DFS Pitching Preview: July 8, 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.

Usually, I give you the six or seven pitchers in my pool and have at it, but tonight is a bit different. There are four pitchers that are so obviously the only the most-rosterable that they’re dominating the ownership over the field.

On DK, where we have to play two pitchers, Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, and Tyler Mahle are projected to usurp about 140% of the ownership with Taijuan Walker grabbing another 25% or so. This is very complex because what feels like a four-pitcher slate has to expand as it’s difficult to play two of these four and have leverage without diving into two single-digit-owned stacks for hitting. In a weird way, this max leverage on the hitting end is fine for the larger fields, but we don’t need this sort of leverage in smaller fields. The problem is: where do we find that leverage at pitcher?

On FD, Mahle projects to be the overwhelming chalk. So much so that we can still play the top-projected Max Scherzer because he’s around half of the ownership. But taking a step down at projection and spending up to Yu Darvish gives us so much leverage that our hitters’ ownerships almost don’t even matter.

The same goes for Walker on FD. Walker and Darvish are looking to come in at about the same ownership, despite being only a couple of points apart in projection and almost $2k apart in salary.

We could parse through the stats and matchups for pages and it won’t be worth a damn. The value in tonight’s slate is seeing where can pivot.

Alek Manoah

Of the remaining pitchers, Alek Monoah (in a tiny 36.2-inning sample) has the lowest SIERA, the highest K/9, and the best matchup on the board. The Orioles have a 91 wRC+ against right-handed pitching since 2019 with a 23.4% K rate. The problem is that Manoah is a two-pitch pitcher with power prevention problems in a home run ballpark.

But no one’s gonna play him. He’s showing some results to accumulate fantasy points for us. His DK price is great, so we can definitely SP2 him over there. On FD, we don’t have to mess with him at over $10k to be different, given the projection and salaries of Scherzer, Darvish, and Walker.

Zach Eflin and Adbert Alzolay

Zach Eflin always projects fine per dollar. His Achilles heel is power prevention against left-handed hitters.

Left-handers have slammed 1.99 HR/9 against Eflin since 2019 and the Cubs have a few left-handed boppers to throw at him.

Where we should like Eflin is that he strikes out a man per inning, has an elite 1.63 BB/9, and the wind should be blowing in at Wrigley at over ten mph, turning it into an extreme pitchers’ park. The wind neutralizes the left-handed power so much that Eflin is definitely playable on both sites in all formats.

The other pitcher in this same environment in the same game, Adbert Alzolay, has worse power prevention issues, but a higher K/9 than Eflin. He’s more expensive on DK, so no reason to spend up from Eflin, given the ownership on the two being about equal under 5%. But on FD, Alzolay at $7.1k is probably the only rosterable pitcher under Eflin’s $8.7k. Alzolay allows us to literally play whoever we want and not care about salary or ownership.

We shouldn’t ignore Alzolay’s history of horrendous control, but his 2.61 BB/9 this season kinda’ makes me want to ignore it.

J.A. Happ

This play makes no sense to me. The Tigers are better against left-handed pitching than the Orioles are against right-handed pitching and J.A. Happ’s power prevention is far worse than that of Manoah, Eflin, and Alzolay.

If we’re taking on the power risk of Happ, we should have the strikeout upside to go with it. And he doesn’t have it. His 7.29 K/9 is abysmal, whereas the other three pivots can get us more than a strikeout per inning.

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.

Comments are closed.