Baseball is a unique game in so many ways – 182 games, no clock, more than a century of professional history to use to compare players separated by generations. And it is the perfect game for DFS, with so much action every night, and so much to consider when setting your lineups. Even though they play the same teams for a few days running, the matchup that matters is individual: hitter vs. pitcher, pitcher vs. lineups. Lefty vs. righty. Ground ball pitchers. Hitter friendly ballparks. You know the drill. And if it needed a different reason, baseball is also unique when it comes to the way you view and evaluate injuries in daily fantasy.
In fantasy football, and even more so in basketball, an injury is a tough break, especially in your year-long leagues. And, as a fan, you never like to see a top player going down – you want to see the best competing against the best. But in daily fantasy anyway (or your year-long leagues if you have top waiver priority), there is a pretty straight-line benefit to injuries as well. All of a sudden, a previously unusable player is a viable option. And usually a cheap one. Some random guy all of a sudden getting minutes, or catches, or carries is a big deal.
Especially in the NBA, minutes is almost always a direct correlation to at least some production. In football, you do need to worry more about the matchup an injury replacement is facing, or how missing the starter will change an offensive gameplan, or just whether or not the backup is actually any good. But still, a cheap option is at least there for your consideration.
In baseball, though, it feels like more often than not an injury is doing nothing but removing a viable option. And, even worse, as soon as you look at it one level deeper, you realize an injury to a particularly good hitter isn’t just removing one option, but bringing down a whole team full of them with missed chances for runs and RBI (think injury to a QB in football. Sorry Michael Floyd owners). You have to start thinking about downgrading teammates when there is going to be no one on base around them, so you have to check lineups to see if the manager just replaced the injured player with a backup in the three-hole, or does the new guy go immediately to 8th or 9th? There is a lot to think about. Just like the idea that a backup QB might target the #1 receiver all the time out of sheer panic, or maybe he’ll just be incapable of getting the ball to any skill players, ever.
So when does an injury in baseball actually create a viable new (hopefully cheap) option? There are a couple of situations you can look for, the first being an injury to a hitter on a bad offense. This is not always an ideal situation, because a backup on a bad team usually, well… isn’t that good. But if you get some prospect getting time early and he can stay hot for a little while, he might have the added benefit of being able to slide into the top of the order in a way that wouldn’t be possible on a better team.
But the best situation to look for is a specific one: when a hitter on a good offense goes down, what you want to see more than anything is just a guy with a good OBP sliding into his spot. No one wanted to see Jonathan Schoop miss extended time, but Rey Navarro ($2,000) is about to make his fourth straight start at 2nd base, and he is looking like he might actually hold down the fort for a while (4-12 through three games). He doesn’t yet have a walk, but he only has 3 K’s, not bad for a guy who hadn’t seen a lick of action before last week. If he can keep that OBP over .300, and hopefully even a bit higher, fantasy owners who lamented the loss of Schoop might be reveling in the availability of a useable player for $2,000.