Chances are, you’ve already dove into DFS baseball and I’d even wager that you quickly discovered a sizeable talent gap in those who play often compared to newcomers. Although you may tell your friends differently, it often takes a while to get your feet under you an eventually make that jump to the next level. Today, I’ll offer what I consider to be the largest advantage among top DFS players. Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about multi-lineup entries. I don’t mean, however, mass-entering 150 lineups, although that can work too. Rather, I’m just talking about doing it wisely.
Any bum can enter 150 different lineups, but that alone isn’t going to set you apart from the pack. In fact, I’d say if you tried to enter 150 lineups tomorrow, it would not go well. There are common pitfalls that I’ll warn against today and specific builds that more often than not are the ones that get the manager the big payday. If you execute these strategies correctly, you’ll have a chance of soaring from a losing DFS player into the top five percentile overnight.
Useful DFS terms
- Team Stack – 3 or 4 players from the same lineup. Often times, you are targeting gas can pitchers, profitable ballparks and players batting close together near the top of the order
- Gas Can Pitchers – Quite simply, starting pitchers who are vulnerable to getting blown up to any opposing offense
- Profitable Ballparks – Coors Field is the obvious example, but BAL, CIN, NYY, PHI and ATL fit the description as well. This can also be CHC or other parks with the wind howling out
You can’t win unless you are stacking teams. Well, you can but it’s very rare as you may have noticed. More often than not, winners employ two stacks and sometimes two stacks from the same game (for example: using both the Red Sox and Orioles in Baltimore). Choosing the correct teams and especially the correct players within the teams can be tricky.
First, let’s start with the teams. You will find some analysts who swear by stacking the top three or four lineups every night, as determined by implied Vegas lines (if the over/under is 9.0 and the line is -110 for both teams, then both teams are implied for 4.5 runs scored). Typically, in a larger baseball slate, there are three or four teams above or very near 5.00 runs implied. The theory goes that if you get 30 to 40 unique lineups from each of those teams, you’ve got a solid chance of securing one of the top lineups of the evening.
My research, however, shows that that the top four implied team totals only end up being the top single scorer of a 12+ game slate 41% of the time. Essentially, these four teams will amount to well over 41% of the overall ownership which means that there is often value to be had in fading them. I prefer to do just that and would recommend you lean that direction as well. Yes, there 20+ other teams that you’ll need exposure to and tens of thousands of potential combinations but very few will ever combine the 14th highest-implied stack (let’s say the Diamondbacks) and the 6th-highest (let’s say the Brewers). If you have a lineup featuring those two stacks and both teams go off for a dozen or more runs, you’ve just multiplied your bankroll tenfold.
Useful DFS terms
- Double-Dong – Hitting two home runs in a game
- Splits King – A hitter who specializes against specific splits; most commonly versus lefties or righties (example: Joc Pederson destroys righties but is awful versus lefties)
- Undervalue – In order for you to cash, each player needs an average of 3 fantasy points for every $1,000 they cost. If they don’t reach that mark, they perform undervalue
The winning lineups don’t often feature two four-team stacks. Now, it can happen, but more often than not, there are one or two random sluggers mixed in with two team stacks of three players. These random throw-ins are almost always big boppers who knock two home runs. Yes, there is an 80% chance Hunter Renfroe performs undervalue, but if you catch him on a two-homer night at 1% ownership then you’ve got yourself a real opportunity at making some money.
More often than not, you’ll find a few of these double-dong threats creeping up above 20% ownership even though they aren’t in popular team stacks. This happens commonly when we are talking about splits kings like Mitch Moreland who obliterates righties or Jordan Luplow who mashed 14 homers against lefties in just 128 at-bats. These players can be useful, of course, but what sets you apart from the rest of the pack is finding that under-owned stud.
I love to target a righty hitter going up against a righty pitcher who might only throw five innings. We will still get two at-bats versus a team’s bullpen and plus, not all righties get destroyed by righty pitchers. Some, like Josh Donaldson, are nowhere near as good against them as they are versus lefties, but will still hit two homers in a game versus righties a few times per season. These are the perfect players to target as everyone will see the splits and assume it’s a waste of money to spend up on Donaldson. Here I am, though, licking my chops at being all alone on his exposure.
Targeting Upside Pitchers
Useful DFS terms
- Overweight – When you have higher ownership on a player compared to his overall ownership
- Ump Factors – Believe it or not, umpires can sway strikeout rates and walk rates by 25% either way. Some umps help pitchers much more than others
- Quality of Contact – BaseballSavant.com measures exit velocity and launch angle to project what a pitcher’s numbers should be outside of luck factored in
On a big Friday night slate, we may be talking about 28 starting pitchers to choose from. If you don’t pick one of the two or three best, you have no chance whatsoever at winning the big prize most nights. That may seem daunting, but the fact of the matter is that there are usually only 7 to 10 pitchers who even have a shot at finishing within the top two or three. Meanwhile, 25 of the 28 pitchers will have some ownership on them. The 15 or so who don’t have a shot at finishing in the top three will have a combined ownership of around 20%. Basically, all 20% of those lineups are wasted.
What that means is that you need to be overweight on those 7 to 10 pitchers with the upside to help win you a slate. Half of these pitchers will be obvious as there are always a handful of true aces going every day. Can Shane Bieber go 7 innings with 11 Ks, 1 earned run and a win? Duh. Don’t overthink it; get exposure to pitchers like him every night in GPP contests. But there are also two types of pitchers who will fly under the radar but can still reach 45 fantasy points at a fraction of the cost.
I’ll call them the Eric Lauer archetype and the Elieser Hernandez archetype. A pitcher like Lauer will four or five times a season reach that 45 point mark. More often than not, it will be in a pitcher’s park against a team like the Rockies that struggles against lefties. It is also worth noting that a projection of 4.9 Ks can become a projection of 6.2 Ks if Lauer gets an umpire with an aggressive trigger. The Hernandez archetype is merely an unknown pitcher who’s underlying metrics (see BaseballSavant) suggest he has been unbelievably unlucky. Players like this break out all the time and if you one of the only ones ahead of the curve, you could be winning some serious dough.
An example of a common winning lineup
- 1B: Ji-Man Choi (TB)
- 2B: Brandon Lowe (TB)
- SS: Willy Adames (TB)
- 3B: Matt Chapman (OAK)
- OF: Austin Meadows (TB)
- OF: Stephen Piscotty (OAK)
- OF: Trey Mancini (BAL)
- UTL: Marcus Semien (OAK)
- SP: Jose Quintana (CHC)
It doesn’t look sexy, does it? But if Tampa and Oakland both go off, Mancini hits two bombs and Quintana has one of his every once in a while 8 inning, 10 K outings, you’ve made yourself $100,000. Replicate this mindset 50 times and you give yourself a chance every night.