Teams to Target When Streaming

Having officially gotten more regular-season baseball than we got in 2020, let’s check in on some team offensive trends. At least those trending poorly. Because while it’s still less than three months of baseball, it’s enough to start getting a handle on which teams you should exploit for streaming gains, and who you should avoid.

Matchups are obviously king in streaming but not all bad teams are the same. At least, not in terms of how they fare against each hand, both in general performance and strikeout tendencies. The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in baseball, as well as the worst run value (per 100 pitches) against right-handed pitchers. However, you play a dangerous game when streaming a leftie against the Orioles, as their 1.29 RV/100 and .353 wOBA vs LHP are the highest in baseball, while their 20.4% K% is beaten only by the 16.8% K% of Houston.

Using Run Value (per 100 pitches), wOBA, xwOBA, and K%, we’ll see which teams currently look like the juiciest targets when considering a stream and then take a look at some of their matchups with starters who are currently rostered less than 50% in Yahoo leagues.

 

Team Performance vs LHP
Team RV 100 K% wOBA xwOBA
Pirates -0.68 23.8 .282 .291
Royals -0.50 21.5 .295 .313
Rangers -0.46 23.0 .295 .325
Mariners -0.41 27.5 .280 .299
Padres -0.36 23.3 .293 .294
Reds -0.32 24.6 .291 .310
Marlins -0.25 28.5 .292 .278
Tigers -0.18 30.1 .280 .294
Twins -0.12 24.9 .324 .340
Brewers -0.09 28.4 .317 .316

 

The Tigers are the soft underbelly of left-handed streamers. If all else fails, try attacking there. They may have only the 8th-worst run value versus LHP but are tied for the lowest wOBA, and are last in K%, SwStr%, and Whiff%. Kris Bubic, Cole Irvin, Tyler Anderson; these are the types of left-handers wringing fantasy value out of Detroit.

Mike Minor gets them next Tuesday and is obviously full-stream-ahead, as he’s already faced the Tigers twice this year, striking out 17 batters in 11.2 IP. He did allow six earned runs in total but I always bake in some ERA height with Minor and the strikeout upside is more than enough enticement.

Minor works primarily with his four-seamer (37%), against whom the Tigers have a .280 wOBA (5th-worst), as well as his slider, changeup, and curve. All of Minor’s non-fastballs have posted around average SwStr% and Whiff% but luckily, the Tigers make up for it with higher than average whiffery against all three.

In particular, Minor may want to lean on his curve more, as Detroit has posted just a .185 wOBA against it that is lower than against any of his other pitches, with a 43.7% Whiff% that is the second-highest rate in baseball versus LHP.  When Minor faced them in April (5.2 IP, 2 ER, 9 K, 1 W), he threw a season-high 26.5% curves. On May 21 (6 IP, 4 ER, 8 K), he threw just 15.3%.

Even though the Mariners have the lowest wOBA and third-lowest RV/100 against LHP, this has all the markings of a classic J.A. Happ trap, as the crafty Twins lefty has been absolutely brutal over his last five starts, posting a 10.17 ERA, while allowing six home runs.

Considering his 55.3% four-seam fastball usage, those counting on Happ getting right versus the hapless Mariners may want to take a step back because Seattle can basically do one thing well versus lefties. Crush four-seamers. Well, at least they do relative to what they do against everything else. They’ve has posted a .422 wOBA (2nd-highest), .399 xwOBA (5th), and 1.4 RV/100 (3rd) versus LHP four-seamers in 2021 and that’s enough for me to pass this Happ on by.

With a bottom-tier .295 wOBA and -0.50 RV/100 vs LHP, the Royals look like their normal low-hanging fruit selves, in terms of streaming against them. However, they have been very stingy on strikeouts, with a 21.5% K%, 10.5% SwStr%, and 22.5% Whiff% that are all well below average.

Keep that in mind when looking to Cole Irvin on Friday, who has just a 17.1% K% and 25.6% CSW%. Irvin gets deep enough into games to pick up wins, having failed to reach five innings in just two of his 12 starts, just don’t set your strikeout expectations too high.

On the other hand, I don’t care how disciplined the Royals have been versus LHP; if Tarik Skubal (36% on Yahoo, 25% on ESPN) is still available, stop reading and go grab him. But also, come back and I’ll tell you a tale of how Skubal has a 28.3% K% in 54 IP this season and has a 3.09 ERA and 36.8% K% over his six starts since May 1.

Ok, that wasn’t much of a tale. Just be happy that you (theoretically) now have Tarik Skubal. You’re welcome.

The enigmatic Drew Smyly gets a chance to be less mysterious in his next turn, taking on a Marlins team that has a -0.25 RV/100 versus LHP so far in 2021, with a .292 wOBA and .278 xwOBA. However, while the Marlins have a 28.5% K% and 14.1% SwStr% vs LHP, they do have a below-average 16.7% SwStr% and .217 wOBA versus curveballs, which Smyly is throwing 38.5% of the time. Also, make sure and factor in that I cannot be trusted in my ability to ever quit Drew Smyly.

 

Team Performance vs RHP
Team RV 100 K% wOBA xwOBA
Orioles -0.64 23.7 .307 .314
Diamondbacks -0.59 28.0 .289 .290
Nationals -0.54 21.5 .302 .314
Pirates -0.53 20.9 .261 .290
Brewers -0.39 28.3 .295 .315
Marlins -0.37 26.2 .307 .306
Rockies -0.34 24.1 .301 .299
Rangers -0.29 24.5 .295 .304
Tigers -0.29 27.6 .294 .293
Phillies -0.23 26.3 .303 .314
Cardinals -0.23 23.0 .311 .324

We didn’t a chance earlier to ruminate on the tragedy that is Pirates v. LHP because they aren’t scheduled to face any left-handers in the next week. But while not quite as bad, a -0.53 RV/100 vs RHP is still the fifth-lowest and Pittsburgh’s .261 wOBA and .290 xwOBA are both the lowest. However, they have been remarkably low in their whiffs, posting a 20.9% K% vs RHP that trails only Houston’s 18.0% K%.

That low K-rate helps make trying to roll out Joe Ross against them seem a bit too clever by half. Ross has a 4.80 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over 11 starts, striking out batters at a 21.5% clip, with a 10.1% BB. But the Pirates can roll out some decent left-handers (Adam Frazier, Bryan Reynolds, Colin Moran,…Gregory Polanco – ok, that’s pushing it) against whom Ross has really struggled, with a 17.0% BB% and 6.14 FIP.

However, there is some hope in how the Pirates have fared against sinkers, with Ross throwing them 42% of the time. The Pirates have posted a league-worst (versus either hand) -2.9 RV/100 against lefty sinkers and the only split that is worse than their .225 wOBA against sinkers is…The Pittsburgh Pirates versus RHP sinkers. (Sweep! Sweep!) Ross’s sinker has a -1.5 RV/100 (19th-lowest among qualified starters). Like I said, hope!

For all of the same reasons, Adrian Houser taking on the Pirates at home looks just as appealing. Houser’s sinker (52% usage) has a -1.6 RV/100 (18th) which should bode well against Pittsburgh and he’s been better than his 3.66 ERA implies, with a 6 ER outing at Cincinnati on May 21 weighing him down. Houser has only allowed two earned runs total in his last three starts since. Including his last start, a rematch in Cincinnati where he picked up the win after allowing one earned run in 5.1 IP.

Arizona has -0.59 RV/100 that’s the second-worst but their strikeout proclivities versus righties make them the clear favorite in terms of streaming some fantasy goodness. The Diamondbacks have a 28.0% K% vs RHP that is second only to Milwaukee and a 30.6% Whiff% that’s in a virtual tie for first. They claim you don’t sweat because it’s more of a dry whiff in the desert but I’m not buying it.

With just a 19.8% K%, Johnny Cueto needs all the whiffs he can get, regardless of moisture content. Cueto has a 3.70 ERA in his nine starts but has been boom or bust; he’s allowed 4+ ER in three starts and two or less in five starts.

One of those busts was on May 26, when Cueto allowed four earned runs in five innings in Arizona, striking out five. But that doesn’t give me too much pause, given just how inept Arizona has been. I’ll bet on the success of Cueto’s four-seamer (36.5% usage, -1.2 RV/100) keeping Arizona dry, as they’ve posted just a -0.5 RV/100 against four-seamers from RHP.

Cueto may be fine but I’d rather have Alex Cobb (26% Yahoo, 20% ESPN) taking on Arizona over the weekend, as his 29.0% K% has a better chance of taking advantage of the Diamondback love of striking out. Arizona has only seen 84 split-fingers from RHP this season but has managed a 23.8% SwStr% and 52.6% Whiff% against them. Cobb’s Thing is not your average splitty/changy/whatever and prior to allowing five earned runs in his most recent start, he’d allowed just one earned run in his three previous starts combined.

After Arizona, Cobb lines up for another great matchup against the oft-mentioned Detroit Tigers, who are better against righties than lefties but still have a 27.6% K% and 14.0% SwStr% vs RHP that are both in the bottom-five.

Jake Odorizzi hasn’t been very sharp in his three starts since returning from injury, allowing a total of seven earned runs in 13.1 IP but two of those starts came against Boston, who has a .330 wOBA vs RHP (5th-highest). And the Rangers certainly aren’t the Red Sox. Texas has a 24.5% K% vs RHP (14.4% SwStr%), with a .295 wOBA and .304 xwOBA.

Cleveland rookie Juan Carlos Mejia got a rude awakening versus the Cardinals in his second career start, allowing four earned runs and getting only two outs. But he has a much better matchup coming up, with a rematch versus the team he made his starting debut against, the Orioles of Baltimore. Pray tell, you’ve heard of these Orioles, they of the league-worst -0.64 RV/100 vs RHP?

Mejia allowed one hit and one walk while shutting out Baltimore for his three-inning debut, striking out two. Don’t expect him to be in play for a win after he only got up to 50 pitches versus the Cardinals (39 pitches in each of his past two appearances) but you could do worse than taking most right-handed warm bodies versus Baltimore.

JT Brubaker has been mostly serviceable, posting a 3.90 ERA over 11 starts, with his only bad stretch coming when he allowed a total of 12 earned runs on the road at St. Louis and Atlanta in back-to-back starts. He’s just one of those guys who you might not be able to trust against solid offenses but has enough stuff to pull excellent value against the right (bad) teams.

For example, may I present the Milwaukee Brewers, who have a -0.39 RV/100 against RHP, with a  league-high 28.3% K%? Brubaker is no master whiff-maker but has a 24.2% K% and a slider that should be good enough to befuddle the Brewers, who have league-worst -2.1 RV vs left-handed sliders, with a 20.3% SwStr% and 40.2% Whiff%.





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MRDXol

good article! would it be possible to get an inverse article of what teams to avoid with your questionable pitchers?