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Fantasy 101: How to Capitalize on Hitter Splits

Michael Rathburn

Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. Rath won the 2016 FSWA "Baseball Article of the Year, Online" award and was a finalist for the FSWA Best Baseball Series in 2011.

One of the things that you come to realize when doing data analysis is how many layers of the onion can be found. You keep peeling back and digging deeper into the data, but you need to also remember that the sample size of the data is something to consider. When looking at batter and pitcher splits, only looking at the current year or prior campaign can skew the data. This week, I delve into the best players and while pointing out which scenarios to look for in daily fantasy baseball. This is probably the MOST important thing to look for when making your lineups on a daily basis.

Hitter Splits

Data is from 2011-2014

Who has the biggest differential for wOBA (weighted on-base percentage) from 2011-2014? Differential defined as the difference between what they hit against RHP and LHP.

You would think it's a superstar bat, but remember superstars typically can hit pitchers from both sides of the mound, so it’s actually going to be one of those platoon mashers that we all love.

The great thing about the first player I am going to mention is he switched to a hitter-friendly environment this year and he’s taking advantage of an injury to get more playing time.

The hitter in question is none other than Juan Francisco. Yep, Juan Frankie. Righty masher, home run and strikeout extraordinaire.

Here are the numbers on Francisco from 2011-2014: 671 PA; .348 wOBA, 25 percent HR/FB

You might think .348 isn’t too high above league average, which sits at .315, but when you consider his wOBA (.184) and HR/FB percentage (5.6 percent) versus left-handed pitchign, the edge he has versus right-handed pitching can be exploited. Remember, most of the time in daily fantasy baseball a player’s salary is not indicative of his opposing pitcher unless you are playing on DraftStreet – the rare site that does take into consideration hitter splits. Francisco, while a righty masher in all his glory, is someone you only want to use in a tournament because of his boom-or-bust results. While he’s always been a great platoon player to target, Francisco’s an even better choice due to his hitting environments this season -- home games in Toronto and road tilts in Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards mean a ton of at-bats in hitter-friendly parks, and it also helps that those two road parks are both prone to giving up long balls to left-handed hitters. While only having 38 at-bats in Toronto are against right-handed pitchers, the damage isn't small (five homers, 10 RBI, .555 wOBA, 1.323 OPS, 45 percent HR/FB rate). Now, of course, he won't keep up this type of pace, but whenever you see him at home against a weaker flyball RHP, you would be wise to find a way to get him in your lineup for tournament play.

Now let's go to the other side of the plate and look at the player who benefits the most from facing left-handed pitchers. I enter this with a bit of caution, as sample sizes for hitters against left-handed pitching are smaller than right-handed pitchers, so there’s some variance coming. But I think this is a player you need to strongly consider when looking for value plays in daily fantasy baseball.

Ed Lucas. Who? Isn't that guy an actor? (That's Ed Norton, Edward Burns, or Ed Harris you might be thinking of). Lucas is a former eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth, who is now turning 32 and made his debut for the Marlins last year. Lucas can play multiple positions and received almost 400 at-bats last year, but he only has 30 this year. Why am I even mentioning this guy? Because his salary is always going to be dirt-cheap and he produces at the plate when in the lineup. When he plays, he typically bats second in the lineup. His career wOBA versus lefties is .403 in 119 at-bats. That’s enough of a sample size for me to stand up and take notice. His career wOBA versus lefties gets a bump up to .456 on the road. Now I know there are going to be people who jump up and scream sample size, but this is a guy who you can get for just about minimum salary every night and if you play him against left-handed pitching the chances of him giving value back is tremendous.

Batters to use vs. LHP (best differential and HR/FB percent)

Hitter wOBAHR/FB ratio
Wilin Rosario .43030 percent
Ryan Braun .45625 percent
Andrew McCutchen .452 17 percent
Starling Marte .42721 percent
Anthony Rendon .383 15 percent
Rajai Davis .353
Jeff Baker .357 18 percent
Derek Norris .384 17 percent
Derek Jeter .403 20 percent
Cody Ross .388 15 percent
Salvador Perez .403 13 percent
Buster Posey .423 16 percent (use on road)
Brian Dozier .374 14 percent
Shane Victorino .400
Jonathan Lucroy .403 14 percent
Kevin Frandsen .375
Junior Lake .38120 percent
Jonny Gomes .382 16 percent
Nelson Cruz .408 22 percent
Dayan Viciedo .376 15 percent
Dustin Pedroia .403
Ian Kinsler .390 12 percent
David Wright .406

Batters to use vs. RHP (best differential and HR/FB percent)

Hitter wOBAHR/FB ratio
Matt Adams .369 15 percent
Garrett Jones .350 15 percent
David DeJesus .352
John Jaso .363
Justin Morneau .363 13 percent
Pedro Alvarez .334 24 percent
Chris Davis .389 26 percent
Shin-Soo Choo .401 18 percent
Christian Yelich .370 23 percent
Ryan Howard .367 22 percent
Brandon Moss .393 21 percent
Robinson Cano .407 20 percent
Josmil Pinto .40519 percent
Bryce Harper .37818 percent
Adam Lind .363 18 percent
Miguel Montero.36713 percent
Andre Ethier.379
Jarrod Saltalamacchia.35219 percent
Chase Utley .373
Carlos Gonzalez .40123 percent
Freddie Freeman .380
Joe Mauer .381
Prince Fielder.39819 percent
David Ortiz .42119 percent

Pitchers to Target Against

For good reason a lot of the awful pitchers that made this list are currently not in the majors (Jonathan Sanchez vs. RHB, Ricky Romero vs. RHB, Jason Marquis, Nick Blackburn) or they are delegated to the bullpen (Jeff Francis vs. RHB, Esmil Rogers vs. LHB), but we can still target many of the ones who are the best to exploit for wOBA differential, HR/FB percentage, and LD percentage.

Joe Saunders versus RHB - Saunders has the worst wOBA differential over the past three years for any starting pitcher at .376 vs. RHB compared to .235 vs. LHB. Here’s hoping that Saunders can get back into a starting rotation for a major league team so we can take advantage. He’s currently with the Rangers and with Martin Perez going down, we can only hope he gets the call. Can you imagine those July games in Texas with Saunders on the mound? You can’t price righ-handed hitters high enough for me in that situation.

Charlie Morton vs. LHB – Morton has pitched in two favorable pitching environments with Atlanta and Pittsburgh making his home splits look very nice, but when Morton gets outside those friendly confines things start to implode. His career road wOBA allowed versus LHB is .411. Get your primo left-handed hitters in those hitter friendly environments when Morton takes the hill. Just for kicks, I looked at Morton's hot zone map vs. LHB. The strike zone area is completely red, so anything over the plate and it’s bad news.

Jeremy Guthrie vs. LHB – Guthrie has allowed a .368 wOBA to LHB over the past three seasons along with a 1.57 HR/9, which is one of the worst in baseball.

Here are some of the worst pitchers you can exploit vs LHB:

Bronson Arroyo - 1.95 HR/9, 17 percent HR/FB, .364 wOBA
Colby Lewis - 1.73 HR/9, 13 percent HR/FB, .353 wOBA
Bud Norris - 1.33 HR/9, 12 percent HR/FB, .360 wOBA
Bartolo Colon - 1.41 HR/9, 11 percent HR/FB, .337 wOBA
Dan Straily - 1.65 HR/9, 12 percent HR/FB, .338 wOBA
Roberto Hernandez - 1.34 HR/9, 16 percent HR/FB, .365 wOBA
Ricky Nolasco - 1.10 HR/9, 11 percent HR/FB, .349 wOBA
Gavin Floyd - 1.52 HR/9, 15 percent HR/FB, .356 wOBA
Jake Arrieta - 1.51 HR/9, 15 percent HR/FB, .351 wOBA
Juan Nicasio - 1.43 HR/9, 14 percent HR/FB, .350 wOBA
Shelby Miller - 1.26 HR/9, 11 percent HR/FB, .340 wOBA
Dillon Gee - 1.28 HR/9, 13 percent HR/FB, .340 wOBA
Lance Lynn - 0.97 HR/9, 10 percent HR/FB, .351 wOBA
Justin Masterson - 0.84 HR/9, 11 percent HR/FB, .338 wOBA
Dylan Axelrod - 1.86 HR/9, 15 percent HR/FB, .369 wOBA
Edinson Volquez - .350 wOBA

Here are the worst pitchers vs RHB:

Drew Pomeranz - 1.37 HR/9, 14 percent HR/FB, .367 wOBA
Mike Pelfrey - GB pitcher, no K's .361 wOBA
Franklin Morales - 1.58 HR/9, 13 percent HR/FB, .361 wOBA
Jacob Turner - 1.61 HR/9, 14 percent HR/FB, .360 wOBA
Kevin Correia - 1.22 HR/9, 11 percent HR/FB, .343 wOBA
Tom Koehler - 1.25 HR/9, 14 percent HR/FB, .343 wOBA
Eric Stults - 0.93 HR/9, 8.0 percent HR/FB, .342 wOBA
Jorge De La Rosa - 1.02 HR/9, 11 percent HR/FB, .341 wOBA
Felix Doubront - 1.19 HR/9, 13 percent HR/FB, .337 wOBA
John Danks - 1.30 HR/9, 12 percent HR/FB, .336 wOBA
Hector Santiago - 1.45 HR/9, 12 percent HR/FB, .333 wOBA

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Michael Rathburn plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: burnnotice, DraftKings: burnnotice, Yahoo: burnnotice, Fantasy Aces: burnnotice, FantasyDraft: burnnotice.