I started reading a new book called The Philosophical Investor by Gary Carmell. It’s okay so far—a little bit boring, but honestly I’ve only read like 30 pages.
In the intro, though, Carmell has a passage that I really enjoyed and wanted to share:
“I have found that a philosophical framework is critical in helping me take a step back away from the cacophony of conventional wisdom and all of the corresponding “thou shalts” and to merge onto the proverbial road less traveled.”
This quote really resonated with me since I more or less take a philosophical approach to daily fantasy sports, which is a form of investing. I do this for a variety of reasons, one of which is because I think it is a path to tournament success—which is the primarily league type I enjoy playing and where I find the most success.
On a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, daily fantasy players are concerned with finding value for specific players in very particular situations. And for good reason; on a daily basis, Curtis Granderson’s splits versus righties matter more than how much better a six-man stack is than a five-man stack, for example.
But in taking a more overarching philosophical approach to DFS, I think we can benefit in three ways. The first, as Carmell alluded to, is that it allows for a naturally contrarian strategy. Pretty much everyone looks at wOBA and K/9 and basic MLB stats when creating lineups, but not everyone ponders exactly how multi-position eligibility might affect tournament ownership. By acting in a naturally different way, you come to naturally different conclusions—a positive in tournaments in many situations.
The second way it helps is because a philosophical approach to DFS is evergreen; the accumulation of knowledge that can be applied day in and day out is really, really valuable. Ultimately, philosophy allows you to build a foundation from which you can make better decisions in specific situations, calling upon previous knowledge.
Finally, while daily fantasy sports play is ultimately a science, I think science is ultimately directionless without philosophy. We need philosophy for science to know which questions to answer. In that way, the DFS philosopher is forced to question everything he thinks he knows and really figure out the true path to daily fantasy success. It’s not about just buying into public opinion or conventional wisdom, but really questioning everything you think you know. That benefit of philosophy in daily fantasy sports—the willingness to question, test, and adapt—is really the major edge I see in taking a philosophical approach to the game.
Okay, so now that you haven’t read a single word of this intro, let’s get to the plays.
Houston Astros (vs Roenis Elias)
This is going to sound stupid, but I think one of the most overlooked aspects of stacking is pricing. There seems to be so much emphasis on which teams will score the most points, and not as much on which ones will do it at the cheapest price. Part of that is justified because we obviously want big upside in tournaments, but there are lots of times you can secure both upside and a good deal, and I think the Astros represent one of those.
With their ability to go deep, Houston has obvious upside. But outside of Altuve and Correa, they’re also cheap as hell. Not a single other batter in yesterday’s lineup cost more than $3,700. When your top pitchers are aces—as is the case today, at least in my model—it’s advantageous to identify a cheap stack with a big ceiling. Houston is that for me tonight against the left-handed Elias.
Washington Nationals (vs Marco Gonzales)
The other primary contrarian stack that interests me is Washington. They’re projected at only 3.7 implied runs by Vegas, but they opened at 3.2 and have since moved a half-run, which has historically led to a lot of player value on DraftKings. Even movement of 0.3 runs is positively correlated with player value.
I think the Nats match up well with Gonzales, and although the park isn’t ideal, it isn’t like Washington is seeing a major negative park shift. It’s also going to be in the high-80s, which means the ball should carry more than normal in St. Louis.
And again, with Bryce Harper the only expensive bat on this offense, you’re getting big bang for your buck.
1B Adam LaRoche, Chicago White Sox (vs Tyler Duffey) – $2800
LaRoche costs $2800. Good. He plays the same position as a stud on his offense, and this is perpetually underutilized. Also good. He also plays a position at which there’s going to be heavy ownership on a handful of guys tonight: Goldschmidt, Paulsen, Encarnacion, Rizzo, and Abreu all the best bets. Another positive.
The only thing that sucks about LaRoche is that, you know, he sucks, but let’s not let minor details get in the way right now.
2B/OF Steve Pearce, Baltimore (vs Drew Smyly) – $2800
Pearce has doubled his salary-based DraftKings expected point total in 21 percent of games this season, which is one of the top marks in the league for a second baseman. He also has a .368 wOBA and ridiculous .250 ISO versus lefties, which are very high numbers for a player who costs $2800 and should be hitting early in the order.
OF Jose Bautista, Toronto (vs Cody Anderson) – $5300
Bautista is going to be widely used in Toronto stacks, of course, but I’m not sure how popular he’ll be outside of those. First of all, he faces a pitcher of the same handedness, which always has an effect on ownership, even when it shouldn’t. Bautista actually has higher wOBA and ISO marks against righties over the past 12 months.
Also, if you look at who is going to be popular in the night’s most heavily stacked game in Coors, it’s a lot of outfielders: Inciarte, Pollock, Blackmon, Gonzalez, and Paulsen. Because of that, I’m pretty much just going to be playing my top values (outside of that game) in the outfield spots, and I love Bautista, especially since I believe his ownership in this instance will be lower than maybe what others are thinking.
P Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco (vs LA Dodgers) – $12400
There’s a really interesting choice tonight between Bumgarner and Greinke in the SF-LAD game. I have the two rated basically the same, but I prefer Bumgarner in GPPs and Greinke in cash. Bumgarner has been on fire of late with at least 32 DraftKings points in four of his last five outings, and recent performance is something I’ve been weighting more and more for pitchers lately. Although Greinke has failed to reach half of his DraftKings expectation just four percent of the time this season, Bumgarner has reached twice his expectation about 50 percent more often than Greinke, i.e. Greinke is safer, Bumgarner has more upside.
Now, I will say that I think the best choice for you depends on your lineup. Sometimes you don’t need upside out of every position, especially your pitchers. If you feel like you’re taking on a lot of risk outside of your pitcher spots, Greinke is probably the better choice for you, but I do believe Bumgarner has a much higher probability of reaching, say, 40 points in this game.