MLB DFS Pitching Analysis: April 6, 2021

Our MLB DFS lineups don’t start and end with pitching. My first five-figure tournament score came on a night where Collin McHugh scored negative points, I think–or maybe it was, like, six points. Extremely flukey, as I made the big money because Justin Turner hit three HRs for me at nearly no ownership. I’m not saying to put pitcher every night or even every now and then. I’m just stressing that each and every slate does not rest upon our pitching.

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 to win tournaments. We’re constructing the lineups which carry the most leverage without sacrificing many projected fantasy points.

Tonight’s slate features a wide variety of pitching quality, so the concepts we discussed last week should come into play. All stats cited are since 2019, unless otherwise noted.

TIER 1 — The Aces: Glasnow, Darvish, Giolito, Kershaw

Tyler Glasnow, Yu Darvish, Lucas Giolito, and Clayton Kershaw are all legitimate aces and they’re all severely underpriced on both site, but no one more than Giolito. And that’s why Giolito will carry the most ownership — by far on FanDuel (FD), where we only get to play one pitcher.

Glasnow is the best per-inning pitcher on the slate, and it isn’t really close, but his volume is always in question. Not just whether or not Glasnow can get the QS on FD, but whether or not he can be in the game long enough to get the W. This scares people off.

Kershaw gets blown up in the playoffs and doesn’t have the K stuff he once had. This scares people off.

Darvish is more than expensive than Giolito by a few hundred dollars on both sites. He has a lower SIERA than Giolito, but not by much — 3.43 to 3.53. And Darvish’s 11.38 K/9 is lower than Giolito’s 11.58. Giolito gives up more walks, but the K disparity is enough for the two to have virtually identical K-BB rates — 24.5% for Darvish to GIolito’s 24.3%. All of this is to illustrate that the two are very close in raw projection, if we were dealing with a neutral context.

We are not dealing with a neutral context.

Giolito draw the Mariners, who like a hacking lung. The Mariners active roster has a 96 wRC+ (which gets shaved down for being in Seattle) and a big fat 26.1% K rate against right-handed pitching. Compare that to Darvish’s opponent, the Giants, who have a 103 wRC+ and only a 21.7% K rate against right-handers, and the price disparity between the two is egregious. DFS players are price-enforcing.

That brings us back to Glasnow and Kershaw. If well over half of the field is going to be starting Giolito and/or Darvish, we have to look at Glasnow and Kershaw for leverage. If we’re playing three or more lineups, we have to invest in these two to some degree. Because it’s not like there’s a wealth of hitting out there of which to take advantage. Everyone is gonna be playing the same stacks — the Diamondbacks and Rockies in Coors, the Mets against Chase Anderson, the Rangers against Tanner Roark, and probably some mix of the Jays against Dan Dunning and the Rangers pen with the Brewers against Adbert Alzolay. If you’re playing two of those teams, you’re not being cute. Everyone sees your hand.

The argument for Glasnow is that his 3.08 SIERA, 12.56 K/9, and 1.09 HR/9 are just elite. And that the Red Sox are very vulnerable. The innings are a concern, but we’re restoring Glasnow for a ceiling game. And in a ceiling game, he has command. With command, the walks stay down with his pitch count, and — voila! — he pitches a legendary gem through six innings.

The argument for Kershaw is largely the ballpark. He faces the Athletics in Oakland has power, but only a 101 wRC+ against left-handed pitching and is one of the best pitchers parks in MLB, despite the way it suppresses Ks. Kershaw is also the cheapest of this bunch. Early projections say he’ll go much higher-owned than Glasnow, so if I’m picking one of the two to go 20-35% on, I’m picking Glasnow.

TIER 2 — The Standard SP2s: Paxton and Peralta

Our second starting pitcher (SP2) on DraftKings (DK) is pretty simple: play two of the aces or go down to James Paxton or Freddy Peralta. Paxton has the better projection and about double the ownership of Peralta right now around 1:00 p.m. Paxton’s matchup against the White Sox is pretty brutal and the Peralta’s against the Cubs is pretty tough, too. But Peralta is probably the better pitcher.

Peralta has the lower SIERA (3.51 to 3.92) and more K/9 (13.00 to 11.16). Perlata has a walk problem, at 4.02 BB/9, but Paxton also kinda’ has one (3.26 BB/9). Paxton matchup is also far worse, as the Sox have a 118 wRC+ against left-handers to the Cubs’ 105 wRC+ against right-handers

The projections all say to play Paxton. The ownership says Peralta. And the hand-written stats in the note say that Peralta is underprojected and, therefore, a steal at his ownership.

Just don’t play these guys on FD. GPPs winners will very likely have one of the four aces in their lineups. Too many things need to go a certain way for all four to fail.

TIER 3 — The MME Dart Throws: Marquez and Alzolay

German Marquez is a bad play because he’s pitching in Coors Field. Adbert Alzolay is a bad play because he has struggled his entire professional career to find the strike zone.

But no one’s gonna play them and there are paths to success with them as our SP2 on DK. Again, this is DK-only, and for people playing 20-or-more lineups.

Marquez has a 3.44 xFIP at home compared to a 3.82 on the road over this career. Home-road splits are as noisy as it gets, but looking at why Marquez is so good at home matters.

Pitches move differently at Coors. And without getting into the physics of it all, we can simply look to the fact that Marquez has a 9.61 K/9 and only a 26.3% fly ball rate with a 49.0% ground ball rate over his career at Coors. That doesn’t leave much room for dingers. It is Coors, so we err on the side of likely to get blown up, but he pitches very well to the ballpark and no one is gonna play him tonight against a Diamondbacks team with a 96 wRC+ against right-handers. Sure, they get a huge park bump, but this is a ceiling home game for Marquez.

Alzolay is the bigger risk. A huge risk. This guy’s thrown only 47.5% of his pitches in the strike zone and has a first-strike rate of around only 55%. But if he’s throwing strikes, watch the eff out because he some great K stuff. 12.54 K/9 in Triple-A in 2019 and 11.23 through only 33.2 MLB innings. Under 1% of people are gonna play this K upside. I wouldn’t play him in one of 20 lineups, but in one of 50? Sure.

Up-to-date ownership projections from

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be wary of Paxton, because this white sox team is making a living out of humiliating left-handers, although Paxton is lucky to avoid T. Anderson. peralta’s been looking real good– I think of him as not unlike a lesser Glasnow: should be good rate wise with a lot of K’s but concerned about inning totals.