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Mad Max: Pitchers to Play, Pitchers to Target Against

Looking at the contests this morning on both FanDuel and DraftKings, I’m totally blown away.

Last NFL season during week 1, FanDuel ran a 1.2 million guaranteed $200 contest called the NFL Monster, optimistic at the growth they expected for their company. It was one of the biggest non-championship DFS tournaments ever at the time. Sadly for FanDuel, the contest only filled about half way and was a big loser for them. After that, they rarely ran a $200 NFL contest that got more than 1,000 entrants.

It’s almost a year later, and what we’re seeing with the DFS MLB prizepools is absolutely outstanding. Today, both DraftKings and FanDuel are making a huge leap and guaranteeing a baseball contest as big as that NFL Monster last year, and they both will almost certainly fill.

DFS truly is growing at an explosive rate, and it’s an exciting time to be a player.

 

Ok, onto some actual baseball analysis.

My brother Danny has added a really great new tool called recent pitcher performance. It’s a google doc we post on the baseball forum every day and it’s been great so far at helping us predict pitcher performance. You can find the doc here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13MBIt6S2xvNVMjs6sDfpF0gEgIDbs0DoRvQ0SeekZHQ/

I’m going to specifically focus on using this document to help you choose which pitchers to use tonight, and which pitchers to stack against.

 

Elite Pitchers

Chris Archer, Dallas Keuchel, and David Price are all great options today at pitcher, although their prices are all relatively high. But I see a lot of low salary options at hitter today, so I recommend going with one or two of these guys in every lineup. Here’s how I rank these pitchers, in order.

1) Dallas Keuchel ($12,100) – If you look at the pitcher recent performance sheet, one thing stands out with Keuchel is his last start, which is his contact rate going from 78% to 70% despite throwing less 1st pitch strikes, throwing in the zone more often, and facing a relatively low strikeout team in the Yankees. The question is, did his stuff get better? What’s happening here? I have a theory. Keuchel is a dominant pitcher against left-handers, and the Yankees best hitters are all lefties. Since they had to leave a couple in, Keuchel was able to miss more bats from facing lefties and his contact rate was down because of this.

The Mariners are a similar team to the Yankees given most of their great hitters are lefties, but they are also a higher strikeout team overall and a worse hitting team. My guess is Keuchel’s contact rate stays down tonight with a couple lefties certainly being in this lineup, and it’s a great match-up regardless of all the previous analysis. I’m very high on Keuchel tonight.

2) David Price ($12,000) – I have Archer and Price tied for 2nd here pending the Orioles lineup. Price was dominant last start, and also had a drastic decrease in contact rate against the Rangers. His velocity was also up significantly. I think Price probably is feeling motivated in a playoff race and as a big, strong pitcher with a lot of experience, he’s likely not wearing down as much as other guys. The Indians are a high contact team, but also will have a few lefties in the lineup, making Price’s life a little easier.

3) Chris Archer ($12,300) – I was hoping I could find something that would make me like Archer the most here, as he’s the highest upside pitcher of this group and has the best strikeout match-up. He’s a really high variance pitcher and although he was dominant from an xFIP perspective, his control was bad and the Twins poor lineup helped him quite a bit here (which just goes to show how important match-up is, by all accounts Archer actually pitched below his standards but still had 11 SOs). I’m not low on Archer at all, but Vegas expects the Orioles to score 3.5 runs and he’s on the road at a great hitters park.

 

Mid and Low-Priced Targets

Wei-Yin Chen ($8,200) – Chen is an interesting pitcher, and I think a bit of an overachiever. His contact rate is quite high which indicates his pitches don’t have a ton of movement, but he locates very well and it makes up for it. He located exceptionally well in his last start, throwing 82% first pitch strikes,  which is basically unheard of. His match-up with the Rays is solid and I expect him to pitch well, but he shouldn’t have a ton of upside.

Tyson Ross ($9,700) – Ross actually located better than usual in his last start, throwing  60% first pitch strikes. First pitch strikes are incredibly important as they allow a pitcher to get more swings outside the zone when they’re ahead in the count, and unsurprisingly Ross had a 10% dip in contact rate all the way down to 60% in his last start. I don’t love the match-up here as the Rangers have a ton of good lefties, but Ross is clearly a viable option and can be dominant when he’s on his game.

Bartolo Colon ($6,800) – Colon has a great last start as he located exceptionally well and actually gained significant velocity on his fastball. That last start was against the Phillies, and he gets them again tonight except this time at home. His price is exceptional and sportsbooks seem to like him a lot tonight as well.

 

Under-the-Radar Pitchers to Target Against

Now we’re looking at the opposite stats here. Which pitchers are locating poorly, not missing bats, and/or losing velocity? Most of these guys below aren’t going to be the best pitchers to stack against, but they certainly will be under-the-radar.

Mike Foltynewicz vs the Marlins (Target: Dee Gordon and Justin Bour): I actually recommended Folty in his last start, hoping that his control issues may be cured by a match-up with a swing happy Rockies team. Instead, he actually located even worse and got wrecked. His velocity is up, but that’s actually likely a bad sign as his issue isn’t his stuff, just his ability to throw it for strikes. I think he gets shelled today, and I especially like a couple of hitters here. Dee Gordon should be able to get on base without having to put the ball in play, and Folty has been awful against baserunners this year. Justin Bour also seems like a great target, Folty is HR prone and the Braves park is much better for lefty power than the Marlins park.

Edit: Scratched

Hector Santiago vs the A’s (Target: Mark Canha, A’s Righties): Vegas doesn’t totally agree with me here as the A’s aren’t projected to score over 4 runs, but I think that’s mostly due to how awful a hitter’s park the Oakland Colosseum really is for right-handers. That being said, Santiago looks completely horrible by every account. He’s locating terribly, and his velocity is down significantly. There seems to be something very wrong with him. There should be great value up and down the A’s order, but I especially like Mark Canha as he’s stolen 2 bases off Santiago despite the fact he isn’t much of a base stealer. He must have a good read on him.

Colby Lewis vs the Padres (Target: Yangervis Solarte): Like Santiago, Lewis is not projected to do that poorly today, but his stats suggest he could be in for a very poor game. He really struggled with location in his last start and his velocity was down. I’m not sure if that is just a fluke, but if it isn’t the Padres could be in for a better than expected game. I especially like Yangervis Solarte, who has a pitch type match-up against Lewis.

Vidal Nuno vs the Astros (Target: Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve): This one is a lot less under-the-radar as the others, I’m sure plenty of people will be targeting Astros hitters tonight and Sportsbooks have the Astros scoring over 4.5 runs. But I especially like the Astros bats tonight given the situation. Nuno was sent to the bullpen recently, but is making a spot start. Looking at his stats coming out of the Bullpen, I think Nuno is really thrown off here and is likely going to struggle hard. He could not locate at all in his inning out of the ‘pen and his velocity was somehow down even though he only threw 1 inning. I think he greats absolutely wrecked and Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve have especially good prices on FanDuel.

 

Bold Prediction

Robbie Ray has a Solid Game and the Rockies Don’t Crack 4 Runs: Ray has been struggling recently, but his F-strike%, contact rate, and velocity suggest there’s really nothing wrong. The Rockies really have a poor match-up here as a) none of their guys are fastball hitters (which Ray throws over 75% of the time) and b) they really don’t do well against lefties. I think this line makes sense as people are going to see Rays past 5 games and think he’s clearly not in for a quality game, but I think he actually does ok here given what I see.

 

Tweet me @maxjsteinberg if you have any questions or comments, good luck tonight!

View all posts by Max J Steinberg
Max J Steinberg

About the Author

Max J Steinberg Max Steinberg is a professional poker player and a top Daily Fantasy player who uses his creativity and mathematical abilities he cultivated as a poker player to win money on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He already has several big tournament scores to his name including the Victiv Bowl and countless MLB Monster wins. Follow him on twitter @maxjsteinberg.

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