DFS Strategy: Importance of Stolen Bases

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Don’t forget about steals kings like Jose Altuve when setting your DFS lineups

One of the stumbling blocks that new daily fantasy baseball gamers have to overcome is the way in which they’ve been trained to value certain statistics. When a kid is becoming a baseball fan, his interpretation of what is most important will come largely from the way certain events are celebrated by the announcer or on the news. Once that kid grows up a bit and gets into fantasy baseball, his definitions of relative statistical importance will become further molded to value what produces the best results in his given league.

We all know that season-long fantasy baseball leagues vary greatly in scoring systems and therefore we can confidently conclude that players in those fantasy leagues come to value statistical events in real baseball differently. A player who has played only in a head-to-head points league where there are no negative values placed on blown saves will find saves to be a hugely important statistic, whereas a player in a similar league that has a negative value attached to blown saves will not be as anxious to grab a busy closer super early in his draft.

When a season-long fantasy player dips his toe into the DFS waters, he is bringing his preconceived notions of what statistics will need to be more or less highly weighed based upon previous experience.

With this in mind, it stands to reason that stolen bases are a statistic that will be underrated by most first-time DFS baseball gamers, as it is usually one that is balanced somewhat by the negative value given to the caught stealing stat in season-long leagues.

If your shortstop attempts 4 stolen bases in a game and is caught twice, you’re looking at a big fat zero points. Even worse, if he attempts three and is caught twice, he’ll give you a negative score for his troubles. Using DraftKings standard scoring, a burner going 2-for-4 on the basepaths just gave you 5 points for each success and zero for a failure, netting 10 points on his base running. In the 1-for-3 example, the negative season-long score translates to a DK net of plus-5.

To show how relatively underappreciated the stolen base is in the minds of the new DFS player (as well as some not-so-new ones), answer the following question: which of the 2 hitters brought your DraftKings lineup more points?

a) Hitter goes 2-for-4 with a Home Run, Run Scored, and 2 RBI
b) Hitter goes 2-for-5 with a Double, Run Scored, and 2 steals

Homers are king in DFS and should not be discredited in any way. You will need the huge points the single event brings in order to ship a GPP. However, in the above example, Hitter b) outscores a). The first hitter gets 10 points for his HR, 3 points for his single, 2 points for the run he scored when homering, and 4 points for his 2 RBI = total 19 points.

The speedster, however, just landed you an even 20 (3 for his single, 5 for his double, 2 for the run, and 2×5 = 10 points for the steals = total 20 points).

The above example is also useful for making a couple of other points. First, you can see the power of the home run in that you are not just getting your 10 points for the HR, you score and drive yourself in at the same time. Again, the HR is the king of DFS scores, and you will need them.

But the second thing the example shows is that even given the way the HR dominates, a slap hitter in a good running matchup is equally capable of doing serious damage, which in DFS is a good thing for you, and he will generally do so at a lower DFS salary than the big bopper. One further point to keep in mind is that a base stealer does not only steal bases; that same slap hitter will from time to time wrap a liner around the foul pole for a HR and all the point glory that comes with it.

In general, the big home run guys aren’t going to be looking to run. When you have a player who can do both, such as Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, you have the holy grail of DFS hitter. You will be paying a massive premium though.

What is a good matchup for a stolen base guy? In general, it is more difficult for a runner to get a good jump against a left-handed pitcher, so even a hitter facing a mediocre lefty could usually be downgraded a bit when projecting your SB chances going in. Sources such as Rotowire and Baseball Reference are great for seeing how many steals a pitcher has given up, as well as how a particular hitter has done SB-wise against lefties and righties.

Finding that exception to the rule who appears to be comfortable running against left-handers will be research worth performing, as his ownership will be depressed.

In summary, while the home run is the undisputed king of the DFS jungle, the stolen base can be just as devastating a weapon. It will pay off for the new daily gamer to re-think his notions of the relative importance of certain statistics.

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.