There are ups and downs to competing in daily fantasy contests that break down similarly to hot and cold streaks in poker. Last week, I was riding some hot starting pitchers (the past few starts of Masahiro Tanaka, Johnny Cueto and Max Scherzer are discussed below) and they all seemed to get shelled simultaneously on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This can happen to anyone, but there are times when it feels like it's just happening to you. My advice? Shake it off like you would an especially bad bet in poker. The numbers are still out there for us to crunch and if a pitcher is solid in nine out of 10 starts, there's a pretty good chance he'll pitch well in the 11th. Trust your analysis, put in your time and grind away. The negative results will eventually yield some positive spikes, and you'll be back in the black.
Last week's Tuesday/Wednesday starter review
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (@CHC) & Johnny Cueto, CIN (@WAS)—Tanaka took his first loss since 2012 on Tuesday in a loss to the Cubs (but bounced back with a win on Sunday), and Cueto has now taken two straight losses. While it's safe to assume that Cueto's dominance is facing more than a hiccup as batters make their adjustments and the BABIP (.178) trends toward the mean, I'm convinced Tanaka is nearly matchup-proof and should be considered every time he takes the hill. Tanaka's K/SO ratio is still 7.90, and he's shown the ability to pitch well even when he doesn't have his best stuff.
Anthony DeSclafani, MIA (vs. PHI)—Desclafani's second start wasn't nearly as effective as his debut, as the 24-year-old got touched up for five runs on six hits in 5.1 innings on Tuesday. Desclafani struck out two Phillies—who were catching up to his fastball and didn't miss too many opportunities with runners in scoring position. I'm still considering the righty for value when he returns to the big club, but he was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans last week.
Yordano Ventura, KAN (vs. CHW) – Ventura took the loss on Tuesday against the White Sox (6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO) and exited Monday's game after yielding five earned runs in 2.2 innings and experiencing significant elbow pain. He'll go for an MRI and the Royals hope it's nothing serious with regard to the ulnar collateral ligament.
Max Scherzer, DET (@CLE)—Ouch. Scherzer gave up seven earned runs on 12 hits and two walks Wednesday, striking out five Indians hitters over 7.0 innings. Needless to say, I didn't make out too well in my contests last week. Scherzer takes the mound again tonight in Oakland, and while I may consider him in a few contests, there are better value options on the board at his price point.
Tanner Roark, WAS (vs. CIN) – Roark also took a loss on Wednesday, though one of the two runs he gave up was unearned. He hasn't struck out more than four batters in his last three starts and he lost again on Monday (7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO), so I'm giving him a few games to get back on track before rolling him out there again.
This week's Tuesday-Wednesday Pitcher Spotlight
Jered Weaver, LAA (@ SEA)—Weaver has been rolling and has a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts. He travels to Safeco to take on the Mariners and has tremendous upside in a pitcher's park against a team with just a .662 OPS. Don't overthink this one–Weaver is pretty cheap on most sites and he's capable of throwing a gem every time out.
Chris Sale, CWS (vs. CLE)—Sale was on a pitch count when he mowed down the Yanks and gave up just one hit in six innings in his first start back after a rehab stint. While the Indians don't strike out that much, Sale whiffed 10 batters his last time out and has plenty of upside since he'll get a much longer leash in this one.
Felix Hernandez, SEA (vs. LAA)—Hernandez is resuming his dominant ways after another stellar outing facing the Astros on Friday. The Angels have a much more potent lineup, but King Felix stands to benefit from pitching in his home park, especially on daily fantasy sites that reward efficiency and strikeouts.
Clayton Kershaw, LAD (vs. CIN)—Kershaw hasn't been spectacular yet, but Wednesday's tilt with the Reds gives him a chance to reestablish himself as the best pitcher in the NL. He threw six shutout innings against the Phillies his last time out and should be able to dispatch most of the Reds free-swinging batters.
NOTE: Make sure you check the weather forecast and any changes in probable starters from the revised schedule. There's not much worse than a zero from one of your starters—and it's usually avoidable if you're prudent about the risks you're willing to take.
Hitters to watch this week
Pirates hitters: The Mets are wallowing right now, and the Pirates' lineup is replete with guys (Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker) who simply crush fastball-reliant righties. Give them a shot and take advantage of the fact that Josh Harrison—a guy with big-time upside as a middle infielder—is still so cheap.
Dodgers hitters: They aren't in a hitter-friendly park, but the Minnesota pitching staff has been pretty awful this season. I'd stay away from Hanley Ramirez until we find out exactly what's wrong with his calf, but Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez are all in play.
Cards hitters: The Yankees are in town and their pitching staff isn't exactly looking too deep right now. The Cards won't have to deal with Masahiro Tanaka and their lineup is starting to show some signs of life. Get the Matts—Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter—in there against the Yanks' young hurlers.
Other hitters to target this week: Lonnie Chisenhall, CLE; Kelly Johnson, NYY; Jose Bautista, TOR; Yasiel Puig, LAD; George Springer, HOU; Dayan Viciedo, CWS; Gordon Beckham, CWS; Adam Jones, BAL; Nelson Cruz, BAL; Chase Utley, PHI; Mike Trout, LAA