Daily Fantasy Baseball: Factors to Consider When Choosing Hitters

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Mike Trout is more likely to produce for you on a given day than Lucas Duda, but should you roster him?

When choosing your hitters for your daily fantasy baseball lineup, there are a number of factors that you should be keeping in mind during your prep work. Attention to each one will yield benefits to your bottom line over the course of a baseball season.

Everybody knows, for example, that Mike Trout is more likely to produce for you on a given day than Lucas Duda, and many will not go beyond the very basic information when compiling their lineup. They will squeeze the best ‘name’ hitters that they can afford under the salary cap, with little regard for the specific conditions of that day’s event. Obviously, this is good for us, so let’s take a basic overview of some of the factors that go into making the optimal choices for a given day’s lineup.

One of the first things a DFS MLB gamer will want to do when considering the hitters he wants to use on a given slate is to consider the ballpark and how it will cater to a particular hitter’s strengths or weaknesses.

When it comes to an analysis of the effect of ballparks, everybody knows by now that the ball travels significantly better in the high altitude of Coors Field and that hitters visiting Colorado can be expected to have an increase in expected production. This information is important, but yields a minimal edge in GPP play, as most everybody will use this knowledge.

Luckily for us, the common knowledge of ballpark effect on hitters does not go too far past Coors. A good elementary reference is the ESPN Park Factors 2015 chart on their website. Park Factor is simply a measure of the rate of stats at home versus road, and at a basic glance lets a gamer know how a park played in 2015 with respect to various hitting categories, with a score of 1.000 being neutral.

We see that 11 parks had a factor greater than 1.000 when it comes to runs scored, with Coors clearly leading the pack as expected, followed by the stadiums in Cleveland, Baltimore, Boston, and Texas. The toughest parks for run production were in San Francisco, Anaheim, Brooklyn, Seattle, and Detroit.

The beauty of the ESPN Park Factor is that a gamer can sort by statistic and dig up some of those deeper level factors. For example, Coors might have a clear lead in effect on runs scored, but it is only 5th in terms of effect on home runs. Wrigley Field has a runs scored factor below 1.000, yet is 3rd in HR effect at 1.276. When you consider that on DraftKings, a home run is worth 10 points, in addition to the 2 points each for run and RBI, this information on ballpark influence is crucial.

The bottom line is that today’s field of play can have a dramatic effect on your hitter’s performance, often in ways conventional wisdom overlooks.

Once you have considered the venue of the game in a general sense, you will want to further refine your hitter’s analysis and consider the opposing pitcher and the effect of handedness, which is simply the study of a hitter’s statistical differences between facing left and right-handed pitchers, and conversely the pitcher’s own splits facing lefties or righties.

Sites such as Rotowire and Baseball Reference will give a gamer a number of useful hitters’ splits, including home/road, lefty/righty, and a large number of advanced statistics.

Three of the most useful advanced statistics for hitters in terms of DFS play are wOBA, BABIP, and ISO. wOBA, or weighted on-base average, is a measure of a hitter’s overall offensive production per plate appearance and is a superior DFS statistic to OPS in that it gives an assigned weighted value to each type of offensive event in proportion to its overall importance.

The wOBA number is then further refined for our DFS purposes when broken down against different types of pitchers. In general, the worst batting performance in a hitter/pitcher handedness analysis is the left-handed hitter facing a lefty hurler and the best batter matchups are the righty hitter against a lefty pitcher and a lefty hitter against a right-hander.

BABIP is the measure of a hitter’s batting average on balls put into play and can be used to get a picture of how much luck a hitter has or hasn’t run into on the season. The baseline standard is .300, so when you see a good hitter sitting in early June with a .244 BABIP, it is reasonable to expect a turn in fortunes is coming and that he will be sitting on the right side of variance for the remainder of the season.

DFS sites adjust player salaries based on performance, so a hitter running into worse than standard luck over a recent period of time will result in a lowered salary and therefore potential value when facing a positive pitching matchup and/or friendly park.

The third advanced hitter statistic we want to look at is Isolated Power, or ISO. ISO is, simply put, Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average, and yields the number of extra bases per at bat per player. This measure of power is more accurate in projecting future performance than either of the traditional components of the formula as standalones, and this statistic is now widely used on many of the previously referenced sites. In a game that is as heavily determined by power hitter production as DFS, a reliable measure of projected power is invaluable.

Once you’ve decided which hitters you prefer on a slate, you will want to use them in a stack with their teammates. Production is like a chain, where the strength of one link has direct benefits to other link-mates. A hitter who goes 4-4 will boost the production of the guys on base in front of them as well as the guys up next.

Taking Draftkings, for example, a two-run triple gives you four extra points when you have the two guys who were on base and just got their runs scored points. In addition, the next hitter will get a choice two-point opportunity for an RBI. You will want to benefit with the ‘multipliers’ that hit when you correctly projected that guy to go off today, and it will usually be necessary to score a large cash in a GPP.

Lastly, when attacking a full field tourney in particular, if you go in riding the conventional, you will very likely leave disappointed. When Colorado is home versus Philadelphia, they will have a high projected run total and will be very highly owned, but here is the catch: if Colorado goes off, you do no better than another 30% or so of the tournament’s field and therefore will need everyone else in your lineup to come through in order to make a profit.

There is huge variance, as simple math shows. A great power hitter cracks 35 HR per year, or over the course of a season, one every 4.5 games. The best of the best are favorites to fail on any given day, so riding the popular wave is a journey we don’t want to take.

Now, take what you’ve learned and sign up for DraftKings. DraftKings offers a 100% up to $600 sign-up bonus that’s released as you play. Use the code P5S when you create your account.