DraftKings: DFS Starting Pitcher Selection Strategy

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This is a free article from our MLB premium DFS strategy series. See the rest of our premium DFS strategy articles here.

For 2016, we here at Rotoballer our launching our own 12 step program. Except it’s actually 10 steps. And by steps, we actually mean articles to help you win daily fantasy baseball with a focus on mega sites FanDuel and DraftKings. Raph, Demetri, Chris, and Tom have already given you some fabulous tips. Today, it’s Nedimyer’s turn to flex the DFS muscle by giving some unique strategies for the wonderful two-pitcher site that is DraftKings.

Now, Tom may try to hype up the one party (pitcher) system that is FanDuel, but I say that is teetering close to communism. I prefer the two party system of DraftKings. ‘Murica. Let’s dig in.

First Thing’s First- Know The Score

It would be impossible to make any kind of informed roster decision without taking a gander at the scoring system for DraftKings. So, let’s take a gander.

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Looking at the above screenshot of the scoring system for pitchers, you will most likely notice several important things. Chief among those important notices remains this fact: every statistical category other than wins is weighted heavier than other DFS sites. That means that positive stats like strikeouts and innings pitched will award more points, however negative outcomes like walks or, gulp, earned runs will punish your squad a little more than other sites.

How The Scoring System Applies to Your Roster Decisions

The scoring system may not seem like much of a big deal. After all, doesn’t that mean that every DFS player is scored the same way? Well, yes and no. Technically, it is true that a pitcher who succeeds on a given day will most likely succeed across the DFS industry. However, that same pitcher may not be as dominant on DraftKings as, say, FanDuel.

It sounds simple really, but pitchers that are dominant are much more valuable than pitchers that are merely good. By granting more points for positive results and subtracting points for negative outcomes, a dominant pitcher can really separate himself from a good pitcher by racking up strikeouts, walking less batters, yielding less hits, and going the distance. The giant disparity in possible outcomes at the position means that aces are at a higher demand. As a general rule of thumb, rostering at least one ace is a sound strategy to start your DFS lineup.

The Stats That Matter, How To Find Your Starting Pitchers

As stated above and multiple times since, DraftKings is a two-pitcher site. It makes sense to roster an ace as one of your pitchers, but how do you find that second pitcher? Going ace at both the SP slots is aggressive and more commonly followed in tournaments, but for the most part novice and intermediate players should not stray too far away from the norm, especially in those 50/50s and cash games.

So, what is one way to find that hidden gem? The answer is actually quite simple. Strikeouts. In 2015, the DraftKings average for pitchers in winning lineups was 6.5 strikeouts per game. That makes sense since strikeouts are worth two points and can negate any earned run allowed. A pitcher that can compile a healthy amount of strikeouts will usually score high in DraftKings. Luckily, there’s a wonderful statistic that DFSers can utilize when evaluating their options.

It’s called K% rate. And I’m not talking about that garbage K/9 stat. The K% rate divides strikeouts per batters faced, as opposed to K/9 which uses a formula that finds more of a mean per inning. Here’s a simple scenario. Let’s say Clayton Kershaw faces four batters in an inning, striking out one, forcing two grounds outs, but one baserunner got on due to an error. In the bottom half of the inning, Madison Bumgarner gives up a hit and a walk, but forces two grounds outs and strikes out a batter. In this scenario, Kershaw and Bumgarner each have a K/9 of 9.00. However, Kershaw faced less batters and, as such, his K rate of 25.0% trumps Bumgarner’s 20.0% K rate. Furthermore, Kershaw has scored 4.45 points on DraftKings, while Bumgarner has compiled 3.05 DK points.

Last season, the top five finishers in K% rate were, in order, Kershaw (33.8%), Chris Sale (32.1%), Max Scherzer (30.7%), Carlos Carrasco (29.6%), and Chris Archer (29.0%). It’s no coincidence that these were among the top overall performers on DraftKings as well. The one exception being Archer, who lost out on some points by being on a sub-par team and not getting extra points in the win category.

Budgeting For Pitchers

Tom gave some great advice for his FanDuel pitcher strategy piece that I am going to reiterate. Pay up for the pitcher you think will have the best day. DK may feature the two pitcher system, but the scoring system does not allow players to take chances, especially in cash games. With all the negative points being shelled out to starting pitchers, your roster is one bad inning away from being decimated. So don’t be afraid to pay up.

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Pitchers overwhelmingly score the most on DraftKings. In terms of cash games and 50/50s, I highly recommend paying up for at least one ace that has a solid matchup. Do not worry about what the field is doing; most likely, they’ll be paying up for that same stud. For a second pitcher in cash games, target a mid-value pitcher facing a team that has a high K% Rate against that pitcher's arm. Or the Phillies. They’re fun to pick on.

In terms of high to select pitchers for a tournament, honestly you can go one of several directions. Try to find a pitchers that a lot of players aren’t high on. Going against the field is always a smart strategy. Think Kershaw is due for an 18 strikeout shutout? Good. Roster him. Just be ready to spend as little as possible for a pitcher that absolutely no one likes, but will be facing a team that tends to strikeout a lot in certain situations. Going against the field is the key for tournaments. Just don’t roster two pitchers that are going against each other, especially in smaller leagues. In order to win, you need every point you can get. Rostering two pitchers going up against each other, though contrarian, will only give you at most four points from one pitcher for a win. This isn’t soccer. There inevitably has to be a loser. Now, go win some tournaments with your stud pitchers.

 

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