I’ve finished 2nd and 3rd in the Perfect Game so far this season, both times losing my lead in heartbreaking fashion. No one cares, I know.

My strategy in these higher buy-in events is generally different than that in the leagues with lower stakes. If you’re investing $300 into a one-night fantasy baseball contest, you probably have at least some clue what you’re doing. That’s not to say the market is totally efficient, because it isn’t, but I think we can agree that the lineups in those leagues are probably sharper, on average, than the typical $3 lineup.

However, as I’ve said in the past, greater accuracy doesn’t always equate to more profitability. Certainly it’s an advantage to be able to accurately project players and identify value, but so much of GPP success is about understanding public opinion and harnessing it to gain an edge. Well, the “public” in a $300 league is different than that in lower buy-in contests. That’s important information.

What that means—and this is something that I’m studying and trying to quantify but is based completely on anecdotal evidence—is that obvious values are in more lineups in higher buy-in contests. As an example (and test), check out Corey Kluber’s usage tonight in the Moon Shot versus the MEGA Perfect Game. I think Kluber is underpriced at $9800, and I’m guessing his ownership will be higher in the Perfect Game. I’m not saying that it’s right to fade him in the $300 contest, I’m just making a hypothesis about usage.

If you’re going to have success in tournaments, you need to do one of two things: make accurate predictions to find value or try to figure out where the crowd might be wrong and benefit when that’s the case. I think the path you choose really does depend on your competition, which is a reflection of the leagues you enter.

In the $3 leagues, I feel confident that I can gain an edge by just being smarter than the rest of the field as a whole in terms of picking players in good spots. I’m way, way more likely to play the chalk in those leagues, jumping on the obvious values and playing the highest-projected offense for the day. I think that can be a profitable strategy.

Against stiffer competition, I still think there’s a potential edge to be had. But it comes not in trying to outduel everyone else in terms of spotting value; I think there are lots of better players with more accurate models who will beat me if I try to take them on at their own game. Rather, I’m just trying to figure out where the crowd might go in those leagues, get away from that, and hope they’re wrong (or not even that they’re wrong, per se, but just that it doesn’t work out for them). I’m basically saying, “You guys are better than me at finding value, so I’m just going to put myself in a spot to be the beneficiary when things don’t go as you expect.”

I also think that can be a profitable strategy. The moral of this intro: know your competition.


The Teams

Los Angeles Angels

I think this is the stack that’s going to have the highest ownership tonight. You have the top-projected offense in Vegas facing a very weak pitcher in a hitter’s park. The only downside is there are some issues with handedness—the Angels are predominantly right-handed facing a right-handed pitcher—but most of their bats have pretty equal handedness splits, and that right-handed pitcher kind of sucks, so I’m not too worried.


Houston Astros

Like I said, don’t ever listen to anything I say about this team.


Colorado Rockies (Mini-Stack)

Okay, this is probably going to be the dumbest piece of advice I give all year, but I’m not totally against playing a few bats on the Rockies versus Kershaw tonight. This is obviously a totally contrarian move—playing the Rockies away from Coors against the best pitcher in the league—but they have a few batters (namely Tulo and Arenado) who crush southpaws.

Typically, being contrarian isn’t about playing really stupid players—just forgoing a little bit of value in exchange for vastly reduced usage. There are lots of quality situations you can put yourself into that still provide value and reduced ownership. The main argument against this approach is that the Rockies are just not in a good spot at all and there are better areas to go against the grain.

I hear you. But I also think the matchup is mostly priced into these guys’ salaries (Tulo is $4,100 and the seventh-most-expensive shortstop and Arenado is just $3,800 and the 20th-most-expensive third baseman!). I agree you don’t need to be dumb to be contrarian…I just don’t think rostering Tulo and Arenado is that dumb tonight (despite the first sentence of this explanation).


The Players

1B Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers (vs Colorado) – $4900

I’m hoping Gonzalez’s usage will be down a bit because he’s the most expensive player at his position. Gonzo is one of the top bats tonight facing a weak right-hander. He’s one of the best splits players in the league, so I think he’s generally a bit underpriced versus righties. Vegas has the Dodgers as a team projected pretty well, too.


3B Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee (vs Pittsburgh) – $3600

Ramirez is such an obvious value to me, but I’m still going to roster him all over the place. Over the past 12 months, the third baseman has a .440 wOBA and .299 ISO versus southpaws. He’s struggling badly this season, but I love Ramirez’s chances of going deep tonight. He’s also one of the most extreme splits players in baseball facing the handedness of pitcher against whom he excels, and you’re getting a discount, it appears, due to his recent play.


OF Ryan Braun, Milwaukee (vs Pittsburgh) – $4200

See Ramirez, Aramis. Braun is basically his twin versus lefties. Vegas doesn’t like Milwaukee that much, which worries me, but I think they have about as much home run upside as any team playing tonight.


Drew Hutchison, Toronto (vs Atlanta) – $7200

If you’re going to go big on bats, I like Hutchison a lot as a potential high-K arm. He has a really attractive K/9 and you probably won’t find much more strikeout potential per dollar tonight.