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Introduction to DFS

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

Whether you are a veteran daily fantasy enthusiast or dipping your toe in the proverbial water, the following strategies will serve as a handy checklist for your research repertoire. We’ll start with more universal themes, such as stacking and opportunity cost, then build upon that foundation with leverage situations to be utilized on any given day of the baseball season.


Stacks on stacks on stacks


The most “tried and true” method pertaining to daily fantasy baseball deals with stacking. In a nutshell, this strategy revolves around selecting multiple hitters (usually 2-4) from the same team. They are usually next to each other in the batting order as well. This way, you can theoretically gain more points with just one swing of the bat. Of course, hitters from the same team will stand to benefit from the same well-aligned matchup. For example, you select a leadoff, number two and number three hitter from the same team. The leadoff hitter gets a single. The number two hitter walks. The number three hitter smacks a round-tripper. You’ll pick up the RBI from each player crossing the plate along with their run scored, thus multiplying your fantasy total from the same play. The strategy of stacking was once thought of as a large-tournament endeavor, but it is actually a profitable exercise in head-to-head and double-up formats as well. You’ll want to find a subpar pitcher (with preferably a decent park factor, weather) to stack against. From there, you can evaluate which players stand to benefit most in that particular matchup. A simple Google search for “team run totals” of a particular day suffices as a shortcut. From here, you would look to stack hitters from the highest totals, depending on how they meshed within the salary cap restriction.


Opportunity cost is real


You may have heard of opportunity cost while trying to stay awake in Economics class. In succinct terms that (hopefully) won’t put you to sleep, it references what you’ll be missing out on when making a selection. For example, if I spend a big part of my daily fantasy budget on Mike Trout, I won’t be able to afford Mookie Betts and Nelson Cruz in elite matchups. Trout may be the best overall play of the day, but absorbing his expensive salary will leave the rest of your lineup compromised. In this example, the opportunity cost is very high, and I’d want to take a closer look before just clicking Trout into my lineup and then trying to make things work around his cumbersome salary. It’s important to identify the opportunity cost at every position while filling out your daily fantasy lineup. Sometimes it makes sense to pay up for a decent (but not elite) shortstop, because there’s an absence of reliable value plays at the position. In that instance, the opportunity cost at shortstop would be very low, leading you to take a chance on a particular player without missing out on much by making that decision.


Bargain shopping


Every day is different in daily fantasy baseball, and potential value plays can pop up at any position. However, there are a few positions that make more sense to bargain shop at than others. I’m talking about the catcher, shortstop and one outfield position. This ties in nicely with the previous point about opportunity cost. Each of these positions are usually mediocre in terms of fantasy upside. The exception is typically outfield, but that player pool is usually ripe with bargains to squeeze into one of three spots. Otherwise, “punting” the catcher and shortstop positions, trying to scrape together a few fantasy points is usually a savvy strategy. You are mostly looking for home run upside from your catcher (and there are plenty of bargains who fall into that category) and a reasonable matchup/lineup position from a cheap shortstop.


The “next-in-line” approach


I write a column on Rotoworld.com called FanDuel MLB GPP Pivots. Essentially, it strives to highlight some sneaky picks at every position away from the popular, obvious selections. The “next-in-line” approach stands at the heart of that recurring column. When screening for sneaky plays, you’ll first need to identify the popular picks of the day. You can do this by perusing different media outlets that showcase daily fantasy advice and recommendations. Pitting this alongside your daily research will reveal which players are slipping through the cracks. These are the guys who have good matchups, but they aren’t being talked about because someone has a better matchup at their position. That’s what we are looking for in large-field tournament situations. Those players usually have a much lower-than-deserved ownership rate considering a well-aligned matchup. If the popular, elite pick doesn’t work out, you’ll find yourself in an excellent leverage situation against the field. This method can also be used alongside the stacking example outlined earlier in this article. Instead of stacking the top several projected scoring teams of the day, take a close look at those next in line with a good, but not necessarily great team total. Those stacks still pack a punch, and they’ll likely go underrated in large-field tournaments.


Batting order bias


Most daily fantasy enthusiasts prefer to select hitters in the top-half of the batting order (1-5 spots). This makes a lot of sense, as these players usually hold the pedigree of fantasy difference-makers, stepping in with nice security, RBI and run potential surrounded by the best sluggers on the team. Subsequently, the bottom-half of the teams’ orders usually hold a lower-than-deserved ownership rate just because of their lineup spot. You can find some well-aligned hitters in elite matchups as sneaky picks due to this. They also carry significant RBI potential while hitting behind the “meat and potatoes” of the batting order. Sprinkling a couple sluggers down in the order into your tournament lineup could give you a leg up in populous contests.


Boulevard of broken bullpens


Many daily fantasy players focus solely on the starting pitcher when deciding whether a hitter has a targetable matchup or not. However, that’s only a fraction of the equation. If a starter only goes five or six innings, you still have a couple at-bats to account for. Nearly every season, five or so teams emerge with horrific bullpens. It’s hard to get a clear indication of bullpen performance until a few months into the season (when the sample size begins to grow), so this research tool is best practiced during the second half of the year. Taking into account bullpen rankings can serve as a nice tiebreaker when deciding between two hitters for your daily fantasy lineup. Also, it can turn a mediocre matchup against a decent starting pitcher into a great one in the later innings. Long story short, it’s a valuable tool worth adding to your screening process, if you haven’t already adopted it.


Look for Spencer Limbach’s recurring daily fantasy baseball columns on rotoworld.com/daily during the season. His FanDuel MLB Bargains article ranks the best value plays of the day by priority to your lineup. His FanDuel MLB GPP Pivots column uses the aforementioned research tools to uncover some sneaky-good picks away from the popular selections.

Spencer Limbach

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