I talk a lot about the importance of understanding public opinion in tournaments. There’s a balance between value and utilizing players with low ownership that will help you create a unique lineup. Value is ideal in a vacuum, but not when it’s very easy to spot and results in dramatically increased player utilization. I’d argue that no player is worthy of even 40 percent ownership in daily fantasy baseball tournaments. Put another way, if you knew a particular player you like is going to be in 2-in-5 GPP lineups, wouldn’t it make sense to fade him, even though he clearly offers value? Even if you don’t buy into that exact percentage, there’s certainly a point at which ownership levels trump value.
So ownership is very, very important to tournament success, but one thing that isn’t discussed quite as much is our ability to accurate predict ownership. See, worrying about creating a unique lineup might matter in theory, but that doesn’t mean we should actually care about ownership in reality; it all depends on our ability to predict it.
This is sort of like the Batter vs Pitcher stat debate. BvP might “exist” in some sense—that is, certain batters probably do really hit better against certain pitchers due to a variety of factors—but our ability to use past BvP data to predict future performance is weak. Similarly, we know ownership percentages are incredibly important, but the degree to which we care is directly linked to how accurately we can predict them.
First, I want to say that even if we can’t predict ownership to the exact percentile, I think we still have a general sense of which players will be in the most lineups. It was pretty obvious that Gerrit Cole was a value last night, for example, and was going to be in a lot of lineups. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was right to fade him, but just that we knew he’d be used more than, say, Ubaldo Jimenez.
There are some other keys I use to at least help me a little bit in understanding who will be popular in lineups. Recent performance is a big one; the crowd is generally most bullish on players who have performed well in the recent past. That’s another reason to jump on underachieving players; not only does their price often drop, but so does their ownership.
The time zone in which a game is being played also matters. Ownership is often reduced for West Coast teams. There are probably a few reasons why that’s the case, but one is assuredly that their lineups aren’t always available when contests lock at 7pm ET. I love to stack those teams, then use the late-swap feature to switch out any players if necessary once their lineup is released.
The Vegas lines and public betting percentages are also good proxies for ownership. If the public is very high on betting a particular team, chances are their GPP ownership will also be higher than normal.
We don’t need to perfectly predict ownership to have GPP success. Just having a general idea of which players will be popular and which ones won’t is enough to add value when selecting the perfect tournament lineup.
Baltimore Orioles (vs Mark Buehrle)
The Orioles won’t have low ownership, but they are in a really nice spot against Buehrle. The O’s are currently projected at 4.5 runs and their righty-dominant lineup should be able to take advantage of the southpaw. I also like that Baltimore is pretty inexpensive, with no batter priced above $4,500. With high temperatures and wind blowing out today in Baltimore, this stack has high home run upside in a hitter’s park.
Pittsburgh Pirates (vs Sean O’Sullivan)
I think you can make a case that almost all of Pittsburgh’s bats are overpriced. That’s not good in most situations, and I wouldn’t use many of these guys in cash games, but it should draw down their ownership outside of Pittsburgh stacks. The Pirates are currently getting 81 percent of public betting money, though I don’t think their ownership as a stack is going to be prohibitive in any meaningful way with so many other big-time offenses available. Home plate ump Lance Barrett is a hitter’s ump, too.
Oakland A’s (vs Justin Masterson)
Oakland isn’t the top team to stack if you’re trying to maximize points, but they almost never have high ownership. They’re projected well by Vegas at 4.3 runs and there are going to be strong winds blowing in the O.co Coliseum tonight. Plus, stacking Oakland allows you to fit pretty much any other players that you’d like into your lineup.
OF Josh Reddick, Oakland (vs Justin Masterson) – $3700
Reddick’s ownership is never high, although it will probably be increased by the fact that he’s clearly underpriced at $3700. Still, this is an opportunity to jump on a value whose ownership won’t be near what it should be. Over the past 12 months, Reddick has a running wOBA of .416 and ISO of .287 versus right-handed pitching. Ump Larry Vanover has historically been beneficial to batters on DraftKings as well.
2B/3B Luis Valbuena, Houston (vs Chris Heston) – $3900
I don’t like Houston as a whole quite as much as Vegas (4.5 runs) tonight, but I do really like Valbuena. While most of the Astros’ lineup has poor splits versus righties, Valbuena crushes them. His .233 ISO split is about as high as you’re going to get at his position and cost. With this game being played in Houston, I like Valbuena’s chances of going deep.
1B Lucas Duda, NY Mets (vs Jake Arrieta) – $3800
Duda isn’t going to be a popular choice against Arrieta, but I really like him for GPPs. He has a 12-month running ISO of .263 against righties and he’s in a very favorable hitting situation tonight at Wrigley. He’s certainly not worthy of use in cash games, but Duda is a differentiator for tournaments.
P Edinson Volquez, Kansas City (vs Texas Rangers) – $5600
There’s probably a decent chance that Volquez gets lit up, but I’m willing to take the chance at $5600. Vegas has the Rangers at 3.9 runs—a fine number given the cost—and they strike out a ton. Volquez has an average K/9, but his K upside in this game is above-average. Kansas City is getting 81% of public betting money, which has historically been a sign of value for pitchers, and home plate umpire Scott Barry has added 1.9 points to pitchers’ DraftKings scores during his career.