This article is part of our DFS MLB series.
Monkey Knife Fight is a prop- and parlay-based daily fantasy sports site that offers participants a unique way of "sweating" their favorite sporting events. Unlike conventional DFS sites, there is no salary cap to be concerned with and no other participants to compete against. Monkey Knife Fight contestants do not select a lineup of players, as is typically the case in traditional DFS contests.
Rather, each Monkey Knife Fight contest is based on real-world athletes from a given slate of games exceeding certain, predetermined statistical benchmarks. In certain contests, the athlete's performance in a certain category must exceed that of another pre-selected athlete in that same game. In others, the athlete is simply competing against a predetermined figure in a certain category (i.e., a specific number of points in an NBA game, a specific number of touchdowns in an NFL game, etc.).
As such, the success of each Monkey Knife Fight contest participant is fully dependent on the accuracy of their predictions, as opposed to their performance against other fellow players. Monkey Knife Fight offers a wide variety of contests for each of the sports it covers (currently NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Soccer, and Golf). Among the most popular are Over/Under and Rapid Fire, which we will cover regularly in this column.
In Over/Under contests, participants win when they correctly predict if a certain number of pre-selected athletes will surpass a specified statistical milestone in that day's game. In Rapid Fire, participants attempt to predict the winner of site-determined head-to-head matchups between athletes in a certain statistical category for that day's game. In Rapid Fire contests, certain athletes that are considered the "underdog" in the statistical matchup may be afforded an extra built-in value boost. That is denoted by a "+" symbol and the specific additional amount – both displayed in green – that the athlete will be awarded above the total they actually accrue in that category during their game.
One additional aspect of contest logistics that's particular to Monkey Knife Fight is payout structure. For each contest, participants select from a wide variety of buy-in amounts, which are revealed once they make their athlete selections for that particular contest. If a participant wins their contest, their payout is based on that buy-in amount and the preset multiplier the contest featured. The latter figure varies depending on the contest difficulty. For example, a Rapid Fire contest requiring only two correct predictions carries a 2.36x multiplier on the buy-in, while one requiring five correct predictions features a 17x multiplier.
MLB Friday, July 5- Over/Under and Rapid Fire Predictions
Over/Under (Goal: Pick two of two correctly to cash 2.57x your buy-in)
Angels at Astros
Buy-in Amounts: $2-$500
Justin Verlander, HOU – Over/Under 7.5 pitching strikeouts
The Pick: Over
Verlander is in the midst of another stellar season, and his ability to miss bats in higher-than-average amounts continues to be key to his success. The dominant right-hander has compiled at least eight whiffs in four of his last six starts, and on 11 trips to the mound overall this season. He squared off with the Angels once already this season and fell just short of the mark with seven strikeouts, but he's mowed down current Los Angeles hitters on 70 occasions over 233 career encounters with them. That equates to just over a 30.0 percent strikeout rate and includes particularly favorable ratios against three potent Angels bats – Mike Trout (11 strikeouts over 47 plate appearances), Kole Calhoun (23 strikeouts over 44 plate appearances) and Justin Upton (10 strikeouts over 25 plate appearances).
Verlander has been his best at home. He boasts an eye-popping 60:9 K:BB across 48.0 frames at Minute Maid Park, good for a 33.2 percent strikeout rate. And Verlander has averaged just under 7.0 innings per home start, which, also offers him ample opportunity to rack up the K's.
Mike Trout, LAA- Over/Under 1.5 total bases
The Pick: Under
Speaking of Trout, the ultra-talented slugger isn't in the best of spots Friday. Verlander has limited him to an abysmal .132/.298/.290 line over the aforementioned sample of 47 career plate appearances. That includes just two extra-base hits – albeit both homers. The other occasions in which Trout has gotten on against Verlander have been via three singles and seven walks.
However, as alluded to earlier, Verlander checks in as sharp as ever at home. He's posted a minuscule 5.0 percent walk rate at Minute Maid Park and has allowed opposing hitters a collective .159 average and .204 on-base percentage across his 48 innings. Trout does come into Friday hot with three homers over the past two games and has been a better hitter on the road. However, the likelihood that Verlander hangs in for the majority of the contest coupled with Trout's poor track record against several Houston relievers leads me to give the nod to the Under on 1.5 total bases.
Rapid Fire (Pick 2 of 2 correctly to get 2.3x your buy-in)
Rockies at Diamondbacks
Buy-in Amounts: $2-$100
Zach Greinke, ARI vs. Antonio Senzatela, COL (+2.5)
The Pick: Greinke
Greinke's strikeouts are down overall this season, with his 7.75 K/9 qualifying as his lowest figure since 2016. However, the veteran right-hander has managed to record at least six whiffs in four of his last seven starts. He's hit or exceeded that mark in 10 starts overall this season, including once in three meetings against the Rockies. While Greinke has only recorded 12 whiffs of Colorado hitters in 19 total innings this season, he owns 88 Ks against them over 364 career at-bats, a solid 24.2 percent ratio.
In turn, Senzatela is not known as a strikeout pitcher, and that's seemingly truer than ever this season. The right-hander has a middling 5.16 K/9, including a 4.95 figure on the road. He has just 14 strikeouts in 100 career encounters against the current Diamondbacks hitters. It's also worth noting Arizona has a modest 20.9 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching at home over the last month, and Senzatela has recorded three or fewer strikeouts in nine of 15 starts.
The latter nugget is particularly relevant when evaluating it alongside Greinke's aforementioned tally of 10 starts with six or more Ks, as it indicates the chances of Senzatela falling short of matching Greinke in whiffs Friday is high, even with the built-in 2.5-strikeout edge.
Runs + RBI
The Pick: Blackmon
Blackmon and Dahl have been a lethal lefty-hitting duo for the Rockies all season. Both are enjoying strong campaigns, although both have naturally been a bit more effective in their hitter-friendly home park. Dahl boasts the slight edge in combined runs and RBI against right-handed hitters on the road, outpacing Blackmon by a 33-28 margin. However, that's partly offset by the fact Dahl has also logged six more plate appearances than his teammate under those conditions.
When it comes to track record against Greinke, Blackmon has a much larger sample. He's faced Greinke on 77 occasions and generated a .260 average and 10 extra-base hits (eight doubles, two home runs). Dahl has met up with Greinke on a modest 15 occasions. Dahl has posted a .267 average and a pair of extra-base knocks (one double, one home run) in that sample.
Blackmon owns a runs + RBI advantage for the season over Dahl by a 124-106 margin, however, and that's across just 11 additional plate appearances. With the leadoff role, Blackmon also has a shot at one extra at-bat over his teammate, who's most often hit third. While Dahl's RBI chances are higher in his spot, Blackmon's run-scoring opportunities are plentiful with the likes of Trevor Story, Dahl and Nolan Arenado hitting directly behind him. Accordingly, Blackmon has scored in nine straight, including multiple runs in three straight.
In a very tight battle, I'll give Blackmon the slight nod, even with Dahl's slight built-in edge.