FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 8/10/18

Shane Bieber offers tons of value against the strikeout-happy White Sox tonight. What other pitchers should you consider?

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

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

vs. Seattle Mariners
FanDuel Price: $10,500

Gerrit Cole finds himself in a tier of his own tonight, but as teammate Justin Verlander learned on Thursday, this Mariners' offense is far from a cake walk.

Cole's numbers have dipped a bit since an other-worldly start, but he still boasts an impressive 2.64 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and a 35.1% strikeout rate. One of the reasons his dominance has relented is due to the fact that he has pitched less than 7 innings in 9 of his last 10 starts, after covering at least 7 innings in 8 of his first 12 outings. His swinging-strike rate has dropped, increasing his pitch count, and, subsequently capping his upside. That said, he's still in the Cy Young conversation in August, and is the clear-cut play if you are looking to spend up at pitcher.

One reason to give pause to Cole, especially in tournaments, is that the Mariners have the fourth-lowest strikeout rate in the majors (20.0%). They do rank in the bottom-half in ISO (20th) and wOBA (17th) though, and Vegas has them pegged for a slate-low 3.09 runs, so there is definitely cash-game appeal here.

As a -198 favorite, Cole is easy to fit due to the plethora of cheap bats in good spots tonight. It's just a matter of whether or not he is the optimal play with an abundance of high-ceiling mid-tier arms also toeing the rubber.

Mid-Range Play

Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

vs. Texas Rangers
FanDuel Price: $9,600

Masahiro Tanaka has pitched very well in three of his last four starts, and in the one poor outing he had, he still managed to strikeout nine Red Sox in just 4.2 innings.

Tanaka is 9-2 for the season with a 3.45 SIERA and a solid 26.3% strikeout rate. He's been victimized by the long ball a little bit too frequently (1.66 HR/9), and that could be a problem tonight against the Rangers' lefty power with the short porch looming in right field at Yankee Stadium.

While Texas certainly has some pop from the left side in Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo, they rank just 17th in ISO against right-handers (.166). The plus here for Tanaka is that the Rangers are a really good matchup for strikeouts, as their 25.3% clip is the second-highest in the American League.

The Yankees are a sizable -205 favorite here, so Vegas seems to think that Tanaka is in line for a strong outing. He is going to have to navigate some hot bats in the hopes that the one or two jacks he likely serves up are solo shots, but the strikeout upside here is tempting. I think you either pay up for Gerrit Cole or try to drop down into the $8,000 range in cash, but Tanaka is one of the better tournament plays on the board.

Value Option

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians

at Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $7,800

Like teenage girls across the country, I am probably way too high on a man named Bieber. In my case, it's not just Justin, it's also Shane that has stolen my heart.

I mean, how could you not get excited to roster a guy who is going to wear a jersey that says "NOT JUSTIN" on the back? Silliness aside, Bieber is actually in a great spot tonight and is a guy I am going to have a ton of in tournaments, and am even considering in cash.

Bieber's 4.58 ERA is a little uncomfortable but his 3.58 SIERA paints a more accurate portrayal of how effective he has been for the Indians. He's hit at least 35 FanDuel points in three of his last four starts, and we would certainly take that again tonight. His 23.5% strikeout rate should get a boost tonight, and he is a big enough road favorite (-140) to feel pretty confident about him being in line for a victory.

The White Sox are an offense we have liked to pick on over the last few months, as their 25.7% strikeout rate against right-handers is tied for the highest in all of baseball. They are middle-of-the-pack in ISO (15th), but closer to the bottom in wOBA (23rd).

I think the Sox score a few runs here, but their strikeout totals give Bieber huge upside in this matchup. He's a terrific tournament target and an interesting cheap cash play, as he allows you to jam in hitters like Matt Carpenter ($4,700), Giancarlo Stanton ($4,900) and Mookie Betts ($5,100), who are all in great spots tonight.

Contrarian Play

Zach Eflin, Philadelphia Phillies

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $8,500

I guess the next logical step after talking up a Bieber is to transition to a guy whose name sounds eerily similar to Zac Efron.

In all seriousness, it almost feels like cheating at this point to keep picking on the poor San Diego Padres and their anemic offense. Yes, the Pads did have some success against Milwaukee over the last few days, but that was in a much better hitter's park. Now they are back home in Petco, where their league-worst offense has really earned its reputation. San Diego is still last or bottom-five in nearly every statistical category against right-handed pitching, and we can go right back to the well again tonight.

Zach Eflin is the next decent righty in line who gets a major boost in viability by traveling to San Diego. The Phillies' hurler checks in with a respectable 3.61 ERA and 22.5% strikeout rate, and the Padres' high implied total (for them) at 3.92 runs should help to suppress his ownership. Eflin has been much tougher on right-handed hitters (.263 wOBA versus .339 to left-handers), and he should see six or seven righties in the lineup tonight.

With several mid-tier pitchers in good spots tonight, Eflin is a guy who could fly under-the-radar. Coming off of a 43-point FanDuel performance his last time out, and with the best matchup on the board, Eflin deserves consideration as a contrarian tournament play on tonight's 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.