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Wednesday, May 06, 2009
What follows are some of the keys to winning daily fantasy baseball contests, such as those offered at Draftbug, Snapdraft, and Fantasysportslive.
Look for bargains — This is kind of obvious, but the salary cap limitations in these contests mean that you’re not usually going to be able to use an all-star type lineup. You’re going to need to search out some undervalued players and use them. One common source of these is players who will have an expanded role today due to an injury to another player. However, there are players who provide good value for more extended periods of time. Sometimes this is because player prices aren’t updated based upon superior performance. Other times, these values are available because the player’s value in a particular scoring format surpasses their reputation, so nobody notices that they’re underpriced.
Check the news — Check the news to make sure that you’re not using anybody in your lineup who won’t be playing today. Lineups in these contests typically lock in after starting lineups for the early games are announced, so ideally you should make sure that your players are actually in the lineup. This also means that if you are going to be able to check lineups prior to your roster locking, then players with early games are going to be worth a few percentage points more to you on average than those with later games.
Understand the rules — This goes for any format of fantasy baseball—you should always know the rules thoroughly. In particularly, the scoring systems vary in different daily contest formats, and you should make sure you’re selecting players who fare well in the scoring system your contest uses. A player like Jason Giambi is a pretty valuable if your system uses walks, but not so much otherwise. Also make sure that you know how the rules treat special cases like doubleheaders and rainouts.
Larger contests require more risks — In a two-person contest, you should just go with the best possible lineup. In a larger contest (say 100 people), where the prize payouts are typically very top-heavy, you’re going to need to take some chances to have a shot at the top spot. Play for first place, not 10th. In the larger contests, you want to increase variance in your scoring. One way to do this is to pick players whose performance is likely to show a high correlation. For example, pick the starting pitcher and closer on one team. Another way is to increase variance is to take players whose scores tend to be more "feast or famine," such as home run hitters who strike out a lot. You also should be a little more willing to pick a clearly superior player who has a small to moderate chance of being rained out, if you’re playing in a larger contest. But in a heads-up contest, just play it safe and make sure that all your players will be playing today.
Take opponents into account — When you evaluate players for your team, consider who their opponent is today. For pitchers, how strong is the opposing lineup? How strong is the opposing starting pitcher? For hitters, how strong are the opposing starting pitcher and bullpen? I’ve built a fairly complex statistical model to do this, and I suspect that other top players have as well.
Take park factors into account — Where is the game being played? Ideally you want pitchers to be in favorable pitchers’ parks and hitters in favorable hitters’ parks, although there are plenty of cases when other factors may override this. This too, is part of my statistical model. However, like evaluating opponent quality, you can do it somewhat effectively simply by eyeballing the schedule and pitching match-ups each day before you make your picks.
Posted by Alex Zelvin at 1:23am (3) Comments
Welcome to THT Fantasy's Roster Doctor. If you'd like your team to be analyzed by one of our fantasy baseball experts, please send your full roster to this address. Also be sure to include your league's player pool (mixed, AL-only, NL-only), number of teams, scoring format (roto, head-to-head, points, etc.), categories, whether or not it's a keeper league, and any other pertinent information. If your roster is selected it will be analyzed in a future Roster Doctor column.
Today, I'm picking back up my important-looking lab coat, plastic stethoscope, and monocle (not at all doctor-related, but it makes me look both authoritative and awesome) to play Roster Doctor.
Player Pool: Mixed
No. of Teams: 12
Categories: Traditional 5x5
Scoring Type: Roto
C - John Baker
1B - Carlos Pena
2B - Chase Utley
3B - Aubrey Huff
SS - Jhonny Peralta
OF - Matt Kemp
OF - Jason Bay
OF - Shane Victorino
UT - Mark Teixeira
BN - Nelson Cruz
BN - Derrek Lee
SP - Dan Haren
SP - Josh Beckett
SP - Erik Bedard
SP - John Danks
SP - Jair Jurrjens
SP - Scott Richmond
RP - Heath Bell
RP - Scott Downs
RP - Jim Johnson
DL - Kelvim Escobar
The first thing I notice is that you have a couple of excellent bench hitters and a few weak spots in the starting lineup. Cruz should be starting on your team, and right away I'd bench either Pena, slide Teixeira over to first, and put Cruz into the UT spot, or simply bench Victorino. After that, I'd start shopping an outfielder or Pena. If you can get a guy with some speed in return, I probably like Victorino least, but who I trade would depend upon the return. Pena would probably provide the most value in a trade right now.
I think SS is your weakest offensive spot, and I might make a play for Michael Young. I mentioned before the season how he was often my SS target if I missed out on Reyes, Hanley, or Rollins, and he is tearing it up this year. He is hitting the ball a long way, and his power thus far is not looking fluky. If his owner thinks it is, he might be looking to sell high. We're still looking at a small sample size, and I'll talk more about him at a later date, but he makes a good target. A Victorino(or Pena)/Peralta for Young/Pitcher deal would probably benefit you.
Baker really doesn't cut it at catcher, though having an elite catcher in this format isn't necessary either. If Matt Wieters is on the wire, I would try to make bench room for him until he gets called up. In the mean time, I'd drop Baker for someone like Mike Napoli (probably not available), Kenji Johjima (most likely available), or a guy like Yadier Molina.
Lee's not having a great year so far, but that's at least partially bad luck and he doesn't belong on your bench. Neither does Pena, though he and Lee are your two bench hitters now (unless you trade an OF or bench Victorino). I'd begin seeing what Pena could fetch in a trade, and once Lee puts together a good couple weeks, I'd try to trade him as well. They'd have more value to you upgrading another spot (third base! third base!) than they would on the bench.
As to your pitching, Haren is having a great year—just as CAPS thought he would. This owner expressed concern over Beckett, but I wouldn't be too concerned. He's walking too many batters, but we're looking at a small sample and he's been excellent over the past few years. His ERA is mostly bad luck (absurd .398 BABIP and 59 percent LOB%), so I'd keep trotting him out there.
Bedard is pitching excellently, rewarding you handsomely for your investment, but he remains an injury concern. Depending on your penchant for risk, I might consider trading him. Ricky Nolasco is probably the best buy-low pitcher in all of baseball right now, so trading Bedard for Nolasco and a sizeable upgrade elsewhere would be a profitable move.
Danks is very solid, and Richmond has been pitching well so far. His MLEs have never been this good, though, so I might see what he would fetch on the trade market. Bell is great—hang onto him—and Downs is terrific if he can hold onto the job once Ryan returns. Johnson was likely a recent pickup, and I think it's a good one. He's been Baltimore's best reliever (ERA wise) of the three in contention for the closer role, and his gmLI is much higher than Ray's. His skills haven't been great in the past, but he's fine to hang onto over the next week to see if he lands the closer's job. If he does, look to trade for any other established closer.
Overall, a good team, but there is a good deal of waste and also some risk on the pitching side. I'd spread your talent out some more by making some trades, trying to make two-for-one deals where you get to upgrade a spot, particularly shortstop, third base, catcher, or a pitcher spot.