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 certain 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 Thursday, August 1- Over/Under and Rapid Fire Predictions
Over/Under (Goal: Pick two of two correctly to cash 2.54x your buy-in)
Star Shootout - Main Games
Gerrit Cole, HOU (vs. CLE)– Over/Under 8.5 strikeouts
The Pick: Over
This is a particularly interesting prop for Cole, as there are metrics that are both for and against him exceeding the 8.5-strikeout threshold. The Indians have a 19.5 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching over the last month, but that number creeps up to 21.4 percent when the home split is considered. Cole has been a more effective strikeout pitcher on the road, and he's given current Indians hitters fits in previous meetings.
Cole has an elite 13.4 K/9 across 66.1 road frames. He's also compiled 17 whiffs over a 58 at-bat sample against current Cleveland bats. Prior to a seven-strikeout effort versus the Cardinals in his last start, Cole had racked up between nine and 13 punchouts in five consecutive outings, with two of those coming on the road. Cole has totaled at least nine K's in 15 of 23 starts this season, and he's now gone at least six innings in 12 straight starts. That typically gives him more than enough time to miss plenty of bats.
With more in favor of Cole than against him in terms of exceeding the 8.5-strikeout benchmark, I'm going with the Over.
Jack Flaherty, STL Over/Under 7.5 strikeouts
The Pick: Over
Flaherty has faced the Cubs on three occasions this season. The most recent matchup was a 3.2-inning blowup in which he allowed four earned runs on five hits and failed to record a strikeout. However, given that he'd rung up 17 whiffs across 10.2 frames in his two other turns against Chicago, he's still averaging more than a strikeout per inning against the Cubs this season. The Cubs come into Thursday's game with a 24.7 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching on the road over the last month.
Flaherty has at least eight strikeouts in eight of his 21 starts. Two of those outings came against Chicago, and of those eight occasions, five of them have come over his past 10 starts. Flaherty owns a 10.4 K/9 over 64.2 home frames and has whiffed Chicago batters a whopping 39 times over 101 at-bats. He's repeatedly neutralized some of the Cubs most potent pieces – Javier Baez (six strikeouts in nine at-bats), Kris Bryant (five strikeouts in 12 at-bats) and Willson Contreras (five strikeouts in 11 at-bats).
Despite the Cubs having plenty of firepower in their lineup, I'm giving Flaherty the nod to get over that 7.5-strikeout threshold.
Rapid Fire (Pick two of two correctly to cash 2.27x your buy-in)
The Pick: Kershaw
Two pitchers that know the opposition well take the hill at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night. Clayton Kershaw owns an impressive 26.3 percent strikeout rate over a 156 plate-appearance sample against current Padres hitters. In turn, Joey Lucchesi has a more modest 21.0 percent figure over the 100 career plate appearances against current Dodgers hitters.
Kershaw continues to own a clear advantage when taking the head-to-head comparison further. The Dodgers' left-hander has at least eight strikeouts on six occasions this season. Meanwhile Lucchesi has five strikeouts or fewer in 12 of his 20 starts, including four or fewer in eight of those. That includes the two times he's faced the Dodgers this season, when he's managed a combined six K's over 11.1 frames. It's also worth noting Los Angeles has a modest 19.0 percent strikeout rate at home against left-handers over the last two months of play.
Even with Lucchesi's sizable, built-in 2.5-strikeout advantage, I give Kershaw the edge.
Runs + RBI
The Pick: Turner
Neither hitter has a favorable history against the opposing starting pitcher Thursday. Renfroe has a .105/.227/.105 line across 22 career plate appearances versus Clayton Kershaw, while Turner carries a .182 average in 12 career encounters against Joey Lucchesi. In terms of the split for each against southpaws, it's Renfroe with the advantage. He boasts a .260 average and .391 wOBA over 86 plate appearances against lefties. Turner has a .261 average and .356 wOBA versus southpaws, but those figures sink all the way to .192 and .288, respectively, when facing lefties at Dodger Stadium.
A deeper look doesn't paint as bleak a picture for Turner. He's been victimized by a .206 BABIP when facing southpaws at home. That figure is completely out of whack when considering his 24.3 percent line-drive rate and eye-popping 70.3 percent hard-contact rate against southpaws at Dodger Stadium. Additionally, Lucchesi allows a .287 average and .345 wOBA to right-handed hitters on the road, along with a 5.19 xFIP. Turner certainly has a more potent lineup around him that should offer him more opportunities for runs and/or RBI.
The bullpens for each team also factor into the decision. Padres relievers have allowed a .290 average and .341 wOBA to right-handed hitters over the last month. They've also pitched the fifth-most innings (105.2) over that stretch. In comparison, the Dodgers bullpen has allowed just a .231 average and .295 wOBA to righty bats over the same sample while only logging 86.2 frames in that span.
Given all the factors cited, I give Turner the edge in this head-to-head matchup.