So it’s September 15th. Rosters have expanded. Out of contention teams shift their focus to next year’s team, and some players pack it in for the year, or play only for their own stats. And although it’s not something you’ll often read on a site as objective-analysis heavy as Razz, there definitely is a DFS edge to be gained. It’s hard to tell sometimes and you’re going to need to keep your ears open, but some players (typically on out of contention teams) definitely change their approach. In 2015, after Jose Reyes got traded to the Rockies (and from a team in playoff contention to a team who was not), Reyes clearly did not want to be there and changed his approach to, “swing as hard as I can in case I hit it.” Then, in September he missed a few games because of a bruised achilles and (we think) just completely checked out, “hitting” .231/.259/.250 the rest of the way despite playing plenty of games in Coors. In 2016, Dee Gordon got suspended in May, came back in August and was basically the same player he had been, stolen base wise at least. He had 6 stolen bases in April on a .289 OBP in 21 games and after he returned in August, he had 8 stolen bases on a .296 OBP in 26 games. Then September came around and apparently he just decided he was going to steal every single time he got on first base no matter what, and no one could catch him. He had a .289 OBP, played in 27 games and had 15 stolen bases, including stretches where he’d steal every game. We may be to that point right now with Gordon, as he has 4 steals in his last 5 starts. Am I saying to play Dee Gordon every day? No. For all we know he’s just had a few good opportunities to steal in the last few games. But I am saying to keep an eye on him, and if he’s in “stat padding” mode, to give a small nudge to him if you’re debating between rostering him and someone else.

On to the picks once I pad my stats…

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It’s been a turbulent year for Jose Berrios, as most 23-year-old starters tend to be inconsistent, and he’s been no different. However, in the last month, Berrios has 35 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings with a 2.87 ERA. Berrios should see more of the same success as he takes on the Blue Jays on Thursday. You might not have noticed it, but Toronto’s lineup has actually been quite weak this year. They’ve got just a .312 wOBA against righties, ranking them 26th in all of baseball. The Jays are also much less intimidating away from home, since they won’t have one of the best hitter’s parks to their advantage. As Berrios continues his hot streak in Minnesota, he’s worth starting for $8,500.

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DFS could be systematic, hydromatic, ultramatic… why it could be Rhys Lightnin’ today! I’d probably draft Rhys Hoskins above a whole bunch of guys next season. Throw Jose Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison, Ryan Zimmerman and Wil Myers on that list. Greasy Rhysy gives me the warm fuzzies with all of this home run business, oh and speaking of business, comparing him to a shart is kinda doable. We thought we knew what we had when Hoskins was called up in August, but when we pushed a little further, the explosion occurred. It’s a party in everyone’s pants, and since Hoskins ($4,100) is the lede on this fine Wednesday, he’s most certainly one of my top OF picks today.

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I feel like I’m walking a little on the wild side today. I should just start Chris Sale versus Tampa Bay; he’s likely your Sure Thing o’ the Day (sorry if I just jinxed him, Sale owners), him and his 3.03 ERA at home, but he costs $11,300. Thus, I’m going to go a little cheaper and start Alex Wood ($9,200) — with some trepidation, admittedly. Of course I’m hoping for a repeat performance of Wood’s last match-up versus Colorado, on June 23rd, at home in Dodger Stadium: 6 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 3 hits. I’m aware I might not get that: in his last outing, he got beaten up by the Padres (! [Sidebar: I have to confess to feeling secretly glad when the Padres do well]) to the tune of 4 earned runs, in San Diego (!) and he has been falling victim to the long ball (ah, Wood and the long balls…[ya, I’m 12]), but he still sports a very decent 2.57 ERA and 1.04 WHIP and he’s going to get run support. Moreover, he has a 2.77 ERA in Dodgers Stadium, while the Rockies are hitting .251 away. So I’m crossing fingers and hoping for the best and building my lineup around him. More pitching options below, though, for the more sensible among you!

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So with September baseball upon us, I offer one tidbit of DFS knowledge that can end up being the difference between winning and losing on a given slate. September baseball means far more late scratches, as teams with expanded rosters are more willing to tell a player to sit a game out if he injures himself in warm-ups or just doesn’t feel right that day. For example, yesterday, two Indians were scratched and the White Sox starting pitcher was scratched, all well after the lineups were announced, and all after DFS lineups locked. Granted, the scratches were not players who were likely to be played in any DFS lineups (maybe Zimmer, but if you were using Greg Allen or Rodon in your lineups, please email me so I can challenge you to h2h matches), but there’s been plenty of scratches over the last few days of players that were relevant to DFS lineups. So the one piece of advice I can offer is that when you build your lineups, try, where possible, to keep as much of your lineup “open” and flexible, so that if there are late scratches, you can make pivots where possible, since both FanDuel and DraftKings offer late swap for baseball. Now, that does not mean make an entire lineup of 10pm night-game players, because often times the best plays are from the early games, but it does mean that if you’re deciding between two players at similar price points for a position, and one plays at 7:05 and the other at 10:05, I would give the edge to the 10:05 guy as it gives you more flexibility in case there is a late scratch somewhere else in your lineup (unless the 10:05 guy would be the only late night player in your lineup – in which case I would actually advocate for an entire lineup of 7:05 guys so that you have no risks of late scratches whatsoever). Basically – unless you’re building an entire lineup of 7:05 starts, which means no risk of late scratches, you should try to have as many late starts as possible (all else equal of course, don’t choose an inferior play simply because the player starts later) to keep your lineup open as much as possible.

On to the picks once another post lock scratch happens…

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The Phillies seem determined to burn some serious pitching rubber. It’s September and they’re still rolling Aaron Nola ($8,400) out like these games actually mean something. I know players have their own self-pride, but this is like a hotel bible – it’s nice, but no one really cares. While the Phillies are busy playing Russian Roulette with Nola and a potential injury though, you should be Russian to get him in your lineup tonight. If you ignore Nola’s 20 earned runs across his last five starts and focus on the Nats ranking dead last in hits, third last in RBI’s and that whopping  .204 AVG over the last week, suddenly, this match up looks kinda okie-dokie. Here’s the rest of my Thursday picks:

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Lance McCullers (back) is back in action on Wednesday, making his first start since July as he comes off the disabled list. Starting a pitcher in their first outing back is always risky, but if McCullers is back on his game, he will be incredibly effective at a price of $7,600. It seems like he should be able to throw a full start, as he went five innings and 60 pitches in his last rehab outing. For a pitcher with a 10.05 K/9 and 2.94 FIP, a price this low feels insane. McCullers is a no-brainer in GPP formats.

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First, happy Labo(u)r (the “u” is for us Canadians) Day weekend! Second, let me join the chorus of bewilderment around me: how in the actual F (and I don’t mean Jef with 1 F) is it September? Mind you, I’m happy it is. The heat can go to hell. Seriously, I used to live in southern Africa and was never as hot as I am here, living in the eastern bit of North America. Bah humbug. Close the door: you’re letting the cold out. Get off my lawn. Etc. But back to baseball! We’re staring down the home stretch now, and whether you’re happy (Dodgers fans!) or you’re not (Jays fans. … sigh), there’s a little flurry of excitement at this time of year, what with the shiny (or not so shiny) new September call-ups, and the fact that FanDuel may not notice, so these players’ prices may be low, and you may (this is a lot of “may”s, I know. It’s a may-September romance) be able to slip some bargains into your lineups today while saving cash for big Coors bats and good pitching. (Finally! Good pitching options on a Saturday! Kluber! Scherzer! Archer! Lester! I hardly knew her!)

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September 1st, playoff races begin to solidify, wins are objectively worth more than they are in April (it’s true, just ask every stupid MVP winner who won it on the basis of a strong September instead of the better player). The Dodgers are chasing the ghost of the 1998 New York Yankees. The waiver trade deadline passed and Justin Verlander got traded to the loaded Astros, Brandon Phillips got traded to the Angels (the same quality of player, obviously). Albert Pujols is continuing his quest to be the single worst player ever to have 100 RBI, and also, Albert Pujols is extremely bad (-1.8 WAR) and is signed through 2021. At what point do the Angels just say enough is enough and waive him? If the Angels miss the playoffs by 1 game (or 2, considering that he’s likely to finish with at least a -2 WAR), do they then blame a “lack of execution” or would they blame the decision to play Albert Pujols for 150 games – again, he has a -1.8 WAR, a career worst strikeout rate (15.2%), a career worst swing & miss rate (8.8%), a career worst swing rate (47.7%), a career low walk rate (5.9%) and .237 BABIP. Further, one can’t really say that the BABIP seems low and is likely to rebound because one has to keep in mind that he’s Albert Pujols with foot, leg and knee problems and has run a low BABIP for 5 years now – the .237 is low but not that low for current Albert Pujols. All of this has been a long way of saying that Albert Pujols should not be on the field for the Angels the rest of the year, and perhaps not on the field again, period. I can even make that long-winded rant DFS relevant, as the Angels have one of the best matchups (as will be discussed later), but despite this, do not play Albert Pujols, at least until his salary drops to something like $2,200, because there isn’t a planet where a -1.8 WAR, 74 wRC+, 1B is worth $3,100 .

On to the picks once Albert Pujols drops to $2,000

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Michael Wacha ($6,900) has had it incredibly rough as of late, getting shelled in three consecutive outings, so it’s a bit of a frightening proposal to consider starting him on Thursday. However, as all savvy daily fantasy players know, a recent cold streak is a great opportunity to buy low on a player. Wacha still has a solid 3.76 FIP on the year and is rocking an 8.65 K/9. He can easily turn himself around against the Giants, who are the weakest lineup in baseball against righties this season, as they’ve got a .297 wOBA. Wacha also gets his start in the incredibly pitcher-friendly environment at AT&T Park. For such a nice price, Wacha can do you wonders in GPP formats.

New to FanDuel? Scared of feeling like a small fish in a big pond?  Well be sure to read our content and subscribe to the DFSBot for your daily baseball plays.  Just remember to sign up through us before jumping into the fray. It’s how we know you care!

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