Veteran daily DFS players know there are a couple rules of thumbs when it comes to selecting your pitcher or pitchers for your lineups:

  • Play it safe and go with one of the best for cash games, with cost being a secondary consideration
  • Take more chances and look for upside from a lesser option in a large-entry tournament

A quick and dirty filter I’ve been using lately to help decide on an arm for either scenario (but mostly cash games) is what I call “The Rule of 13.” It’s very simple. A pitchers satisfies the Rule of 13 when you’ll be shocked if they fail to total 13 combined innings and strikeouts. That’s all it takes, add up what you expect for innings and whiffs and if it is less than 13, they aren’t candidates for cash games and probably don’t have the upside for tourneys.

On one-pitcher sites like FanDuel, I’ll never use a pitcher not meeting the Rule of 13 in a cash game. On two-pitcher sites like Draft Kings and Fantasy Aces, one pitcher absolutely has to qualify while the second is at worse a borderline Rule 13 candidate.

To put the Rule of 13 in perspective, here are the pitchers that average more than 13 combined innings plus punch outs.

NAME IP/G K/G Total
Clayton Kershaw 7 8.8 15.8
David Price 7.4 8.3 15.8
Felix Hernandez 7.2 7.9 15.1
Yu Darvish 6.7 8.4 15
Chris Sale 6.9 7.6 14.5
Max Scherzer 6.6 7.7 14.3
Johnny Cueto 7.1 7.1 14.2
Corey Kluber 6.8 7.4 14.2
Jon Lester 6.8 7.1 13.9
Cole Hamels 6.8 7 13.8
Stephen Strasburg 6.2 7.4 13.6
Garrett Richards 6.5 6.6 13.2
Tyson Ross 6.5 6.5 13

Keeping in mind this is an average. The closer to 13 the pitcher sits, the more starts fall below the cutoff.

The above table didn’t include starters whose total rounded up to 13. Of course, in order for their average to be between 12 and 13, they must have several efforts that met the criteria. To add more names to the discussion, here’s the set that barely missed the cut.

NAME IP/G K/G Total
Adam Wainwright 7.1 5.8 12.9
Zack Greinke 6.3 6.7 12.9
Julio Teheran 6.8 6 12.8
Collin McHugh 5.9 6.8 12.7
Jake Arrieta 6.1 6.6 12.7
Ian Kennedy 6.2 6.5 12.6
Madison Bumgarner 6.3 6.2 12.5
Ervin Santana 6.6 5.9 12.5
Hisashi Iwakuma 6.9 5.5 12.4
Jeff Samardzija 6.6 5.9 12.4
Sonny Gray 6.6 5.8 12.4
Wade Miley 6.3 6 12.3
Cliff Lee 6.6 5.7 12.2
Jesse Hahn 5.8 6.4 12.2
Jacob deGrom 6.2 5.9 12.1
John Lackey 6.5 5.5 12.1
James Shields 6.5 5.5 12
Gio Gonzalez 5.9 6.1 12

What follows is the percentage of games each of the above 31 has met the criteria so far this season with rain-shortened games excluded.I rarely play more than five or six cash games in a given night since I have a job that often starts 6 PM ET which makes it tough to make absolutely certain all my lineups are devoid of players scratched or affected by weather. I may enter more contests on the nights I have off. As such, it is extremely rare when I don’t have a starting pitcher from the top table as my cash game anchor. And if there isn’t one from that group, most assuredly you’ll find my guy in the second.

NAME 13 + GS percent
Clayton Kershaw 15 15 100%
David Price 19 22 86%
Felix Hernandez 18 22 82%
Yu Darvish 16 19 84%
Chris Sale 13 15 87%
Max Scherzer 16 21 76%
Johnny Cueto 15 22 68%
Corey Kluber 14 22 64%
Jon Lester 13 21 62%
Cole Hamels 12 18 67%
Stephen Strasburg 15 22 68%
Garrett Richards 13 20 65%
Tyson Ross 11 22 50%
Adam Wainwright 11 21 52%
Zack Greinke 13 21 62%
Julio Teheran 14 22 64%
Collin McHugh 7 15 47%
Jake Arrieta 8 15 53%
Ian Kennedy 9 22 41%
Madison Bumgarner 12 23 52%
Ervin Santana 10 20 50%
Hisashi Iwakuma 8 16 50%
Jeff Samardzija 11 21 52%
Sonny Gray 9 21 43%
Wade Miley 10 22 45%
Cliff Lee 5 12 42%
Jesse Hahn 4 8 50%
Jacob deGrom 7 14 50%
John Lackey 7 21 33%
James Shields 12 22 55%
Gio Gonzalez 7 16 44%

The only five starters I consider to be completely match-up proof for use in cash games are Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Chris Sale and Yu Darvish. Their Rule of 13 success rate are all over 80 percent.

​Next time we’ll go over the reasoning used to decide if any of the rest pass the Rule of 13 sniff test for their matchup that day.




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About Todd Zola

Affectionately known as Lord Zola, Todd was the 2013 Fantasy Sports Writers Association recipient of the Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year, Web. He's been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997 and presently Todd writes for the ESPN Insider and Baseball HQ. Todd is a frequent guest on SiriusXM and is a regular on HQ Radio. He's a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR as well as a multi-time NFBC champion. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola

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