Jonathan Bales is the author of Fantasy Baseball for Smart People—a 197-page book created to help you win playing daily fantasy baseball on DraftKings.
When you play any daily fantasy sport, your goal is to find some sort of edge. If you can’t find an advantage that you hold over the field, then you can’t win long-term. Whether that’s a superior ability to identify pitching talent or constructing tournament lineups in an optimal way, you need to find your edge.
There are lots of potential advantages to be had, one of the most basic of which is tailoring your strategy to DraftKings’ scoring systems. It should go without saying that you should take each sport’s scoring system into account prior to making lineups, but many users overlook the importance of fantasy scoring and how much of an affect it can have on strategy.
When it comes to daily fantasy baseball, there are some key aspects of DraftKings scoring that you should consider when playing on the site. One of the many daily fantasy baseball tips I can offer is taking advantage of the scoring system, as it is perhaps the easiest way you can become a profitable player.
To consider how DraftKings values certain batter stats, I charted the value of each stat relative to the points you receive for a home run. Ultimately, the exact number of points you get is irrelevant; what matters is the relationship between stats, i.e. 10 points for a home run and five points for a double would be the same as 100 points for a home run and 50 points for a double.
I compared DraftKings MLB scoring to the average of a few other daily fantasy sites to help understand how DraftKings separates itself. In terms of batter scoring, things are pretty standard across the board.
Home runs are really important on DraftKings, though that’s the case everywhere. The main difference is that DraftKings doesn’t take away points for strikeouts or batter outs of any type—only for getting caught stealing—which has one major impact on your strategy; plate appearances are always a positive.
Since DraftKings isn’t an efficiency scoring site when it comes to MLB batters, you generally want as many at-bats as possible. No plate appearance can hurt your lineup—unless a batter gets on base via an error and then gets caught stealing, which is extremely rare.
In my book Fantasy Baseball for Smart People, I charted the percentage of 50/50 and GPP lineups that cashed based on the spot in the batting order in which the latest hitter was slotted.
There’s a clear relationship here, especially in 50/50s—more plate appearances are better. Those lineups that have used hitters primarily at the top of the order have performed the best. There’s a ton of natural value in maximizing plate appearances, and that’s especially true if you don’t lose points for strikeouts. All other things equal, you should try to exposure your lineup to as many plate appearances—and thus as many fantasy scoring opportunities—as possible.
If I had to sum up my DraftKings MLB hitter selection strategy in one sentence, it would be something like this: Maximize plate appearances, especially in cash games, while emphasizing either power or stolen base ability at all times.
Unlike batter scoring, DraftKings’ pitcher scoring isn’t a mirror image of the consensus. I charted pitcher stats in relation to the points awarded for a win.
You can see that DraftKings’ pitcher scoring is extreme; you get more points for positive events and, outside of a pitcher loss (which doesn’t lose points), you lose more points for negative events.
The main takeaway here is that you want to maximize two things with your pitchers on DraftKings: strikeouts and longevity in terms of innings pitched. Pitchers who can go the distance and rack up Ks get a huge boost on DraftKings. Actually, I rarely roster pitchers without high-strikeout upside. Earned runs are also important and something you obviously want to avoid, but you can do that simply by targeting pitchers who might throw a lot of innings and strike out a bunch of batters.
Consistency and Scarcity
When analyzing fantasy scoring, there are two really important factors to keep in mind: consistency and scarcity.
Consistency is important because the value of a stat is irrelevant if we can’t predict it with any sort of accuracy. Home runs could be worth 1,000 points, but if we had no idea who was going to hit them, it wouldn’t make sense to try to pay up for home runs.
Of course, stats aren’t random, and each has a certain level of predictability on a daily basis. For example, strikeouts are very predictable for pitchers—the second-most consistent stat behind ground ball rate. That’s one reason that strikeouts are so valuable on DraftKings; they not only give your lineup a high ceiling due to DraftKings scoring, but they also provide a high floor because they’re fairly consistent from game to game. The same pitchers continually strike out the most batters, and that predictability is important.
Compare that to pitcher wins, for example. You’ll get the most points from your pitcher if he wins his game—relative to any other stat in isolation, anyway—but pitcher wins can be difficult to predict. Sometimes a pitcher’s team will win but he won’t be in line to actually get the W, which could happen if he didn’t throw enough innings or if he doesn’t get any early run support. A single win provides more fantasy points than a strikeout, but the lack of consistency with pitchers wins devalues them. If you can predict pitcher wins with only 60 percent accuracy, for example, then they hold a lot less usable value than if you knew with greater confidence which pitchers would secure wins.
The second aspect of scoring that’s important is scarcity, or how much a particular stat deviates from player to player. If you examine each pitcher’s scoring for strikeouts and innings pitched, for example, you might conclude that innings are more important since they’re worth more. However, it’s important to remember that there’s more scarcity with strikeouts, particularly for the elite pitchers. Yes, a pitcher might have a blow-up game and get pulled by the third inning, but most of the time, pitchers usually throw around six innings or so.
The difference in expected innings pitched is usually lower than the difference in projected strikeouts. One pitcher might go seven innings and fan only three batters, for example, while another could go six innings and sit down 12 batters. The fact that strikeouts are scarcer than innings pitched ultimately makes them more valuable, especially when you’re looking for upside (although innings are still important for pitchers on DraftKings).
The overarching idea is that you should always be very concerned about a sport’s scoring system prior to entering a league. By knowing the ins and outs of fantasy scoring, you can field a lineup in the most optimal manner and acquire an immediate edge over the field.
Continue Reading MLB Training Camp
MLB Rookie – Lesson 01 – Welcome to Daily Fantasy Baseball
MLB Rookie – Lesson 02 – Stats to Start for Batters
MLB Rookie – Lesson 03 – Stats to Start for Pitchers
MLB Rookie – Lesson 04 – Scoring Tips and Tricks
NEXT LESSON – MLB Rookie – Lesson 05 – Using Player Cards to Build Lineups