DFS Baseball 101: Pitching Research, Part I

DFS Baseball 101: Pitching Research, Part I

This article is part of our DFS Baseball 101 series.

My first three articles this season comprised the "DFS Starter Kit" where I offered tips that new players should follow for daily fantasy baseball. Most often, my weekly article topics end up coming from reader feedback or questions. One of the biggest requests I have had is starting pitching strategy. More specifically, the research process and what you should be looking for. Last year, I covered the beginning of your starting pitcher research here.

There are many factors to take into consideration when doing your starting pitcher research for daily fantasy baseball, and then you also have to separate cash games versus tournaments.

One of the first questions I get asked is "Do you start your research with pitching?" The answer is YES.

The reason being, in daily fantasy baseball, if you do not get your pitcher right, there is a good chance you will not produce a winning lineup. There is always an exception like the night when Francisco Liriano was 80 pecent owned and bombed for negative points, but a lot of bats went off, which meant you could still cash.

Your pitching usually represents anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of your cap for just one or two positions (FanDuel is one starting pitcher with a $35,000 cap; DraftKings is a two starting pitcher site with a $50,000 cap). Another point on getting the pitcher right is that they are more predictable and constant outcomes. An elite starting pitcher is rarely going to have a bad game, where as Mike Trout can go 0 for 4 in any given night.

For cash games, I look to narrow my choices to three starting pitchers on FanDuel and four on DraftKings. Understand that ownership in cash games is not going to be spread out, so you do not want to be taking unnecessary chances. For example, let's look at Tuesday evening. Anytime Clayton Kershaw is on the slate, he is a must in cash unless he is in Coors. He ended up being 50 percent owned, Michael Wacha was 28 percent owned, Danny Duffy 6 percent, Wade Miley 4 percent and Ervin Santana 3 percent.


Rain - If there is at least a 40 percent chance of rain for the duration of the game and at least two hours after I stay away. We had several rainouts Tuesday, but it was not that big of a deal since it was a full slate of 14 games.

Wind -
Pay attention to at least 15 mph wind blowing in or out. If the wind is blowing in, I bump up the starting pitcher, and if it is blowing out I downgrade them.

Temperature -
Games with 40 degrees or lower temperature favor pitching. As we get into summer and see games in the 90 to 100-degree range, you should avoid starting pitching.

Las Vegas

First, I look at the money lines and sort from highest to low. I want to know who the strongest favorites are on the board. Next, I look at the run totals and try to find the highest favorite/lowest run total.

Again, you have Kershaw on the road in a great pitchers' park (SF) with a total of 6.5 and favored -230. The next highest favorite Tuesday was Danny Duffy at -154, who I also put on my short list. The third pitcher on my list was Michael Wacha. He was -145 with a total of 7.5 against a putrid Blue Jays lineup.

Other pitchers considered were Dallas Keuchel, who has pitched well, but he was on the road against the Indians. I prefer to take him only at home based on his recent splits. Kyle Hendricks was a -125 favorite on the road against a weak Pirates lineup with a low total of 7.5. But he has not hit value in any of his first three starts.

The rest of the starting pitching group Tuesday night was just too risky to consider in cash. With the rainouts, it took away Luis Severino, whom I was considering as a second pitcher on DraftKings even though it was against the Red Sox.

Be sure to check out these two articles I wrote last season about using Vegas data for your starting pitcher research

Using Money Lines

Using Vegas Data

Strikeouts/K Props

I wrote an article on the power of strikeout props last July, which you can read here. For some reason, we only got eight strikeout props Tuesday night. Kershaw was the highest at 8, Duffy was 6 Gerrit Cole/Michael Wacha 5.5, Felix Hernandez/Marco Estrada 5 and Dallas Keuchel/Kyle Hendricks 4.5.

Strikeouts are key in daily fantasy baseball because they are the No. 1 way a starting pitcher can score points. You can either pay up for the strikeout pitcher or you can look for value by targeting a team that strikes out often.

Avoid Rookie Starting Pitchers in Cash Games

It can be tempting to take a cheap young pitcher who just got called up in his first start. More often than not, a young pitcher will either get bombed or be on a pitch count so he won't go deep in the game.

There was an example of this a couple weeks ago where Tyler Glasnow was cheap on FanDuel and 50 percent of the field used him in their cash games. Well, it backfired bad and resulted in losing lineups across the board.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Michael Rathburn plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: burnnotice, DraftKings: burnnotice, Yahoo: burnnotice, Fantasy Aces: burnnotice, FantasyDraft: burnnotice.
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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. Rath won the 2016 FSWA "Baseball Article of the Year, Online" award and was a finalist for the FSWA Best Baseball Series in 2011.
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