Written by Corey Fishman - DF Insider on April 25, 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. At this point we’re pretty confident that they’ve locked in the best formats for MLB contests, so we want to help you build the optimal projections so you can win some money this baseball season. 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 usually have a shot at winning. That being said, most people will submit average projections, and by doing high-quality 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

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Tonight’s pitching competition simply asks you to project how many strikeouts and outs will be recorded by three 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 and total outs he will get. The scoring for this contest is as follows:
200 points if you project exactly how many strikeouts/outs 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/out 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 and out you correctly project. So let’s say Justin Verlander 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 that includes Jeff Samardzija, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer.
First up we have Jeff Samardzija of the San Francisco Giants. Samardzija is coming off an injury that forced him to miss the first few weeks of the season. In his return from the DL last week against the Angels, Samardzija threw five innings without allowing a run. While he only recorded four strikeouts, we aren’t too surprised as the Angels have the fourth lowest strikeout percentage against right-handed pitching this season. Today, Samardzija has a matchup with the Washington Nationals in what will be an advantageous ballpark shift for him moving to AT&T park. The Nationals will throw out a lineup that will be without Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, Brian Goodwin and Daniel Murphy. In other words, these aren’t the high-powered Nationals batters that we will see later in the season. This Nationals team strikes out at about a 21% clip to right-handed pitching this season which ranks sixth fewest. However, with their new-look lineup, in the past two weeks their strikeout percentage jumps 3% which puts them in the middle of the pack in the MLB. Turning our attention to Samardzija, he only threw 80 pitches in his first game back from injury and we don’t expect the Giants to push him too much further in this game either. We project Samardzija to go roughly five or six innings (15-18 outs) and record 5-6 strikeouts in this matchup.
Next we have Justin Verlander pitching against the Los Angeles Angels. The first thing we want to makes sure we mention is Verlander’s successful career against these Angels. He has held them to a .123 batting average in 198 plate appearances and has an incredible 33% strikeout rate! To add onto these incredible numbers, Verlander may be on his way to his best season. He has compiled a 1.10 ERA and is averaging about eight strikeouts a game. Above, we mentioned that the Angels have held their own against right-handed pitching, striking out at the fourth fewest rate this season. However, Verlander’s only issue last season was getting out left-handed bats which he has had incredible success with so far. His swinging strike percentage has increased about 7% to left-handed batters and he is allowing just a .155 wOBA to them. These are truly incredible numbers and we believe his advanced statistics show that his success will continue. Verlander has only failed to pitch six innings once this season and it may have been due to nerves as it was the night the Astros received their World Series rings. Today, we projected Verlander to compile 19-21 outs and strike out 6-8 Angels batters.
Our last pitcher today is Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. I’m sure most of you don’t need us to tell you how good of a pitcher he is, but we’ll do it anyway. Scherzer has already compiled 47 strikeouts in just five games pitched this season which puts him at just over nine strikeouts per game. He holds a 1.36 ERA and if we take out his one shaky start against Atlanta, he has gone at least six innings in each game. Scherzer will be pitching against Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants. Against their current roster, Scherzer owns a 35.4% K-rate in 110 at-bats. To add onto this, the Giants are striking out at the 7th highest rate in the MLB at 24.7% to right-handed pitching. In his career pitching in AT&T Park, Scherzer has averaged six innings per start which equates to recording 18 outs per game. We believe 18 outs is a safe floor for him, but we project him to get 20 to 22 in this matchup. As for strikeouts, with his incredible history against the Giants and their high strikeout rate, we project 9-10 strikeouts for Scherzer.
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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