FanDuel Pitching Primer: Tuesday 8/28/18

Max Scherzer is the slate's top pitcher, but there are plenty of other intriguing options on the bump. Which hurlers make sense as pivot options?

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

at Philadelphia Phillies
FanDuel Price: $12,000

We get a rematch tonight of the pitcher's duel from last Thursday between Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola, a bout in which Nola emerged victorious.

While both pitchers were sharp in the first meeting. Scherzer continued his run of dominance with yet another performance of 40-plus FanDuel points (his seventh straight). Mad Max is up to a 34.6% strikeout rate for the season to go along with a steady 2.74 SIERA. He's held current Phillies' hitters to a .194 average (48 for 247) over 271 plate appearances, and Vegas likes him continue that success tonight, with Philadelphia projected for only 3.42 runs.

The Phillies are a great strikeout matchup for opposing pitchers, as they have the third-highest strikeout rate against righties (25.1%). They do slug it around a bit when they make contact (10th in ISO), but Scherzer's limited hard-hit rate (30.1%) should neutralize that threat for the most part.

There simply is no better source of guaranteed points in daily fantasy baseball at this point than Max Scherzer. I can understand a fade in tournaments at his $12,000 price point, but fade him in cash at your own risk. He's the top play in all formats.

Mid-Range Play

Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals

vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
FanDuel Price: $9,600

There are so many ways to go tonight at pitcher, but one guy who could lost in the shuffle of tremendous mid-tier options is Jack Flaherty.

The Cardinals' righty has put together an impressive 2018, boasting an elite 31.0% strikeout rate with a sparkling 2.97 ERA. His 34.1% hard-contact rate is just below Scherzer's, and Vegas likes the Cards tonight -- they are sizable -160 favorites. On top of the things going right for the young hurler, he has had a lot of success against the Pirates already this season. In four previous starts against the Bucs, he has allowed just 7 earned runs over 22 innings, while striking out 18.

Pittsburgh is a low-strikeout team (20.3% strikeout rate), but that number has jumped to 21.3% as they have scuffled over the last two weeks. Where the advantage lies for Flaherty is in the lack of pop in this Pirates' lineup, as they are just 22nd in ISO against right-handed pitching (.156).

With three offenses projected for more than six runs tonight, we are going to want to pay up for some bats, and playing Flaherty allows you to do that without sacrificing a ton of upside. He's nowhere near as safe as Scherzer, but point-per-dollar, he may be the best play on the board at the end of the night.

Value Option

Matt Boyd

at Kansas City Royals
FanDuel Price: $7,600

If you want to pay down for pitching tonight in order to jam in the high-priced hitters in great spots, Matt Boyd at $7,600 is a better option than most probably realize.

The matchup with the Royals is beautiful for Boyd, as Kansas City is 29th in ISO against southpaws (.117), 29th in wOBA (.284) and they strike out at the fourth-highest clip (23.8%). Add in the fact that the Royals are favored (-118), and Boyd could pay off in a big way at low ownership.

Boyd has been quietly consistent for the Tigers this season, compiling a 4.09 ERA with a respectable 21.9% strikeout rate. He's limited hard contact at a 36.4% rate despite being more of a fly-ball pitcher (47.6% fly-ball rate). The Detroit lefty is another pitcher who has had previous success against tonight's opponent, as he has allowed just three earned runs over 12 innings in two outings against the Royals so far in 2018.

We shouldn't go near Boyd in cash tonight, but he is an intriguing cheap tournament option with some upside. He's been over 40 FanDuel points in three of his last six starts, and that kind of production would be huge at this price.

Contrarian Play

Clay Buchholz, Arizona Diamondbacks

at San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $9,100

Clay Buchholz has been partying like it's 2013. That year was the last time the right-hander registered double-digits in wins, and he is on his way (7-2) to putting a stamp on his career renaissance over the last month of the season.

With about 12 legit pitching options tonight, not many people are going to play Buchholz. He certainly isn't sexy, and he doesn't possess the most upside on the slate. However, the guy has been on a tear over the last two months, and it's time to hop aboard this train before it leaves the station for good.

Buchholz is 6-1 since June 24th, and he's allowed more than two earned runs on only one occasion over that stretch. His strikeout rate for the year is only 21.3%, which trails most of the upper tier options on the slate, but he has been under five punchouts only once in those last seven times out. Arizona is slight underdogs (+100) despite his recent success, which should suppress his ownership even more.

Part of Buchholz's success is a run of soft matchups, and that continues tonight. The Giants are the worst team over the last two weeks in ISO (0.96), wOBA (.234) and wRC+ (45). They have been absolutely horrendous of late, and the numbers certainly back that up. Despite all this, San Francisco is still a slight favorite at home, where Buchholz gets a substantial park upgrade in the Bay Area.

Rostering Buchholz in tournaments certainly causes you to miss out on the ceilings of pitchers like Carlos Carrasco and Jacob deGrom, but no one has a better mix of stability and matchup. Don't be surprised if his output reaches into the 40's in terms of FanDuel points, just like he has in two of his last three starts.

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.