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If you’re unfamiliar with OwnersBox, they offer a really unique roster format that includes one pitcher, four IF, three OF, and one Super Flex (OF, IF, and P). Thursday brings us another short slate without many options. Contests commence at 6:35 PM EST with the Pirates hosting the Reds. Weather doesn’t seem to be a concern outside of some potential light rain at Wrigley Field, but be sure to double-check just in case.
A quick note on the PLV metric listed above: If you’re curious as to its intricacies, check out Nick’s primer. A too-brief summary: PLV is a quantifier that uses several variables to assess the quality of each individual pitch; the higher the value, the better the pitch. PLA is the ERA equivalent to PLV (the lower, the better).
Matt Strahm and the Phillies are the biggest favorites on the board (-225). But Strahm is more or less a reliever right now as he needed 67 pitches to get eight outs his last time out against the Reds. The Rockie Road matchup is great, but five innings seems like the best-case scenario and I’m not sure that’s an outcome I want to chase even on a short slate.
Jameson Taillon struck out seven in his last start against the Dodgers and faces them again tonight, this time at home in Wrigley. Facing the same team in consecutive starts, especially with a lineup like the Dodgers, is something I usually like to avoid. Making things possibly more challenging is that there might be wind blowing out at Wrigley with both teams having an implied total north of five runs. Nevertheless, the cupboard is bare tonight and Taillon has to be at least mentioned for probably having the most notable track record on the slate (career 3.85 ERA and 1.21 WHIP).
On the other side, Michael Grove will get the start for the Dodgers. He pitched well his last time out, but he might be a fade given the lack of experience and the fact that the Cubs have one of the highest implied totals on the board at 5.5 runs.
Roansy Contreras is a talented young pitcher with an impressive slider that’s returned a 41.8% chase rate and a 3.15 PLA this year. But as you can tell by his 6.00 ERA and 1.73 WHIP, he’s very much a work in progress and doesn’t have much beyond the slider along with suspect fastball command evidenced by a .548 wOBA allowed. Luckily, he gets to face the Reds at home tonight. I don’t think we expected much from their offense this year, and so far, they’ve been just about middle of the road (18th in wOBA). Contreras is a play based on the matchup with the Reds having one of the lowest implied totals on the board at just over four runs and the Pirates as heavy home favorites (-165).
The Padres are decent road favorites (-140) but Michael Wacha is probably the name I’m most inclined to ignore as he typically doesn’t offer much strikeout upside and the D-Backs have been stingy with a team K rate of only 20.2% (fifth-lowest).
The last game of the night features what might be the two best options on the slate. Rookie Kodai Senga is coming off a little bit of a disappointing outing against the A’s in which he surrendered four earned runs on seven hits while failing to get out of the fifth. Still, he recorded seven strikeouts (30.2% CSW). He’ll be on the road at pitcher-friendly Oracle Park facing the Giants who have struck out at a 27.9% clip, the highest in baseball.
On the other side, PLV likes Sean Manaea quite a bit. His sinker has graded out really well so far with a 0.64 PLA. The only clear knock is that he’s peaked at 82 pitches so far and his salary is probably a little higher than you’d like it to be.
Phillies vs RHP Ryan Feltner (2022: 97.1 IP, 5.83 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) faces a tough test at Citizen’s Bank Park against a Phillies team that is currently tied with the Cubs for fifth in team wOBA. Like the entire Rockies staff, Feltner struggled last season and actually allowed a higher wOBA on the road (.354 versus .330 at Coors Field). Feltner’s slider rated out pretty well last year against RHB (2.77 PLA) but otherwise, his arsenal didn’t stand out. Kyle Schwarber comes into tonight’s game hitting .195 with a 736 OPS. But he also has a career .881 OPS and .368 wOBA against RHB. This seems like a get-right spot. Expect to see a ton of Phillies bats across all formats.
Padres at RHP Ryne Nelson (2022: 18.1 IP, 1.47 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) debuted late last year and pitched well across two starts. Through three starts this year, Nelson has just a 14.3% K rate. The results haven’t been bad and are backed by a 1.53 PLA. Still, this will be the second time the Padres are seeing him this year, and the lack of strikeouts seems like a red flag. Fernando Tatís Jr. should be making his debut tonight after having finished his suspension. He’s the minimum on DraftKings ($2,000). His return should push Trent Grisham back to the bottom of the order. But don’t overlook Grisham in tournaments as he’s been more aggressive this year and hitting for power (65-grade power via PLV).
Pirates vs RHP Luke Weaver (2022: 16.1 IP, 7.71 ERA, 1.78 WHIP) Weaver is making his season debut tonight after dealing with forearm soreness. The Pirates’ lineup isn’t great but they could stack up some runs against the former Cardinal who could be rusty and has a career ERA of 4.79 and WHIP of 1.40. Ke’Bryan Hayes looks like a potential value on OwnersBox at $3,800. Jack Suwinski will have the platoon advantage and has shown excellent power early on. He’s affordable on all three sites.
Dodgers/Cubs: I sense that we might see more Phillies and Padres stacks. The reason is that we saw both Grove and Taillon pitch well in this exact same matchup their last time out, so that might shift more rosters away from Cubs and Dodger bats. If that’s the case, you might be able to get some leverage by going after the Wrigley Field game. That could prove worthwhile especially if the wind is blowing out. If you’re picking sides, I think I’d lean slightly toward Cubs bats given they’ll be facing an unproven rookie in Grove who is making just his 1oth career start. If you’re looking for bargains, the Dodgers have some cheap bats in Miguel Vargas and Jason Heyward, who has shown some power this year. Plus, who can resist the revenge narrative?