CheeseIsGood's Million Dollar Musings - MLB DFS Strategy: Thursday, September 29th

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Happy Thursday! We’ve got a strange day with games and slates all over the place. Both sites have a 4-game early slate at 1:10pm ET, and then we have a 5-game FD slate at 7:40 and a 4-game DK slate past bedtime at 9:38pm. 9:38pm? Okey dokey. I will talk briefly through the 4-game early slate and then I’ll be back in a bit with some thoughts on the later games.

Early Slate Pitching

Lucas Giolito at Twins – 25.7% K, 8.6% BB, 5.05 ERA, 3.74 SIERA
Eduardo Rodriguez vs Royals – 18.4% K, 8.6% BB, 4.37 ERA, 4.59 SIERA
Ranger Suarez at Cubs – 19.7% K, 8.9% BB, 3.38 ERA, 4.08 SIERA
Louie Varland vs White Sox – 19.1% K, 5.9% BB, 5.06 ERA, 4.34 SIERA
Jonathan Heasley at Tigers – 15.6% K, 10.6% BB, 4.87 ERA, 5.29 SIERA
Nathan Eovaldi vs Orioles – 22.7% K, 4.3% BB, 4.15 ERA, 3.48 SIERA

The first easy cut is Nathan Eovaldi, coming off the IL and likely only throwing 3-4 innings.

From there, my main takeaway is that salary doesn’t matter and nobody here is good enough to warrant being chalk. My guess is that the trio of Giolito, Rodriguez and Suarez pick up the majority of the ownership. The one guy among this group was has strikeout upside is Lucas Giolito, but we’ve seen enough to know that it cannot be counted on. However, he is ‘good enough’ compared to these others that unless he is the mega-chalk, he’ll be my SP1. Eduardo Rodriguez has been completely respectable with three quality starts in his last four games, and just a 4.9% walk rate over the past month. The matchup is very similar to Giolito, and while I prefer Giolito, both are equally fine-ish. Ranger Suarez has the best matchup of the three, plus more good pitching weather in Wrigley and some added safety from his ground balls. Officially, I put Suarez ahead of Rodriguez as the SP2.

Jonathan Heasley is a righty against the Tigers, and he’s sort of shown some moderate signs of life recently. But goodness gracious these are ugly overall numbers, and even with the ‘signs of life’, he’s managed just a 10.5% K rate over the past month and his control has been bad all season. The Tigers are bad, but I am simply not playing this jabroni.

If I either just want to spread out past the top three or if I need some savings, I’m going to Louie Varland. There is not much realistic upside here in either innings or strikeouts, but he at least looks like a competent major league starter.

EARLY PITCHING CLIFF NOTES

It’s ugly, but all we can do is play the pitchers that are on the slate. If any of Lucas Giolito, Eduardo Rodriguez or Ranger Suarez were to turn into massive chalk, I’d gladly just fade them and play the other two, but it should be close-ish between them. I will have close to equal shares of all three, but officially it’s Giolito, Suarez, Rodriguez. I’ll then look to some Louie Varland if I need more savings.

Yippee!

Early Slate Bats

Because of the weak pitching, every offense is in play, but these are not a bunch of elite offenses either.
I’m going to land on these tiers:

Top Tier Offense

Philadelphia Phillies at Javier Assad
Boston Red Sox vs Mike Baumann

Tier Two Offense

Baltimore Orioles at Eovaldi / Bullpen
Chicago White Sox at Louie Varland
Minnesota Twins vs Lucas Giolito

Tier Three Offense

Detroit Tigers vs Jon Heasley
KC Royals at Eduardo Rodriguez
Chicago Cubs vs Ranger Suarez

This is such a complete nonsense slate on both sides. The most likely outcome on all these games is something in the 5-3 territory with no real slate winning upside anywhere.

The one team that can almost break that would be the Phillies. While it’s better pitching weather again in Wrigley, we’re looking at very moderate winds, nothing that Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber can’t hit through. Javier Assad has shown no ability to throw strikes, and when he does, they are hit hard by lefties. The Phillies are my clear top offense today with Harper and Schwarber as the build arounds.

Both sides of the Red Sox-Orioles game are likely to see more than half a game from the bullpens. I’m not going to worry about breaking down splits for one or two at bats, I’m just going to say that both of these teams have the potential to win this slate. Boston is the favorite here, but as I look through it, I just can’t get excited about this team. Rafael Devers is the only batter with an ISO above .180 and I just don’t like this lineup. While they started in my top tier, they are already out, and I’m moving Baltimore ahead of them. Adley Rutschman, Anthony Santander, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins and Gunnar Henderson would all be the second-best hitter for Boston, and adding in rustiness from Eovaldi, this is my #2 team on the board.

After the Phillies, Orioles and maybe Red Sox, it’s all just garbage. These pitchers are all bad enough to make stacking viable, but I’m going to start by just trying to pull out a few bats here and there:

Salvador Perez and Bobby Witt at Rodriguez
Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu at Varland
Carlos Correa and Jose Miranda vs Giolito

The saddest part of this is that if we are just breaking down numbers from the small sample size, the White Sox righties would be the next best plays on the board. Ah, the White Sox! Go away!

I think the one that intrigues me most are the Royals against Rodriguez. Sure, he’s one of the ‘best’ pitchers on this slate, but it’s still just a guy with 18.2% K to righties with Perez and Witt both over 47% fly balls and .215 ISO.

EARLY HITTING CLIFF NOTES

If I wasn’t sick before breaking down this slate, I’d certainly be sick after it. This is bad stuff. But still, we are all playing the same slate and even if the overall scores are lower than usual, highest score still wins.

I’m going to start with Phillies and Orioles stacks as my primary builds, filtering in one offs from everywhere else on the slate. I don’t know how much I’m playing today, but if I get to 20+ lineups, I would absolutely have at least one stack of every team on this slate.

Late Slate(s) Pitching

Carlos Rodon vs Rockies – 32.9% K, 7.5% BB, 2.98 ERA, 2.90 SIERA
Shohei Ohtani vs A’s – 32.9% K, 6.8% BB, 2.47 ERA, 2.78 SIERA
Jon Gray at Mariners – 26.5% K, 7.6% BB, 3.64 ERA, 3.47 SIERA
Marco Gonzales vs Rangers – 12.9% K, 6.4% BB, 4.05 ERA, 5.02 SIERA
Sean Manaea vs Dodgers – 23.1% K, 7.7% BB, 5.23 ERA, 3.96 SIERA (not starting)
Eric Lauer vs Marlins (FD) – 22.7% K, 8.8% BB, 3.96 ERA, 4.20 SIERA
Braxton Garrett at Brewers (FD) – 24.5% K, 5.7% BB, 3.52 ERA, 3.42 SIERA

The post-bedtime slate makes up for the lack of pitching on the early slate with Carlos Rodon and Shohei Ohtani taking the mound.

While anything is possible, the Giants and Angels don’t have any reason to limit Rodon and Ohtani in their last couple starts. In general, I prefer pitchers on teams that have been eliminated over teams who have clinched. We’ve seen Ohtani go over 100 pitches in four of his last five starts as they look to let him close the season strong. Both of these aces have still had the occasional hiccups with control, but for the most part, the upside far outweighs any potential downside. On top of the strikeout ability, both aces have strong matchups at home. Anywhere it’s remotely possible, I want to play these two aces together on DK, but for FD, or DK lineups where I can only afford one, I am starting with Ohtani. It’s really a toss-up, but I prefer his matchup and more confident in his innings.

I listed Marco Gonzales here, since he’ll probably project OK for points per dollar, but there is no world in which I’m playing a guy with 12.9% K on this slate. There is also no world in which I’m playing Sean Manaea against the Dodgers. I don’t know what happened to this guy, but he’s simply not good anymore. Maybe he’ll get it back next year, but he’s only made it more than five innings once in his last eight starts and the strikeouts have fallen off a cliff. The other name worth a mention and a quick write-off is Andrew Heaney. It sounds like the Dodgers plan to bring him in as a long reliever, but there is so much workload question to make this an easy X button at the salary.

This basically leaves Jon Gray as the obvious SP2 on DK in non-double-ace lineups, along with Eric Lauer and Braxton Garrett on FD. Lauer is one start off the IL, where he threw 66 pitches in a poor showing in his first start back. Sure, the matchup is very good, but at $9,700 with almost certainly some pitch count limit, I just can’t get there. Braxton Garrett has been a bit all over the place, showing off some occasional strikeout spikes along with good control overall. Milwaukee is not a good team against lefties, and while I would make every effort to just get up to Ohtani or Rodon, Garrett will make my pool for a cheaper-ish option. Jon Gray missed all of August with an oblique injury, and they’ve worked him slowly back up, getting to 87 pitches last start. That’s enough to assume he’s a full go here, but now we have to worry about the effectiveness. It’s not a big gap, but he’s been a skosh behind his usual velocity with just a 9% swinging strike rate in his three starts back. If we just give him the benefit of the doubt that he is all the way back to normal here, then he is the go-to SP2. Personally, I would lean to Garrett on FD, while on DK, I would rather spend the little extra for Gray rather than messing around with Manaea or Gonzales.

PITCHING CLIFF NOTES

There is such a tremendous gap between the top two and everyone else, that I will go far out of my way to make sure I’m playing Shohei Ohtani and Carlos Rodon. I lean to Ohtani first, but both are priorities. I expect Jon Gray to be the ‘chalk’ among cheaper pitchers, and he’s fine on DK, but really, just play an ace on FD.

Thursday Night Bats

Mike Trout and Friends vs Cole Irvin
SF Giants vs Ryan Feltner
Dodgers at Padres – Graterol/Heaney at Wilson / Manaea
Rangers at Mariners – Gray at Gonzales
Marlins at Brewers (FD) – Garrett at Lauer

I’m writing off the Rockies and A’s, but everything after that is playable in primary lineups tonight.

The most obvious play on the board is Mike Trout against Cole Irvin. Irvin’s real-life magic has disappeared as he’s allowed 27 runs in his last five starts. Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo are also priority plays and then we can start stacking the cheaper Angels.

Ryan Feltner has below average numbers across the board and has been no better on the road. The Giants lineup is always going to be a complete guess, but assuming Joc Pederson is in there, he’s the priority, especially at his goofy low FD salary.

If the Dodgers field their full lineup tonight, this is going to be my top stack on the slate. San Diego is using an opener, but still sounds like they intend to use Sean Manaea as the long reliever. I mentioned this briefly in the pitching section, but something has just been off with Manaea. The dude has a crazy 7.61 ERA since the All-Star Break and the strikeouts have fallen to 17.2% over the past month. He’s probably been more unlucky than bad with all the homers, but this is the Dodgers. I love it.

I don’t really want to pick on Brusdar Graterol or Andrew Heaney, so for the Padres, it’s really just some ‘hey, it’s baseball’ stacking.

This Rangers-Mariners game is a bit confounding. We really don’t know if Jon Gray is 100%, but if he is, we don’t really want righties against him. I still have it pretty high on the stacking list just in case the velocity remains down for Gray, but I’m playing Angels, Giants and Dodgers ahead of them.

Marco Gonzales can’t strike out anyone, but he’s still kind of real-life OK and other than sort of Adolis Garcia or cheap fliers on guys like Josh Jung and Mark Mathias, this is just another rung down below the Mariners stack.

FanDuel adds in a similarly confounding game with the Marlins-Brewers. Both of these teams have nonsense numbers against lefties with high strikeouts up and down the lineup. My hunch is that the Brewers still end up popular-ish with at least Hunter Renfroe and Willy Adames, but for full stacking, I’m really just not on board here. I am on the Braxton Garrett side here.

HITTING CLIFF NOTES

It’s all just kind of OK. Officially, I have the Angels, Giants and Dodgers as the top tier, and I would start by stacking one of those three teams. Because the top bats are so obvious with Trout and Pederson on FD, I don’t love just playing the most obvious one offs in every lineup. I’ll pivot to more Dodgers bats in place of Trout and take some values from teams like the Brewers and Rangers to get away from Giants chalk.

Image Credit: Imagn

This DFS content is a part of our Premium Content Schedule and designed to help you build better lineups on DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo!, SuperDraft, and other daily fantasy contest providers. Access MLB Projections, Expert Rankings, Projected Ownership, MLB DFS Picks, and other Data Tools using this content hub. For our world-class optimizer that offers a suite of tools and information designed to help you crush the competition, please head to LineupHQ!

Happy Thursday! We’ve got a strange day with games and slates all over the place. Both sites have a 4-game early slate at 1:10pm ET, and then we have a 5-game FD slate at 7:40 and a 4-game DK slate past bedtime at 9:38pm. 9:38pm? Okey dokey. I will talk briefly through the 4-game early slate and then I’ll be back in a bit with some thoughts on the later games.

Early Slate Pitching

Lucas Giolito at Twins – 25.7% K, 8.6% BB, 5.05 ERA, 3.74 SIERA
Eduardo Rodriguez vs Royals – 18.4% K, 8.6% BB, 4.37 ERA, 4.59 SIERA
Ranger Suarez at Cubs – 19.7% K, 8.9% BB, 3.38 ERA, 4.08 SIERA
Louie Varland vs White Sox – 19.1% K, 5.9% BB, 5.06 ERA, 4.34 SIERA
Jonathan Heasley at Tigers – 15.6% K, 10.6% BB, 4.87 ERA, 5.29 SIERA
Nathan Eovaldi vs Orioles – 22.7% K, 4.3% BB, 4.15 ERA, 3.48 SIERA

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About the Author

  • Dave Potts (CheeseIsGood)

  • One of the preeminent baseball minds in all of fantasy, Dave Potts, aka CheeseIsGood, has won contests at the highest levels of both season-long and DFS. He is a two-time winner of a million dollar first place prize in DFS; having won the 2014 FanDuel baseball live final and following that up by taking down a DraftKings Millionare Maker Tournament in 2015. In addition, he’s won the Main Event championship in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship and the NFBC Platinum League, which is the highest buy-in entry league. His consistent success in the NFBC tournaments recently earned him a prestigious spot in their Hall of Fame. Dave can also strum a mean guitar while carrying a tune and if you’re lucky, you’ll see him do so on one of his GrindersLive appearances. Follow Dave on Twitter – @DavePotts2.

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