FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 9/21/18

Tonight's slate includes an Astros ace, a Dodger who's struggled, and a Cardinals youngster who all should have good nights 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

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

vs Los Angeles Angels
FanDuel Price: $10,800

It may seem strange to advocate going with anyone over New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, the presumed NL Cy Young Award winner, and certainly, if you decide to use deGrom against the Washington Nationals tonight, he would likely perform well. But the high-priced stud to play tonight is Houston Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole, who has a sweet match-up against the Los Angeles Angels.

Cole has been outstanding this season, with a 2.88 ERA, 2.75 FIP and Skill Interactive ERA (SIERA) of 2.93. He has struck out 34.7% of batters this season, the highest of any qualified starting pitcher in baseball, so the man knows how to pile up the Ks. Opponents have a hard-hit contact against Cole of just 31.3%, 15th-lowest in MLB, which is one of the main reasons he's held teams to a .194 average that is 3rd-lowest in the game.

Cole faces an Angels offense that has struggled to do much lately. Over the last 30 days, their team wOBA of .289 ranks 26th out of 30 teams, with a .370 slugging percentage that is 5th-lowest over that same span. Sure, the Angels have Mike Trout, who has a .468 wOBA over the last 30 days, and Shohei Ohtani, with a .505 wOBA over the last month, but they don't have much else to worry about. It's why Cole has the 2nd-lowest implied total (3.25) of any starter on the evening slate, and why he should be your big-money guy this evening.

Mid-Range Play

Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers

vs San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $9,200

Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Rich Hill is undoubtedly the best mid-range play on the board tonight, facing a San Diego Padres team that just may feature the worst offense in baseball. Hill has, by far, the lowest implied score of the night (2.89), and it's easy to see why, even though he hasn't been terribly sharp lately.

In September, Hill has a 6.76 ERA in three starts, but that may also be a sneaky good reason to start him tonight as he could fly under the radar. San Diego has the 3rd-worst team wOBA in baseball this season at .294 as well as the 4th-worst isolated power (.145 ISO). They also have the 2nd-highest soft-hit rate, according to Fangraphs (19.8%) in the Majors, too.

And although Hill has struggled over his last few outings, he is a strikeout machine, with 10.31 strikeouts per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 27.3% this season that is tied for 19th among 120 pitchers with at least 110 innings pitched. Look for him to pile up the strikeouts against a Padres team that whiffs 25.2% of the time, the 2nd-highest rate in baseball.

Value Option

John Gant, St. Louis Cardinals

vs San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $7,800

In his first full season as a big league starter, St. Louis Cardinals righty John Gant has had a solid season, with a 3.53 ERA and 4.05 FIP. He's not a big strikeout guy, whiffing 7.57 batters per nine with a strikeout rate of 19.9%, and he's also walked too many hitters, 11.3%, this season. But opponents are hitting just .208 against him, and he's given up a meager 0.76 home runs per nine innings, 15th-lowest out of 136 starters with at least 100 innings pitched this year.

Gant also has a terrific match-up tonight in the San Francisco Giants, whose team wOBA of .262 over the last 30 days is far and away the worst in baseball. They are striking out 28.9% of the time over that span, the highest rate by a wide margin, with an ISO of .116 that is better than just one other team. This San Francisco lineup is a punchless group, the perfect team against which to use a value option like the Cardinals' Gant, who comes into tonight's action with the 3rd-lowest implied score (3.35) of any pitcher on the bump.

Contrarian Play

CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

vs Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $7,500

Starting CC Sabathia isn't the sexiest move in the world, I'll grant you, but it's hard to ignore how effective he's been for most of this season. His 3.80 ERA, 4.26 FIP and 4.26 SIERA are all decent, and he's actually improved his strikeout rate a bit from last year, from 19.3% last year to 20.9% this season. Sabathia has also been excellent at avoiding barrels, with a 29.0% hard-hit percentage that is 8th-lowest among qualified starters.

He's also going up against the worst team in baseball, the lowly Baltimore Orioles, with a .279 wOBA over the last 30 days (tied for 2nd-worst) and a .114 ISO that is last in baseball over the past month. He's also got a favorable implied total of 3.41 going tonight. The New York Yankees own a monstrously high money line on the slate (-300), making Sabathia a good bet to pick up a victory this evening.

John Stolnis is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, John Stolnis also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username JStolnis. 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.