Data in baseball runs deeper and is more comprehensive than any other sport. These are the seven stats I find most relevant to Thursday’s DFS slate. 

 

1. Tyler Anderson has a 4.89 xFIP since the start of last year

Tyler Anderson is pitching at home at Dodger Stadium, but the Phillies aren’t a good matchup for Alexander. He’s allowed a .200 ISO to right-handed batters since the beginning of last year and the Phillies lineup has a good amount of right-handed power in it. Nick Castellanos ($4,400 on DraftKings) is one of the best plays on this slate, he has a .299 ISO against left-handed pitching since the start of last season. Rhys Hoskins has a .273 ISO and Jean Segura has a .189 ISO in the same split. Alec Bohm ($3,500 on DraftKings) has a .226 ISO against left-handed pitching this year. The Phillies are my top stack on this slate. 

2. Zack Wheeler hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts (13.2 innings)

The Los Angeles Dodgers just lost two out of three to the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Zack Wheeler is coming off the COVID-IL to make this start and he might be catching the Dodgers at the right time. Wheeler got off to kind of a slow start after dealing with shoulder soreness this spring, but he’s been pretty close to his old self over his last two starts. Wheeler is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, gets a park upgrade here, and is just $8,000 on DraftKings. He’ll be one of if not the most popular pitcher on this slate with good reason.

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3. Taylor Hearn has a 4.81 xFIP since the start of last year

The Kansas City Royals are dead last in all of baseball in runs scored so far this season, but there could be some hope for them here. The Royals scored eight runs Wednesday and they’ll face Taylor Hearn, who has a 22% K% and 9% BB% since the start of last year. That’s too many walks and the Royals make too much contact for a guy like Hearn to rely on strikeouts here (Kansas City hitters have struck out the least amount in all of baseball so far this year). Salvador Perez has an especially good matchup against Hearn as he has a .308 ISO against left-handed pitching since the beginning of last year. 

4. Jonathan Heasley had a 5.90 xFIP in three MLB starts last year

It’s a small sample at the major-league level for Jonathan Heasley, but he still wasn’t particularly impressive. Overall Heasley had a 10% K% and 5% BB% while allowing ISOs of at least .250 to both right-handed and left-handed hitters. Still, he seemed to struggle even more against right-handed batters as he had just a 3% K% against them. This should be a good matchup for right-handed hitters Adolis García and Marcus Semien, who both have ISOs above .200 against right-handed pitching since the start of last year. 

 

5. Dylan Cease has a 34% K% this year (third in all of baseball)

Dylan Cease is also one of the best pitchers in baseball. Compared to Wheeler on this slate, though, he’s a lot more expensive at $10,000 on DraftKings. They both have difficult matchups against the Dodgers and New York Yankees, but at least Cease is pitching at home here. Cease has a 3.75 ERA in his career when pitching at home compared to 4.61 on the road. Those splits have carried over into this year as Cease has a 1.45 ERA at home compared to 3.52 on the road. The Yankees have the best record in baseball, but they’ve been mostly beating subpar teams at home. Cease should have the advantage here at home and is the top pitcher on this slate. 

6. Luis Gil had a 3.07 ERA in six starts with the Yankees last year

Luis Gil allowed zero earned runs in his first three starts with the Yankees last August over 15.2 innings. He wasn’t so great in his last three starts, though, as he failed to complete five innings in two of them and allowed five earned runs in the other one. In all, last year he had a 5.22 xFIP, 29% K%, 14% BB%, and 53% fly ball percentage. The strikeouts are good, but that’s pretty much it. Way too many walks and fly balls allowed by Gil to use him on this slate. It’s also not a good matchup with the Chicago White Sox on the road as Chicago has a lineup loaded with right-handed power and Gil allowed a .149 ISO to right-handed hitters last year compared to just .071 against left-handed hitters. Stack the White Sox.

(More: Check out Jake Kucheck's look at the Thursday starting pitching slate in The Opener.)

7. The New York Yankees are third in all of baseball in home runs with 40 this year

While Cease is the top pitcher on this slate, the Yankees offense shouldn’t be overlooked on a slate this small, especially when playing multiple lineups. A mix and match approach where you use Cease in one lineup and stack the Yankees in another lineup makes total sense to me here. The Yankees have hammered the baseball this year, especially lately as Aaron Judge continues to make a bid for the MVP award. Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo each have ISOs above .220 since the start of last year. Only Judge and Rizzo are above $5,000 on DraftKings. Stanton ($4,800) and Gallo ($3,200) are very affordable and will be contrarian plays on this slate.