FanDuel Pitching Primer: Tuesday 9/25/18

In his third career start, Josh James makes for an intriguing play against the Blue Jays. Which other arms should you be targeting tonight?

In daily fantasy baseball, success starts with nailing the starting pitcher spot in your lineup.

When compared to hitters, pitching performance tends to be much more predictable and stable throughout the course of the season. You know what you're getting from a top-level ace when you roster him: probably a dominant effort with only one or two implosions per season. In contrast, even the game's best hitters have days at the plate when they go 0-for-4.

As a result, lineup construction should begin with the starting pitcher. Each day we will highlight a starter to consider from each pricing tier, and we'll also look at one contrarian play for tournaments. Who should you consider on tonight's main slate?

High-Priced Stud

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

vs Miami Marlins
FanDuel Price: $12,400

Folks, it doesn't get more expensive than Max Scherzer tonight, with a $12,400 price tag attached to his name -- by far the highest of any hurler on the slate. However, there is good reason for that. Scherzer is the strikeout king of baseball, throws a good outing virtually every time out, and is facing a Miami Marlins team that is downright lousy.

In what could be his final start of the season, Scherzer is 10 strikeouts away from 300, so you know he'll be looking for the punchouts tonight. It shouldn't be hard to do, as he averages 12.22 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and has a strikeout rate of 34.6% this season -- a career high. He comes into the game with a 2.57 ERA, 2.71 FIP and 2.72 Skill Interactive ERA (SIERA), and of all the pitchers going tonight, Scherzer has averaged the highest FanDuel points per game this season (48.06).

Scherzer is very good against everybody he faces, home or away, first half or second half, right-handed or left-handed, but against the Marlins, the Washington Nationals ace should feast on an extremely weak lineup. Miami ranks last in baseball in team wOBA (.290) and isolated power (.121), with a 22.6% strikeout rate that is 12th-highest in baseball. And while it's a small sample size, in four starts against the Marlins this year, Scherzer has a 2.67 ERA in 27.0 innings, with a 25:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He faces the lowest implied total (2.65) of any pitcher on this evening's slate, and the highest projected FanDuel points (40.9) among all players.

Mid-Range Play

Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

at Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $8,200

Tonight, Cleveland Indians hurler Trevor Bauer will be making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list due to a fractured fibula he suffered six weeks ago. He pitched just 1.1 innings his last time out, which was essentially a rehab start (there are no minor league games right now for pitchers to build up pitch counts), and performed well against the Boston Red Sox. Cleveland is hoping to build up his pitch count to have him ready for the postseason next week.

Bauer has had a breakout season for the Indians, with a 2.21 ERA, 2.39 FIP and SIERA of 3.21. He is fourth in baseball in K/9 (11.56), fifth in strikeout rate (31.3%), and ninth in swing-and-miss rate (13.1%), and opponents are hitting a measly .205 against him -- the ninth-lowest in MLB. He's also going up against a Chicago White Sox squad that whiffs at the highest rate in baseball (26.1%) and possesses a team wOBA of .305, which ranks 24th.

It's important to note Bauer may not go longer than five innings, as he will likely be on a pitch count returning from injury. But he should pile up the strikeouts for the time he's in there, making him a solid mid-range play at this price.

Value Option

Chris Stratton, San Francisco Giants

vs San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $7,300

As is sometimes the case with value options, the name isn't necessarily a sexy one. San Francisco Giants starter Chris Stratton doesn't give anyone goosebumps, but sometimes, it's the matchup that matters just as much as the man throwing the ball. Tonight, it's Stratton, who comes into the game with a 4.88 ERA and 4.37 FIP, and while he doesn't strike a lot of guys out (18.1%), he has allowed a .264 batting average to opposing batters this season.

But the bigger reason to start him is the matchup, as he's taking on a San Diego Padres team that has the third-worst wOBA (.293) and fourth-lowest ISO (.145) in baseball. The Giants are also playing at their pitcher-friendly ballpark, a place where Stratton has pitched much better (4.28 ERA) than on the road (5.45).

Stratton, therefore, comes into the evening with one of the lowest implied totals (3.75) of any of the value options tonight, making him a useful play if you're going to go on the cheap with your starter.

Contrarian Play

Josh James, Houston Astros

at Toronto Blue Jays
FanDuel Price: $6,500

Tonight will be Josh James' third career start and fifth appearance, as the Houston Astros take on the Toronto Blue Jays north of the border. James doesn't have much of a big league track record, but in 16 MLB innings this season, he has a sparkling 2.81 ERA and 2.90 FIP, and has struck out 13.5 batters per 9 on a 37.5% strikeout rate. In his first two starts this year, James has gone at least five innings in each, striking out nine in five innings in his big league debut on September 1, and whiffing 7 in 5.2 innings last week.

James' minor league numbers indicate this may not be a fluke, either. In 17 Triple-A starts, James had a 3.40 ERA and had a 12.92 K/9 and a strikeout rate of 35.2%. He's a flamethrower, averaging 97.4 mph in his four big league appearances, making him a very intriguing play tonight and one that may fly under the radar.

He does have a challenge in front of him tonight in a Blue Jays team that has the ninth-best wOBA at home this season (.327), although they do strike out a bunch, as their 22.7% rate is the 10th-highest in the league.

John Stolnis is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, John Stolnis also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username JStolnis. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.