FanDuel Pitching Primer: Tuesday 6/19/18

Justin Verlander and Chris Sale stand out on today's slate. What makes Verlander the better play, and which arms should you check out for tournaments?

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

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

vs. Tampa Bay Rays
FanDuel Price: $11,500

Whenever there is a relative tie between two pitchers, I tend to err on the side of Vegas and the home team. That case presents itself tonight, as Chris Sale takes on the Twins in Minnesota, while Justin Verlander gets the Rays at home. Vegas seems to think that Houston (-260) has a much higher win probability than Boston (-155), so Verlander gets the nod as the top play.

On the season, Verlander has dominated to the tune of a 9-2 record with a 1.61 ERA and 31.7% strikeout rate. It seems that the Astros' righty has found a new gear in Houston, as both his current ERA and strikeout rate would be career-best clips.

The Rays present a solid matchup for opposing pitchers, as their .130 ISO against right-handers is the second-worst mark in the American League. They also are projected for a slate-low 2.21 runs.

Given his recent form and the matchup, Verlander is a fantastic play in cash games and tournaments alike. He will cost you a pretty penny on a night with some great high-priced bats, but he offers the most safety at the position.

Mid-Range Play

Mike Clevinger, Cleveland Indians

vs. Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $9,300

Predictive analytics are much more powerful than descriptive analytics. For example, ERA is a great description of how well a pitcher has pitched up until this point. xFIP and SIERA are both more of a predictor of how the pitcher should fare with certain variables removed in the future. The point? Mike Clevinger has beaten the Chicago White Sox (handedly) twice in the last two weeks, so how likely is it to happen a third time?

Sometimes descriptive stats are hard to ignore. In this case, the descriptors tell us that Clevinger has thrown 13.2 innings in those outings, recording 18 strikeouts while giving up only 2 earned runs. Although his xFIP (2.22) and SIERA (2.23) are both higher than his combined ERA (1.32) in those starts, the advanced metrics indicate his success was hardly a mirage. Cleveland is also a massive -190 favorite in this one, so run support should not be an issue.

Translation: Clevinger is a great mid-tier play given his recent success, along with the fact that Chicago has the American League's second-highest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching (24.9%). He should have no problem mowing down this lineup yet again, and he is a great source of salary relief in tournaments if you are looking to spend down from the aces.

Value Option

Paul Blackburn, Oakland Athletics

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $5,500

Let me start this section off by saying that Paul Blackburn is a 1% play tonight. In other words, this isn't a slate to spend all the way down at pitcher. In fact, outside of Verlander, Sale, and Clevinger, there isn't much to get excited about despite all 30 teams being in action. If you were hypothetically playing 100 lineups, you should play Blackburn in one of them.

What Blackburn has going for him is the goldmine matchup of facing the Padres in San Diego. In addition to Petco Park being the most pitcher-friendly park in all of baseball, the Padres rank at or near the bottom in nearly every offensive category against right-handed pitching. While Blackburn got lit up in his previous start against the Astros, he did muster 34 FanDuel points in his other start on June 7th against the Royals -- a team that profiles very similarly to San Diego in terms of batted ball metrics. We will take 34 fantasy points tonight and run with it, Paul.

With Jason Vargas pitching at Coors Field, you may be left for dead if you don't have Rockies' righties like Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Ian Desmond (among others) in your tournament lineups. Unfortunately, they are expensive. Blackburn gives you a GPP dart throw who, if he gets a quality start and picks up a win, could do just enough at minimum salary to put you ahead in those large-field tournaments.

Contrarian Play

Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins

vs. Boston Red Sox
FanDuel Price: $9,600

Other than the big three aforementioned arms, there are not many other hurlers tonight who feature the upside that Jose Berrios possesses. The problem with Berrios is his matchup with the Boston Red Sox is one of the worst a starting pitcher can encounter, which should leave him as a low-owned play.

Berrios has really turned a corner after a rough stretch where his strikeouts declined and his hard-hit rate skyrocketed. He has rebounded to post at least seven strikeouts in each of his last six starts, while only allowing more than two earned runs once in that span. On the season, the Twins' right-hander has a solid 25.8% strikeout rate to go along with a 3.29 SIERA.

The Red Sox don't strike out much (fifth-lowest in the majors), and their .334 team wOBA is the third-highest. Again, if you are playing Berrios, you are banking on him having the "stuff" that can dominate no matter the matchup. He does have an ERA that is almost a full run lower at home (3.12) than on the road (4.06), so that helps tonight.

If you want a contrarian option with depressed ownership and upside, Berrios is the way to go.

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.