Happy Opening Day to you all. If you haven’t already signed up for the Hardball Times Opening Day Fanduel free competition, please CLICK HERE. I hope you do. You are running out of time so don’t delay. It should be a lot of fun, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off the season than a chance at putting Nick, Dave, or me in our place. I guess the free cash prize could entice some of you degenerates. Seriously, daily fantasy at FANDUEL is one of my favorite ways to compete in fantasy period. I am now stepping off my soapbox and into my analyst chair.
Over the next several weeks, I will be attempting to school you guys on the ins-and-outs of playing daily fantasy baseball. It’s not that dissimilar from the old school salary cap leagues you were doing on ESPN in the 1990s. You take a salary cap of 35,000 dollars and allocate it however you wish and fill out a line-up. It’s really that simple, or is it? If you want to play for fun, I totally understand. Filling out a line-up of “your guys” should provide for a fun day of game watching. Before now, this was usually the camp I belonged to. But if you want to play to win, you must do your homework.
Daily fantasy baseball is more than just throwing together a line up. You must cycle through several important nuances that any given day’s worth of match-ups could offer. Here are some tips that the hardcore daily guys don’t want you to know.
First of all, always pay attention to the weather. You know that point in the news forecast that you sit through waiting for the sports. Yeah, that’s suddenly very important. If a game gets rained out in yearly fantasy baseball, it’s usually no big deal. You’ll benefit from a doubleheader somewhere down the road. That’s not so in daily fantasy. You must make sure your game is not going to get rained out because if the game is rained out, you forfeit that players possible stats for that game. Translation: you get a big zero. It’s not that hard to find out the chance of weather around the nation. There is a site that caters itself to providing you with this kind of information. It’s called Daily Baseball Data. The guys at DBD give you everything you need to know from an hourly rain chance percentage down to a wind speed projection at all the parks for that day. This website is priceless.
Daily baseball data goes one step further and gives you another crucial facet of daily gaming, the pitcher/hitter match-up. You have to know your splits. That means you need to know if Alfonso Soriano has ever played against Stephen Strasburg. If Soriano has played Strasburg how has he fared? How has Strasburg handled hitters like Soriano? The scenarios go on and on. Most importantly, you need to focus on how each do against the handedness of their opponents. Before I ever select a hitter, I count my opportunity cost by formulating how that particular hitter should fare against the opposing pitcher.
For example, I like Freddie Freeman. He’s coming off a great Spring. There may not be a hotter hitter in all of baseball, but Freeman will be facing Johan Santana today. At 3,400 dollars, Freeman isn’t cheap, but he isn’t incredibly expensive either by Fanduel’s pricing set-up. So Santana is a lefty as we all know. I would not be doing my due diligence without considering how a left-handed Freeman should play against a left-handed Santana. The lefty versus lefty match up is typically one to avoid in most cases. Freeman hit .249 against southpaws in 2011 and had about 130 fewer points in his OPS compared to facing right-handed pitchers. It’s not good, but I wouldn’t say that we get an indicator that Santana will dominate him. Freeman will also be playing in Citi Field, which may or may not still be a pitcher’s park. We shall see.
There is a slight hitch to this equation. Bucking conventional wisdom, Santana has performed far worse against left-handed hitters over the past four years. He gave up a higher OPS and over 44 points in batting average to lefties. I wonder that, as the speed of his fastball has diminished, so might has its effectiveness on left-handers. Never forget about his change up, of course, but I wonder how Santana will do moving forward against the lefties of baseball.
The point to my rambling thought process isn’t to sway you into picking Freeman or that Santana should be avoided as he faces a lefty-heavy Braves line up. My point was to give you an example of how you should approach every single position choice up and down your roster.
So we’ve covered the weather and lefty/righty splits. Now, we must focus on the most simple but also the most crucial facet of them all, playing time. If a guy doesn’t play, he doesn’t get points. I know I’m brilliant, but you must make sure that your players are playing in their game before finalizing your roster. Baseball, unlike any other sport, has a tendency to shift, change, rearrange, and reconstruct a line up on an almost daily basis. Since the season is so long, players will get days off. The most important position to monitor here is catcher. Your chances of a catcher missing a start is very high. Factors like age and day game after a night game are some good starting points on figuring out line up cards before they are actually listed to the public. I like to go to a website called Rotoinfo. They are tops in the industry at getting daily line ups out very early to the consumer, more than any other site including MLB.com and ESPN.
Furthering on that point, you must also account for the sudden revelation of injuries. Josh Beckett may or may not pitch on Saturday. You won’t know until Saturday. To pick Beckett as your pitcher means you must stay informed on whether or not he will truly make the Saturday start. I understand that this is elementary stuff, but to the classic, yearly fantasy player that has never had to focus on these nuances, it should be very informative.
Lastly, don’t play the “sharks”. Check your ego at the door. Like any competition you will be as good as the effort you put into being good. The guys that have accrued large amounts of winnings have done so by playing large amounts of games and by putting large amounts of time into it. You wouldn’t walk into a weight room and throw several 45-pound slabs on the bar and do bench press if you’ve never bench pressed before. So you shouldn’t try to prove yourself against guys that have huge chests. Win against the other new guys or else you’ll lose against the veterans. Trust me on this. I learned the hard way. There is definitely a learning curve to transitioning from being yearly focused to daily focused. It’s like changing your personality from being a macromanager viewing life from the helicopter to being a micromanager where every single detail is pored over until it’s etched into you.
I hope you have enjoyed my take on the basic ways to play daily fantasy baseball. I also hope you take the opportunity to join your THT brethren in the FANDUEL free roll. I’m super excited to be bringing you a weekly look into different strategies and other nuggets of information for all you new daily fantasy players. Next week, I will focus on players that are undervalued by Fanduel. Until then, good luck to all. If you have any daily fantasy questions shoot me an email at