Theft In the Nation’s Capital

In the Statcast era of baseball that is dominated by strikeouts and home runs, the stolen base seems as though it is starting to become somewhat of a relic of years past.  While overall numbers are down, the Washington Nationals have continued to steal bases at an impressive rate, with 30 so far this season.  This is 6 more than the team with the second most amount of steals, and 24 more than the teams with the least amount of steals.  Interestingly, the teams tied for last with 6 steals, the Cubs and A’s, both have higher team OBPs than the steal happy Nationals.

This is due in no small part to Trea Turner, whose 12 steals (while not yet being caught) are tied for tops in MLB amongst individuals and would be good for 16th in MLB amongst TEAMS.  But it’s more than just Turner, Michael A Taylor has swiped 9 bags himself.  This kind of base path speed also leads to additional runs, and has helped the Nationals make up for a cold start from Ryan Zimmerman and a DL trip from Anthony Rendon.

While Turner is an outstanding baseball player and well on the radar of most DFS players, Taylor is probably not thought of as such an impactful player, and he probably isn’t.  But that doesn’t mean he isn’t useful!  At some point, the National will realize that Ryan Zimmerman should no longer be hitting second, as he is not getting on base enough for Bryce Harper to hit with multiple runners on.  An argument could very well be made for moving Taylor to the 2 spot, which, if you can imagine, would lead to scenarios of Turner and Taylor at 1st and 2nd becoming an automatic double steal.  Imagine being a pitcher with these two speed demons on base while trying to pitch to Bryce Harper.  From a DFS perspective, assuming Turner and Taylor both walk, this turns 4 pts into 18 if pts if the double steal is successful and they both eventually come around to score.  If the Nationals make this lineup change, make sure to give a look at both Turner and Taylor as strong DFS plays.

Cold Brew

Every week, it seems like a new team just completely forgets how to hit, as a team.  Sometimes this can be easily explained due to injury, tough pitching match-ups, or a tough travel schedule.  Other times, the just are bad for no reason.  While it’s true that losing Eric Thames probably wasn’t great for the Brewers offense, it’s not like Jesus Aguilar was some slouch or putting Ryan Braun at 1B to allow Domingo Santana to see the lineup more was some huge downgrade.  And yet, here are the Brewers run totals over the past week:

5, 6, 0, 2, 0, 0.

The Brewers have also scored 8 or more runs only twice, including a 12 run explosion on 4/20 against the Marlins, but otherwise have severely underwhelmed.  Taking a look under the hood at ISO, BABIP, wOBA, and WRC+, the Brewers are below average or average across the board, but not in some outlier way.  This is not a team that should get shut out three times in a week against mediocre to slightly above average pitching.  So, what, then is the culprit?

My guess would be hit sequencing and cluster luck.  For the uninitiated, cluster luck simply means their performance in getting hits consecutively as opposed to spread out.  A double is much more useful if it immediately follows another double, as that creates (at least) one run, whereas doubles in different innings with no hits in between do not.  The Power Rank calculates both offensive and defensive cluster luck, and unsurprisingly, the Brewers have had the seventh worst cluster luck thus far, right next to the Indians, whom have previously been featured in this “unlucky teams” section, and are suffering from a league worst .255 BABIP.  The Brewers will be fine, with or without Eric Thames.  They just need to start stringing some hits together a bit more, and once they do, watch those runs pile up!

Here Come the Braves

This week, we as baseball fans were blessed with the promotion of wunderkind Braves prospect Ronald Acuña.  While the Braves lineup was formidable to begin with and Acuña started his major league career hitting 7th, it didn’t take long for him to move his way up the lineup.  Today, the Braves went with the following lineup:

Albies, Acuña, Freeman, Markakis, Suzuki, Camargo, Swanson, P (McCarthy), Inciarte.

While seeing Acuña move to the top of the order is fun (and was inevitable), moving Inciarte to the 9 spot is a stroke of absolute genius.  Getting an additional high contact, decent OBP guy potentially on base in front of the powerful and dangerous first three in that lineup is a great move for the Braves, and Inciarte, to his credit, rewarded them immediately with a 3 for 4 day with 2 runs scored.

While the Braves pitching staff still leaves plenty to be desired, the 151 runs scored by the Braves are good for second most in all of baseball, and when targeting hitters in DFS, that’s all we care about.  This Braves team is going to be for real, and likely less owned than they should be for at least a little while longer, so make sure to pay special attention to the Braves in their upcoming match-ups.  This week they have the Mets and Giants, which should be a good test for how successful this lineup can be against quality RHPs and the occasional middle of the road LHP.