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Handicapping Pitcher vs. Hitter Stats

Handicapping Batter vs. Pitcher Matchup Stats in Daily Fantasy Baseball

Pros and Cons of Using Matchup Data

Hitter vs. Pitcher matchup statistics can be a helpful tool when constructing your daily fantasy baseball lineup. For starters, it gives you an idea of how well a hitter has performed against the pitcher he is facing today. If the hitter has performed well in the past, it may not be a coincidence as certain hitters thrive on certain types of pitches, pitch locations, deliveries, etc. If they have not performed well, they may not be seeing the ball well out of the pitcher's hand, the pitcher may have found the hitter's weakness and is able to exploit it, etc. On the contrary, sample sizes of hitter vs. pitcher matchup data are usually fairly small and we must take this information with a grain of salt. Even better, we must look to further information to see if we can rely on the pitcher vs. hitter statistics of the past.

Collecting Data

Collecting data usually comes in the form of three separate steps: gathering the hitter vs. pitcher stats, gathering information about the hitter's strengths and weaknesses, and looking up the pitcher's "stuff" and tendencies.

Gathering Hitter vs. Pitcher Data

Any number of sites are good for gathering hitter vs. pitcher statistics and some daily fantasy web sites even offer this information for us. At Baseball Reference, you can search for a hitter and within his stats, there is an option to see how he has fared against all pitchers. After clicking that, find your slated starting pitcher and check out the numbers. Take note of how often the hitter has struck out, how many extra base hits he has gotten, and whether he is seeing the ball well with the walk total.

Gathering Pitcher Data

Next, we want to head over to Brooks Baseball to see what offerings the pitcher has and their tendencies, so we can see if the hitter fares well against this type of pitcher. Search for the pitcher at Brooks Baseball and click on their Player Card. On the main page, Brooks Baseball gives you a great idea of what the pitcher has to offer in a blurb. Take James Shields for instance. Right off the bat, we are told that Shields has a four seamer which induces a lot of fly balls and swings and misses, and the same with his cutter.

Next we can look up and see how Shields uses his pitches. In 2014, he threw hard stuff about 66% of the time, a change about 21% of the time, and a curve about 10% of the time. His 92 mph fastball rises 10 inches vertically which causes the fly outs. Righties fared well against the hard stuff and lefties fared well against the curve and the change. When you click on the Zone Profile you notice Shields throws his pitches equally on the inside, middle, and outside of the plate and typically from the waist down, but has a tendency to get a lot of the plate. He gets his swings and misses on balls down and out of the zone.

Gathering Hitter Data

With an overview of this kind of data, we know what to look for in a hitter, a hitter who can lay off stuff down and outside of the zone, and take advantage of both sides of the plate where pitches may be thrown. We also want to see a hitter who hits fastballs well and a hitter who does not miss pitches in the lower half of the zone, outside, middle, and inside.

Let's assume Robinson Cano is the hitter facing Shields. Over his career, Cano has mashed fastballs (a pitch Shields throws 2/3 of the time). In 2014, he hit .372 against four seamers. Cano also simply does not miss on pitches inside the zone, which Shields is prone to do. However, Cano does have a tendency to swing at balls below the zone and he whiffs on a lot of those pitches.

So, based on this pitcher and batter information, without cheating, can you guess how Cano has fared against Shields? He has actually pretty much owned Shields to a tune of a .405 average and 15 extra base hits in 84 at bats. He also, as we may have predicted, has not walked a lot and his K:BB ratio of 3:1 is not that great due to those low breaking balls and changeups that Shields throws and Cano's propensity to swing at them.


So, we can say that hitter vs. pitcher matchup stats are useful, but their small sample size leads us to more analysis. Upon further analysis, we can validate whether those matchup stats are indicative of what is really going on. It's a lot of work, but that's how you win consistently at daily fantasy baseball. Seeing the same names on the leaderboards at your favorite DFBB site is no coincidence. Those guys are doing their homework and if you're not handicapping pitcher vs. hitter stats, you're paying for their dinner!

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