I’m a big believer in taking care of “the little things.” I don’t believe there’s one hidden strategy that all of the best daily fantasy players are employing; rather, they simply accumulate a whole bunch of small advantages that add up to become one large edge over the field.
I think it’s natural to want to focus on big-picture stuff. And of course questions as simple as “Is there a game at Coors Field tonight?” are of massive importance. The reason I focus on the minute details, however, is because daily fantasy baseball exists as a marketplace, and I think it’s at the tails that we find the biggest edges. The big stuff is more or less accounted for in two ways: site pricing and tournament ownership.
In effect, I’m not trying to find the most important predictors of success in isolation, but rather the most important predictors of success that create the biggest edge over the field—the most important stuff no others (or few others) are considering.
That’s why I care about things like wind direction, humidity, umpires, Vegas line movements, and so on. First of all, those items aren’t fully priced into site salaries. Second, many of them are flexible, so salaries can’t possibly adjust to compensate. When there’s an unexpected change in the batting order, for example, there’s a lot of value to be had.
Another example of this is rostering players in late games, especially if their lineup cards weren’t released prior to lineup lock. That’s not advantageous in a vacuum, but it can create a large advantage over the field. No one else knows the batting order, so you’re on an even playing field in that regard, but tournament ownership tends to drop because of that uncertainty. Thus, you’re manufacturing an advantage basically for nothing—or for taking on perceived risk that isn’t really risk at all.
It’s not like you should ignore the big stuff, but it’s also not like daily fantasy baseball is completely inefficient to the point that we can just be printing money with no work. Focus on the extremes—the little things—to find hidden value and maximize profit.
Pittsburgh Pirates (vs Kevin Correia)
I’ve recommended the Pirates for three straight days now, but today is the day! Vegas loves Pittsburgh, projecting them at 4.9 implied runs, and there are a ton of positive trends on their side. The weather conditions are ripe for home runs and PNC Park has actually been a top five park on DraftKings in terms of generating value after adjusting for salaries. I like a lot of the Pittsburgh players individually as values, which is always a good sign.
Note that there’s a pretty decent chance of thunderstorms in this game, so it’s something you need to monitor. I’m not worried right now, but I will be if it gets any worse. If there’s rain and perhaps a delay, that’s fine and maybe even advantageous. Offenses actually score more fantasy points when it rains, so it’s just a matter of risk tolerance. The storms could drive down ownership, though.
NY Yankees (vs Ubaldo Jimenez)
I’ve talked before about how I think the Yankees’ ownership is almost never as high as it should be. They can steal bags and hit for power, and tonight they face a right-handed pitcher in a great park. Jimenez is good enough that it isn’t an auto-stack situation, with Vegas projecting the Yanks at 4.1 runs right now.
I don’t like that you need to choose between Chase Headley and Alex Rodrgiuez on DraftKings. Headley has the handedness of advantage, but I like Rodriguez more. It’s worth noting that it appears wind will be blowing out to left field, which is a negative for most of the Yankees’ bats but a plus for A-Rod.
OF Joey Butler, Tampa Bay (vs John Danks) – $3800
Butler is a monster versus lefties with a .437 wOBA and .256 ISO. It’s tough to replicate those numbers at his price tag. Butler has hit twice his salary-based expected production in 25 percent of games this year, which is one of the higher rates in the league. He was a more obvious value when he cost $2000, but the $1800 price jump won’t deter me.
OF Steven Souza, Tampa Bay (vs John Danks) – $4100
I think I might be talking myself into the Rays. I love playing Souza against southpaws because he has a ton of power, yet he’s rarely highly owned. The main downside in this game is of course the park in Tampa Bay, but this is about as good of a situation as the Rays will find themselves in. Souza has been pretty high-variance this year, doubling his expectation in 18 percent of games but reaching only half of it 44 percent of the time. Both numbers are above the league average.
2B Brian Dozier, Minnesota (vs Wandy Rodriguez) – $5300
Dozier is perhaps a bit overpriced at $700 more than anyone else at his position. I’m willing to overpay for him against a lefty in a hitter-friendly situation in Arlington. It’s going to be 90 degrees at first pitch and, although the wind will be blowing in, there have actually been more runs scored in Rangers home games with the wind blowing in than out. Weird. Dozier has a 12-month running wOBA of .377 and ISO of .232 against lefties.
P Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco (vs Arizona) – $10200
Like most people, I have Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez ranked as the top two pitchers tonight. Just behind them I have Bumgarner. He’s throwing in San Francisco and Kershaw is the only pitcher Vegas has projected better in terms of the opposing team’s runs. I think this is a situation to basically replicate Felix’s production at a cheaper price and lower ownership.