It won’t be a surprise to you if I tell you that pitching is absolutely essential to a strong DFS roster. Nailing your pitching slots – whether it’s two like on a site like DraftKings or one like on FanDuel – is paramount simply because of the number of points they can accumulate in any given game. Pitching paired with the right stack is DFS gold. But I can’t tell you how many times I see casual DFS players fall prey to this mistake:
Playing the most expensive pitchers and thinking they are the best.
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Many times that may be the case. You’re not getting any discounts on Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zach Wheeler, or Corbin Burnes (especially after that last start – I can’t imagine what his salary will be on his next turn). But being the most expensive can be deceiving. Jack Flaherty, for example, is $10,000 on Friday over on FanDuel. He is coming off a 2.5-month oblique injury and starts on the road against Kansas City. Give me Cole Irvin at $8,800 against the putrid Rangers offense instead, and I will wait and see how long the Flaherty leash is.
We all tend to overestimate our ability to predict the right outcomes. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. A simple heuristic our minds have developed is expensive = quality. That may be the case in cars and handbags, but don’t always fall into the trap in DFS.
A simple exercise. Tell me the 10 major league pitchers with the highest WAR in the second half this season. Before looking, I bet you guess three of them right: (1) Walker Buehler, (2) Corbin Burnes, and (6) Zach Wheeler. I bet you didn’t guess
(3) Adam Wainwright
(4) Hyun-Jin Ryu
(5) Frankie Montas
(7) Dylan Cease
(8) Jameson Taillon
(9) Cal Quantrill
(10) Kyle Freeland
None of these pitchers’ current salaries are as high as Flaherty on Friday. These are guys who could very easily have the right combination of salary and matchup in the last six weeks of the season. As starter innings get tighter in the last stretch of the season, so should our research and assumptions. Good luck out there this weekend!
DFS THIS WEEK
This biweekly MLB DFS piece will look ahead to upcoming series with an eye towards which bats to Stack (rostering multiple players from the same lineup, a key to DFS success) and which bats to Fade (recommended spots to avoid, based on the data). I will also look at pitchers with Potential (high-upside hurlers who might save you a little salary) and arms to Avoid (perhaps pitchers who look promising on the surface but have difficult waters to navigate in the games ahead).
Pitching is at a premium with starters seemingly dropping like flies. But we always have strong offensive spots. Where do we stack? Where do we fade? Use your data-mining skills to find the right matchups at an acceptable price. Let’s look at what might be signal and what might be noise as we try to differentiate our rosters this weekend.
MLB DFS Look Ahead: Stacks and Fades for August 13-15
Bats to Stack
Oakland Athletics (@ TEX) – But then again, sometimes the obvious stacks are the right plays. Fresh off shellacking the Indians for 27 runs the past three days, the Athletics get to take on an even worse pitching staff against the Texas Rangers.
There are so many numbers I could throw at you that would make you choke on your Captain Crunch, but let me just start with the most jarring:
- Ranger pitchers average 5.92 K/9 in the second half. Only one of the 78 MLB starting pitchers with more than 100 innings has a lower rate.
- Ranger pitchers average 3.97 BB/9 in the second half. Only four of 78 starting pitchers average more.
- Ranger pitchers average 2.27 HR/9 in the second half. Only one of 78 starting pitchers averages more (Mike Foltynewicz who, of course, plays for the Rangers).
Forget what I said in the intro. Whatever the Oakland stack costs this weekend, pay up for it.
Bats to Fade
San Francisco Giants (vs. COL) – While this recommendation is sure to end up on the Mt. Rushmore of “WTF were you thinking?” takes, I do actually think the Rockies pitchers could have some success at AT&T Park this weekend. I’m just glad I’m writing this late Thursday as I would have felt even more convicted about it before German Marquez got rocked by the Giants.
But the Rockies – as shown with Kyle Freeland in the intro – have put together some very serviceable starting pitching numbers in the second half. The Rockies’ starters have posted the sixth-highest WAR in the majors in the second half, more than the Dodgers, White Sox, and Braves, to name a few.
They have the sixth-lowest SIERA, the sixth-highest K-BB%, and the 11th-highest swinging-strike rate in the majors since the All-Star Break. The move from Coors to AT&T Park is an obvious upgrade as the Giants’ home park suppresses home runs at 24% below league average the last three seasons, the largest gap of any park.
I’m not sure if I can bring myself to a full, three-day fade of the Giants, so rest assured this section will be redacted by Sunday depending on how big a fool I have made of myself by then.
Pitchers with Potential
Toronto Blue Jays (@ SEA) – Anytime I pull up a list of future probable pitchers and see that a team is going to face three straight lefties – as the Mariners will this weekend – I go to my favorite splits tool and start digging into how they perform.
Spoiler alert for Seattle: It’s not good.
The Mariners rank 29th in OBP, 24th in SLG, 27th in OPS, and third in K% against left-handed pitchers this season. And that’s against all left-handed pitchers. But Seattle will face Robbie Ray and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the first two contests this weekend, both top-25 in WAR during the second half this season. You’re going to have to pay up for them, however: Ray is $10,700 on FanDuel and $9,200 on DraftKings Friday.
You’ve read already how bad the Rangers’ pitching staff is this season. So it doesn’t give me any more encouragement that the Mariners just managed to score nine runs in three games in their series against Texas this week. This is an offense trending in the wrong direction right now, and I will be fading this weekend.
Arms to Avoid
New York Mets (vs. LAD) – Take all those numbers for the Mariners against lefties, move them to the opposite end of the spectrum, and you will be close to looking at how the Dodgers perform against right-handers.
The Dodgers have the highest OBP against righties, seventh-highest SLG, fifth-highest OPS, and eighth-lowest K%. I mention this because the Dodgers face three very average righties in their series this weekend with the Mets and I plan to fade each of these pitchers.
Taijuan Walker has given up 25 runs in his past five starts, Carlos Carrasco has a 6.75 ERA in his three starts since being activated this year and doesn’t look right, and even sparkling rookie Tylor Megill is struggling against left-handed batters. In his time in the majors, Megill has allowed a .284/.346/.527 slash line to that side of the plate.
Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger must be licking their chops at the chance to face this staff this weekend. Also don’t forget about cheap pieces like Matt Beaty ($2,100 on FD) as part of a stack if they crack the lineup over the next three days.
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