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.
Max Scherzer, New York Mets
At Washington Nationals
FanDuel Salary: $11,000
Unfortunately, Max Scherzer didn't take the ball on Opening Day for the New York Mets. Regardless, his debut with his new club had to wait only one more day. He'll toe the rubber against his former club, the Washington Nationals.
Facing the Nats means contending with uber-talented Juan Soto. The ageless Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell are formidable foes, too. Nonetheless, Washington's lineup is unimposing overall. Additionally, Mad Max has aged like a fine wine.
According to FanGraphs, in 30 starts last year, Scherzer spun a 2.46 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, numbers befitting a lockdown closer instead of a starting pitcher. Moreover, Scherzer's sparkling ERA was supported by a 2.90 Expected ERA (xERA) and 2.90 Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA). The veteran righty also strikes out batters in bunches, recording a 34.1 percent strikeout rate in 2021 that was legitimized by his elite 31.6 called strikes plus whiff rate (CSW).
Finally, Scherzer is a rock-solid bet for a quality start (QS) and win. According to ESPN, Scherzer was tied for 13th in quality starts last year with 18 in 30 outings. And I like Scherzer's odds of getting enough run support to earn the dub, as FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Mets as -184 favorites. Scherzer's safety and ceiling and a near-certain high percentage of rosters he'll be on make him the top cash-game pitcher, albeit with a strong case for GPP usage, as well.
Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves
Vs. Cincinnati Reds
FanDuel Salary: $9,000
It might surprise readers, but Charlie Morton had one more quality start than Scherzer last year, recording 19 in 33 turns. Despite suffering a fractured leg in the World Series, the veteran righty's first year with the Atlanta Braves was unquestionably a success.
Morton had a fantastic 3.34 ERA that was nearly identical to his ERA estimators. Further, he tallied a fantasy-friendly 28.6 percent strikeout rate. Morton's ability to punch out hitters at a high clip is perfect for facing the Cincinnati Reds and their ho-hum lineup.
Most important, when comparing Morton and Scherzer head to head, the Reds have more strikeout-happy hitters than the Nationals do. Further, the Braves are also big favorites at -190 odds.
As a result, I'll gladly spin down to Morton from Scherzer in GPPs and use the $2,000 in salary savings on squeezing an extra elite hitter or two into the lineup.
Sean Manaea, San Diego Padres
At Arizona Diamondbacks
FanDuel Salary: $8,800
It's not a good slate for value plays on the mound, so let's look at another high-salary option.
It's still strange adjusting to Sean Manaea pitching for the San Diego Padres. Nevertheless, he was a great trade acquisition for the club at the end of spring training. The lefty's first regular-season assignment for the Friars is a cushy one.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have only two truly scary hitters in their lineup against lefties, Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly. Make no bones about it, they're both a thorn in the side of southpaws, but Manaea can and might exercise extreme caution against them with the lack of viable threats in the rest of the Snakes' lineup.
Additionally, the ballpark isn't scary like it was before Arizona started using a humidor at Chase Field. According to FantasyPros, Chase Field increases runs by only 4.4 percent, using their three-year average.
Manaea rebounded from an underwhelming 4.50 ERA in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign to twirl a 3.91 ERA with the underlying metrics to match. He struck out a solid 25.7 percent of the batters he faced, the second-highest mark of his career behind his 27.5 percent strikeout rate in 2019.
GPPs are my preferred format for using Manaea. Conveniently, his salary is $200 less than Morton's, allowing for multi-entering GPPs with identical lineups in the hitter slots and swapping in Manaea for Morton.
Joshua Shepardson is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Joshua Shepardson also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username bchad50. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.