A Beginners Lesson in Daily Fantasy Baseball

I'm banking on a big bounce back from Lucroy in 2016

As someone who’s had relative success playing Daily Fantasy Football late in the season, it seemed natural for me to give Daily Fantasy Baseball a go in 2015. So, I headed over to Fanduel to have a look at setting my line-up for Opening Day as well as having a look around the internet to try and find out the generally accepted strategies that people use. The basic message was go big at pitcher when there is a bunch of studs on the mound. That’s exactly what I looked to do but boy was I in for a surprise when it came to setting my line-up.

In the football version of the game, setting a line-up is relatively easy because there are always cheap sleeper running backs and wide receivers as well as the chance to save some cash playing the defence match-ups and selecting one of the cheaper kickers. This means that you can very often have a couple of stud wide receivers to go with a stud QB (QB and Pitchers appear to be roughly equivalents when it comes to DFS with studs on the mound) and then you are just looking to hit with at least one of those cheap running backs and wide receivers to give you a chance to return some real money to your account.

In the Baseball version of the game I very quickly found myself needing to fill two spots with less than $2000 remaining and that’s when I realized this was going to be a lot more difficult than I initially thought! So, to try and get a line-up I was happy with -as well as able to afford – I decided I needed to go back and start again and rethink my strategy.

Pitcher

Get a stud they said so naturally my eyes found Kershaw and he was in my line-up but compared to the rest of the pitching group is a big chunk more expensive. Therefore it was time to think a bit deeper and to do that I needed to refer to that scoring system (Lesson 1: Always check the Scoring system, each website is slightly different). So for pitchers on Fanduel here is how the scoring works:

Win = 4

ER = -1

SO = 1

IP = 1 (with fractional scoring for each out)

My initial thought process here was I need someone I think will win, pitch 6-plus innings and strikeout multiple guys. From there I started picking out the guys I expect to a K/9 of greater than 9 so that was;

Kershaw, Price, Hernandez, Scherzer, Bumgarner, Kluber, Tanaka and potentially Samarzija.

As I expect each of them to be able to make it 6 innings in a decent day it was time to look at the mach-ups:

Kershaw vs the Padres: San Diego have actually strengthened their hitting and that is enough to put a small black mark next to Kershaw but I still expect a decent performance and a LA win.

Price vs the Twins: No real downside here and Detroit should win easily.

Hernandez vs the Angels: LA are no slouches with the bat and anytime you face Trout and Pujols there is a chance you could pay so Hernandez gets a small mark.

Scherzer vs the Mets: No massive worries here and I really expect Washington to win easily.

Bumgarner @ the Diamondbacks: Arizona don’t really scare me but their ball park is hitter-friendly, giving Bumgarner a small mark.

Kluber @ the Astros: Not keen on the ball park but Houston have the biggest all or nothing line-up in the whole of MLB.

Tanaka vs the Blue Jays: Blue Jays are stacked but Tanaka can be un-hittable on his day.

Samardzija @ the Royals: The Royals won’t smash him out the park but they could easily accumulate hits and they can manufacture runs with the best of them.

I ruled out Kershaw and Hernandez given they are both over $11,000 ($11,700 and $11,200, respectively) as well as Bumgarner for the ball park and Samardzija for being the lowest strikeout guy.

That left Scherzer ($11,000), Price ($10,600), Kluber ($10,400) and Tanaka ($9,100). Tanaka is the ultimate gamble given the low price and the prospect he could strikeout 10 easily, but then he could also go flying. Scherzer and Price are the safe bets but Kluber could be the ultimate wildcard that may win you the big money at a mid level price.

Hitting

The great thing about baseball is the way that teams and players peak and trough throughout a full season, and DFS really highlights that. During the season you can look for players on streaks and take advantage of that but for the opening day of the season all you have to go on is the match-ups, batting positions and the park factors (including weather). Yes you can look at how that batter has one against that pitcher in the past but I am not sure for the first day of a brand new season that is the way I would want to go.

Hitting points scoring on Fanduel:

1B = 1, 2B = 2, 3B = 3, HR = 4, RBI = 1, R = 1, BB = 1, SB = 2, HBP = 1, Out = -0.25

So, my theory is you want high on-base guys and you want to lean to either the guys who steal a lot of bases or the guys who can hit the ball out of the park and that is where park factors come in.

Playing the match-ups:

The weakest starting pitchers on opening day are Kendrick (Rockies), Colon (Mets) and Collmenter (Arizona). That makes Milwaukee, Washington and San Francisco hitters the ones to target as much as possible with the park factors ranking out as Arizona the best and Washington the worst of the three.

Outfield: We need three of these and some of the best hitters reside here, so lets start in the outfield. Using roster resource we can project the potential starters for each of our three target teams.

Milwaukee: Gomez ($4,300), Braun ($4,100) and Davis ($2,800)

Washington: Harper ($4,100), Taylor ($2,500) and Moore ($2,200)

San Francisco: Aoki ($3,100), Pagan ($2,900) and Blanco ($2,900)

We can rule out Blanco and Moore because they will bat low in the order and offer little advantage over others here. I would rather have Pagan than Aoki for his potential to score and drive in runs with similar statistic expectation so we can cross him off as well. I want one of the best three hitters available in this group and of the three I would pay the extra for Gomez (he had a health scare so check he is fully bounced back, if not it’s Braun). That leaves Khris Davis, Angel Pagan, and Michael Taylor. I love Taylor’s power and steals combo and if he is hitting a top the order then I may be swayed his way over Khris Davis. Pagan is a better on base guy than either so I will likely look his way as my 3rd outfielder.

Catcher:  Posey is too expensive at $4,300 and Ramos is just unexciting, even against Colon, so Lucroy is the compromise at $3,800. Although I sneakily like McCann at home against Toronto for $3,300 if you need the the cap space.

First Base: Belt is quite expensive at $3,500 and Zimmerman (as much as I love him) is too much of a risk at $3,700, leaving Adam Lind at a measly $2,800 as an obvious choice. There is no one else below $3,500 that I would consider, and therefore Lind at a major discount is the no-brainer for me.

Second Base: So, we have Espinosa, Panik and Gennett as our guys from the three target teams. I can judge this one on positional batting order alone with Espinosa and Gennett expected to be in the bottom half of the order. Panik is expected to hit second and is a guy I expect to hit in the 0.280 range this season. Add in he is dirt cheap at $2,400 and he is at $500 cheaper than anyone else I might even consider at the position.

Shortstop: Desmond is a top end option at $4,100, Segura is expensive at $3,300 and Brandon Crawford is very unexciting. So, finally we have to look outside of those three I think. If you aren’t looking to slash out here and go for the big guns of Tulo or Desmond, then this feels like a natural position to look for cheap on- base and potential steals. Looking down the list, I like Marcus Semien ($2,700), Hechavarria ($2,600), Jose Ramirez ($2,600) and Peterson ($2,200) for their cost and match-up combinations. Of those four,  Ramirez and Peterson are scheduled to hit high in the order and have steals potential. Ramirez has a much better expected average and is hitting in hitter friendly Houston but the question is is it worth the extra $400 for him?

Third Base: Going to back to my target teams, we have Yunel Escobar scheduled to be third base for Washington, Casey McGehee for San Fran and Aramis Ramirez for Milwaukee. Of the three I would pick Ramirez but at $3,400 I might save some cash here. I love Machado as a potential 0.290 hitter who hits high in the order and I can save $200 here.

My Ideal Line-up

P: Corey Kluber $10,400

C:Jonathan Lucroy $3,800

1B: Adam Lind $2,800

2B: Joe Panik $2,400

3B: Manny Machado $3,200

SS: Jose Ramirez $2,600

OF: Angel Pagan $2,900

OF: Carlos Gomez $4,300

OF: Michael Taylor $2,500

Spare: $100

If Gomez has any issues and is in any doubt, I would change his selection to Braun and then generate an extra $400 by picking Peterson over Ramirez. That allows me to pick Scherzer who may be a slightly more sure thing as a pitching option than Kluber.

My Alternative ‘Tanaka’ Line-up (Cheap on pitching)

P: Masahiro Tanaka $9,100

C: Jonathan Lucroy $3,800

1B: Carlos Santana $3,500

2B: Joe Panik $2,400

3B: Manny Machado $3,200

SS: Jose Ramirez $2,600

OF: Carlos Gomez $4,300

OF: Angel Pagan $2,900

OF: Melky Cabrera $3,100

Spare: $100

Saving $1,300 on Tanaka has allowed me to upgrade at first to a good on-base guy with power in Santana and also allowed me to upgrade to a more sure fire outfielder in terms of on-base in Cabrera. Swapping out Taylor does damage the potential for upside, which I did hesitate to do. The other option would be Pagan out but I like him more than a lot of the low-to- mid $3000 players.

I hope my experiences and struggles that I have relayed here give some other DFS Baseball novices some help and insight into just how fun/challenging/frustrating/awesome it is to try and build the perfect line-up. As always good luck if you are playing DFS this week and any questions you can find me @FPL_brolfe on twitter or leave me a comment here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>