DFS Pitching Preview: April 21, 2022

Our pitching in MLB DFS isn’t just a source of fantasy points. The price tags on pitchers make it so they dictate the freedoms and restrictions of building our lineups. Before reading this article, it’s highly suggested that you read my article, “DFS Pitching Primer,” so the concepts discussed here make more sense.

That we’re not selecting the best players. We’re constructing the lineups which carry the most leverage without sacrificing many projected fantasy points.

This early main slate is a really difficult one to not play chalk pitching. There are five guys with double-digit per-nine strikeout stuff, but three have really samples and two of them are in bad strikeout parks. I’m nitpicking here because the two SP1s are just so obvious that excluding Joe Ryan in a bad strikeout matchup, Tyler Wells and his awful command, and Tanner Houck and his awful matchup feels pretty easy.

EDIT — The cheap Wells is rising on my list because no one is going to play him. I predicted he’d be in the 20-25% ownership range because of the strikeouts and the great matchup, but he could go single digits. He’s become a poor man’s Cease on this slate.

THE SP1s: Kevin Gausman and Dylan Cease

Kevin Gausman is the clear ace of the slate. His SIERA since 2021 is the lowest on the slate and his strikeout matchup is sneaky strong. The Red Sox active roster only has a 104 wRC+ against right-handed pitching since 2020 and their strikeout rate has gone up to 23.5%. Add in his 10.70 K/9, 2.22 BB/9, and 0.89 HR/9 with his ridiculously cheap salary on DK and we’re losing money by not going overweight on him. Sometimes chalk is underowned, too, and Gausman is one of those spots today.

EDIT — Since this post, Rotogrinders has lowered Gausman’s projected ownership. Hit the pedal and go!

Gausman will carry about the same ownership as Dylan Cease, who is pretty expensive, considering his bad command. Sure, he comes into today with a 1.98 FIP on the short season, but the BB/9 is still a robust 4.22. The sample is tiny, but I’m not underselling him for the small sample; I’m questioning the big bump in salary because I’m not sure on what it’s based.

Cease has, by far, the most K/9 on the slate since 2021 (12.35), but the Guardians are an about-average offense, so we’re really banking on Cease’s skillset to push through. Does he have it? Probably. But can he command his pitches? The answer: we have no idea. And this known-unknown has me treating him as overowned for the price tag.

THE SP2: Jordan Montgomery

We can work this ownership by playing Cease+Gausman, but Jordan Montgomery is looking at similar ownership to Cease at a fraction of the price tag. Montgomery isn’t a fireballer, but he has a strikeout per-inning since 2021 and has a better strikeout matchup. Like the Red Sox, the Tigers are carrying a 23.5% strikeout rate since 2020 against left-handed pitching. This isn’t an easy play because it isn’t sexy and the innings are a gamble, but let’s not pretend Cease’s innings are guaranteed. Cease can walk three guys in the first three or four innings, inflating his pitch count and getting him pulled. For the money, I’ll take Montgomery with Gausman.

THE SP2 PIVOT: Paul Blackburn

I’m tempted by Zack Greinke because he can go deep and this is a great striekout matchup for him. But if I’m going for low-strikeouts, I want a better strikeout matchup with more run prevention baked into the opponent.

Paul Blackburn is expensive, but draws an Orioles bunch, who carry a 95 wRC+ and a whopping 24.5% strikeout rate since 2020 against right-handed pitching. Blackburn is definitely no fireballer, but he has strong command and has gone five innings in each of his starts this season. He should compile the outs with a few strikeouts sprinkled in to get us the fantasy points for his salary.

The problem with Blackburn is that capped ceiling. He isn’t gonna strike out seven in six innings or flirt with a shutout. He’ll be adequate underneath some dingers from our hitters. I don’t see much offensive explosion on this slate, so I’m out on Blackburn. This is where lineups-not-players is relevant to our process. If you can find the banger stacks, by all means, play Blackburn. But I’m not seeing it.

Alex Sonty is a professional DFS and poker player, while contributing to RotoGrinders and FanGraphs, as well as serving as a part-time political science professor in Chicago, IL. He’s been playing fantasy sports since 1996 and entered the DFS realm in 2014, currently playing high-stakes MLB and NFL cash games and GPPs. He is a Chicago Tribune and SB Nation alum, while holding a J.D./M.A. and L.L.M. from DePaul University.

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Brad Johnsonmember
2 years ago

I was originally out on Houck too, until I saw the Jays post a lineup with Zack Collins cleanup, Raimel Tapia leading off, and Biggio-Katoh-Zimmer providing auto-outs at the bottom. Gimme Houck!