Welcome to the MLB Playoff Rundown! Because of the nature of short slates like this (Showdowns especially) this will be written a bit differently. There’s so many different ways to go in showdown slates and it’s really difficult to say “This guy is the best play” because you could be 100% right in saying that and still get a zero for your efforts. First, I’m going to lay out some basic understandings of MLB DFS showdown slates so that y’all have a place to start, and then we can get into the picks for the slate and the data being used.
MLB DFS Showdown basics:
- Understanding that the range of outcomes for hitters are more volatile for pitchers is imperative to success. Hitters have a range of outcomes that is realitically 0-40 points, where as pitchers (especially in the playoffs) are going to have a range that is skinnier and more like 5-30 points. This being said, Pitchers are almost always the best play on a showdown slate and unless there is a starter that you would stack against 100% of the time it’s always better to start your builds with both pitchers
- In showdown, correlation is underrated as people look to roster the best hitters possible and ignore that kind of thing. That’s generally going to be a mistake, as correlation doesn’t just go away when you are playing a single game. If you can afford hitters within a couple spots in the order of each other, you should actively be trying to do that. It’s significantly harder in showdown, but it’s still valuable.
- Taking hitters against your pitcher is something that people are scared to do and that carries over to showdown to a certain extent, but it’s optimal to do it. If your pitcher gives up a home run to one of your hitters, you are gaining the difference in fantasy points from your hitter getting the home run and your pitcher giving one up. It’s still a positive outcome, and one home run isn’t going to hurt you if your pitcher strikes out 8-10 anyway.
Update at 6:11pm EST on Wednesday
Pitchers picks and breakdown:
Both pitchers in this game are entirely usable and fading Scherzer in this one would be silly. He’s dominant and will be even more so in the playoffs where he won’t have a short leash whatsoever. Especially in a wildcard round there’s no way he’s coming off the mound unless they have a sizable lead over their opponent, and even then he’s an insane person and would want to stay out there to secure the victory.
Brandon Woodruff is a considerably worse pitcher than Scherzer but he’s not necessarily bad. a 3.51 SIERA and 10.43 K/9 over the last two years are both really good marks. The thing is that the Brewer’s bullpen is trash compared to the others on this slate, and it makes taking the Nationals players important if you can. They are going to have more opportunity against subpar pitching than any of the other three teams, and if you are playing the showsown contest tonight you’re going to want to have a focus on them over the Brewers hitters overall.
But as I said in the primer, you should be trying to use both pitchers in this one. The lean should be on Scherzer if you are picking just one, but you didn’t need me to tell you that.
For tomorrow between the Rays and the Athletics, it’s a bit more of a discussion. Manaea hasn’t been great over the last two years with a 4.37 SIERA and low strikeout rate, but he’s been a monster since returning from injury and the Rays are the weakest team on this split slate. Morton is a fantastic pitcher and by my numbers an equal play to Scherzer. The conversation here should be more about who you are pairing with Scherzer, and I think that most people will play Manaea.
That being said, there’s going to be edge on the Rays hitters as people try to jam in the higher profile teams. My lean here is to go with Scherzer and Morton or Woodruff and fade the Manaea chalk. He’s going to experience regression and it wouldn’t surprise me if it came in the WC game.
UPDATE: Lots of people asking if they should be using relief pitchers since Woodruff is not going to go deep into the game: No. We have no idea who the relief pitchers are going to be nor how long they would last in the game in this instance. There’s a very stark possibility that Woodruff goes two innings and no one else goes that long. Woodruff, as frustrating as it is, represents the safest pitcher in that game while also holding all the upside. If you don’t want to take the risk on the downside there, then you aren’t using a pitcher from that team.
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Just bringing home this point: Don’t use relievers in showdown unless you are in an MME type situation and even then it should be a very low exposure. You don’t know who is going to pitch in bulk and even then they will project for considerable less than every other available piece of the game.
I stick by my thought for Manaea and Morton. Morton will be a fantastic play in Showdown formats and Manaea is much weaker but still somebody that should be a focus if you are building for a ceiling. This game could very easily become a pitchers duel with how well Manaea has pitched since returning from injury, but he’s also going to be more susceptible to getting blown up.
Hitters picks and breakdown:
Above is the top 25 hitters in my sheets. You can see plenty of Nationals and Rays up in the top 10 and that makes plenty of sense. The Nationals are overall a better team than the Brewers and have much better numbers individually, so even though the matchup with Woodruff isn’t the best on the slate they are popping in the rankings. The Rays have the best matchup and are being underrated pretty significantly, so take advantage of that if you are playing the split slate.
UPDATE: With the Brewers likely burning through a lot of their bullpen in this one, the Nationals get a bit of a bump considering it’s the worst bullpen between these two games. They were already a focus, but now even more so.
The lead hitter in my ranks is actually Keston Hiura against Max Scherzer and if you are playing in the showdown contest he needs to be a priority. Especially considering how few people will play him because of Scherzer it makes him a phenomenal play. Scherzer, while being incredible, has an xHR/9 of 1.18 and the second highest xAttack of these pitchers. Hiura has been incredible over the last year with a .535 xSLG and 11.88% xHR/PA so the power is real and he can get to anybody. Playing Scherzer and Hiura in your showdown lineups is a great idea, and doing it in the split slate is an even better one where I could see him being in the 10% ownership range.
The best value in my ranks is going to be Travis d’Arnaud on Draftkings and Howie Kendrick on Fanduel. Howie is only $2,500 and I have him as the second best hitter overall, giving him a lot of value. Just look at his price on Draftkings up there at $5k! That is a significant misprice and you should be taking advantage of it. There’s risk in him getting pinch hit later in the game, but he only needs a couple ABs to reach value and the price is too good. Travis d’Arnaud should be a focus for you on the split slate and somebody you are focusing to build around in the showdown with Yandy Diaz (should he play). I’ll have an update to the game tomorrow once batting orders are released.
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Here are the hitter ranks for this game:
As mentioned in the blurb about the pitchers, Manaea is much more prone to getting blown up and my focus is entirely on the Rays side of things. The best Athletics hitters to use are Matt Olson and Willy Adames, and then Matt Chapman. With how expensive the Athletics main hitters are, I much prefer fading them. Yandy Diaz is my top hitter overall.
Main Pitchers: Max Scherzer, Charlie Morton
Fade Pitcher(s): Sean Manaea
Main Hitters: Keston Hiura, Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto, Yandy Diaz, Travis d’Arnaud
Main Values: Howie Kendrick, Travis d’Arnaud, Mike Moustakas, Jesus Aguilar, Trent Grisham