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MLB DFS: Who to target against Knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey

One of the highest O/U games today is Cleveland @ Toronto, with an O/U of 9, meaning each team is expected to score about 4.5 runs. Normally, the analysis of hitters revolves around expected points per dollar and righty vs lefty splits. But with knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey on the hill, it’s useful to research who has actually performed well against knuckle balls, since they are so much different than any other pitch.

I used fangraphs.com to get my data on performance against knuckle balls. The best set of data is the PITCHf/x Pitch Values/100, which is the runs above average a player has vs a pitch per 100 pitches. Using less jargon, it simply is average performance of a player against a pitch, which for our purposes is the knuckle ball.

I looked at players on the Indians who are likely to play today, but be sure to look at lineups to see exactly who is playing. Positive numbers indicate a player is above average, negative numbers indicate a player is below average.

Swisher-0.68
Santana-2.42
Bourn-0.03
Brantley1.07
Murphy-0.77
Cabrera2.36
Gomes-0.47
Morgan-0.9
Aviles0.87

Asdrubal Cabrera ostensibly has the best numbers, with a huge 2.36 runs above average per 100 pitches against the knuckle ball. But the sample is small, with under 100 pitches seen. Still, I think we can trust that Cabrera’s numbers based on his general pitch performance makeup. Cabrera is bad against fastballs, but performs best against off-speed pitches like sliders and changeups. He also has performed extremely well against Knuckle-Curves, which is similar to the Knuckle-ball.

Aviles is definitely good against Knuckle balls, but the sample size is even smaller, and his general makeup doesn’t show as clear of a picture of someone who is better against off-speed pitches.

On the other hand, Brantley does show that makeup. Brantley is awful against fastballs but does extremely well against sliders, curves, and changeups, just like we saw with Cabrera.

Swisher appears to be the only player on the team who has faced more than 100 knuckle-balls. He performs best against fastballs as well, which along with the sample shows pretty clearly he is not a fan of the knuckle ball. Santana has a smaller sample but shows a similar makeup.

Conclusions

Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley show pretty clear signs of being good knuckle ball hitters, while Swisher and Santana show pretty clear signs of being poor knuckle ball hitters. If we see Cabrera or Brantley at the top of the order, they are going to be extremely good plays today.

View all posts by Daniel Steinberg
Daniel Steinberg

About the Author

Daniel Steinberg Daniel Steinberg is a former bond trader at a multi-billion dollar proprietary trading firm in Chicago. He uses his knowledge of statistics and his creativity from his career as a poker professional to create the most advanced Daily Fantasy statistical analysis that you will find anywhere. Follow him on twitter @DanielSingerS

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