DFS Pitching Preview: September 10, 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.

This slate is loaded with pitching talent, but I have a narrow pool a lot faster than I normally would. Without ownership data, yet, we’ll focus more on deductive reasoning to see how I narrowed this pool to:

September 10 DFS Pitching Pool
FD DK SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% Team Opp wRC+* Opp K%*
Robbie Ray 11,200 10,700 3.70 11.58 3.60 1.57 9.9% BAL 102 23.5%
Tyler Mahle 9,900 9,900 3.82 10.84 3.36 1.25 7.0% STL 91 22.3%
Germán Márquez 9,100 6,800 4.06 8.68 2.97 0.93 4.9% PHI 98 22.3%
Ian Anderson 7,800 6,600 4.31 9.13 3.88 0.79 7.9% MIA 82 25.4%
* – versus handedness of SP

Instead of analyzing tiers of the pool, this week, we should go down the list of who I’m likely not playing and why.

Carlos Rodón might be the best pitcher on the slate. It isn’t the matchup with the Red Sox that throws me off so much as his pitch count. He only missed one start with a sore shoulder and I wish he missed more and stretched out again in rehab starts. As is, we have no clue how limited he’s going to be. We can gamble on these scenarios often, but there’s enough pitching on this slate that we don’t have to bother our brains thinking much about it.

Tanner Houck is one of the best per-inning pitchers on this slate, but he hasn’t gone more than 5.1 innings in any starts this season. Yet, he’s priced right around the point where we want shots at six innings.

Joe Musgrove is still a really good pitcher post-sticky stuff, but he isn’t elite. Facing the Dodgers on a full slate, I want elite.

Framber Valdez is fine, but there are a lot of baked-in strikeouts on this slate and he has very little. Besides, his FD price is stupid. On DK, he’s viable, but we’ll get to a far lower-owned play under $10k later.

Tylor Megill is a good pitcher, but has some power prevention issues that don’t seem like early-career bad luck. Against the Yankees, we don’t need to test the skill luck factor.

Trevor Rogers is yet another really good pitcher on this slate. He’s as playable as Rodon, Houck, and Megill. Maybe more playable because his power prevention can neutralize the Braves right-handed thump. If he gets lost in the ownership shuffle, he’s the most likely to enter my pool as the day goes on. But, boy, the Braves can really getcha’.

Shohei Ohtani falls in the Musgrove category of a really good pitcher in a crappy matchup. Ohtani’s command has been on since his beatdown in Yankee Stadium, but the K/9 has fallen to 9.00 in the process. The Astros just don’t strike out, so our ceiling looks more like seven innings with five strikeouts than six or seven strikeouts. And this matters because a shutout, let alone clean innings, are hard to come by in this matchup. On DK, though, we could put him in my pool in the case that we have money left over, but we can spend down further for similar production.

Julio Urías has been great this year. The matchup against the Padres isn’t quite Musgrove or Ohtani’s hands-off matchup, but it’s still a left-handed pitcher against a lot of right-handed thump. That said, 9.67 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, and 1.09 HR/9 on a 5.9% barrel rate is all superstrong and no one is gonna play him at this price, so we can spend up to him with the extra salary. But, again, this is similar to Rogers’ situation. Except Rogers is cheaper and in a better spot.

Then, there’s a bunch of overpriced gibberish like Michael Wacha, Marco Gonzales, Madison Bumgarner, and Jordan Montgomery. Volatile plays with little upside like Eli Morgan, Matthew Boyd, and Paul Blackburn. Then, the gas cans like Chris Ellis, Griffin Jax, Daniel Lynch, and Jon Lester. Blackburn has a notable matchup with the Rangers, but should be overowned for the lack of strikeout upside.

I didn’t forget about Adrian Houser. There’s just nothing to say about him.

I also didn’t forget about Glenn Otto. The kid has electric strikeout stuff that we’d love on DK in a lot of matchups. But the Athletics don’t strike out much and this ballpark depresses strikeouts. Without an innings ceiling, we should be out. But if ownership funnels way up to Germán Márquez and Ian Anderson, he’s certainly viable.

Leaving us with:

Robbie Ray

Robbie Ray is the best play on the slate at first glance. This season has been really great for him because he’s finally found his command. With it, his BB/9 has fallen to 2.28 and his HR/9 down to 1.36 this season — despite an 8.7% barrel rate. Sure, he still gets hit hard when he gets hit, but “when he gets hit” is the caveat, as he’s still compiling 11.49 K/9.

Post-sticky stuff (since June 23), Ray’s gone at least six innings in 13 of 14 starts with 11.33 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, allowing only 0.79 HR/9. I’m not a recency bias guy, but this is clearly an elite pitcher finding his stride.

The Orioles are an about-average matchup, Camden Yards sucks for power prevention, but I don’t care. Looking at what we’ve eliminated, there are so many pluses here that the minuses are blips on the radar.

Tyler Mahle

Ownership on Tyler Mahle is usually tough to gauge on full slates. It looks like Mahle will get overlooked, despite having a great season so far because: (a) people don’t realize how much of a strikeout machine he is and (b) people don’t realize how many the Cardinals are against right-handed pitching. In a pitchers’ park at single-digit ownership, yes, please.

Ian Anderson

This is the chalk on both sites. Ian Anderson is criminally cheap on both sites for the Marlins matchup. So many strikeouts in here that the walks will likely not matter. If we’re spending down on FD, we’re eating the chalk here, but there’s a similarly priced pitcher who’s very similar to whom we can pivot on DK.

Germán Márquez

No one’s gonna play Germán Márquez because of Anderson’s situation, despite Márquez having slightly more K/9 and less B/9. Sure, Márquez has to battle Citizens Bank Park, but he battles Coors just fine, so why the hell would Philly be a problem. They’re an average, so the ceiling of seven strikeout in seven largely clean innings is certainly in play.

Anderson is the better projection, but Márquez is the better DFS play at microscopic ownership over Anderson’s megachalk.

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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