You’re a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. Who would you be most afraid to throw a fastball to? Trout? Sure. Harper? Yep. Goldschmidt? Definitely. Russell Martin? Well…I guess. According to Fangraphs’ Pitch Value Type rankings, Russell Martin has been elite hitting the fastball this year. Take a look at where he ranks among the league leaders:
*wFA denotes four-seam and unclassified fastballs.
Looking at how Russell Martin does against other pitch types, he’s slightly above-average against curves and knuckle-curves, but struggles against the majority of the other pitch types (13 total listed). I personally love players like Russell for DFS purposes – there’s one type of pitch he smashes and if I can match him up against a fastball pitcher, or better yet, a crappy fastball pitcher, I can put myself in a really good spot.
I think a lot of people consider pitch types only to a very small degree. Whenever there’s a knuckleball pitcher on the mound – quick, see how this team has done against R.A. Dickey! The knuckleball is an unusual circumstance, and I think looking at past performance against the knuckleball is worthwhile, but there are other batters with huge pitch type splits like Russell Martin all over the place.
We generally consider pitchers with overpowering fastballs to be the best at registering strikeouts in MLB, so I took to Fantasy Labs to see how Martin does against high-K pitchers:
And against low-K pitchers:
Compared to all hitters, Martin was -0.51 Plus/Minus points worse than average against low-K pitchers and +0.82 better against high-K pitchers. Hitting in a lineup surrounded by great hitters, Martin is seeing the highest percentage of fastballs since 2010 (57.5%). Combined with a more aggressive approach at the plate (lowest BB% since 2006, T-2nd highest K% or career), now is a better time than ever to target Russell as an upside play against fastball pitchers. Barring a collapse over the final months of the season, he should set a new career high in home runs this year.
Most DFS players will recognize Russell as a great play against lefties or in games where the Blue Jays have a high Vegas projection. Being willing to go one step further may give you an edge that a large percentage of your competition is ignoring.