GS: The pitcher's projected "Game Score," from Bill James' original formula, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. A Game Score of 50 typically is typically regarded a quality start; anything over 70 is exceptional, anything under 30 poor. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate projected Game Score; these are the author's projections. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.
The St. Louis Cardinals own the league's best record so it stands to reason they don't have many faults, with offense against southpaws being their weakest link. Their .302 weighted on-base average (wOBA) versus left-handers isn't all that bad but a 24 percent strikeout rate against lefties portends difficulties against the likes of Chris Sale. The Chicago White Sox ace has recorded double-digit strikeouts in eight of his previous nine outings, including the last seven. Eight straight looks good, especially since Sale gets to face a pitcher a couple of times.
While there are some other options that qualify as elite-based on Game Score, in terms of DFS, it's best to pay up for Sale and fade the rest unless your intent is to be contrarian as opposed to saving a few bucks. The top tournament zag among the elite is Danny Salazar as he visits Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays. The hosts whiff at a 22 percent clip with a .305 wOBA against right-handers, so if Salazar can keep the walks under control, it could be a big night.
Cole Hamels is a decent cash-game pivot, as he has a home date with a Milwaukee Brewers offense that travels with a respectable 20 percent strikeout rate albeit a low .280 wOBA versus left-handers. With an offense last in runs per game providing Hamels' support, the best you can hope for is a weak opposing pitcher so the win is at least in play. Suffice it to say that's satisfied with Taylor Jungmann as the mound foe.
It's rare that fading a guy posting an 11-3 record with a 2.16 ERA is prudent, but with an interleague road tussle with the Detroit Tigers on the docket, Gerrit Cole is best left on the sidelines.
We've seen plenty of ace starters have rough outings, including Sale his last time out, so avoiding a solid pitcher like Lance Lynn in a favorable spot just because his opponent in someone like Sale is a mistake. The White Sox have scored the third-fewest runs in the league and will be on the road, without either Jose Abreu or more likely Adam LaRoche.
Dallas Keuchel is hard to rank for DFS in a one-size-fits-all manner since his cost is all over the map. Sites that base his price on fantasy points price him lower than those that incorporate his low ERA, which doesn't matter all that much in DFS. Seasonal owners need not worry; he's in your lineup regardless. Adding to the haze for this outing is his opponent, the Kansas City Royals, don't strike out. If Keuchel is priced with the elite, the potential return on investment is low, if not negative. If he's moderately priced, Keuchel can be a cash option, especially on multiple pitcher sites.
There's a good chance Marco Estrada's flirtations with a no-hitter his last two outings increase his usage as a lesser-priced tournament option so you may not get the typical contrarian effect. That said, a date with a Boston Red Sox team devoid of Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia could be too good to fade.
One of the more intriguing games on the docket for a variety of reasons is the Los Angeles Angels entertaining the New York Yankees in Anaheim. The visitors will send Ivan Nova to the hill for his second start of the year, to be opposed by Andrew Heaney, also making his second 2015 start. How well Nova fares could help elucidate the direction the Bronx Bombers proceed at the trade deadline. Nova threw the ball well in his inaugural effort, averaging an impressive 93 mph, which is where he was in the seasons previous to needing Tommy John surgery. Heaney is getting an extended audition with Jered Weaver being sidelined until the All-Star break. If Heaney has a solid month, he could give the Angels options at the trade deadline. As far as this contest goes, both are viable for seasonal leagues, as Angels Stadium should keep run scoring down.
Need strikeouts? You know the deal. Check out who the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros are playing and pick your poison. In this instance, the Cubs make better targets since they visit pitcher-friendly Citi Field as opposed to the Astros enjoying a home date facing Danny Duffy. Jon Niese is the beneficiary of the Cubs' penchant for whiffs and is fairly safe at home.
Given that Mat Latos' walk rate is a bit high, he's also pitching into some rough luck with a high .328 batting average on balls in play and an extremely low 63 percent left-on-base rate. The San Francisco Giants travel to South Beach, and while they make good contact and sport a good .330 wOBA versus righties, if you're not going to start Latos in Marlins Park, when are you going to start him?
While his future is still quite bright, the league is catching up to Boston Red Sox rookie southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez, and now the ball's in his court to make the necessary adjustments. Facing the right-handed-heavy, powerful Toronto Blue Jays in Rogers Centre is far too big of a risk.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.
Phil Hughes is a better pitcher than Colby Lewis but he's still an incendiary option when working in a home run venue like the Great American Ballpark. With the lefty-righty edge, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce benefit the most, though Todd Frazier is a threat against anyone.
Left-handed batters have a .156 batting average against Cole Hamels this season, third lowest among qualified starters in MLB. Adam Lind has a .100 hard-hit average against left-handed pitchers, 23 points below the league average among qualified left-handed hitters.
Opposing hitters have a .103 hard-hit average against Gerrit Cole's fastball this season, 55 points below the league average among qualified starters. Nick Castellanos has a .147 hard-hit average against fastballs this season, 29 points below the league average among qualified hitters.
Right-handed batters are hitting .164 against Shelby Miller this season, second lowest in MLB among qualified starters. Ian Desmond is hitting .222 against right-handed pitchers this season, 48 points below the league average among qualified right-handed batters.
The Kansas City Royals have the lowest strikeout percentage against left handed pitchers in the MLB at 15.2 percent, also ranking fourth in team batting average at .270. In addition, on pitches low in the zone, the Royals strike out on 21.8 percent of such pitches, the fourth lowest in the MLB. Dallas Keuchel throws pitches in the lower third of the zone 56.9 percent of the time, tied for fourth most frequent in the MLB.