Boy, where did 2018 go. This DFS baseball season has flown by, and hopefully you, my loyal readers, have had immense success this year (and hopefully I helped!). As we get into the last 10 days of the regular season, things can get a little wonky in DFS. Let’s look at some general strategy, and some picks for today on FanDuel.
Two things stand out. First: knowing which teams still have something to play for is critical, particularly in cash. I wrote last week about pinch-hit risks being heightened in September, but as we get to the final days, the risk becomes even more extreme for veteran players on teams not playing for anything. If you want to play “guess which manager will let his veterans play out the string and get a full complement of at-bats” and “which manager will get his younger guys some extra at-bats where he can,” be my guest, but it’s not an easy or fun thing to do. Nor is it fun to try to guess which veterans on out-of-contention teams are just going through the motions — trying to jack every pitch they swing at to the moon because the only thing that matters is home runs. That’s not to say some players are still playing hard — of course they are. It’s just that trying to figure out which veterans are changing their approach for no reason, and which are still going with the same approach as they have all year, will make you tear your hair out. The easiest and safest course of action is just to focus on which teams still have something to play for. While it’s true the teams with something to play for will still have pinch-hit risks, it’s also the case where it’s only for the types of players who have said risk — the Red Sox aren’t going to suddenly pinch hit for J.D. Martinez, but if the Yankees throw a tough lefty at Mitch Moreland tonight, then it’s entirely possible Steve Pearce comes in to hit for him.
Second: at this point, a lot of teams are simply going with bullpen games to round out the season. If you see a team pitching someone you’ve never heard of, or only vaguely heard of, make sure to look into whether the guy’s an actual starter, or whether he’s a random bullpen arm who is going to pitch 3 innings before the rest of the team finishes off the final 6. The reason you need to be extra cautious about bullpen games should be obvious — in addition to the fact that most relievers post K, BB and GB rates noticeably better than starters do, there’s also the fact that you shouldn’t be nearly as focused on platoon advantages when you’re dealing with a bullpen game. Playing a lefty who is facing a lefty-reliever-opening the game for one at-bat, and then facing a team’s bullpen that is almost entirely right-handed can be the right play this late in the season. On the other hand, playing a “lefty-masher” in a bullpen game makes no sense whatsoever because the lefty pitcher in question is almost definitely gone before the hitter’s 2nd at-bat, and now if the bullpen is mostly righties, the lefty-masher has lost his supposed edge (and also, he may be pinch hit for). So be sure to spend a few minutes looking into the unknown pitchers on a given day to see if it’s a bullpen game or not.
On to the picks…
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Max Scherzer, P: $12,000 – Straight up, the only good pitcher in a non-garbage match-up.
Masahiro Tanaka, P: $10,700 – Loyal readers of mine this year know that I always want to have at least one other pitcher in this section — so if there’s an overwhelmingly obvious cash play (and today there is with Scherzer), I try to make a GPP recommendation. Let me once again reiterate that this is a GPP-only recommendation. Do not play a pitcher facing one of the top offenses in the league in cash. Further, these games mean something to both teams, so it’s quite possible Boone is aggressive with the hook on Tanaka. That said, Masahiro Tanaka boasts a quite nice 25.6% strikeout rate and it’s well within the realm of reasonable outcomes that he goes out and obliterates the Red Sox today, striking out 12 in 7 innings. And if that type of outcome does occur, there’s a decent chance he beats Max Scherzer — and voila, now you’ve got a higher-scoring pitcher than the chalk, and you saved $1,300. Just make sure you don’t accidentally import all your cash lineups to a Tanaka-GPP lineup.
Victor Robles, OF: $2,200 – He’s a top prospect who’s this cheap and gets the platoon advantage in a lineup that projects to score some runs. Getting to Scherzer is going to require some value and Robles is one of the top values on the slate.
Christin Stewart, OF: $2,200 – Stewart was close to 40% better than league average with the bat this year in AAA, and while he’s struggled so far, he’s still controlling the strike zone (10.8% walks and 21.6% strikeouts) so over the long run, he should be solid. His price, $2,200, still makes him a solid value play as he also gets to face Jorge Lopez, whose 17% strikeouts and 9.9% walks are well below average.
Cleveland Indians – James Shields has regressed this year, only he has been so bad recently it means he’s improved, and more importantly for us, he’s become someone who doesn’t give up home runs like he’s attempting to give up home runs. Shields is still bad and still attackable. He’s been bad vs both sides of the plate and eminently targetable with this elite Cleveland offense. It’s the best spot of the day and there isn’t a bad Cleveland play. Francisco Lindor ($4,600) and Jose Ramirez ($4,800) are the 2 best plays here, but again, just play everyone. They all are expensive, so it might be tough to get to them with Scherzer, but that’s where Robles and Stewart come in.
Chicago White Sox Power – Josh Tomlin might give up fewer home runs per 9 in a steroided-up slow-pitch softball league at Jones Beach with the wind blowing out than he does in the Major Leagues. Thus, you can take any of the White Sox power. Daniel Palka has the most power vs righties this year, with a .282 ISO. Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson and Yoan Moncada are the next 3 to target, all around .200 ISOs. But the White Sox do have a lot of power up and down the lineup, and you would be OK pricing into anyone, especially since they are so cheap.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
Looks clear, with some warm weather in Cleveland.
Doing Lines In Vegas
Take the over of 9.5 in Cleveland. The White Sox have enough power to hit a lot of home runs, and the Cleveland offense should feast vs Shields.