Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Season long fantasy sports leagues have been around for decades now and have really revolutionized the way both casual and hardcore sports fans look at the game. But a more recent adaptation of fantasy sports is the daily fantasy sports (DFS) approach where you are only committed to a single day’s worth of games at a time and can win some serious cash on a daily basis.
***All player salaries reflect DraftKings pricing and the given strategy is more specific toward GPP (guaranteed prize pool) tournaments rather than cash games (head to head, 50/50, etc.).
STRATEGY FOR MONDAY SEPTEMBER 7, 2015
I like to start my MLB DFS research by checking in on the weather, and check out some tips at The Backwards K on how to utilize the weather when constructing MLB DFS lineups.
As always, check in on the weather at least a couple hours or less before game time to get a better picture of any potential weather concerns, but it’s also good to know if the weather is going to be hot, cold, windy, or humid because these are all factors that could influence our DFS lineup decisions. Daily Baseball Data is a great spot to get an hour-by-hour forecast of each game.
This article is focusing on the main slate of games for the Labor Day holiday, so that means any game that has a start time from 1:05 PM EST-4:10 PM EST/10:05 AM PST-1:10 PM PST.
Ian Kennedy (SD) ($8,900) vs. Colorado Rockies – Kennedy has been able to turn things around since the All-Star break with a 2.35 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.36 K/9 with 7 quality starts in 9 opportunities. Also included in that time span have been two double digit strikeout games. Kennedy will oppose the Rockies in a home start at Petco Park, so the park factors are in his favor as Petco Park is a pitchers park and the Rockies are the absolute lowest scoring team on the road this season. And as an added bonus, the Rockies also have the 3rd highest road strikeout rate on the road at 23.7%. This appears to be a nice situation for Kennedy as long as he can avoid damage from the red hot Carlos Gonzalez, but Kennedy has owned him by striking him out 15 of the 36 times he’s faced him. When factoring in price, current form, park factors, and the opposition, Kennedy just may be the favorite pitcher play of the day.
Michael Pineda (NYY) ($8,400) vs. Baltimore Orioles – Pineda returned from the DL last week and tossed a very solid game against the Red Sox. He will look to keep that momentum going in a home start against an Orioles team that has been in a downward spiral for the most part over the last three weeks. Pineda has faced the Orioles three times already this season to compile an unimpressive 5.60 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, but the two poor starts that he had against him were in Baltimore. The one time that he faced them at home he ended the game with 16 strikeouts, which was also a day game, and he tends to do better in day games like how this scheduled start is lined up (3.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 10.19 K/9 in day games this season). This could end up being a great spot for Pineda to take advantage of some conditions that appear to be in his favor. Pairing Kennedy and Pineda together would be very friendly on the salary cap and it also provides a good amount of upside.
Chris Sale (CWS) ($13,100) vs. Cleveland Indians – Sale of course has the ability to be the highest scoring pitcher on any given day due to his super elite 12.10 K/9. However, he will be facing an Indians squad that is one of the toughest teams to strikeout for left-handed pitchers as they have the 5th lowest rate at 18.7% for the season and they have been even a bit better than that since trading away three of their left-handed hitters (Brandon Moss, David Murphy, Michael Bourn). So Sale’s upside may be limited here, which might not make him a great value as the highest priced pitcher on the board, but he still should be relied on for a pretty good game. I like Kennedy and Pineda a bit more, but I’ll probably find some way to include Sale in a lineup.
SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:
Mike Leake (SF) ($6,500) @ Arizona Diamondbacks – The only cheap option that I will mention for the Labor Day main slate is Leake, but it is not a rock solid recommendation — Leake is just merely the cheapest usable option that is under $7,500. The two caveats with Leake are that his upside is limited because of his weak 5.98 K/9 and he will be pitching in a hitters park in Arizona. But Leake has been pretty solid all season long with a 3.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, and he has been even better since coming over to the Giants with a 3.16 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 4 starts. So if Leake can manage to get through 7 innings with 2 ER and 4 K and a win, then that would be more than enough to have justified using him. It is a risk, but if you are set on using one of the more expensive options like Chris Sale, then you have to save money somewhere.
A strategy that has worked since the introduction of DFS is stacking multiple players (4-6) from one offense. However, in certain situations it may be more beneficial not to stack as it is becoming more contrarian not to do full stacks since so many people are doing it now. But for the most part, stacking (or mini-stacks of 3 players at the very least) seems to be a component of most winning tournament lineups.
Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets (Jon Niese) – The lefty Niese has been hit hard lately with giving up at least 5 runs in each of his last 3 starts, the Nationals offense has been hot as of late with 6.47 runs per game over the last 15 games, a good portion of the Nationals team has a good track record against Niese (.353 wOBA collectively against him), and the Nationals lineup is really right-handed heavy outside of Bryce Harper. This is a big series for the Nationals as they try and claw their way back into striking distance in the NL East, so I think that they will be fired up and be able to capitalize on this good spot. Consider Jayson Werth OF ($3,600), Anthony Rendon 2B/3B ($3,500), Bryce Harper OF ($5,500), Ryan Zimmerman 1B/3B ($4,500), Ian Desmond SS ($3,500), and Wilson Ramos C ($3,300).
Toronto Blue Jays @ Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) – The last time Porcello faced the Jays they chased him out after 2 innings because he gave up 7 runs on 7 hits including 3 HR. Porcello has done a bit better at home than on the road, but he’s still just not a very reliable pitcher this season. The Jays powerful bats should be in full force and stackable as they attack the Green Monster. Consider Troy Tulowitzki SS ($4,400), Josh Donaldson 3B ($6,200), Jose Bautista OF ($5,400), Edwin Encarnacion 1B ($4,700), Kevin Pillar OF ($3,600), and Ben Revere OF ($3,800). Alternatively for a more contrarian play, think about Justin Smoak 1B ($2,500) (if he’s starting) instead of Encarnacion for 1B. Most players who stack the Jays will have Encarnacion, but Smoak also has a really nice track record against Porcello and is much cheaper.
For GPP tournaments, it’s not necessarily about scoring a large amount of points, but it’s more about scoring more points than everyone else. To do that, it often helps to be contrarian in your lineup construction, and a great way to do that is to select offensive stacks that project to be of lower usage but have some decent upside. So in the “Sneaky Stack” section, that’s what we aim for.
Tampa Bay Rays @ Detroit Tigers (Randy Wolf) – Attacking Randy Wolf worked well the last time out, so let’s go at it again. The Rays aren’t super powerful, but it’s that good scenario again where they are up against a weak lefty. They are a top 5 team in the Majors against left-handed pitching and Wolf is a washed up veteran who can’t strike out batters anymore. Consider Brandon Guyer OF ($2,900), Joey Butler 1B/OF ($3,000), Evan Longoria 3B ($4,300), Logan Forsythe 1B/2B ($4,400), Tim Beckham 2B/SS ($2,700), and J.P. Arencibia C ($3,400).
New York Mets @ Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer) – Scherzer just hasn’t been too sharp lately. He did have a double digit strikeout game last time out, but he still gave up a lot of hits and he’s given up 11 HR in 9 starts since the All-Star break. As a flyball pitcher, he can be susceptible to the long ball if the weather is hot and humid. This would be a total contrarian stack as not many people will be on it since a lot of people will probably be using Scherzer as a pitcher. I will be staying away from Scherzer due to his recent form, which makes the Mets an extremely sneaky stack option. Consider Curtis Granderson OF ($3,800), Daniel Murphy 2B/3B ($3,000), Yoenis Cespedes OF ($4,100), David Wright 3B ($4,200), Michael Conforto OF ($3,400), and Travis d’Arnaud C ($4,300).
- Mike Fiers, Drew Smyly, and Lance Lynn all are some “tier 2” pitchers that are usable. Fiers has been pitching well and gets a nice road match at Oakland. Smyly’s matchup isn’t the greatest but it’s a “revenge” spot as he is taking on his former team. Lynn has strikeout upside against a strikeout prone Cubs team. I think any one of them would be a suitable alternative for either Ian Kennedy or Michael Pineda.
- Anthony DeSclafani against the Pirates may make for a sneaky pitcher play due to scheduling reasons. The Pirates played in the Sunday night game that started at 7:05 PM local time in St. Louis and they will be losing an hour due to the time zone change traveling to Cincinnati for Monday’s afternoon game that starts at 1:10 PM local time. So the Pirates may have some tired guys where DeSclafani can possibly take advantage.
- Milwaukee Brewers against the soft-tossing, pitch to contact, left-handed Justin Nicolino make for a solid stack as well.
***Article written before confirmation of starting lineups
***All stats from FanGraphs