The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players.
Saturday features a two-game slate starting at 4:09 p.m. ET.
- Justin Verlander (R) $9,500, HOU @ BOS
- Chris Sale (L) $9,000, BOS vs. HOU
Game 1 of the American League Championship Series features a battle of seven-time All-Stars in Verlander and Sale. It’s hard to separate them on Saturday’s slate, particularly since both look like massive values on DraftKings. They’re routinely priced around $12,000, but you can get both for just $18,500 combined, so playing them together in the same lineup is a realistic option. Both guys also have brutal matchups: The Astros own the best wOBA against left-handers and the Red Sox own the best wOBA against right-handers in 2018.
Sale is slightly cheaper in this matchup but has the slight edge in Vegas data. He’s a -114 favorite, and his opponent implied team total of 3.7 runs is the top mark on the slate. He also posted a career-high K/9 of 13.50 this season, so he has significant strikeout upside.
The big concern with Sale is his health. He was able to pitch into the sixth inning in his first postseason start — and was still hitting 96 miles per hour on his fastball — but was pulled after just 93 pitches. It’s possible that he’s still a bit limited by the shoulder injury that sidelined him for nearly a month toward the end of the regular season, but he still appears to have the highest upside on the slate.
Verlander was arguably the best pitcher in the AL during the regular season, leading all starters in wins above replacement (WAR). He was particularly effective when pitching on the road, owning a 2.14 ERA away from Houston.
He’s comparable to Sale in most projections for Saturday, although his K Prediction of 7.1 is significantly lower. However, he was dominant in his final start of the regular season from a Statcast perspective, limiting the Orioles to an average distance of 157 feet, exit velocity of 83 miles per hour, and hard-hit rate of 30%. He was able to carry that success into his first postseason start, limiting a good Indians’ offense to only two runs over 5 1/3 innings.
You really can’t go wrong with either stud option, and both guys will likely carry substantial ownership.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu (L) $7,300, LAD @ MIL
- Wade Miley (L) $4,500, MIL vs. LAD
Ryu doesn’t carry the same name value as Sale or Verlander, but has been just as good recently. He dominated the Braves in his first start of the postseason, striking out eight over seven shutout innings. He gave up just 11 earned runs over 52 2/3 innings pitched after returning to the Dodgers rotation in August and posted a K/9 of 9.06. We’d be talking about him as one of the best pitchers in baseball if he could manage those numbers over a full season.
He gets the ball Saturday in a massive Game 2 vs. the Brewers, who took a 1-0 series lead after beating Clayton Kershaw. They roughed him up for four earned runs over just three innings, but overall they’ve been pretty mediocre against left-handers at home this season. They rank just 17th in wOBA and 22nd in wRC+, while their strikeout rate of 23.2% ranks 10th.
Miley will draw the start for the Brewers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to rack up many innings. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell pulled Gio Gonzalez after two innings in Game 1 despite the lefty giving up only one earned run (and Gonzalez is undoubtedly a better starting pitcher than Miley at this point in their careers). Miley went 4 2/3 innings in his first postseason start against the Rockies, but that feels like his ceiling on Saturday’s slate.
He doesn’t offer much strikeout upside either given his K/9 of 5.58 this season. He’s tough to consider even at just $4,500.
- 1. Lorenzo Cain (R)
- 2. Christian Yelich (L)
- 3. Ryan Braun (L)
- 6. Mike Moustakas (L)
- 7. Manny Pina (R)
Total Salary: $21,700
The Brewers’ implied team total of 4.1 runs doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but it still ranks second among all teams playing Saturday. Most people will be reluctant to stack against Verlander or Sale, so much of the focus on hitting will likely be focused on the game between the Brewers and Dodgers. That said, the Dodgers will likely be the primary target given their superior implied team total and matchup.
Yelich headlines the stack and seems almost guaranteed to take home the National League MVP this season. He’s on the reverse side of his batting splits against Ryu but has been almost equally effective vs. right- and left-handed pitchers this season.
Cain might be the best value on the team at $4,200. He was actually his team’s best hitter against southpaws this season in terms of wRC+, and he managed to rack up three hits in five at-bats in Game 1. He’s also the biggest stolen-base threat on the slate, averaging .188 steals per game over the past 12 months.
Braun has been in decline but is still more than competent against left-handed pitching. He’s posted a .366 wOBA and .277 ISO against southpaws over the past 12 months and managed three hits Friday.
Moustakas and Pina won’t garner the same attention as the top three hitters on the slate, but both enter Saturday in elite recent form. Each batter has posted a 15-day/12-month distance differential of at least +24 feet, which makes them nice differentiators for Brewers stacks.
If you’re willing to embrace some risk, targeting some of the Dodgers’ left-handed batters might be an interesting strategy. Joc Pederson and Max Muncy likely won’t draw the start against Miley, but each could enter the game shortly after if the Brewers go to their pen early again. They should have minimal ownership and significant upside, which is always appealing for guaranteed prize pools.
Most of the Astros’ batters fare better against traditional pitchers than left-handers, but Yuli Gurriel is an exception. Gurriel has posted a splits-adjusted wOBA of .373 and ISO of .184 over the past 12 months and is projected to occupy the cleanup spot in the lineup. He’s priced at just $3,600, which makes him a strong value.
Mitch Moreland will likely be back in the lineup for the Red Sox on Saturday, which could make him an intriguing target vs. Verlander. He’s been one of their best hitters vs. right-handers this season, posting a wRC+ of 114 at Fenway Park. Thirteen of his 15 home runs this season came against right-handed pitchers, and he’s priced at a major discount when compared to some of the premier Red Sox batters.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news blurbs.
Pictured above: Justin Verlander
Photo credit: Tim Heitman-USA Today Sports