Thursday, April 17, 2014

WHY I LOVE DAILY FANTASY BASEBALL? - tips and strategies for one of the coolest games out there

I'm sitting at a Passover Seder the other night and the curiosity is killing me.  We've reached the midway point of most West Coast games, and the outcomes of those contests will have a direct impact on me tonight.  But most importantly, after 10 home runs in just six innings of play the Pirates/Reds game has been delayed by rain and I have Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen going up against a guy they've had good experience against -- Homer Bailey.  With balls leaving the ballpark every other minute, I pray this one isn't stopped until the next day.  I have $5 in a triple up contest - the contest I have to place in.  I have $1 and $2 in bigger contests, that don't matter as much, but have the possibility of much bigger winnings.

This is why I love daily fantasy baseball.  I'm not the best math guy in the world.  Admittedly, numbers to me can be fascinating and boring at the same time.  And baseball, for the most part is about numbers.  But unlike yearly fantasy baseball (which I do compete in - won my first 4X4 keeper league last year) where the research is an immense hill to climb before every season, daily fantasy is about making things smaller, more concise and playing smart strategy.  Better still, payout is immediate. 

Is it risk free?  No.  There's no doubt this is gambling on a human element, an element as unpredictable as the winds.  But, much like poker, it is a thinking man's gamble.  I should tell you I don't bet on games or spreads hardly at all.  Besides a football pool here and there, I find that kind of gambling absurd.  I'm terrible at it.  I hear the radio shows now early Sunday mornings with guys pimping their "lock" of the weekend and secretly giggle to myself. 

So why on earth would I play fantasy baseball in a daily format for $$?:

1) Because, first off, it's fun.

2) it can be cheap fun.  $1 here or there.  How many times do you waste that dollar on a lotto ticket, and I mean waste?  $1 turned into $40 for me  last week.  Not too shabby.

3) research isn't exhaustive.  Sure, it helps to have an inner working knowledge of baseball and some of the players, but the good thing about baseball is even though there's a team out there, it's based a lot on individuals.  And much like a personality, once you know an individual's style of play, they generally stay that style of player.  Is he a base-stealer?  Does he contact the ball well?  Is he a power guy? 
These answers stay constant through most of each player's careers.

4) you can grow your funds like an investment by being smart and using some basic strategy.

So what is fantasy baseball and what is daily fantasy baseball?  Fantasy baseball involves putting together a team full of real players and using how they perform on the field (their statistics) as the scoring mechanism.  In a fantasy baseball league, you do much what a GM would do -- you draft your team alongside your opponents and attempt to put together the best lineup each week to get the best stats.  You drop and add players, pick up free agents and make trades. 

Daily Fantasy involves simply culling together a lineup of the best players for that given day within in a defined budget.  Each player has a 'salary' and that salary corresponds to their perceived value on that given day.

So what kind of strategies can you employ to take a small amount of $$ and grow it?  Well here are some strategies I've employed that have worked for me.


Probably the single most important choice you make is where to put your money.  The small bet, big payoff contests are long-shots, and require that you take chances in your lineup to find those diamonds in the rough on a given particular day.  I've probably do one of these any time I play and out of the 20 or so I've been in my best finish is 7th out of 4468 entries. 

The contests that have the least risk payout less but they're the most important ones to play.  In order to make money regularly, the 50/50 contests, double ups and triple ups offer a chance to return smaller amounts for a small investment and keep your account growing.  These contests require a different strategy -- using the most consistent players you can find.  It means choosing your investments a little wiser because you're going to spend more on the consistent players and you need to do a little more research on the match ups to make sure that player is a good bet for a good return.

Another thing to watch is how many entrants are in the competition.  Most big tournaments cap how many entrants they'll have for their big payout.  But if the number of entrants is deflated, the payout stays the same and your odds of taking home bigger earnings just went up.


As mentioned above, choosing the right players is what it's all about, but to do so you must first understand the scoring system employed by that particular site/contest.  I tend to use right now, but have used as well.

For instance, in FanDuel's game, ers get one point for a 1B, two for a 2B, three for a 3B and four for a HR.  They get a point for each RBI and each run scored.  Walks and HBP are as good as a single and a SB gets you two points.  And any out you lose .25 points.  Thus, pitchers are going to make up a chunk of your scoring and how you invest that money is probably going to determine your outcome.

Most importantly, rain outs and lineup changes are killer and any player in a lineup when a rain out happens is lost.  Best thing is to try to follow a teams TWITTER feed during the day to get the starting lineup and occasionally check the weather, particularly back east and u north.


Pitchers - I often check the opponents team Batting Stats and Strikeout rates.  Naturally, a free swinging team that has a low on base percentage and OPS (on base plus slugging) is probably struggling to score runs and is probably a good match up.  Often, I'm looking to find a cheaper pitcher that won't deliver a disaster.  Thus I generally avoid rookies or unknowns and prefer veteran arms with a decent track record, especially recently.
ther key in finding a good deal is if a really great pitcher has just come off a disastrous outing.  Say that Johnny Cueto just had a really bad outing five days ago and was shelled for six runs in just a few innings of work.  You might find Cueto's price deflated for that particular day and considering how often he strikes batters 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) but at a 10.5 so far this season, he's likely to be a bargain. 

Rookies are a true risk.  Often newer guys have less tape available for hitters to study and know their tendencies.  Thus, a rookie facing a new opponent may steal the show.  However, a young rookie could easily get rattled if things don't go well early on, or he could have his innings limited in his first few starts and that means less points for you the buyer. 

Hitters - I generally like to check match up history of batter/pitcher.  Some don't agree it matters.  I think it does only if the sample size is good enough.  And for me, that's at least 10-15 ABs.  That's at least three times at minimum.  Why?  Well remember what I said about players staying generally the same most of their careers?  So how many pitchers add a whole new slew of pitches or change their deliveries.  Not that many. They may add a new pitch or tweak their style, but once a major-leaguer has seen their pitching style and pitches and also has studied tape, they know this guy.  They know his pitches.  And either they see him well or not.  They hit him well or they don't.  Giancarlo Stanton for some reason rips Stephen Strasburg.  Some will say you need a much larger sample size for the numbers to play out.  I don't agree. 

As for other factors like ballpark, hitters career splits (batting well LHP vs RHP or HOME/ROAD), I occasionally check those but I look for their career.  One season isn't necessarily enough to show much.  Minimum of three years could give you a decent picture.  But a career number of more than that is pretty much a full painting.

Guys who are reportedly fighting a "sore shoulder" or a "quad injury" and are back in the lineup aren't usually in mine.  MLB teams are infamous for making injuries sound less than they are.  Choose health over everything else when buying a player. The combinations are endless, but many lineups offer a possible cash out.  The key is to experiment often, hedge your bets with smaller competitions and lighter payouts to keep your account moving forward, and throw a dart at a long-shot every so often. 

If you're tired of the investment required in a season-long fantasy baseball effort but have some knowledge and understanding, daily fantasy is a fun game with new possibilities every day.  Enjoy!