One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “How many lineups should I play?” I don’t think there’s really a correct answer to that question—it depends on a huge number of factors—but I do think the answer isn’t as important as what people might think. While the number of lineups you play can have an impact on your bankroll, for sure, it doesn’t necessarily matter that much.
To give you an idea of what I mean, let’s look at two hypothetical players: Davey the Diversifier and Ronnie the Risk-Seeker. Davey and Ronnie both play two lineups in a given night. Davey likes to make sure he uses a large number of players to maximize his chances of cashing, so there are 20 separate players in his two lineups. Ronnie doesn’t care for diversifying—he just wants to come as close to an “optimal” lineup as he can—so he plays two lineups with just a single player different for a total of only 11 players used.
Both players are using two lineups, yet one is taking on much more risk than the other (that’s without considering how much money they’re placing on each lineup and what percentage of their bankrolls that represents). The point is that the lineup count isn’t as important as the total player exposure: how many players are you using and how much of your money is on each of them?
Now, I’m not saying one method is better than the other; Davey will likely cash a lineup more nights than Ronnie, but Ronnie’s ROI should be higher if he’s picking players correctly since he’s not widening his player pool as much. Davey’s reduced ROI could be made up for by the fact that he can play more volume more comfortably since he’s more diversified, but that’s a topic for another day.
My advice for new players is to play as many lineups as you can without compromising the integrity of your bankroll. If you have $10 in play in a given night, play 10 different $1 lineups as opposed to two $5 lineups. You don’t need to play any additional players if you don’t want—you can still use the same number of players as you would in only two or three lineups and just mix and match to create more combinations—but taking more shots will maximize your chances of hitting. It limits your day-to-day variance a bit so you can ensure you’ll stay in the game.
The overarching idea here is to stop asking “How many lineups should I play?” and instead consider how many players you want to use and how much exposure you’d ideally like to each player (or team), then structure as many lineups as necessary to match that (without exceeding your max bankroll allowance).
Cincinnati Reds (vs Eric Stults)
It’s going to be very tempting to jump on the chalk tonight, particularly the Tigers, who are projected well by Vegas. My problem, as always, is two-fold; they cost a lot and they’re going to be in a lot of lineups.
Fading the chalk is high-variance—when they hit, you tend to lose—but it also makes winning (not just cashing) easier. I don’t think the Reds are going to be super low-owned, but I still like them as they’re projected favorably at home versus Atlanta and have a lot of righty bats to take advantage of Stults.
Milwaukee Brewers (vs Jose Quintana)
I pretty much won’t ever stack Milwaukee against a righty because they’re not only a righty-dominant lineup, but they also have a few extreme splits players who just can’t hit right-handed pitching. Against lefties, however, those same players tend to be underpriced. The only downside here is that much of Miller Park’s hitter-friendliness will probably be negated by the fact that, because of cold temperatures, the roof is going to be closed.
Los Angeles Dodgers (vs Jarred Cosart)
The Dodgers continue to be underpriced and under-owned on DraftKings. With a group of lefties who crush right-handed pitching, I think they’re very much in play again tonight. I expect ownership to be higher than it was last night, but still under 10 percent on most players.
2B/3B Luis Valbuena, Houston (vs Tim Hudson) – $3400
After a two-strikeout performance on Tuesday, Valbuena’s salary has dropped $500 in a day. That has historically led to value for batters. Recent performance is also a big component of player ownership, so I think this is the perfect storm for Valbuena. Vegas likes the Astros a lot and Valbuena mashes righties to the tune of a running 12-month wOBA of .362 and ISO of .233. Big upside at a little price.
OF A.J. Pollock, Washington (vs Gio Gonzalez) – $3900
I swear I had the Diamondbacks listed as a potential GPP stack yesterday versus Strasburg and then deleted it in favor of the A’s. Both worked out, but this is my shot at revenge. Arizona has two players in Pollock and Goldschmidt who absolutely mash southpaws. Pollock’s splits include an insane .488 wOBA versus lefties over the past 12 months. Given that he’s facing a quality pitcher, I think you’re going to get really low usage on Pollock (and perhaps even somewhat low usage on Goldschmidt) when the two are really in pretty good spots.
OF Starling Marte, Pittsburgh (vs Cole Hamels) – $4400
The philosophy behind Marte is very similar to Pollock: a high-upside batter at a reduced price versus a top pitcher. Marte is going to be unpopular given this matchup, but he’s down $600 since yesterday—so at least part of the matchup is priced in—and he crushes left-handed pitching with a running 12-month wOBA of .433. This is a high-variance selection, to be sure, but one I really like given how unpopular of a choice I expect Marte to be.
P Carlos Frias, Los Angeles Dodgers (vs Miami Marlins) – $5100
There are some concerns with Frias, as you’d expect given his price, but the cost of $5100 is well below what I think it should be for a player with a career K/9 of 8.2 facing an offense that strikes out in over 25% of their at-bats. There’s risk here, but it’s probably not as much as you’d think given the K upside and the fact that Vegas has Miami projected at only 3.3 runs—the second-lowest mark on the day. The Dodgers are currently (-156) to win.