Day 1 of the new baseball season is done. What did we learn?
- Unpredictable East Coast weather will wreak havoc on this shortened season.
The Yankees - Nationals game was called after both teams had at least 5 innings of at the plate. Expect this to be the norm this season since trying to sneak in double headers will be very tough. That means paying up for a stud pitcher such as Gerrit Cole or Max Scherzer could be a terrible choice if rain is in the forecast. Of course we didn't have many options yesterday but today we have plenty of aces.
- The Dodgers are still very good and the Giants are still very bad.
The game was tied 1-1 for quite some time before the Dodgers offense exploded in the 7th inning. There are some teams with loaded batting lineups and we should expect them to pop off against weak bullpens. The problem is pinning down which player will be swinging a big stick. Last night it was Kike Hernandez who was not as highly owned as Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. That is why playing multiple lineups is essential. I will be targetting offenses against the Giants often this season. Also, potent batting lineups such as the Dodgers, Astros, and Yankees will be part of my DFS lineups on most nights.
- Expect MLB managers to give their starting pitchers a short leash and use their bullpens more frequently.
I must admit that I kind of like this new rule that a relief pitcher must face at least three batters before he can be replaced. This helps speed up the game and potentially increases the chances for more scoring. Managers will need to be more judicious with who they send out to the mound in case there is a hitter on deck or in the hole who has a good matchup against the opposing pitcher. The rosters have also expanded so there will be plenty of no-name pitchers which kind of brings an element of unpredictability to a sport already notorious for its high level of variance. Teams will want to protect their aces given the accelerated nature of this season.
- Players will drop like flies with COVID-19 testing.
We saw an already depleted Nationals lineup take another blow when Juan Soto was removed from the starting lineup after a postive COVID-19 test. That caused the Yankees-Nationals moneyline to move from -140 in favor of New York to -170. Soto's removal was announced about 3 - 4 hours before first pitch so you will need to be vigilant of roster changes close to the start of each slate. Fortunately lineups don't lock in MLB DFS (unlike NBA on FanDuel) but you will still need to build a lineup with enough flexiblity in case a player on the West Coast tests positive for COVID-19 once the East Coast games are underway.
With these lessons in the back of our minds, how do we go about this awesome 11 game slate today? Stick with a data driven approach. That means we will attack the weakest pitchers on this slate and pay up for quality pitching. There are four pitchers who we can feel comfortable rostering: Justin Verlander, Jack Flaherty, Shane Bieber, and Aaron Nola. All are pitching at home and against weak offenses. In DraftKings, it will be tricky to get 2 of these 4 pitchers in your lineup but it is possible. You can also go with one of them along with a mid-priced pitcher. You can definitely make this work in FanDuel. Again, don't go cheap on pitching unless there is really good value in the 6 - 8 K range. The chances of precipiation is low for all games today but we are still not sure how the manangers of these aces will go about their pitch counts. There could be some nights when a manager will want to give his bullpen a break or moments in late September when an ace needs to work late in a game if the team is in a tight playoff race.
You really can't go wrong with any of the 4 aces I just mentioned and maybe you play at least one line up with each of those pitchers. So what offenses do we select for tonight? There are two I love: Boston and St. Louis.
The Red Sox are rarely cheap but right now they are affordable and represent great value. Once they start popping off, we will see 3 - 4 of their top hitters increase significantly in price. For now, let's take advantage of their pricing. I am curious to see how they perform without Betts but I feel they will be fine. JD Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are a must. Orioles starting pitching Tommy Milone is a lefty and the right-handed power of Martinez and Bogaerts have owned him. You might as well throw in a couple of left-handed batters for some balance so I will be considering Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi in a Boston stack. Alex Verdugo is another interesting piece who is cheap and will probably be low owned. Most likely Milone will last 4 - 5 innings and the Orioles bullpen was one of the worst last season. The Red Sox - Orioles run total is at 10 and the Red Sox are heavily favored so Boston easily has the highest implied run total on this slate.
We should now be feeling good that we have a stud pitcher in our lineup with argualy the strongest stack. So why do the Cardinals represent our 2nd stack? For starters, the Cardinals have a .919 OPS against Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove which is the highest allowed OPS for any starting pitcher on today's slate. The sample size is also significant with 114 plate appearances and 451 pitchers thrown (source:
dailybaseballdata.com/cgi-bin/dailyhit.pl). Paul Goldschmidt carries this offense so you would be crazy to not have him in a Cardinals stack. Plus he has a strong history against Musgrove. Given Musgrove's struggles last year against lefties, Matt Carpenter makes a lot of sense. The Cardinals are mainly a right-handed heavy squad but you can use switch hitters such as Dexter Fowler and Tommy Edman who both have done well against Musgrove in the past. Yadier Molina and Tyler O'Neill are other solid options.
You can also consider other strong hitting squads such as the Cleveland Indigenous People (we shall see how long the Indians name lasts) or the Houston Cheaters (a more fitting name than the Astros). However, if you want a stud pitcher and a Red Sox stack, you need some savings and the Cardinals offense is where you will need to plant your flag.
Here is a link to a YouTube presentation on today's MLB DFS lineup build which gets into more data and offers some nice visuals.
Here is a sample lineup for DraftKings and one for FanDuel.
Keep cheching in daily for our fantasy baseball analysis. Have a great start to your weekend!