The sabermetric movement has helped to bring strikeouts into focus as the most telling of the basic statistics when it comes to evaluating pitcher performance. K's have been escalating since the turn of the century, and the DFS game has been created within the context of that environment, such that pitcher strikeouts play a bigger role in daily value than anything that goes on the scoreboard.
Let's compare a couple of lines:
Pitcher A is Clayton Kershaw from last night's game against the Rangers, and Pitcher B is Alex Wood, taken from his June 1st start in Arizona (click here to see the scoring rules). The identities of the players don't really matter in this case, but the fact that they achieved virtually identical scores through two very different modes is instructive in roster building. By all means, Wood had the more effective day, allowing two fewer earnies than did Kershaw (each ER is worth -2 points) while generating six additional outs (each IP = 2.25 points). The extra baserunner dinged Wood by 0.6 points, but his lead via extended run prevention amounted to 7.9 points, and to top it off, Wood earned the win (add 4 points) while Kershaw took a Loss (no penalty), bringing Wood's lead to 11.9 points before strikeouts were considered. But the K's ruled the day. Kershaw had six more strikeouts than Wood, each worth 2 points, giving Kershaw a 12-point edge in punchouts and 0.1 more fantasy points on the day.
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A strikeout can be viewed as a run eraser, given that one run allowed (-2 points) plus one strikeout (+2 points) result in a net of zero. In this sense, a high-strikeout pitcher can cover his tracks in DFS, particularly since a strikeout comes paired with a 0.75-point bonus for the third of an inning that was registered, while a run scored only guarantees a baserunner (-0.60 points), so the ends of more DFS points would seem to justify the means of targeting big-K pitchers.
Targeting the big whiffers is nothing new to fantasy players, but there are some pitchers on the extremes who's DFS value might be far different than the season-long or real-life contributions of the player. Take Jordan Zimmermann. I'm one of Zimm's more vocal proponent and he's one of my favorite pitchers to watch. His mechanics involve an incredible blend of power and stability, and his ability to coax weak contact with what essentially boils down to a two-pitch repertoire is awesome. However, his emphasis on pitch-count efficiency has contributed to the lowest K rate of his career, and Zimm's DFS value has suffered accordingly.
On the other end of the spectrum is someone like Danny Salazar, whose trend toward shorter outings with multiple baserunners is forgiven because of his immense strikeout potential. Dallas Keuchel's value is limited due to the lower K ceiling, while Jacob deGrom has proven worthy of $10k price tags and higher due to his five-start run of seven or more innings and eight or more punchouts.
The other side of the coin involves the pitcher's opponents. I try to focus only on the extremes with the team counts, but a couple general rules of thumb are:
1) Avoid the Royals (5.8 K's per game), who K far less than any other offense
2) Target the Cubs (9.5 K's per game), Astros (9.1 K's per game), and Padres (8.5 K's per game), who strike out far more than the other offenses in the game.
Chasing K's is nothing new, but the degree to which those strikeouts make a difference should not be underestimated in DFS.
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