It’s ALCS time! Although many thought (hoped?) we’d see Oakland or the Yankees (or both) advance past the ALDS, the baseball gods have spoken. Instead we get a matchup between the lovable bunch of trashcan aficionados from H-Town and the upstart Rays from Tampa Bay.
The first question we need to answer is whether to use one, both or neither of the starting pitchers. Both teams are rolling out southpaws this evening: Blake Snell for the Rays and Framber Valdez for Houston.
Valdez has been excellent for Houston. He’s averaging just shy of 10 Ks per 9 IP, has a 60% GB rate and is giving up only 0.64 HR/9. Further, although he carries a respectable 3.57 ERA, his FIP is nearly a run less at 2.85. Valdez is rested, and although Tampa has a couple of lefty mashers, Valdez is in play.
Snell’s strikeout numbers are better, as he’s good for 11.34 Ks/9, but he is susceptible to the long ball to the tune of 1.80 HR/9. As you would expect, righties barrel the ball up at a significantly better clip than their left-handed counterparts (24% LD and 36% HC rates to RHH). As a team, the Astros are in the bottom half of the league in the relevant offensive statistical categories versus lefties. Based on all of that, Snell in squarely in play.
That begs the question: Would I play both? Maybe in MME I’d have 30% of lineups with both, but I have a clear preference for Snell based on his K rate and the matchup. It’s the playoffs so neither will have a long enough leash to justify their combined cost.
As for hitters, I’d try to stick with guys who (a) hit lefties well and (b) have some pop. On the Tampa side of things, Brandon Lowe is a great under-the-radar play in a L/L matchup, as he carries a tremendous.420 ISO vs LHP.
Outside of Lowe, Arozarena (1.478 OPS, .600 ISO), Brosseau (1.121 OPS, .405 ISO), Adames (.992 OPS, .277 ISO), Renfroe (.366 ISO) and Zunino (career numbers are strong vs LHP) are all great options.
On the Houston side of things, the options as far as sticks are concerned are pretty cut and dry. I’d play Springer (.277 ISO), Bregman (.985 OPS, .255 ISO), Gurriel (.274 ISO), Maldonado (.869 OPS, .187 ISO), and evening Reddick is usable if you need to save some salary.
Overall, here’s how I’d approach things: in the CAPTIN spot, I’d play Snell, B. Lowe, Arozarena or Bregman. Then I’d try to squeeze in as many of the others in that bunch as I could fit. You can probably get Gurriel, Zunino and Reddick relatively cheaply if you need the space.
Also, don’t sleep on using a reliever from either side that has a high K rate. They’re always min priced and help you fit the bats you need (Curtiss and Fairbanks from Tampa Bay, and Taylor and James from Houston, for example).