tsuyoshi Wada ($7,300 CHC v. SF)
Since getting hit by San Diego (of all teams!) for five earned in four innings, he’s put up four straight starts allowing two or fewer earned runs with a total of 23 in 25 1/3 innings. He isn’t overpowering with his high-80s/low-90s fastball from the left side, but he commands his stuff well and avoids big trouble by walking very few batters. His tendency to pound the zone can yield some homers (1.0 HR/9), but a low WHIP minimizes the damage and the Giants don’t really handle lefties all that well. In fact, they have just six homers in 423 PA against lefties since the break (a 1.5 percent rate, seventh-lowest in the league).
3. Chase Anderson ($7,200 ARI at WAS)
Anderson had a 3.63 ERA through his first eight MLB starts, but with eight homers allowed, it was tough to buy into it fully. In his last seven starts, he’s curbed the home run issue (four in 40 2/3 IP) en route to a 2.66 ERA with 40 strikeouts and a healthy 2.9 K:BB ratio. Washington’s star power likely dissuades many from using pitchers against them, but they’ve been league average or just below against righties for the bulk of the season.
1. Billy Butler ($4,100 KC at COL)
Our first two batter picks require some extra monitoring to ensure that the weather holds up. There is some threat of rain in Coors, but it should be clear enough to get the game in. Tyler Matzek hasn’t done anything of substance against righties this year, allowing them a .309 AVG and .871 OPS in 247 PA (.237, .698 v. LHB). Butler, meanwhile, has done his best to salvage the season after a horrendous start. He had a .620 OPS through May, but he’s been at .795 in 68 games since June 1st with a .305 AVG and six homers (only paces toward 15, but he had just one in the first two months). Since the calendar turned to June, he has a .344 AVG and .929 OPS against lefties with four of those six homers.
2. Alcides Escobar ($3,900 KC at COL)
Doubling up in Coors… a novel concept, I know! Escobar is just the 13th-most expensive shortstop on the board, though, so it’s too hard to pass up. Power bats are most useful in DFS because one swing can do much damage, but that leaves the slappy speed hitters undervalued. He is hitting .313 on the year against lefties, his best season yet, while his .426 SLG is much higher than the .341 he posted each of the last two years. Wilin Rosario is quite awful behind the dish defensively which should give Escobar ample opportunity to notch his 25th stolen base (and hopefully more) should he reach base. He has only stolen one base in his last 18 games, but that hasn’t kept him from some big games lately with four double-digit nights in his last 10 games.
3. Chris Iannetta ($3,800 LAA at BOS)
Iannetta doesn’t always get the start against righties, so make sure you’re checking the lineup before selecting him, but if he’s in there, he could do some damage without even notching many hits. Allen Webster has no earthly idea where the strike zone is, as evidenced by his 7.0 BB/9 this year and 6.0 BB/9 in his 51 MLB innings dating back to last year. Iannetta could go for 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and a run scored and still net his season average of six points. Of course, if he can do some damage against Webster and then have the good fortune of facing a lefty late in the game (.922 OPS v. LHP), he could have a huge game.
4. Melky Cabrera ($4,700 TOR at MIL)
I’m a Mike Fiers fan, I really am, but I’m skeptical that he’s a stud all of a sudden. He showed some sustained success back in 2012 before melting down last year and getting shipped back to Triple-A and eventually suffering a broken arm. He’s back and he’s been sharp in two starts, but I don’t love this spot for him against the Jays. Cabrera has been incredible all year long, cutting up righties and lefties almost equally. His .323 AVG and .851 OPS against righties is problematic for Fiers. Cabrera has been at .818 OPS or above in three of the last four years against righties and even though he didn’t have the power in 2013 when he was at .717, he still hit .290.
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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