Throughout this blog I want to identify scenarios that may, at least initially, be mispriced by DFS algorithms that are relying on historical data without taking into account granular or situational changes, with the goal of exploiting them before they become common knowledge. While DFS results are tabulated daily, taking notice of trends before the market adjusts can provide opportunities to seek value where others are not looking, regardless of individual daily outcomes.
Can’t Dodge the DL
Injuries are a part of baseball, as they are a part of any sport, and usually there is no rhyme or reason to which teams are most affected by injuries throughout the season. We do know that teams like the Mets have handled injuries particularly poorly, or perhaps just happen to have more injury prone players on their roster, but it is generally hard to predict previously healthy teams suddenly suffering a multitude of DL visits. While their NL West rivals the Giants may not have much sympathy, losing Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija at different points this year, the Dodgers have had it even worse. With Justin Turner already on the DL, they just lost Corey Seager for the season, and they are joined on the DL by Logan Forsythe, Yasiel Puig, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and now today, Clayton Kershaw.
While there are still some thumpers in the Dodgers lineup, especially Grandal, Bellinger, Kemp and Chris Taylor, they are all together a less fearsome bunch than the group that took the Astros to a 7 game World Series last October. The more significant development, however, may be with their pitching. The injuries to Ryu, Kershaw and Hill force the Dodgers hand of making Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler into full time starters, but even that isn’t enough to fill out an entire rotation. We’ll likely see some Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, and once you throw in Alex Wood, I guess that’s a full rotation. But it will lead to a taxed and inexperienced bullpen, which is being raided to fill the starting rotation. The Dodgers may very well go from a team you generally want to avoid stacking against to a team you will regularly want to stack against, especially in starts by Stripling and Stewart that may amount to bullpen games.
You’ll still want to avoid Wood, Maeda and Buehler for the most part, and you may even want to roster them in the right match-ups given they’ll likely be asked to go deeper in games to help the bullpen catch up on some rest, but all of this will definitely be something to keep an eye on going forward.
Bryce Harper Leading Off
This week the Nationals sought to spark their offense a bit by moving one of the best power hitters in the game, Bryce Harper, to the lead off spot. Presumably this was because there hasn’t been a whole lot to protect him in the lineup, and his 25% BB rate has prevented him from doing much damage. It stands to reason that you generally wouldn’t want to walk the first hitter of the game, and so he Harper should see more at bats and potentially more pitches to hit in this spot. You also may, ever so slightly, increase Harper’s potential plate appearances by moving him up a couple spots in the order. This only works though if you maintain the change for a long enough period?
So how did Harper do, and does it make sense for the Nationals to continue with this new look lineup, even with Anthony Rendon back in the lineup? Bryce did very well, and it does look like the Nats will continue with this lineup.
What does it mean for him and the people around him though? That’s a more difficult question. Bryce is an incredibly good hitter, but everyone knows that and he is incredibly expensive, so he’s precisely the opposite of what we generally look for in “Where’s the Alpha?”. For fellow Nationals Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman though, it means that there will very likely be more runners on when they are hitting, because Bryce’s walk rate won’t go to zero, and like we said, he’s an incredibly good hitter. His .438 OBP should still lead to run creation, just more so for other hitters in the Nationals lineup and less so for him racking up RBI. I would look to the rest of the Nationals bats for value, and you can always stack them with Bryce if you’re going that direction, but this move should make them all more valuable in the short run.
The Terrible Tigers
The Tigers are, by all accounts, not a very good baseball team, and not a very good offense. They probably aren’t going to get any better with Miguel Cabrera on the DL, and Victor Martinez corpse still heading out there to DH. However, they aren’t always appealing targets for DFS purposes, as they don’t really strike out as much as you might think (only 19.8%).
But maybe that’s OK?
They also don’t really walk (7.4%, second to last in MLB), they don’t really string together hits, and they don’t really hit home runs (25, 3rd to last in MLB). So there’s a good chance that if you roster an SP against them, he’s going to go fairly deep into the game, and depending on his skill set, rack up some Ks along the way. Using today as a prime example, Jakob Junis put together his best outing of the year, going 7 innings strong, scattering 8 hits, striking out 8 and only giving up 2 runs. That was good for 26 DK points, 3 better than his previous top performance of the year, interestingly, also against the Tigers.
I’m not saying that the Tigers are a team to attack with every pitcher in every rotation, some days they may even be worth stacking. With the right pitchers though, you might be able to get pitchers at lower ownership due to the Tigers “on the surface” numbers and low K rates.