A Guide to DFS Lineup Stacks (Fantasy Baseball)
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It’s 11:00 PM over on the East Coast, and you’re glued to the home-team Angels taking on the Tigers on MLB Network for some reason. Not just some reason, actually — it’s because you “stacked” Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon against Jordan Zimmermann tonight. You need to see how this Angels stack handles the overpriced vet to figure out if you won your DFS tournament that night. Wait…stacking? What is that, exactly?
What is Stacking?
Stacking means that you loaded up on three or more players from the same team in that particular slate of games. Depending on the slate and site, you can even go up to five or six players from one team. Those players are also likely close to each other in the batting order.
So why would you want to stack? Stacking essentially gives you multipliers when that real-life team does well. In the above scenario, say Ohtani draws a walk, Trout hits a double, and then Rendon hits a bases-clearing double right after. If you had only rostered Trout, you would only get credit for one double and one run. If you had rostered both of them, however, you would get points for a walk, two doubles, two runs, and two RBIs. Those points for runs and RBIs can be the difference between finishing in the money, especially in large tournaments.
The Right Squads
If you’re stacking, you first need to find the best teams to pick. I have several free recommendations to help you nail the right teams. Our sister site, BettingPros, features daily game odds. Using those odds to target teams from which to pick a stack is a good first step. Rotogrinders has free previews for each game, featuring weather forecasts (wind direction included), over/under on runs, and more. Games with higher runs totals are typically the games to target, as there is a greater chance of hitting on a stack that provides value. Swish Analytics also has hitter vs. pitcher stats that aid in identifying players from the same team that hit a pitcher well. Of course, our lineup optimizer is a free tool, which can certainly help in building stacks. We even have a “stacks” feature that helps you identify stacks if you are short on research time. Reviewing our park factors research also can help you identify the optimal matchups for a stack.
The Right Players
Okay, so you’ve settled on the teams that you’re going to use to stack. Now, you need to identify who you want from that team. Typically, you’ll want to pick out players in the upper half of the order, as they are the players most likely to produce points for your squad. They’re the most talented ballplayers and get the most at-bats in any given game. Easy math.
There are a few key splits to consider when picking your players. If you picked a team to stack because they are going against a struggling or below-average pitch, make sure to avoid players with poor splits against that pitcher. Most hitters do not have a large enough sample size against individual pitchers, but I typically trust sample sizes with 20-plus at-bats. If you have enough time, you can also research how the hitters you are interested in fare against a certain type of pitcher. For example, if you are targeting the Mets playing a slumping Kyle Hendricks, you can also see how those players have fared against Mike Soroka or Jose Urquidy (all soft-tossing, command-centric innings eaters).
Similarly, if you know that a hitter hits better at night, or has strong home/road splits, you need to consider these as well. FanGraphs has an entire splits leaderboard that should satisfy all your needs in this regard.
The reason to be contrarian is that if your stack hits, you have a higher chance of finishing in the money because your opponents will have a smaller percentage of that stack. Of course, this means that you typically have a higher chance of busting. But if you do your research, you can oftentimes find overlooked stacks without the associated risk. Being contrarian is better in large tournaments where a lower percentage of the pool wins. In cash games, you typically want to go with the known stacks to finish in the black.
There are quite a few ways to be contrarian, all of which can’t be covered in an overview of stacking. One of the most common contrarian plays is building a stack from a well-owned team, but using lesser-owned players from that team. A good way to find these overlooked values is by researching and finding hitters that have expected stats and underlying metrics that suggest some positive regression is on the way. Look for our regression articles throughout the season for easy research. As good as a stack may look, it’s somewhat common for the player you pin your highest hopes on to go hitless, while the number five hitter you didn’t roster ends up with the highest value.
You don’t always want to pick batters hitting next to each other. Rather, if you pick an AL stack, it may make sense to put the guy batting at the bottom of the order in your lineup rather than the leadoff hitter. While the leadoff hitter has greater odds of scoring a run (because he is more likely to get on base and bats more times), the guy at the end of the order is much more likely to be owned less. Further, you should also save some cash to use on a better player elsewhere.
However, this more often means building a stack around a lesser-owned team entirely. To find these contrarian stacks, look at the second-tier of over/unders that you think the books are overlooking. You can identify these overlooked odds from recognizing that a park is playing more hitter-friendly than in the past or by knowing that a typically good pitcher is stuck in a rut. Alternatively, this can also mean fading road hitters who just got to Coors Field (the best offensive environment in the league) that may have trouble adapting to significantly different movements on pitches in the first game of a series.
Building Your Lineup
There are two ways to get stacks into your lineup. The standard way is to start by identifying the stacks as mentioned above and then filling the rest of your roster with value plays. To be contrarian, you can identify your optimal plays first, and then back into a value stack. Oftentimes, this means picking lesser-owned players from a favored stack as described above. It can also mean identifying a lesser-owned stack from an underrated team.
Every slate is different. Sometimes you will identify certain players who you want on your squad — but you may not want to surround him with his teammates due to a lack of talent or other factors. Other times, you will find a stack or two that you love, and then settle in on value plays to fill out your roster. We post DFS value plays every day, which are must-reads for building lineups. One thing is certain: the more research you put in, the more likely that staying up late to watch that West Coast game will be worth it.