Eye of the Tiger

Ian Kinsler has enjoyed success against the knuckleball in the past and should once again on Saturday afternoon. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster

Infield:

Ian Kinsler, Tigers, $8,800 – Steven Wright, no not the guy who played “the guy on the couch” in Half Baked, takes the bump on Saturday against the Tigers. The player being referred to is baseball’s only true active knuckleballer aside from R.A. Dickey. We could look at wOBA, and the Tigers rank third against RHP, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense against a unique pitching style. Instead it makes more sense to look at the Tigers batter versus pitcher (BvP) data against the only similar pitcher in the bigs: Dickey. Only three Tigers have hit .300-plus in a minimum of 12 ABs against Dickey: Marc Krauss, Alex Avila and Ian Kinsler. In his 16 AB however, Kinsler has homered twice, registered six total hits (.375 AVG) and even walked once (.444 OBP). Although the sample size is admittedly limited, it’s clear Kinsler can hold his own against the pitch type. In a game with an over/under of nine, there should be plenty of offense on both sides, and I would be surprised if Kinsler didn’t help lead the Tigers’ charge.

Joe Panik, Giants, $8,100 – After accumulating a 3.94 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in his first six major league appearances as a member of the White Sox last season, Chris Bassitt has pitched much better this season. In appearances (three starts), Bassitt has pitched 27.2 innings with a 2.93 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 17 Ks. On the surface the numbers appear decent but he has walked too many batters (3.58 BB/9) and the strikeouts are concerning over the long haul (only 5.53 K/9). Bassitt’s peripherals suggest he has been lucky so far this season and has actually pitched much worse than the numbers show. With a FIP of 4.04 and xFIP of 5.44, regression time is coming. Enter the Giants and their top five wOBA offense against RHP. Joe Panik’s wOBA ranks third on the team against RHP (.369) and he’s hitting .320 against them. With numbers like those facing a sub-par pitcher, the $8,100 is just too good of a value to pass.

Outfield:

Mookie Betts, Red Sox, $8,700 – Tigers offensive players are viable in this game but so are bats from the favored Red Sox. Vegas lists this game as the highest over/under (nine) of the day outside of Coors Field. Even with a knuckleballer on the mound, Vegas lists the Red Sox as favorites. Alfredo Simon has pitched absolutely awful on the road this season: 6.08 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 31 Ks and 20 BBs in 47.1 IP. In Fenway Park, I would imagine the Red Sox tee off on him once again. Mookie Betts’ .348 wOBA (.348) ranks third on the team versus RHP this season but he’s a safer option than either of the two (David Ortiz and Alejandro De Aza) ahead of him. Ortiz is almost always better suited from tournaments because he hardly scores any runs so he either needs multiple extra base hits or a HR to make a big splash. De Aza hits towards the bottom of the lineup and doesn’t play every day. This leads us to Betts who will hit either first or second, owns a .289 AVG versus RHP and comes with stolen base potential that the other two do not. Most of this lineup is viable but Betts is the preferred play especially in cash games.


Torii Hunter, Twins, $7,200 –
Minnesota’s ball club crushes left-handed pitching. Yankees’ probable C.C. Sabathia isn’t aging like fine wine but rather like a 300 lb. former hard-throwing major league pitcher. His velocity is down these days and so is the effectiveness and now he’ll face a team with the skills to take absolute advantage. Two bats stick out to me as the plays against Sabathia: Brian Dozier and Torii Hunter. Those are the two Twins with career wOBAs over .360 and Hunter comes so much cheaper. Hunter isn’t getting any younger but he’s faced Sabathia 76 times in his career (most of which came when Sabathia was simply a better pitcher) and Hunter has produced 21 hits (.276 AVG) with three HR, 17 RBI and a .345 OBP. Against this depreciated version of Sabathia, Hunter should enjoy more consistent success.

Pitcher:

Chris Sale, White Sox, $24,700 – After recommending to fade him his last time out, it’s back to the well with baseball’s nastiest pitcher. Chris Sale is baseball’s leader in both strikeouts and K/9 which naturally translates to the daily game. The Indians strike out in the bottom four against LHP (18.10 percent) but let’s not mistake this team for the Royals (15.00 percent). In a vacuum, the Indians present a tough matchup for LHP as they rank 11th in wOBA and rank in the top ten of wRC+, BB rate, AVG, OBP, hard hit percentage and line drive percentage. They do rank in the bottom ten of ISO if there’s a silver lining here (U.S. Cellular Field ranks as a top nine HR allowing ballpark). If the Indians will not hit the ball out of the ballpark, that limits Sale’s downside because he likely won’t be allowing very many hits. His stuff is simply over-powering and will give anyone but the ultra-elites fits.

Jake Arrieta, Cubs, $23,100 – Unlike Sale, the matchup supports using Jake Arrieta along to complement the ace-like skills. Even though the Phillies are right on both the Mets and Padres tail in terms of wOBA against RHP, they still rank dead last (.288). They only strike out at 18.60 percent (eighth least in baseball) against RHP so the strikeout upside may be somewhat limited. Arrieta has only allowed a .209 AVG at home despite the hitter friendly atmosphere so he should limit the hard contact. All-in-all he equates to a rock solid cash option against a bad offense. I would probably lean in another direction for tournaments.

Madison Bumgarner, Giants, $21,600 – Madison Bumgarner is my favorite pitching option of the entire day so I would use him in both the day slate and all day slate if you create your own head-to-heads. Although the Athletics like to insert platoon specialists Jake Smolinski and Josh Phegley into the lineup against lefties, overall the team’s best hitters’ platoon advantages favor hitting righties. They only strike out at a 16.80 percent rate against lefties but rank in the bottom half of nearly every category. Bumgarner’s wind up is unique enough that it should create more strikeouts than the average lefty especially against a team that doesn’t see him very often. He’ll also be pitching in very pitcher friendly AT&T Park against a mediocre starter so the win potential is there. By the time the start is over, you’ll want to dance if you own him. May I suggest learning the nae nae?

Hector Santiago, Angels, $17,600 – Lefty dominated lineups typically do not fare well against major league quality LHP. Hector Santiago has proved that hypothesis to be true against the Rangers as he has registered at least 23.35 FP in two of the three meetings this season. Sanitago is on a nice little roll producing at least 15.95 FP in seven straight starts, at least 17.70 FP in six straight and at least 22.75 in four straight. What goes up must come down but this start isn’t likely to be where Santiago falls off the table as the Rangers rank bottom 10 in wOBA, wRC+, BB rate, AVG and OBP against LHP. They even strike out at the fifth highest percentage against lefties and Santiago is coming off a start with 10 Ks. In seasons in which he’s made at least 5 starts, the 8.6 K/9 he’s sporting now would be a career high if it held. He allows a lot of fly balls but his home park is forgiving and the outfield is excellent defensively. The Angels opened as the second largest favorite of the day to only the Cardinals (-150) so Vegas agrees: order the code red on private Santiago. Was that unclear? Start him.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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