This is a weekly series that follows MLB trends created with our Trends tool. Although the trends in this series are made with specific slates in mind, they are designed to remain relevant throughout the season.
This week, I’ll be looking at a couple of late-season trends, beginning with Monday’s slate. As I write this article, it is the middle of August; in many ballparks around the country, it is regularly hot and muggy. In other words, ‘home run weather’ is common these days, and at FantasyLabs, we have many resources you can use to predict which players are most likely to go yard.
While we have a handful of different weather filters in trends, I like to keep things simple. Unless there is something very unusual about the weather – like a 25 mile per hour wind, for example – I’m just going to use our Weather Rating metric, which assigns a 0-100 score based on a multitude of weather-related factors. Let’s set the range at 75-100.
Next, I asked the question, “Which hitters seem to be hitting the ball really well right now?” As part of our Statcast metrics, we include ‘differential’ stats, which measure the differential between a player’s score in one category over the past 15 days compared to the that same value over the fantasy year. Here, I used a Distance Differential of +20 feet or more and a Hard Hit Differential of +10 percent or better.
As always, when working with any kind of ‘recent’ stat, I like to add a ‘Month Count’ filter of 10-30 games played. We are already dealing with limited samples when looking at the past 15 days of results, but a player whose stats are based on only a couple of batted balls hit are still to be avoided in favor of comparatively larger samples.
Putting it all together, we’re looking at a Plus/Minus of +3.74 – a massive value for a batter – at reasonable ownership over 181 results:
Joey Gallo matched the trend on Monday ahead of his matchup against the Detroit Tigers. Remember, this trend deals with differential values. Consider this: On Monday’s DraftKings main slate, Gallo led all batters in batted ball distance over the fantasy year at 250 feet. His +20 distance differential meant that he had recently improved his already slate-leading distance by 20 feet. That sounds like a guy who is making pretty solid contact, don’t you think?
Gallo logged only one hit on Monday, but he made it count, hitting his eighth home run in the month of August off of Michael Fulmer. With dual-position eligibility at first and third base on DraftKings, Gallo was a useful play in guaranteed prize pools (GPPs) at 8.57 average ownership, per our Ownership Dashboard.
A pitcher’s change in velocity is always noteworthy, but it’s my theory that it is even more noteworthy when the velocity change occurs later in the season. While an early-season change in velocity compared to the previous season may indicate a deliberate change in a pitcher’s approach, a late-season drop is much more likely to be a sign of an underlying injury or mechanical flaw. To that point, when looking at pitchers whose recent velocity is down at least one mile per hour, here are the results by month:
Keep in mind that there are smaller samples of data for the months of September and October because we haven’t yet reached that part of the calendar yet this year. Otherwise, when sorting by Plus/Minus, the months appear in near-chronological order.
That brings us to Danny Duffy, whose matchup on the surface looked fine: He drew a beatable Oakland Athletics lineup in a strong pitcher’s park. But there was some reason for concern since Duffy’s velocity had been down, not only leading into his Wednesday start, but over several consecutive starts by this point.
Duffy lasted only five innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs. His outing was somewhat salvaged by eight strikeouts, but he nonetheless posted a poor -2.44 DraftKings Plus/Minus.
One mistake I think DFS players sometimes make is relying too heavily on Vegas data. If one team is implied to score 4.5 runs and another is implied to score 4.1 runs, what does that really say about the range of outcomes for the nine batters comprising each team’s lineup? I think there are even some situations where Vegas data drives ownership more than actual fantasy performance. But there are certainly some Vegas trends I pay more attention to than others. For example, when an opposing team’s implied run total or a team’s moneyline odds sharply spike or drop, that information could be worth taking into account when analyzing the team’s pitcher.
In the Dodgers/White Sox matchup on Wednesday, the Dodgers’ moneyline odds dropped 57 points from open to first pitch. Los Angeles opened the day as massive favorites, and even after the 57-point drop, they remained heavy favorites. But that is still a significant decline, particularly considering the anticipated high ownership on Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Per our Trends tool, when a team’s moneyline experiences a swing of similar magnitude, the starting pitcher for that team has historically lost 2.77 fantasy points per start.
Owned in nearly one in every two DFS lineups on Wednesday night, Darvish significantly underperformed his salary-implied expectations. Although the Dodgers did win the game 5-4, the victory came via a walk-off double off the bat of Yasiel Puig. As a result, Darvish was not credited with a win, and his final line looked very ordinary: six innings pitched, three earned runs, and two strikeouts.
Thanks for following along with my three custom trends this week. As always, there’s plenty more left to be explored via the Labs Tools.