FanDuel Pitching Primer: Monday 10/3/22

Nailing the pitcher slot is the first step to having success in MLB DFS on FanDuel.

While it is possible to cash if you get a terrible outing from a starter, it's markedly easier to do so when you get a good or excellent showing from your pitcher.

Weighing the importance of a pitcher's skill, salary, matchup, and park factors is the game within the game in MLB DFS. This piece is your home for a breakdown of the top pitching options each and every day. Let's dig in.

Top of the Heap

Brandon Woodruff, Brewers ($10,700)

In a game the Milwaukee Brewers must have, they're sending their hottest pitcher to the mound in a plum spot.

The Brew Crew will close out the season at home against the reeling Diamondbacks. Arizona's lineup had been performing admirably against righties all year, but since September 15th, they have just an 87 wRC+ against them with a 23.3% strikeout rate.

Of course, Woodruff is no ordinary righty. He's coming off a September where he held a minuscule 2.67 xFIP and a 33.3% strikeout rate himself. Woodruff's 14.0% swinging-strike rate this season -- short of a no-whiff disaster on Monday -- will be a new career-high for him.

No other hurler on this slate has Woodruff's supreme combination of motivation, current form, and matchup.

Aaron Nola, Phillies ($10,800)

Because there is a difference between fighting for your spot in the playoffs versus seeding, I'd peg Nola as today's second-best option.

There's no doubt Nola should undertake whatever workload he can handle (assuming he's pitching well) with the Phillies still trying to stave off Woodruff's Brewers for baseball's last playoff spot.

That's bad news for the opposing Astros. Nola's career-best campaign has led to a 2.84 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA), which is fifth-best in baseball among qualifiers. He's added a healthy rate of punchouts (28.8%) as well.

The lone downside here is that Houston's been tremendous against righties. They posted a 112 wRC+ in September against them, striking out just 17.0% of the time. In a game where the 'Stros have nothing to play for, though, Nola might be well-equipped to buck the trend.

Tournament Pivots

Joe Musgrove, Padres ($10,000)

While the Padres punched their ticket to the postseason on Sunday, they could have a preference for which opponent they'll see in their Wild Card series.

It's a bit of a risk, though, which leaves Musgrove behind those other two. Plus, with a 3.95 xFIP in September, Musgrove isn't quite in the form Woodruff or Nola is.

Still, there is upside in this spot for him. The San Francisco Giants waved goodbye to their home fans yesterday, and in the final full month of a lost season, they posted a 25.8% strikeout rate in September against right-handed hurlers.

While the game technically still means something, Musgrove hasn't exceeded six innings in any of his past five starts, so I'd be cautionary of his workload. This won't be a popular place in tournaments, though, so a quality start could be worth its weight in gold if the other two aces struggle.

Carlos Carrasco, Mets ($8,900)

Over the weekend, the Mets have almost certainly tossed away their chance to win the NL East.

They'll need to win all three of their games, and the Braves will have to lose out. That's the only way they can win the division now, and it's highly unlikely with Atlanta ending the season in Miami.

So, Carrasco certainly isn't as appealing here as a process play. This game doesn't mean much to the playoff-bound Metropolitans. That maximum motivation was going to be an appeal to Carrasco, who is lacking the strikeout juice (23.8% rate) of the first three pitchers.

This still is a good spot for him. With cool weather in Queens, the Washington Nationals are really falling apart as the season nears concluding. Once a stiff test for righties, they've mustered just a 77 wRC+ since September 15th with a strikeout rate higher than their season-long mark (23.1%).

"Cookie" is still a viable plug if you feel the need to conserve salary.

Low-Salary Play

George Kirby, Mariners ($8,400)

It's pretty unreal the Detroit Tigers haven't really found a hot stretch against righties all year.

It might be right now; they've posted a 92 wRC+ since September 15th compared to their season-long tally (74). Their strikeout rate (20.5%) has also been reduced considerably. Here's the problem -- that's still not a terrible matchup for a stud like Kirby.

The Mariners' rookie played a huge part in their first postseason berth since 2001. He posted a 3.29 SIERA with a 24.5% strikeout rate. He's also drawn just a 30.5% hard-hit rate. For a 24-year-old, his command and veteran-like presence have been uncanny.

The good news about Seattle's lack of motivation? It shouldn't affect Kirby's workload much. He hasn't eclipsed 90 pitches in his last six starts. That's baked into this salary for a guy that can arguably rival Woodruff or Nola on talent and ability.

He's a fine alternative to Carrasco if you're concerned about the Mets' motivation.

Quick Mound Visits

Lance McCullers, Astros ($10,600): He's really found his stride. In September, he posted a 3.12 xFIP with a 30.2% strikeout rate. He's also been over 95 pitches in six straight. However, this game means nothing to the Astros, so I'm not sure they won't give him a bit of rest with the September arms still at their disposal. The Phils (112 wRC+ vs. RHP in September) aren't the matchup to risk it, either.

Patrick Sandoval, Angels ($9,000): With all these aces at hand, Sandoval is tough to argue for. He's had just a 20.8% strikeout rate overall in September, and he was chased early last start by this same Athletics squad. He'll attract at least some popularity because of Oakland's general ineptitude, but in my opinion, he doesn't have the firepower, motivation, or pitch count to keep up with the others.