FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 7/6/18
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?
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
at Kansas City Royals
FanDuel Price: $12,500
Chris Sale is the clear-cut top option tonight, and it's not particularly close. As pointed out by our own Jim Sannes (via Fangraphs), Sale has seen a recent surge in his fastball velocity, which has resulted in even more dominance than usual for the Red Sox southpaw.
On the year, Sale is toting a 2.49 SIERA with a 36.1% strikeout rate. He has been over 50 FanDuel points in each of his last five starts and has reached double-digit punchouts in all but one start during that stretch (in which he struck out nine).
Kansas City strikes out a good bit more against lefties than righties, and they are 27th in ISO (.131) and wOBA (.293). The Royals' offense also gets a park downgrade playing at home as opposed to the road at Fenway Park.
The Sox are enormous -325 favorites in this one, and the Royals are projected for a slate-low 2.94 runs. Don't overthink this one -- hit the lock button on Sale in cash and get heavy exposure in tournaments.
Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves
at Milwaukee Brewers
FanDuel Price: $8,800
Venturing into the middle tier tonight would be bold in cash games, but it could create leverage in tournaments. Mike Foltynewicz projects as a high-upside option tonight in his matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Braves' righty has made a solid jump this year, especially in the strikeout department, where his 2017 mark (20.7%) has been surpassed by a career-high 29.5% clip. I did a double-take, but his ERA really is at 2.02, although his 3.67 SIERA suggests he has been fortunate. He's only worked five innings in each of his last four starts, but he's only allowed three earned runs in that span. As a matter of fact, Folty has only allowed five earned runs over his last nine starts, totaling 52 innings.
The big draw here, along with Foltynewicz's recent form, is the high-strikeout matchup with the the Brew Crew. Milwaukee has some power in their lineup (10th in ISO), but they strike out the third-most in all of baseball against right-handers (25.2%). Vegas has them pegged as favorites (-125) in this one, so ownership on Foltynewicz should be rather low.
While there is certainly risk here, Folty is a solid mid-tier tournament play, and with upside to boot.
Joey Lucchesi, San Diego Padres
at Arizona Diamondbacks
FanDuel Price: $7,000
If you want to essentially punt the pitcher spot and load up on bats tonight, there isn't really a sub-$7k arm that doesn't induce nausea. That leaves us with the unheralded Joey Lucchesi and his surprisingly solid peripherals.
The Padres' lefty certainly gets a boost pitching around half of his games at the vast expanse known as Petco Park, but he will travel to Arizona tonight to face the struggling Diamondbacks. The Snakes have the National League's third-lowest wOBA (.284) over the last two weeks, and they strike out the sixth-most in all of baseball against southpaws.
Lucchesi's 25.2% strikeout rate should play well here tonight given the Diamondbacks' splits, and he's been surprisingly better on the road (2.40 ERA) than at home (3.56). With lefty mashers like Paul Goldschmidt, Nick Ahmed and A.J. Pollock likely to anchor the top of the lineup, it's encouraging that righties only hit nine points higher than lefties against Lucchesi (.226 to .217).
While certainly a dart-throw option, Lucchesi allows you to field a unique lineup when everyone will be paying up at pitcher tonight.
Lance McCullers, Houston Astros
vs. Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $11,300
McCullers has arguably the best matchup on the slate, as he takes on the Chicago White Sox and their fifth-highest strikeout rate against righties (25.1%). Chicago is also bottom-half in ISO (17th) and wOBA (21st), and Vegas has pegged them with a low 3.09 implied run total.
McCullers has been rolling lately, racking up at least 40 FanDuel points in five consecutive outings. His 25.7% strikeout rate certainly projects well in this matchup, and it could help him exceed Sale and deGrom if they're not at peak form.
With the Astros being massive -270 favorites, McCullers should have little issue cruising his way to a victory in this one. His upside certainly approaches the other aces on the slate, and he will likely be under 15% in terms of ownership. While most zig and find the extra funds to play Sale or deGrom, you can zag with the Houston righty as a contrarian play.
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.