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Fantasy 101: FanDuel Starting Pitcher Strategy

Michael Rathburn

Michael Rathburn

Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. He was also nominated by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for Best Baseball Series in 2011.


Now that we have a solid month of data under our belts, it’s time to dig in and start analyzing where can we find value to help you win your daily fantasy baseball contests. The first set of data I looked at is Fanduel starting pitching because it’s a one-pitcher site and wins are worth four points, which is more than any other daily fantasy sports site.

Data is from March 31 – April 30, 2014

Behind the Numbers

Starting Pitchers (784 starts)

Average Score = 9.8 points
Average Salary = $6180 ($3000-$11000 Range)
Average Multiplier = 1.62x (when you divide points / salary * 100)
Average stat line: 5.95 IP, .33 W, 2.53 ER, 5 K

Scoring Breakdown (rounded down to nearest whole number)

18-26 PTS - 57 ($7616 average salary)
16-17 PTS - 63
14-15 PTS - 79
14+PTS - 199/784 (25%)
{Avg salary $6840; Avg Multiplier 2.5; Avg Score 16.73; Avg IP 7.0, Win 0.84, ER 0.92, 7.23 K}

When a pitcher reaches at least seven innings, the average score is 14.43 points, 0.55 W, 1.38 ER, 6.23 K.
When a W is present, the average score is 14.94, 6.65 IP, 1.36 ER, and 5.65 K.
With less than two earned runs, the average score is 13.07, 6.48 IP, .50 W, 5.62 K
With at least 7 strikeouts, the average score is 13.61, 6.42 IP, .40 W, 1.94 ER

12-13 PTS - 105
10-11 PTS - 85
10-13 PTS - 190/784 (24%)
{Avg salary $6171; Avg Multiplier 2.0; Avg Score 11.73; Avg IP 6.26; Win 0.41; ER 1.66; 5.49 K}

8-9 PTS - 110
7 PTS - 44
6 PTS - 56
6-9 PTS - 210/784 (27%)
(Avg salary $6016; Avg Multiplier 1.34; Avg Score 7.68; Avg IP 5.74; Win .07; ER 2.90; 4.55 K)

*Note there’s not much of a difference on the average salary or innings pitched. The dramatic difference is the value of a win.

5 PTS - 56
0-4 PTS - 104
-1 TO -4 PTS - 25
-1 TO 5 PTS - 185/784 (24%)

25 percent of the time, your starting pitcher will hit at least 14 points. If you shoot for this as a target, you will cash in the majority of your contests.

Innings Pitched Breakdown

9 IP – 13/784 (1.6%)
8 IP – 47/784 (6%)
7 IP – 166/784 (21%)
6 IP – 264/784 (34%)
5 IP - 183/784 (23%)
4 IP – 74/784 (9%)
0-3 IP – 37/784 (5%)

Landing a pitcher that gets eight or nine innings is only a 7.5% shot, so focus on getting seven innings. 28% of the time you will get 7 innings or more from your pitcher.

Strikeouts Breakdown

14 K – 1
13 K – 1
12 K – 5
11 K – 14
10 K – 16
9 K – 36
8 K – 52
7 K – 77
7 K+ (197/784) = 25%
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6 K – 111
5 K – 113
4 K – 134
3 K – 117
2 K – 68
1 K – 33
0 K – 5

The chance of getting seven strikeouts is almost the same percentage as getting seven innings pitched,. This number is key because you really need to get at least 12-14 points with your starting pitcher on FanDuel to consistently win over the long haul.

Home vs. Road

Home 6.03 IP, .33 W (1.32 points), 2.29 ER, 5.45 K (10.51 points)
Road 5.88 IP, .34 W (1.36 points), 2.57 ER, 4.88 K (9.55 points)

You gain almost one full point by taking a starting pitcher at home versus on the road.

American League vs. National League

AL 5.85 IP, .33 W (1.32 points), 2.66 ER, 4.85 K (9.36 points)
NL 6.04 IP, .34 W (1.36 points), 2.40 ER, 5.24 K (10.24 points)

Just like home versus road, you gain another full point by taking a starting pitcher in a National League park versus an American League park.

Now, let's look at AL/NL with Home/Road:

AL/Home 5.87 IP, .30 W (1.20 points), 2.70 ER, 4.96 K (9.33 points)
AL/Road 5.84 IP, .35 W (1.40 points), 2.62 ER, 4.76 K (9.38 points)
NL/Home 6.16 IP, .34 W (1.36 points), 2.29 ER, 5.45 K (10.68 points)
NL/Road 5.91 IP, .33 W (1.32 points), 2.52 ER, 5.00 K (9.71 points)

Now, you can see the difference where taking a National League pitcher at home on average will give you up to a 1.5 point on average advantage.

Salary Range Breakdown

$9000-$11000 Avg Score 14.06, 49 Starts
28/49 (57%) >=14 points
12/49 (24%)<=10 points

It does make sense to pay for pitching on FanDuel, especially because the win is four points and you only start one pitcher. You want to pay for pitching in “cash” games, which are head-to-head and 50/50s. I would also play this strategy in leagues with 20 participants or less.

The best pitchers in this range were Yu Darvish, Jose Fernandez, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer, and Adam Wainwright.

$8000-$8900 Avg Score 11.88; 65 Starts
24/65 (37%)>=14 points
35/65 (54%)>=12 points
25/65 (38%)<10 points

The best pitchers in this range were Madison Bumgarner, David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Zimmerman.

$7000-$7900 Avg Score 10.61; 117 Starts
36/117 (31%)>=14 points
56/117 (48%)>=12 points
54/117 (46%)<10 points

Pitchers that returned value in this range were Tony Cingrani, Gerrit Cole, Johnny Cueto, Sonny Gray, Jon Lester, Julio Teheran, Michael Wacha, and CJ Wilson.

$6000-$6900 Avg Score 10.72; 142 Starts
45/142(32%)>=14 points
60/142(42%)>=12 points
68/142 (48%)<10 points

Very interesting data here that shows if you’re thinking about taking a pitcher between $7000-$7900, you might as well drop down and spend $6000-$6900. This is an especially great strategy in tournament play or qualifiers. If you are playing cash games, it’s better to go up to $7000-$7900 because of the better ratio on 12 points or higher. Pitchers to target in this range are John Lackey, Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Ervin Santana, and Alex Wood.

$5000-$5900 Avg Score 8.73; 228 Starts
72/228(31%)>=12 points
137/228(60%)<10 points

There is a significant difference on the ceiling when taking starting pitchers in this range. Your target score should be adjusted to 12 points instead of the 14 we targeted in the higher ranges. This is a tournament / qualifier play only. Pitchers in this group to target are Nathan Eovaldi, Jason Hammel, Aaron Harang, Drew Hutchison, Wade Miley, Wily Peralta, Jose Quintana, and Yordano Ventura.

$4000-$4900 Avg Score 8.22; 179 starts
45/179(35%)>10 points
116/179(65%)<=10 points

Pitchers in this range are only tournament plays; the positive sign is still a solid 35% hit rate of at least 10 points. Henderson Alvarez, Jesse Chavez, John Danks, Kyle Gibson, Tom Koehler, Jordan Lyles, Tanner Roark, Robbie Ross, and Alfredo Simon were part of this group with success.

Teams to Target against for Innings – ATL, CIN, HOU, PIT, KC
Teams to Target against for Wins – ARI, CHC, HOU, PIT, SD
Teams to Target against for ER – ARI, CLE, SD, CHC, PIT
Teams to Target against for Strikeouts – ATL, CHC, CHW, HOU, PHI

Look at the data from the beginning of the article and now the ending part and the recurring theme is taking RHP against the weak hitting NL teams. Make sure your starting pitching is in a favorable pitching environment. Continue to take advantage of the Braves, Pirates, Padres, Cubs and Diamondbacks as they struggle. If you blindly took starting pitchers against Cubs, Astros, Pirates and Padres, you would average 12 points per game.