When I’m gathering up starting pitchers for a daily fantasy game, I often find myself staring at a mess of mediocre options in the middle of the pack. Sometimes I’ll see a bunch of okay starters facing good offenses, or poor starters facing poor offenses. When I look at the ERAs and the FIPs and the strikeout rates and find too many options that are too similar, I need some sort of push to pick one guy over another. At that point, I’ll consider looking at a pitcher’s ground ball rate.
Ground ball rates don’t really factor in to FIP or other DIPS metrics, given that they’re very defense-dependent. And in an era where strikeouts are up, and the other two “true outcomes” are prevalent, defense can be seen as less and less of an important factor for teams when putting together a positional setup. Nevertheless, pitchers who can get quick outs through balls in play, who are more likely to give up three singles as compared to one homer, those guys have value in daily leagues as well.
Look at a pitcher like A.J. Burnett this year. Burnett has run up a nasty strikeout rate (27.1%), which is good, but pairs it with a high walk rate (9.6%) and a fair amount of homers. Burnett has a history of giving up a large number of homers per fly ball (11.5% over his career), but he also has been maintaining a great ground ball rate this year at 55%. I feel a lot more comfortable running a pitcher with a high HR/FB rate — one like Burnett — out there as long as he’s keeping the ball on the ground most of the time.
The same’s true of Rays pitchers Alex Cobb and Roberto Hernandez, or even Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks. While GB% isn’t something I’d use on it’s own to determine who to play on a given day, it can occasionally be a determinant when I’m trying to separate two guys or make a difficult choice.
The Daily Five
Adrian Gonzalez – $7,365
I’m simply not all-in on the return of Roy Oswalt, despite the strikeouts he’s been racking up in his return to the bigs. The Dodgers face the Rockies in Denver today, and though Gonzalez’s batting line is very similar to last year, he’s actually hitting better given the league and park adjustments in wRC+ (115 in 2012 compared to 126 in 2013).
Adrian Beltre – $7,314
Bonus Adrian! The Rangers’ third baseman is being overlooked this year, in part due to the glut of talented AL third-sackers. But the future Hall of Famer (yes, you read that correctly) is still posting above-average numbers with a .296/.337/.485 triple-slash line and 14 homers. I’ll take him against a pitcher as shaky as Joe Saunders, who is probably due for a little regression.
Giancarlo Stanton – $7,020
Stanton’s been very hot over the past week, despite only logging one homer. He’s been getting hits and scoring / driving in runs, and all of that certainly matters in daily fantasy leagues. While opposing starter Kris Medlen‘s been good this year, he gives up more than a few fly balls. And fly balls tend to, well, fly off Giancarlo’s bat.
David Price – $14,430
Look, under most circumstances, I certainly would not be taking a pitcher on his first day off the disabled list. But not only is Price an elite starter under normal circumstances, he’s facing the Astros in his first day back. As long as his stuff plays close to normal, I could see Price striking out seven or eight in a full game — especially given his usual career 22.3% strikeout rate.
Jason Hammel – $9,810
I don’t love Jason Hammel in daily fantasy, normally. But Hammel’s coming off a pretty-good start against the Indians, and is fortunate to face the Chicago White Sox and their anemic offense. Since he’s pitching in the Cell, homers are a risk — but given the dearth of good, inexpensive pitching options in the heat today, I’ll take Hammel and try to save some cash.
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