FanDuel Pitching Primer: Opening Day

Masahiro Tanaka is in a great spot against the strikeout-prone Orioles. Which other pitchers make up our top options for Opening Day?

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 today's main Opening Day slate?

High-Priced Stud

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

vs New York Mets
FanDuel Price: $11,700

The Washington Nationals' ace, Max Scherzer, mans the bump today and is projected for our highest score on FanDuel. He will be locked into an ace-versus-ace matchup with Jacob deGrom, which figures to be the lowest-scoring game of the day with an over/under of only 6.5 runs, so it could make a win tough to come by. But that doesn't give us any reason to fade Scherzer.

Coming of a Cy Young Award-winning season, the righty dominated his way to an absurd 34.4% strikeout rate over 220 2/3 innings pitched, including a microscopic 28.6% hard-hit rate. As dominant as the veteran was, he even ratcheted things up a tick at home, lowering his wOBA allowed from .262 to .245 and taking his strikeout rate up from 32.1% to a silly 36.4%.

Scherzer's 6.69 innings per start (IPS) showed his willingness to work deep into games, and his 28 quality starts (worth four points on FanDuel) -- along with his strikeout upside -- show he's worth the hefty price tag.

Mid-Range Play

Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

vs Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $9,400

If Scherzer is a little too rich for your blood, pivoting to Masahiro Tanaka in the mid-range could prove to be a valuable move. Projected for 39.7 FanDuel points, the second-highest on the slate, Tanaka faces a poor Baltimore Orioles squad projected for a minute 3.06 runs.

It's always hard projecting what new-look offenses will do to start off a season, but the Orioles plan to throw out many similar faces for a team that ranked fifth-worst in team wOBA (.299) a year ago -- and that was with Manny Machado for part of the season. The Orioles had plenty of swings-and-misses at the dish, too, as they ranked eight-worst in strikeout rate at 23.4% a season ago.

Tanaka could be in line to earn an extra six points with a win today, as the Yankees are the heaviest favorite (-380) on today's docket.

Value Option

Eric Lauer, San Diego Padres

vs San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $7,200

The overhauled San Diego Padres make their home debut against the San Francisco Giants, and Eric Lauer gets the ball for the Friars in an NL West showdown. Lauer's 2018 numbers don't jump off the page at first glance -- he posted a middling 19.8% strikeout rate with a poor 9.1% walk rate over 112 innings pitched in his debut season.

However, only analyzing his rookie season would be a mistake. Lauer posted heavy strikeout totals in every stop of the minor leagues, including a whiff rate of 25% or better in six of his seven stops. All of that is beside the fact that the Giants were absolutely dreadful against southpaws a season ago. They clocked in second-worst in team wOBA, with a .285 mark, and posted a 23.3% strikeout rate against them.

All of this makes Lauer an intriguing option if punting on the expensive aces is your jam.

Contrarian Play

Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves

at Philadelphia Phillies
FanDuel Price: $7,600

The Atlanta Braves head to the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies, while Julio Teheran has been given Opening Day duties against an offense now featuring Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto. It's no surprise when you notice that the Phillies have a juicy implied team total of 4.57 runs, or the fourth-highest on the slate.

While he certainly will have his work cut out for him, Teheran's 2018 second half was pretty interesting. Over 70 frames, the righty posted a strong .272 wOBA against, in addition to 1.03 home runs per nine innings pitched (HR/9).

Teheran's bugaboo has often been left-handed batters, but he acquits himself well against righties. In 2018, Teheran whiffed 27.2% of same-sided batters, and a 5.6% walk rate led to a 3.60 xFIP mark. That's important to consider when the top of the Phillies lineup will feature a heavy dose of right-handed batters like the aforementioned Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and Rhys Hoskins.

If you're looking to go against the grain, Teheran may not be a bad option to consider.

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