DFS Strategy: All-Star Break Reflections and Lessons From Past Mistakes

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This is the first in a long series of articles RotoBaller is planning which will delve deep into DFS (Daily Fantasy Baseball) Strategy. We'll be exploring a wide range of topics to help you win and be more profitable in your DFS tourneys. 

 

So, there is a life outside of fantasy baseball…

I don’t know about everyone else, but this week has sucked so far for me. No scoring changes when I wake up in the morning. No podcasts giving advice about the day’s pitching matchups. No DFS articles to look at or starting lineups to study. And worst of all, no baseball to plop down on the couch and watch for six hours. Ugh, this has been dreadful.

Well, have no fear. For the next 10 minutes, I’ll provide a quality DFS-related article for you to read. You can remember how great it was when you profited 80 cents last week, all while learning how to profit even more in the coming weeks. Here are some things that I learned about my own DFS strategy and DFS strategy in general over the past three and a half months.

 

Have a plan, and stick to it

When I first started playing DFS years ago, I’ll be honest, the big tournaments scared me. I had started playing NBA FanDuel every night, and I was putting in a couple of bucks in 50/50s and H2Hs. I quickly found out that not only is that kind of lame and pointless, but it’s also a good way to go backwards. Because of the cut that FanDuel takes, I had to be winning far more than I was losing to make a good profit. I wasn’t doing that. Very few people do that.

It took me through the end of the winter to realize that no matter what sport I was playing (NBA, NFL, or MLB), the way to profit was by playing risky and smart at the same time. I began putting in one tournament lineup a night, followed by three to five safer cash game lineups. Although I went through some cold streaks while I was figuring out how to assemble winning lineups, I have stuck to that plan, and now it works for me. I have even started to expand my tournament entries to two or three in order to hedge my bets on different pitchers.

The point here is that you should have a strategy of how you’re going to use your bankroll, and you should really try to stick to it. I’ve heard some people say, “My lineups look really good on some nights, so I shell out more cash on those nights.” Also remember, those are the same people who rarely talk about losing lineups. Maybe that strategy works for them (or you), but I stay away from that. Follow the plan that has been working for you. If you’re plan is not working, mix it up. But I will always recommend entering more cash game plays than tournaments.

 

Get to know the game

This part is tough. A lot of DFS analysts get away with being really good at DFS, but not ever really watching and engaging with the sport they are playing. It’s easy to tell because they’re pronunciation of names will be very, very incorrect. I can understand if it’s a prospect that just came up, or a nobody who is batting in the three hole all of a sudden, but when a guy has played for a month and you can’t pronounce his name, you’re obviously not watching or listening to the games or the people involved in them.

I understand that everyone has lives. It’s tough to sit down and watch sporting events outside of your hometown teams, especially for parents. However, a box score doesn’t tell enough about a player. There are other ways to get to know the game too. For example, Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast is a great way to learn about hot hitters, new prospects, and day-by-day box scores. That’s just 40 minutes of your day. If you can sit down and watch a couple of games a night, that’s the best way to see who swings the bat well, who is hitting line drives right at people, and who is getting behind in too many counts. But even if you don’t have time for that, find ways to get to know the game you’re playing in DFS.

 

Read and listen to multiple opinions

Along with the point above, this one’s tough to do if you have many other obligations. Personally, I love listening to all sorts of podcasts when I have time. Whether it’s boring my girlfriend on car rides, listening to them while working out, or putting one on before I take a nap, podcasts can be a DFSer’s best friend. Take advantage of those people who will do the research for you.

In addition to that, don’t listen to the same people over and over again. You should be building your own lineups, not someone else’s. Everyone has their favorite analyst or panel of analysts, but make sure to mix it up once in a while. You might find another analyst that makes a more valid argument than the last person you listened to or read. Be open-minded, and form your own opinions.

 

Do your own research

To piggy back on that last sentence in the previous section, doing your own research is a great way to form your own opinions. FanGraphs.com has become one of my favorite baseball-related websites this year, because it has every possible stat you can think of. Whether it’s wOBA, lefty/right splits, hard hit rates, or recent hot streaks, FanGraphs has it all. That site is just one of the many resources that DFS players can use to do their own research. Sure, it takes more time than reading an article, and you might not always have time to do it. But it makes you that much smarter for the future, and whether the lineup succeeds or fails you have no one to blame but yourself.

 

wOBA and wRC+ are huge

Speaking of research, what exactly are we looking for in “good” DFS options. wOBA and wRC+, combined with lefty / righty splits and park factors are extremely helpful. For those who don’t know the background details of those statistics, the only real difference in those two stats is that wRC+ accounts for park factors and wOBA does not. So, wRC+ is supposed to be more helpful for away players than those playing at home. Also, wOBA is based on a scale that has .300 being about the average for an MLB hitter. Meanwhile, the average wRC+ for an MLB hitter is about 100.

So, when you are trying to decipher which players to throw in your lineup, take a look at some of the poor pitchers in the day’s games, find the players with good platoon splits (ex. Justin Turner against righties), and see if players have good season or career wOBA/wRC+s against the pitcher’s handedness, and whether they're playing in a run producing ballpark. There’s a little more that goes into it than that, but that’s a pretty good start when analyzing the day’s hitters.

 

BvP can matter, but not as much as you think...

I’ve touched on this subject a few times in my weekly FanDuel advice pieces, and those of you who read them will know that I’m not a huge fan of using batters’ or pitchers’ histories against opponents to judge whether I should use them. Most of the time, the sample size is too small. But even if it’s not, I’m a big believer in regression to the mean. If Miguel Cabrera is 3-35 against Jose Quintana, odds are he’s going to start figuring him out eventually. Cabrera is a career .300 hitter, so unless there’s a big reason why he can’t hit the ball when a certain guy throws it, I’m probably not going to trust those numbers.

Now, I’ve also said before that there are certain times that BvP makes sense to trust. The only circumstance that I’m really committed to at this point in time is when we’re looking at BvP against a knuckleballer. If a batter has shown in the past that he can hit successfully off of a knuckleball pitcher, then that certainly ups his value against guys like R.A. Dickey in my eyes. This strategy worked for me this past season twice with Jose Abreu. I will continue to use that strategy.

Sure, BvP can be useful, and sometimes there is a cause for a batter not hitting a certain pitcher, but most of the time I need more than just BvP to trust a batter in DFS.

 

Don’t tinker

There’s a fine line between being thorough and tinkering. Don’t tinker! Once you’ve listened to opinions, done your own research, checked the starting lineups (which I kind of skipped in this piece, because I hope everyone already does that), and built your teams, then just relax. Sure, you have to check back on Twitter (or wherever you go for breaking news) to make sure the weather and any final scratches don’t kill your lineup before the night even starts. But the last thing you should do is throw your research out the window because some dude that you follow on Twitter said that he’s staying away from a certain player that night. Everyone has their own opinions. Once you’ve done your due diligence, don’t second-guess yourself. You’ll just end up regretting it more than not.

 

Get a life!

OK this article is getting pretty long as it is, so I’ll start to sum it up. Daily Fantasy Sports are a ton of fun. I know that, and you know that. However, it’s not the end of the world if you miss a night. Don’t rush in a lineup or 12 if you don’t have time to do research that day. That’s the beauty of daily fantasy, it’ll be there tomorrow.

Also, don’t watch every single pitch from the box score screen of your smart phone. The same applies for basketball, football, and every other DFS sport. Yes it is fun to watch the games, look at summaries, and even check the box score a few times a night when you’re out of the house to see how you’re doing. But don’t spend the rest of your life staring at the screen of your phone waiting for the little text that says, “In play, run(s).” I’ve had a problem with this one in the past, and my girlfriend doesn’t let me forget it.

Have a life outside of DFS. Don’t stay up until 3 am when you have to be up in four hours just to see if Zack Greinke can win you an extra buck (guilty as charged). Unless you are making a living off of analyzing daily baseball statistics (hopefully future me can look back at this sentence and smirk because that’s exactly what future me is doing), don’t ruin the events around you by being obsessed. That is all.

 

Reflect, but don’t dwell

My last point goes along with why I’m writing this article. It’s always helpful to reflect, but it’s never helpful to dwell on past mistakes. If you started someone over someone else and it lost you any amount of money, it certainly helps to make a mental note of why that was, but it doesn’t help to get depressed about what could have been. I like to believe that every close miss makes me better. It helps me to forget about the useless frustration and get back on the horse. It’s just a game!

Writing this article was really neat. I was able to remind myself of all of the important things to keep in mind for the next 3 months. Hopefully you learned something from this, or at least it made you ponder something you might not have pondered. Either way, thanks for the read. I will continue to write articles for the remainder of the MLB season at least on Thursdays and Fridays. Give them a look! If nothing else I try to make the introductions interesting. Also, be on the lookout for NFL DFS advice when the season starts in September. Until then, best of luck with the remainder of the MLB season. I’m always open to chat on Twitter. You can find me @BellRoto. For all you Cardinals fans out there: Let’s go Bucs!

 

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