Anyone can go to a top daily fantasy sports site, create an account, and draft a baseball roster. Some of those people will draft a team, and win money, even. But not everyone can do this well over a long period of time, not even over the course of just a few weeks. That’s where we come in. With our experience and expertise in the daily fantasy sports industry, we are committed to helping you learn and apply the best theories for drafting your MLB roster. Here are some of the main points that we use every time we look at and decide upon a lineup.
Start big. When you begin drafting your team, it’s typically best to start with the biggest names you want. You might need to change this as you go, but starting big helps for two reasons. One, you know that this player is going to provide for you. You know that you really want them and that they will contribute to your team, otherwise they wouldn’t be your top choice. Two, starting big helps you to see what you’re working with on your lower-tier players. If you draft Stephen Strasburg first, and he has a price tag of $10,100 in a league where the average you can spend is $5,000 per player, you now know that you can only spend, on average, $4,433 per player. This is more easily accomplished than if you were to start with all mid-level players and then realize you only have $2,100 to spend on your starting pitcher.
Breakdown numbers. It’s easy to say, “I want Clayton Kershaw because he has the best numbers.” Everyone can do that. Pretty much every site will show you that he has the best numbers. That doesn’t mean he’s your best choice for right now. If Kershaw is going to cost you $11,200 to draft, you better make sure that he’s going to give you $11,200 worth of value on your team.
With all the sabermetrics available online right now, you would think this would have an easy answer. You would think there would be one stat you can point to and say “Wow! Why is no one else picking this guy?!” It doesn’t work like that, mostly because stats are a summary of the past and not a perfect indicator of the future.
That doesn’t mean we can’t be semi-accurate in our predictions, though. There are a few numbers we use to help us with this. For pitchers, the big two numbers are WHIP and strikeouts per innings pitched.
WHIP is (walks + hits) / (innings pitched). It gives you a good look of how many people a pitcher is responsible for letting on base each inning. The lower the number, the better. Once a pitcher gets up over 1.50, they are not really worthy of a starting spot on your rotation, at least in daily fantasy baseball. Kershaw has a 0.95 WHIP for 2015 (for now). That puts him in 5th overall in all of MLB.
K/IP is not a number that all stats sites print out, but it’s an easy one to determine on your own. Just take the number of strikeouts for the year, and divide it by innings pitched. This is a variation of WHIP in a way, but instead of reflecting things like ground outs, and so one, K/IP is a more perfect indicator of that pitcher’s independent ability. Kershaw’s number is currently 1.28. Anything above 1.00 is really good.
Pitching Stat Summary
It is usually a fact that whoever leads in one category will either be at or near the top in the other. This isn’t always true though, and finding distinctions here will help you to find pitchers that have tons of value. Everyone knows that Kershaw is the guy to have on your team. But, not everyone knows that there are a few other players with high numbers here, too. Francisco Liriano of the Pirates has a 1.11 K/IP, and he’s hardly ever in the running for being a top drafted pitcher. Max Scherzer has a 1.16, although he’s a top name. Really, where K/IP becomes most useful is when a pitcher doesn’t have a full season under their belt and doesn’t find themselves on the top of the leaderboard. It could be because of a poor team supporting them, injuries, or a host of other issues. But K/IP is one of the most important things to look at when drafting your team. Just have a calculator ready.
Now, we need to apply those numbers in a way that makes sense for the rest of our team. If we know that Kershaw has the best K/IP in MLB, how do we know that he is worth drafting? He’s only worth drafting if he won’t hurt the rest of our team. With this in mind, we need to have a number in mind that we should be looking for that will help us to win tournaments. In pretty much every tournament at DraftKings, a score of 200 or higher will win. At FanDuel, your pitchers will not be rewarded as heavily, so a lot of this doesn’t apply. Still, a score of 160 is more than enough to be a contender.
If you have $50,000 to spend on 10 players at DraftKings, to win, you would expect each player to contribute 20 points. That doesn’t happen. However, in the positions where players can score more points than other–namely pitcher–you want someone that has the potential to score more than 20 points. DraftKings rewards strikeouts, innings pitched, and wins heavily. Someone with a high strikeout number and a high innings pitched number is going to be your best choice. Even if you have to spend a bit more on them. Value is important, but getting points where you can get them is even more so. If you can spend an extra $800 to get 5 more points, it’s worth it. By spending $500 less to get 1 point less elsewhere is acceptable in hitting positions if there’s more payoff here.
Remember that strikeouts are worth double at DraftKings than they are at FanDuel. A high K/IP pitcher is your most worthwhile pursuit, and there’s no doubt that Kershaw is best right now. But in other cases, look to this number for guidance and you will be pleasantly surprised when Kershaw’s not scheduled for that day.
We’ve spent a lot of time on pitching because it is so valuable to your roster. But that doesn’t mean you can forget the rest. Your hitting is extremely important because this is the majority of your team. Regardless of which daily fantasy sports site you play at, you want power and consistency. Both major sites pay out a lot of points per homerun, so start here. After that, it gets tricky.
DraftKings rewards you with 10 points per homer, while FanDuel only gives you 4. You do need more point to be successful at DK than at FD, but this is a payout of more than double points, when really you only need a fraction more to win. Slugging average is by far the best indicator for you at DraftKings then, while if you are looking to build a team at FanDuel, you should look to OPS.
You won’t find many hitters that produce more than 20 points per game at DraftKings, but that should be your goal. Power hitters are the most likely to get you there. This is not as easy to mask as a good pitcher’s stats are, and finding value in the batting lineup is much harder. However, if you have 2 pitchers on your team, each of which is contributing an average of 25 points, that means you have 8 roster slots left and a need of 150 points, or 15.75 points per player. If you have spent $22,000, you have $28,000 left, or $3,500 per player. That means to get top value, you should be looking to get approximately 1 fantasy point for every $222 you spend in salary. A player that costs $5,500 should have the potential to give you more than 24.8 points. Finding these players is what will win you the tournament. But because there are no hitters with these averages, you need to start with the players with the highest averages, and then gauge their consistency with lesser stats like batting average and look at the strength of their competition. This is an artform, and takes time to develop.