Daily Fantasy Baseball Picks for FanDuel and DraftKings NLDS and ALCS - 10/13/16
Postseason DFS is not for the timid, especially when it comes to baseball. This slate, starting with today's NLDS finale between the Dodgers and Nats and wrapping up with the ALCS opener on Friday won't come with any soft matchups or obvious plays. But if you've stuck around this long, you're probably used to that. Let's get to it.
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Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals
Matchup - TBD vs. Max Scherzer
Oh brother. TBD, scourge of DFS postseason baseball, rears its head. The good news is that this one comes on Day 1 of the two-day slate, so we should get some advance warning ahead of first pitch and be able to adjust accordingly. Unfortunately, that does no good for your humble correspondent tasked with breaking this sucker down. Here goes: The Dodgers are mulling Julio Urias and Rich Hill with their postseason lives on the line. Whoever it is, they'll be overmatched by their counterpart from D.C. Scherzer will be our top pick for pitching on this slate due partly to the fact that he'll be twirling in a better pitcher's park than Corey Kluber, and partly due to the fact that he's awesome. The Dodgers got to him with a pair of homers in Game 1, and that's always at least a mild risk with Scherzer, who's a pretty extreme fly-ball pitcher. The Dodgers were also pretty nasty against RHP this season (2nd in MLB in wRC+), but at this point in the year, you're not getting many soft offenses, so we're riding with Scherzer's 31.5% K upside.
On the Dodgers' side of the equation, FanDuel and DraftKings are both assuming it'll be Rich Hill who gets the call, so that's who we're focusing on. The 36-year-old lefty followed up on last year's September breakout with a solid, if injury-riddled 2016. He fanned more than 10 per 9 and finished with a 2.39 FIP and 3.36 xFIP. The disparity between the two numbers has to do with his minuscule HR:BB ratio, as he allowed just 4.6 percent of fly balls to leave the yard. That's crazy, you guys. Even though Hill has demonstrated the ability to limit homers over the winding course of his career, you just don't see numbers like that often, and xFIP takes into account the fact that it's probably an anomaly. The league average is about 13 percent, and given enough time, that's where most guys will eventually end up. So he's probably due for some home run regression, and that's worrisome against the Nats, who ranked second in MLB this season with a .196 ISO against LHP. Nonetheless, we like Hill as a value option compared to his non-ace colleague on the slate, Marco Estrada. He's got the better ability to miss bats, and that's a big plus. On the down side, he rarely works deep into games, which takes a pretty significant chunk out of his win expectancy and keeps his ceiling somewhat lower than Scherzer and Kluber.
It's a tough game for hitters; Scherzer often goes 7-plus, and even if Hill doesn't stick around, he's backed up by a salty bullpen (fifth in MLB in xFIP this season). But if you must, Jayson Werth is the first to consider. He put up monster numbers against lefties this season with a wOBAs over .400 and an ISO in the .300 range. Daniel Murphy could also be an interesting play; he hit everybody well this season and has always handled lefties well enough. Also worth consideration: Trea Turner (Hill doesn't do a great job of holding runners), Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.
I can't see playing any Dodgers against Scherzer as anything other than a live-fast-die-young contrarian play, but if that's your style, think about Joc Pederson. I mean, yeah, he could easily take a Golden Sombrero, but he probably stands a better chance than anybody of taking advantage of Scherzer's fly-ball tendencies. Also, Corey Seager is beastly, so he's always in play, at least to some degree.
Toronto Blue Jays at Cleveland Indians
Tough call here, as both offenses are pretty scary and the park is an underrated venue for offense. A moderate chill could dampen the bats to some degree, but neither offense is one I'm particularly excited to pick on. Kluber is the ace here, and last season's ugly W/L record notwithstanding (because it doesn't indicate much of anything), he's been a highly reliable guy over the last three years, striking out better than a batter per inning with an xFIP hovering around 3.00. There's also enough swing-and-miss in the Toronto lineup to make him an enticing play. But despite striking out a little bit and being overloaded with right-handed bats, the Blue Jays have the ability to do major damage. They ranked in the top 10 this season for wRC+, wOBA and ISO against RHP, and they work the count better than any team in the majors other than the Cubs, which tends to take some miles off of opposing starters.
Meanwhile, Estrada will be facing a similarly potent Indians offense. They might not have quite as much thump as Toronto, but the overall effect was the same (top 10 in wRC+, wOBA and ISO, with fewer Ks and fewer walks). Estrada makes his living off of cans of corn, as only about 1/3 of batted balls off of him result in grounders. It's a dangerous way to live, especially when you're not an elite strikeout guy. On one hand, fly balls result in a lower BABIP; on the other, they lead to more homers. Somehow, though, not so much for Estrada. Even though he gives he allows more than 30 percent hard contact and nearly 50 percent fly balls, his home runs allowed remain more or less average. That's why over the last two seasons his xFIP is nearly a run and a half higher than his ERA. At some point it's probably wise to concede that defying expectations is a skill he possesses, which coupled with a sharp increase in strikeouts this season (8.44 per 9) makes him at least playable, even if he's No. 4 of 4 on my list for this slate.
As you'd expect, there aren't any obvious go-to offenses. Vegas has both games slated to be low-scoring affairs, but pick hitters we must, and Cleveland is the first place we're looking. Estrada is the softest among the four starting pitchers on the slate, and the Indians have guys scattered throughout the lineup who can get to him, including seven hitters with a wOBA over .330 against RHP and four with an ISO over .200 this season. It starts at the top of the order with Carlos Santana, who put up a .388 wOBA and .285 ISO in the split, while walking nearly as often as he stuck out. Behind him, we like Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor as well. Also, don't sleep cheap outfielders Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall. They're buried in the back half of the order, but both did solid work against righties this season. Jose Ramirez is also in play, and Mike Napoli's .242 ISO against RHP this season makes him an interesting pivot off of Santana.
If you're playing Blue Jays, I'd recommend against half measures. Go for the big guns. Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista all put up very nice numbers against RHP this season, and if Toronto breaks through against Kluber, look for those guys to be in the thick of it.
- Max Scherzer: AP Photo - Eric Risberg