Winning DFS Strategies for Picking Pitchers

Selecting a top-tier pitcher for your MLB DFS lineup can be the key to dominating any league, offering a stable foundation of points from wins and strikeouts. Understanding how to balance their cost with their potential impact is crucial for crafting a winning strategy.

Matt Brown
By Matt BrownPublished: April 23, 2024
Winning DFS Strategies for Picking Pitchers

In DFS, especially in baseball, there are a handful of positions that are often the backbone of your team's scoring. In the MLB, that would be the SP or starting pitcher.

They can consistently bring in high points through wins and strikeouts, but they also come with a higher price tag. Balancing the cost of a pitcher against their projected points is essential for building a winning lineup.

So, want to make smart moves and max out your potential in your lineup?

Why Prioritize Top-Tier Pitchers?

When it comes to DFS, the allure of top-tier pitchers is strong. Big names such as Ronel Blanco and MacKenzie Gore are heating up early in the year, and their salaries reflect that.

These are the players who have not only proven their ability to dominate on the mound but also carry a consistency that can be somewhat predictable compared to hitters. Here's why you should consider investing in them:

Consistency and High Ceiling

Top-tier pitchers typically offer a level of consistency that's harder to find in lower-tier options. They command higher salaries, but having a go-to pitcher could carry you through the season.

They are more likely to pitch deeper into games, which increases their chances of earning wins and accumulating strikeouts—both of which are heavily scored in DFS.

On top of that, they usually face fewer volatile shifts in performance, making them reliable anchors for your lineup.

That's not to say that they won't have a bad start; they all do, but throughout the season, they tend to provide a bit more stability than most batters or RPs.

Impact on Opposing Teams

Elite pitchers often suppress the offensive output of opposing teams, which can be particularly valuable in DFS formats that penalize heavily for runs and hits allowed.

Think of it like this. You pick Tarik Skubal who is starting against the red hot Cleveland Indians. Steven Kwan with his .358 batting average can really rack up the points as well. However, stellar starter like Tarik could hold him back from having an above average game.

By choosing a dominant pitcher, you're not only banking on their positive performance but also on limiting the scoring of your opponents, which can keep your points against in check.

Balancing Salary and Projected Points

While it's tempting to fill your roster with high-profile pitchers, DFS requires a strategic approach to salary management. This isn't limited to baseball, but for the sake of drafting pitchers, here's how you can balance the scales—

Understanding Price-to-Points Ratio

The key to smart MLB DFS play is understanding the price-to-point ratio, sometimes known as the points-per-dollar.

This involves evaluating how much each projected point costs you in terms of the salary cap. As we mentioned, top-tier pitchers will be expensive, so it's up to you to determine whether their projected points justify their cost.

To find the price to points ratio you simply divide the projected fantasy points by the salary price of the player. Michael King of the Padres for example, is projected to bring in 17.5 fantasy points on DraftKings. His salary is $7,000. That means his points-per-dollar is 0.0025. That's not too bad.

Note that the higher points-per-dollar is better. Each platform will be different in terms of projected points and salary, but the formula is always the same.

Sometimes, a slightly less expensive pitcher with a favorable matchup might offer a better return on investment.

Projecting Performance

Projection systems and tools can help you estimate the potential points a pitcher might score based on various factors, including matchups, ballpark factors, and recent performances.

Leveraging these projections can help you in making informed decisions that go beyond just picking the big names.

The projected points are a good starting point, but they're not always accurate. While they do account for various factors, it's a garbage-in-garbage-out system. One DFS platform might project higher points for a starting pitcher based on past performances, but you notice that they were playing against sub-optimum teams; maybe it's not showing the full picture.

Looking Beyond Wins and Strikeouts

While wins and strikeouts are significant, other factors like innings pitched, hits and runs allowed, and walks can impact a pitcher's total points.

Sure, getting W's and K's is where most of the points are, but it's not the end-all-be-all.

Focusing on pitchers who have good control and can minimize damage can often provide better value compared to those who might strike out a lot but also give up significant runs or walks. This is where you'll see stats like ERA and WHIP really shine.

When to Consider Lower-Priced Pitchers

Strategically selecting a less expensive pitcher can allow you to set aside funds for stronger hitters or a more balanced lineup. Here's when to consider this approach—

Favorable Matchups

Sometimes, a mid-tier or lower-tier pitcher faces a weaker offense or plays in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. While the NY Yankees are off to a great start this year, in 2023, Yankee Stadium was one of the most pitcher-friendly parks.

Pretty mind-blowing, right?

But this is where you can maximize on a cheap pitcher. These matchups can provide a perfect opportunity to save on salary while still capitalizing on high potential points.

Recent Form and Trends

Pitchers can be streaky. That holds true for all positions, but in general, the pitchers are usually hot or cold.

A lower-priced pitcher who is currently peaking or has adjusted their mechanics for better performance can be a goldmine in DFS.

These are extremely hard to find, but they exist almost every day of the 162-game schedule.

Keeping an eye on recent performances and trends can uncover valuable picks that might not be on everyone's radar.

5 Pitchers You'll Want on Your Lineup

The pitching rotation changes on a day-by-day basis, but here are five pitchers to keep an eye on for your DFS lineup—

  1. Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees). Despite a higher ERA over the last couple of seasons, Cole remains a strikeout powerhouse. He led all pitchers with 257 strikeouts in 2022 and consistently performs at a high level, making him a solid pick for DFS lineups where strikeouts carry weight , which is just about all of them.
  2. Julio Urias (Los Angeles Dodgers). Known for inducing soft contact, Urias maintained a stellar ERA and low WHIP in 2022. His ability to minimize hard hits makes him a consistent choice for DFS, especially in pitcher-friendly matchups.
  3. Spencer Strider (Atlanta Braves). As a rising star, Strider impresses us with his high strikeout rates, including over 200 Ks in 2022 alone. His powerful pitching arsenal makes him a potential top performer in any DFS lineup.
  4. Dylan Cease (Chicago White Sox). Cease has shown significant improvement, marked by a high strikeout ability and reduced hard-hit rates, thanks to adjustments in his pitching style. Don't get hung up on his team, though that might mean he won't get as many wins.
  5. Shane Bieber (Cleveland Guardians). With a great 2022 season, Bieber offers consistency and a high strikeout rate. He's already had 20 strikeouts in 2 games so far in 2023. Although he's on the DL right now, keep your eye out for him when he returns to the Cleveland rotation.

Combine These Strategies and Score Big!

Selecting the right pitcher in DFS isn't just about picking the most expensive player, as many amateurs will attest, but instead, it's about making informed, strategic decisions that consider a variety of factors.

By understanding the balance between a pitcher's cost and their potential point generation, you can craft a lineup that maximizes your chances of winning while staying within your budget.

Every decision counts, and the right pitcher selection can make all the difference in your DFS success.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Head of DFS

Matt's deep-rooted enthusiasm for sports betting and daily fantasy sports infuses the EatWatchDraft team with valuable expertise in football, hockey, and baseball. His forward-thinking perspectives are grounded in a solid academic foundation, including a B.S. in Aeronautical Computer Science and an M.S. in Project Management. This combination of sports passion and technical knowledge fuels Matt's innovative input to the platform.