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Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy: July 31, 2015

Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation as well as the best teams to use for stacks for Firday’s 15-game evening slate on DraftKings. We’ve also got projections derived from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, rankings of the top plays at each position and some sample lineups for you to consider.

Pitching Perspective

Let’s start, as usual, with the most expensive pitchers of the day ($8,500+). Clayton Kershaw ($14,500) is scheduled to start tonight after having his Wednesday start pushed back due to hip soreness. If the Dodgers let Kershaw take the hill, I’ll be operating as if he’s completely good to go, and the injury wouldn’t push me off of him. But there is the question of whether you should be on him to begin with considering his price tag. My model says the price tag is dead on as his value grade is almost an even zero. If you feel safe with Kershaw in cash games, go for it. But in tournaments I might look elsewhere for value.

The other expensive pitchers who may be able to give you some value are Madison Bumgarner ($10,300), who has the second best projection of the day, and Gio Gonzalez ($8,700), who has the best value grade of any pitcher in this price range. They both have above average matchups against the Rangers and the Mets, respectively, and Gio has the added benefit of a positive park shift pitching on the road in New York. Were Bumgarner pitching at home as opposed to in Texas, he’d likely be the definitive top option of the day. But the ball park is not prohibitive given the Rangers are 20 percent below average against left-handed pitching and have the sixth highest strikeout rate against left-handers. Gio is the better value if you’re looking to spend elsewhere, but you could easily roster both of them.

In the mid-price range Ian Kennedy ($6,900) is your best bet. His 4.58 ERA looks ugly, but his strikeout and walk rates are both better than league average, which has him with a respectable xFIP of 3.84. The ERA looks so ugly because he had outings where he allowed eight, five, six and seven runs in the first two months of the season. But since the calendar turned to June, he has a 2.83 ERA in 10 starts. To be fair, his xFIP in those 10 starts is 3.71, so I’m not claiming he’s turned back into 2011 Ian Kennedy over the last two months. But his 4.58 ERA shouldn’t scare you off, especially when he’s pitching in Miami against the Marlins. Kennedy’s biggest issue this year has been home runs, and the Marlins have the second lowest ISO in the league against right-handed pitching.

If you’re looking for a bargain (cheaper than $6,000), consider the guy going opposite Kennedy, David Phelps ($5,300). Phelps isn’t an overly exciting guy as his strikeout rate is worse than league average by a decent margin. But he does have decent control and an ability to keep the ball in the park at an acceptable rate, likely due in part to his home ball park. As mentioned, they’re playing in that park tonight. Moreover, he’ll be facing a Padres that has the third-lowest wOBA in the league against right-handed pitching.

Here are our projections for today’s starters. You’ll see each starter’s salary, the average number of fantasy points the starter is projected to score per game and how far above or below average his projection is compared to his salary in the value column. You’ll also see adjustments being made for matchup and ballpark. As for the colors, they rank as follows from good to bad: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, burgundy.

Stack Options

The first thing I look at when considering stack options is which teams have five or more players who are in the top 10-15 percent of my hitter projections for the day. Today there are three such teams. The second thing I look at is implied team totals from Vegas lines. As it happens today, the three teams with five or more players in the top 10-15 percent of my projections are the same three teams who had the highest implied team totals when lines came out for tonight’s game (they may have shifted by the time you read this). Enough suspense, the three teams are the Giants, Orioles and Pirates.

Vegas projects all three teams for virtually the same run total, but my model gives the group of six Pirates towards the top of my rankings the highest projected total. Their left-handed bats have an excellent matchup against Micheal Lorenzen who has allowed a little more than 70 percent of batted balls by left-handers against him to be elevated (either a fly ball or line drive). As a result, left-handers are slugging .630 against Lorenzen this year. The game is also in Cincinnati, which has the fourth highest home run park factor for lefties, as opposed to Pittsburgh, which has the seventh lowest home run park factor for lefties. That makes Walker, Alvarez and Polanco good value options even if you’re not stacking Pirates. Lorenzen also owns a 5.02 FIP against right-handers, so Marte, Kang and McCutchen can be used with lefties to go Pirates-heavy with a stack.

The best collective value among the three teams is definitely the Orioles. Each of their six players with a good projection also has a solid value grade. In particular, Chris Parmelee makes for an excellent punt option at the minimum price. But a more bankable player like Chris Davis also represents great value, and he would make an excellent cash game play. The O’s are facing Buck Farmer who has allowed left-handers to slug .722 off him in his short 12-inning big league career to date. Baltimore actually has a slightly higher HR park factor for lefties than Cincinnati does, so Davis and Parmelee plus switch-hitters Paredes and Wieters will have that working in their favor. If you want to go O’s-heavy with a stack, Jones and Machade can be thrown in.

And then finally the Giants. The Giants have a collective projection that is slightly better than Baltimore, but the six Giants will cost you a combined $25,800 whereas the O’s will cost you only a combined $22,600. With a fairly marginal difference in their projection, the O’s probably make for the better play. As an example, you could get the six Giants, Bumgarner and Gio into a lineup and have $2,600 per hitter left over to fill your last two slots. With the six O’s, Bum and Gio you’d have $4,200 per player left to spend. Again, the difference in projection for the two stacks isn’t enough to warrant the extra cost of Giants. As much as it kills me not to stack against Nick Martinez, I don’t think it’s the best way to spend your money today.

You can view and download our hitter projections here. These projections are an average of what each hitter is projected to do on a per game basis according to the ZiPS rest-of-season projections. The projections have then been adjusted for splits, quality of the opposing starting pitcher and ballpark.

Player Rankings


  1. Kyle Schwarber – $3,700 – Chicago Cubs
  2. Matt Wieters – $3,300 – Baltimore Orioles
  3. Jason Castro – $2,800 – Houston Astros

First Base

  1. Chris Davis – $4,400 – Baltimore Orioles
  2. Anthony Rizzo – $4,900 – Chicago Cubs
  3. Freddie Freeman – $4,200 – Atlanta Braves

Second Base

  1. Neil Walker – $3,700 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Kolten Wong – $4,100 – St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Jimmy Paredes – $3,800 – Baltimore Orioles

Third Base

  1. Matt Carpenter – $4,100 – St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Pedro Alvarez – $3,400 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Manny Machado – $4,400 – Baltimore Orioles


  1. Jung-Ho Kang – $3,900 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Ryan Flaherty – $2,700 – Baltimore Orioles
  3. Brandon Crawford – $4,600 – San Francisco Giants


  1. Jason Heyward – $4,200 – St. Louis Cardinals (by the way, STL LHH make a nice mini-stack)
  2. Gregory Polanco – $3,500 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Adam Jones – $4,700 – Baltimore Orioles
  4. Yasiel Puig – $3,400 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Marlon Byrd – $3,400 – Philadelphia Phillies
  6. Angel Pagan – $3,000 – San Francisco Giants
  7. Andrew McCutchen – $4,900 – Pittsburgh Pirates

Starting Pitcher

  1. Madison Bumgarner – $10,300 – San Francisco Giants
  2. Gio Gonzalez – $8,700 – Washington Nationals
  3. Clayton Kershaw – $14,500 – Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Ian Kennedy – $6,900 – San Diego Padres
  5. David Phelps – $5,300 – Miami Marlins

Sample Lineups

Every day I play DFS, I take the projections you see above and run them through, a lineup optimization tool. Basically, it just tells me what the maximum number of projected points is that I can get into a lineup under the cap. Below is the optimal lineup it spit out for tonight using my projections.

FC 7-31 2

As intimated above, I’m not as wild on using Kershaw. Removing him from the player pool, here is what the optimizer spits out.

FC 7-31 1

With or without Kershaw, we’re getting a mix of O’s and Pirates plus Heyward, but the non-Kershaw lineup gives us an extra premium-hitter in Jones over Parmelee. I suppose the Kershaw lineup is safer for cash games given the bankability of Kershaw, but I feel about the same about each lineup. If you’d prefer to go team-heavy with a stack, here is what O’s and Pirates stacks might look like.

FC 7-31 3

FC 7-31 4

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