Only one starter is projected for a Game Score north of 60, but seven others are at 55 to 59, so there won't be a shortage of quality arms on the mound. On the other end, just one is below 45, so not many tomato cans to pick on offensively. There is a game at Coors Field, but two capable arms on the mound could mute the usual offensive explosion in Denver.
Remember when Max Scherzer had a home run problem? Through his first 16 starts, he had an uncharacteristic 3.52 ERA, thanks in large part to 20 homers allowed (1.7 HR/9). But he's allowed just five in the past 11 starts, and unsurprisingly, he has a 2.05 ERA as a result (0.6 HR/9). Oh yeah, he has also logged 10-plus strikeouts in three of his five August starts and in five of the 11 during this run of home run suppression. He also has 25 strikeouts in 21 innings against the Phillies this year.
Johnny Cueto is one of 22 starters with at least 13 starts of a 60 or better Game Score this year. Five of the other guys also are pitching Tuesday. Scherzer (19, the most in MLB) is of course there, as well as Cole Hamels (14), Drew Pomeranz, Kyle Hendricks and J.A. Happ (13). We'll get to the rest in a minute. Only one of Cueto's has come against the Diamondbacks, but he has logged at least seven innings in all three starts and has twice logged nine strikeouts against them. He's not a premier strikeout pitcher every start out, but he's still one of the very best pitchers in baseball.
I just gave love to Hamels, Hendricks, Happ, and Pomeranz for their number of 60+ Game Score outings, but they're not quite elite-level options start in and start out. Hamels' 1.23 WHIP is hardly bad, but it doesn't completely jibe with his American League-best 2.67 ERA. His 84 percent left on base rate is a driving force behind his success, despite the WHIP. This isn't a "Hamels is going to collapse" sort of warning, just some insight into why he's not viewed as elite right now, in spite of the gaudy ERA. He's still a great option.
Hendricks leads all of baseball with his 2.19 ERA, and his 1.00 WHIP fully supports it, but both his LOB rate and BABIP are far and away career bests, at 81 percent and .247, respectively. He is no doubt contributing to both with the way he is pitching, but neither metric is stable at those levels on a start-to-start basis. Meanwhile, his 8.0 K/9 is solid but doesn't offer the protection of Scherzer's 11.2 or even Pomeranz's 9.9 on days when you're BABIP is unlucky or you fail to strand a runner or two you normally would, so Hendricks winds up just short of elite.
It's a total hypothetical, so I can't say for sure, but Happ going into Baltimore is probably the only reason I didn't slot him in the top section. He has had all the makings of an elite arm for large parts of this season, especially since July 1: 2.26 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 70 Ks and a 5.0 K:BB ratio in 55⅔ innings.
Pomeranz allowed five earned runs in two of his first starts with Boston, which of course sent the fans into a tizzy, especially since they're convinced that 18-year old Anderson Espinoza will be the next Pedro in short order (they traded the top pitching prospect for Pomeranz). Those who jumped ship early have likely missed his August, during which he has allowed just eight earned runs (2.40 ERA) with 31 strikeouts in 30 innings. The Rays have been baseball's worst team against lefties since mid-June and I'm not sure a second look (6 IP/2 ER/10 Ks on Aug. 25) at Pomeranz is what they want.
Why isn't Masahiro Tanaka getting attention? Most of us were expecting him to succumb to Tommy John surgery at some point, but instead he is having a fantastic season. His strikeouts are down, which certainly takes some juice out of his fantasy production, but his 3.11 ERA and 1.07 WHIP are both top flight. In a year when homers have jumped across the league, he's toting a career-best 0.9 HR/9 rate.
That's only a bit better than the 1.2 league average, but if I'd have told you that homers were going to skyrocket across the league, you'd have gone running from Tanaka, who allowed a 1.2 HR/9 in 2014-15. He has a 2.82 ERA and 0.98 WHIP since the break, with 49 strikeouts and just six walks. The Royals are no longer the impossible-to-strikeout team of the past two years, either.
Oh no! Zack Greinke has a 7.84 ERA in August, he must be the worst! Eight of the 18 earned runs he has allowed came in one disastrous outing against the Red Sox in Boston. He lasted just 1⅔ innings and allowed as many homers as he had strikeouts (three). A wobbly last inning (to end with 6 IP/4 ER) against Atlanta, of all teams, is the only thing keeping him from quality starts in each of his other three August outings.
Julio Teheran hasn't been great in two starts off the disabled listed, but even at his best, notching a win -- a key to DFS success -- remains elusive. He's just 3-9 this year with the Braves, despite a strong rebound from his 2015 campaign. He has a 3.15 ERA and 1.03 WHIP but far too little to show for it. Facing another bottom-feeder such as the Padres is as good an opportunity as any for that fourth win -- if you've been looking for a spot to use Teheran, this is it.
The story of James Paxton's season has been improved mechanics that have yielded more velocity and fewer walks. Hits were an issue, though. Through his first nine starts, he allowed 12.1 hits per nine innings, so despite some flashes of excellence, he still had just a 4.56 ERA. The .391 BABIP in that time certainly points to some bad luck, but he also allowed a lot of hard contact, so this wasn't just happening to him.
He'd found some control but needed more command. In short, control is throwing strikes, while command is throwing quality strikes. Things are improving, though. After allowing 7+ hits in seven of those first nine starts, he has done so just once in his past five starts, en route to a 2.16 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 33⅓ IP. He has a .258 BABIP and his soft-contact rate (as calculated by Fangraphs) is up from 9 percent to 17 percent.
Jake Odorizzi is at best a contrarian play on Tuesday and it's all because he has to face the Red Sox. Yes, he just dropped a 7 IP/1 ER gem against them his last time out, but now he's going to Fenway, and it just seems too risky to bet on him taming that beastly offense in back-to-back starts. He'll certainly have low usage rates, and he has a very talented arm, so he's a good B-lineup, against-the-grain pick.
Despite the volatility and outright unpredictability of the win, it's probably the biggest reason that Jerad Eickhoff is down here and had serious consideration for the "Avoid" category (which is actually blank today, with no one I'm flat-out running from that you might normally consider). As mentioned earlier, his Phillies draw Scherzer, which puts substantial burden on Eickhoff, if he wants to continue his streak of wins, currently at three. The pitcher win is an incredibly stupid stat when you really think about it, but it's important for our game and, as such, quality pitchers on poor teams are often passed over.
Can you remember the last time there was a game at Coors and neither team drew better than a 5 overall? Rich Hill and Tyler Anderson are two quality lefties who could certainly mitigate the effects of Denver's thin air, but I was still surprised to see such low offensive numbers. The Dodgers have been one of the worst teams against lefties all year, especially over the past three months, when only the Rays have been worse. The Rockies don't look as bad from a raw number standpoint, such as OPS, but when you adjust it to the ballpark, as in wRC+, they sit just 25th in the league. I can't say I'd be willing to use either Hill or Anderson in DFS, but maybe I'm not full-on Coors stacking here.
The Cardinals earn the only 10 ranking of the day with a date against Wily Peralta, he of the 5.87 ERA through 89 innings this year. His futility isn't the only reason for the high ranking, though. The Cards have the top offense in the National League by both OPS and the aforementioned wRC+, trailing only the Red Sox and Orioles.
They are missing one of their big standouts against righties -- Aledmys Diaz (.937 OPS) -- but they still have Matt Carpenter (.995), Brandon Moss (.975) and Jedd Gyorko (.881) ready to punish Peralta. Jeremy Hazelbaker was an early-season story before getting sent out in mid-June, but he has returned with a .935 OPS in 61 PA since his recall. He could be a good budget option to offset a high-priced arm or someone at Coors.
The Reds, Tigers, and Braves project well against Jered Weaver, Anthony Ranaudo and Edwin Jackson, three guys who all have ERAs north of 5.00 and WHIPs over 1.50. All three are righties, but don't think you can only use lefties against them. Righties have OPS totals better than .900 against Weaver and Ranaudo, while they're approaching that mark against Jackson (.887). All options are in play against the trio.
Joey Votto headlines the Reds' attack, but you might like Billy Hamilton too, who has finally added some hitting to go with his insane stolen base totals. Not ready to pony up for Miguel Cabrera? Look at Ian Kinsler or the Martinezes -- Victor and J.D. -- for the Tigers. Ryan Schimpf is hardly a headlining name like those others, but he's playing like them lately. He has a 1.010 OPS against righties in 192 plate appearances, with 14 of his 16 total homers. Alex Dickerson is another new power bat making some noise for the Padres. Seven of his eight homers are against righties, en route to an .806 OPS.
Twins righties draw the second-best rating of any unit for Tuesday, behind only the 10 for Cardinals lefties. Noted home run yielder Josh Tomlin is finally paying the price for the long balls in August with a 10.80 ERA and just one start of at least five innings. His 3.43 ERA never matched the 1.9 HR/9 he had through his first 19 starts, so any sort of BABIP trouble was going to be exponentially worse for him than it would for most starters. Going from .262 BABIP through those first 19 to .349 in August has sunk him.
He has always had a reverse platoon split, which is why righties get the better rating and makes Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier the most appealing options on the team. I wouldn't sleep on lefty Max Kepler, though. I'd be more interested in Joe Mauer if he wasn't stuck at first. Tomlin certainly helps anyone's power, but there are just too many great options at first.
Oakland only draws a four rating, and McHugh has a solid 54 projected Game Score, but I might look to the A's for some off-the-beaten-path picks. They won't get much attention on a full slate, but Khris Davis, Danny Valencia, Stephen Vogt and Ryon Healy are all intriguing against the Astros righty.
Most likely to go yard: Mark Trumbo
I'll admit it, I didn't buy into Trumbo earlier this year, because we've seen fast starts out of him in the past only to watch a seemingly inevitable June swoon that carried over throughout the rest of the summer. He might need to connect against a reliever, with just a .642 OPS against lefties, but don't get it twisted, as his .252 ISO says the pop is still there against southpaws.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Billy Hamilton
C'mon, let's not complicate things here. It says "most likely" here, not "cool, under-the-radar pick that you can impress your friends with," so yes, I'm taking the MLB leaders in homers (Trumbo above) and steals this week. As I mentioned earlier, Hamilton is actually hitting more of late too. He has a .299 AVG and .372 OBP since the break, which has allowed him to swipe 31 bags, a full-season pace of 129!