DFS Pitching Preview: July 20, 2021

Our MLB DFS lineups don’t start and end with pitching. I’m not saying to punt pitcher every night or even every now and then. I’m just stressing that each and every slate does not rest upon our pitching. That said, the pitcher position is so vital because it’s the slot where we can get the most accurate projection in an extremely volatile wing of DFS.

Our pitching 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.

Here’s my preliminary pitcher pool for tonight, July 20, 2021:

July 20, 2021 Pitcher Pool
Pitcher FD DK SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% Opp Opp wRC+ Opp K%
Yu Darvish $11,200 $9,800 3.26 10.84 1.89 0.90 6.9% ATL 103 22.9%
Aaron Nola $9,100 $9,500 3.27 11.57 2.40 1.25 6.1% NYY 110 23.6%
Trevor Rogers $10,000 $10,000 3.62 11.20 3.27 0.70 5.6% WSN 105 22.7%
Luis Garcia $9,600 $10,400 3.94 9.77 3.13 1.01 6.7% CLE 92 22.1%
Dane Dunning $7,600 $6,700 3.99 9.56 3.27 0.88 6.9% DET 85 25.8%
German Marquez $8,600 $8,100 4.07 8.68 3.11 0.65 4.1% SEA 94 25.9%
Opp data since 2019 versus handedness of pitcher

There are a lot of rosterable pitchers tonight that I didn’t include. Because there are so many, I’m probably staying away from John Means coming off of injury. Tarik Skubal is a strikeout pitcher in a great spot, but his volatility isn’t necessary to take on. Shane McClanahan is a great per-inning pitcher, but the volume is way too uncertain, as a Tampa starter. Alex Wood is having a strong season, but has to face the Dodgers, so I’m out.

That’s not to say that I’m unwilling to take on volume, volatility, and matchup risks. I’d just rather do it with who’s currently in my pool. You can totally play any of those guys and absorb the risks I noted, as they’re all good pitchers — especially in MME. But the focal point of tonight is Nola-Darvish and how to pivot off them or find leverage with them.

TIER ONE: THE ACES — Darvish, Nola

All of the prices on pitching are weird on DK these days, but the most egregious price tag is Aaron Nola on FD. Sad because he can turn it into a great strikeout spot with his skills, flipping the Yankees’ volatility on its head. We would’ve liked to see him closer to Yu Darvish’s tag to put people to more of a decision.

Instead, it puts us to the test. On DK, they’re projected about the same and priced about the same with the exact same amount of projected ownership, so play whoever you want. On FD, Nola is carrying about a 4:3 ownership gap, so do we take the better value and absorb the higher ownership in Nola or spend up to pivot on Darvish?

One approach is to just never play the chalkier pitcher, especially in a tough matchup, but Darvish’s matchup isn’t great — even without Ronald Acuna Jr — because the BRaves don’t strike out much. I sympathize, but this approach is ignorant of the fact that we can play the chalk pitcher and be contrarian with our bats to have a leveraged lineup, despite the chalky pitcher.

Another, for DK, is to not play the Nola-Darvish combo and already avoid the chalky build; but, then, we need to spend down at pitcher to still avoid the chalky build, as I’m pretty sure the chalky build won’t specifically be Nola-Darvish, but it will be two pitchers above $9k.

Another is to completely avoid both Nola and Darvish — or go underweight on them — to populate our exposure more to the other two high-priced pitchers in our pool.

TIER TWO: THE NEAR ACES — Rogers, Garcia

Trevor Rogers isn’t an ace, as we refer to aces in DFS, yet, but he’s crushin’ it his way. Only he, Nola, and Triston McKenzie are qualified pitchers with over 11.00 K/9 on the slate. Rogers has the third-lowest SIERA on the slate. And his HR/9 and barrel rate are displaying elite power prevention. Sure, the Nationals scored 18 last night, but they’re about the same as the Braves — lower strikeout rates and about half the lineup packed with power.

Rogers’ control raises his SIERA and lowers his projection, but we can sacrifice 10-15% of projection to play a guy at 30-35% of Nola-Davirsh’s ownership on DK and about 20-25% on FD. The price tag is on par, but ownership is a cost, too, as we get much savings there that he’s in consideration for single-entry. You can isolate to Nola-Darvish in single-entry, but we should aggressively have at least 15-20% Rogers in MME to be overweight on the field.

Luis Garcia isn’t an ace and won’t be one any time soon, but he’s really good. SIERA has fallen to 3.80 this season, as his K/9 has risen to 10.23, and Cleveland is kinda’ trash. They don’t strike out much, but the strikeout matchup is on par with Darvish and Rogers’ matchup. We can take the same strikeout matchup and raise our run prevention at a fraction of the ownership of Nola-Darvish.

On FD, Rogers and Garcia allow us to play whoever we want after them, as they’re bunched in the middle of the absurd Darvish-Nola price gap. On DK, we can play Rogers or Garcia with Nola or Darvish, but the builds are gonna be about the same, as the salaries are pretty pooled together. Play Rogers or Garcia while spending down at SP2 and we can play whoever we want in our stacks.


The four I mentioned above are clearly the best plays and taking risks on Means, Skubal, McClanahan, and Wood are all fine plays on FD, but German Marquez is underprojected and Dane Dunning has an outside shot to getting six innings in great matchups for run prevention and strikeouts to get cheap’ish leverage at SP2 on DK.

Marquez is a supersolid pitcher at Coors Field, I’ve written here before and I’ll do it again:

3.40 xFIP
9.50 K/9
2.77 BB/9
1.14 HR/9

If you told us that that was being put up against the friggin’ Mariners in any ballpark, we scream like Sally, “YES! YES! YES!” His price tag is a little on the higher end than we’re accustomed to, but it’s about adequate and no one’s gonna play him. He’s probably my primary SP2 to get me to Nola or Darvish (I’m not sure yet, don’t bother me!) and whatever bats I want on DK.

Dunning has a nut matchup against the Tigers, as well, in a much better park at a greater discount. He isn’t cheap because he’s bad. He’s cheap because we never know if we’re getting four or five-plus innings out of him. I’m saying that there’s enough of a chance to complete six that we can go 5% in MME, still be overweight on the field, and literally just play whoever we want because no one is playing pitchers in that price tier, so he alone gives those lineups a ton of leverage throughout our lineups.

Stats cited are since 2020 unless otherwise noted. Ownership projections via Rotoginders at 11:00a.m.

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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