The NLCS gets underway on Monday with the Dodgers and Braves kicking off their best of seven series, while the Astros and Rays are on to Game 2 of the ALCS after the Rays opened up their series with a 2-1 victory in Game 1 on Sunday night. The Astros scored first but were shut out over the next eight frames and they’ll be looking to restart their offense with first pitch coming at 4:07 p.m. ET.
Lance McCullers Jr. ($7,300) - McCullers struggled in his only start so far in the 2020 playoffs, allowing four runs over four innings against the Oakland A’s in Game 1 of the ALDS. It was an erratic season overall for McCullers, who allowed 14 earned runs in his first three starts back in late July and early August, but he picked it up after that and finished with a solid overall campaign. McCullers missed the entire 2019 season due to injury and there was clearly some rust in his return, but on the whole, it appears as though he’s essentially regained his prior form.
In the context of today’s slate, the thing that sets him apart is a combination of his leash and also his matchup. Walker Buehler ($8,500) might be the most talented overall pitcher, but he hasn’t surpassed four innings in a start in over a month. Buehler and his counterpart Max Fried ($7,600) are facing the top two offenses in baseball (by regular-season wOBA) and McCullers draws a middle-of-the-pack Rays offense which was also weaker against righties in the regular season. The Astros also easily have the weakest bullpen of any of these four teams, which means that their starters will continue to be counted on to a larger extent than any of the other remaining teams.
It’s just a two-game slate today and for the rest of the week with only four teams remaining in the 2020 playoffs, so generating a unique lineup construction is inherently more difficult going forward than it’s been to this point. The most obvious choice for offense today, and the one that the largest share of the field will likely gravitate toward, is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers don't have an especially great matchup, but it’s a decent one in the context of the slate and they also are the best overall lineup with some of the best top-end hitters. The pitchers are fairly cheap across the board, which means that the higher-priced players won’t be too hard to afford, and they also seem to be priced down with Mookie Betts ($5,200) leading the way.
The theme for today is mainly that pricing isn’t very restrictive, which should result in the most expensive hitters (especially Dodgers) being the highest owned as well. In light of going fully contrarian and stacking against the more popular pitchers (which should be Buehler and McCullers) the most conceivable way to differentiate today is to use less salary and roster lower cost hitters that others likely won’t include in their lineups. Guys like Nick Markakis ($2,800), Joc Pederson ($2,800), Adam Duvall ($3,600) and Josh Reddick ($2,900), to name a few, should carry far less ownership than most of the higher-profile hitters that are priced in the $4-5K range. There are only so many conceivable combinations with just two games, but the cheaper end-of-the-order players might provide the biggest GPP edge on today’s slate.
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