Close Your Eyes and Gray

By Jacob Taylor
Aug. 16, 2018

The MLB DFS main slate today is void of elite pitching options and full of a bunch of pitchers nobody wants to play. Unfortunately, we must roster pitchers regardless: one if you’re on Fanduel, or two on Draftkings. This brings us to today's game breakdown. We will be looking at two different pitching options, each with their own risks and rewards. However, I believe both options to be worth the risk today.

Let’s start with the visiting Rockies (64-56). The Rockies are hunting for a playoff spot with the Dodgers, D-backs, and Giants in the middle of the crowded N.L. West. The Rockies are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 1.5 games back of the Diamondbacks. The Rockies will send Jon Gray to the mound in today's game. Gray is 9-7 with a 4.81 ERA. However, his surface numbers are misleading. Gray has a 3.25 xFIP, showing he is a better pitcher than he appears. He has a 27.1% strikeout rate with a 29.6% rate to lefties and a 24.5% rate to righties: all well above average. The Braves have been quietly bad against right-handed pitching this season. Only three of the Braves’ hitters in their projected starting lineup have a wOBA above .34 (Freeman, Markakis, and Camargo, all of whom I’ll cover later). The Braves’ extremely low strikeout rate of 16.9% is evened out by Gray’s massive strikeout numbers. He has been sensational against right-handed hitters (.293 wOBA with a .088 ISO against), but struggled with left-handed hitters (.341 wOBA with a .215 ISO against). The Braves are full of lefties; Gray is not risk free, but considering the lack of pitching options on this slate and his 29.6% strikeout rate to lefties, I'll likely be looking at Jon Gray as a starting pitching option.

Now for the home side of this game. Like the Rockies, the Atlanta Braves are in the middle of a playoff hunt. They are in first place in the N.L. East and two games ahead of the Phillies. The Braves are 8-2 in their last ten games and carry a five-game winning streak into today’s matchup. They will be sending Julio Teheran to the mound to face the Rockies. Teheran is 8-7 with a 4.33 ERA. Unlike Jon Gray, what you see with Teheran is pretty much what you get. Teheran has a 5 xFIP suggesting that he doesn't have any positive regression coming his way. Under normal circumstances, Teheran should not be touched. His extremely high 11.8% walk rate can be dangerous to his upside. His outside-the-strike-zone percentage--a low 25.7%--could mean regression for his strikeout numbers. His wOBA and ISO against lefties are a frightening .339 and .176 respectively. Teheran's ISO against righties is an astronomically bad .229. So, if Teheran is a bad pitcher--or at least has been this season--why would I consider him today? Even though Teheran is not a good pitcher, this is an advantageous matchup. He has a 25.3% strikeout rate against righties: well above average. Teheran is facing the Rockies, who have the largest negative park shift in baseball when away from Coors field. The projected Rockies lineup only has three lefties and a 22.8% strikeout rate. Five of their batters (not including the pitcher) have a strikeout rate above the league average of 22%. Teheran will face a Rockies team that has inflated numbers from playing half their games at Coors field. They only have three lefties, so Teheran shouldn’t struggle too much. Six of their batters have a strikeout percentage above 22% (including the pitcher). Teheran is pitching in his home ballpark on a slate that is void of any elite pitching options. Sign me up.

The bats in this game are also completely viable. When looking at the Braves’ side I am looking at the aforementioned Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, and Johan Camargo. However, Camargo has a 75% contact percentage against righties: a bit too low for my liking against Gray. As for the Rockies’ side, any lefty that makes the lineup against Teheran should be considered seriously. That includes Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, David Dahl. If the Rockies’ lineup comes out with four or more lefties I would fade Teheran and pivot somewhere else. However, if the Rockies’ lineup comes out with less than four lefties then Teheran should be a full go. Teheran's usage depends entirely on the Rockies’ lineup.

Jacob Taylor

Edited by Rachael Vega