Daily Fantasy: Let’s talk lineups (five quick lessons)

THT’s Ben Pritchett approached me this week about facing him in a game of daily fantasy. Of course I accepted, and hence was set a match-up of THT staffers. With Ben’s permission I am going to give you a look at the lineups, results and five points of interest stemming from our heated battle that I felt were worthy of discussion. Identifying and discussing these line items may help you understand both good and bad habits that you can form when playing daily fantasy baseball.

Let’s start with the general match-up details:

Site: FanDuel
Date: Wednesday April 20
Game Type: Standard Salary Cap, $35,000
Scoring Breakdown:

Hitters: 1B = 1pt, 2B = 2pts, 3B = 3pts, HR = 4pts, RBI = 1pt, R = 1pt, BB = 1pt, SB = 2pts, Out (calculated as at bats – hits) = -.25pt
Pitchers: W = 7pts, ER = -1pt, SO=1pt, IP = 1pt*
* Fractional scoring per out.

If there are other details you would like please feel free to visit the match-up page here (Ben Pritchett vs. Kevin Cearnal)

Here’s how the lineups shook out:

Ben Pritchett (naturalslugger)
(Pos) Player [Salary] *PointTotal*
(P) Zach Britton [3,900] *13*
(C) Carlos Santana [3,300] *3.5*
(1B) Joey Votto [4,100] *3.5*
(2B) Dan Uggla [3,500] *0.5*
(3B) Rich Robertson [3,900] *2.5*
(SS) Hanley Ramirez [3,700] *1.25*
(LF) Matt Holliday [3,900] *4.75*
(CF) Andrew McCutchen [3,600] *0*
(RF) Jason Heyward [3,400] *-1*
TOTAL = 28

Kevin Cearnal (kcearnal)
(P) Jered Weaver [9,900] *23*
(C) J.P. Arencibia [2,500] *6.5*
(1B) Joey Votto [4,100] *3.5*
(2B) Brian Roberts [3,400] *0.25*
(3B) Greg Dobbs [2,600] *1.25*
(SS) Yunel Escobar [3,200] *1.25*
(LF) Alex Gordon [3,200] *4*
(CF) Grady Sizemore [2,500] *0*
(RF) Shin-Soo Choo [3,600] *3*
TOTAL = 42.75

So here are the five things I hope a new player can learn from this match-up:

1. McCutchen was MIA – So we both took big fat zeroes from our center fielders. The only difference was that mine took the field. This was the night that McCutchen had “family matters” to attend to and missed the game. And while something like this is impossible to predict, it is not impossible to find out. I got this news roughly 2 1/2 hours prior to game time via one of my favorite tools, ESPN’s fantasy news text alerts. For those of you who don’t already utilize this tool I highly recommend it. It is free and can provide helpful insights, such as the aforementioned example, on a nightly basis. If Ben had picked up on this info, he would have certainly replaced his center fielder, giving him a chance to make up some points. Paying premium price for a guy who isn’t playing is unacceptable. Period.

2. Pick a solidified starter – Britton vs. Weaver is a very interesting matchup to analyze. Both got the win (7 points), which is the most important thing to consider when picking a pitcher on FanDuel. Pick a guy you think will win. End of story.

But beyond that, I would even go as far as to say that I never settle for anything less than the best pitcher of the day. The pricing is such that you can afford any pitcher, and still create a decent lineup with a little work. And that’s where the difference in experience comes into play. I took the premium pitcher. Ben did not. And I don’t blame him for going after Britton. He had a good start and was one of the cheapest options of the day. This choice allowed Ben to pick the very best player at every other position on his team. But pitcher is not where you want to short change yourself. You can find low cost options elsewhere (just look at my lineup). Weaver racked up the K’s and pitched a CG. He’s a stud and he has to be on your roster almost every fifth day.

So lesson two is this: when playing FanDuel, always pick the pitcher you think will score the best, regardless of price. This will prevent you from kicking yourself later.

3. Project points, but also determine value – So let’s just say that, theoretically, Ben thought Holliday would put up five points. That’s a great total and you’d take that any day of the week. But Holliday is in the top three in terms of cost. Gordon, on the other hand was red hot, $700 cheaper, and I projected him for 3.5. This is where you must consider value for your money. I’ve discussed this in previous articles, but I can’t emphasize the point enough: if your going to pay big money for a guy, make sure not only that he is going to be the highest scoring player, but also that there isn’t a guy for less that will be comparable. I’m pretty sure that there is a business term called “cost-benefit analysis.” And I’m also pretty sure that that’s the point I’m trying to get across here.

Find the bargains that make sense. Use them. And make sure that 99 percent of the time these bargains are position players, not pitchers.

4. Rarely pay the premium for a catcher – For the most part, catchers stink at hitting. Outside of a handful of guys (of which you might consider Santana one) they are atrocious and unreliable. So I think that this is one of your best options for bargain shopping. Especially on a night when Mr. Arencibia is behind home plate. He’s cheap and he has big point potential, the ideal combination for my catcher selection. I guess my criticism here is based on my prior experience. It rarely pays off to spend on catching, or so it seems. So, unless you see unbelievable priors or a catcher is riding a hot streak, I would advise you to fork out your dollars elsewhere.

5. Never, ever play against me! – I’m kind of a big deal. People know me. But all kidding aside, the lesson to be learned here is to do your best to match-up with people that have similar daily fantasy baseball skills as you do. You’ll get smoked if you start facing the big boys in the beginning. And while you may learn a lot, and really fast, your bankroll will also take a beating. So start off slow and try to find guys, like you, that are just starting out. This way you’ll be able to hone your craft and eventually become one of the game’s premier players.

Well that’s all for this week. Hope that this showed you how little maneuvers can make a huge difference in daily fantasy. Experience is also a key factor in the daily fantasy world, so I invite all of you to start getting some at any of the following sites:

FanDuelDraftStreetDraftZoneFantasy Sports LiveSportsGeek

See you next time!

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  1. Jack said...

    I combed through ESPN and saw no mention of the fantasy news text alerts you referred to. Do you have a link? Thanks for the intro to FanDuel.

  2. Alan Wiesenhahn said...

    Good to see somebody playing outside the 5×5 type scoring, but your scoring system does have a single flaw, at least for me.

    Why is a steal worth 2 points?

    By doing that you make getting a single and a stolen base worth a triple.

    I think it’s high time in the fantasy world we stop adding value to the Michael Bourn’s and Dexter Fowler’s of the world.

  3. Kevin Cearnal said...

    To Jack:


    To Alan:

    The Stolen Base is a very controversial scoring mechanism within daily fantasy. It is very tough to predict, and is therefore viewed by many as not a skill-based statistic. But considering that it is used in season-long fantasy, I think that daily sites feel they must utilize it in their scoring. And considering the infrequency of the stolen base in this era, it is not crazy for it to be worth 2 points.

    I can see where your coming from, but I don’t think that this will change any time soon. Start embracing Juan Pierre and Coco Crisp, because I don’t think that the SB scoring system is going to change any time soon.

  4. Alan said...

    I don’t play in leagues where Michael Bourn hitting a single and stealing second and third is worth more than a home run.

    A stolen base is a base- and it’s a pretty dangerous proposition at best if one fails too many times.

    And no, it isn’t going anywhere, but it doesn’t make any more sense because of that fact.

    Stolen bases are on the rise, actually. Power is down. Why reward something that is more common, more detrimental to a team if someone isn’t successful 70 plus percent of the time, and isn’t as fruitful as a home run? Or a double? Or a triple?

    It’s just a little odd to be reading a site that is on the sabremetrics side of things and then seeing the journalists playing fantasy baseball with a scoring system that sort of goes against what you preach. A single and two steals worth more than a home run? What universe is that?

    I do custom leagues and we don’t reward much for saves, wins/losses for a pitcher, you get a point for a stolen base…

    It sounds odd to most people, admittedly, but that’s a little shocking given the amount of increased baseball knowledge out there right now and how we view the game differently than we did 30 years ago.

    Doesn’t anybody else cringe when a broadcaster talks about a pitcher’s win/loss record? Or when someone talks about how many “saves” somebody has? It isn’t a measure of anything…

    It’s fantasy, I get it. Not making a federal case, just pointing it out. I appreciate your response.

  5. Ben Pritchett said...

    Yeah, I made some rookie mistakes. But I feel like my biggest mistake was getting a combined -.5 pts out of three players (Uggla, Heyward, McCutcheon). Nothing you can do about Jered’s display of skills so far this season. He’s actually back touching the mid 90’s on occasion. That’s nasty.

    And you’re kidding yourself about seeing the JP Arencibia homer coming off Bartolo. Nobody else has gotten close to touching his two seamer this season.

    Definitely, a fun/learning experience for me. We’ll have to rematch somewhere down the road, but I have been beaten by Kevin but did he predict Ryan Braun to win the MVP or the legitamacy of Jose Bautista’s skill set wink.

    But seriously, I was schooled by the teacher. Kevin is legit. Daily Fantasy THTers should listen to what he has to say.

  6. BK said...

    Alan: This is nitpicking slightly, but a home run is worth more than a single and two SBs because you also get an RBI and a run.

    Also, admittedly, a single and stealing second then third is a tougher task than hitting a home run. I think the point of fantasy baseball isn’t to scale it exactly to how much each event is worth, but to give points based on choosing players that do certain things well. There’s a reason sabermetrically-inclined people don’t just play in wOBA and xFIP leagues all the time. There’s something to be said about using traditional stats, and while you can use advanced stats to try to predict what those traditional stats may be, they don’t necessarily have to rule your entire life in terms of playing fantasy baseball.

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