We have a dumpy slate tonight with just five games. It’s the last week of MLB and man this is not a fun one to break down for you guys. Very few spots stand out to me, and since it’s only five games, I’m just going to give you literally all my notes transcribed here. So let’s get to it:
- Philadelphia @ Washington has some chance of rain. It looks like they will be able to play it, but it’s one to watch. Miami @ New York on the other hand may not be one that plays. If that one’s canceled, it would make this five game slate a four-gamer and really crush any ownership issues.
- Only four teams project for over five runs and one of them is the Mets. Toronto has the top projected score on the day with over six against the Orioles. The Nationals are at 5.3 against Zach Eflin and the Rays project for five against Jhoulys Chacin and a group of random arms behind him.
- This is at best a five game slate that looks very much like it could end up being four. Traditional rules and lineup construction are out the window in such a small group. We need to play this more like a short slate of early games or a late night slate. We should not be in cash games at this point in the season anyway, but especially not on this slate. The ideal way to attack this slate is GPP only. To really understand how to win one, we need to talk about how to play them.
HOW TO PLAY SHORT SLATES – GPP
Chalk is not created equal. We have good chalk and bad chalk. We have slightly chalky and we have monstrously owned, which is what should happen today. It’s simple math. If we have 4-5 games, that’s 8-10 teams. Most teams have one player per position and three per OF spot. That means we end up with roughly 10 of each and 30 outfield players. With DHs, the numbers may be a tad higher, but we are talking maybe 1-2 additional at some positions since we also have NL games.
Let’s say we have 11-12 1B, and even if they all took the same level of ownership, that would be at least 8-9% for all of them. Of course, that won’t happen, though. We will likely see one or two guys pushing 50-60% owned or higher and then a couple others at 12-20% and a group of them at 1-5%. The winning lineup tonight will have a 1-5% guy that goes nuts for 20-30 fantasy points. I’ll guarantee that to you now.
A lot of the rest of the lineup likely ends up at least a little bit chalky, but fading one highly owned guy that fails or dropping in one very low owned guy that goes off tends to be the difference on these short slates. If all the best plays end up 30-50% owned then you are not going to be the guy who wins by playing them all. For the most part those guys on your roster cancel out the same guys on many other rosters.
That’s not to say they are not important, but what’s more important is not swinging and missing. Most of the best lineups tonight are going to have 5-7 of the same guys with only a few differences. Maybe that difference is a mini stack of a low owned team. Maybe it’s that you faded the chalk clean up hitter who went 0-4 and played some of the guys lower in the lineup.
You don’t have to go off the wall and stack the worst team hoping this is the one day they go off and actually hit. If you look at your lineup and it’s a stack of the top 4-5 hitters in the Nationals, Blue Jays, or Rays lineups though, don’t be surprised if your stack goes off with 30-40% of other people also on it and you still don’t cash a GPP despite having the “NUTS” in terms of production.
Playing smaller slates is more about playing the game of ownership. No one is going to not play the guys in good spots. They are obvious. The key is fading the ones that don’t go off and mixing in some of the plays no one else wants to use. That’s what I’ll try to talk about here.
So let’s get the good plays out of the way first so you guys know where the chalk is.
1- Blue Jays – They are going to be super chalky. Not only are they projected for the most runs, but they have some cheaper bats mixed in that make them salary friendly to stack up. If your main lineup is five Bluejays from the top of the order, you will likely have 30-40% of the field with a very similar lineup build.
2- Nationals – They are pricier, which should keep the ownership down a bit, but they also have big names that people will try to use even outside of the stack. Guys like Turner, Rendon, and Soto are all near the top of the list at their positions and people will play them whenever salary allows, even as one-offs.They should be in the 15-20% range with some of those studs closer to 30%.
3- Rays – They do not get as much love individually as the Nationals do, but the stack as a whole will be highly owned. That makes some of these guys better options to use in a mini-stack. Use 2-3 of them with a stack of another team. It might be a way to differentiate from the crowd of stacks and people who just did not use any or only one of them. It gives you a piece, but also the upside of having another group of guys with those big bats that are not on their team.
4- Mets – So the rain may come before the start, but the real worry is that it’s supposed to really get bad around 8 PM, meaning a delay and/or postponement after the game does start. It kills the pitching for me, but also scares me with the bats. This cuts both ways as a postponement would destroy your chances, but if they play, you get a top-4 offense that may be very low owned on a tight slate where they should be chalk. It’s a high risk, high reward strategy, but it makes sense when trying to win a GPP on a small slate. Their chance of being one of the top scoring teams > Ownership, but the bigger risk to consider is the risk of the game playing. I’m not opposed to it if you don’t mind losing your buy-in and not having a chance to win if it goes south.
The Game Theory Plays
So one thing you can do to try to get a leg up on smaller slates is look for who the chalk pitching is likely to be. Most people will not roster a bat against their pitcher, meaning if the pitcher is chalky, the bats should go virtually unowned. I normally shy away from picking on the better pitchers on the slate, but, remember, we are trying to find things other people are not doing to win the big prize today.
Patrick Corbin v. Philadelphia – He’s the most talented pitcher on the slate and the biggest strikeout artist. He also is a big favorite here. The Phillies offense is not garbage. I know Corbin has been good, but he’s had a few bad games before, especially to RHBs. the Phillies have a guy in Rhys Hoskins who owns a 132 wRC+ with a .373 wOBA and a .241 ISO against lefties since 2016. Those are very good numbers and his ownership may be very low with many on Corbin.
Steven Matz v. Miami – Not only do we pick on the Marlins everyday with pitchers, but Matz would have likely been highly owned anyway given the two run projection his team has over their low projected opponent. Matz does have some K stuff, although not the most elite on the slate. He is a tad cheaper than many of these other options at $7600 on DK and could easily end up the top used SP2 and chalkiest pitcher overall. This lineup stinks and no one really scares me here. The younger guys are at least interesting because we don’t know how bad they stink yet, but none of the regulars inspire confidence. This is one I can’t really find anything to pick on Matz with, but if you take a shot with a Berti or Alfaro against him, you could get a 1% bomb if one of those righties connect.
Adam Wainwright – I still don’t think Wainwright deserves the respect he gets at this point of his career, but he is likely chalk. He’ll be super chalk if the Mets game cancels because he is close in price to Matz and is the easiest pivot to make if you have to. Wainwright struggles at this point with lefties, and if his ownership is high, the lefties won’t have much on Arizona. Ketel Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Jake Lamb all have some power and swing from the left side of the plate. One or all of them project to do well against Wainwright and could have depressed ownership if his is high.
Playing these guys mentioned against the pitcher or pitchers you aren’t using gives you good leverage. Even if you do go chalkier at our pitcher spots or with a stack, these could be the guys that differentiate you enough to take home a big GPP prize. Not only does a hit from them hurt the pitchers others used, but the low-owned hit gives you a boost others are not getting from the positive production.
I dislike using low-owned stacks because it typically means rostering crappy hitters. People swear this is the best strategy to win small slates, but I don’t always agree. There is merit in it, but I still think you want to concentrate more on taking the teams others overlook a bit.
Today’s Example: Baltimore Orioles
I know the Blue Jays are the favorite and have the big number, but the Orioles project for 4.4 runs too and the park is just as hitter friendly for them when they step into the box. Clay Buchholz just gave up seven runs on 10 hits in 3.2 innings against this same opponent last week. I know he is cheap, a big favorite, and someone people want to own, but he’s been knocked around the last couple starts. The Orioles will have a fraction of the ownership of the Blue Jays, but I wouldn’t be surprised if either puts up 5-10 runs today. Now the Orioles offense isn’t elite, and they don’t project highly today, but that doesn’t mean they suck. They may not have as big of a chance as the Blue Jays do to be the highest scoring team, but at lower ownership the risk v. reward may be better. If the chalky Blue Jays stack hits at 30-40% owned, and only 20% of the field wins, you can hit the nut stack and still not cash. If the 12% or less owned Orioles smash for a big run total tonight, you not only likely end up in the top 20%, but you now only have to beat 12% of the field for the top overall spot instead of 40%. The Marlins may be 1% owned today, but the chances a Marlins stack takes down the whole thing might be even less than 1%, so really the risk reward and likelihood of the outcome are both too small to consider them a good play.
Blake Snell is a beast when he’s healthy and right. He’s healthy and right but, unfortunately, he’s still only going to throw maybe 3-4 innings tops. It keeps me away from the Red Sox as he should dominate them when he’s on the field, but you can’t use him in fantasy tonight on this kind of pitch count.
How to Play it
I will likely be using the chalk pitchers on my 2-3 lineups in various combinations. The ones I don’t use in a particular lineup, I’lll be looking to grab some of the bats mentioned to play against them. That is how I plan to get my leverage and sprinkle those bats in with some of the stacks that make the most sense.
If the Mets game has a chance of delay or postponement, I will likely have a Mets stack in case it does play and I can get them low-owned.
As much as I agree they are the best play, I’m fading the Blue Jays because of projected high ownership. At least I’m fading the Blue Jays stack. I may still use a player here or there as a one off, but if the Blue Jays stack hits I’ll gladly let the 30-40% of the field on them play 1 v 1 and 2 v 2 for the top prize.
Last bit of advice about fading and trying to play low-owned guys is this: DON’T PLAY GUYS WHO SUCK. There is a major difference in being contrarian because a player is being overlooked at a certain price point (or is not part of one of the teams everyone is stacking) and being contrarian with guys who suck at baseball and don’t score fantasy points. I know the Marlins’ guys are all 1%, but if you look at the numbers, you see they deserve to be. Don’t play bats against pitchers that dominate one side of the plate. (No lefties v. Corbin or righties v. Wainwright). Putting together a good team of guys others are overlooking is not that hard if you follow the rules mentioned above. On big slates it’s about finding the right guys that make sense because the sheer size of the player pool keeps ownership depressed. On small slates like this, finding the low-owned guys who make sense should be your goal.