Written by Justin Macmahan - CEO on April 10, 2018

This is the first season that PlayLine has offered MLB contests, and in their first week they made a few tweaks to the gameplay. Now that they’ve locked in the best formats for MLB contests, we want to help you build the optimal projections so you can win these new contests. We’re a big fan of how simple it is to build an MLB PlayLine, as you can submit near-average projections in a minute or two that will have a shot at winning. That being said, most people will submit average projections, and by doing good research (or using the DFI researchers) you can differentiate yourself from the competition and get an edge. If you’re not on PlayLine yet, you can make a free account in a new tab by clicking here and they have tons of free contests with cash prizes every day.
Tonight’s pitching competition simply asks you to project how many strikeouts will be recorded by seven of the top pitchers on the slate. Therefore, you only need to consider one scoring system, and it doesn’t actually matter that much if the pitcher has a good matchup for keeping runs off the board. All that matters is how many strikeouts he will get. The scoring for this contest is as follows:
 
200 points if you project exactly how many strikeouts the pitcher will record.
150 if you are within 1.
125 if you are within 2.
100 if you are within 3.
75 if you are within 4.
50 if you are within 5.
25 if you are within 6.
 
Basically, you lose 25 points for each strikeout you are further away. If you are more than 6 away you just get 0, and deservedly so. There is essentially just a 25 point bonus for being spot on, as the logical progression would have been 175, which makes the 200 point bonus worth 25 more than expected. This isn’t a lot, but in a game mode like this where points are hard to rack up a lot of, you need a few of those bonuses to win.
There is one more facet to the scoring, and that is that you get 3 points for every strikeout you correctly project. So let’s say Chris Sale gets 9 strikeouts but you projected him for 8. While you’d get the same 150 point bonus as someone who projected him for 10 strikeouts, they would get 3 more points than you because you stopped collecting 3 points per strikeout after number 8. With this in mind, it is better to miss high than low. It may seem like a meaningless amount of points, but if you pick up an extra 3 or 6 points on every pitcher it could mean an extra 25+ points. This could obviously end up being a tiebreaker like it is in the example above, and ultimately the difference in winning or losing your contests.
Now let’s look at tonight’s slate, which includes Johnny Cueto who won’t count because his start has been pushed back to Wednesday.
First up we have Chris Sale, who only logged less than six strikeouts twice last season. We project Sale for around 8 strikeouts tonight, but it might be smart to go with 9 or 10 as we discussed the merits of projecting high rather than low. This Yankees lineup has had tremendous struggles against Sale in the past, batting 10 for 59 and striking out 37% of the time. We don’t expect Sale to struggle racking up strikeouts in this one even if he allows a long ball or two, so definitely go with a projection of 8-10.
Next up we have Dallas Keuchel, who faces the Minnesota Twins. While the Twins strikeout a decent amount against lefties, Keuchel doesn’t strike out that many righties. He’s likely to face just two left-handed batters tonight, so we’re not wild about his K upside. For this reason, we have Keuchel projected around 4-7 strikeouts. This is a more volatile situation as the Twins like to swing and miss, but it’s not an optimal situation for Keuchel.
After Keuchel we have Felix Hernandez, who is probably in the worst spot of all these pitchers. He hasn’t been a dominant strikeout pitcher in a long time, and the Royals are not a team that strikes out very often. With those two factors combined, we’re only giving Felix around 3-5 strikeouts tonight. You could go with 6 if you really want to stretch the idea of projecting high, but we don’t expect him to have a very successful outing in the swing and miss department.
Next up is Jacob DeGrom, who faces a Marlins lineup with 5 righties and a pitcher, which DeGrom should have success racking up swings and misses against. The downside for DeGrom is that he can’t count on the umpire to give him a favorable strike zone, as DJ Reyburn was one of the least favorable umpires for pitchers last season. His 2.22 K/BB ratio was ranked 82nd out of 92 umpires last year. He also called more innings than any umpire below him, so his large sample size tells us that his strike zone is indeed quite small. DeGrom has the stuff to get swings and misses in this matchup, but we’re not going crazy because of the likelihood that the umpire takes away a couple strikes from him. With all that being said, a projection of 6-9 strikeouts makes sense for DeGrom for tonight.
Skipping over Cueto as we mentioned earlier, we’re now at Luis Severino. While the Red Sox lineup is strong, this is a very average matchup in terms of strikeout potential. Severino also has nearly identical strikeout splits to righties and lefties, so there’s not a whole lot to dig into here unless you want to break down the pitch values which we do for our War Room header at DFIUniversity.com. Of course we can’t break down all the pitch values for you here or we’d leave you with little incentive to take your free trial to the War Rooms and come see what all the hype is about. Moving on though, Severino can be safely projected for 5-7 strikeouts.
The last pitcher to look at tonight is Stephen Strasburg. In his career against these Braves’ hitters, he’s struck them out about 24% of the time. This is solid, but not up to par with usual numbers of around 29%. This is because these Braves strike out less than 17% of the time, so this is not an ideal spot for Strasburg. This is an example where we don’t want to project too high, and we’re likely looking in the 6-8 range for this projection.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this breakdown and please let us know on Twitter if you want more of these going forward!

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