Cash Games Primer (Daily Baseball)
In guaranteed prize pool (GPP) contests, gamers chase ceiling in search of the big payouts for top finishers. Payouts are flat in cash games, and thus, the strategy is vastly different. In daily baseball cash games, it’s important to limit volatility. Baseball is an exceptionally volatile game, however, so that’s not always easy to do. While the expression is dated, the idea that even the best hitters fail two out of three times serves as a reminder of just how volatile hitting is. A batter can spray four liners around the diamond, but if they’re hit at the defenders, that hitter will end up with an 0-4 performance and zero fantasy points. Pitchers can have poor luck, too, but they’re much more projectable.
If stacks are the lifeblood of GPPs, think of pitchers as the lifeblood of successful cash games lineups. Sure, hitting on your pitchers in GPPs is important, too, but swerving away from obviously strong pitching options to be contrarian in cash games is not advised. Starting pitchers on teams heavily favored to win will almost always be chalky, and if their opponent has a low projected run total by oddsmakers, they’ll be among the top options on a given slate in cash games. Those are the arms you’ll want to target, even if it means sacrificing salary elsewhere.
A popular move in baseball cash games is punting a position, typically catcher but also shortstop, and other positions on occasion as well. Both catcher and shortstop are top-heavy positions, and it frequently makes sense to spin down from the big-ticket items in order to save money to spend on the top pitching selections. If a popular punt stands out at another position, it’s typically a product of them hitting high in the order unexpectedly.
Lineup position is a big deal in cash games. You can elevate your floor by grabbing hitters in the first four or five spots in the order. Selecting hitters down order can result in fewer plate appearances and scoring opportunities. While chasing a down-order tater makes sense in GPPs, it adds unnecessary risk to a cash games team. Since the prize amount is the same for first and the last cashing spot in cash games, the idea is to minimize risk by prioritizing players with high scoring floors. I also would suggest avoiding platoon players in cash games more often than not since they’re at risk of losing an at-bat (or at-bats) to their platoon partner later in the game.
In cash games, I often put more value on a high OBP than a high ISO, especially if the OBP is aided by a big walk rate. Walks aren’t subject to the same luck factors that batted balls are. Placing an emphasis on OBP helps smooth out volatility a bit.
Player ownership is another important consideration when making lineup selections. If the majority of the field is locked in on a player, fading them can put you behind the eight ball if the popular player delivers the goods. That’s not to say you should always eat the chalk, but usually the risk of fading exceptionally popular picks isn’t worth the reward.
Using oddsmakers and park factors in your favor is a good move. If a team has a high over/under total, they typically make for a good target for hitters for your cash games team. Furthermore, there isn’t much benefit to using hitters in poor hitting environments (there are always exceptions, and if those hitters are facing a terrible pitcher, that’s an obvious exception). A home run hitter in a homer-friendly park has better odds of reaching the seats than another slugger in a park that suppresses homers, and all things considered equal, the hitter in the homer-friendly park makes for a better play.
Spinning back to stacks, which I mentioned as the lifeblood of GPPs, they’re not optimal in cash games. That’s not to say gamers shouldn’t use more than one player from a team, but deploying a full stack enhances risk. If a full stack runs into a pitcher who’s clicking on a given day, your cash games roster won’t make money. If instead you only own a couple players who ran into said pitcher, it’s still possible for your other players to pick up the slack. You’re not trying to shoot for the moon in cash games, so don’t take unnecessary risks.While
While ceiling is what it’s all about in GPPs, floor is the important thing in cash games.