FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 6/27/18

Absent any elite pitching studs, Andrew Heaney could be a contrarian way to attack tournaments tonight.

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

Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

vs. Colorado Rockies
FanDuel Price: $9,800

We have an incredulously weak slate of pitching tonight, and Madison Bumgarner is the closest thing to safety in the upper-tier. $9,800 is frankly too much to spend on a guy who has had one good start this season, but on this slate we may be left with no other choice in cash games.

MadBum broke a three-start streak of mediocrity in his last outing, as he baffled the Padres with eight scoreless frames and eight punchouts. Before that gem, however, he was very pedestrian and his peripheral stats suggested he was nowhere near the ace he once was.

Luckily for Bumgarner, San Diego seems to cure the ills of fallen pitchers across the league (See: Austin Bibens-Dirkx last night). Tonight, he gets to face a Colorado Rockies' offense that obviously gets a huge park downgrade and was stymied last night by fellow southpaw Derek Holland. On the year, the Rockies are 15th in strikeout rate against lefties (22.1%) and have the 4th-highest wOBA (.344). The issue here is that those numbers are certainly inflated by Coors Field. Colorado sees their strikeout rate jump up to 23.7% away from home and their wOBA drop all the way to 23rd (.297).

Bumgarner is the best cash play (in this tier) this evening, but going underweight in tournaments and looking for upside at a cheaper price is probably the sharp move.

Mid-Range Play

Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins

at Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $8,300

The Twins' Kyle Gibson has transformed himself from a guy we used to pick on with a hitters to a pretty serviceable starting pitcher in 2018. He has seen a noticeable jump in his strikeout rate (from 17.5% in '17 to 23.3% this year), and his opponent batting average is all the way down to .208 from .290 a year ago. Now, some of this may be chalked up to luck (his SIERA is still 4.19 versus his 3.25 ERA), but I wouldn't expect his luck to change tonight.

In our never-ending quest to find strikeout upside, it's important to note that, against righties, the White Sox strike out at the second-highest rate in the American League (25.1%). The Sox are also just 24th in wOBA (.306) and 20th in ISO (.156) against righties, so they aren't doing much even when they do make contact. Gibson racked up 39 FanDuel points in his only previous start against Chicago this year, striking out 8 over 6.2 innings.

Gibson is approaching cash-game playability tonight, given his strikeout upside and the general lack of solid options elsewhere. If he can throw more strikes (his 10.6% walk rate is concerning), he should have little difficulty mowing down this White Sox lineup.

Value Option

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians

at St. Louis Cardinals
FanDuel Price: $7,400

Shane Bieber is giving Justin a run for the most relevant Biebs of 2018. Over his last two starts (he's only made three), he has recorded 16 strikeouts over 12.2 innings while allowing only 1 run. He is still rather affordable and gets to travel to the National League and face the opposing pitcher tonight.

The St. Louis Cardinals provide a decent matchup, although they made Corey Kluber look rather pedestrian last night. The good news for Bieber is that the Tribe had to use a good many bullpen innings due to Kluber's early exit, so he should get a longer leash than usual.

On the year, the Cards are 15th in wOBA against righties and 21st in ISO, and their 23.2% strikeout rate against righties (13th highest) suggests that Bieber could match his strikeout output from his previous outings. I don't think you can quite trust him in cash games just yet (Cleveland is +103 underdogs), but Bieber is one of the better tournament plays on the board tonight.

Contrarian Play

Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels

at Boston Red Sox
FanDuel Price: $8,100

The case for deploying Andrew Heaney tonight comes with the caveat that the Red Sox' numbers against left-handers got a solid boost from Angels' starter John Lamb last night. Take a look at how Boston has fared against southpaws compared to righties:

vs. RHPvs. LHP
wOBA .347 (1st) .306 (19th)
ISO .206 (1st) .146 (24th)
K % 18.8% (lowest in MLB)23.8% (8th-highest)

As you can see, the Sox absolutely feast on right-handers, but struggle pretty substantially with lefties.

Heaney comes into this one in good form, as he has recorded at least 40 FanDuel points in 3 of his last 4 starts. On the year, he has posted a respectable strikeout rate of 22.5% along with a 3.89 SIERA. He has some concerning road splits (5.13 road ERA versus 2.18 at home), but that should help to suppress his ownership even further. Boston's 5.11 implied run total is also interesting, considering their numbers against lefties and how well Heaney has pitched recently.

As a pure tournament play, Heaney fits the bill as a high-upside dart throw on a slate where pitching options leave a lot to be desired. He is going to be very contrarian (likely single-digit ownership), and there is at least a possibility that he could produce the highest point total on the slate.

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.