How to Profit in Daily Fantasy Baseball
Opening day in daily fantasy baseball is among the most exciting in all of fantasy sports. It’s important to know what you are getting into as it relates to this great game. In baseball, more so than pretty much any other DFS sport, there are a million things to consider when building a lineup with hopes to cashing and winning big money. Others sports like NFL, NBA, and NHL, are at the DFS forefront, with niche sports like PGA, MMA, eSports, and Soccer picking up steam, baseball, in my eyes, is the best DFS sport out there. In this article, I’m going to touch on a few factors to look at and give you an idea of what I look at when researching and ultimately building lineups.
Vegas Lines and Narrowing Down the Slate
Often you hear the phrases “the casinos didn’t build themselves” and “Vegas is usually right.” Both of these statements are true. With that being said, the Vegas lines are what I first look at when narrowing down which games I’m going to attack. This is important, especially on days where there are 15 games on the slate and you’re shuffling through a player pool that will make your head explode, narrow down the games. I use the Vegas lines to do this. When I decide which games I want to attack, I simply forget about the rest of them and move on. If you try to build a lineup based on a full slate, you’re going to pull your hair out. It’s best to narrow it down to six games on most days. The Vegas lines tell you which teams are heavily favored and which games are projected to be high scoring affairs. More often than not, I avoid hitters in games where the over/under is less than 6.5. Familiarize yourself with Vegas lines, if you’re not already familiar with them as they are an essential tool in MLB DFS, and really in all DFS sports
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Don’t Get Lost in The Numbers and Data
In baseball, more so than any other sport, there is a multitude of data available at your disposal. I could go on listing the statistics that pertain to baseball and DFS on a large scale, but you would be reading this section for about four hours. Since everyone is so dedicated to speeding up everything as it relates to MLB (I am not one of them by the way), I narrow down to you some of the statistics that I look at when researching.
With the batters specifically, this is where I do most of my research and look at the numbers on a larger scale. Some of the statistics I look at are baseline with a mix of some advanced stats. Batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, and RBI’s are simplified baseline statistics that give you an idea of how good a player is. These are numbers that, depending on the player and sample size, can be a very vague collection of statistics. They are pedestrian in this day and age simply because they are the numbers you tend to see pop up on television during a game, on the scoreboard when attending a game, and in the box score during and after any given game. With that being said, they are very useful, but not the end all, be all. Some advanced statistics I look at are wOBA (weighted on-base average), ISO (isolated power), home/road splits, platoon/reverse splits, and opposing pitcher hard hit rate. Did I lose you? If so, that’s kind of what I am getting at when I say not to get lost in the numbers. These advanced statistics and many more will be useful pieces of data to look at once you understand them all and know how to look at them.
When considering my starting pitcher(s), the statistics and data I look at are a lot more simple. Does this pitcher pitch deep into games? Does he strike guys out? Does he stay out of trouble? Does the team he’s facing strike out? How have they pitched in their last three starts (if applicable)? Will they get a win (more prevalent on Fanduel)? Researching my pitcher(s) is what takes me the least amount of time on the surface. What I mean by that is that deciding on which pitcher(s) I am going to roster really takes all day. Let me explain:
I generally have an idea of who I am targeting early in the day after researching the numbers and data I explained above (I usually narrow it down to three guys for Fanduel and five guys on Draftkings, where you use two starters) and track their situations throughout the day. Once I have “my guys” narrowed down, I start to look at what the opposing lineups will be for the teams my guys are going against, as well as nuggets I find in the news throughout the day. One example of this being a team flying into a city and arriving at their hotel late after playing the day/night before. Little things like this often go overlooked and can be beneficial. The pitcher(s) are often the most expensive players and highest point producers for your lineup making their performance more often than not essential in deciding whether or not you cash. Take some time to get familiar with the statistics at hand and feel free to ask me any questions you may have.
Variance is Your Friend, But Don’t Ignore the Obvious Play
Variance is a term the gets loosely thrown around in DFS landscapes often by people that don’t really know what they are talking about. In baseball, variance is most prevalent with so many games and such a large player pool, it’s very easy to be contrarian with your lineups. Depending on what kind of player you are (if just starting out, I recommend 50/50’s and double ups or Single Entry GPP’s) variance will be a big difference between just placing over the cash line, or jumping up to the top of the leaderboards. In some cases, newer players tend to overthink and try to be too different, especially when they don’t need to be. Don’t do that. You’ll more often than not get yourself into trouble second-guessing and overthinking while building lineups. If Mike Trout is hot facing a pitcher that has been getting bombed in his last two starts in the middle of the summer in a ballpark where the ball flies out of he is the obvious play. So play him. As the season goes along, this is something that I will preach and teach to all premium members through either article’s each day or on the #MLB channel in our Slack Chat Room.
A critical part of playing daily fantasy baseball is knowing the environments in which your players are playing in. It seems elementary to say that, but it’s often something that gets overlooked by newer players. Other than novice DFS players saying “Coors Field game, I have to load up on guys playing in that game”, a lot of players don’t know much about other ballparks and how they play. When looking over the slate for the day, looking at where games are taking place is one of, if not the first things I look at. Oh, and don’t think you’re being sneaky in doing this and think you’re going to outsmart the pros because guess what. Most of them look at this area of data as well.
Piggy-backing off of ballpark factors, the weather is a HUGE area to hone in on and look at when beginning your research, and I’m not just talking about whether or not it’s going to rain. The rain plays a big role for sure, but generally, if there’s a chance that a game is going to be rained out, you probably will want to stay away from that game anyway. What I’m really talking about here is heat, humidity, dew point, and the wind. They call Chicago the “windy city” for a reason, and chances are if you’ve ever watched a Cubs game, you’ve heard the commentators mention the weather on a few occasions. When the wind is blowing in at Wrigley, run away. When it’s blowing out, and I mean BLOWING OUT, it easily becomes one of the best hitting environments in baseball. In the middle of the summer; July, August, when it is hot and humid, that’s when the ball flies. For example, you’ve probably heard people talk about Texas as a great place to hit because of the humidity. Well, yes and no. The thing I look at is dew point. Without getting into a whole weather lesson here, the dew point is essentially a more accurate way to read humidity. The higher the dew points, the less dense the air is. The less dense the air is, the farther the ball will travel. To give you a better understanding of this, when you see the dew point reading in the 80s that’s great. When it hits above 90, that’s excellent. The weather plays a huge role in MLB DFS, and knowing what to look for will go a long way.
Do You Use BVP Data?
It may be the most argued piece of data in daily fantasy baseball. You either love or hate BVP (batter vs pitcher) data. I happen to love it and use it all of the time. It’s not a piece of data that I am married to, but it is something I incorporate into my research. For example, Eric Hosmer is 8-23 (.348) in his career against Ervin Santana. That a great batting average, sure, however, that is just the tip of the iceberg when looking at BVP. The next thing to look at is “what has he done with those eight hits?” If he has eight singles than I’m not really interested in considering the data valid. In Hosmer’s case, two of those eight hits are doubles and three of them are home runs. That is data I would consider valid when looking at BVP. Another part of the history to look at would be what the hitter has done in at bats where he hasn’t gotten a hit, mainly how many times has he struck out? In Hosmer’s case, he has only struck out against Santana in three of the 23 official at-bats he’s had against him. He’s also walked six times. Pretty much what I’m saying here, aside from that Eric Hosmer owns Ervin Santana, is that knowing the BVP data inside and out will be a benefactor if you consider using it in your research or not. Aside from “do you use BVP data?”, the question I’m asked the most regarding this is “how many at bats do you need to see to really consider the player?” The simple answer for me is “it doesn’t matter.” If a guy is 1-1 with a double off of a certain pitcher, that may be a stretch, sure. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter to me how many at-bats a player has against a pitcher, if he has good numbers off of him than he hits him well. If a guy is 5-7 with three doubles and a home run against a certain pitcher, that’s a good enough sample size for me. BVP is something I will argue in favor of until I am blue in the face. Consider looking at it when doing your research, but remember, you’ll either love it or hate it.
How bad are some of the bullpens in the Major Leagues? The simple answer is pretty bad. The Colorado Rockies (Coors Field) and the Cincinnati Reds were two of the worst bullpens in baseball last year. Both bullpens had combined ERA’s of over five and gave up over 300 earned runs. The Reds were the bullpen to pick on last year, more so than any other teams bullpen because of the amount of home runs they gave up. The 103 home runs they allowed were by far the most in the league, second was the Philadelphia Phillies with 82. With teams improving their bullpens in the offseason, the bullpen data may be something that needs to be monitored for the first couple of weeks of the season. As data begins to show, knowing which bullpens to attack will be useful.
Don’t Overthink and Stay The Course
Overthinking. It’s what a lot of new players do and even I catch myself doing it from time to time. The best advice I can give is if you find yourself overthinking and second guessing, walk away and come back later. More often than not, your gut is your best tool. Daily fantasy baseball is one of the most frustrating DFS sports there is. When things are going bad you’ll think that you’re never going to cash again. When things are going good, you’ll think that it’s the easiest thing in the world. Through all of that, stay the course and stick to what made you successful in the first place. Improving and adapting is always a good thing to do in DFS but once you start to overhaul everything and change your ways you’ll never find any consistency. This may be another simple piece of advice and right now reading this I know you’re saying to yourself that “I’m going to stay consistent and not overthink anything.” You will trust me, it’s bound to happen.
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