DFS: How to Strategize in the Postseason (Fantasy Baseball)
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DFS is more fun in the postseason. One night, you’re seeing Justin Verlander go up against Gleyber Torres. The next night, we’re watching Walker Buehler battle Juan Soto. The best part of all? This happens for a month straight. In October, I actually enjoy my morning train commute because I’m distracted, trying to set the best possible DFS playoff lineups. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re sitting there debating Soto vs. Anthony Rendon, and all of a sudden you’re two stops past your destination and get to work five minutes late. That extra five minutes of research may be well worth it – just make sure you’re busy doing the right things, which are outlined below.
Stars and Scrubs
Postseason lineups are typically smaller than regular season lineups, especially the Championship Series and World Series. For example, FanDuel typically sports a five-player lineup, with one of those players earning a multiplier. In that scenario, the most successful cash-game lineups typically feature two studs, two value bats, and a scrub that you did research on. For example, a 2019 World Series lineup may have looked something like George Springer, Rendon, Michael Brantley, Adam Eaton, and Jake Marisnick. In cash games, picking one of those studs as your multiplier is the safest route, as they are the most likely to perform the best. However, in tournament games, picking one of those low-tier bats is the high-risk, high-reward strategy you’ll need to finish in the money.
So, how do you determine the studs to grab and the value bats to pick up?
Hitter vs. Pitcher Splits, Home Field, and Weather
While most hitters don’t have more than 20 at-bats against individual pitchers, we have to factor in some data to inform our decisions. For example, if James Paxton is pitching for the Yankees in the ALCS, would you think twice about grabbing Jose Altuve in both cash and GPP?
As I wrote in a separate piece, Swish Analytics has hitter vs. pitcher splits to use. You can also review FanGraphs’ splits page to see who who hits opposite-handed pitchers the best, or who performs better at night. If the sample size is too small to utilize these splits, or you can’t decide on hitters from opposite teams, focus on hitters hitting in their home venue. Believe it or not, the 2019 World Series was an anomaly.
Runs scored in the 2019 playoffs by home/away team
– World Series only: 14/49
– All other series: 123/112
Have we ever seen a larger discrepancy on the game's biggest stage?
— Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse) June 9, 2020
As you know, the home team is almost always favored in that particular game, so it makes sense to stay the course in cash games. In GPP, fading the home team for any hidden road gems you unearth could be the way to go.
Finally, checking the weather report leading up to the game is key, especially for wind. If the wind is blowing straight out to left field, and you are in between a few power bats that you want to employ, go for the right-handed batter who pulls a lot of balls in the air (like Giancarlo Stanton or Alex Bregman). Rotogrinders has free up-to-date forecasts for all games, helping to inform your toughest decisions.
Pay Up for Elite Pitching
In 2019, aces stepped up in the postseason, especially in the Division Series. Below is the list of pitchers who went at least six innings in the Division Series in 2019.
|Walker Buehler (2)|
|Jack Flaherty (2)|
|Stephen Strasburg (2)|
I don’t see any pitcher outside of the top 15 in fantasy ADP on that list. While you typically don’t roster a pitcher in the postseason, there are some days in the Division Series where the full slate is four games. It might be tempting to short-change pitching in favor of a better bat, but that typically isn’t a rewarding exercise. You are better off finding a low-dollar bat who, based on research, has a decent chance at doing well against said pitcher, rather than rostering that pitcher. One more tip when you create a lineup that features a pitcher: stack your lineup so that the majority, if not all, of your hitters are not facing your pitcher.
Hedge Your Bets
In the regular season, there are an absurd amount of scenarios you could find yourself in when playing DFS. In the postseason, those scenarios are significantly whittled down. A great way to diversify your portfolio for that particular night in the postseason is to play cash games for 80% of that night’s bankroll with the same or very similar lineup, and then drop in 20% of your bankroll in tournament/GPP-style games, creating a completely different lineup. Using the 2019 ALCS as an example, you may have set an Astros-heavy lineup with Houston at home in your cash lineups, but then utilized a Gio Urshela/Didi Gregorius/ DJ LeMahieu stack in your GPP lineup. The postseason teams will likely have better hitters in the lower-third of the order, meaning that you have better odds at running into a good game from them. Utilizing this strategy typically ensures that you at least break-even on a given night, with the potential for much more.
My final tip – don’t let recency bias be too much of a factor in your decision making. While a player may have strung together a couple great games in a row, ensure that the factors above line up in his favor before rostering him.
The only question remaining is: did you miss your stop?