Last night when I looked up and realized Aaron Harang had eight strikeouts and was dominating a potent Boston Red Sox lineup, I was briefly energized -- it felt like the old, good days. Then I reread the name Aaron Harang and realized, well, this start would probably mean nothing to the ragtag 2015 Phillies. The chance of this team going on a playoff run headed by dual aces Hamels and Harang is, ah, pretty slim, and the likely outcome of a number of tremendous Harang-atang games (this nickname will take off) is a shinier prospect than if he was just mediocre.
That's depressing! It's depressing to think of the team as a year long project in failure! It's no way to conceptualize your nights!
And that's why FanDuel, friends. FanDuel, as you know, is a daily fantasy league that happens to be a supporter of SBNation blogs like ours' truly. Basically you go in and select a pitcher, a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, and three outfielders, and as long as you stay under or at the salary cap, you're good to go. And also, you bet and can therefore win money on the dang thing, so spend a dollar, win a couple thousand. It's Vegas baby.
The common way to sell leagues like this (often called daily fantasy scoring or DFS leagues) is by saying you can "have Trout and McCutchen and Kershaw!!" That's not really true though -- the zen of this kind of league is that it's a balancing act. You want to a) be sure that you're picking cheap guys who are likely to produce for you, and b) be sure you're picking guys that half the league hasn't already picked. If you and everyone else is starting Felix Hernandez, then those extra 15 points aren't going to mean much to you; but if you started, say Aaron Harang last night, you're looking pretty smart.
With this spirit in mind here are a couple of starting pitchers I like at low value today. I'll be doing these features fairly often, so I'll switch positions here and there, but often starting pitcher is the best place to find a cheap starter that no one else is bothering with, so why not start here?
Shane Greene - The Yankee turned Tiger gets his first start for Detroit tonight, and while it isn't in the friendly confines of Target Field, Comerica Park is not so bad for pitchers either. It ranked 14th in baseball in runs scored for 2014 Park factors according to ESPN, which is decent enough, but the park factors for right handed batters in Detroit is brutal, according to Fangraphs. Greene will get a boost against some of Minnesota's only decent hitters in Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, and Torii Hunter, then, which is not bad! And Greene is no slouch on his own, racking up 9.27 K/9 last year in New York. At 7,000 dollars (100 dollars cheaper than perennial bad pitcher Justin Masterson), Greene is a nice pickup.
Daniel Norris - Prospect hounds rejoice -- Norris is cheap and good and facing a bad lineup. This is pretty much all you need to know, but here are a few other points of note: the Yankees are abysmal offensively, despite Jacoby Ellsbury and the corpses of Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. And while Yankees Stadium is not great for pitchers, Rogers Park in Toronto is arguably worse. Add in that Norris will only cost you 6100 dollars (the same as probably fake pitcher Asher Wojciechowski in Houston) and he's a no brainer. Oh also in 22 innings at AAA last year, Norris struck out 15.09 per nine. So uh, that's good.
Kendall Graveman - The cheapest pitcher available could also be a nice bargain. Graveman was kind of an also ran, low-K starting pitcher for a while in the minors, but has had something of a rejuvenation this spring, with 17 strikeouts to 7 walks and a laughable .36 ERA. Now, will he keep up that ERA? Definitely not -- Graveman is likely a ~3.50 ERA pitcher at his peak, with a long, long shot of becoming Tim Hudson, but probably not. But you don't care about long-view stuff for DFS leagues like FanDuel -- you care about today. And today, Graveman costs 5000, which gives you a ton of money to spend on offense. And he's facing the Rangers who have not looked like their usual offensive juggernaut so far. Oh and it's in Oakland at the o.co Colosseum. Graveman could totally be a bust, and I think he's the riskiest of the three, but my bet is he's owned in less than 5 percent of entries and could be your ticket to a nice win.
So that's that! Some pitchers I considered but didn't go with include Anthony deSclafani and Trevor Bauer. What do you think? Who looks best?