CheeseIsGood's Million Dollar Musings - MLB DFS Strategy: Tuesday, August 16th

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Happy Tuesday! We’ve got a big slate that is very spread out all over the place. I will attempt to unjumble as much as I can, but we’re definitely going to end up in a place where you could very reasonably come to a completely different pool than me.

Tuesday Night Pitching

We’ve got a deep pitching slate that lacks clarity. I’m going to start with just two big buckets and then will sort through them as best as I can. I’ve got some strong initial leans from glancing at the board, but we’ll see if that holds up as we go through the numbers.

Something Kind Of Close To Aces

Justin Verlander at White Sox
Dylan Cease vs Astros
Brandon Woodruff vs Dodgers
Robbie Ray at Angels
Nestor Cortes vs Rays
Alek Manoah vs Orioles
Sonny Gray vs Royals
Charlie Morton vs Mets

Matchups And Salary Savers

Zach Plesac vs Tigers
Jose Quintana vs Rockies
Nick Pivetta at Pirates
Patrick Corbin vs Cubs
Justin Steele at Nationals
JP Sears at Rangers
Jose Suarez vs Mariners
Kohei Arihara vs A’s

Are There A Bunch Of Aces?

Justin Verlander at White Sox – 25.7% K, 4.6% BB, 1.85 ERA, 3.32 SIERA
Dylan Cease vs Astros – 33% K, 10.4% BB, 1.96 ERA, 3.19 SIERA
Brandon Woodruff vs Dodgers – 28.8% K, 7.1% BB, 3.52 ERA, 3.28 SIERA
Robbie Ray at Angels – 28% K, 8.8% BB, 3.90 ERA, 3.50 SIERA
Nestor Cortes vs Rays – 26.8% K, 6.2% BB, 2.67 ERA, 3.46 SIERA
Alek Manoah vs Orioles – 22.4% K, 5.6% BB, 2.56 ERA, 3.79 SIERA
Sonny Gray vs Royals – 22.9% K, 7.5% BB, 3.33 ERA, 3.88 SIERA
Charlie Morton vs Mets – 27.3% K, 8.5% BB, 4.26 ERA, 3.54 SIERA

There is only one pitcher on this slate with a strikeout rate above 29% this season. That would be Dylan Cease, with his 33% K rate but also a high 10.4% walk rate. Despite the sketchy control and BABIP and HR/FB that are on the fortunate side, it’s still really tough to argue with a guy that hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in a start since May. He has had a remarkably easy schedule for the most part, as does everyone in the AL Central, but he’s beaten his share of good teams here and there as well. Because of the matchup with Houston and the walk rate, he’s not going to project well tonight. I get it, and I don’t love the matchup either, but I do see reasons to like this if the ownership follows the projection. Cease is at a 37.1% K rate to righties and just 28.5% K to lefties. Houston is Alvarez/Tucker and seven righties. Sure, most of them are low strikeout righties, but it’s better than low strikeout lefties. Officially, I cannot tell you that Cease is some amazing play tonight, and I can’t rank him at the top of the charts. But I can tell you that I love him as a spend up to be different.

You know who has been even luckier than Cease with batted balls, not to mention a strikeout rate that is 7% lower? That would be Mr. Justin Verlander. Verlander has the much better control and the better matchup, and he has also been incredibly consistent in real life. I don’t see either pitcher in this game as any kind of must play at these salaries, with more good pitchers coming up next, but if we assume that the ownership follows the projections, I’m going to pass on Verlander in my primary lineups. This is not a spend-up for safety slate for me, and Verlander is a spend-up for safety pitcher. I am not trying to talk you out of him, he’s good, he’s consistent and he should be good again tonight.

Among these $10K + pitchers, Brandon Woodruff is the easiest cut for me. His strikeouts are not as trustable as Cease, and he lacks Verlander’s consistency. I’m more scared off by his matchup than the others, and he is just not in the pool for me tonight. My other easy cut here is Alek Manoah. The strikeouts continue to dwindle as does the pitch count.

The interesting decision point on this slate is with Verlander and/or Cease vs Robbie Ray and/or Nestor Cortes. Verlander and Cease have been the more consistent pitchers, but Ray and Cortes have the upside to match and they have easier matchups tonight.

Nestor Cortes had his best start since May last week with 10 strikeouts and had a no-hitter through five innings. I’m going to put on the Negative Nancy hat and tell you why that is a bad thing. Cortes has been extremely limited in pitch count, not hitting 95 pitches since May. The Yankees finally saw him at his best, and he ‘fell apart’ once he got to the 6th inning. This is not going to do him any favors with that pitch count. This will just serve to keep him on a short leash if he gets in any trouble at all past the 5th inning. I like the skills and I love the matchup, but that leash keeps him below Cease and Verlander on my list tonight.

With Robbie Ray, the Angels are not quite as nonsensibly horrendous against lefties, but they are still pretty bad. Tonight’s projected lineup has six straight batters with 22% or higher strikeout rates and they rank 29th in wOBA against lefties overall. Ray is still susceptible to beating himself with walks, but he’s been much more consistent against weaker opponents this season. I’m in on Ray as the ace of this slate. Even if he came at no discount, he’d be my SP1 in all formats on all sites.

Charlie Morton and Sonny Gray both come at another $1,000-ish drop from Ray/Cortes. It’s relevant and useful, but not quite enough to get me to boost them up to same level. The way the Twins handle their starters is so frustrating, it’s akin to playing Giants batters at this point. You just never know how long they are going to stay in the game. For me, Kansas City is not bad enough to want an inconsistent pitcher with 80 pitches at this salary on this slate. Charlie Morton is simply better than Gray with more consistent strikeouts and a longer leash. The problem here is matchup. The Mets are tough enough to keep Morton a clear step below Ray and Verlander/Cease, but certainly worth $8,500 on DK in a vacuum. I think we need to wait and see how we feel about the next tier of pitchers before deciding if we want to use Morton as an SP2 or just save more salary.

Matchups And Salary Savers

Zach Plesac vs Tigers – 18.2% K, 6.9% BB, 4.32 ERA, 4.39 SIERA
Jose Quintana vs Rockies – 21.3% K, 7.3% BB, 3.37 ERA, 3.96 SIERA
Nick Pivetta at Pirates – 22.5% K, 8.5% BB, 4.51 ERA, 4.13 SIERA
Patrick Corbin vs Cubs – 19.1% K, 7.5% BB, 7.02 ERA, 4.25 SIERA
Justin Steele at Nationals – 23.7% K, 9.6% BB, 3.63 ERA, 3.87 SIERA
JP Sears at Rangers – 17.6% K, 4.9% BB, 2.30 ERA, 4.16 SIERA
Jose Suarez vs Mariners – 22.4% K, 9.9% BB, 4.04 ERA, 4.26 SIERA
Kohei Arihara vs A’s

There is not a single skill set here that is even moderately exciting on it’s own. Everything we’re doing with this group is based on salary or matchup.
Zach Plesac is the poster child for that with his well below average strikeout ability, but facing the best possible matchup for a right-handed pitcher. He faced this Detroit team last week and had one of his best starts of the year with a 7:1 K:BB ration and one run in 6+ innings. At just $7,800 on FD and $7,200 on DK, he’s kind of the default decent enough cheap option on this slate. Let’s see if we can chase down any upside elsewhere in this tier to get away from a mediocre pitcher at potentially moderately high ownership.

Jose Quintana is better than Plesac, but similarly un-thrilling in real life. His matchup is quite a bit weaker with just a 20.6% K rate to righties and facing a Rockies team that should use at least seven righties against him, many of them with moderate power. With either Plesac or Quintana, we’re expecting a respectable six innings with low upside. It’s all fine, but I prefer Plesac at the discount.

Nick Pivetta gets the Pirates, but he’s making it really hard to care who he’s facing. He has nine consecutive starts where he’s failed to reach 20 DK points and has only topped five strikeouts in one of those nine starts. The Pirates are bad enough that I get it if you want to throw darts here, but I’m out on Pivetta.

On FD, the two pitchers who are meaningfully cheaper than Plesac and Quintana are Patrick Corbin and JP Sears. A Plesac lineup leaves you with $3,400 per bat, and for me, that is more than enough to build any lineup I want tonight. I just don’t see chasing that much nonsense on FD, so the rest of this tier is DK only for me.

Every once in a while, Patrick Corbin shows some strikeout ability, but it’s nowhere near as common as his getting shellacked. I see far more downside than upside in this matchup, and he’s not going to be anywhere near my primary pool. My strong preference is with his opponent Justin Steele. Steele is a higher strikeout pitcher than Corbin, and he gets ground balls with soft contact while Corbin is busy getting hit hard in the air. If you want to buy into recent small sample size, Steele is all the way up at a 31% K rate in his last four starts. There is no reason to expect that much dominance, but even at just his full season 23.7% K rate, when adding in the ground balls against the Nationals, I’m in on this skill set at $6,200. He is my favorite SP2 on the slate, coming in ahead of Plesac and Quintana.

We don’t have enough sample size with JP Sears to make any firm calls on his expectation. In the minors, this was an elite strikeout pitcher, over 30% in three straight seasons and with strong control to match. The control has held up in his first 27 major league innings, with the strikeouts lagging behind. The bigger issue appears to be pitch count. He was not even going much over 75-80 pitches in the minors, and got just 72 pitches in his first start for Oakland. I love the talent and the salary, but because we’ve got Steele and Plesac on this slate, he’s more just an MME leftover for me tonight.

Jose Suarez is another MME leftover. He’s shown enough sporadic strikeout ability to have some upside at $7,000, but I can’t get him ahead of Plesac or Quintana in the $7K range.

If you want to take a shot on something even cheaper on DK, we get Kohei Arihara at just $5,400 on DK. Arihara came over from Japan last year and made 10 starts with Texas with ugly results. He managed just a 13.5% K rate with a 6.64 ERA and 5.39 SIERA. Between that, the scouting reports and what we’ve seen in the minors, it’s pretty clear that we have a low strikeout, control-oriented pitcher who is going to be entirely dependent on BABIP. For basically free against Oakland, that is not the worst thing in the world. Because we have other cheap options, there isn’t much need to go here tonight, but he is viable and may not be too much worse of a real-life pitcher than Plesac.

PITCHING CLIFF NOTES

I certainly would not argue with you if you want to start with Justin Verlander as your SP1. He’s good, he’s consistent and he’s facing a team that has been extremely beatable with right-handed pitching. For me, I prefer Robbie Ray with his matchup and strikeout ability ahead of Verlander even before accounting for salary. So, Ray is my SP1, and then I’m siding with Dylan Cease as the spend up option ahead of Verlander where I can afford double-aces on DK. Nestor Cortes is my SP4, which means he won’t be in any of my primary lineup builds as I focus on Ray, with Cease and Verlander sprinkled in.
UPDATE – As I’ve been building lineups and re-evaluating things, along with seeing the Tampa lineup, I’m moving Nestor Cortes back up to even with Cease/Verlander. This means that at the salary on DK, I will have similar amounts of those three after Ray.

I kind of like Charlie Morton in the upper mid-tier, but I’d prefer to save even more if not going to the top three. If you want to include Sonny Gray in this range as well, have at it, but he’ll miss my cut.

The matchup and salary for Zach Plesac make him the default cheap option, and while I like him, he’s just not good enough to go too far overboard. I’ll split up him and Jose Quintana, but I’ll be heaviest on Justin Steele on DK as an even cheaper option, and I’ll also toss JP Sears into the ring. Similar to the other tiers, there are enough choices here that you could easily come to a different pool than me, which might include Nick Pivetta or Patrick Corbin. I’ll be too busy playing hitters against them to get them in my pitching pool. Kohei Arihara will sneak into the pool as a cheap dart only if completely necessary.

Tuesday Night Bats

Well, yikes! This is one of those evenly spread-out slates where almost every single team is viable and almost nothing stands out. Yuck. I’m going to give you a top tier, but it’s barely a top tier. Then I’m going to give a ginormous glob of leftovers, which sounds delicious. I think the best course of action is going to be to try and just get as many buckets as possible and make some lists, but let’s see what happens.

TOP TIER OFFENSE

Toronto Blue Jays vs Dean Kremer
Chicago Cubs at Patrick Corbin
St. Louis Cardinals vs Kyle Freeland
Boston Red Sox at Mitch Keller
Atlanta Braves vs Taijuan Walker
Cleveland Guardians vs Garrett Hill
Minnesota Twins vs Zack Greinke
Seattle Mariners at Jose Suarez

EVERYTHING ELSE

Texas Rangers vs JP Sears
Arizona Diamondbacks at Jake Junis
SF Giants vs Merrill Kelly
LA Dodgers at Brandon Woodruff
Milwaukee Brewers vs Ryan Pepiot
NY Yankees vs Jeffrey Springs
Oakland A’s at Kohei Arihara
Colorado Rockies at Jose Quintana
NY Mets at Charlie Morton
Baltimore Orioles at Alek Manoah
Pittsburgh Pirates vs Nick Pivetta
Detroit Tigers at Zach Plesac

OK, IS THERE A TOP TIER?

Toronto Blue Jays vs Dean Kremer
Chicago Cubs at Patrick Corbin
St. Louis Cardinals vs Kyle Freeland
Boston Red Sox at Mitch Keller
Atlanta Braves vs Taijuan Walker
Cleveland Guardians vs Garrett Hill
Minnesota Twins vs Zack Greinke
Seattle Mariners at Jose Suarez

If there’s a terrible pitcher on this slate, it’s Garrett Hill. But, we’re at just a 36-inning sample size and the Guardians are the not the most thrilling team to load up. Certainly Jose Ramirez is one of the better spend up options on the slate, but past him, there are only two other batters in the projected lineup above a .140 ISO in Andres Gimenez and Oscar Gonzalez. Cleveland should score some runs, but I am not excited here at all.

The best offense in my initial list is the Braves. They were the slate winner last night, although it was a strange scenario with the early rain delay and a low scoring slate everywhere else. Taijuan Walker has been very good in real-life this season outside of one start that came two weeks ago, and you guessed it, it was against the Braves. They tagged him for eight runs in an inning of work and that’s the kind of thing this lineup can do. They have five batters above a .225 ISO against right-handed pitching, and that doesn’t even include Ronald Acuna or Dansby Swanson. Walker is striking out just 17.1% of righties and banking on his very moderate ground ball ability to keep the BABIP and HR/FB in check. I have to call Atlanta the top offense on this slate, but I also can’t bring myself to love them against a pitcher who has just two bad starts in 20 outings this season. This is a spot where ownership will be relevant to me. If Atlanta is the chalk, I’m moving them down and just hoping the batted balls go in his favor this time.

Kyle Freeland is a step below Walker, with just 15.5% strikeouts to righties and more hard contact allowed to both sides of the plate. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are ahead of the Braves on my wishlist with their goofy .383 and .429 ISO’s against lefties. It has to be pointed out that Albert Pujols is still hitting baseballs, with a .312 ISO against lefties and just a $2,200 price tag on DK. I like the full stack here on FD, where Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill and Paul DeJong are all $3K and below.

I’m a bit of a Mitch Keller fan and he continues to impress with real-life success. Rafael Devers is the only thing jumping out at me here, and righties against Keller are just an MME stacking situation for me.

Toronto vs Dean Kremer – Hmmm. These Orioles pitchers continue to flummox me with their weird little mediocre skills and real-life respectability. I look at the 3.69 ERA and the 6 HR in 63 innings and think there must be something good going on here. But then I look at this:

Kremer vs RHB – 12.9% K, 4.3% BB, 46% FB, 45% HH

Low strikeouts, tons of fly balls and hard hits facing a Toronto team with seven straight right-handed batters with hard hits, line drives and contact. I’ve got to just play these numbers and say that the HR/FB cannot stay this low for Kremer. Officially, Toronto is the top team on my list tonight.

Kremer should be bad, but Patrick Corbin is bad. He has a 1.71 HR/9 with 50% hard hits allowed to righties with below average 19.5% strikeouts. Perhaps the Cubs have enough strikeouts in the lineup to kill off some rallies, but they have multiple paths to success here. They can just hit a handful of solo home runs, or they can string something together, or they can even get shut down by Corbin and still come through against the bullpen. I am strongly on the Cubs side of this matchup, with Willson Contreras and Seiya Suzuki as the stand outs with their low strikeouts and then guys like Franmil Reyes and Patrick Wisdom added in for the upside. I’ll take Toronto ahead of them, but this is my #2 stack tonight.

Zack Greinke is the poor man’s Dean Kremer. He just throws strikes, and somehow it kind of works out more often than not. It’s just tough to pile on against pitchers with elite control, so my lean here is to just play some one-off power bats with Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Carlos Correa, Max Kepler or Jose Miranda. There’s enough I like ahead of them that I’m mostly searching for value here, leaving me more interested in Miranda and Kepler.

Jose Suarez is the rich man’s Patrick Corbin. He has a bit more strikeout ability, but this is another lefty who gets hit hard and in the air by right-handed batters. Julio Rodriguez, Mitch Haniger and Eugenio Suarez are the main targets here, but there’s enough to like with the full stack to sneak them into this top tier.

Pause For Reflection – This top tier is muddled, and you could come to just about any order of preference. For me, I’m landing on the Blue Jays, Cubs and Cardinals as my first trio, then the Guardians, Braves and Mariners, followed by the Twins and Red Sox.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Texas Rangers vs JP Sears
Arizona Diamondbacks at Jake Junis
SF Giants vs Merrill Kelly
LA Dodgers at Brandon Woodruff
Milwaukee Brewers vs Ryan Pepiot
NY Yankees vs Jeffrey Springs
Oakland A’s at Kohei Arihara
Colorado Rockies at Jose Quintana
NY Mets at Charlie Morton
Baltimore Orioles at Alek Manoah
Pittsburgh Pirates vs Nick Pivetta
Detroit Tigers at Zach Plesac

OK, now I am at the point where I am not going to talk through all these other games. It’s such a wide-open slate that I would not argue with any path of spread out-edness that you wanted to take. But I have a reason why all of these teams fall short of my top tier and I’m mostly just power and value hunting here.

I’ll just say that teams like the Yankees and Dodgers should always be on the stacking list, but these are good enough opposing pitchers that I don’t love it.

In looking for individual bats to pull out of the hat here, …..

Joc Pederson, Brandon Belt, LaMonte Wade, Mike Yastrzemski – Between the pinch-hit risk and Merrill Kelly being a solid pitcher, I’m not going deeper than a one-off lefty power bat for the Giants, but all these guys have cheap power upside.

Christian Walker and Daulton Varsho – Similar to their opponent, Arizona is very far down the stacking list, but they get a strike thrower who doesn’t limit hard contact.

Adolis Garcia – We’re working with close to zero sample size on Sears, but he looks pretty lights out against lefties, so it’s mostly a Garcia dart or stack for an outlier game.

Cheap Oakland Power – Arihara was basically Zack Greinke last season. If you’d play something like Seth Brown or Chad Pinder against Greinke, play them against Arihara.

Willy Adames, Rowdy Tellez, Hunter Renfroe – Pepiot is a pitcher with shaky control and a lot of fly balls. This makes the full stack viable, with these three power bats being my build around and a mini stack possibility.

CJ Cron, Randal Grichuk, Brendan Rodgers – Quintana has been on the good side of HR/FB, but all he’s doing is throwing strikes to righties. If we combine with 2021 data, he shows a .173 ISO to righties, with Cron, Rodgers and Grichuk all above .230.

Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman – Manoah has below average skills to lefties with just 16.7% K and 34% GB.

Bryan Reynolds and Oneil Cruz – Pivetta is a sea of red against lefties and Reynolds/Cruz have the power to take advantage. I’m also stacking here, though I won’t try to convince you to do it.

Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, etc, etc – When a slate is this jumbled and the top tier is not at a can’t miss level, elite bats in tougher matchups are always going to be in my pool.

HITTING CLIFF NOTES

I truly love nothing here, and I kind of like everything. I suspect that will be the common opinion and that ownership should be evenly spread out accordingly.

Officially, I am breaking my stacks up into these buckets:

Tier 1-A – Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Braves
Tier 1-B – Guardians, Mariners, Twins
Tier 2-A – Red Sox, Brewers
Tier 2-B – Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, Orioles, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Mets, Rangers, A’s, Everything Else

If we assume the ownership is mostly spread out, I won’t be concerned with overthinking the spend ups within stacks. I also won’t be overly concerned with chalk for my one-off bats, and I’ll just play who I like best, which happens to be a list that looks something like this:

Vladimir Guerrero, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Willson Contreras, Jose Ramirez, Julio Rodriguez, Byron Buxton, Ronald Acuna, Matt Olson, Christian Walker, Rafael Devers

This also looks like a ‘value bats in stacks’ kind of slate. But if I need something on it’s own, these are my preferences:

DK Under $4KMitch Haniger, Oneil Cruz, Jose Miranda, Max Kepler, Seth Brown, Oscar Gonzalez, Riley Greene, Joey Meneses, Brandon Belt, Mike Yastrzemski

DK Under $3KVaughn Grissom, Robbie Grossman, Franmil Reyes, Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey, Jake Cave, Albert Pujols, Chad Pinder, Cal Stevenson, LaMonte Wade, Brandon Crawford, Dylan Moore

FD Under $3KSeiya Suzuki, Patrick Wisdom, Bryan Reynolds, Josh Donaldson, Alejandro Kirk, William Contreras, Salvador Perez, Max Kepler, Jose Miranda, Dylan Carlson, Paul DeJong, Eugenio Suarez, Joc Pederson

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 Tuesday! We’ve got a big slate that is very spread out all over the place. I will attempt to unjumble as much as I can, but we’re definitely going to end up in a place where you could very reasonably come to a completely different pool than me.

Tuesday Night Pitching

We’ve got a deep pitching slate that lacks clarity. I’m going to start with just two big buckets and then will sort through them as best as I can. I’ve got some strong initial leans from glancing at the board, but we’ll see if that holds up as we go through the numbers.

Something Kind Of Close To Aces

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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.

  • Travisbecker

    I haven’t read the article yet. But the picture of Robbie Ray on the main page is the same look on my face whenever I roster Ray. And also when I fade him. LOL

  • CheeseIsGood

    MLB Premium Director

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    @Travisbecker said...

    I haven’t read the article yet. But the picture of Robbie Ray on the main page is the same look on my face whenever I roster Ray. And also when I fade him. LOL

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