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.
In daily fantasy sports, ‘stacking’ is the act of rostering players from the same team together in your lineup. If you start a quarterback with his wide receiver and tight end, for example, that’s stacking in the NFL.
Stacking is an extremely popular strategy in baseball, primarily because the play of teammates is so connected. If you start the 1-2-3-4 hitters on a single MLB team, for example, it can provide you with a few different benefits that can increase upside. First of all, they can get you “double points,” so to speak; if the top two hitters get on base and the No. 3 hitter goes deep, you get points for the hits, runs, RBIs, and so on. There’s a synergistic effect. Second, teammates get to hit off of the same pitcher. If he’s struggling, they’ll all benefit.
There’s a lot of strategy that goes into stacking—knowing which offenses to stack, which teammates to use, how to manage the batting order, and so on. Here’s a look into my general stacking strategy.
Stacking in Tournaments
Stacking is most common in DraftKings’ GPPs. There’s an obvious reason for that: stacking generally increases upside. Here’s a look at the number of MLB players in a stack versus the probability of scoring 150-plus points.
Historically, six-man stacks have been best, giving you just under a 1-in-20 chance of scoring 150 points. Compare that to no stack at all, which is around a 1-in-40 shot of scoring 150 points.
One thing I want to mention here is that I think the value of three and four-man stacks is probably greater than what’s shown here, assuming you use them correctly. The reason is that there are different types of four-man stacks. One four-man stack might have four value plays around it—players from four separate teams—while another could be paired with an additional three-man stack and one value play. I think the latter option is better and not totally factored into this data; two lineups that have two mini-stacks in them can be as dangerous as a full six-man stack—perhaps more so.
The other reason that a couple mini-stacks can be beneficial is because you can roster more high-value players. You can pick and choose which options on an offense are best, considering lefty/righty splits and other factors that you’d consider if selecting purely for value. There are times when rostering as many players on a team as possible is smart, but I generally prefer mini-stacks that best allow for increasing upside along with identifying individual value.
Either way, the evidence suggests that using teammates together can increase your upside, which is obviously beneficial in tournaments. It’s not the only factor to consider, but it’s certainly a large piece of the puzzle.
Stacking in Cash Games
Stacking teammates isn’t as common in daily fantasy baseball cash games, but perhaps we should revisit that strategy. Here’s a look at the chances of scoring 90-plus points based on the number of teammates paired together.
While full-blown six-man stacks might be risky, mini-stacks of three and four players seem to be pretty safe. It’s very possible that the upside of stacking outweighs the risks such that, although you might have a slightly higher chance of tanking if you stack, it’s still worth it in cash games because there are lots of benefits. You can see that non-stacks score 90 or more points around 55 percent of the time, compared to over 60 percent of the time for mini three-man stacks.
I think the best cash-game strategy might be to simply play the best values, regardless of which team they’re on, with a slight emphasis on stacking when it presents itself. If that means you have four players from the same offense, then so be it. Either way, it looks as though pairing at least a couple hitters from the same team is a smart move, even in cash games.
Stacking and Game Theory
Stacking creates a lot of unique dynamics when it comes to creating a lineup on DraftKings. Although we always want as much value as possible, all else equal, stacking can override that a bit such that value isn’t as important. In a sport that’s volatile like baseball, I’d argue value isn’t as important as in other sports, anyway.
However, when users stack, particularly in tournaments, they create a lot of lineup overlap. When the Rockies are playing at Coors Field, for example, their offense and their opponent’s offense are inevitably very popular on DraftKings.
When that happens, elements of game theory come into play. We need to be concerned not only with value, but also with player ownership; the higher the usage of a player or team, the more it makes sense to move away from them. The benefits of hitting on a player/stack depend on how many other users rostered them; if it’s few, you’ll reap the biggest rewards.
Thus, tournament play can be just as much about assessing public perception and predicting your opponents’ moves as it is about finding value. There’s still plenty of strategy involved, but it changes how you should think about and approach tournaments.
Finding the Right Stack
When it comes to stacking in tournaments, there are basically two things we want: upside and moderate to low ownership. It’s not always smart to fade the Rockies at home, even if they’ll be highly owned, but if we can find a comparable offense that’s less popular, that’s ideal, at least for GPPs.
To increase upside, I like to use the Vegas lines. When Vegas has a team projected to score a lot of runs, that’s a good sign that the batters on that offense could be smart plays in a given day. Anything over 5.0 runs is a really high projection, and there are typically just a couple of teams projected that high each day.
I typically examine the Vegas lines to narrow my stacking search down to a handful of teams. Then, I analyze changing information that might alter who I select: things like weather, lineup cards, and so on.
Once I’ve narrowed down my search to a few potentially high-upside stacks, I begin to think about ownership. Which teams are going to be the most popular? Are the Rockies playing at home? I personally love to play offenses that don’t excel in traditional areas, like batting average, but can go deep and/or steal a lot of bags, which gives them upside. That helps me increase the ceiling of my lineup without running into a lot of lineup overlap in tournaments. In an ideal world, we want our stack to “hit” while the stacks for the majority of other lineups do not.
For cash games, lineup overlap and ownership isn’t as important. Your goal should be to score as many points as you can as consistently as possible, and there’s not as much incentive to going against the grain. When 50 percent of the field gets paid in heads-up leagues or 50/50s, the goal should really be to ensure a certain baseline of points, regardless of ownership.
Regardless of exactly how you approach stacking, there’s no doubt that it can be a highly effective tool in a daily fantasy baseball player’s arsenal.
Continue Reading MLB Training Camp
MLB Hall of Fame – Lesson 01 – Advanced Pitching Stats
MLB Hall of Fame – Lesson 02 – Advanced Batting Stats
MLB Hall of Fame – Lesson 03 – Stacking Strategy
NEXT LESSON – MLB Hall of Fame – Lesson 04 – Value of Stolen Bases