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Monday's slate of Major League Baseball has 12 games on tap, beginning at 7:05p.m. ET. Be sure to double-check the weather and the lineups before finalizing your roster.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 6/17/19. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
The biggest trouble spot in Major League Baseball will be Washington D.C., as the Phillies and Nationals face a 50 percent or greater chance of precipitation from the late-afternoon hours through the overnight. It's possible this game is postponed if the rain is hard enough, especially since these division rivals meet rather frequently. It's probably best to just stay away from all Phils and Nats for DFS purposes.
The same holds true for the Astros and Reds from Great American Ball Park. This interleague opener faces a 45 percent or greater chance of light rain, tapering off around midnight ET. Wind will not be a factor at any of the MLB venues.
DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers
Mike Fiers - P, OAK vs. BAL ($7,700) Fiers will toe the slab against the Orioles, and the A's are heavily favored at home. The righty is 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA and .196 opponent batting average across 40 innings in seven home outings. He hasn't faced the Orioles this season, but he is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and .196 opponent batting average over 26 innings across four starts against Baltimore since the start of the 2016 season. At this price he is a strong DFS value.
Kenta Maeda - P, LAD vs. SF ($9,000) Maeda faces the light-hitting Giants at Dodger Stadium. He allowed seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts over five scoreless innings in his first outing against the Giants in San Francisco on April 29. Maeda's splits have been amazing, as he is 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA across 39 2/3 innings over eight outings on the road. However, he is 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA and .145 batting average against in his first starts at Dodger Stadium this season. Take advantage of the lower price tag with Maeda pitching the heavily favored Dodgers to a victory.
So, since we are making a big deal of the ADI and the VMI, how do you, as a user include it into your analysis to help you win in the game of daily fantasy and/or add it to your decision making process? You may have noticed that on our baseballVMI.com website, we have stated that our strength is not in the win-loss arena, but indicating a high probability of above average number of hits vs below average number of hits in today’s games. Although we are working on identifying individual performance, we are not there yet. The tendencies that are identified pretty distinctly by the amount of comfort with today’s movement on each pitch are significant, but all of the best historical metrics are still in play. Your challenge, as well as ours, is to mix the ADI and the VMI into your individual decision making process to come out with the world’s best formula for predicting individual and team performance. So the answer to the above question is obviously--‘No, not by itself.’
Since we can divide MLB data into performance categories that show how much ball movement the pitcher had purely from the makeup of the air, we can see the pitcher’s performance against the ADI. We can also see the hitter’s performance when the ball is moving more and when the hitter is not used to the movement vs when he is comfortable in the climate. It gets very intriguing when we include different types of pitches within that same grid. You can do a similar study on the pitcher and hitter stats on our website, but you may glean some good information from our study on the “Pitch-Mix.” The aspect of this study which most intrigued me when I first began was that we are entering the realm of an industry which is over 100 years old. We are sandwiching a concept of gauging the air (which is older than Methuselah) into modern cyber metrics to see if there are identifiable trends that parallel baseball common sense. Since the trends are evident, we are combining the physics to the mental and physical makeup of the most talented professionals in the world and what we are beginning to see is that performance against the type of pitch is substantially related to the ranges identified by the ADI and particularly the VMI. ...
Welcome to Friday baseball! We have a loaded 15 game slate on our hands with more than enough to dive into at each position. We also have a game in Coors Field with two susceptible pitchers, so we can't just hone in on the expensive arms and relax. Gerrit Cole leads the charge on DraftKings at $11,900, followed by Scherzer and Giolito on the high end. We then have a bunch of middle of the road priced pitchers that have upside, but are mines in cash games. We then get to an $8,800 Andrew Heaney, who has a ton of upside and should be popular.
We also have a bunch of average arms to pick on. From the obvious bats in Coors Field to the lesser known Marlins against a lefty, runs will be scored tonight. Let's dive in and take a look at each position!
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 6/14/19. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers
Gerrit Cole HOU vs. TOR ($11,900) With 15 games on the board, we have plenty of pitchers to look at. Starting off in the expensive tier, there are three pitchers priced over $11k. They all look viable, but Gerrit Cole is a clear step ahead. On the season, a 2.37 xFIP and 13.82 K/9 vs both sides of the plate. It simply doesn’t get better than that. This Blue Jays lineup has underwhelmed all season long, posting a .284 wOBA and 26% strikeout rate. The only team worse? The Miami Marlins. The Astros are huge -270 favorites and Cole is easily your safest arm on the slate. He’s going to cost you a pretty penny, but it’s worth it if you are comfortable with your lineup.
Andrew Heaney LAA @ TB ($8,800) Andrew Heaney is far to cheap at $8.8k in this match-up. While the Rays are definitely a quality hitting team, they sport the leagues highest K rate against lefties at 28.5%. Heaney has been insanely good this year with a 2.47 xFIP and 15 K/9, and while he likely can’t keep that up, the upside is huge against a team that struggled making contact vs lefties. Heaney is by nature more risky, so definitely don’t consider him a safe play for your cash games.
Welcome to Tuesday baseball folks! We have a full slate on our hands with the Yankees and Mets making up for missed time at 1:05. The main slate of games will start at 7:05 and consists of 15 games. We have a few aces on our hands, and plenty of bad pitchers to pick on. We also have a game in Coors Field with an 12 over/under, so we need to pay attention to that as well. Let's dive in head first to each position and find tonight's diamond in the rough.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for FanDuel on 6/11/2019. The picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays. With the game in Coors Field, you can stack either of those teams four different ways. I will try my best to even things out and not harp on one team or one bad pitcher.
FanDuel DFS Pitchers
Chris Paddack, SDP @ SF ($9,300) There are a lot of talented arms on tonight’s slate, but they’re all surrounded by some sort of question marks. Whether it’s the price on Bauer or the pitch count for Paxton, they make you uncomfortable. Chris Paddack is the fifth most expensive pitcher on FanDuel and is looking like the pitcher in the best spot. Vegas has the Giants scoring just 3.32 runs and the Padres are heavy -200 favorites. Paddack is one of the league's best young arms, holding a .265 combined wOBA allowed with a 9.79 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9. That is not normal for a 23 year old rookie pitcher. He’ll now enter a pitchers dream in AT&T Park to face off with one of the leagues worst offenses. The Giants rank 29th next to the Miami Marlins with a team .286 wOBA and 26% K rate vs right-handers. Paddack is affordable and should be the most popular arm on this slate.
Dakota Hudson, STL @ MIA ($8,000) If you’re looking to spend up on some big bats, Dakota Hudson is a great way to pay down. At $8k, he’s going to give you at least five or six innings and a quality start with a great shot at the win. We know the Marlins straight up stink against righties, ranking dead last with a .271 team wOBA and 27% strikeout rate. They always seem to be scrappy Marlins Park is huge and Hudson shouldn’t have trouble keeping the ball in play. This is the best match-up he’s had to this point and has a lot of upside for the price.
Earlier in this series, we saw that fantasy owners generally prefer batters to hit the ball into the air in order to have a chance at a home run. Yet, all fly balls are not equal for this purpose. A player can maximize his power production by pulling the ball in the air.
One way to illustrate this is to look at league-wide HR/FB by batted ball direction. Flies to the opposite field seldom found the cheap seats, posting a HR/FB of just 3.8%. Flies to dead center fared slightly better (8.1% HR/FB), but pulled fly balls were clearly the most productive (34.6% HR/FB).
Let's take a closer look at how Pull% can help you win your fantasy leagues in 2019!
How to Interpret Pull%
In 2018, roughly 64% of all home runs were to the batter's pull side. Only 12% of homers went to the opposite field, with the remaining 24% going out to center. This distribution is fairly consistent year-to-year, so it's safe to count on going forward.
In a way, this makes intuitive sense. Pulled baseballs tend to be hit with the highest exit velocity, making it easier for them to leave the stadium. The power alleys next to the foul poles on either side of the ballpark also present the shortest distance to the cheap seats. If a player's HR/FB dramatically improves, a change in approach involving more pulled baseballs could help explain why.
Boston's Xander Bogaerts provides a good illustration of this kind of change. In 2015, he pulled only 16.7% of his fly balls, producing a HR/FB of 5.3% and a total of seven dingers. He significantly upped his power game in 2016 by pulling 28.1% of his flies, leading to a much higher 11.4% HR/FB and 21 bombs on the campaign. The increased power was not exclusively the result of the Pull% spike, as he upped his FB% as well (25.8% in 2015, 34.9% in 2016). It helped to validate his HR/FB increase, though.
His change in approach did not last. Bogaerts pulled only 24.5% of his flies in 2017, dropping his HR/FB to 7.2% and his season HR total to 10 in the process. Once again, the raw number of fly balls Bogaerts hit decreased (30.5% FB%), so the change in Pull% was not solely responsible for the loss of power. This example illustrates that while a change in Pull% can support an increased HR/FB, it will last only as long as the player wants it to.
This is the eighth of a series of articles about the impact of air density on baseball performance.
When teams travel to Coors Field, they hit the four-seam fastball on the first day at a clip of 12.13% of strikes thrown when their VMI is identified as a high plus rating; by the third game it is down to the 9% range. This rating is due to the larger movement on the four-seam fastball the team has recently experienced prior to arriving at Coors Field.
Mechanically, this means that when hitters first identify the pitch as a fastball, they set their arms and balance their body to square up on a pitch that should move similarly to what they’ve recently experienced. But we know that in heavier air than at Coors Field the ball lifts more. Therefore, their bodily setup is higher on the pitch than it should be for accurate Coors Field hitting. However, it is better to be above the pitch on the setup than below it, because it is a lifting pitch. So the bat, being a weight on the hitter’s arms can be more easily dropped than lifted. These facts cause their higher hit percent in Coors Field than on the road, as the pitch is therefore straighter. These facts also cause the high percentage (see below) against the sinker away from Coors Field for the Rockies on the road. This is because the Rockies’ bodily setup has become about 3 inches lower on the fastball because of Coors Field repetition, making the sinker and two-seamer less of an adjustment for them.
Thursday's slate of Major League Baseball features 12 of the 13 games, with seven early games with a first pitch from 12:10 p.m.-2:20 p.m. ET, and five evening games with a first pitch from 7:07 p.m.-10:10 p.m. ET. The only game which is not included in the DFS slate is the Houston-Seattle game at 3:40 p.m. ET, which is offered as a standalone game. Be sure to double-check the weather and the lineups before finalizing your roster.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 6/6/19. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
The weather was a little rough in some areas on Wednesday, particularly the Midwest, but things are a lot more positive on Thursday. Winds will not play much of a factor at any of the MLB venues, with winds of 9 mph or less in all outdoor stadiums. The only trouble spot will be the Boston-Kansas City game at Kauffman Stadium, as they face a 30 percent or greater chance of precipitation for the entire day.
DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers
Ariel Jurado - P, TEX vs. BAL ($6,400 - EVENING) Jurado has a very favorable matchups against RHP David Hess, who has been a terrible mess so far this season. The Orioles are 4-23 across the past 27 starts by Hess, while going 2-14 over his past 16 road outings and 0-12 in his past 12 against winning teams. As such, stack a lineup with Rangers hitters, and roll with Jurado for what should be a notch in his win column.
Brandon Woodruff - P, MIL vs. MIA ($8,900 - EARLY) Woodruff was thrashed for six earned runs, 10 hits and two walks with five strikeouts over four innings in a no-decision in Pittsburgh last time out, but that's his only non-quality start performance in the past five outings. He has been money at home, going 5-0 with a 3.66 ERA and 51 strikeouts over just 39 1/3 innings at Miller Park. He is also 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.01 WHIP across 31 2/3 innings during day starts.
There are 15 games on the schedule today, but I will be focusing my research on the twelve-game main slate.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for FanDuel on 6/5/2019. The picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
FanDuel DFS Pitchers
Charlie Morton: TB at DET ($10,400) Morton is still undefeated on the season, boasting a 6-0 record with a 2.54 ERA. There is a high-strikeout upside here, as Morton comes into this game with an 11.09 K/9, while the Tigers have an abysmal 26.3% Strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. The Tigers are the worst team in the Majors with a .283 wOBA against right-handed pitching as well, so there shouldn't be too much contact made here against Morton.
Brad Peacock: HOU at SEA ($8,600) Peacock is starting to find his form, and he faces an inconsistent Mariners team in this matchup who has averaged only 3.33 runs over their last six games. Peacock has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last five starts. He is 5-0 over that span, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA, and has 35 strikeouts in 29 innings.
Tuesday's slate of Major League Baseball features all 15 games, and there are very few weather trouble spots, too. Be sure to double-check the weather and the lineups before finalizing your roster.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 6/4/19. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
The winds will be blowing in from right field across the diamond at an 11-14 mph clip at Comerica Park for the Rays-Tigers battle. In Queens, the Giants and Mets will experience a 9-12 mph wind blowing out to right field. The same holds true for the Twins-Indians tussle in Cleveland, blowing out to right field at 9-12 mph.
At Wrigley Field, the Rockies and Cubs will see a jet-stream blowing out to the left-center field power alley at 10-13 mph. Winds will be all throughout the Midwest, as the Red Sox-Royals game will also see 11-14 mph winds blowing out to the fountains in left-center field, and the Red and Cardinals will see 10-12 mph winds blowing out to left field.
DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers
Jerad Eickhoff - P, PHI at SD ($7,100) If you're looking for a low-cost pitching option with some upside, check out Eickhoff. He'll be facing the Padres, a team which has struck out 587 times to lead the National League. That's 9.78 strikeouts in 60 total games for the Padres, so Eickhoff could easily meet or exceed DFS salary expectations in this one.
Devin Smeltzer - P, MIN at CLE ($7,500) The southpaw Smeltzer debuted against Milwaukee with just three hits allowed and no walks over six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in a no-decision last Tuesday. Cleveland ranks 26th in runs scored (234), and they have managed just 61 homers to tie for 25th in the majors.
Monday's slate of Major League Baseball games is short and sweet, with just four total games on the schedule. Most DFS games will feature the three evening games, leaving out the 4:05 p.m. ET start between the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs. Be sure to double-check the weather and the lineups before finalizing your roster.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for DraftKings on 6/3/19. The lineup picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
There are just four total games on the slate, and wind will not be a factor, especially since two of the venues have retractable roofs. The winds will be 8 mph or less in each of the four parks, and rain chances of 10 percent or less.
DraftKings DFS Starting Pitchers
Walker Buehler - P, LAD at ARI ($8,900) Buehler has posted back-to-back quality starts on the road, allowing just two earned runs and 12 hits with a walk and 13 strikeouts across 12 innings in a win and a hard-luck loss. As such, he is a solid play against the Snakes, a team with 533 strikeouts, 8.9 strikeouts per game.
Aaron Nola - P, PHI at SD ($9,600) Nola will put his unblemished 6-0 record on the line at Petco Park. He has posted a 4.18 ERA and 74 strikeouts across 64 2/3 innings, and he should log plenty more strikeouts against the Padres. San Diego has 581 strikeouts on the season, second-most in the National League, and third-most in the majors.
This is the seventh of a series of articles about the impact of air density on baseball performance.
Even casual observers understand that the Colorado Rockies are the single most unique team ever to compete in Major League Baseball. They have the highest home batting average of any team ever over the course of their history and maintain the highest home winning percent over their history. But, coupling those gaudy home numbers with the lowest road batting averages and win percent, as well as recent revelations of their Weighted Runs Created, Plus (wRC+) statistic, the Rockies remain an anomaly, almost indescribable.
A recent article in the Denver Post by writer Patrick Saunders pointed out the wRC+ road statistic as being the worst in the league in spite of the overall high scoring production. Mr. Saunders also outlined the management's planned attempt to bring the road stat into more normal ranges. To be fair, the management has their hands tied. Each year the Rockies add another statistical anomaly without being able to fix any, and the team has done nothing in terms of facilities to prepare for the future, so a new idea must be born every year in order to promise the fans a reason to buy tickets. Just as all the other teams in the league have done for years, they promise a new player, a new coach or manager, and/or a new focus on bringing the most recently exposed anomaly into conformity with the balance of the league. The Rockies think they are making progress with the team and the fans, but it always turns out to be a disappointment to everyone. A subsequent article by Mr. Saunders revealed what almost everyone in baseball agrees with: The Colorado Rockies are loaded with talent.
In 2016 the plan is to use a drill while in Spring Training in Scottsdale, AZ. which will be fun (that is, if putting money in a hat and gambling it against winning an inning is fun) and will cause professional players to focus better than they were capable of during the previous years. So, let me get this straight in my head...the problem over the course of their history was focus? The problem was not trying hard enough to play the necessary small ball? Let's see, was the problem then Vinny Castilla's? Walt Weiss's? Todd Helton's? Larry Walker, Craig Counsel, Andres Galaraga, Dante Bichette, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzales, Blackmon, Dickerson, LeMahieu, Fowler, Arenado, Cuddyer, Morneau, Jeff Baker, Matt Holliday, Eric Young, Clint Barmes, Juan Uribe, Jeff Cirillo, Chris Ianetta, Nick Hundley (.355 Home and .237 Road)? Just who, over the past 22 years, hasn't been able to focus on doing things the right way, playing good small ball, and creating runs, like a quality professional baseball player? Maybe it was the fault of managers (Don Baylor, Jim Leland, Buddy Bell, Clint Hurdle, Jim Tracy) and now Walt Weiss!
Actually, the answer is all of them were handicapped by playing professional baseball with their home field at Denver, Colorado. This drill that is planned at 1,200 feet Scottsdale in warm weather will do nothing for the team in terms of wins and the wRC+ statistic. However, if (during any season) they could fly to a sea level location, run the drills, take BP and bunt good moving pitches for about 3 days prior to leaving on every road trip, then this planned drill would have a chance to take effect. Obviously they can't do that, because the schedule will not allow them to do so. Therefore, their work in spring training at Scottsdale will have little positive effect on the team statistics.
If you have been doing some reading on the Rockies and on the effects of altitude and temperature on a baseball pitch, then you know that I am referring to the data on MLB hitters and pitchers moving in and out of good ball movement conditions. Baseball is a much easier game to play when you know effectively where the ball is going. When players spend a home stand at Coors Field, then leave for a road trip to say, San Diego, the ball is diving and darting and they aren't used to it. How are they going to consistently compete in a professional league against the Home Team under those conditions? They have two different games to play -- one type at home and the other on the road -- and it is well known that professional athletes, in order to keep up with the competition, must be exposed to the full gamut of MLB ball movement every day as opposed to on and off every two weeks or so. The extra movement players experience upon leaving Coors Field makes it impossible for them to bunt effectively, hit and run effectively, get timely hits, move runners around the bases, throw accurately from catcher to 2nd base, pitch with precise control, and play the game with great confidence.
There’s something positively blissful about scanning your rosters and seeing double-digit — or *gasp* single-digit! — ranks up-and-down the roster.
But let’s be clear: these stats are in the past. They’re already banked. They shouldn’t overpower our valuation of them going forward because, really, that’s all that matters — what are they likely to produce in the future?
Think of it as a blank slate. As re-assuring as those high ranks are to see on your team, perhaps there’s another one lying in the weeds, poised to join those upper few but without the commensurate price tag. How do we to identify those players? That is, how do we identify our “buy low” targets?
How to Identify a True "Buy Low"
Here’s one cut at a rubric, a three-part one predicated on the best in-season research we have, crafted to identify undervalued hitters:
First, let’s start with a player’s rest-of-season (ROS) projection. In 2014, Mitchel Lichtman found that ROS projections are more predictive of future performance than year-to-date (YTD) performance at nearly every juncture of the season. From Lichtman’s research:
So what are our conclusions? Until we get into the last month or two of the season, season-to-date stats provide virtually no useful information once we have a credible projection for a player. For “hot” players, we might “bump” the projection by a few points in wOBA even 2 or 3 months into the season – apparently the projection is slightly under-valuing these players for some reason. However, it does not appear to be correct to prefer a “hot” player like Gomez versus a “cold” one like Butler when the “cold” player is projected at 25 points better, regardless of the time-frame. Later in the season, at around the 4th or 5th month, we might need to “bump” our projection, at least my projection, by 10 or 15 points to account for a torrid first 4 or 5 months. However, the 20 or 25 point better player, according to the projection, is still the better choice.
Second, while Jonathan Judge and the team at Baseball Prospectus found that Statcast’s expected wOBA (xwOBA) metric isn’t the next big thing as a season-to-season tool, Alex Chamberlain of FanGraphs found that xwOBA is, however, more predictive than actual wOBA in-season. That’s a key distinction and perfect for our purposes. From Chamberlain’s research,...
There are 14 games on the schedule today, but there are smaller contests for a three-game early slate and two-game very early slate. I will be focusing my research on the nine-game main slate.
In this article, I will be providing you with my daily fantasy baseball lineup picks for FanDuel on 5/29/2019. The picks will range from some of the elite players to mid-priced options and value plays.
FanDuel DFS Pitchers
Pablo Lopez: MIA vs SFG ($7,600) In his past two road starts, Lopez has allowed 14 runs in 6 2/3 innings. It would seem he likes pitching in his home ballpark, where he last tossed seven shutout innings in a win over the Mets. Lopez's home ERA is 1.93 in 23 1/3 innings, compared to 8.26 in 28 1/3 innings away. It will help that he is facing one of the worst hitting teams in the majors, bring a .285 team wOBA vs right-handed pitchers to the plate this evening.
Wade Miley: HOU vs CHC ($6,600) It won't take much for Miley to pay off this salary if you want to pay up for some of the elite hitting matchups, and he has shown some success recently that would lead us to believe he can get the job done. Miley has won four consecutive decisions and is undefeated at home this year, going 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 29 1/3 innings in five starts at Minute Maid Park.
Blake Snell: TB vs TOR ($11,800) I usually keep the pitching options to only two, but Snell also has too good of a matchup here to not give him an honorable mention. He has been lights-out over his past four starts, posting a 1.48 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Over that stretch, he has struck out 37 and walked six. We all know the struggles of the Blue Jays, and if you find enough value bats to fit Snell in your lineup then, by all means, lock him in. I would rather pay up for hitting and hope that Miley or Lopez can exceed their value, but in cash games, Snell has the higher floor.
This is the sixth of a series of articles about the impact of air density on baseball performance.
So what about humidity? Well, as I have explained in detail on my website, humidity does not create heavy air for a ball to push through. Heavy air is caused by pressure on the air molecules being pulled down by gravity. As air molecules repel each other they keep the distance between them that is standard for the altitude and temperature conditions. Air molecules stack up on the earth just like anything else; however they also push upward and sideways against each other to maintain the distance allowable within that pressure. Wind is caused by the air molecules resisting each other and pulling each other back together to equalize the distance between them.
At sea level there is 5,000 feet more air stacked up than is stacked on Denver, Colorado, at 5,000 feet elevation. Additionally, when air gets cold and the molecules become sluggish, they can be pushed closer together. These two (sea level and cold air) are the main cause of greater air density. Engineers, scientists, physicists, pilots, meteorologists and many other disciplines understand the air density. Baseball people are just beginning to study this topic.
Humidity creates lighter air, not heavier air. It feels heavy against our skin and makes our bodies feel sticky, but there is more hydrogen in it than in dry air. There is more nitrogen in dry air, and nitrogen is heavier than hydrogen. So a baseball flying through the air is knocking molecules off it while the air molecules are pushing back against the ball.
Humidity is not a very significant amount of the density issue for baseball. Humidity accounts for only about 3% to 5% of the lift on a 4-seam fastball and is opposite what we feel on our bodies—dry air pushes the ball more and humid air pushes it less. There are still some studies that need to be done on humidity as it relates to baseball; but the facts I mentioned are basic.
After the championship fast-pitch game I revealed a few articles ago, I pitched at about 300 feet elevation. Although the air was humid and warm, I could hardly keep the fast-pitch rise-ball within the strike zone as I threw it toward the thigh to belt level of the hitter. At 5,000 feet in elevation, I could only make a pitch rise about 8 inches. At 300 feet elevation, at the same speed, I could make the pitch rise almost double the amount. In my case it didn’t matter; the hitters there were used to that amount of movement and my speed was not overwhelming.
In baseball a pitcher’s only significantly upward lifting pitch is the 4-seamer. It will lift about 3 inches more at sea level than at Denver, and it will tail off sideways about 5 inches more. No wonder coaches think they’ve really faced a quality pitcher when their team of hitters from a higher altitude plays at a lower elevation. The hitters from higher altitudes are simply not used to it.
Since this subject gets rather technical and baseball players have little time for such talk, I created a gauge of air density for use by athletes. I acquired the help of Colorado State University Professor Emeritus, Dr. Douglas Hittle, who provided me with an air density formula for my scale which accounts for all three factors constantly in flux, now called the “Neeley Scale.” The Neeley Scale gauges only the segment of the air density between the mountaintops and sea level on a 100 scale, rather than extending it all the way to the outer atmosphere.
For the purpose of comparing teams’ performances within various air densities, I created another index which uses a scale based on how familiar a team is with the air density they will play in their next game. This is called the Visual Memory Index(VMI).
By utilizing the VMI, we can compare player’s and teams’ performances within each of the ranges of air density with which they are more or less familiar. We show the sortable stats on the website. The advantage this provides for MLB and for fantasy players is to know in advance when, and against which pitches, players and teams will be most effective.
Most players and coaches assume the difference in ball movement due to air resistance is rather small. The reason they assume it is negligible; is they give all the credit for movement to the pitcher without understanding the air resistance from a scientific basis.
To give you an example of air pressure that sounds negligible, but is not-- consider that at sea level scientists measure the air at 14.7 psi and at Denver at 12.29 psi. The difference is 2.41 psi, but is not negligible at all. PSI—(pounds per square inch) identifies pressure on a very small area, smaller than the leading surface of the baseball. If one considers PSF (pounds per square foot), then 12” X 12” = 144 square inches X 2.41 psi equals 347 pounds per square foot. When calculated for a surface the size of a door in an airplane, the same differential of 2.41 psi = 7,287 pounds.
So, when a 6 oz. baseball with a leading surface of approximately 3 square inches pushes through about 54 feet of air at 90-95 mph through sea level pressure vs Denver pressure; it will be pushed by the air by approximately 2 inches upward and 3 inches tail-off. Then, when the air is colder at sea level vs warm air at the higher altitude location, another 1.7 psi in differential is created. This causes an additional almost 2 inches upward and 3 inches more tail-off.
This is where the VMI is helpful to know when and how much a player is adjusting. There are sortable stats on the www.baseballvmi.com website so that you may check to see how a player performed against each type of pitch and within each adjustment category. In my next article, I will show some of the stats for the entire league along with how to utilize this to make predictions.
No matter how high a particular player's BABIP may be, his average will be mediocre at best if he strikes out too much. This is why fantasy owners have known for years that players like Chris Davis are potential drains on a fantasy team's batting average. Furthermore, players that whiff a lot tend to continue to do so - it is a very sticky trait.
In 2018, the league average K% was 22.3%, meaning that roughly one in five MLB PAs ended in a whiff. Players that K significantly less than this have an advantage in hitting for a higher average. Players that whiff more often tend to post lower averages. This is relatively common knowledge for most fantasy owners.
Let's learn how analyzing stats related to plate discipline can help improve the performance of your fantasy baseball team entering the 2019 season.
How to Interpret Plate Discipline
Sabermetrics may be used to determine whether a given player "deserved" his K% over a particular period, avoiding misleading data the same way BABIP is used to see through a fluky average. The first number to check is SwStr%, alternatively called whiff rate. This metric simply tracks what percentage of a batter's swings fail to make contact with a pitch. The league average was 10.7% in 2018, with higher numbers indicating a proneness to K.
SwStr% tends to increase if a batter swings harder, making power hitters more susceptible to the strikeout than other players. If a player improves his strikeout rate without a corresponding improvement in SwStr%, the improvement is unlikely to stick moving forward. Likewise, a career-worst strikeout rate backed by a normal SwStr% is likely to regress in the player's favor.
Further detail is offered by O-Swing%, a measure of how often a batter swings at a pitch outside of the strike zone. Generally, swinging at pitches outside of the zone is a bad idea. Batters usually want to hit "their pitch," which they never get to see if they pop-up a fastball over their head early in the count. In 2018, the league averaged an O-Swing% of 30.9%. Numbers significantly higher than this indicate an increased likelihood of chasing a bad pitch and making poor contact or striking out.
This stat is also used to examine a player's walk rate, or BB%, in much the same manner as SwStr% is used to double check K%. A strong walk rate when a player is still chasing too many pitches is not based in any repeatable skill, and will likely be normalized moving forward. Likewise, a lower walk rate paired with a career average O-Swing% indicates that the walks should come back.
Fantasy owners should always care about walks even if their format does not directly reward them. Every BB is a chance to steal a base or score a run, and players that know the zone tend to hit for higher averages to boot!
Evaluating Players Through Plate Discipline
Let's look at some examples of advanced plate discipline stats in action. ...