There is no other daily fantasy sport like fantasy baseball, and in this article I’m going to go over MLB DraftKings strategies to help you win more money playing baseball DFS!
We can call DFS baseball both the most predictable, and unpredictable game of them all (at least the mainstream DFS games that is). Baseball is, on a day to day scale, extremely variance driven. Meaning that the most predictable outcomes might not happen every single time. Take Mike Trout, for example; he could either hit two home runs in a game and score you 40 fantasy points. Alternatively, he can strike out four times and score no fantasy points.
On the other hand, though, we can call baseball the most predictable sport of them all. Why is this? Because when you look into the stats for players who have played multiple years in the big leagues, you will see that everyone’s numbers will always regress to a mean or an average. So while Mike Trout might be in a slump for a few games, his numbers will always progress back up to his mean career numbers for his batting average, OPS, and of course, the sabermetric type numbers that I will be discussing in this article. Without further ado, let’s get into some baseball!
Where To Start
The best place to go for starting you DFS baseball research will be, like every other fantasy sport, Vegas! My favorite place to go for this information is Sports Insights. There, they have free access to the data that accumulates by its seven contributing sportsbooks. It will show you the lines that the sports books each have on all of the games on a particular slate. As well as the percentage of bets that are placed on the money line (the team that is going to win the game), the total, and the spread of each game.
I find each piece of this information useful because the sports books and the people betting at the sports books have a vested interest in correctly predicting the outcome of each game as accurately as possible. My favorite thing to analyze on this site is possible reverse line movement.
Reverse line movement is when the percentage of money being bet on an outcome is much greater than the amount of bets that are being placed on that outcome, and the lines move accordingly. For example, the Phillies and the Mets are playing a game. Let’s say that for the money line, 70% of people will bet on the Mets to win the game, which means only 30% of bets are being placed on the Phillies. However, only 40% of the money is on the Mets, and 60% is of the money is being put on the Phillies. The sports books will react to this accordingly and make the line more Phillies friendly.
The reason why being able to identify reverse line movement is so important is because it will help you spot situations in which you might want to use some underdog players and help you become a more contrarian player. Which is vital to winning in any DFS sport.
Something else to look into is the weather. A lot of the time, the sports books will already be factoring weather into their lines. So if you see that the wind is blowing out to center field at Wrigley Field, then I can guarantee you that the total for that particular game will be set at nine runs at the very least. Where you need to keep a keen eye on the weather though is for rain. Vegas can only do so much for us, but it cannot tell us whether or not a game will play because of bad weather or not (see what I did there?). If a game does rain out and you have guys in your lineup that night from that game, the you are out of luck. You will get a score of zero for those players and your lineup score for that night will suffer because of it. So be careful and give a thorough look through of the weather forecast for any slate that you are planning on playing in baseball.
After you look through what the sports books are saying for the baseball games and making sure that the weather looks good for all the games, then you are ready to start building some lineups.
When it comes to selecting pitchers, never get too cute with it. This is the most crucial part because pitching is the most consistent source of points that you will get in DFS baseball. If you see that one of your pitchers has a negative score, your night is probably over, regardless of your bats.
Depending on the site that you play on, you might want to contemplate different sets of pitchers. Draftkings puts their pitcher emphasis on guys that can get strikeouts, and they are priced accordingly. However, the extra price is worth paying up for, especially if we are talking about Clayton Kershaw. FanDuel, on the other hand, puts much power toward pitchers that can get the win. Of course, pitchers that can get the win are also important on Draftkings, and guys that can strike batters out are important on FanDuel. However, these are just things to look for when you are playing on each site.
To find pitchers that are likely to get the win is simple, just refer to the Vegas lines. Whether it be through picking some favorites, or identifying a good pitcher with reverse line movement, Vegas is a fantastic, and quick way to see which pitchers are most in line to get the win on a particular night.
As far as strikeouts, though, this is where the statistical fun begins. Now that you have identified those pitchers that you like to get the win tonight, now it is time to see which of them can get the job done by striking guys out. I usually look for guys who, at the very least, strikeout 20% of batters faced. After eliminating the guys that have a lower number than that, then I check to see the opponent’s strikeout percentages. Teams such as the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros are prone to striking out a ton in a given game. So if conditions are right, I might just use a pitcher that is facing one of those teams.
When looking for pitchers to use, also take into account the xFIP of pitchers as well as the ISO and wOBA of batters. xFIP stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. A fancy way of saying that this number is a more predictive metric than something like ERA. Avoid any pitcher that has an xFIP rating of four or more, as this is considered below average. To find all of these stats and data, I highly suggest going to Fangraphs. They have every baseball metric that you would ever hope to find.
You have picked the pitcher(s) that you want to use for the night, and now you want to pick your batters for the evening. First, refer to Vegas, it will pretty much show you whom the high owned bats are going to be on a given night. For example, if the Red Sox and Yankees are playing with a ten run total set, then you can believe that a ton of people are going to flock to those players immediately, as they should. However, you might not want to go that route. Because being contrarian is essential in baseball.
Earlier, I said that on a day to day basis, baseball is the most variance driven and inconsistent of the four major DFS sports. So while the Vegas lines might suggest that this hypothetical Red Sox and Yankees game is going to be high scoring, they could be wrong. This will happen far less often than not, but from time to time, Vegas can be wrong. Also, it is our job as the smart DFS baseball player to capitalize on it.
From time to time, I can objectively tell that a game is being over or underrated by Vegas, but it is more of a gut things and an attempt to be contrarian. If I know that a batter is going to be at least 40% owned, then I am either going to scale back my usage of him, or fade him altogether.
For a statistical look at how to pick batter in MLB DFS, there are a few key stats that I look for. One being wOBA (weighted on-base percentage). This is a cool stat that weights Home Runs more than a single. Something that regular stats, unfortunately, do not do. I also like to look at ISO, which is somehow much-isolated power a player has shown. The best way to look at these metrics on a day to day basis is looking at their splits on a given day. For example, if you have a guy such as Josh Donaldson going up against a pitcher of your choosing, would you rather it be a right-handed pitcher whom he has a .246 ISO against? Alternatively, a left-handed pitcher, whom he has a .333 ISO against? The same can also be done with wOBA. A key to winning in DFS is finding home runs where you can since they are the one play that is worth the most points.
One last thing that I would like to touch on with batters is stolen bases. People do not utilize this stat enough. However, guys that can steal bases are essential. If Billy Hamilton could get on base more often, I would guarantee you that he would be able to steal 60 bases. Do you know how many fantasy points that could turn into. What I am saying is don’t ignore guys that don’t have power bats that are fast. They can be just as valuable if they are guys that can get on base.
BvP (Batter vs Pitcher Stats)
For the love of god just don’t use this. This is something that I see people debating about all the time, and it is pointless. All of the top baseball analytics people have debunked BvP, calling it the scientific equivalent of a sham. Avoid it and the people that tell you that it is a good stat at all costs.
I hope that I have been able to teach you a thing or two about DFS baseball in this article, and hopefully you can turn these tips and strategies into some money added to your DFS bankroll!
Written By: Evan Cheney
Check out Evan’s DraftKings PGA Strategy article to help you win more money at DraftKings.