The purpose of The Payoff Pitch is to “zoom in” to today’s slate in order to provide a micro perspective of DFS strategies to exploit. With the plethora of content available on our site from our talented analysts, this piece will focus more on game theory and leveraging contrarian approaches to get ahead of the field. As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@drewcrawford7) with questions or comments, and make sure to hop in our Discord chat to pick the brains of our contributors 24/7!
Who is Monday’s Ace?
We have another slate where pitching is tough to decipher at the top but in a good way. There is a solid top-tier of arms and a middle-tier that has plenty of options as well. For now, I’ll focus on what I consider to be the clear-cut top-tier, consisting of Stephen Strasburg, Jose Berrios, Noah Syndergaard, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Caleb Smith.
I’ve also added opponent IRT (implied run total) and a color scale today for both opposition matchup and park/environment. Here’s what each represents:
- Blue: Great matchup/Great pitcher’s park
- Green: Good matchup/Good pitcher’s park
- Yellow: Neutral matchup/Neutral pitcher’s park
- Orange: Bad matchup/Bad pitcher’s park
- Red: Terrible matchup/Terrible pitcher’s park
|Pitcher||K%||BB%||ERA||SIERA||Hard-Hit %||Matchup||Park||Opp IRT|
|Stephen Strasburg||32.0%||6.7%||3.45||3.10||24.8%||GREEN||RED||@MIL 4.0|
|Jose Berrios||25.1%||4.4%||2.91||3.81||35.4%||BLUE||ORANGE||@TOR 4.3|
|Noah Syndergaard||27.4%||6.2%||5.00||3.49||29.7%||GREEN||BLUE||@SD 3.5|
|Hyun-Jin Ryu||29.3%||1.5%||2.55||2.82||40.2%||ORANGE||GREEN||Vs. ATL 3.7|
|Caleb Smith||33.6%||6.7%||2.00||3.06||32.5%||ORANGE||YELLOW||@CHC 3.7|
As good as Stephen Strasburg has been, I’m crossing him off the list for today’s Payoff Pitch with a matchup against the Brewers in Miller Park. We saw last night with Max Scherzer that the expected output of starting pitchers against this team just isn’t worth the high cost. They are too deep and talented. Scherzer still looked good, and Strasburg could have a solid outing here, but I’m going elsewhere. If Jose Berrios were facing the Blue Jays at home in Target Field, he would be a smash play tonight. But the young right-hander has very definitive home/road splits in his career and has really struggled outside of his home park. I still love his upside for GPPs, and he may be the lowest or second-lowest owned pitcher of this group. Noah Syndergaard is somewhere between where we saw him at the beginning of the year and what we saw from his dominant start last time out. The Padres strikeout a ton against right-handed pitching, and Thor gets to pitch in spacious Petco Park, making him arguably the top option for cash games on both sites. That said, ownership may get out of control here, and in GPPs I’m chasing more upside at lower-ownership (and potentially lower cost) than Syndergaard. Hyun-Jin Ryu is always undervalued but has been pitching like a true ace to start the season. His matchup with the Braves certainly isn’t stellar, but he has big upside for tournaments as well and should be minimally owned. Caleb Smith is the darling of the fantasy baseball community at the moment, and he gets a stiff wind blowing in at Wrigley Field tonight. Smith’s strikeout rate continues to outpace most of the league, and his coming-out-party is in full effect. The Cubs are a bottom-10 team in terms of K% against southpaws and rank fourth in ISO in the same split, so I am weary about Smith’s high flyball rate. The breeze should help, however, and Smith has tremendous upside for tournaments once again.
It’s Syndergaard as the overall top option, but he’s someone I’m looking to fade in tournaments. Smith is my No. 1 tournament option, followed by Berrios. Ryu and Strasburg are guys I personally won’t have much of, but could be interesting targets for large-field tournaments.
Can We Go Cheaper?
With so many decent options to spend up for and a very formidable middle tier, this doesn’t look like a slate where you want to get cute at starting pitcher. In the mid-tier, we have Aaron Nola at St. Louis, Jon Lester at home versus the Marlins, and Colin McHugh at home against the Royals. Of those three, Lester has the best matchup, while McHugh has arguably the most upside. Nola is the guy I will have none of tonight against a scary Cardinals’ lineup, although their right-handed nature could certainly boost his floor. If you are feeling brave, Madison Bumgarner is priced down due to a date with the Rockies in Coors Field, and he has rebounded nicely from a poor (for his standards) 2018. The weather in Coors has some cold air with wind blowing in, so maybe we see some of those long fly balls from the likes of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story turn into outs here. On DK, Griff Canning is cheap as an SP2 option and flashed some solid strikeout upside in his first start against Toronto.
Red Sox vs. David Hess
I got bold last night and completely faded the Red Sox in GPPs, even though I wrote them up as the best stack on the board and firmly believed it. That brings up an interesting point that, in GPPs, sometimes projected ownership outweighs the attractiveness of a play. The big Boston bats plus Steve Pearce/Eduardo Nunez were all around 50% owned in the FD Slugger (Single Entry) last night. By fading them and hoping for a dud (which they put up against John Means), I was able to leapfrog half the field by essentially doing nothing. Now, as it turns out, I had the wrong Astros and still didn’t cash, but it was still the right play. Was it comfortable fading what I projected to be the best offense? Absolutely not. I was doing the peak-out-of-the-corner of my eye look at the game tracker every five minutes just waiting for an explosion. But once I saw ownership was going to be ludicrous on these guys (it’s baseball, after all), I knew I had to look elsewhere for this type of format. Now, for tonight, is it possible that the Sox go a bit overlooked due to recency bias? I don’t think so, I still project them to be the favorite in terms of highest ownership, but they shouldn’t approach the high marks from last night with a full 13-game slate tonight. Their matchup again can’t get much better, with gas can David Hess on the other side and a humid wind blowing out in hitter-friendly Camden Yards. I’m going back to the well here with the big bats of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, plus lefties Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers.
Astros vs. Danny Duffy
The Astros’ IRT has already jumped from 5.1 to 5.9 this afternoon, which leads me to believe that the roof is going to be open again in a hot and humid Minute Maid Park. Houston scored 6 runs last night in similar conditions and was still a bit of a letdown. Tonight they get to take on lefty Danny Duffy who has a career 4.69 xFIP and .334 wOBA allowed to right-handed hitters. The Astros’ major strength is their right-handed power, as evidenced by their major league-leading 134 wRC+ (100 is league average). Duffy also allows substantially fewer ground balls and substantially more fly balls to righties, so we should see quite a few balls in the air tonight, and subsequently, a few long balls. If you can fit George Springer and Alex Bregman, they are the priority here, but Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are right behind them. If you need some value, look to Tyler White, Robinson Chirinos, Yuli Gurriel and Jake Marisnick if they are in the lineup. Duffy’s numbers are good enough against lefties that I’m steering clear of Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick.
Giants vs. Anthony Senzatela
Let me preface this one by saying that if the Giants become ridiculously high-owned tonight I will be on #teamfade. They are cheap, get to face a mediocre right-hander, and get to face off with the Rockies in Coors Field. What’s not to like? Well, their IRT has already dropped from 5.3 to 4.9, the weather conditions are unfavorable even for Coors Field, and honestly, this lineup just isn’t good. That said, this is Coors Field, where mediocre to bad offenses come to put up double-digit runs. We can’t ignore the Giants tonight based on talent or context, especially with how relatively cheap they are on both sites. Anthony Senzatela has shown some friendliness to right-handed hitters, but we want the San Fran lefties here starting with Brandon Belt and complementing him with a mix of Joe Panik, Mike Gerber, Steven Duggar, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford. Check on ownership throughout the afternoon and let that guide your decision-making when it comes to the Giants tonight. If they happen to be projected to be low-owned, then I will be all over them.
Home Run Call of the Day
Brandon Lowe vs. Taylor Clarke
We have a young fella with a 6.12 ERA across 5 AAA starts facing off against a red-hot Rays’ offense in Tampa tonight. Taylor Clarke will look to put up a better effort than Merrill Kelly and the Arizona bullpen last night, who allowed a combined 12 runs. There are several longball candidates from the Rays tonight, but Brandon Lowe at the top of the order stands out as one of the best options. Lowe has nearly a 50% hard contact rate and 14.9% barrel rate according to StatCast data, and he should have no problem lighting up a minor league arm in this one. Lowe’s .275 ISO against righties shows his raw power, and that mark is one of the tops in the American League.
Drew Crawford, AKA “Squid0308” is one of the top Daily Fantasy players in the industry and the Director of Baseball Product at The Quant Edge. He was a finalist in the 2018 FanDuel World Fantasy Football Championship (4th Place), the 2019 FanDuel World Fantasy Basketball Championship (20th Place) and the 2019 FanDuel FantaSea Championship (Held April 13th).