Friday is always a popular DFS night and we have the perfect slate with a treasure trove of upper echelon pitchers in intriguing matchups. There's also a surprising number of streaming options for our seasonal league readers looking for a late pitching boost. We have all you need to know about that and more in Friday's daily notes.
Max Scherzer leads off a loaded Friday slate with road affair in Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves. This will be a cakewalk, right? After all, the Braves sport the fifth worst weighted on base average versus righties in the league. But here's the thing: Since the All-Break, they're the fifth-best team in this scenario, jumping to third at home. Sure, it's Mad Max, a leading candidate for the NL Cy Young award, but there's more risk than might be perceived, ask those who used Jose Fernandez in Turner Field. You'll want some exposure, but if playing only one lineup, there's plenty cause to fade Scherzer.
Remember when we all decided Chris Sale was pitching more to contact? Over his first nine starts, spanning 68 1/3 innings, the lanky lefty recorded an 8.2 K/9. In the next 64 2/3 innings, covering 10 starts, the strikeout rate rose to 9.3 K/9. Over his last nine efforts, Sale's fanned 76 in 68 2/3 innings, an impressive 9.9 K/9. This is still well below the 10.8 and 11.8 marks he has boasted the past couple of seasons, but it's clear his days of dominance are not over. The southpaw might drop a few spots in seasonal leagues next spring, but he'll still rack up huge strikeout totals, especially considering the volume of innings he annually accrues. On Friday, he's in a sneaky good spot for another big punchout performance as the Chicago White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals in Kauffman Stadium. The perception is the home team rarely whiffs but since the break, they've fanned at an above average 23 percent clip against lefties with a below average wOBA. Sale profiles better for cash games than Scherzer while having the strikeout upside to be a viable alternative in tournaments.
Like Sale, Corey Kluber has also picked up the strikeout pace over the second half. Before the break, Cleveland Indians right-handers registered a very good 9.0 K/9 that has spiked to 10.2 since. However, unlike Sale, Kluber has a tough matchup, albeit at home with the Detroit Tigers visiting Progressive Field. The guests have hit righties hard over the second half with a strikeout rate below average. Like with Scherzer, multilineup gamers will want some exposure but considering the price, there are better options for one-bullet players.
The final ace on the card is Chris Archer taking the hill in Camden Yards as the Tampa Bay Rays try to play spoilers on the road against the Baltimore Orioles. The numbers favor the home team offense as it has been very productive all season against righties though there is some swing-and-miss in their game giving Archer some tournament upside.
Kenta Maeda exhibits both elite and solid traits. His peripherals are elite, but he averages only 5 2/3 innings a start, which significantly reduces his impact in both seasonal and DFS formats. His ranking is usually dictated by his matchup, and Friday he leads the Los Angeles Dodgers into the desert for Game 2 of an NL West set with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Snakes hit righties well but also offer some strikeout upside. The question is whether Maeda will hang around long enough to take advantage. He's not a bad cash play but there are better options.
For example, Cole Hamels and the Texas Rangers host the Oakland Athletics. The allure here is the visitors tote the second lowest wOBA against southpaws since the break into Arlington. Hamels has been in a bit of a rut lately, mostly due to walking 10 in his last three starts, working only 12 innings. Despite this blip, he's still a strong cash game candidate and deployable in GPPs if his price reflects his recent skid.
Zack Greinke is going to be one of the more challenging pitchers to rank for 2017. But we'll worry about that later. On such a loaded ledger, it's best to leave the Arizona Diamondbacks righty on the sidelines in DFS against Maeda and the Dodgers. That said, I'm not sitting Greinke in seasonal leagues.
Sigh. Most of the time, John Lackey facing the strikeout-happy Milwaukee Brewers in Wrigley Field would be a great alternative on this monster slate. However, the Chicago Cubs prefer to keep with their tradition of Friday afternoon home games.
One of the more intriguing contests features the Houston Astros visiting the Pacific Northwest to challenge the surging Seattle Mariners. Felix Hernandez will toe the rubber in Safeco Field, looking to build on his last scoreless, six-inning effort in Oakland that came on the heels of a string of subpar performances. What makes this interesting is two of the top Astros hitters, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, left Wednesday's game early, and with an off-day on Thursday, it's unclear if either will be back in there Friday night. In addition, Carlos Correa is in a rut after missing a couple of games last weekend because of a sore shoulder that might still be an issue. Normally, Hernandez would solely be a contrarian GPP option but against a weakened Astros lineup, he's also in play for cash games.
Before we jump to the streamers, Ian Kennedy deserves a mention as a solid cash game option as he faces the Chicago White Sox for the second time this week. The earlier meeting was in the Windy City; his one is at home in Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Royals right-hander stifled the White Sox over six scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. Expecting a repeat is optimistic but there's no reason why Kennedy can't come close.
We're going to take the aggressive approach, looking for anything to hang our hat on as we approach the end of an important head to head playoff week not to mention the home stretch for rotisserie leagues. Those preferring to play it safer to protect ratios should be more cautious. If you need help making a start/sit decision, please take advantage of the comments section or send a tweet to @ToddZola. Just realize the decision is ultimately your call as everything is contextual, based on needs and desperation. Your team, your call, but I can offer my analysis for the pitcher in question with guess as to how he'll perform.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a bit of an enigma. They crush lefties but have really struggled against righties since the midsummer hiatus. They're mostly right-handed so it makes some sense, but the split differential is extreme. As such, there's risk, but there's also a reason to use rookie Robert Stephenson with the Cincinnati Reds entertaining the Bucs in an NL Central tilt. The irony is Stephenson was hit hard by the Pirates a week ago after he excelled in his return to the bigs against the Mets.
Apparently Ubaldo Jimenez did not enjoy being banished to the bullpen as he's pitching like a man who wants to stay in the rotation with four straight quality starts, including a complete game effort over Friday's foe, the Tampa Bay Rays. Jimenez draws Archer in hitter-friendly Camden Yards but especially if you want some whiffs, Jimenez is in play.
Like Jimenez, Clay Buchholz has also yo-yoed between the rotation and bullpen. The right-hander was lit up by the Toronto Blue Jays last time out but with Steven Wright's ailing shoulder, Buchholz gets another shot, as the New York Yankees visit Fenway Park to continue a weekend series with all sorts of playoff implications. As inconsistent as Buchholz has been, the Yankees' offense against righties is well below average.
Michael Fulmer will be working on six days' rest when he takes the mound in Progressive Field against Kluber and the Indians. The Detroit Tigers rookie-of-the-year candidate will be challenged by a lefty-heavy Indians squad registering the sixth best wOBA versus righties for the season. However, for the last month, they've been below average under those conditions.
Five of Adam Morgan's past six starts have been at least six innings with two or fewer runs allowed. Next up is a depleted Miami Marlins club that may be getting back Giancarlo Stanton. Even so, the rest of the Marlins have been schooled by lefties lately so add Morgan to the list of risky, albeit viable spot starters.
The last streamer is R.A. Dickey, floating his knuckleball in Angel Stadium. You know the deal, there's really no way to analyze a knuckleball matchup. In the right-hander's favor is an extremely big venue with some fleet outfielders chasing down fly balls. In addition, Dickey is in a good spot for a win as even Angel Stadium can't contain the powerful Toronto Blue Jays with Jered Weaver on the mound.
Keeping with the aggressive theme, there are only two starters worth noting over and above the trio falling in the automatic avoid range by virtue of their projected game score 45 or below.
The first is Tyler Chatwood, who actually scored a fairly safe 50. The good news is he draws the San Diego Padres and their anemic attack. The bad news is the contest will be played a mile above sea level in Coors Field.
Second is right-hander Luis Cessa, who's tasked with keeping the New York Yankees playoffs hopes alive. Kevin Gausman showed the vaunted Boston Red Sox attack can be kept under wraps. That said, Cessa is a raw rookie while Gausman is an emerging ace so it's best to avoid Cessa for this encounter.
Usually it's the left-handed contingent of the Colorado Rockies in the spotlight but this time that honor is bestowed to their right-handed brethren with San Diego Padres southpaw Christian Friedrich getting the ball. Nolan Arenado is the obvious choice supported by DJ LeMahieu, Ryan Raburn, Mark Reynolds and Nick Hundley.
Jered Weaver's woes with the long ball are well documented, surrendering 35 so far this season including at least one in his past seven outings. The Angels righty doesn't get a break with the Blue Jays visiting Anaheim. Toronto has hit 153 homers against righties, the fourth most in the game. Josh Donaldson might be out but that still leaves Michael Saunders, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki, all more than capable of taking Weaver deep. As an added bonus, Weaver doesn't control the running game well, putting Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis in play too.
Every year there seems to be someone who is frustrating to time. When you stack against him, he throws a gem. When you stack elsewhere, he gets blasted. This year's version is Kendall Graveman, though admittedly, he has had a decent second half. Still, it's hard not to like the Texas Rangers in their home digs against Graveman and his meek 5.1 K/9. Graveman is equally mediocre to hitters from either side of the dish so all the Rangers are in play. Carlos Gomez has been thriving in the leadoff spot but with the earlier struggles, he's still reasonably priced. Ian Desmond's second half has been a disappointment, but he's still dangerous. The meat of the order should do the most damage, beginning with Carlos Beltran, then Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor. Jonathan Lucroy, Mitch Moreland and Nomar Mazara round out the targets.
Most likely to hit a homer: Joey Votto
After a slow start, Votto is turning in a typical season. As usual, he has crushed righties, so look for him to continue against Ryan Vogelsong in the homer-friendly Great American Ballpark.
Most likely to steal a base: Jose Peraza
We're going to stay in the Queen City and tag Peraza to get on and go against Vogelsong and Francisco Cervelli, one of the weaker backstops in terms of nabbing would-be thieves.