DFS Pitching Preview: August 24, 2021

Our pitching in MLB DFS isn’t just a source of fantasy points. The price tags on pitchers make it so they shape 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.

We’ll look at the current pool I’m using — the chalk and pivots — and then, cover some questionable plays I’m avoiding for the most part at this time. Right now, this is what I’m looking at:

Aug. 24 DFS Pitcher Pool
FD DK SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% Opp Opp wRC+* Opp K%*
Burnes $11,500 $10,600 2.76 12.68 2.27 0.34 4.0% CIN 108 23.7%
Morton $9,600 $9,000 3.66 10.42 2.88 0.81 5.6% NYY 107 23.9%
Flaherty $10,300 $9,600 3.80 10.15 2.91 1.18 7.5% DET 90 26.0%
Megill $7,300 $6,900 3.81 9.64 2.41 1.13 6.5% SFG 112 24.0%
Márquez $9,000 $8,200 4.03 8.82 3.03 0.83 4.7% CHC 90 25.6%
Berrios $8,500 $8,600 4.05 9.31 2.88 1.05 7.8% CHW 108 24.9%
Morgan $6,800 $7,700 4.27 8.94 1.99 1.99 11.0% TEX 76 23.4%
* denotes versus handedness of SP

TIER ONE: ACES — Burnes and Flaherty

Jack Flaherty sticks out like a sore thumb because he’s a legitimate ace and is facing a terrible Tigers team that strikes out a ton. They strike out more often than any other pitcher’s matchup on this slate. He’s also pitched six-plus innings in nine of his 13 starts, so he’s staying in if he’s rolling — and he should roll through Detroit tonight for a quality start, a win, and a shot at nine-plus strikeouts.

THE BAT has Flaherty projected for the most raw points and lower ownership on FD, but pretty high ownership on DK. Sucking the air out of the room is the 500-pound gorilla looming over this slate with another idiom that slips my mind.

Corbin Burnes is the best pitcher on this slate and it isn’t close at all. This season, he’s fine-tuned his control and been a friggin’ serial killer:

2.57 SIERA
12.40 K/9
1.63 BB/9
35.1% K-BB rate
0.35 HR/9
2.7% barrel rate

These are the only Cy Young digits on the slate. That said, we’re paying for it.

Burnes is $1,200 more than Flaherty on FD and $1,000 more on DK. Instead of facing the bum-assed Tigers in a pitchers’ park like St. Louis, Burnes has to face a strong Reds lineup in a hitters’ park like Milwaukee. So, there is added risk.

I don’t — personally — think this risk is enough to sway me from the best pitcher on the slate. Flaherty is a really good pitcher. But it would take a great pitcher or maybe 150% of Flaherty’s ownership to take me away from Burnes on either site in single-entry.

In MME play, there’s a decision to be made. I expect the field to spread ownership around to a lot of good pitching that we have on this slate, I’m taking a strong stance by going overweight on both guys. The field wants to have enough lineups to spread exposure. I want to counter that by being potentially overexposed to the two cleat-cut aces.

TIER TWO: THE DK SP2 — Márquez

Germán Márquez isn’t cheap in a vacuum, but he’s way too cheap for the skillset and situation. This is a Coors Field pitcher with only 0.83 HR/9 on a 4.7% barrel rate and near 9.00 K/9. This is a really good pitcher. Add that he’s facing the Cubs and their high strikeout rate against right-handed pitching and I DGAF how the wind is blowing; he’s the best SP2 play on DK.

That said, everyone is seeing this terrible Cubs dynamic and will jam him in, which forces us to call back to savings on Flaherty from Burnes. More importantly, it raises the necessity for us to not play Flahety-Márquez or Burnes-Márquez lineups too freely, as those will be the two chalk combinations. We can play them; we just need to stack off the board when we do.

And we don’t have to play those pairings. There is a wealth of pivots on this slate.

TIER THREE: PIVOTS — Morton, Megill, Berrios, Morgan

Charlie Morton is still a really good pitcher. Where he ranks on this slate among qualified pitchers:

3rd in SIERA
4th in K/9
4th in K-BB%
2nd in HR/9
5th in barrel rate

Morton faces a tough power matchup in the Yankees, but he neutralizes power. The key to this play is that the Yankees have a few guys who strike out a bunch and Morton has baked-in strikeouts. No one’s gonna play him.

Tylor Megill is more than just a background Game of Thrones character. He’s a pretty good pitcher with baked-in strikeouts, decent control, and strong power prevention, who can go six innings, if he’s rolling. The Giants are a really tough matchup, but Citi Field is a great pitchers’ park. There aren’t any good SP plays under $7,000, so we have to consider sprinkling him around.

José Berríos is probably the pitcher after Morton in a bad matchup that I’m considering most. The White Sox are about as bad a matchup as the Yankees, but they strike out more often. This is a guy who can go seven innings against anyone any given night. Remember that more innings equals more strikeout opportunities and, hell, we get fantasy point for innings, too.

Last and certainly least, we have to discuss Eli Morgan. He isn’t any damn good. He walks too many guys and is a launching pad when contact is made. But this is a great run prevention situation. The Rangers are worse than the Tigers and Cubs and we’re considering passing over Burnes for Flaherty and Márquez. We can save a lot of money in some lineups and get the nut matchup. Sure, it can blow up in our faces, but this is baseball.

Baseball is a risky game on which to make wagers of any sort. The temptation on a slate where there is really good pitching is to eliminate all of the high-risk situations as unnecessary. This is incorrect.

Tournaments are won by calculating when to embrace variance. Doing so at SP2 with a guy who struggles to prevent power because he can strike out a man per inning is totally fine. Especially on a slate where the cheapest guy we want to play is $8,200.

Stats cited are since 2020 unless otherwise noted. Park factors via EV Analytics.

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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