Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. This is the final week of the regular season, so let’s go out on a high note!
My goal is to help you make the right decisions when choosing your pitchers, but to also help you target the ones that are likely to struggle, making it easier for you to choose your bats. If you’re new or if you have any last-minute questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings MLB salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by value of each pitcher. To determine the best values in today’s rankings, I run projections that include opponent’s strength, betting situation, handedness, park factor, projected Game Score, power/finesse pitching tendencies along with ground-ball/fly-ball tendencies. We want to take everything into consideration when making our pitcher choices, because they’re the backbone of the lineup.
Cream of the Crop
Madison Bumgarner vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($12,400)
What a matchup we have in San Francisco tonight. Kershaw vs. MadBum. The $2,500 savings that you’ll get from rostering Bumgarner is difficult to ignore for cash games, and will likely be the way most players approach these two. As amazing as Madison Bumgarner was last season, he’s been even better in 2015. I bet he loves flannels and pumpkin spice lattes too because he’s incredible in September and October.
Tyson Ross vs. Milwaukee Brewers (10,300)
When Tyson Ross is pitching like he has been over the past month he’s difficult to beat. He has elite swing-and-miss stuff (12.2 SwStk%) but his command leaves him at times and walks become an issue. This drives up his pitch count and prevents him from working deep in to games. Lately though he’s kept the walks in check. He’s walked just nine batters in his past five starts (33 innings), while striking out 36 batters in that time frame. At home against the Brewers (90 wRC+) is a great spot for him.
Clayton Kershaw @ San Francisco Giants ($14,900)
The Kershaw dilemma is pretty simple each time he takes the ball. It’s just a matter of constructing a lineup with him in it and seeing if you like the way it falls out. I think you’ll have other viable options tonight, but taking the best pitcher in the world, in the best pitching environment in the game is never a bad choice. San Francisco has been strong against left-handed pitching this season (105 wRC+), but this isn’t your standard left-handed pitching. $14,900 isn’t easy to absorb, but he’s approached $16K over the past month but feels more like a tournament play here tonight.
This is a nice matchup for Robbie Ray who’s coming off of a six-inning, seven-whiff performance against the Dodgers. He didn’t allow a run and now is facing the league’s worst team against left-handed pitching, the Rockies (64 wRC+). Colorado also strikes out 22.8% of the time against southpaws, something that matches up well with Ray’s 8.38 K/9. Arizona is a great hitter’s park, but it’s not Coors.
Cole Hamels vs. Detroit Tigers ($10,000)
We’re getting Cole Hamels at a discount tonight but I’m not sure his price is good enough reason to roll him out. The Tigers have the second best wOBA and wRC+ in the league against left-handed pitching, makings this a tough spot for Hamels. Detroit does strikeout 21.8% of the time against southpaws though, so if you’re looking for a contrarian ace then Hamels may be your guy.
Middle of the Pack
What a boost Marcus Stroman is to the Blue Jays rotation as they head in to October. After a devastating ACL injury in spring training, Stroman returned to the Blue Jays starting rotation a few weeks ago and has been better in each progressive start. Those starts have all been against fellow AL East foes and that trend continues here against the Orioles. Baltimore has been able to hit right-handed pitching well all season but they whiff a ton (22%) which adds to the appeal of Stroman here.
Mike Fiers @ Seattle Mariners ($8,600)
Mike Fiers is viable tonight against the Mariners in Seattle. They strikeout quite a bit against right-handed pitching (21.8%) and that plays in to Fiers strength (8.91 K/9). It’s also a sizable park factor shift for him moving from Houston to Seattle. His 50+ point no-hitter performance has slightly inflated his perception, but a 2.51 second half ERA is solid.
Michael Wacha @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($9,100)
I’m sure Cardinals fans are less worried about Michael Wacha’s DFS prospects tonight and more concerned about his form heading into the playoffs. The Wacha we’ve seen in September has not been pretty, barely missing bats and walking nearly four batters per start. The Pirates are a fairly neutral matchup (.315 wOBA/100 wRC) but I’d stay away from Wacha here.
Michael Pineda vs. Boston Red Sox ($8,800)
The April/early-May version of Michael Pineda was electric. It’s been a bumpy road ever since and his upside is capped despite pitching well of late. It appears that the Yankees are being extremely cautious with Pineda, who’s missed large chunks of time due to multiple injuries this season. He hasn’t topped 99 pitches since the middle of July, and his matchup against the Red Sox (.320) is less than ideal.
Rick Porcello @ New York Yankees ($6,600)
I’ve been all over this second half version of Rick Porcello, and call me crazy but I believe he’s a viable tournament play here against the Yankees. We’re seeing a lot more of his sinker of late, and it’s inducing a ton of ground balls while not taking much away from his improved strikeout rate. Obviously the matchup is not ideal (102 wRC+) but the Yankees have cooled a bit of late.
Johnny Cueto @ Chicago White Sox ($8,300)
It’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen a typically Johnny Cueto performance. The American League has not treated him kindly. He’s given up 33 runs in his last seven starts, and the his only slightly above strikeout rate has taken a sizable hit here as well. Even in a plus matchup against a hapless White Sox team (91 wRC+) I don’t see the need to roster Cueto here.
Matt Moore vs. Miami Marlins ($4,900)
With all the talent in the world, it’s hard to not be intrigued by Matt Moore for $4,900. He’s pitched well lately too, showing the swing-and-miss stuff that made him a top level prospect years ago. He’s struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t been able to repeat his delivery consistently, leaving him prone to streaks of wildness that make him hard to watch if you’ve rostered him. The Marlins have handled left-handed pitching well all season, with a .321 wOBA. There’s legit strikeout upside here, but he’s not without risks.
Jeff Samardzija vs. Kansas City Royals ($7,500)
After crapping down his leg start after start, Jeff Samardzija goes out and throws an 88-pitch complete game shutout against the Tigers in his last start. Obviously. Don’t chase that start, as the Shark’s last 12 starts have seen him compile a 7.43 ERA while giving up 15 home runs. I’ve only started top shelf starting pitchers against the Royals this season because they’re such an elite contact team, mitigating the upside of the opposing starting pitcher.
Kyle Gibson @ Cleveland Indians ($7,300)
He’s not expensive by any means, but there’s not enough upside in Kyle Gibson’s game to pay $7,300 for him. His 6.49 K/9 is about a full strikeout below league average and while I like the 53% ground ball rate it serves his team better than it does our DFS lineups.
Cody Anderson vs. Minnesota Twins ($7,100)
I won’t argue the results, but I’m not going to trust how he arrived here. There’s a proven statistical correlation that strikeouts lead to results here on DraftKings, and if we can pair strikeouts with run prevention, even better. Cody Anderson has done the run prevention piece well of late, but his FIP is a full run higher than his 3.31 ERA and a 4.48 K/9 is terrible. Lean on strikeouts and not a hot streak with a lot of BABIP luck tied to it.
Bartolo Colon @ Philadelphia Phillies ($7,000)
I don’t rely on ‘veteran guile’ when I’m building my DraftKings roster, and neither should you. Even against the league’s worst offense against right-handed pitching, I can’t pay $7,000 for Colon. He has 7 strikeouts in his last 4 starts, spanning 22 1/3 innings. That’s….that’s hard to do.
Adam Conley @ Tampa Bay Rays ($6,300)
I’d have Adam Conley much higher if it weren’t for his matchup against the Rays. He’s pitched well of late and has shown a decent floor for his $6,300 price point. The 8.51 K/9 is appealing, but Tampa Bay has mashed left-handed pitching all season long, entering play with a .326 wOBA and the third best wRC+ at 110. He’s tempting but I advise going against him, not with him.
Dan Haren @ Cincinnati Reds ($6,200)
A big time fly ball pitcher in Cincinnati is rarely a good thing, especially one that doesn’t miss bats like Haren (6.36 K/9). His 3.83 ERA is deceiving, entering play with a FIP that’s a full run higher (4.82). Nearly 70% of all contact is in the air against Haren, a bad mix against the Reds when they’re at home.
Charlie Morton vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($6,100)
When Charlie Morton doesn’t have his elite sinker working, he gets hit hard. His 57.4% ground ball rate is excellent, but a 15.3 HR/FB ratio shows that when he misses he gets crushed. I love targeting the Cardinals when they’re facing left-handed pitching, but I’m passing on the right-handed Morton tonight.
Daniel Norris @ Texas Rangers ($5,500)
It’s clear that the Tigers are taking it easy with Daniel Norris here, easing him back in after his return from a strained oblique this summer. He’ll likely find some success tonight against a Rangers team that strikeouts 22% of the time against left-handed pitching, but I can’t see Norris working past 5 innings here, capping his upside and essentially taking him out of consideration tonight.
Rest of the Field
Chris Bassitt @ Los Angeles Angels ($5,200)
Chris Bassitt has had a few decent stretches this season and enters play with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. His FIP and xFIP show he’s been lucky at times, but he’s not really viable here because he’s dealt with shoulder soreness this summer and will likely be limited even if he’s pitching well, to ensure he doesn’t re-aggravate it.
Matt Wisler vs. Washington Nationals ($5,000)
I’ve heard some less than flattering feedback at times for stating that I think Matt Wisler can be a solid MLB starting pitcher down the road and he finally showed it last time out. He struck out 8 Mets, limiting them to five hits in seven innings of work. I’m not sure I’ve ever advised that you start him, and I’ll continue that pattern here today. Despite the drama in Washington, they should still be able to handle Wisler today. If you’re a believer though, he’s a pretty cheap and off-the-radar GPP play.
Nick Tropeano vs. Oakland Athletics ($4,700)
Nick Tropeano has yet to exceed six innings in his big league career, lasting only 4 1/3 innings in his last start after throwing 97 pitches. He has little to no upside tonight against the A’s.
Tanner Roark @ Atlanta Braves ($4,600)
Tanner Roark hasn’t been able to replicate his 2014 success. He wasn’t great last season, but he was better than a nearly 5 ERA and FIP pitcher and that’s who he is right now. A 5.49 K/9 won’t get it done.
Miguel Gonzalez vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($5,300)
Miguel Gonzalez’s first start back from a 15-day DL stint with shoulder soreness is against the Blue Jays. That’s not fair. The matchup is terrible and his leash will be short. No bueno.
Josh Smith vs. Chicago Cubs ($4,500)
Josh Smith’s Fangraphs page is not pretty. A 6.08 BB/9 and an ERA and FIP around 6.50…yikes. It’s good news for the Cubs tonight.
David Buchanan vs. New York Mets ($4,400)
You haven’t used David Buchanan all season and it’s paid off. Don’t change now. Feel free to use the Mets though.
Christian Bergman @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($4,300)
We’ve seen 60 uneventful innings from Christian Bergman goes, at least from a fantasy perspective. There’s little to like here and a 5.07 K/9 isn’t enough to make him an option against the Diamondbacks.
Vidal Nuno vs. Houston Astros ($4,200)
Vidal Nuno on just three days’ rest? That’s a recipe for disaster, unless you’re on the Astros bats.Good luck!