DFS Primer: Kershaw Got Rocked
April 1, 2016 | Jason Bales
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Welcome to Spring Training, rookie! This article is intended for novice daily fantasy baseball players. If this does not describe you, this article will probably not be very useful. The information presented throughout this series may be rather obvious for the experienced fantasy player, but, again, this is not the target audience. If you are experienced, feel free to read through this article as a refresher prior to that start of the season, or to hear some opposing opinions regarding previously held game strategy. Now, let’s get you in shape for this fantasy season!
I can’t believe it! I play Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the entire league, and he gives up five runs in four innings. I hate fantasy baseball; it is so stupid. Calm down, rookie. This kind of thing happens. Clayton Kershaw is not as likely as the rest of the pitchers in the league to get hammered, but it can happen from time to time. So, how do we know whether a player just had an off night, or if something is seriously wrong? Let’s take a look at that.
What are the warning signs that should not be ignored?
Matt does a great job summing up some of the important statistics to look at. His review is a little more advanced, so I’m going to keep it as simple as possible here. For pitchers, look to see if he is giving up more walks than strikeouts. For example, if Clayton Kershaw walked five batters in his dreaded game presented above and only struck out two batters, there is a problem. When a pitcher is walking more batters than he is striking out, it is generally a problem with his mechanics. If his mechanics are off, lean toward avoiding him until he proves that he fixed the problem. This is the easiest way to avoid taking a struggling pitcher. Hitters are a little bit different. Certain hitters strikeout more than other hitters due to their tendency to hit for power over contact. Other hitters have a great batter’s eye and walk more often. Even Miguel Cabrera can go a week without a two-hit game. This should not be shocking. If a hitter has been in a slump for weeks, then it is time to start getting worried. He may have a hole in his swing. However, do not give up on Bryce Harper because he went 0-for-4 in four straight games. If his price drops, this is actually the perfect time to take him. All in all, look for walks over strikeouts in pitchers, but it is a guessing game with hitters.
For pitchers, innings pitched and strikeouts are the main ways to score points and can be easier to predict. Pitcher wins are too hard to count on because of outside factors. ERA can be a misleading stat because a pitcher’s runs allowed aren’t always his fault if he plays in front of a bad defense or is having bad luck on softly hit balls which are finding holes. FIP (fielding independent pitching) is a better way to gauge how well a pitcher is doing. Try to avoid starting a pitcher who is putting a lot of runners on base, either via walks or hits allowed. Runners on base lead to bad things. For hitters, always pay attention to splits and don’t get caught up in the season-long stats. Some guys can’t hit against certain handed pitchers. Don’t let nice-looking season-long statistics give you a false sense of security in those situations. Also try to avoid a hitter with a high strikeout rate as he’s less likely to put the ball in play.
The main factor that I look at when using a pitcher is Vegas. If I notice something is “different” or “off” about the Vegas line, that is when I tend to question players. For example, if Clayton Kershaw is projected to lose a game, I will be avoiding him. Obviously I don’t want a pitcher that is projected to lose, but Kershaw should never be an underdog. Since he is an underdog on that night, there may be something wrong and I’m not willing to pay up for uncertainty. You should also be looking at work load, home/away split, and LvR splits for the team that they are pitching against. If a pitcher is playing the Blue Jays, who are known as “lefty killers,” and he’s a lefty, you may want to avoid him. That can be said for different teams, as some teams hit left- or right-handed pitching better than others.