How To Beat MLB DFS
The MLB season is closing in fast and I wanted to start the season off right with a bunch of general thoughts about how to beat MLB DFS. The baseball season is long and grueling. It’s volatile and frustrating. However, with logical thinking and proper bankroll management, it can be incredibly profitable. The sport offers a full slate of games on an almost nightly basis which means there are hundreds of available players on any given night. Sorting through that many players is difficult, but create a large edge for the most informed owners.
This article will go through some of the general strategies and discussions we will have this season. Let’s get to it!
Volatility vs. Predictability
This is a never-ending argument for MLB and it pertains to how predictable the game is. You’ll see most arguments take the stance that MLB is the most volatile sport and I agree with those arguments. You’ll also hear that MLB is the most predictable sport, which I also agree with. How can it be both?
Well, for the purpose of this article, let’s separate volatility and predictability. From a sheer results standpoint, baseball is extremely volatile. On any given night, the best player in the league could go 0-4 with four strikeouts, or go 4-4 with two home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored. Those are massively different outcomes. Due to this volatility, having proper bankroll management is the number one key to succeeding in MLB.
Let’s look at Mike Trout’s 2015 results on DraftKings. In 159 games, Trout averaged 9.6 DK points, however his range of outcomes was massive. He scored 20+ DK points on 23 occasions and scored zero points 24 times. That’s right, the best player in the league scored exactly ZERO points in 15% of his games. That will not happen in any other sport. And remember, Trout is the best player in the league. Those numbers get much worse as you start expanding the sample size. Our MLB Game Logs compile every game played by every player last season. That’s 50,569 games for hitters. A total of 15,417 games earned owners zero or negative points. That’s 30.4% of all games played! Needless to say, failure is a large part of the sport and that goes hand-in-hand with volatility.
On the other side, baseball is rather predictable. It’s basically an individual sport. It’s one batter versus one pitcher. Hitters are barely reliant on any other factors, outside of what they can control. Think of it this way, a wide receiver in the NFL is heavily dependent on how well his defender is covering him, how well his linemen are protecting his QB and his QBs ability to get him the ball amongst a dozen other factors. That doesn’t exist in baseball. Also, if you have a starter, you know he’s highly likely to see 3-5 at bats a game. You don’t have to worry about someone “stealing his touches” like you would in the NBA.
Also, there is so much data to sift through for the MLB. In fact, it’s a never-ending stream of information. You have splits, advanced stats, ballpark factors, weather and about a million other things that you can use to make decisions. You can make baseball as simple or complex as you please. Have a pitcher who throws 80% fastballs against a batter who kills fastballs? Roster him! It’s all there for you!
Scoring + Rosters
Update: Despite published changes, DraftKings has NOT made updates to their rosters this season. There will NOT be a utility position and will revert back to three OF positions.
Believe it or not, scoring is one of the most overlooked aspects of all daily fantasy sports. The general owner is unlikely to know how their players are even scored. Having an intimate knowledge of the scoring system on your fantasy site of choice is literally the building block of creating good lineups.
DraftKings, specifically, has made some changes to their roster rules headed into this season. So make sure to familiarize yourself with the new rules. Here they are for the two main sites.
You’ll notice that both sites are very similar, but there are a few key differences or things to note. Fanduel is very proportionate. A single is worth 3, a double is 6, a triple is 9 and a HR is 12. On DraftKings, those four scoring categories are not proportionate. For example, four singles is worth 12 DK points, while one HR is only worth 10. Now of course, a HR also comes with a run and RBI, but you get the picture.
Knowing this scoring forwards and backwards is going to allow you to exploit little differences and target the players who are the most valuable.
Ahhh, stacking. The most common strategy in MLB and for good reason. If you are unfamiliar, stacking is the term for choosing multiple players from the same team, in an attempt to score as many points as possible if that team has a big offensive day. Stacking is so popular because it’s logical and well…it works. Think about the way baseball is played. Runs are rarely scored on solo home runs. A much larger percentage of runs come from multiple batters each doing something to achieve a run. A leadoff hitter taking a walk, then being moved to second base, followed by a double. That’s a common way to score in the MLB and if you have multiple players on the same team, you can catch points from a hit, run and an RBI despite that team only scoring one real run.
Our friends over at DFS Gold show us that 58% of winning lineups on DraftKings last season, utilized at least a 4-hitter stack. You could argue that so many stacks are winning because everyone is doing it, but I don’t have any definitive numbers either way. Stacking is a logical way to gain access to multiplying points in a hurry.
Stacking the top players in the batting order is a common and lucrative strategy. Obviously, they tend to be the better hitters on the team, but they will be the beneficiaries of more opportunity. The difference between three or four at-bats in a game is massive for MLB DFS. The numbers back it up as well. We crunched all 50,569 games last season and the top five hitters in the lineup produced the vast majority of fantasy points:
One thing I really like to look at is who could be the top scoring player each day. Obviously having the highest scoring player on the slate is going to vault you up the leaderboards. I try to find trends about what is similar between these players. I am a big believer that stolen bases are a key to GPP success. There are so few players who can steal bases at a high clip and stolen bases don’t take away from other statistics. In fact, they enhance most statistics. A hitter who walks and steals a base is worth seven
points, which is worth significantly more than a double.
However, looking at last year’s game logs, stolen bases are not a pre-requisite to being the top performer on a slate. Looking at the highest scoring player across every day of the season last year, there were only eight instances where the top scorer stole multiple bases. On the flip side, there were 108 multi-HR games that ended up receiving top honors. This might be indicative that home runs are much more likely in the sport than stolen bases, but the numbers don’t lie.
With the changes to the rosters on DraftKings, there is now a utility position. You can roster any hitter in that spot, which didn’t exist last season. You are now going to be able to roster two first basemen, two catchers, etc. It’s going to allow for more creativity and flexibility in lineups. With that being said, it’s much more important to know how certain positions score compared to others. Here’s last season breakdown of DraftKings points scored by position:
Obviously you do not have to roster a RFer compared to a CFer, but I split them up for the purpose of showing you that there is a difference. Your right fielders tend to be power hitters, while left fielders tend to be top-of-the-order guys. There are no hard rules, but just another thing to keep in mind when using the utility position.
The trends that you can identify are endless. If you want to look yourself, you can access MLB Game Logs here.
My only rule with pitchers is that you have to get them right. That doesn’t mean you have to take the most expensive pitchers, but you will be hard-pressed to find success if you choose the wrong pitchers. I say that because it’s the only position that can really give you negative points. If a pitcher gets shelled early in the game, they can sink your entire lineup and force your hitters to dig you out of a hole. We already talked about how volatile hitting is, so that is the last place we want to be reliant. Fortunately, pitching is a bit more predictable.
Strikeouts are one of the best ways to rack up fantasy points and luckily, they are one of the more predictable stats. Obviously targeting pitchers with a high K/9 is recommended when available. There were only 19 pitchers last season who averaged over 9.0 K/9 while the league average hovered right around 7.5 K/9 for starting pitchers. Pitchers tend to record strikeouts whether or not they are pitching well. Let’s take Chris Sale for example. He led the league last season with an 11.82 K/9. He struck out eight or more hitters in 18 of 31 starts and seven or more in 24 of 31. If you look at the games he took a loss, he still averaged 11.9 K/9 in what you would deem his “worst starts”. Compare that to his 12.4 K/9 in his wins and it’s easy to see how valuable strikeouts can be.
On the flip side, teams either strike out a lot or they don’t. The Astros and Cubs were both playoff teams last year but they led the league in K%. And it didn’t come in spurts. No matter how you sliced the season last year, the Astros and Cubs were always near the top of the league in strikeouts. That consistency lends itself to predictability.
The Cubs struck out 9.3 times per game last year while scoring 4.2 runs per game. Based on DraftKings scoring, that’s a net positive 10.2 DraftKings points for opposing pitchers. On the flip side, the Royals only struck out 6.0x per game while scoring 4.4 runs per contest. That’s a net positive of 3.2 DraftKings points for opposing pitchers. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to realize that targeting high strikeout pitchers, facing high strikeout teams (almost despite how many runs are scored) can be extremely profitable.
Getting the pitchers “right” is important, because getting them “wrong” is so detrimental. Of the 4,859 games logged by starting pitchers last season, 15% of them returned zero or fewer points to their owner. That’s right, you can take a big-time negative number from having a pitcher get shelled.
The only thing you can’t control in MLB DFS is the weather! Unfortunately, there is going to be a lot of radar-checking and educated guesses on how weather will impact games. No one can predict the weather, but Kevin Roth is one of the best in the business. He is an absolute must follow on Twitter. He will tweet out weather updates and radar images for the games that will be most impacted by the weather. Usually, if there is a three-hour window of clear weather, the umpires will attempt to get the game in. The same “three-hour rule” applies to rain delays. Most umpiring crews won’t wait longer than that to resume a game. This is not an exact science by any means, but something you should be taking into account by avoiding games with poor weather. Rain delays will impact pitchers more than hitters. It’s not uncommon for a starter to pitch three innings, sit through a 90-minute rain delay and not return to the game. Luckily, there are seven teams that either play in a dome or have a retractable roof, so weather won’t be an issue. Those are Toronto, Arizona, Seattle, Milwaukee, Houston, Miami and Tampa Bay.
We here at DFSOD are incredibly excited about the start of the MLB season. We have been pouring of game logs for weeks and are in the process of building some really exciting tools. We are going to put you in the best position to succeed this season. Expect daily articles, strategy discussions, projections, tools and much more! We are looking to provide an influx of data for you to use on your own. You can get started with the MLB Game Logs, which can be extremely valuable in trend-finding. Those Game Logs are included in the price of our membership. Choose the package that’s right for you and get started today. Good luck!