Will Smith was phenomenal in the final month of the season.
Nothing screams playoff baseball like the first day of October; even though three series have already been decided in this wacky 2020 Wild Card format. While we only have five games on Thursday, three shy of the eight we had during Wednesday’s loaded slate, there are some very intriguing pitching options to focus on. All but one of the AL series’ (White Sox vs. A’s) has been decided so we’ll mainly focus on the NL today. Pitching is king in the postseason and you’re going to have to spend up and make it count in that department if you want any shot of ringing the cash register. There are a few stacks to consider on offense as well with the Cardinals and Padres both having favorable matchups Let’s get right into it and do our best to #StackTheDeck.
Note: at the time of this writing the starters in the Oakland vs. CWS matchup have not been named.
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- Yes, Darvish doesn’t seem like a “value” at $11,000, the most expensive pitcher on the slate by $800, but he has the best matchup, by far. There’s no one the Cubs would rather throw out when facing elimination than the Cy Young candidate who put together a marvelous 2020 season (2.01 ERA, 0.961 WHIP, and a 93:14 K/BB ratio over 76 innings). Kyle Hendricks was able to keep the Marlins at bay until the seventh inning of Wednesday’s loss but Darvish is a different animal and much more capable of mowing down batters with his pitch arsenal. The Marlins have been a fun story but they’re still below league-average in runs created/per game at 4.2 and they strike out 8.95 times per nine innings as a team. Yu notched an impressive 11.0 K/9 this season and looks primed to keep the Cubbies season alive against the fish.
- Many of you will see the word “playoffs” and “Clayton Kershaw” and immediately disregard this selection. It’s true, the left-hander has not been great over his postseason career with a 4.43 ERA over 158 1/3 innings pitched. But he’s coming off a solid September when he put a 2.54 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and a 7.25 K/BB ratio over 28 1/3 innings. The playoffs are a different beast, yes, but Kershaw has had some postseason success against the Brew Crew when he gave up five earned runs over 11 innings in the 2018 NLCS. Those results were good, not great, but that 2018 Milwaukee squad was way more loaded than the 2020 iteration, which made the postseason with a sub .500 record (29-31) and was bottom four in all of baseball at 3.9 RC/G. They were also ranked towards the bottom with a OPS+ of 88. I think the southpaw exorcises the demons of playoffs past and leads the Dodgers to the Divisional Round.
- Hosmer excelled against right-handed pitching this year to the tune of a .330/.379/.596 slash line with seven bombs and 26 RBI. He’s facing the resurgent Adam Wainwright, who relies on his changeup and sinker 65.4-percent of the time. Hosmer has a xSLG of .481 against those offerings this season, I like those odds.
- While the A’s still have not named their starter for Thursday at the time of this writing, the White Sox are 15-0 against left-handed starters this season so that should rule out Sean Manaea. Bob Melvin may decide to go with some experience and throw out the right-handed Mike Fiers. If that’s the case, it should benefit Grandal, who slugged six home runs and seven doubles against righties this season. In addition to that, he’s homered in back-to-back playoff games so far with both jacks coming off, you guessed it, right-handers.
- Will Smith was phenomenal in the final month of the season, notching four home runs with 14 RBI to go along with a 1.048 OPS over 66 at-bats. He’ll likely hit fifth against Brandon Woodruff and should have some reliable RBI opportunities as the Dodgers look to close out the series.
- Moose was instrumental in propelling the Reds to the postseason as he slashed .348/.360/.913 with four doubles, three home runs, and seven RBI over the final six games of the regular season. He’s now facing a rookie right-hander in Ian Anderson, who is making his first postseason start. Moustakas slugged .515 off righties this year over 97 at-bats and is a worthwhile start for a Reds team that is used to playing with their backs against the wall.
- Profar was one of two Padres to collect multiple hits in their Game 1 loss on Wednesday and despite getting off to a rough start this season was one of the Padres better hitters in September. It never hurts to start guys that are swinging a hot bat and Profar was slashing .383/.431/.511 with one home run, six RBI, and three stolen bases over the final 15 games of the regular season (47 at-bats). He should see some good pitches hitting towards the bottom of the loaded San Diego lineup as they face elimination.
- Turner is relatively cheap given the matchup, which favors him greatly. First of all, he’s been excellent since coming off the IL in mid-September; he slashed .394/.459/.636 with a pair of home runs over 33 at-bats. He also has a .505 xSLG against fastballs this season, which Woodruff throws 65.2-percent of the time, and a .321 xBA on off-speed pitches (Woodruff throws his changeup 17.5-percent of the time). The third baseman has also been a stud in his postseason career with a .304 batting average and a .914 OPS across 204 at-bats.
- Carpenter has enjoyed great success against Zach Davies in his career. The veteran is 12-for-25 with three home runs lifetime off Davies. Those numbers coupled with Carp’s inexpensive price tag make him worth a serious look. Davies, on the surface, put together a nice year but he seems to have gotten pretty lucky, too. His FIP of 3.88 is over a run higher than his season ERA of 2.73 and he was actually worse at home (3.13 ERA) than he was on the road (2.39 ERA). Carpenter is a cheaper piece of a well-rounded Cardinals offense that is facing an overvalued pitcher making his first postseason start in an elimination game.
- The underlying metrics favor Kershaw in this individual matchup as Gyorko has just a .186 xBA and .246 wOBA off breaking balls this season. However, the 32-year old has 1.048 OPS with five bombs off lefties this season (45 at-bats). He could easily struggle and go 0-for-4 but if Gyorko sits on a fastball, all it takes is one swing for him to pay off. This the postseason so go big or go home.
- Rojas put up a great year for the Marlins, slashing .304/.392/.496 with four home runs, 20 RBI, and five stolen bases. He’s facing an elite pitcher in Yu Darvish, who has six different pitches in his arsenal but relies most heavily on his cutter and slider. Rojas registered a .379 wOBA against fastballs this season and a .295 xBA off breaking stuff. The shortstops listed ahead of Rojas will cost you a pretty penny and most players will avoid starting him given his opponent but the metrics aren’t working against him here. He’s worth a play if you’re running low on cash.
- DeJong struggled mightily down the stretch this season but reached base in all four plate appearances in Wednesday’s win. He has some familiarity with Davies as he faced him eight times, picking up a pair of hits, when he was with the Brewers. DeJong did the vast majority of his damage against RHP in the regular season with all three of his home runs and 23 of his 25 RBI coming off righties.
- Despite the fact it’s a lefty/lefty matchup I like Yelich in this spot. He’s a ridiculous 9-for-18 with two home runs, three RBI, and three walks against Clayton Kershaw in his career. He’s also hit left-handers better this season than he has right-handers with a .293 batting average and 1.068 OPS (58 at-bats). He’s cheaper than other top-flight options at his position and could pay off as the Brewers look to even the series.
- Grisham slugged .407 off breaking balls this year and .577 off of fastballs. There are no two pitches that Adam Wainwright likes to throw more than his curve and his sinker so the analytics favor the outfielder in this matchup. The Padres will pull out all the stops to avoid an early exit this postseason, as well, so if Grisham gets on base he’s a good bet to attempt some steals; he was 10-for-11 in theft attempts during the regular season.
- Happ slugged 11 of his 12 regular-season home runs off right-handed pitching and has a .423 wOBA off fastballs and a .350 wOBA off breaking balls. Sanchez has relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, sinker, and slider this year. Sixto was also shaky in his final two regular-season starts and will be facing an experienced Cubs roster in his first-ever postseason start. Advantage Happ.
- Pollock found his power stroke over the final month of the season, mashing 10 home runs in September. His rate stats for the season (.276 batting average and .314 OBP) are nothing to write home about but he did slug .566 with 16 homers. Nine of those 16 bombs came against right-handed pitching as well. He’s another hot hand that is worth riding.
- Dickerson jacked a huge three-run home run in the Marlins upset win over the Cubs on Wednesday. He’s also the only Miami player with any career success against Yu Darvish, going 5-for-13 with a solo home run. The price tag makes him well worth the gamble as you try to round out your OF.
5 Studs Worth Their Salary
- Luis Castillo, CIN ($10,200): Before his dud on 9/26 (four runs over four innings vs. MIL), Castillo notched four straight quality starts, allowing just four runs while striking out 33 over 28 2/3 innings. The Atlanta offense should be a little tired after the 13-inning marathon on Wednesday.
- Sixto Sanchez, MIA ($7,600): Sanchez looked human in his last two starts (9 ER over seven innings) of the regular season after looking un-hittable in his previous four (3 ER over 27 innings). He arguably has the easiest matchup of any pitcher on the slate against a Cubs’ offense that has been known to pull disappearing acts.
- Freddie Freeman, ATL ($4,200): Freeman absolutely demolished RHP this season with a .373/.495/.733 batting line with 12 homers and 45 RBI. He’s facing Luis Castillo, who is making his very first postseason start in an elimination game.
- Corey Seager, LOS ($4,300): Seager slugged a home run in Wednesday’s win and has feasted on right-handed pitching all season, mashing 11 home runs and 10 doubles over 143 at-bats in the regular season. The shortstop has been the Dodgers best hitter all year.
- Tim Anderson, CWS ($4,000): Anderson has collected six hits over his last two games and is always worth a look when he’s swinging a hot bat. The 27-year old won’t go down without a fight as the White Sox face a win or go home scenario.
5 Notable Players to Fade
- Brandon Woodruff, MIL ($9,400): Woodruff was Milwaukee’s best starter all season (3.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP over 73 2/3 innings) and it wasn’t close, but he has the toughest matchup of any pitcher on the slate. Woodruff is in no man’s land where he’s too expensive to be a good value given his matchup and he’s not cheap enough for a dart throw.
- Ian Anderson, ATL ($9,200): On paper, Anderson has a good matchup against the offensively-challenged Cincinnati Reds. But the rookie is making his very first postseason start and emotions will be running high after Wednesday’s 13-inning slog. I’d rather start a pitcher with a little more experience if I’m playing over $9k.
- Manny Machado, SDP ($4,000): He’s the most expensive third baseman on the slate and was ice cold in the final week of the regular season with a .136 BA and a .467 OPS over 22 at-bats. Historically, he’s struggled in the postseason as well with a .213/.265/.372 batting line with four home runs over 94 at-bats.
- Fernando Tatis Jr., SDP ($4,400): I love Tatis and Adam Wainwright doesn’t necessarily strike fear but if you’re already paying up for an ace pitcher and want to get the stud shortstop in your lineup, it will really hamstring you. There are other more than capable, and cheaper, options at the position.
- Cody Bellinger, LOS ($4,200): Bellinger has turned it up lately, slashing .357/.550/.786 over the final five games of the regular season. But he’s still a .180/.235/.559 hitter (139 at-bats) in his postseason career and I’d want to invest in more of a sure thing if I’m spending over $4k.
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