Welcome to the inaugural MLB FanDuel: Daily Pitching Focus column for Opening Day of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. We will explore the pitching options for the next MLB FanDuel slate of games and evaluate the top pitching plays of the day, along with value options. We’ll also discuss which pitchers to avoid in your lineup. Evaluating pitchers is a key component to building a lineup for a big pay-day!
Sunday is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, but there are only three games on the scheduled. So our pitching options are slim, but this allows us to easily focus on top options and know which hitters to avoid. Here’s a look at the MLB schedule for Sunday, April 2nd:
Yankees at Rays (1:10pm ET)
Giants at Diamondbacks (4:10pm ET)
Cubs at Cardinals (8:35pm ET)
The Cubs start off defending their World Series title in a tough way, visiting St. Louis against a Cardinals team whose favored to clinch the NL wild card. The Giants have a juicy match up in Arizona, but the D-Backs are underrated this season. And the Yankees visit a Rays team who did very little to improve in the off-season.
Let’s start by looking at the MLB FanDuel Pitcher scoring and strategy….
Next: FanDuel Pitcher Scoring
FanDuel Pitcher Scoring and Strategy
Before you look through your pitching options each day. Make sure you understand the MLB FanDuel rules this season. Some of the rules have changed. Here’s a look at the five key stats and value for pitchers on FanDuel this year:
Wins = 6 Points
Quality Starts = 4 Points
Earned Runs (given up) = -3 Points
Strike Outs = 3 Points
Innings Pitched = 3 Points
As you look through the values, the first thing that becomes clear is innings pitched and quality starts. A Quality Start for a starting pitcher is awarded after they complete six innings and allow no more than three earned runs. While a win is six points, you can build at least 22 points from a quality start with six innings, worth three points each, and a four-point QS. So pitcher’s like Chris Archer ($9,400) are deceptively valuable.
Next: Top Pitchers
Salary aside, Madison Bumgarner ($10,900) and Jon Lester ($10,000) are top options at pitcher for Sunday’s Opening Day games. Bumgarner had 39.25 MLB FanDuel points-per-game in 36 starts last season, the most of any of the available pitchers on Sunday. Lester is second with 37.94 MLB FanDuel points-per-game.
The greatest asset from Madison is his very low ERA. In his career, Bumgarner has a 2.99 ERA and last season was as low as 2.74. Madison had 251 strikeouts over 226.2 innings, or 1.1 strikeout per inning. So it’s unlikely to lose points from earned runs from Bum, and he’s going to get you six to ten strikeouts, or 18 to 30 MLB FanDuel points.
With Lester, you’re getting another low ERA starter. Lester was 19-5 and pitches for a squad likely to beat almost anyone in baseball, any given night. The win is almost a sure thing. But, Lester had under 1K/inning last season, worse than Bumgarner. And the Cubs are visiting a very strong Cardinals offense in St. Louis Sunday. So I’m fading Lester.
Madison was 15-9 last season, and is also likely to get the win in Arizona. The Diamondbacks do not match up well against the Giants. If you can afford him, play Bumgarner.
Next: Pitching Value
Masahiro Tanaka ($8,700) is the popular value pick at pitcher on Sunday. Tanaka was an impressive 14-4 last season with a low 3.07 ERA. But Masahiro had 165 strikeouts in 199 innings last year. Tanaka isn’t the mow them down with the fastball kind of pitcher. Masahiro will get outs through six innings and put the Yankees in a solid position for a win.
The reason Tanaka is an attractive value is due to the low .243 batting average the Rays had last season, 28th in MLB. The Rays also had five starting hitters with 125 to 160 strikeouts in 2016. So while Tanaka doesn’t pile up a lot of K’s each game, on Sunday he should be on the higher end of his average. The reason I’m fading Tanaka, is because of Archer.
We alluded to the deceptive value of Chris Archer ($9,400) earlier. Of the six starters on Sunday, Archer was a 2016 top 25 pitcher in quality starts, 19 QS’s or 21st in MLB. Archer had a horrendous start to the season in 2016 and that’s likely going to make most MLB FanDuel players pause before they pick him. So expect low ownership on Chris.
While he had a high 4.02 ERA in 2016, that was due to the terrible first half and not standard for Archer’s career. Chris had 233 strikeouts last year, 5th in MLB. He was 9-19, but again mostly due to the terrible start and the Rays had a rough year. Archer is my sneaky value pick at pitcher on Sunday.
Next: Offensive Pitching Target
Offensive Pitching Target
In fellow FantasyCPR expert’s FanDuel MLB Picks and Pivots column, Brian Tulloch has a great stat. The FanDuel MLB Preview mentions 83% of winning MLB FanDuel lineups in 2016 had two or more stacks, and only 2% of winning lineups avoid stacks. Stacking, is when you put multiple players from the same team in your lineup. The idea is the team is likely to have great success against a pitcher, and your lineup will benefit from getting the most scoring. If you cast a wider net, picking a player from each team, you’re more likely to miss scoring.
So for Sunday, we’re going to target two pitchers for our hitters, Carlos Martinez ($9,000) and Zack Greinke ($9,500). To put it another way, these are two pitchers you should avoid for your pitcher pick.
Greinke is a popular name in baseball. Zack was the 6th overall pick of the 2002 draft for the Kansas City Royals. Greinke had incredible success for the Royals. But Zack chased a big contract to Arizona and is now pitching for a rebuilding team. The D-Backs are underrated heading into this season. But, Zack has shown signs of a career winding down. Last season, Greinke had a bad 4.37 ERA, and only 134 strikeouts in 158 innings, 75th in MLB. Zack is facing a very strong Giants lineup. So players like Joe Panik ($2,500) and Brandon Crawford ($2,400), and obviously Posey, could be great value picks for your lineup.
Martinez gets to face the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs to start the season, yikes. In 2016, Carlos had a solid year, 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts. Typically Martinez would be a pitcher you’ll pick this season for your lineup. But the Cubs have the most robust offensive lineup in baseball and Martinez will struggle. In 2016, the Cubs had a .338 OBP against Martinez and Rizzo went yard three times off Carlos in 26 at bats. With some value picks from the Giants, you can load up on the Cubs top hitters against Martinez.
Always check MLB lineups throughout the day when playing MLB FanDuel. You can typically find starting pitchers a few days, or day before, each game. But as the season progresses, pitchers develop injuries, sometimes only hours before a game. So always stay tuned for changes before locking in your lineup. Follow us on twitter, @fantasycpr, for updates as we get closer to lineup lock time. Good Luck today FanDuelers!