MLB Pitching Primer: Friday, September 14th
Everything in the sport of baseball comes down to the hitter-versus-pitcher matchup – which makes pitching the most important element of MLB DFS play. Without an understanding of the best pitching plays on the day, your DFS efforts will be sunk! Each day, the Pitching Primer will provide you with some of the top pitching plays on the day – taking a close look at the “why” behind these picks, and helping you to identify pitchers others might overlook.
Friday, September 14th
Arms To Trust
Max Scherzer at Atlanta Braves
Max is unquestionably the top arm on this slate. No one comes close to his consistency of strikeouts (34.4% K%), control (5.8% BB%), and ability to limit the other team from hitting the crap out of the ball (29.1% Hard%). So as per usual with guys like this, the only thing that matters here is matchup, price tag, and other pitching options available in order for us to determine what formats we are deploying him in.
Matchup: Nothing really stands out here against the Braves, as they have pretty much been an average offense this year against RHP; nothing to avoid, but also nothing to go out of our way to target.
Price tags: $12,000 (FD), $13,700 (DK), $26,400 (FDRFT)
Formats: In terms of cash games, Max is way more in play on FD than the two-pitcher sites. On FD, it feels like a pretty binary decision for me: I am either going up to him or down to the next guy we’ll discuss. However, those price tags on DK/FDRFT are massive (and for good reason obviously), making it a little harder to squeeze in. I know for sure you are locking in the next guy in cash games on the two-pitcher sites, so it’s just a matter of if you want that safety of going all the way up to Max and sacrificing some bats. He is definitely in play for that format on DK/FDRFT, but it isn’t a lock for me. And for tournaments, I think he is a slightly better play on FD as well; there just isn’t a ton of meat left on that bone on DK/FDRFT.
Tyler Anderson at San Francisco Giants
Anderson has been getting tattooed lately, but I just can’t help but think he is vastly underpriced with this huge park shift in his favor going in to take on a Giants team in AT&T Park that everyone has been running through in this huge ballpark.
Buster Posey is done for the year. Andrew McCutchen got traded. This team is just hot garbage. There are actually a decent amount of strikeouts in the projected lineup on PlateIQ and, from a run prevention standpoint, it looks like we really only need to be truly worried about Nick Hundley and Evan Longoria.
When looking through Anderson’s recent games, I don’t see much to be concerned with. I mean, the guy has had THREE road starts since the beginning of July. Those three games were at the Astros (good), the Brewers (meh but great hitters park), and the Cardinals (good). Most pitchers would stink too if they pitched in Coors Field almost every fifth day in the dog days of summer. The overall track record here though says we are getting close to above average strikeouts (22.4% K%), slightly below average control (8.1% BB%), and a 34% Hard% that is not great but not terrible either.
Against this team in this ballpark at these price tags, that makes Anderson in play in all formats on all sites. As I alluded to up above, he is for sure the first guy I am putting into cash games on DK/FDRFT. There are all sorts of routes you can go after that.
And on FD, I will probably spend all day deciding if I want him or Max in cash games. It probably is all going to come down to how comfortable I feel with the cheap bats that I will need to get Max. It goes without saying, however, that Anderson is viable in every way possible tonight.
Jose Berrios at Kansas City Royals
If you are dropping down from the Max tier, Berrios is probably going to be one of the first guys you want to look at. He, too, gets a good park shift in his favor going into Kansas City to face a Royals that can be pesky but projects to be well below average.
There are some small sample sizes on a few of these guys, but you can tell from looking at PlateIQ there isn’t too much to be worried about here in this projected lineup. Sure, Ryan O’Hearn has invented a new dark shade of green against RHP this season, but it is only in 88 plate appearances. There is just no way he can keep up this torrid pace.
Berrios himself checks in with the sixth highest K% on this slate at 24.5%. Strangely enough though for a guy with his reputation, everything else across the board is pretty average. So this one really just comes down to a good matchup in a good pitchers park.
Since you don’t have to break the bank for Berrios tonight, I could see pairing him with a guy like Anderson in cash games on DK/FDRFT. If you’d rather go the Max route, I totally get that too. Regardless, Berrios is firmly in play in tournaments on all sites tonight.
Cole Hamels vs. Cincinnati Reds
Another guy to consider in this price range is Hamels against the Reds. I have admittedly been a bit slow to come around on him since the trade, but the transformation with the Cubbies can’t be ignored. Let’s take a look at his numbers this season with the Rangers and the Cubs.
Rangers: 114.1 IP, 20 starts, 22.7% K%, 12.3% SwStr%, 8.4% BB%, 4.12 SIERA, 43.4% GB%, 44.9% Hard%
Cubs: 50.2 IP, 8 starts, 24.6% K%, 11.5% SwStr%, 8.7% BB%, 3.79 SIERA, 50.8% GB%, 35.2% Hard%
It obviously always helps leaving Arlington and going into the National League; we can’t forget those things of course. But the batted ball profile looks waaaayyyy better overall, with far more groundballs and far fewer hard hits. I think I am finally officially on board here, which means he will give up 10 runs in the first inning tonight (only half kidding).
The matchup is a difficult one, as the Reds have actually been a top five offense against LHP this season. Looking at PlateIQ, I feel like that can all be attributed to Eugenio Suarez. What a monster year that guy is having. Hopefully the conditions at Wrigley tonight can mitigate some of the risk here, as it looks like it will be in the 70’s with a slight breeze blowing in. That should give Hamels a little more margin for error, especially against some of their weaker bats not named Eugenio.
I’m most likely saving Hamels for tournaments on the two-pitcher sites, although I wouldn’t be opposed to him in cash games. I’d probably side with Berrios in this price range for cash games, as I much prefer to target the weaker offense. You can’t argue with the upside Hamels has shown with the Cubs so far though, making him a great option for tournaments across the industry.
Robbie Erlin vs. San Diego Padres
If you are looking for a swerve from Anderson in tournaments, let’s head to the Gaslamp Quarter (love me some San Diego) and talk about Robbie Erlin.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first: we like Erlin because he is cheap everywhere. He is only $5,500 on FD, $4,800 on DK, and $11,800 on FDRFT. While still plenty viable in tournaments on FD, those cheap price tags on the two-pitcher sites are always more meaningful.
What sticks out more is a Rangers team taking on both a negative league and park shift. Bye bye DH! Of course, the Rangers are going with the Tampa Bay way of pitching tonight, so who knows if a pitcher even grabs a bat. Nonetheless, the negative park shift of course still has a big impact.
As we know by now, the best hitters for the Rangers all hit from the left side. So against LHP, they have been average at best this season (91 wRC+ in the split is ranked 19th) while striking out at the eighth highest clip (22.9%).
Of course, Erlin is cheap for a reason. He is very up and down, and the Padres just don’t extend him much on the mound. He has only crossed the 90-pitch threshold once since he joined the rotation on August 2nd.
If you look at his overall numbers in those seven starts though, you can’t help but be intrigued.
20% K%, 8.9% SwStr%, 2.7% BB%, 3.52 SIERA, 45.8% GB%, 35.4% Hard%
There is nothing eye popping there. But at these price tags against a team taking a huge negative park shift? You bet your rump we should be interested here. Let’s be honest, we are all going to put a lineup out there in tournaments with Erlin and Anderson as our pitcher duo. It’s just too fun jamming in ALLLLLLLLL of the bats.
Gio Gonzalez vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
As with Hamels, a change of scenery appeared to work wonders for Gio too. In his first start with the Brewers on September 8th, he went 5.2 innings, striking out seven, and allowing zero runs. That 28.4 fantasy point total (DK scoring) was his highest mark since…..scrolling……scrolling….
Whether there is anything to it, who really knows. It’s only one start, and it was against the woeful Giants we already discussed. There are definitely positives to take away though. He had his highest swinging strike rate of the year (15.7%), his second highest K% (33.3%), and the groundball rate was a phenomenal 58.3%.
Yes, it was the Giants. And yes, this is still a great hitters park. But it’s not like the Pirates are rolling out some huge boppers these days. They have a bunch of unproven youngsters in their lineup, so maybe Gio’s normal “effectively (uneffectively?) wild” approach has them expanding their strike zones a little bit.
I am quite certain I am overreacting a bit to one start, as Gio has largely been awful this season. That being said, I think he is well worth a dart or two in tournaments, especially on the two-pitcher sites where he is much cheaper. If this change of scenery revitalized him a bit the last month of the season, we might be looking at a nice buy-low opportunity here.
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