Although we often separate daily fantasy leagues into a distinct dichotomy—GPPs versus cash games—I think there’s a much wider range of league types. It would be a mistake to approach each type of league we traditionally label as a ‘GPP’ in the same manner.
To help visualize the difference between different types of tournaments, let’s consider a 50/50. We label 50/50s as cash games because they’re safe leagues in which half of the field gets paid out. But what is a 50/50 really? It’s basically a large tournament with an extremely flat payout structure.
What separates a GPP from a cash game isn’t the size of the league, but the manner in which players are paid (the percentage of people paid, the payout curve, and so on). A 100-man GPP in which just a single person gets almost all of the prize money—a league like a qualifier, for example—is much more high-variance than a 10,000-man league in which 20 percent of the field gets paid and the top of the prize pool is relatively flat.
The important point here is to always consider the payout structure of the leagues you plan to enter; what percentage of users get paid and how are the prizes distributed? The fewer people who get paid or the more top-heavy the payouts, the more incentive there is to implement a high-variance strategy. On the flip side, the flatter the payouts or the larger the percentage of users who get money, the more incentive there is to avoid risk.
Detroit Tigers (vs Jimmy Nelson)
I think there are four teams that are the “chalkiest” tonight, i.e. they’re going to have higher ownership than everyone else: Toronto, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Colorado. They’re currently all projected around the same between 4.7 and 5.1 runs.
If I’m going with one of those offenses, I’d prefer to get one that at least as a chance to have moderate ownership, and I think Detroit is that offense. Philly and Colorado are obvious plays because of the location of the game. Despite last night’s 4-3 game, the teams combined for 20 hits and I expect most users to still have both offenses on their radar.
Toronto erupted yesterday and is in another great spot today against a lefty once again. The combination of Vegas and their splits versus left-handers means we’re pretty much guaranteed to see a lot of Blue Jays stacks, and I’d expect Josh Donaldson’s ownership in particular to be through the roof.
That leaves Detroit. While I by no means expect sub-5.0 percent ownership, I do think they’ll be lower than the other three offenses in their matchup with Jimmy Nelson.
Pittsburgh Pirates (vs Ricky Nolasco)
If you’re looking to be more contrarian, I think the Pirates are an option. Given the size of the slate and the favorable situations for some of the league’s most high-upside offenses, I do think ownership will be more spread out than normal. The Pirates are at home in one of the league’s most underrated parks, and I particularly like their lefty bats (and McCutchen) versus Nolasco.
Another option here is Oakland. They too are in a favorable park in Houston—a stadium much better than their own—and have a group of lefties who crush right-handed pitching. They’re also one of the best value offenses available, in my opinion, given they have decent upside at a cost that will allow you to roster two top pitchers if you’d like.
1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (vs James Shields – $4600
Rizzo clearly isn’t the best value at first base. If you want chalk, David Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera are far superior in terms of value. But guess which player at the position has the highest wOBA and ISO splits today? Yup, it’s Rizzo, who mashes righties.
The matchup and the park suck, but obviously we need to give up something in order to get reduced ownership. I’m confident the crowd is going to be off of Rizzo in this matchup, but I do think he has more upside than what his usage level will suggest.
Another thing to keep in mind is how often a particular player or position will be “forced” into a stack. I don’t think Edwin Encarnacion is a particularly good value today, for example, but his usage will still be pretty high, I’d guess, because of the number of Toronto stacks out there.
Further, almost every stack is going to have a first baseman in it. When you want to go contrarian, think about a high-upside player at a spot like first base or outfield that you know is generally represented in stacks.
3B/SS Marcus Semien, Oakland (vs Roberto Hernandez) – $4300
Much of Semien’s value is tied to his spot in the order, but he’s definitely in play if he’s hitting second. Like I said, I like Oakland a lot and will have Semien in those stacks. I think he’s scarce in terms of upside if you play him at shortstop. Over the past month, he’s hit twice his expected production (based on his cost) in 26 percent of games, which is the highest mark for any shortstop priced near his range.
OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami (vs Jeremy Hellickson) – $5200
As far as expensive outfielders go, I’d expect Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, and Bryce Harper to all be a lot more heavily owned than Stanton. All three have superior splits, but Stanton is pretty much always in play. If we’re predicting Stanton’s ownership to be, say, 10 percent versus Trout at maybe 25 percent, I think it’s obvious Stanton is the superior GPP play, even though he’s a worse value.
P Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh (vs Minnesota) – $9300
I’m not generally one to purposely go against the grain on pitchers. That’s because of their night-to-night consistency, as well as the manner in which I select bats. Liriano will be popular, but he’s also in a great spot tonight. Minnesota is projected at only 3.3 runs and they whiff quite a bit. Liriano’s running 12-month K/9 is 10.2—the highest of any pitcher throwing tonight. With Pittsburgh currently at (-180) to win and still getting 72 percent of public betting money, I think this is a no-brainer chalk play that I won’t be fading.