DAILY MATCHUPS: Final slate full of fantasy risk

As a way to preview the day's games, the 2018 Daily Matchups column will provide a list of all SP scheduled to start that day as identified by the HQ Pitcher Matchup tool (also available as an 8-day scan). It will group the day's SP into strong starts, judgment calls, or weak starts and will provide an analysis of the most noteworthy SP along the way.

For additional DFS coverage collected in one place, see our Daily Dashboard page. Also reference our three-year ballpark factorsteam indicator pages, and SP Buyers Guide columns to help you optimize your SP utilization.


Today’s schedule overview: We’ve reached arguably the most unpredictable day of the season. Owners will have to tread carefully when setting their final pitching lineups of the year.


Strong Starts (top tier starts rated >1.0; starts in 0.50-0.99 range also favorable)

  Walker Buehler LA @SF   3.74 2.50 4.23 4.66 3.55 5 2 5 4 3
  Carlos Carrasco CLE @KC   3.49 3.20 3.15 4.10 3.49 5 3 5 3 4
  Noah Syndergaard NYM vMIA   2.93 2.25 2.90 3.37 3.19 5 1 4 1 3
  Joey Lucchesi SD vARI   2.27 1.56 2.32 3.64 1.55 5 4 0 2 2
  Brett Anderson OAK @LAA   1.96 0.53 2.97 3.58 0.76 5 1 1 4 1
  Luis Severino NYY @BOS   1.66 1.29 1.84 2.80 0.72 2 2 4 5 3
  Charlie Morton HOU @BAL   1.52 0.93 1.02 1.00 3.12 2 1 0 3 1
  Jack Flaherty STL @CHC   1.51 1.96 1.38 1.13 1.55 2 3 3 2 2
  Dylan Covey CHW @MIN   1.45 0.59 2.18 3.01 0.02 0 2 1 3 3
  Zack Littell MIN vCHW   1.20 0.17 1.92 3.24 -0.52 0.00
  Mike Leake SEA vTEX   1.03 -0.34 0.80 1.98 1.68 0 2 4 3 1
  Spencer Turnbull DET @MIL   0.82 0.57 0.77 2.38 -0.45 1 3
  Rick Porcello BOS vNYY   0.61 0.90 0.77 1.98 -1.22 1 3 2 3 1
  Felix Pena LAA vOAK   0.60 0.94 1.07 2.55 -2.16 3 3 2 2 4
  Luis Castillo CIN vPIT   0.51 1.39 0.73 -0.41 0.33 5 2 4 3 5

Walker Buehler (RHP, LA) has been dominant of late (PQS 4 or 5 in three of his past five starts) and is likely the top DFS option in a jumbled Sunday group. He has the potential to dominate a Giants lineup that ranks last in baseball in runs scored since the All-Star break, and he should be highly motivated to thrive for a team that is in a dogfight for the NL West crown.

At first glance, Carlos Carrasco (RHP, CLE) looks like a great Sunday DFS option. After all, the right-hander owns stellar statistics (16 wins, 3.42 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 225 strikeouts), and he has posted a PQS score of 3 or higher in all but one of his second-half starts. But Carrasco is unlikely to work deep into Cleveland’s final tune-up for the postseason. In a best-case scenario, he throws the necessary five innings to qualify for a win.

Noah Syndergaard (RHP, NYM) is likely the top challenger against Buehler for the top DFS spot on Sunday. The flamethrower has been effective in September (2.20 ERA), and he has the elite strikeout skills to post an eye-popping stat line at any moment. Syndergaard will likely be motivated to finish a slightly disappointing 2018 season on a high note when he faces a Marlins lineup that ranks near the bottom of the Majors in almost all key offensive metrics.

Brett Anderson (LHP, OAK) lacks the swing-and-miss skills (4.7 K/9 rate) to be a factor in most leagues on Sunday. However, the southpaw has logged solid ratios across 15 starts with the A’s (3.96 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) that are backed up by a respectable 4.14 xERA. Anderson is a decent option for those who are chasing wins while also looking to maintain their ratios.

Jack Flaherty (RHP, STL) is set to put the finishing touches on a memorable rookie season that includes stellar ratios (3.16 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) and an eye-popping 10.9 K/9 rate. And he could prove to be Sunday’s top DFS option if the Cubs have already clinched the NL Central.

Dylan Covey (RHP, CHW) is one of the more intriguing options from the waiver wire on Sunday. The 27-year-old has a well-earned place on waivers, as he has gone 5-13 with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP this season. But he has struck out 12 batters across a dozen shutout innings in his past two starts, and he is set for a reasonable road start against a Twins squad that has been out of the race for a while.

On the other side of the Twins-White Sox matchup, Zack Littell (RHP, MIN) somehow found his way into the top tier. Littell posted a PQS-0 in his only major league start way back on June 5, and he has not be especially effective out of the bullpen in September. He is unlikely to throw many innings on Sunday and should stay on waivers in all leagues.

Mike Leake (RHP, SEA) should be used only by those who are targeting wins on Sunday. With 119 whiffs across 185.2 innings, he is a poor bet to provide a sizeable strikeout total. And his ratios (4.36 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) don’t inspire much confidence that he can shut down the Rangers. Additionally, Leake posted an 8.44 ERA in his only previous start against Texas this year and has logged a 4.55 ERA at Safeco Field this season.

Felix Pena (RHP, LAA) is an interesting Sunday streamer among those who are sitting on some waiver wires. Despite earning just three wins in 17 starts and two relief appearances, the right-hander has shown enticing skills that include a 3.0 K:BB ratio. Still, Pena needs to be used with some caution by those who notice that he has posted a 5.06 ERA at home this year and an 8.44 ERA in three appearances (two starts) against Oakland. Of course, his value skyrockets if the A’s post a starting lineup that is made up mostly of no-name players.


Judgment Calls (Overall ratings from -0.50 to 0.50)

  Gio Gonzalez MIL vDET   0.25 0.68 0.54 0.21 -0.44 1 4 2 3 1
  Kevin Gausman ATL @PHI   0.11 -0.92 0.08 1.29 TBD 4 2 0 0 5
  Chris Archer PIT @CIN   0.11 1.71 -0.01 -0.42 -0.83 4 2 2 4 4
  Robbie Ray ARI @SD   -0.27 1.48 0.29 -0.81 -2.05 5 2 3 3 2
  Jake Faria TAM vTOR   -0.39 -0.31 -0.95 -1.20 0.89 1 2 0 1 0

Gio Gonzalez (LHP, MIL) has posted stellar ratios (2.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) across four starts with as a member of the Brewers, but he has thrived mostly as a result of a .180 BABIP and has walked nine batters across 20.1 innings. Still, Gonzalez could post serviceable numbers when he works at home against a Tigers lineup that ranks last in the American League in runs scored since the All-Star break.

Kevin Gausman (RHP, ATL) has thrived as a member of the Braves (2.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), but he is unlikely to post eye-popping numbers on Sunday. In all likelihood, the right-hander will toss 3-5 innings in an effort to keep his arm fresh for an expected postseason start in a few days. In the best-case scenario, Gausman gets a lead against a slumping Phillies squad and is allowed to finish the necessary five frames to qualify for a win.

Chris Archer (RHP, PIT) has continued to be more hype than production in fantasy circles, as a July trade to the Pirates has not made him a better asset. Still, the right-hander with a 9.8 K/9 rate should be in virtually all lineups on the final day of the season. Archer has a reasonable matchup against a Reds lineup that has been average against righties, and he will likely be permitted to throw six-plus innings.

Robbie Ray (LHP, ARI) saved an otherwise disappointing season by excelling down the stretch. The southpaw logged a 3.24 ERA in August before making a major impact in fantasy leagues by going 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 37 whiffs across his initial five September starts. Ray should be able to complete his strong finish when he works at a pitcher-friendly road venue against a Padres lineup that ranks 23rd in the Majors in OPS against lefties and 28th in OPS at home. In 11 road outings this season, Ray has compiled a 2.95 ERA.


Weak Starts (Overall ratings -0.51 and below)

  Andrew Suarez SF vLA   -0.77 -0.80 0.51 1.17 -3.96 5 1 0 2 3
  Jonathan Gray COL vWAS   -0.97 -0.19 -1.14 -2.34 -0.22 0 0 2 0 3
  Erick Fedde WAS @COL   -1.04 -0.84 -1.18 -1.85 -0.28 1 3 4 3 1
  Michael Montgomery CHC vSTL   -1.07 -0.41 -0.84 -1.09 -1.94 3 3 1 3 1
  Marco Estrada TOR @TAM   -1.97 -1.17 -2.90 -2.40 -1.39 0 2 1 3 0
  Sandy Alcantara MIA @NYM   -2.13 -0.82 -1.74 -2.26 -3.69 2 5 3 1 0
  Eric Skoglund KC vCLE   -2.15 -0.70 -1.40 -2.71 -3.77 0 0 1 2 2
  Yovani Gallardo TEX @SEA   -2.17 -1.75 -2.09 -2.65 -2.18 0 0 1 0 2
  Sean Gilmartin BAL vHOU   -4.06 -3.16 -4.92 -4.66 -3.48 0

Jon Gray (RHP, COL) likely won’t get any help from his offense-inducing home park, but he should benefit from working in front of a Rockies squad that will be much more motivated to pick up a win than his opponents from Washington. The right-hander has posted a PQS-0 in three of his past five starts but also tossed seven innings of one-run ball in a home start last time out. Overall, his strikeout skills (9.6 K/9 rate) make him one of Sunday’s best desperation plays.

Mike Montgomery (LHP, CHC) is unlikely to provide major help for fantasy owners on Sunday. The right-hander owns a respectable 3.99 ERA, but his 1.36 WHIP and 6.3 K/9 rate are disappointing marks. Additionally, he has not finished the necessary five innings to qualify for a win in four of his past five starts. If the Cubs need a win on Sunday, they will likely start to utilize their bullpen early in the game.

Sandy Alcantara (RHP, MIA) is another streaming option for those who need strikeouts more than a quality start. The exciting prospect struggled last time out (4 IP, 6 ER), and I would not normally recommend someone who has compiled more walks (21) than whiffs (20) across five starts this season. Still, Alcantara has a reasonable matchup with the Mets and has the elite velocity to rack up a handful of K’s.



Our Starting Pitcher Matchup Scores algorithm has been completely revamped for 2018. Based on this research piece from Arik Florimonte, we now calculate a pitcher's individual Matchup Score for a single start by first calculating an individual score representing his potential performance for each rotisserie category, and then rolling those into an overall rating for the day's start. 

This rating assesses each starter's outlook on a given day, taking into account the pitcher’s inherent ability, recent performance, strength of defense, ballpark, and opposition’s offense recent history.

There are roughly 150 starting pitchers in MLB rotations at any given time. For different league sizes, we can estimate the number of SP in the useable pool, and then determine the overall ratings that correspond to worst, 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile SP.

                               Overall SP Rating
                   SP       by SP league percentile
League size       Pool*     .00    .25    .50    .75
==============    =====    ====   ====   ====   =====
12-team “only”     120     -.73   -.22   +.22   +.74
10-team “only”     110     -.54   -.11   +.30   +.79
20-team mixed      110     -.54   -.11   +.30   +.79
15-team mixed      105     -.46   -.05   +.34   +.82
12-team mixed       80     -.07   +.22   +.55   +.97
10-team mixed       60     +.22   +.46   +.74   +1.12

So if you’re in a 12-team “only” league, the median start should have a rating of about 0.2. The 120th start is around -0.7. In a shallower, 15-team mixed, the median start is 0.34 and a top pitcher +0.82.

Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.