FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 5/3/19

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 slate?

High-Priced Option

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $11,400

It's an interesting slate tonight, and in peeking at the top arms, there are seven priced at $9,000 or higher in the most expensive tier.

James Paxton of the New York Yankees boasts the highest strikeout rate in the group, but he's unfortunately facing off against arguably the league's best offense (boasting a league-high .346 wOBA), and they strike out only 19.8% of the time.

Among the starters above $10,000, Tyler Glasnow and Matt Boyd both possess strong strikeout rates, but they also both face teams (in the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals, respectively) that don't strikeout a ton.

Chris Sale's matchup against the Chicago White Sox looks tantalizing, but it's important to note that the South Siders dip to only a 23.6% strikeout rate against lefties this season, and Sale has struggled out of the gate with the lowest strikeout rate, by far, in this group.

Clayton Kershaw seems like the pick to click. He owns the third-best strikeout rate among the top seven, and has a juicy lineup to attack in the San Diego Padres, who strikeout 26.8% of the time (third-most) and rank 24th in team wOBA (.295). San Diego's park ranks only 18th in park factor and 22nd in home run factor over the last three seasons, so spending up on Kershaw seems like a smart play.

Mid-Priced Option

Sonny Gray, Cincinnati Reds

vs San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $8,000

Following up a 2018 campaign with the New York Yankees which saw Sonny Gray record a 4.90 ERA over 130 1/3 frames, in both season-long leagues and DFS formats, this was a pitcher that was tough to roster.

Gray's ground-ball heavy approach (53.3% career mark) did not work in Yankee Stadium, and his 21.1% strikeout rate left him as a fantasy black hole. But after reuniting with his college pitching coach, Gray has owned a resurgence so far this season thanks to a 30.3% strikeout rate while maintaining those ground-balls (54.8% this year).

Now fold in a San Francisco Giants squad that struggles at the dish. They strike out 23.7% of the time, and their team wOBA mark of .267 is easily the worst in the league.

Spending down at Gray could be a winning move.

Low-Priced Option

Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners

at Cleveland Indians
FanDuel Price: $6,500

Slumps happen in baseball. The key, as a fantasy player, is knowing when to attack and take advantage of these slumping lineups.

At this point, even with Francisco Lindor back in the lineup, characterizing the Cleveland Indians offense as slumping may be inaccurate -- they might just be bad. They strike out fourth-most in baseball (26.1%), rank fourth-worst in team wOBA (.281), and 11th-worst in hard-hit rate (36.4%).

Yusei Kikuchi hasn't showcased a ton of strikeouts this season with an 8.0% swinging-strike rate and 17.7% strikeout rate, but a strong batted-ball profile (31.5% hard-hit rate, 32.7% fly-ball rate) show that he's been a solid pitcher.

For a salary-saving option matched up with an offense that swings and misses plenty, look to Kikuchi.

Contrarian Play

Steven Matz, New York Mets

at Milwaukee Brewers
FanDuel Price: $7,700

Traveling for a date in hitter-friendly Milwaukee to face the Brewers, Steven Matz of the New York Mets could see some low ownership in a game with a middling 8.5-run over/under.

In glancing at Matz's 2019 numbers, the waters are muddied due to an outing on April 16th against the Philadelphia Phillies in which Matz was absolutely torched, recording zero outs while allowing six earned runs. That stings the nostrils.

While we can't ignore that start, especially in season-long formats, we can notice that Matz's 1.84 ERA in all other outings still remains pretty useful. He's posted a healthy 24.2% strikeout rate in 2019, and if Christian Yelich (back) is still unavailable, it makes Matz even more appealing.

Matz owns four outings of 35-plus FanDuel points over his six starts, so peep the lefty as a likely low-owned option.

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.