2017 MLB DFS Strategy Guide
The time is finally here – the return of baseball! While I’m always thrilled to have basketball on the TV, there’s nothing like some Major League Baseball. The signal that Summer is around the corner and who doesn’t love the sound of bat cracking as it rips a baseball?!
With this being said, the MLB DFS season is also upon us! If you haven’t subscribed to our lineup packages, I strongly recommend doing so! We implemented reasonable prices and will make sure you get a cash and GPP lineup every day, as well as an invitation to our daily chat room to go more in-depth with our player breakdowns!
Alright, now that the quick hitters are out of the way, let’s get down to business. MLB DFS is a whole different monster than NBA and NFL. You are not accruing points rapidly and tilting in and out of cash throughout the night. One hit, one win, one home run can determine your night. It’s insane, and we love it. With that being said, I want everyone to know how to research, what to look for, and how to build lineups, so here is my strategy guide for MLB DFS, organized in no particular order.
I. Fanduel Scoring / Rules Changes
Last year, the scoring that Fanduel had in place put a ton of pressure on the player to nail a winning pitcher. This year, they’ve scaled that back a bit by changing their scoring. Below is the scoring breakdown for Fanduel this season:
Last year, a win alone was worth 12 points. This year, as you can see, the W has been cut in half and 4 points has been added if your starting pitcher is able to go 6 innings and allow 3 or less earned runs. This gives pitchers with a shaky bullpen a bit of a safety blanket and could also spread out ownership amongst pitchers (expect on Kershaw slates).
Other than the scoring changes in the pitching categories, all of the batting categories remain the same and can be viewed above.
The second rule that Fanduel added was Late Swap. It is indicated by the side of the slate, shown as an unlocked lock as seen below:
In Late Swap formats, players lock when their respective game is scheduled to start, not when the slate locks, allowing players to sub players in and out if their games have not started. This eases the stress of dealing with possible postponements and delays due to weather and lineup changes.
The first element of research that we use (and one that many people are rather critical of) is the history of the batter versus the pitcher they are going up against, or BvP. While some providers and researchers view BvP as unreliable, Ben and I have both found a high level of success using it when determining both players to target and avoid. As long as you put the sample size into perspective, you should find it useful. While some players may appear to have a good BvP against a pitcher (say a .600 batting average), if they’ve only had five plate appearances, then it’s unreliable. One example of a case where BvP comes in handy is Yankees’ OF Jacoby Ellsbury versus the Rays’ SP Chris Archer (matching up this Sunday). Over his career, Ellsbury is a career .559/.605/.765 hitter. This is not over 10-12 at bats though, this is over 34 at-bats. This shows consistency and the ability to read a pitcher well over years of facing each other. When looking for a value outfielder on Sunday’s slate, Ellsbury is a great place to start based off of this data alone. Again, it’s all about putting the sample size into perspective – the larger, the better.
The second element we look at when choosing who to roster are advanced statistics and they differ for batters and pitchers. I am going to list and define five stats that we place the heaviest weight on for both batters and pitchers (no particular order) below:
- LOB% – Left on Base percentage // measures the percentage of batters that the pitcher strands on base. This is extremely important when it comes to run prevention, the higher, the better.
- SIERA – Skill-Interacted ERA // similar to Earned Run Average, takes strikeouts, batted balls, and walks into account. The lower, the better. This number is improved by strikeouts and soft-contact (which generate a lower batting average on balls in play).
- K% – Strikeout percentage // the percentage of batters that a pitcher strikes out. The higher the better, but its a double-edged sword to mid-tier pitchers. Usually the harder they throw, the more strikeouts they accrue, but in turn, the more hard contact they allow.
- HR/FB% – Home run to Fly ball percentage // the percentage of fly balls that a pitcher allows and result in home runs. The lower, the better. Typically, ground ball pitchers have low FB%, therefore give up less HRs.
- Hard% – Hard hit percentage // the percentage of hard contact a pitcher allows, the lower the better. Hard contact results in line drives and home runs – a death wish for pitchers.
*One other aspect when researching pitchers is the other team’s batting stats. If a team holds a higher-than-average K%, lower Hard%, lower wOBA, etc., they present a plus matchup for the pitcher
- wOBA – Weighted On-Base Average // measures a hitter’s overall value, home runs are worth more than triples, which are worth more than doubles and so on. The higher the better, often times used in place of on-base percentage and batting average.
- ISO – Isolated Power // measure of a hitter’s raw power and tells you how often they hit for extra bases. For example, a batter goes 5-10 with 5 singles. That’s a .500 batting average. If the same player goes 5-10 with 5 doubles, it’s still a .500 batting average, but the doubles are more valuable than the singles, and ISO accounts for that. The higher, the better.
- BABIP – Batting average on balls in play // measures the amount of hits a player gets solely on balls put in play. Shows a player’s ability to make solid contact and find the holes. The higher, the better.
- Hard% – Hard hit percentage // the amount of hard contact a player makes, the higher the better. Shows an ability to smoke the baseball, a lot of times over the fence.
- K% – strikeout percentage // shows the percentage of times a player strikes out and more importantly, their plate discipline. Usually the higher the K%, the less a player walks and the lower their average. The lower, the better.
While those are just 10 total sabermetrics, they are all extremely important in differentiating options on the slate.
The third part of the player research is the game location. This is a two-fold element. Both the ballpark and the weather are extremely important. Certain ballparks have shorter porches in right field than they do in left, a shallower center field, etc. Many of these parks tend to favor a batter, and vis versa. If Carlos Gonzalez, the lefty slugger for the Rockies, is playing a game in Yankee Stadium, there is a higher chance I’ll fit him into my lineup because of the short porch in right field. If he’s playing in San Francisco, I may be more inclined to fade him due to the wall in right field and the deeper gap in right-center. There are a handful of metrics to quantify whether a ballpark is hitter or pitcher-friendly, and we have a general list that breaks them up from last season here. The order of the lists may have altered a bit this season, but the lists still indicate which parks favor who.
The second aspect of game location is the weather. Obviously we are more likely to experience severe weather in the heart of summer (more towards June/July), but there’s always a risk. For this reason, there are a handful of DFS Weather Reporters on Twitter you can follow, or you can track it yourself. Another way weather affects the game of baseball is the humidity level. The more humid it is, the more a ball will fly. So, if there is a game in St. Louis, for example and there was a thunderstorm during the day but clear skies are expected for the game, the humidity level will be heightened and therefore we might see fly balls travel a bit.
*Wind is yet another aspect, but rather self-explanatory. If the wind is blowing out, it favors the hitter, in, and it favors the pitcher.
III. Lineup Construction
The third and final piece of my brief MLB DFS Strategy Guide is general roster construction and where to build around.
Pitching is king in MLB DFS. If your pitcher implodes, there’s already an extremely high chance you will not cash, barring a miracle. On the other end of the spectrum, if your pitcher goes nuts (i.e. Vince Velasquez last season), there’s a high chance you’ll cash as long as your batters suit up. For this reason, I value safety in pitching over anything else. If Clayton Kershaw is on a slate, roster him. In cash games, I tend to never look below the $8k range for a pitcher, because it gets way too risky. I often times try and roster one of the aces on the slate (typically the one with the best matchup) and build from there using value bats.
When it comes to GPPs, I’m a bit more risk tolerant and rightfully so. I take the high-risk/high-reward route and usually roster a lower-priced pitcher that either possesses a nice K% or has a beautiful matchup where the W could really come into play. I then surround him with more expensive power bats that have multi-home run potential, to maximize my ceiling. This is STRICTLY a GPP strategy, as it drops your floor considerably.
There is no one position that I build around when constructing my batters, I more so base it off of matchups, the sabermetrics listed, and stacking. It is certainly possible to succeed in MLB DFS without any stacking, but I strongly advise you to stack at least two players every slate. In baseball, statistical production is often times correlated with teammate performance. For this reason, stacking the heart of a batting order is often times the optimal route to take. For example, a leadoff hitter followed by a 2-3 or 3-4 combo. The leadoff man’s job is to get on base. Say he gets a single – 3 points, steals a base – 6 more points. The next batter knocks a single to center, scoring your leadoff hitter. That gets you 3.2 points for the run scored, PLUS 3 for the single and 3.5 for the RBI. If you only roster the leadoff hitter, you miss out on 6.5 points. Stacking is another rather self-explanatory and easy concept to grasp, as it provides more opportunity for correlated production.
The other aspect to take into account when rostering batters is their place in the batting order, strictly because more opportunities = more production. Players that bat in the 1-5 holes often times receive more at-bats per game than players in the 6-9 holes. Those at-bats can result in singles, walks, runs, heck even home runs, that you would miss out on by rostering a bottom-of-the-order scrub. My one exception in this comes in when hunting for value. Often times if a player is injured, his replacement will bat down in the order because they aren’t as good as the other starters. In this case, especially when you roster a pitcher like Kershaw and a stud batter, you might need to bite the bullet and sacrifice an extra AB or two to fit some value.
I know that MLB DFS is far more complex than what I just summarized, but hopefully, this brief guide can get you off on the right foot to start the season. I wanted to pack in the information without overwhelming you. If you guys have any questions about strategy or lineup construction, please don’t hesitate to reach out to @FanForecast on Twitter, or me personally on Twitter – @JMetz34.
Thank you guys for reading and good luck this season – let the baseball begin!