FanDuel Pitching Primer: Thursday 6/23/22
Pitchers lay the foundation for daily fantasy baseball teams. So it's not coincidental they have the highest salaries in FanDuel contests. Of course, it's possible to overcome a bad outing from a starter, but it's markedly easier to cash in contests with a good or excellent start.
Simply nailing your pitcher can cover up for a miss or two among your hitter selections. Thankfully, pitchers are less volatile to project than their hitting counterparts. First, pitcher skills such as walk rate and strikeout rate help separate the genuinely talented pitchers from their lesser peers. In addition, park factors and the offensive strength of the opponent are integral considerations for picking your FanDuel pitchers.
Weighing the importance of a pitcher's skill, park factors, opponent, and accounting for their salary is the game within the game on FanDuel. This piece is your home for my favorite pitcher picks for FanDuel's main slate every day. So, let's get to today's top hurlers.
Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners
vs. Oakland Athletics
FanDuel Salary: $10,000
There are a few top options at pitcher today, and Robbie Ray is one of the best among them.
With Kyle Wright facing an always-dangerous San Francisco Giants lineup and Clayton Kershaw on a limited pitch count (he hasn't been past 87 pitches this season), Robbie Ray is emerging as the best in the top tier. He will be taking on the Oakland Athletics, who come in with a slate-low 3.32 implied run total and are an offense you can attack.
This season versus left-handed pitchers, the Athletics are carrying a 23.0% strikeout rate (10th worst in the league), a .135 ISO (24th), an 89 wRC+ (25th), and a 28.1% hard-contact rate (23rd). No shocker here: the Athletics are one of the worst offenses in the league.
Ray is holding a 26.1% strikeout rate this season, which is a bit lower compared to his career average (29.0%), and he's had at least a 30.0% rate in four of the last five years. I'm hopeful he can inch back towards his career rate, and a soft matchup against Oakland can certainly help get that started.
On top of that, Ray has a 3.79 xFIP, a 53.8% medium-contact rate, and an 8.3% walk rate. As always with Ray, if he can keep the walks under control, he has plenty of strikeout potential to be the best pitcher on this slate -- or any slate.
Justin Steele, Chicago Cubs
vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
FanDuel Salary: $7,700
The mid-tier at pitching today is a bit of a mixed bag, so we're turning to Justin Steele.
There are a number of decent pitchers on today's slate, but with bad matchups or inconsistency, it leaves us searching for a good option. This is where Steele comes into the fold, who has both a good matchup and shown good consistency, given his salary. That's where all of this starts and ends for Steele -- getting solid point-per-dollar production while allowing you to spend up on hitters.
Steele is only carrying a 20.4% strikeout rate this season, but comes in with a 50.3% ground-ball rate and a 51.7% medium-contact rate. He allows only 0.46 HR/9 and a minuscule 1.7% barrel rate. He isn't going to overpower anyone at the plate, but he keeps the ball down and can limit the damage. Over his 13 starts this season, he has allowed three earned runs or more just twice.
All of that can continue today since he is taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates, who come in with a 24.1% strikeout rate (5th), a .144 ISO (17th), an 83 wRC+ (28th), and an 11.6% HR/FB ratio. With a clear lack of power, Steele should be able to keep the Pirates in check and continue his sneaky good season.
Braxton Garrett, Miami Marlins
vs. Colorado Rockies
FanDuel Salary: $6,500
If you scroll all the way to the bottom of pitchers today you will find Braxton Garrett.
Opting to go with one of the lowest-salaried options at pitching always carries a bit of risk, but Garrett is currently projected as the best overall pitching value according to numberFire's projections. The southpaw is at home to take on the Colorado Rockies, who carry a 4.00 implied run total (fourth-lowest on the slate).
Garrett only has 13.0 innings pitched this season but has been up and down from the minors since 2020. We turn to his career numbers from a 54.2 inning sample size where he posted a 19.7% strikeout rate, a 42.1% ground-ball rate, a 59.1% medium-contact rate, and a 7.6% barrel rate. Those are modset numbers, but this is more about his matchup versus the Rockies, who struggle on the road.
Overall this season versus left-handed pitchers, the Rockies have a .154 ISO (14th in the league). When they are on the road, that number drops to .120, putting them at 22nd. Their strikeout rate goes from 19.1% overall (25th) to 22.1% (15th) while on the road.
There are similar numbers all the way across the board for them away from Coors, and it puts Garrett in a surprisingly good spot today.