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Introduction to DFS

by Spencer Limbach
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Daily fantasy baseball can seem intimidating for somebody on the outside looking in. While taking the time to read several introductions to the one-day fantasy world, you’ll come across detailed themes like wOBA, ISO, xFIP, reverse-splits, regression tools and evolving park factors. Before you discontinue reading this article, swearing off daily fantasy altogether, let me explain that it doesn’t have to be that difficult! Sure, you can add advanced metrics to your screening process later on, but it’s not necessarily essential for a beginner. My goal in this article is to show you a few “strategy shortcuts” and tips to make daily fantasy baseball much less daunting of an undertaking and hopefully a profitable, rewarding endeavor.

 

Lean heavily on Vegas odds

 

The best starting point for daily fantasy baseball research comes from studying and understanding Vegas odds. This is essentially the “shortcut” I promised in the introduction. Within these Vegas lines comes a plethora of predictive value. In other words, let Vegas do the heavy lifting for you (in terms of projections), then make your player picks accordingly.

 

Within these lines/odds, there are two crucial items to consider: the run total and the moneyline.

 

The run total represents a set over/under for the combined runs of both team. Simplistically speaking, games with higher run totals are expected to be higher scoring, with the opposite also holding true (pretty straightforward, right?). The average set run total is usually around 7 to 7.5 runs. The further we climb from this total, the more we need to seriously consider the hitters from each team (especially climbing into the 9-10 range). Conversely, an over/under of 6.5, 6, or even lower represents an expected pitchers’ duel.

 

The moneyline represents the odds assigned to each team’s chances of winning. The favored team has a (-) in front of the respective number, with the underdog yielding a higher betting return in (+) “plus money”. An even, “pick ‘em” game would be represented by -110 from both teams. The further we deviate from that, the better chances a given team has at winning. This is particularly helpful when looking at starting pitchers in line to pick up a win. Team odds of -180 and above is generally considered safe, while upwards of -220 and beyond is fantastic.

 

Targeting pitchers with odds above -180 or -200 is a great strategy in daily fantasy. It’s important to utilize a hurler who has a good chance at winning, which is worth crucial fantasy points.

 

Speaking to the first point, looking at well-aligned hitters within a high-scoring game should be your primary focus when filling out positional players in your daily fantasy lineup.

 

 

It all starts and ends with pitching

 

It obviously pays to roster a quality pitcher, but that doesn’t entirely cover this strategy tip. Instead, we are talking about assessing all the pitcher options for a given day: both good and bad. Understandably, we’ll look towards selecting the quality pitchers in a nice situation (derived by the Vegas odds) while avoiding hitters against them (for the most part).

 

On the other hand, you’ll need to know which pitchers to target against. Using the Vegas odds, identify the projected losing pitcher in a high-totaled game. Look towards the opposing hitters for solid value that night.

 

 

Not all parks are created equal

 

Some ballparks cater to hitters, while others suppress homeruns and extra base hits. Understanding and identifying which parks are hitter-friendly and pitcher-friendly is a daily fantasy asset that will pay dividends.

 

Generally, this park factor is built into the run total odds. For example, majority of games in Coors Field (Colorado) will be above the 7.5 mark, simply due to the sheer park factor. Conversely, the same two teams playing in San Diego or San Francisco (pitcher-friendly parks) would have a significantly lower total. This is another example of Vegas doing the heavy lifting for you, but it’s helpful to be cognizant of the stadiums that cater to more runs.

 

 

Stack your favorite offense of the day

 

Combine the first three points in this article and apply them to the stacking strategy. “Stacking” refers to taking multiple hitters (usually 3 or 4) from the same team. This theory could otherwise be called, “when it rains, it pours.” The key is finding a weak pitcher in a hitter-friendly park and then attacking accordingly. Most daily fantasy sites allow for a maximum of four players per team, so it often pays to pick 3-4 of the best prospects in this situation, then mix and match individual players to round out your lineup.

 

Ideally, these players will feed into each other’s fantasy scores. In other words, a player’s RBI will count as another player’s run, receiving double the production for the same play. More importantly, the players from this team will enjoy the same promising hitting environment.

 

 

Don’t get burned by the hot streak

 

This may seem counterintuitive at first, but it’s actually a viable strategy. The ultimate takeaway from this tip is to avoid selecting players only because they have a hitting/solid fantasy streak. If the price, matchup and ballpark all profile favorably, then by all means fire up the hot hand.

 

However, this is rarely the case. Many people tend to force these hot hitters into their lineups, even in less than ideal situations. On top of that, if a player is riding a nice string of recent performances, his price will likely be adjusted accordingly. This makes it more likely that you are “overpaying” for a player, relative to his true talent level and/or baseline projection.

 

Instead, it pays to bargain shop for buy-low opportunities. This means you are scrounging for quality players in nice situations with depressed price points due to uninspiring recent production. In addition to getting a substantial discount, these players will likely hold a lower ownership percentage, creating a nice edge over the field in large tournaments.

 

 

It pays (literally) to use multiple lineups

 

Let’s face it, daily fantasy MLB is one of the more volatile fantasy games around (especially hitters). A minimum salary first-baseman could realistically score 2-3x more fantasy points than Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout on any given night. In order to combat that volatility, I highly recommend constructing multiple lineups.

 

First off, firing off several lineups in 50/50 and H2H contests is a great risk management tool. That way, if your top dollar hitter goes 0-4, you aren’t behind the proverbial 8-ball in every contest. On the other hand, diversifying players across lineups is a great strategy in large tournaments. By doing this, you are essentially “casting a big net”, trying to strike a winning combination.

 

Using this strategy, it works best to mix and match high upside players (usually with HR potential) around your “core” hitters – which usually come from your preferred “stack” of the day.

Spencer Limbach
Spencer Limbach is a multi-sport daily fantasy specialist for Rotoworld. He can be found on twitter @Spencer_JL.