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Friday features a one-game slate starting at 8:09 p.m. ET featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers.
Tonight’s biggest tournaments on both DraftKings and FanDuel differ slightly from the traditional formats. DraftKings will feature their popular Showdown mode, where you have six utility slots that can be filled by either a pitcher or batter. The only real rules are that you must roster at least one player from each team and can stack only four batters from the same team. Relief pitchers are also scored on a different basis than starting pitchers, which makes them viable options.
FanDuel’s single game format does not feature pitchers of any kind. Instead, you’ll have to fill out your roster with one infielder, one outfielder, and three utilities, one of which is designated as the MVP. That player earns 1.5x fantasy points during the game, so choosing the correct player for that slot can make or break your lineup.
Both teams will send their aces to the mound for Game 1 of the NLCS:
- Clayton Kershaw (L) $15,800, LAD @ MIL
- Gio Gonzalez (L) $12,500, MIL vs. LAD
Kershaw turned in another excellent campaign in 2018, pitching to a 2.73 ERA over 26 starts. He was particularly effective over the second half of the season, allowing opposing batters to compile an average wOBA of just .267. He was able to translate that success in a strong outing in his first postseason start, shutting out the Braves over eight innings pitched.
Unsurprisingly, Vegas is giving the edge to Kershaw in today’s affair: He owns an opponent implied team total of 3.3 runs and moneyline odds of -159. Historically, pitchers with comparable marks in both categories have averaged a Plus/Minus of +1.40 on DraftKings (per the Trends tool).
That said, this is far from a slam dunk spot vs. the Brewers. They’ve posted the 10th-highest wOBA and ISO against left-handed pitchers in 2018, while their strikeout rate was the eighth-lowest. Strikeouts have been an issue for Kershaw over the second half of the season – he posted a mediocre K/9 of 8.09 – which definitely caps his upside on today’s slate.
It should also be noted that Kershaw hasn’t exactly dominated the postseason throughout his career. Even though he’s a lock for Cooperstown when he eventually hangs up his cleats, his career postseason ERA is nearly two full runs higher than his regular season ERA (4.08 vs. 2.39). The fact that this game is being played in Milwaukee shouldn’t help matters either: Kershaw has historically averaged five fewer fantasy points per game when pitching on the road. He still offers the highest ceiling on the slate, but that doesn’t mean he’s without risk.
Gonzalez was a late-season addition for the Brewers and has become arguably their most important starting pitcher. He pitched to a 2.13 ERA over five starts with Milwaukee, although his K/9 has dipped to just 7.8.
He’ll be making his first start of the postseason against the Dodgers, who have shown major improvements against left-handed pitching over the second half of the season. They’ve posted a .326 wOBA against southpaws after the All-Star break, and that number jumps to .344 when playing away from Chavez Ravine. They acquired some big right-handed bats like Manny Machado, Brian Dozier, and David Freese as the season progressed, so their improved production isn’t exactly surprising.
Milwaukee has shown a tendency to lean heavily on their bullpen this postseason, with relievers pitching 15.1 of their first 28.0 innings. They had the second-best ERA in the National League during the regular season, so Craig Counsell won’t hesitate to call on them early if needed.
There aren’t a lot of certainties in the Dodgers bullpen right now, but Kenley Jansen getting the ball in a potential save situation is one of them. He established himself as one of the best relief pitchers in the game over the past three seasons but struggled to an ERA of just 3.01 in 2018. His strikeout production also fell off a cliff, with his K/9 dropping from 14.36 in 2017 to 10.30 this year.
That said, he looked as dominant as ever during the first round of the playoffs, shutting out the Braves and striking out three batters over two innings pitched. The Dodgers haven’t shown a tendency to lean on any of their relievers for multiple innings during the postseason, so Jansen likely has the most upside in a game in which they are slight favorites.
The Brewers bullpen has so many excellent pitchers that it’s almost impossible to narrow down their options. Josh Hader is the premier option after pitching to a 2.43 ERA and 15.8 K/9 during the regular season. He was absolutely filthy in his three appearances vs. the Rockies in the NLDS, striking out four of the seven batters he faced while allowing zero baserunners.
Jeremy Jeffress was a bit overshadowed by Hader but actually posted a superior ERA during the regular season (1.29). He also logged more innings during the NLDS and pitched in two save opportunities. He should garner lower ownership but arguably has more upside.
If you’re looking to go way off the radar, Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria could also factor into the equation. They each tallied at least 2.2 innings during the NLDS and appeared in all three games, and both pitchers posted a K/9 of at least 12.0 to start the postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Chris Taylor
- Justin Turner
- David Freese
- Manny Machado
- Matt Kemp
- Cody Bellinger
- Kiké Hernandez
- Yasmani Grandal
The Dodgers will likely roll with their righty-heavy lineup against Gonzalez, which means that Freese will likely play first base and bat third. He’s crushed left-handed pitching in 2018, owning a .377 wOBA and .168 ISO, and he’s really affordable across the industry. He’s also scorched the baseball over the past 15 days, owning an average exit velocity of 100 miles per hour and a hard-hit rate of 72%.
Kemp will also likely start at the expense of Joc Pederson. He showed significantly more power this season against southpaws, clubbing 11 HRs in just 197 plate appearances. He did cool off over the second half of the season but leads the team in 15-day distance and hard-hit rate.
Taylor made some nice strides in his second full season in the big leagues, increasing his hard contact rate while hitting more line drives and foul balls. He appears to be in a nice spot today against Gonzalez: He hit for more power and struck out significantly less against left-handers than right-handers this season.
Machado put together his best offensive season in 2018, and a lot of that damage came against left-handed pitching. He posted a .383 wOBA and .232 ISO against southpaws, while his K rate dropped to just 8.4%. He should be in a position to do some damage against Gonzalez.
Turner might be the most underrated hitter in baseball and is arguably in the best spot on today’s slate. He absolutely destroyed left-handers in 2018, posting a .433 wOBA and .244 ISO. He was potent when facing southpaws away from home, owning a wRC+ of 180. He’s priced as just the fourth-most expensive member of the Dodgers, which seems absolutely ridiculous.
- Lorenzo Cain
- Christian Yelich
- Ryan Braun
- Jesus Aguilar
- Hernan Perez
- Mike Moustakas
- Manny Pina
- Orlando Arcia
The Brewers lineup isn’t as deep as the Dodgers’, but the guys at the top can flat out rake.
Yelich will almost assuredly win the NL MVP award and took his game to another level in 2018. He’s always been able to hit for average, hitting at least .282 in every season at the MLB level, but he added power to his game by clubbing 36 HRs. He also fared equally well vs. right- and left-handed pitchers this season, so the lefty-lefty matchup vs. Kershaw isn’t overly concerning. His Statcast data from the Brewers’ first three playoff games is absolutely insane: He posted a 312-foot average distance, 101 mph exit velocity, and 83% hard-hit rate. He’s the most-expensive batter on the slate, but only Kershaw possesses more upside.
Braun is a former MVP, although his production dropped quite a bit in 2018. That said, he still remains really effective against left-handed pitching, owning a .366 wOBA and .277 ISO over the past 12 months. He’s also smashed the ball over the past 15 days, posting an average distance of 273 feet, exit velocity of 104 mph, and hard-hit rate of 88%.
Cain will be on the positive side of his batting splits against Kershaw and was virtually unstoppable against left-handed pitching this season. He posted a .422 wOBA and 166 wRC+, both of which were the top splits-adjusted marks on the team. Unfortunately, he’s really struggled from a Statcast perspective during the first three games of the playoffs, but he seems underpriced given the matchup at just $6,400 on DraftKings.
Aguilar is yet another member of the Brewers who destroys lefties, averaging a .393 wOBA and .265 ISO. He might offer the most raw power of anyone on the slate, which is always appealing.
The pickings are a bit slim after their top-four batters. Perez has been a solid option against left-handers over the past 12 months but could be replaced for a pinch hitter at some point: He tallied just six ABs in the NLDS. Moustakas is on the reverse side of his batting splits and posted a wRC+ of just 92 vs. southpaws in 2018. Pina enters the game in good recent Statcast form but has really struggled as a batter at the major league level. All three of those guys will likely carry minimal ownership, but you likely don’t need to go that route if you roster a reliever or two on today’s slate.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis.
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Pictured above: Gio Gonzalez
Photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports