I’ve been a pretty strong proponent of rarely punting your pitching, typically playing high-priced pitchers—or at least those above $8000 or so—because it has historically worked out well in all league types; users in both cash games and GPPs have performed the best when they pay for top pitching.
The top pitchers are far more consistent than the bottom-dwellers, but we always need to be flexible and willing to adapt to new situations. One of the unique aspects of DraftKings’ pricing this year is that the worst pitchers are priced lower than ever. Tonight, there are 11 pitchers priced at $6k or lower, including three below $5,000. The cheapest arm—Eddie Butler—represents just 37 percent of the cost of David Price. If you use even one of these cheap arms, you can do pretty much anything you’d like elsewhere.
Of course, the cost of the player won’t change his fortunes in tonight’s games. It’s highly likely that a lot of these arms will perform poorly, and I still wouldn’t risk it in cash games. But in tournaments, you aren’t necessarily concerned with the most likely scenario. We just want upside, and I think that the current cost of the cheapest pitchers is making it such that rostering one of them and just hoping for the best—even a moderately effective game—is the scenario that could potentially lead to the most upside given the flexibility for which they allow.
Plus, most users aren’t employing this strategy. It isn’t like you’re going to run into heavy usage if you roster Butler, for example, so it’s a simple way to create a unique lineup and just about any combination of players you’d like.
The Chalk: Toronto Blue Jays (vs Wade Miley)
If you’re looking to be contrarian, skip this suggestion. The Blue Jays are in a great spot tonight playing at home against a weak left-hander. They’re projected by Vegas at 4.8 runs right now and they have a bunch of right-handed bats that crush southpaws.
Everyone knows the Blue Jays are in a favorable matchup, though, so I’d expect ownership to be high. That’s especially true since it once again appears that there will be thunderstorms in Colorado. Actually, I really like the idea of stacking either the Dodgers or Rockies if that rain doesn’t go away; just roll the dice that the game gets in. This Toronto stack will probably maximize your chances of cashing, but not winning.
The Kind-of-Chalk: Cleveland Indians (vs Mike Pelfrey)
The Indians aren’t a contrarian choice tonight versus Pelfrey, but I don’t think they’ll be in that top tier of ownership next to Toronto or the New York Yankees. Their lineup is dominated by left-handed bats, many of whom have extreme splits in favor of right-handed pitching.
The Contrarian: Pittsburgh Pirates (vs Michael Wacha)
Now we’re getting to a true against-the-grain pick, as the Pirates aren’t likely to be very popular against Wacha. I really like targeting offenses/players against good-but-not-that-good pitchers because they have only a slightly worse chance of going off as compared to an average pitcher, but much lower ownership. I’d expect most Pirates bats to be below five percent ownership tonight.
However, Pittsburgh is playing at home in a very hitter-friendly park and they really have just one batter who struggles against left-handed pitching. Gregory Polanco, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez crush righties, and Andrew McCutchen is pretty much even splits. With high temperatures tonight in Pittsburgh and reduced costs on pretty much all of their bats, I like the Pirates’ upside given the price—especially since the cost will allow you to fit two stud arms into your lineup.
OF David Peralta, Arizona (vs James Shields) – $3600
Facing Shields, Peralta isn’t going to be a popular choice in tournaments. You’re getting a huge discount on a player who has crushed righties with a .371 wOBA and .207 ISO over the past 12 months, however. Home plate umpire Jim Joyce has historically been good for batters, too.
1B Yonder Alonso, San Diego (vs Jeremy Hellickson) – $3900
I think Alonso is an obvious value, but he’s rarely going to be popular given all of the options at his position. He’s in a great spot for a variety of reasons tonight, including the ballpark, umpire, and his splits. Over the past year, Alonso has a .375 wOBA and .212 ISO versus righties.
2B/3B Luis Valbuena, Houston (vs Jered Weaver) – $3600
I don’t really like Houston tonight given where their strengths lie and how Weaver deals versus right-handed batters, but Valbuena is one of the few in a great spot. Weaver is horrible against lefties and Valbuena mashes right-handed pitching to the tune of a 12-month running .235 ISO. The home plate ump in this game is really the only negative, but I think this is a situation with high upside for Valbuena.
P Adam Warren, NY Yankees (vs Baltimore) – $4800
Here’s the bad news on Warren: he isn’t striking anyone out. That’s a problem, as he has a season-high of just six Ks. However, we know he has strikeout ability, and even though there’s huge risk here, I just can’t ignore this price tag. There’s a good chance that Warren gets rocked in this game, but that’s why we aren’t using him in cash.
Really, this is more about what Warren represents than his actual projection, and what he represents is freedom. When you roster Warren, you have the freedom to do just about anything else you’d like with your roster. Plus, the weather in this game is favorable for pitchers and there’s a serious pitcher’s ump behind the plate in Hal Gibson III.