This article is part of our DFS MLB series.
Monkey Knife Fight is a prop- and parlay-based daily fantasy sports site that offers participants a unique way of "sweating" their favorite sporting events. Unlike conventional DFS sites, there is no salary cap to be concerned with and no other participants to compete against. Monkey Knife Fight contestants do not select a lineup of players, as is typically the case in traditional DFS contests.
Rather, each Monkey Knife Fight contest is based on real-world athletes from a given slate of games exceeding certain, predetermined statistical benchmarks. In certain contests, the athlete's performance in a category must exceed that of another pre-selected athlete in that same game. In others, the athlete is simply competing against a predetermined figure in a certain category (i.e., a specific number of points in an NBA game, a specific number of touchdowns in an NFL game, etc.).
As such, the success of each Monkey Knife Fight contest participant is fully dependent on the accuracy of their predictions, as opposed to their performance against other fellow players. Monkey Knife Fight offers a wide variety of contests for each of the sports it covers (currently NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Soccer, and Golf). Among the most popular are Over/Under and Rapid Fire, which we will cover regularly in this column.
In Over/Under contests, participants win when they correctly predict if a certain number of pre-selected athletes will surpass a specified statistical milestone in that day's game. In Rapid Fire, participants attempt to predict the winner of site-determined head-to-head matchups between athletes in a certain statistical category for that day's game. In Rapid Fire contests, certain athletes that are considered the "underdog" in the statistical matchup may be afforded an extra built-in value boost. That is denoted by a "+" symbol and the specific additional amount – both displayed in green – that the athlete will be awarded above the total they actually accrue in that category during their game.
One additional aspect of contest logistics that's particular to Monkey Knife Fight is payout structure. For each contest, participants select from a wide variety of buy-in amounts, which are revealed once they make their athlete selections for that particular contest. If a participant wins their contest, their payout is based on that buy-in amount and the preset multiplier the contest featured. The latter figure varies depending on the contest difficulty. For example, a Rapid Fire contest requiring only two correct predictions carries a 2.36x multiplier on the buy-in, while one requiring five correct predictions features a 17x multiplier.
MLB Friday, August 16- Over/Under and Rapid Fire Predictions
Over/Under (Goal: Pick two of two correctly to cash 2.53x your buy-in)
Star Shootout- Late Games
Justin Verlander, HOU (at OAK)– Over/Under 8.5 strikeouts
The Pick: Over
Verlander has consistently frustrated current Athletics hitters over his career, including this season. The right-hander already has 19 strikeouts over 14 innings across two starts versus the A's in 2019, along with a .122 BAA and 0.64 ERA. For his career, Verlander has limited current Oakland hitters to a collective .225 average and .281 on-base percentage, and a substantial amount of the outs he's recorded have come on strikeouts. Verlander boasts 44 whiffs over the 151 plate appearances A's bats have logged against him. The likes of Marcus Semien (eight Ks in 25 at-bats), Robbie Grossman (five Ks in 16 at-bats) and the hot-hitting Matt Chapman (four Ks in 12 at-bats) have especially had trouble making contact versus Verlander.
And, of course, there's the absolute tear Verlander has been on recently. The 36-year-old's arm certainly packs more life in it than one might expect at this late stage of the season, as he's now recorded double-digit strikeouts in five consecutive starts. The Athletics also have a 24.6 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers since the All-Star break, and Verlander sports an 11.8 K/9 across 89.2 road frames on the campaign.
Given all the factors cited, I'm firmly in the camp of the Over on this prop Friday.
Noah Syndergaard, NYM (at KC)- Over/Under 6.5 strikeouts
The Pick: Under
Syndergaard certainly has enough strikeout upside, but Friday's matchup may not necessarily be the most conducive for one of his better games in that regard. The right-hander faces a Royals squad that's striking out at only an 18.8 percent clip versus right-handed pitching during the second half of the season. Syndergaard does have a solid 8.9 K/9 on the road, but he's been on a bit of a strikeout slump of late. He's compiled just eight whiffs over his last two starts combined, and he's failed to hit the six-strikeout threshold in five of his last nine trips to the mound overall.
Current Kansas City bats haven't been bad in their relatively limited exposure to Syndergaard, either. Royals hitters have a collective .269 average and .423 slugging percentage against him, along with a relatively modest six strikeouts in 26 plate appearances. Finally, it's also worth noting Syndergaard has tallied six strikeouts or fewer in six of 11 road turns this season, leading me further in the direction of the Under.
Rapid Fire (Pick two of two correctly to cash 2.15x your buy-in)
The Pick: Giolito
Sandoval has a solid 12 strikeouts over his first 9.2 major-league innings, and he's demonstrated elite swing-and-miss ability throughout his time in the minors. Sandoval generated double-digit K/9 metrics in six stops down on the farm and now faces a White Sox squad that's struck out at a 22.2 percent rate versus southpaws since the All-Star break (and 23.9 percent for the season). The one question about Sandoval is how long he might remain in the game. He's fired 96 and 95 pitches, respectively, in his first pair of starts, with his career-long control issues surfacing in the form of six walks over that span.
For his part, Giolito is enjoying a career season that includes an 11.3 K/9. The right-hander hasn't faced the Angels yet this season but has been a better pitcher on the road in many ways. Giolito owns a 2.90 ERA and 11.1 K/9 (30.5 percent strikeout rate) across 71.1 away frames, and he's averaging nearly seven innings per road start, giving him plenty of opportunity to rack up strikeouts. In fact, he's done just that, recording at least eight whiffs in eight of 11 road outings. The Angels have also been susceptible to striking out against right-handers recently, as evidenced by their 23.1 percent whiff rate in the second half.
Given Giolito's much more proven track record and the chance he remains in the game longer than Sandoval, I'm going with Chicago's ace in this matchup.
The Pick: Abreu
Abreu has been an absolute terror versus left-handed pitching this season, posting a .352 average, 18 extra-base hits (10 doubles, eight home runs), .394 OBP and a .416 wOBA that actually bumps up to .440 when he faces southpaws on the road. The slugger is also in the midst of his best month of the season, as he's hitting .377 while posting a .443 wOBA, .279 ISO, 27.5 percent line-drive rate and 41.2 percent hard-contact rate over his first 69 plate appearances of August. Angel rookie lefty Patrick Sandoval has been effective versus right-handed hitters over a small sample in his first two big-league starts, but he was allowing a .335 average and 6.58 ERA to righty bats at Triple-A Salt Lake before his promotion.
Trout has walked in both of his career plate appearances versus Giolito, and the star slugger carries a .308 average against right-handed pitching this season. Trout has slugged 32 of his 40 homers against right-handed pitching, and he boasts a jaw-dropping .449 wOBA and .358 ISO against righties at Angel Stadium. However, Giolito has been especially effective versus righty bats on the road, generating a .291 wOBA, .214 BAA and a 12.4 K/9 over a 163-batter sample.
The bullpens are the tie-breaker for me in this matchup of two highly potent bats. Neither pen has been in very good form thus far in August, but Angels relievers have especially struggled. They've allowed a 6.30 ERA, a .363 wOBA and 34 extra-base hits (16 doubles, two triples and 16 home runs) to the 267 batters they've faced during the month. And, the 60.0 innings they've already logged ranks as the fourth most in the majors over that span.
Given the factors cited, as well as Sandoval's control issues, I'm taking Abreu, even with Trout's built-in advantage.