Throughout the winter, we dabbled in some daily league analysis in our Welcome to Splitsville series. Now that the season has started, it's time to dive in a little deeper. Daily leagues are a different animal than seasonal leagues. In seasonal leagues, fantasy owners draft whichever players they think will have the best numbers at the end of the season. In daily leagues, we want to focus on players who will be most productive on a given day in particular. Hitters who are off the seasonal-league radar sometimes can be productive plays for daily league owners in select situations.
In picking batters to use in a daily league, the first thing I look at is opposing-pitcher quality. Fantasy owners want to target batters who have a good chance to be in a high-run-scoring environment. This often means finding opposing pitchers who are prone to getting whacked around with extra-base hits, or prone to putting runners on base. I look at stats like opposing-pitcher triple slash (AVG/OBP/SLG) against and Fielding Independent Pitching, and split it up between batter handedness. The triple slash tells us the outcomes that happened, and the FIP gives us a predictive peripheral statistic to help support the triple slash. Looking at strikeout rate (K%) and walk rate (BB%) also is helpful. A low strikeout rate means more balls are put into play, which means more things can happen to support run scoring.
The introduction of Welcome to Splitsville talked about a few different splits that fantasy owners can use in daily leagues. The most important split is left/right, or platoon splits. Opposite-sided batters usually have an advantage against pitchers over same-sided batters. Tying splits into opposing pitcher quality is important. Sometimes, pitchers can be average on the whole, but be much less effective against opposite sided hitters than same-sided hitters. For example, some right-handed pitchers have a nasty fastball/breaking ball combo that eats up righties, but they lack a good arm-side pitch, like a change up or splitter, to get lefties off their fastball. Using a left-handed batter who hits right-handed pitchers well in this matchup is a good way to use splits to find production.
Park effects are important for run scoring, too. A cold April day in a pitcher's park is not the most-ideal situation for scoring runs. The ball travels better in warmer air. Looking for ineffective pitchers, in hitters parks, in warm weather (or indoors), is a good start for picking hitters in daily leagues in April. Chase Field in Arizona is often a gold mine for hitters in April.
I also focus heavily on statistics, and try to avoid narratives, when trying to select hitters. A narrative is something along the lines of, “This hitter was traded by the team he’s facing today, so he’s going to have extra motivation to focus and play better today.” Avoid that type of rationale, and instead focus on what the statistics say about the opposing-pitcher quality and quality of the hitter himself.
Every Tuesday this season, I’ll be looking at certain players in daily leagues—hitters and pitchers—who have decent matchups based on the numbers, and I’ll be writing about them here. When picking batters in daily leagues, I like to target opposing pitchers who have an average or below-average OPS against the handedness of the batter I’m thinking of using. The higher the OPS of that pitcher against that batter handedness, the more priority I have in finding a hitter to use against that pitcher. Of course, the skill level of the hitter is important, too. For example, LHP Patrick Corbin is listed as the probable starting pitcher for the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. Last year, right-handed batters hit .293/.365/.485 off Corbin, good for an .850 OPS against, about 100 points higher than the league average. Corbin's poor 5.07 FIP vs RHB gives us more evidence to support the ineffectiveness. He struck out only 15.5 percent of righties he faced last year, compared to 29.1 percent of left-handed batters, where league average K% is around 21 percent. That means that right-handed batters put the ball in play at an above-average level against Corbin. Chase Field also is one of the best hitting environments in baseball. This pitching environment, based on the pitcher quality and ballpark, looks good for run scoring for right-handed batters in this matchup.
Buster Posey ($3,300 FD) is one play that stands out. Posey has a significantly above-catcher-average wRC+ of 141 vs LHP over the past two seasons, where league average wRC+ for catchers in that time is about 86. Posey’s high skill level against LHP, combined with Corbin’s below-average skill level vs RHB, and the upgraded park environment from San Francisco to Arizona for hitters, make Posey an outstanding choice for hitter tonight, more so than what Posey normally would be. This is the type of process I generally use on a nightly basis when choosing hitters in daily leagues, and it usually works well for me.
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