-- After a stretch with the spotlight on pitching, the focus shifts to the sticks as Wednesday's slate is short on aces and long on bottom-of-the-rotation filler. We'll use the lack of studs to highlight the impact of pitching at home versus on the road.
Home-field advantage in baseball is crucial, but it isn't talked about in the same context as other sports. Even casual football fans know home-field advantage in football is worth a field goal. Why bring this up now? The top four pitchers on today's board are saddled with road affairs, which is reflected in their projected Game Scores. Reviewing the difference in pitching skills home and away preempts any questions regarding a couple perceived low marks.
The following table shows the advantage a starting pitcher enjoys in his home park, using aggregate numbers from 2013 through 2015. Please keep in mind this is independent of venue and is a reflection of basal skills. Individual home versus road splits are further influenced by pitchers' home digs.
These differences might not seem significant, so let's express them in terms of expected DFS points. A starting pitcher with the above skills will score 2.7 more points at home than on the road on FanDuel and 1.7 more points on DraftKings. Again, this might not seem like much until you look at how many entrants fall a few points out of the money or how much someone would have won with two or three more points.
With that as a backdrop, the lack of home field gives us just two arms that qualify as elite, with one of them borderline. The first is Jake Arrieta, who must be a reader of this space, as he has responded to the citations of a low strikeout rate by fanning 26 in his past three outings, a span of 18 frames. This brings the right-hander's rate to exactly one per inning, just a tick below the mark he has put up since joining the Chicago Cubs. The National League's Cy Young defender will be put to the test in Busch Stadium by a St. Louis Cardinals squad that bashes righties to the tune of a 0.368 weighted on base average (wOBA), with a tempered 19.6 percent strikeout rate. Of course, Arrieta isn't a normal right-hander, but still, when looking for bang for your buck, he falls a little short this time.
Corey Kluber barely makes the cut, as the Cleveland Indians continue a set against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Kluber's matchup is softer than Arrieta's, as he'll face a squad sporting a weaker 0.314 wOBA and similar 19.7 percent strikeout rate against right-handers. However, the Tribe's ace has to deal with a designated hitter, as well as working in a hitter's venue. It's tough to recommend either elite arm for DFS GPP action, with Kluber being the slightly better cash play.
Next up is a youngster who has made a recent cameo in the elite but is kept out this time because of a difficult road tilt. The Philadelphia Phillies continue their interleague battle with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. For the season, the hosts are hitting righties well, as supported by a 0.344 wOBA. However, that spikes to 0.384 the past two weeks, which coincides with a Miguel Cabrera hot streak. Nola has maintained a surprising strikeout pace of fanning hitters at a 9.6 K/9 clip, so there's some potential against a lineup that has whiffed 23 percent of the time against right-handers. This makes Nola a contrarian tournament candidate but too risky for the safer cash format.
Hang in there, DFS cash grinders, we'll get to you in a bit. Next up is another road warrior with a tough task, as Steven Matz takes the hill in Nationals Park. The Washington Nationals are hammering southpaws via a 0.368 wOBA, but a 9.3 K/9 renders the New York Mets southpaw another risky but viable tournament play.
Truth be told, the DFS cash choices aren't especially attractive, which makes sense because the prime options usually emanate from the elite tier, as salary is less of a consideration. Hisashi Iwakuma profiles as the top cash anchor with a home date against the Oakland Athletics. Not only will Iwakuma enjoy the cited home field edge, but Safeco Field is also a pitcher's venue, and the opposition is weakened by a few key injuries. Iwakuma's 7.2 K/9 is pedestrian, but he has tossed at least six frames in six of his nine outings, which helps DFS scoring. Finally, the Mariners' hitters will square off with Zach Neal, who'll make an appearance in the avoid tier and give the Mariners right-hander a strong chance at a victory.
Junior Guerra is making some fantasy noise, as he was a popular pickup in seasonal formats. The Milwaukee Brewers right-hander has punched out an impressive 24 hitters while issuing just eight free passes in 25 frames. Beware, he's 31-years old and spent the 2009-14 campaigns playing independent leagues before the Chicago White Sox brought him in the previous season. Despite this warning, Guerra is in a favorable spot to show he belongs in the Majors, as he'll take the hill at Turner Field to square off with the punchless Atlanta Braves.
There's only one scenario in which Jake Peavy is a defensible option, and that is a home date with the San Diego Padres. The Friars continue a visit to their northern neighbors in AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants veteran righty has been a mixed bag but has a chance to add another solid outing to his ledger when he faces a club toting a 0.273 woBA and generous 25 percent strikeout pace versus right-handers.
Three pitchers not featured to this point are often solid recommendations but are matched up with the aces kicking off today's notes. Jose Quintana is paired with Kluber, Carlos Martinez draws Arrieta, and Tanner Roark challenges Matz. Martinez is best left on the sideline, while Quintana and Roark are in play, albeit with lowered win potential.
Matt Andriese, available in about 60 percent of ESPN leagues, has a date with the interstate rival Miami Marlins at Tropicana Field. The Tampa Bay Rays right-hander has helped boost an injury-depleted rotation with wins in all three outings, though he has fanned only 11 in 21 1/3rd innings. Still, with his mates taking aim against Justin Nicolino, the lowest-ranked pitcher on the board, a fourth win is worth chasing.
Since he moved into the Kansas City Royals' rotation, Dillon Gee has held his own by fanning 13 with five walks in 15 2/3rd innings. He has yet to finish the sixth inning but could be stretched out enough now, especially with the Minnesota Twins -- and their 0.303 wOBA and 23 percent strikeout rate against righties -- as his foes.
After a couple outstanding efforts, the Pittsburgh Pirates got to Mike Foltynewicz the latest time out. They scored five earned on seven hits and knocked him out after three innings. The Atlanta Braves righty has a chance to make amends against the Milwaukee Brewers and their 27 percent strikeout clip against right-handers as the clubs meet in Turner Field.
Joining the quintet qualifying as no-brainers to avoid, based on their subpar Game Scores, are Hector Santiago and Tyler Wilson. Both face dangerous offenses in hitter's parks while on the road in the Lone Star State. Santiago leads the Los Angeles Angels into Globe Life Park to visit the Texas Rangers, and Wilson takes the hill in Minute Maid Park for a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros.
Colorado Rockies righty Chad Bettis has pitched well enough to be a fantasy asset away from Coors Field, but that's not the case when the road leads to Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox are righty-heavy, though lefty-swinging David Ortiz leads the league in wOBA and is always an option against a righty. The club has moved Jackie Bradley Jr. up in the order in the throes of his hot streak. Other options are stalwarts Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and perhaps Travis Shaw, who has been out with a hand injury.
The Tampa Bay Rays have quietly been hitting well, especially with a southpaw on the hill, as they boast a 0.352 wOBA in that scenario. This does not bode well for Miami Marlins left-hander Justin Nicolino. A parade of right-handers will step into the box, beginning with Brandon Guyer and newly promoted Mikie Mahtook, followed by Evan Longoria, Steve Pearce and Steven Souza Jr. Don't sleep on the keystone combo of Tim Beckham and Taylor Motter, either, with Curt Casali wrapping up the righty brigade.
While Ivan Nova's control has been excellent, as witnessed by a paltry 0.89 BB/9, he is not missing many bats and has surrendered a homer in four of his past five outings. With so many other cheaper options available, a standard Toronto Blue Jays stack isn't efficient. However, working in Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion gives some exposure to a potentially volatile situation.
Quick, name the fourth-highest scoring team in the American League. Wrong: It's the Seattle Mariners. Lefties Leonys Martin, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, along with Nelson Cruz, are in a great spot to do more damage as the Oakland Athletics will deploy 27-year-old right-hander Zach Neal for his first major league start and just his second appearance, after he debuted as a reliever in early May.
Most likely to hit a home run: Although I won't go so far as to predict it'll be another of the from-the-knees variety, Adrian Beltre gets the nod with homer-prone Hector Santiago on the hill in Arlington.