FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 5/16/18

Max Scherzer tops the pitching pool, but Chris Sale could be worth a look in tournaments. Which other arms should you be targeting on tonight's main slate?

In daily fantasy baseball, success starts with nailing the starting pitcher spot in your lineup.

In daily fantasy baseball, success starts with nailing the starting pitcher spot in your lineup.

When compared to hitters, pitching performance tends to be much more predictable and stable throughout the course of the season. You know what you're getting from a top-level ace when you roster him: probably a dominant effort with only one or two implosions per season. In contrast, even the game's best hitters have days at the plate when they go 0-for-4.

As a result, lineup construction should begin with the starting pitcher. Each day we will highlight a starter to consider from each pricing tier, and we'll also look at one contrarian play for tournaments.

Who should you consider on tonight's main slate?

High-Priced Stud

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

vs. New York Yankees
FanDuel Price: $11,600

On a short five-game main slate, locking in one of the aces at the top is going to be a popular move. Of the three (Chris Sale and Justin Verlander being the others), Max Scherzer grades out as the best play even in a matchup with a good offense.

While all three of tonight's aces have been spectacular, Scherzer definitely stands alone. He is 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA and a staggering 40.4% strikeout rate to this point in the season. And he has absolutely carved at home, allowing a .170 opponent wOBA and a .116 opponent batting average.

Scherzer gets the New York Yankees in a park shift to the National League, eliminating the designated hitter. The Bombers can leave the yard with regularity, but their 23.4% strikeout rate ranks sixth in the American League. The Yankees' offense has severe home/road splits as well, as they lead all of baseball with 41 home runs at home, but are 27th in homers on the road (17).

While Sale is a much bigger favorite (-260 compared to -160), Scherzer's strikeout ability and upside to pitch deep in games give him the nod as the premier play on the board.

Mid-Range Play

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

at Miami Marlins
FanDuel Price: $9,500

Walker Buehler has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers this year, allowing no more than two earned runs and striking out at least six in three of his four starts this season. His upside has been somewhat capped due to manager Dave Roberts' propensity to call on the bullpen early, but he has been able to post some nice lines in five or six innings of work.

The left-hander gets the advantage of throwing in a pitcher's park and is one of the biggest favorites on the slate (-145). His opponent, the Miami Marlins, continue to struggle, as they rank 19th in .wOBA versus lefties (.308) and 22nd in OPS (.698).

Buehler profiles as a solid way to differentiate in tournaments as he'll allow you to afford some high-priced hitters. Most will be scraping the bargain bin for bats in order to afford the high-priced studs on the bump, so taking this route will make for a unique strategy.

Value Option

Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins

vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
FanDuel Price: $7,600

On the other side of the Dodgers-Marlins tilt, Miami rookie Caleb Smith has been another upstart youngster making waves with his recent performance.

Smith is only 2-4 for the Marlins, but his 3.56 SIERA, .204 opponent batting average and 31.9% strikeout rate indicate he has been pitching very well. Furthermore, in 22.2 innings at home, Smith has registered a 2.38 ERA.

The Dodgers have the third-lowest OPS (.658), ISO (.124) and wOBA (.288) against left-handed pitching, so Smith should be able to keep the ball in the yard.

While Walker Buehler is the heavy favorite to come away with the victory, Smith allows you to take a risky but possibly beneficial approach in order to fit another high-ceiling hitter. Stick to Scherzer, Sale and Verlander in cash games, but fire up Caleb Smith if you are looking for the best cheap play on the board tonight.

Contrarian Play

Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

vs. Oakland Athletics
FanDuel Price: $11,400

The last time Scherzer, Sale and Verlander were together on the same slate, Chris Sale was by far the lowest-owned pitcher of the three. If that trend holds up tonight, despite Sale's Red Sox being the big favorites, he makes for the best contrarian play of the slate.

Sale's strikeout rate (34.2%), walk rate (4.8%), ERA (2.17) and opponent batting average (.193) have all been stellar so far this season. Some tough luck has led to only three wins in nine starts, but Sale has been able to post seven quality starts in that span, which adds to Sale's points via the strikeout.

The A's have been a middle-of-the-pack team against left-handed pitching, but the spacious confines of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum has limited them to the third-lowest ISO at home in the American League (.136). In a start against Oakland back on April 21, Sale registered 10 punchouts over 7 innings, but took the hard-luck loss. Tonight, they're at Fenway, though, so that should keep Sale's ownership down.

In terms of ownership, Sale may be the forgotten man with his salary sandwiched between Scherzer and Verlander. Many will find the extra salary for Max, or save $400 and spend down for Verlander. As we saw last Friday, when Sale struck out 15 in a complete-game victory, locking him in when he's contrarian can pay huge dividends.

Drew Crawford is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Drew Crawford also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username squid0308. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.