Day six of baseball season! So far, we’ve had a mixed bag of results. A lot of things that have happened that we expected (the early dominance of the game’s top pitchers, the Astros bats starting hot, Bryce Harper hitting the ball as hard as anybody on the planet), but we’ve seen some surprises early on as well (the Cubs getting blanked in Great American Ballpark, the Marlins putting runs on the board). Baseball is as unpredictable a sport as they come on a day-to-day basis, which can be frustrating for DFS players, because things just won’t always go like you think they will. However, if you stay patient, keep sample size in mind, and stick to a good strategy, things will be looking good for you over the long haul.
It’s Tuesday, so that means I’m talking pitching with you guys. I will be focusing on the nine game night slate here. Let’s go!
Stud to Pay For: Clayton Kershaw ($12.2 on DK, $11.5 on FD)
If you’re paying up for a stud today, there are only two real options – Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Kershaw faces the Diamondbacks in Chase Field, and Verlander draws the Orioles at home. The price difference is $600 on Draftkings and $1200 on Fanduel. Being a cash-game minded player, I’m going to lean towards Kershaw on most days. Kershaw probably has the highest floor in the game, and the humidor is in play here which takes away a bit of the fear that a matchup in Chase Field usually brings. Looking at stats from 2017 and 2018 (so last year plus one start this year), Kershaw has a 29.6% strikeout rate (the highest on the slate), a tiny 4.5% walk rate, a 2.84 xFIP, and the lowest xwOBA on the slate as well at .261. Kershaw has given up some home runs recently (1.19 per nine), but the Diamondbacks projected lineup has a collective ISO of just .164, the fifth lowest on the slate. They strike out at a 19.5% rate, which is a middling number, but Kershaw can strike anybody out.
The big savings on Fanduel might be useful if you want to go Verlander, who has a great strikeout matchup of his own (the Orioles projected lineup has the highest collective strikeout rate on the board at 23.9% against righties), but I see Kershaw outscoring Verlander more times than not on this slate, so I’ll try to afford him.
Save a Little: Zach Godley ($9.0 on DK, $7.5 on FD)
Godley was a surprisingly excellent pitcher in 2017, posting a 26.3% strikeout rate, a 3.37 ERA, a 3.32 xFIP, a 1.14 WHIP, and a .294 xwOBA. It took me a long time to become a believer last year, but looking back at his season as a whole, the numbers show that he is legit. He has the second highest strikeout rate on the board, sandwiched between Kershaw and Verlander. The matchup with the Dodgers is a bit daunting, but he was just fine against them last year in three starts (18.1 IP, 17 H, 3 BB, 16 K), and of course… humidor (again, we won’t really be able to see the humidor’s effect until later in the season when we have a big enough sample of data to make responsible conclusions, but it’s still something to at least consider for now). Godley is a bit more expensive than what I like on Draftkings, but he’ll really help you get the hitters you want on Fanduel.
Save a Lot: Garrett Richards ($6.5 on DK, $7.7 on FD)
This is more of a Draftkings play, because paying more for Richards than Godley on FD doesn’t seem like a great thing to do. Richards final line was not good in his first start of the year giving up four runs, seven hits, and three walks over five innings in Oakland, but all the damage came by the longball, and he has a long history of being really good at limiting homers. I think that first start was an outlier, and I still think Richards is going to be a very good pitcher this year. The matchup with the Indians isn’t great, but it’s helped a bit by the fact that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are off to really bad starts to the year. Richards price is just too low on Draftkings, and he makes a really nice ceiling play in tandem with one of the studs.
There are a couple talented, high variance arms on the slate. I won’t be using these guys in cash games, but they are worth considering for tourneys. The first, and cheapest, is Tyson Ross. Looks like he’s not playable on Fanduel right now, but that could change as the day goes on. Ross had a miserable 2017 season, compiling a 7.71 ERA and a 6.28 xFIP in 49 innings. He has had a whole mess of trouble staying healthy, but does have a career 22% strikeout rate. The Rockies are a bit of a scary offense to face, but they are much less scary in Petco Park. Personally, I’ll take a wait-and-see approach to Ross, but if he can get back to his 2015-2016 self, he could absolutely crush his $5.6K price tag on DK.
Secondly, I have definite interest in Jack Flaherty this year. The 22 year old Cardinal rookie has only thrown 21.1 innings in the big leagues, but has a big time arm. He has a career 21.3% strikeout rate through four years in the minors, and has a slider that could be one of the best pitches in the league. He’s $6K on both sites and faces the Brewers who have the fifth highest collective strikeout rate on the board.
Not So Fast:
Cole Hamels was really good in his first start against the Astros, striking out seven over 5.2 innings. That may have a lot of people jumping on him in a much more attractive matchup with the Athletics, but I won’t be one of them. From 2017 until now, Hamels has just a 17.6 strikeout rate, and an ugly 8.9% walk rate. He has also given up 1.2 home runs per nine, and there is a lot of power in this A’s lineup. The price is pretty fair on Fanduel at $6.8K, but the $8.5K tag on Draftkings is way too high in my opinion.
This seems like a good slate to play a bunch of different tournament lineups. To me, there is no clear SP2 to use with Kershaw, and there are a few low priced pitchers that could really smash their prices but come with a lot of risk. For DK cash games, pairing Kershaw and Richards give you $3900 per hitter, so doing that a long with a couple hitter punts puts you in good position to get the hitters you want and have the top pitcher on the board – that will probably be the route I go in cash games. Should be a fun slate, good luck everyone!