Daily Fantasy Baseball: Winning at Heads-Up Cash Games

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Is Bryce Harper worth rostering in heads-up cash games?

MLB heads-up cash games, or H2Hs as they are commonly known, are two-man daily fantasy sports contests in which your goal is to score more points than your lone opponent. The goal of a H2H contest is drastically different than in full-field tournaments (GPPs), where you are attempting to maximize upside at the expense of safe floors. In a H2H, the concern of the masses is removed. You will find that your most logical H2H lineups will roster a lot of the ‘chalk,’ and that is perfectly fine.

When we look at starting pitchers, which on DraftKings is a two-starter roster, you do not want to get very fancy. As mentioned in previous articles, there are no players in baseball more likely to replicate their typical level of performance in a given game than pitchers. When a top-quality starter is on the mound, you are looking at the closest thing we will get to a ‘sure thing’ high floor.

The Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts of the world can go 0 for 4 against anybody, and it’s perfectly normal, but the odds of Clayton Kershaw failing to give you a solid base of points in a game is unlikely. This knowledge comes with a price, namely the salary cap. Starting pitchers are the least prone to volatility and their high salaries in comparison to even the best hitters in the game are the price you pay.

On slates where there is no stud SP going, you will want to focus on the guys who are most likely to give you innings, so checking the Las Vegas line on the games is very important, especially when facing unfamiliar choices. In DraftKings’ scoring format for MLB, strikeouts are highly valued, so checking a starter’s K/9 numbers is another crucial step in constructing your H2H roster.

Strikeouts also happen to be the most predictable statistic for a starting pitcher from season to season, so when you find that combination of a starter who figures to go deep in the game and he’s a high strikeout guy, then you found a strong contender for your H2H roster. Again, the salaries on good starters are high, but you’re paying for the reduction in volatility. In H2H, we are not interested in boom or bust; we only have one opponent, not 10,000.

Sources such as Rotowire have very good split figures for hitters and in a few clicks of a mouse you can see what each hitter does against the type pitcher you are considering: lefty versus lefty, a hitter’s strikeout rate, etc. The DFS sites don’t generally adjust SP salaries to reflect the handedness advantage of a certain pitching matchup, so when you find a lineup of lefties against your decent lefty starter, you very likely have found value. Take advantage of it because a good H2H opponent certainly will be looking for the same edges.

In terms of hitters in a H2H lineup, there are differing viewpoints, each with their share of validity. On the one hand, conventional H2H wisdom says that you do not want to stack a lineup of teammates due to the increased volatility of non-diversification. That camp would say that if your opposing starter is just feeling it that day, you’re losing a bunch of lineup.

On the other side, there are those who view hitter-stacking as a logical H2H play. These proponents of the stack state that a hitter’s floor is not destroyed by having the hitters before him fail. Will he drive in six runs? No, but the pinball score is not the goal of a H2H matchup anyhow.

Unlike a poor performing pair of linemates in hockey, your #3 hitter is not fated to a zero DFS score when the guys in front combine for 0 for 8 on a given night. His opportunity to face a scoring situation enough times to establish a floor is reduced, but not eliminated.

The deciding factor should be the slate of games available on that given night. If there is a four-game slate and one starter on the night is a mediocre lefty called up from the minors for an emergency start against a righty lineup at home, then not stacking that lineup is a poor play. They are easily in the most optimal scenario to succeed on the night and each hitter’s floor projects to be the most likely to hit in this game regardless of how many of his teammates reach their floors.

On the other hand, you will sometimes love a right-handed hitter in a lefty-dominated lineup facing a good lefty pitcher. His stats year to year are off the charts against lefties and he is performing the same in the current season. This is a situation where you will not want to bring along teammates, most of whom are in a negative matchup for their purposes.

All in all, it is not a bad H2H move to stack a few hitting teammates, provided that they are each in a positive matchup and fit your remaining salary. The floor is higher than normal in a positive matchup.

In summary, MLB H2H matches are contests where you should be looking to pay for a high floor with good starting pitching and looking to uncover positive handedness matchups in your hitting positions that represent a nightly value. Should you find teammates all facing high-floor, positive matchups, do not be hesitant to stack.

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.