There are tons of statistics in baseball these days, but for pitchers the strikeout remains king. Pitchers can’t control what happens once the ball is put in play, so they can best limit batters by keeping them from making contact in the first place. There’s a reason why the pitchers who strike out a lot of batters are also usually among the leaders in wins, ERA, and WHIP.
For daily fantasy baseball purposes, if you were to target only pitchers projected to strike out at least 7.5 batters (per our K Predictor in our Player Models), you’d typically be doing pretty well.
Per our Trends tool, pitchers projected for at least 7.5 Ks have an average DraftKings Plus/Minus of +3.26 and a Consistency Rating of 61.3 percent. However, in addition to being productive, these pitchers usually have high ownership, which Pro subscribers can review in our DFS Ownership Dashboard shortly after lineups lock.
If we could find a way to fade these pitchers successfully, we could gain a huge edge on our competition.
It turns out that early in the season it might be possible to fade high-K pitchers with some success:
Both the Plus/Minus and Consistency Rating for these pitchers drop in the month of April, and these numbers are historically among the lowest for these pitchers all season:
Given that early in the season we have the least amount of information available to us, it would make sense that our predictive power is weakest in April. Managers are also typically more careful with their pitchers early in the season, leading to fewer innings pitched and wins.
April is also the coldest month of the baseball season, and research by FanGraphs and others indicates that fastball velocity tends to decrease in cold weather. How do early-season pitchers do at 60 degrees or colder?
If we reduce the sample to 50 degrees, the results get even worse.
This situation doesn’t arise often, but when it does it represents a highly exploitable opportunity.
Many DFS players always pay up for pitching, so we can often expect high-K pitchers to carry their typically high ownership in April. While fading these pitchers in the long run is a risky strategy, doing so early in the season, particularly in cold weather games, can lead to contrarian lineups that perform well in guaranteed prize pools.