MLB DFS Pitching Preview: June 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.

We have the fullest of full slates tonight, as every team is playing and there are quite a few aces on this slate. And we can’t play everybody. But there’s also only so much everyone else can play, leaving us great spots for leverage. Today, we’ll look at the aces to which we want the most exposure, the aces on whom we have to be overweight for leverage, and the best cheap play on DK — where we have to play two pitchers.

Here are the pitchers we’ll discuss today:

June 8, 2021 Pitcher Pool
Name Opp FD$ DK$ SIERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Barrel% *Opp wRC+ *Opp K%
Tyler Glasnow WAS $11,000 $10,000 3.04 12.60 2.82 1.15 7.9% 99 22.4%
Shane Bieber STL $11,500 $10,300 3.07 12.09 2.19 1.14 7.8% 90 23.3%
Carlos Rodon TOR $10,600 $9,700 3.34 12.25 3.06 1.02 5.9% 112 22.3%
Matthew Boyd SEA $7,400 $6,500 3.97 10.20 2.63 1.75 8.9% 96 27.0%
Pablo Lopez COL $9,600 $8,700 4.12 8.48 2.44 0.99 6.6% 77 25.0%
*Opponent stats are vs. the handedness of the starting pitcher

The glaring omissions are Walker Buehler and Aaron Nola. Not because they’re bad pitchers. They’re probably fine people who love their mothers so much they call them just because. But Buehler has a terrible strikeout matchup and isn’t of the skill level of the two super-aces, which isn’t something that knocks him out of play, but he’ll be owned in the mid-teens, which is a bit much for where we stand, relative to that top-two.

Nola faces the Braves. The sites are begging us to play him at those prices — especially FanDuel — but the prices will inflate his ownership. I’d rather let the field gamble against the Braves at around 10-to-20%.

We’re also not discussing Sonny Gray here. He isn’t in my pool right now, but could enter it later. We love his groundballs in Cincinnati to offset the power of the park and the Brewers are so bad that his walks might not matter. We’re getting a little bit of a discount, so he’s firmly in play, but the ownership is higher than I want. We can’t play everyone.

TIER ONE: SUPER-ACES — Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow

Bieber and Glasnow are about even in SIERA and both are pitching in pitchers’ parks tonight. Glasnow has the edge in strikeouts, but matchups mitigate that to a pretty large degree. The Cardinals low-key su-huck against right-handed pitching. Glasnow’s leash is getting a lot longer, and we shouldn’t minimize that the dude has gone seven-plus innings in three of his last four starts. He’s firmly in play and should be played by us in a high percentage of lineups.

But Bieber’s matchup and strikeouts, combined with one of the longest leashes in the league gives him complete game shutout upside. Upside to which we should have even more exposure than Glasnow.

Let’s go back to Buehler for a second. Buehler’s mere presence on the slate in a great run prevention matchup caps the ownership of Bieber and Glasnow, as he will suck 10-to-15% of ownership on FD and anywhere from 25-to-35% on DK. This makes both Bieber and Glasnow playable to almost any degree.

Bieber will be the most-owned pitcher on both sites, but we’re talking about the 25% range on FD and the 40% range on DK with Glasnow very close behind him. If there were a large gap between the two, there would be merit to going Glasnow over Bieber for single-entry tournaments, but with a tight gap, there’s almost no leverage in pivoting to Glasnow, so we should go with the slightly better projection with the limitless upside in Bieber.

The great part of fading Buehler is that we can go overweight on Bieber, even with the field on Glasnow, and still have lineups on which to spend down and diversify a little bit. The ownership on these three will be so concentrated that we can play whomever we want in other lineups at whatever exposure we want and be overweight on the field.

TIER TWO: OTHER ACES — Carlos Rodon and Pablo Lopez

What if I told you that three pitchers project very similarly at the top of this slate, according to THE BAT, and that Buehler isn’t one of the three with Bieber and Glasnow? Rodon is actually the diamond in the rough and he’s basically free, considering that.

The Blue Jays are a bad matchup and Guaranteed Rate is a tougher place to pitch, but THE BAT is projecting Rodon to have a huge season, Derek Carty, creator and curator of THE BAT, told me.

“It has more to do with Rodon himself than the matchup,” Carty said. “THE BAT projects him as a top 10 pitcher at this point. Not a whole lot worse than Bieber. His reputation isn’t up there yet, but he’s been fantastic this year. Higher velocity, etc., and THE BAT is buying in hard. He also has a really long leash. He and Bieber are the only long-leash guys on the slate. Way longer than Glasnow. Toronto takes a little park hit [from Dunedin], and the back half of Toronto’s projected lineup is pretty bad.”

Even better, no one’s gonna play him. Rodon is currently projecting to be owned somewhere in the single digits. I except that goes up for larger-field tournaments, but 5% seems about right for single-entry and smaller fields.

It’s weird to call Lopez an ace, but he might be a different pitcher since 2020, where he has a 3.85 SIERA, 9.19 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, and only 0.80 HR/9 on a 6.4% barrel rate. He draws the Quad-A Rockies in a great pitchers’ park in Miami. He could legitimately produce a single-digit HR/FB% in that park over any decent stretch of his career. Currently projecting at under 5% ownership, it’s difficult to see him anywhere in the double digits, competing with Bieber, Glasnow, Buehler, and Nola.

TIER THREE: CHEAP SP2 — Matthew Boyd

Matthew Boyd is having himself a season, largely because the 1.98 HR/9 from 2019-2020 is down to 0.87. His groundballs aren’t up, but his soft contact is way up 21.9%, creating a 15.4% popup rate. This is all relevant because the Mariners’ only means of scoring is via the long ball. Boyd’s strikeouts have taken a huge hit with this new strategy, but the Mariners gift so many strikeouts to opposing pitchers that it doesn’t really matter. That 27% data point is so massive and easy to exploit.

Boyd’s been beaten up his last four starts, including three homers in Milwaukee his last start and getting BABIP’d the prior two starts, but we’ve seen six, seven, eight innings, when the run prevention is there. His ceiling is as much a no-hitter as Spencer Turnbull’s, but realistically, we could five or six strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. Awesome production for the price tag.

Stats cited are since 2019 unless otherwise noted. Ownership projections via Rotoginders at 9:00 a.m. CST; park factors via EV Analytics through June 7, 2021.

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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