Man + Machine: Pitcher Projections

Man + Machine: Pitcher Projections

This article is part of our Man + Machine series.

It is difficult to step away from all the trade excitement to buckle down. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos sure has a flare for the dramatics, and it'll be extremely interesting to see how the American League East plays out.

Picking up with the optimizer analysis, the focus this week was to evaluate how accurate the optimizer ranked starting pitcher by projected points.

Three days worth of data was collected. I was on a mini -- and very refreshing -- no-computer vacation for a few days, so these are only initial observations and results. As always, though, there were still plenty of telling outcomes to hit on.

Each day, I pulled the 10 pitchers with the most projected fantasy points from the two sites. Wednesday, though, I used the projections for all 15 games for FanDuel, but I only used the projections from the 10 night games for the Draft Kings list. I wanted to switch it up slightly, and see how the optimizer did with fewer aces.

I did not track the projected points to compare them to the actual points, and the actual rankings in the tables only include the 10 hurlers tracked. Though, tracking all starters and comparing projected to actual fantasy points would also be excellent avenues to explore in the future, albeit extremely time consuming ones.

So, we'll see there.


July 25 Pitcher Rankings - DraftKings
Optimizer RankNamePointsDK Rank
1 Sale, Chris, CWS 25.55 5
2 Cueto, Johnny, CIN 28.40 3
3 Bumgarner, M., SF 27.55 4
4 Hamels, Cole, PHI 59.05 1
5 Arrieta, Jake, CHC 18.10 9
6 Carrasco, Carlos, CLE 1.60 10
7 Harvey, Matt, NYM 19.55 8
8 Martinez, Carlos, STL 30.40 2
9 Gonzalez, Gio. WAS 20.50 7
10 Kennedy, Ian, SD 24.70 6

July 25 Pitcher Rankings - FanDuel
Optimizer RankNamePointsFD Rank
1 Sale, Chris, CWS 16.00 5
2 Cueto, Johnny, CIN 17.00 3
3 Bumgarner, Madison, SF 17.00 4
4 Hamels, Cole, PHI 26.00 1
5 Arrieta, Jake, CHC 11.00 8
6 Carrasco, Carlos, CLE 3.00 10
7 Harvey, Matt, NYM 13.00 6
8 Martinez, Carlos, STL 18.00 2
9 Burnett, A.J., PIT 8.67 9
10 Gonzalez, Gio, WAS 13.00 7

July 26 Pitcher Rankings - DraftKings
Optimizer RankNamePointsDK Rank
1 Greinke, Zack, LAD 12.95 7
2 Salazar, Danny, CLE 21.60 4
3 Cole, Gerrit, PIT 30.45 2
4 Hammel, Jason, CHC -3.15 10
5 deGrom, Jacob, NYM 30.85 1
6 Heaney, Andrew, LAA 16.10 5
7 Latos, Mat, MIA 13.90 6
8 Ventura, Yordano, KC 23.55 3
9 Keuchel, Dallas, HOU 9.00 9
10 Wacha, Michael, STL 12.70 8

July 26 Pitcher Rankings - FanDuel
Optimizer RankNamePointsFD Rank
1 Greinke, Zack, LAD 8.00 7
2 Cole, Gerrit, PIT 18.67 1
3 Hammel, Jason, CHC 0.67 10
4 Salazar, Danny, CLE 12.67 4
5 deGrom, Jacob, NYM 15.67 2
6 Wisler, Matt, ATL 12.00 5
7 Heaney, Andrew, LAA 12.00 6
8 Latos, Mat, MIA 8.00 8
9 Ventura, Yordano, KC 15.00 3
10 Wacha, Michael, STL 8.00 9

July 29 Pitcher Rankings - DraftKings (Night Only)
Optimizer RankNamePointsDK Rank
1 Fiers, Mike, MIL 16.50 7
2 Tanaka, Masahiro, NYY 4.30 10
3 Ross, Tyson, SD 19.65 5
4 Lackey, John, STL 30.20 1
5 Richards, Garrett, LAA 6.85 9
6 Dickey, R.A., TOR 25.20 2
7 Quintana, Jose, CWS 16.05 8
8 Peavy, Jake, SF 17.10 6
9 Tillman, Chris, BAL 25.10 3
10 McCullers, Lance, HOU 24.75 4

July 29 Pitcher Rankings - FanDuel
Optimizer RankNamePointsFD Rank
1 Hernandez, Felix, SEA 6.67 9
2 Kluber, Corey, CLE 18.00 3
3 Lester, Jon, CHC 24.00 1
4 Archer, Chris, TB 18.00 4
5 Fiers, Michael, MIL 9.00 8
6 Liriano, Francisco, PIT 11.67 7
7 Ross, Tyson, SD 13.00 6
8 Lackey, John, STL 15.00 5
9 Verlander, Justin, DET 21.00 2
10 Tanaka, Masahiro, NYY 5.00 10


First, it is worth noting the starter with the highest projected point total never finished with the most fantasy points out of the top-10 pitchers pulled. In fact, they never finished higher than fifth.

With that said, it is a small sample size, and in five of the six sample groups there were a number of high-end starters taking the hill. Additionally, Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter, and Zack Greinke's start came after a cross-continent flight following the birth of his first child.

Plus, with a closer look, you'll see the projected top-five arms fared well and finished among the top-five ranked 19 of 30 times, which aren't bad results for fantasy sports. Also, looking at just the five full-day results, the optimizer went 17-for-25 returning top-five performances.

Two specific examples stuck out for me as I was pulling the names: Carlos Martinez and Dallas Keuchel. Saturday, Martinez was the eighth-ranked starter, and while there were plenty of aces, he had an absolutely dreamy matchup and was the second-best arm. Keuchel was a surprise absence from FanDuel rankings against the Royals on Sunday. He wouldn't have been in play for me, but it was still surprising. As it turned out, the optimizer was bang on.

I'm going to circle back on the Keuchel example later.

The average point total of the 30 pitchers pulled from FanDuel was 13.16. At DraftKings, the average fantasy point total was 20.3. Removing the five highest and five lowest scores returns fantasy point averages of 13.18 at FanDuel and 20.48 at DraftKings.

So while there were a few extremes, the averages didn't sway too far, and also, the averages are solid marks to return value in the majority of contests. When you're spending up for an ace arm you're looking for approximately 18 and 30 points on FanDuel and DraftKings, respectively.

As seen from the above results, aces have off days, too.


It seems more appropriate to look at the pitcher rankings in terms of tiers and then narrow down your selections accordingly. Earth shattering analysis, I know. Still, every day tracked, a pitcher ranked in the five-to-10 range returned a top-three showing. So you shouldn't always be blindly looking at the top options, which is even more important on two-pitcher sites.

Chris Liss has talked frequently about riding the chalk arms on FanDuel throughout his DFS Amateur Hour series, and there are no qualms in the approach here, especially after the optimizer performed well with the recommendations.

The key is honing in on the right top starter, and the No. 1 ranked or most expensive hurler isn't always the right choice. In his current form, Clayton Kershaw might be an exception, and at times this season, Max Scherzer and all the other high-end aces have shown to be next to unhittable.

However, as noted, aces have off days, too, which is why it was interesting to notice Keuchel so far down the rankings. He is a top-tier pitcher 95 percent of the time, but against the Royals on Sunday it was both telling and confidence instilling to see him excluded from top billing by the optimizer. Look out for those instances.

Additionally, look out for instances where a hurler -- Mike Friers on Wednesday -- are included. You should be skeptical and gauge whether the juice is worth the squeeze.

What's Next

The vacation put a hold on playing contests competitively, so I'll look forward to jumping back into the fire this week.

Additionally, I've continued to track the hitter values, so it'll be nice to re-examine those with a larger sample size. Plus, there is room to continue tinkering with how to best track pitchers.

As always, if there is anything else you're looking to see covered, please don't hesitate to fire away in the comments.

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. Neil Parker plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: naparker77, DraftKings: naparker77.
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Neil Parker
A loyal Cubs, Cowboys and Maple Leafs fan for decades, Neil has contributed to RotoWire since 2014. He previously worked for USA Today Fantasy Sports.
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