One of the basic tenants of daily fantasy baseball strategy is to pay up for the best pitchers. I do generally think that’s a smart idea, and while it isn’t like I never use a mid-tier (or even occasionally a bottom-priced arm), for the most part, there’s a lot of merit in paying for the best pitchers, even if they’re somewhat overpriced.
The reason is because they have so much more consistency than batters; the best pitchers consistently have strong outings and the worst ones do not. By using top pitchers, you’re “taking the points” and basically increasing the floor of your team without reducing its ceiling much, if at all.
However, one of the strategies that has sprung from “pay for pitching” is to just use your top two pitchers, regardless of tournament ownership. I think it’s a pretty popular belief that, while ownership matters in GPPs, it’s something that is important for stacks and batters, but not necessarily pitchers; you just want to use the two best pitchers.
I’m not sure I buy that. Certainly I’m more willing to take on heavy ownership on a particular pitcher; I will use Clayton Kershaw even if I think he’ll be 40 percent owned, whereas I’d almost never want a batter if I knew he’d see that level of ownership, regardless of the matchup. And if I have two pitchers ranked clearly ahead of the pack, I’m probably not going to fade those guys due to projected ownership.
But it isn’t like there are always two pitchers ranked clearly ahead of the field. Tonight, for example, I think Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto, Lance Lynn, Chris Archer, Collin McHugh, Chris Heston, and Ian Kennedy are all in play (at least on my initial list of guys to study more). I don’t have any of them rated very clearly ahead of the others. I will likely target Scherzer a lot, but to say I’m not concerned with what the public is going to do isn’t true at all. I can already tell you I will try to get Scherzer into more GPP lineups than Cueto because, due to the matchups and pricing, I think Cueto is going to be more popular. I have the two pitchers rated almost exactly the same (after adjusting for price), but I’m going to pay more for Scherzer due to how I think the public will act.
The point is that, yes, you should generally be searching for consistency in your pitchers, and that usually comes with the top-priced guys. But to say that you shouldn’t be concerned with pitcher ownership in GPPs, in my opinion, is misleading.
Note that today’s plays are for the late slate only (beginning at 7pm ET).
Chicago White Sox (vs Colby Lewis)
The White Sox are in a great spot Tuesday night in Arlington, with their lefty-dominant top-of-the-order facing the right-handed Colby Lewis. The park and weather are conducive to offensive production. Note that Jose Abreu is likely going to be back for the Sox tonight, but I actually don’t think he’s an automatic start in this stack. If you play Abreu, you’ll need to bench Adam LaRoche. However, LaRoche crushes righties and I think it gives you a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd—even other Chicago stacks. Certainly it’s risky to fade a team’s best hitter, but I think the downgrade to LaRoche is made up for by the reduced ownership.
Atlanta (vs Josh Collmenter)
Chase Field is probably my favorite park to stack offenses. You get ridiculously hitter-friendly conditions due to altitude and typically very high temperatures, but tournament ownership that isn’t usually that high. The Braves are guaranteed nine innings of at-bats and I like them better than Arizona, who has a few guys who hit lefties better than righties.
LA Dodgers (vs David Hale)
Let’s not be idiots.
OF David Peralta, Arizona (vs Shelby Miller) – $3900
I love playing Peralta at home against right-handers. Over the past 12 months, he has a .371 wOBA and .212 ISO versus righties. You have to watch his status in this game, however, since he bruised his finger a few days ago and is still day-to-day.
OF Mike Trout, LA Angels (vs Chris Archer) – $4800
I think Trout is definitely underpriced at $4800, even in this matchup, but facing off against Archer could scare away some people. Trout has crushed righties even more so than lefties over the past year, both in terms of wOBA and ISO. There’s also a hitter’s ump in Pat Hoberg behind the plate tonight.
OF Nelson Cruz, Seattle (vs CC Sabathia) – $4800
The reason I’m listing all outfielders in my GPP plays is because I think this is a great opportunity to get reduced ownership on players at the position. That’s because we know everyone is going to be on the LAD-COL game, and many of their top players are in the outfield: Pederson, Blackmon, Ethier, Guerrero, Barnes, Gonzalez, and so on. I think everyone is going to be loading up against those guys, leaving studs like Cruz (who crushes lefties but is in a perceived sub-optimal matchup) to probably be underutilized.
P Chris Heston, San Francisco (vs Pittsburgh) – $5300
Like I said, paying for pitching is a general rule-of-thumb—not something you must abide by all the time in every situation. And since I like Scherzer and want to get him into lineups, Heston makes a lot of sense so that I don’t need to totally skimp out on bats. I hardly think Heston is a top five pitcher tonight overall, but I do think he’s a top value. Again, I don’t care as much about value with pitchers, but it’s so extreme in this case that I’m going to risk it in tournaments so I have flexibility elsewhere.