Jonathan Bales is the author of Fantasy Baseball for Smart People—a guide designed to help you profit on DraftKings.
A huge part of winning on DraftKings is about identifying value. Today’s daily fantasy MLB tip will take a look at a different way to identify that value. You’re looking for situations in which a player’s expected production exceeds his cost. To maximize your points, you need to find as much value as possible, and there are all sorts of ways to do that.
But value isn’t all that matters. Sometimes, your goal actually isn’t to score as many points as possible. I think that’s a foreign concept to a lot of players. You need a lot of points to win a GPP, so shouldn’t you be trying to put as many points on the board as possible? Certainly more points are better in a vacuum, but the goal when creating a lineup for any league type isn’t to score X points, but rather to win the league, right? Those two goals aren’t necessarily compatible in every instance.
You could make an argument that cash games—head-to-head and 50/50 leagues—are about point-maximization. I’m not entirely sure that’s true—particularly in 50/50s in which you want continually above-average scores—but you could potentially argue that trying to maximize points through player value is the best strategy in those types of leagues.
In tournaments, however, point-maximization does not always mean win-probability-maximization. For example, when the Rockies are playing at home, they and their opponent are typically the two highest-projected teams in Vegas. Offenses playing at Coors Field score a lot of runs, and thus a lot of fantasy points.
But guess what? Everyone knows that, and ownership rates for the players in games at Coors Field are often very high (dependent on pricing, of course). Thus, if you try to score as many points as possible by rostering players in that game, you’re going to force yourself to compete with a huge number of players who did the exact same thing, thus often making it more challenging to win. Your goal should really be to figure out “How can I give myself the best chance of winning a GPP without being forced to score a ridiculous number of points?”
The easiest way to do that is to be contrarian, figuring out where the crowd is going to go and then getting away from that. You want to compete with as few people as possible. If you hit on your lineup, you want to be one of the only ones who benefits. The opposite happens when you are all over high-ownership players; even though they often offer value, that value is overridden by the fact that you need to score far more points to win than if you go against the grain.
Of course, an essential aspect of being contrarian is accurately predicting player ownership. If you have no idea who the public likes, then you might as well just roster the players who offer the most value. If you can accurately project ownership, however, that’s a huge positive in trying to maximize your tournament win probability.
Predicting Ownership Based on Streaky Play
There are lots of ways to predict ownership—the Vegas odds, line movement, salary quirks, and so on. One thing we know is that the crowd loves to jump on players who they perceive as “hot”—guys who are playing well of late—so maybe we can use streaky play as a predictor of tournament usage.
Here’s a look at how DraftKings ownership has historically been affected by streaky play.
When a player is coming off of a game with below-average fantasy production, the average ownership is just 3.0 percent. After just one game of above-average play, that rate jumps above 4.0 percent, and it continues to rise as the player continues to perform above expectation.
Considering there’s a lot of evidence that streaky play either doesn’t exist or isn’t predictive, it makes sense to get away from “hot” players simply because their price often rises. If there’s no merit to the streaky play argument, then we shouldn’t pay more money than usual for players in the midst of a hot streak.
When you consider that tournament ownership also jumps on these players, it’s just more reason to consider fading “hot” players who we know the crowd will be on.