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Starting Pitcher Streamers – Week 2 (7/27 – 8/2): Fantasy Baseball

Welcome back to my weekly streaming article. This year I’m doing things a little differently. I’ll pick one streamer for each day that is 25% owned or under based on FantasyPros combined Yahoo!/ESPN ownership rates. In previous seasons, I more or less handpicked the best streaming options for the week and therefore didn’t necessarily choose an option each day. Here’s how last year went and the Google sheet where I tracked the results.

IP ERA WHIP K W QS
Season Totals 654 3.91 1.22 643 52 51

2019 wrapup article. Considering the juiced ball environment, that wasn’t too bad. The degree of difficulty is higher this year now that I don’t have the ability to choose more than one option each day. I will also list a backup option to stream but only if the primary option is skipped or does not pitch for some reason. Here, we go!

 

Monday – July 27th

Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) Home vs BAL, 9% owned
Lopez at home against a terrible Orioles club is my lock of the week. In 2019 at home, Lopez managed 3.39 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP. His strikeout rate wasn’t great last year but he’s added a cutter to go with his nasty changeup. Hopefully, the Marlins can give Lopez some run support, but I fully expect Lopez to net a strikeout per inning with great ratios on Monday. You may want to hold Lopez after this start because I have a feeling his ownership and popularity may begin to rise.

Backup option: Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), @ OAK – 24% owned 


 

Tuesday – July 28th

Kyle Gibson (SP – TEX) Home vs ARI, 6% owned
I went back in forth between Josh Lindblom and Kyle Gibson. Lindblom has an easier matchup against the Pirates but I just haven’t seen him pitch much. Gibson is a bit underrated. He was somewhat unlucky with a .330 BABIP and a 67.5% strand rate last year. However, he struck out a batter per inning and cut down on his walks. Now, he’s in Texas in the new stadium. By all accounts, it should play more like a pitcher’s park compared to the old Globe Life Stadium. Did you know Gibson managed a 36% O-Swing% and a 13% SwStr rate in 2019? Those rank seventh and 16th respectively among pitchers with at least 150 innings last year. Long story, long, stream Gibson. Backup option: Josh Lindblom (SP – MIL) @PIT – 7% owned

 

Wednesday – July 29th

Danny Duffy (SP – KCR) @DET, 8% owned
Last year, the Tigers were the worst offensive club in the Majors based on wRC+. They also struck out 26.4% of the time, worst in the league. They added C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop this offseason but still have one of the weakest teams in 2020. Duffy was OK in his first outing giving up two earned runs in 4.1 IP. That was against the Indians and I fully expect him to reach 5-6 inning against the Tigers. He won’t WOW you but he’s a decent pick on Wednesday. Backup Option: Patrick Sandoval (SP – LAA) Home vs SEA, 0% owned

 

Thursday – July 30th

John Means (SP -BAL) Home vs MIA – 12% owned
Means is currently on IL as he was slotted to pitch opening day for the Orioles. Obviously, that didn’t happen. By all accounts, he should be back for the start next Thursday and the matchup is juicy. He’s hoping to follow up an impressive 2019 where he finished with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He won’t strike a ton of guys out but doesn’t get beat by walking batters. He’s also better at home. In 2019, he had a steller 2.74 ERA in Camden Yards. His fastball isn’t all that great but he wields a good change (of course, I love changeups) and a solid slider. That should be enough to beat the Marlins.
Backup Option: Brady Singer (SP – KCR) Home @DET, 17% owned



 

Friday – July 31st

Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI) @TOR – 9% owned
There aren’t many great options next Friday so I’m rolling the dice with VV. He’s featured a new changeup and it looks like it could be a PutAway pitch. He’s been extremely inconsistent over his career, so this stream is not without risk. The Blue Jays are young and not familiar with Velasquez. I give the edge to VV there. I don’t expect him to go more than five innings but given the fact that the Blue Jays strike out quite a bit, he could pile up the Ks. I’m streaming here but like other options next week better.
Backup option: Spencer Turnbull (SP – DET) home vs CIN, 7% owned

 

Saturday – August 1st

Wade Miley (SP – CIN) @DET – 5% owned
Looks like we are picking on the Tigers and that’s OK. Miley doesn’t have the ceiling of some other options next week but has a great chance to post a quality start with good ratios. You might be surprised to know that Miley has had an ERA under 4.00 each of the last two seasons. He focuses on his cutter and changeup to minimize damage. His ground ball rate has been right near 50% the last three seasons. That should play well in Comerica next week and let’s not forget, the Tigers strike out more than any team, so there’s a small amount of K upside here as well.
Backup option: Reynadlo Lopez (SP – CHW) @KCR – 25% owned

 

Sunday – August 2nd

Austin Voth (SP – WSH) @MIA – 5% owned
I’m curious to see what Voth looks like in his first go around this year but I’ve been a fan of his all offseason. Here’s what I said about him way back in January.


“At age-27, he’s not a highly rated prospect but showed impressive skills in 2019 with a 17.8% K-BB% and a 3.30 ERA in 43.2 innings. His fastball wasn’t bad, but it’s his secondaries that get me going. All three of his secondaries, CU, CT, CH generated swinging strike rates north of 16.5%. The curve is the best of the bunch with a 38.9% strikeout rate. We are dealing with limited samples but hell, it’s after pick 250 and there is a top-150 ceiling here.”

He draws the Marlins in Miami and while they moved the fences in (a little), I’m not convinced it’ll change the results all that much. I’m rolling with Both and holding him in deep formats.

So many options next Sunday but many things can change in one week (especially in 2020), so here are the top 2 backup options. Tyler Mahle @DET – 2% owned, Yonny Chirinos @BAL



Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove / USA Today

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Evaluating Pitchers With New Homes Using HRPF+

After I developed directional home run park factors and converted them to a plus metric, I covered hitters who have a new home in 2020. For this portion of the series, I’ll cover some of the top starting pitchers with new clubs. Of course, there are outside factors like switching leagues and facing unfamiliar opponents but I have tried to include that in my analysis. In case you’re new to my work, I’ll cover the directional park factors real quick. For the full explanation, you can check out the original article here and the conversion to a plus metric, here.

Guts of Directional HRPF+ 

I pulled three years of batted ball data from all 30 MLB venues. Then, I broke down the data by direction: left, center, right. From there, I separated the barreled balls that were hit to each field and how many of those barrels turned into home runs. That’s the home run per barrel rate (HR/BRL%) to each field. I refer to this metric a lot, especially in my eHR metric. Of course, I found out that HR/BRL% was much higher for pulled balls than for balls hit to the opposite field. So, I had to separate all data for right-handed and left-handed batted balls. then, I ran Z-Scores using all this data for each venue to determine how left, center, and right fields compared to the league average. That’s the genesis of the data.


However, nearly 20% of all home runs were hit with a quality of contact below that of a barrel. Jonathan Metzellar of PitcherList explains this very nicely in his most recent article, Beyond the Barrel. Most of the remaining home runs are qualified as Solid Contact. Balls that qualify as solid contact are home runs between 10 and 11% of the time. I certainly had to account for those, so I devised a formula to include them in the park factors. I won’t bore you with more details and data, so let’s get to the pitchers!

I won’t cover Corey Kluber or Jordan Lyles because Globe Life Park is no more in 2020. The Rangers will have a new home with a retractable roof and a more controlled environment and different dimensions. So, the data for Globe Life Park is unfortunately useless. 

The park factors that I reference (HRPF+) measure how much better or worse a park plays for home runs based on a percentage. 100 is league average in terms of home runs relative to the same direction. For every point above or below 100, the park is 1% better or worse than league-average.  In other words, if a park is valued with a HRPF+ of 110 to left field, it’s 10% better to left field for home runs than the league average left field. The same goes for HRPF+ below 100.

Madison Bumgarner (SP – ARI) from SFG

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Oracle Park (SFG) 89 65 57
Chase Field (ARI) 106 68 98

While we only have two years of data from Chase Field since the humidor was installed, it’s clear that Mad Bum gets a downgrade to right field. Why? Because, well, right field at Oracle Park is 43% below the league average and ranked 30th for home runs hit. That was a good thing for him when he pitched there but now that he’s gone, he won’t have that advantage. Left-handed batters managed a 48.7% HR/BRL rate over the last three years at Oracle. For reference, the league average HR/BRL% for left-handed batters to right field is 75.8%. Centerfield was equally helpful for Mad Bum but what about left field? Bad news for Mad Bum. Since 2015, here are the HR/FB% to left field for Bumgarner in succession 16.4%, 23.8%, 24.2%, 30.6%. That’s a disturbing trend in a home park that played 11% below league average to left field. Now,  he calls Chase Field home that’s played six percent better than league-average to left field. Last year, Bumgarner ended up with a career-worst 12.6% HR/FB rate, which considering the juiced ball, wasn’t half bad. I can say with quite a bit of confidence, that Bumgarner sets a new career-high in home run rate, settling in with an ERA above 4.00.



Zack Wheeler (SP – PHI) from NYM

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Citi Field (NYM) 110 107 105
Citizens Bank (PHI) 115 91 114

Well, this isn’t quite the park downgrade most skeptics are projecting. To be fair, Citizens Bank Park does play more favorably for hits in general and therefore runs scored, so it is a better hitters park overall. However, for home runs, it’s very close. Outside of 2017, Wheeler has always been able to suppress home runs. And, since both left field and right field are within 10% in terms of my HRPF+, let’s focus on centerfield. Citi Field is seven percent worse than league-average (for a pitcher) on home runs to center where Citizens Bank is nine percent better than league-average to centerfield. Over the last three seasons, one-third of Wheeler’s fly balls traveled out towards centerfield. In 2017, something weird happened. Wheeler gave up an astonishing seven of his 15 home runs to centerfield in just 86 innings. Since then, he’s allowed just five homers over the last two seasons combined. His HR/FB% to centerfield over that timeframe is just four percent, which is lower than half of the league-average. Based on the scant number of homers he’s given up to center, I don’t think I can regress that number anymore. In other words, this move is essentially neutral with maybe a slight downgrade overall for Wheeler.

Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP – TOR) from LAD

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Dodger Stadium (LAD) 98 150 95
Rogers Centre (TOR) 110 101 102

In 2019, we saw everything come together for Ryu, health, home run suppression, weak contact, luck, etc. It was a best-case scenario type of season. Now, he finds himself in the AL East. Without knowing anything about park factors, we can safely assume the competition will be more difficult. Not only is the division better, but he’ll face an extra hitter in the DH instead of the pitcher twice. However, he will receive a much more giving centerfield compared to LAD, but he’s only given up eight home runs to centerfield the last two seasons. So, maybe he gives up three this year? How about left field? Ryu’s given up 47 home runs since the start of 2017, 24 of them have gone out to left field (51%). Left field at the Rogers Centre is 12% more favorable for home runs than Dodger Stadium. Ryu’s HR/9 last year was just 0.84. For 2020, I’ll set the over/under at 1.20. Given neutral luck, I’d expect something close to an ERA of 4.00. That’s not all that playable with a below-average strikeout rate.



David Price (SP – LAD) from BOS

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Fenway Park (BOS) 96 68 75
Dodger Sta (LAD) 98 150 95

Price is in for a massive spike in home runs to center and right fields. Throughout four seasons with Boston, his HR/FB% to right field hovered around 10%. To centerfield, it was slightly lower with a HR/FB% around 9% but spiked in 2019 to a career-high 12.8%. I think it’s important to note that during his time with Boston, he gave up 33 home runs at home and 45 home runs on the road. He did throw 21 more innings on the road over that time but doesn’t account for a difference of 12 homers. I decided to look at wOBA minus xwOBA on all fly balls and line drives against Price since 2015 on batted balls to center and right field. It’s essentially wOBACON minus xwOBACON to CF and RF but excluding ground balls. 

Season LD+FB: wOBA-xwOBA (CF) LD+FB: wOBA-xwOBA (RF)
2016 -.021 -.007
2017 -.051 -.039
2018 -.124 -.044
2019 -.180 -.166

I trust Statcast’s data more in 2018 and 2019 as the kinks have been ironed out. That’s where the biggest discrepancy lies between wOBA-xwOBA. A portion of the difference can be attributed to the stellar outfield defense between Mookie Betts and JBJ. Fortunately, Betts will be roaming right field once again, so that’s a wash. Bellinger in center is a slight downgrade from Jackie Bradley Jr. But, overall, I think Price continues to partially outperform his expected metrics on balls hit to center and right on balls that stay in the yard. However, given the increase in home runs he may allow, the gap between LD+FB wOBA-xwOBA should be much smaller. That being said, the smaller outfield dimensions from left-center to right-center at Dodger Stadium should turn some doubles and triples into outs. It’s difficult to predict how this will play out. On one hand, he’ll turn doubles and triples into outs. On the other hand, the doubles/triples that he would have allowed in Fenway may turn into home runs. His ERA may go up due to the homers but I expect his WHIP and strikeouts to improve as he avoids the DH and will face weaker opponents.

Kenta Maeda (SP – MIN) from LAD

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Dodger Stadium (LAD) 98 150 95
Target Field (MIN) 97 82 94

Okay, his one is easy. A negligible change to both left and right fields, but look at centerfield! Dodger Stadium is an incredible 68 percent more favorable for home runs to centerfield than Maeda’s new home, Target Field. Over the course of his career, Maeda has given up more fly balls to centerfield than to left or right fields, respectively at nearly 40%. He definitely felt the juiced ball with a HR/9 of 1.47 in 2017 and 1.29 in 2019. However, in 2018, he allowed just a 0.93 HR/9. It seems like the generous centerfield at Dodger Stadium played a role. His 15.8% HR/FB to centerfield last year was the worst of his career and about 5% worse than the league-average. Yet, he allowed fewer home runs per fly ball than the league-average overall. This proves that Dodger Stadium hurt his number, and he allowed 13 of his 21 home runs at home in 2019. The move from the NL to the AL isn’t ideal but the AL Central has its weaknesses. Detroit and Kansas City are poor clubs and have favorable parks to pitch in. Cleveland is top-heavy but not all that deep and the White Sox are talented but young. I would bet that Maeda knocks a few home runs off his total in 2020 and ends with a sub-4.00 ERA for the second time in four years. I want Maeda over Ryu this season and it’s not all that close.



Dallas Keuchel (SP – CHW) from ATL

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
SunTrust Stadium (ATL) 88 100 100
U.S. Cellular (CHW) 110 107 113

Keuchel had a wild 23.1% HR/FB rate last year with the Braves in an abbreviated season. Normally, a ratio that high would be a death sentence to a pitcher’s ERA. But, Keuchel still managed an ERA of 3.75 thanks in large part to a 60% ground ball rate. His sinker and changeup both generate a ton of ground balls. However, his sinker was crushed when elevated in the strike zone. On his sinker, he gave up six home runs on just 16 fly balls in 2019. Moving from Atlanta to Chicago is clearly a negative for Keuchel, not only because the park is more favorable for hitters to all three fields but he’ll also face the DH. Because Keuchel gives up so few fly balls, I don’t think it’ll completely decimate his ratios given the park change. I’m more concerned about his dipping zone rate. It hit a career-low 33% last year and hitters aren’t exactly chasing often enough to justify the drop. It showed up in his walk rate that went from 6.6% in 2018 to 8.0% in 2019. His strikeout rate will once again be below 20% and if his walk rate jumps to nine or 10%, he could finish with a 4.50 ERA in 2020.  

Wade Miley (SP – CIN) from HOU

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Minute Maid (HOU) 136 73 129
GABP (CIN) 121 132 136

Miley jumps from one hitter’s haven park to another. At least he leaves the American League and the DH to go to the NL where lineups are generally weaker. Great American Ballpark is the most favorable (or unfavorable for pitchers) for home runs in all of baseball. Minute Maid Park in Houston is a hitter’s park to both left and right fields, so there’s a minimal change for Miley on pulled and opposite-field fly balls this coming season. Then, there’s centerfield. If you recall, Minute Maid used to have Tal’s Hill in center field and was 435 feet to dead center. In 2015, the hill was removed and the fences were brought in to a distance of 409 feet to dead center. My park factors only include the results after the fences were brought in and it still performs poorly to centerfield. That’s because the left-center field fence is 404 feet away from home plate. Okay, enough about Houston, let’s focus on Miley. He gives up a lot of fly balls to centerfield. In fact, over 40% of his fly balls head out to center. He gave up just three homers to center last year with just a 4.9% HR/FB rate. I expect that to at least double if not triple in 2020. That could be the difference between three and nine home runs to centerfield over the course of a full season. With an unknown opening day, I think he may give up three or four more home runs in 2020 then if he stayed put in Houston. 

Cole Hamels (SP – ATL) from CHC

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Wrigley Field (CHC) 105 106 79
SunTrust Stadium (ATL) 88 100 100

Entering the twilight of his successful career, let’s find out if Hamels can bring back some fantasy goodness in the ATL. While Wrigley has a higher HRPF+ to center field, it’s mostly due to the cheap home runs when the wind is blowing out. The difference between the two parks and their three-year average in terms of HR/BRL% is within one percent. Hamels will see more significant changes to left and right fields. As a left-handed pitcher, he sees the righty-heavy lineups most of the time. Righties have done pretty well against the southpaw with a .330 and .321 wOBA in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The good news for Hamles is that 60% of the home runs he’s allowed since the start of 2018 have gone to left field. Wrigley was slightly favorable for home runs to left where SunTrust should suppress them a bit more. I expect Hamels to allow fewer home runs to left field in his new park but the short porch near the right-field line could allow for some non-barreled balls to drop just over the fence. I’m not chasing Hamels in drafts even though he’s cheap. I’d look for upside plays such as Corbin Burnes, Justus Sheffield, and Kwan-Hyun Kim over the crafty veteran. 

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.





Photo courtesy AP Photo/John Bazemore

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Starting Pitchers to Stream – Week 7 (5/13-5/19)

Let’s get this out of the way. PaBLOW Lopez really killed us last week. That will happen every once and a while and we have to pick ourselves up and trust the process. I’m not giving up on Lopez for just one awful start but I’m fading him next week at least. Luckily, we had seven other starters last week who, by in large, performed well. Despite the 10 runs beat down on Lopez, here are the streaming numbers to date through the first six weeks of the season:

IP ERA WHIP K W QS
Season Totals 165.65 3.42 1.07 171 16 17

Not bad right? Those are much better than league-average and look like a #2 starter on most fantasy teams. Forget about the Lopez start, trust the process, and let’s keep rolling. Here’s what we have next week. Note: All pitchers are owned in 25% of leagues per FantasyPros Consensus Ownership

Wade Miley (SP – HOU) 18% owned, @DET, Tuesday 5/14
Miley is a boring pick here but he’s been successful of late and gets Detroit in Comerica Park. Not only are the Tigers struggling offensively but it’s backed by a .258 wOBA and a 28% strikeout rate in the last 14 days. Comerica Park is the third worst stadium for home runs in the Majors. The Tigers don’t hit many homers but their park doesn’t help them out as they have hit just six in the last two weeks. Miley isn’t going to give you many strikeouts but keeps the ball down and has one of the best defenses behind him. I expect plenty of run support and hopefully six clean innings from Miley who will let his defense do the work for him. STREAM

Trent Thornton (SP – TOR) 4% owned, @SF, Tuesday 5/14
Anytime I have the opportunity to stream a pitcher in San Francisco, I do it. My home run park factors article linked above has Oracle Park 2.5 standard deviations below the average ballpark in terms of home runs. As of Saturday, the Giants have hit just nine home runs at home this season with just a .268 OBP as a team. I’m not the biggest fan of Thornton but his main issue has been home runs. As I just discussed, home runs will be hard to come by, especially from left-handed bats who the Giants should stack against the righty. As with any young pitcher, control and walks can pop up but ballons when a pitcher loses control combined with the long balls. I’m hesitant here but would stream Thornton in 14-team and deeper leagues for the upside.

Derek Holland (SP – SF), 5% owned, Tyler Beede, 1% owned TOR, Tuesday, 5/14
Wait, but I’m streaming Thornton who is going up against the Giants and Holland! Yup, so here’s the thing, we all know that Oracle Park is a pitcher’s dream, no need to go over that again. Note: Holland has been moved to the bullpen and Tyler Beede will be recalled from Triple-A to start in his place. What I really like is that the Blue Jays fourth from the bottom against left-handed pitchers with a .275 wOBA against this year. They have also struck out against lefties over 25% of the time and Holland is rocking a 27% K rate with the metrics to back it up. In addition, the Giants are ranked eighth in team defense thanks to the addition of Kevin Pillar in centerfield. I like Holland to pile up strikeouts can keep the ratios in check. The Blue Jays have almost as bad against right-handed pitchers compared to lefties and have a higher strikeout rate versus RHP. Beede throws 95 MPH with a plus changeup he but he has struggled with control. In the minors, he regularly was near 4 BB/9 and in his brief Major League career has walked 13 batters in 12 innings. Maybe there’s a chance he pulls it together but I believe his upside in this one is no more than five innings with six strikeouts and sub-par ratios. I wouldn’t count on it though. I’m passing on this start for Beede.

Merrill Kelly (SP – ARI), 9% owned, SF, Friday, 5/17
Kelly hasn’t been great overall since coming back to the states but I expect his walk rate to come way down. Eno Sarris recently wrote a piece at The Athletic discussing pitchers with good command+ but have elevated walk rates. Kelly was near the top of the list and as we saw last night against the Braves, he didn’t walk a single batter in seven innings. He gets a cushier matchup next week against the Giants at home. He’s also pitched much better in Chase Field (thank you humidor) with a 3.20 ERA/1.10 WHIP than on the road this year. We’ve covered how poor the Giants offense has been this season, so no need to rehash. Kelly won’t have a ton of strikeout upside but has the ability to go deep into games, so gets a boost in QS leagues. STREAM

Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), 22% owned, KC, Saturday 5/18
I’m not sure why Canning isn’t owned in over 25% of leagues, but hey, our gain right? Canning has impressed in his first two starts in the big leagues striking out 13 with a 1.03 WHIP through 9.2 IP. Hitters can’t seem to make much contact evidenced by the 20% swinging strike rate and 54.6% contact rate. It’s an extremely small sample but those numbers would lead the league. His fastball has been good, his slider is unhittable, and the curve is a plus pitch. The only thing that worries me is his sub-30% zone rate. Patient teams could make him pay but Kansas City is walking 8.5% of the time the last 14 days (9% is league average). The Royals are league-average offensively so they aren’t a pushover. I suspect Canning could go six innings with this being his fourth start in the bigs. I like his upside here, STREAM

Wilmer Font (SP – NYM), 0% owned, @MIA, Sunday 5/19
Font has been filling in for the injured Jason Vargas and now that Steven Matz hit the IL, Font may grab two starts next week. I don’t recommend him in his Monday start in Washington, but this matchup seems just right. Cover one eye when looking at his 5.50 ERA but his 4.01 FIP and 3.59 SIERA show that better days may be ahead. His metrics are backed by a 13% swinging strike rate largely due to the increase in the usage of his breaking balls. He’s throwing his slider and curve 43% of the time and both can get whiffs. The Marlins have managed just a .264 wOBA this season (.258 last 14 days) which is 16 points below the next worst team in the Majors. This will be Font’s third start, so he should have a chance to reach six innings in this one and grab a QS and win. STREAM

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


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