Daily Fantasy: the K-I-S-S methodologyby Kevin Cearnal
March 16, 2011
Many of us involved in the fantasy baseball world picked up our love of the sport through our humble beginnings in youth baseball. And while many of us probably don't remember many outcomes, hits or web gems from this time, it still is a time that for many of us had a great deal of influence on the person that we have become today. The one thing that I'm pretty sure we all DO remember from this magical time is one simple philosophy. The KISS philosophy.
When you began as a youngster this probably stood for "Keep it simple, silly." Then as you evolved into grade school ball and lower level Select, the phrasing may have been altered slightly to "Keep it simple, stupid." And alas as you graduated to what you now know was the highest level of competition you would ever play, the motto was drilled into your head as "Keep it simple, s---head." And while the final emphasis of the phrase may have changed, the meaning behind it was resoundingly similar and memorable. Don't overthink things. Do what feels natural. Go with the flow. This is a lesson that we have all benefited greatly from in our adult lives. Well at least I have (for the sake of the article let's pretend you have as well).
Well I have taken this philosophy to live by, and I have applied it to the game of Daily Fantasy Baseball. Last week's article provided you with some basic principles of the game. I've taken these principles a step further this week for you. But don't worry, I've made it as simplistic as I can for you knuckleheads. I've even used the acronym K-I-S-S to emphasis my key points. If you can comprehend these four points, then you should be well on your way to the success I've been promising to deliver in this brand new world I play in. Also included are some easy-to-read lists, making the knowledge absorption a breeze. So let the all-important lesson begin...
K Ks (strikeouts): The almighty strikeout is of the utmost importantance both for pitchers and hitters. It is one of the essential scoring elements for both sides. The top-tier of Daily Fantasy players can probably tell you the K/9 ratio of the top 12-15 starting pitchers in the game. They can also probably tell you who the 12-15 hitters are with the most Ks. That's how important this is. Let me break down the true importance of the statistic for both hitters and pitchers:
HITTERS - The main difference between the daily game and the season-long league relating to strikeouts? Well, they are simply much more devastating in the daily game. In season-long fantasy baseball it makes no difference how a player records an out (at least in typical leagues). Daily fantasy on the other hand it makes a huge difference. Let's take Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder for example. They hit .261 and .260 respectively for the 2010 season. So in a season-long league the batting average component for these two is almost identical. Their strikeout numbers, however, are not so similar. Dunn struck out an astounding 199 times during the season while Fielder amassed only 138. And Fielder had 20 more at-bats than Dunn did. Why so important, you ask? Because in the daily y game many sites actually give negative points for strikeouts. So that's the lesson to be learned here. If the site you choose to play on is one that does, you may want to think long and hard before picking players that are whiff prone.
(Top 10 strikeout leaders in 2010)
(3B) Mark Reynolds 211
(1B) Adam Dunn 199
(2B) Rickie Weeks 184
(1B) Adam LaRoche 172
(OF) Matt Kemp 170
(OF) Austin Jackson 170
(OF) Drew Stubbs 168
(OF) B.J. Upton 164
(3B) David Wright 161
(1B) Carlos Pena 158
The strikeouts these guys pile up are dangerous and, if they don't hit a HR or at least get an extra base hit, they my wind up putting up an ugly score for you. Try your best to avoid these strikeout-prone guys, except on days where they have very favorable match-ups. More will follow on that.
PITCHERS: You love the K more than life itself when it comes to the starting pitcher in Daily Fantasy Baseball. In typical league formats you only get to pick one or two pitchers to represent you on any given day. You need to make the pick(s) count. Every single league rewards fantasy pitchers for strikeouts. In this way, it is much like the season-long game. But the importance is all the more magnified when it's all on the line every, single day. You want to go with the guys that are going to score you points by making batters swing and miss. These strikeouts, coupled with a good outing as far as runs allowed, are the kick-start you need to being successful on that day. The most relevant stat to tracking the guys who are going to score big in Ks from outing-to-outing is K/9 ratio. So let's take a look at the pitchers that helped with this the most over the course of 2010.
(top 10 K/9 ratio in 2010)
Tim Lincecum 9.79
Jon Lester 9.74
Yovani Gallardo 9.73
Jonathan Sanchez 9.54
Francisco Liriano 9.44
Jered Weaver 9.35
Clayton Kershaw 9.34
Mat Latos 9.21
Josh Johnson 9.11
Cole Hamels 9.10
These guys are the kings of the K. They will rack up huge point totals for you on days they pitch. As a daily fantasy player you are also going to want to target these guys on good match-up days. Track the teams who are struggling and that strikeout frequently. Match them with these lights out pitchers and you will be on your way to striking fantasy gold. Or you can probably win some cash if thats the monetary device you prefer.
I Investment return: As I described in my initial article "A Whole New World" the standard game-type for daily fantasy is salary cap. Every player comes with a price tag. The job of the player is to determine whether the conditions of the day, such as match-ups, home/away, splits and other such stats are ideal and will maximize the return for this price.
Some players believe in the hot streaks. Others are all about the past performance in certain places, or against certain teams or pitchers. There is no exact formula for determining the optimum player for that day. But with that being said, the top players in the game will do the research and give themselves the best chance for success.
This is where projections can be helpful. A daily player who succeeds doesn't just look at a guy and some random stats and plug him in, thinking he will play well. A successful player comes up with a number that he thinks that player can obtain based on the statistics and daily factors he finds to be the most relevant. Tough decisions are going to have to be made on a daily basis. Maximizing your money is smart in any aspect of human life, but it takes work to do it successfully.
Let me end this portion of the article with an example. Albert Pujols. He is an absolute stud. But certain factors will justify paying his extremely high price tag some days, while other days he may not be such an attractive option. Here is his stat line over the past three seasons at PNC Park in Pittsburgh: 99 games, .404 AVG, 16 extra base hits, 23 RBI. That is a stat line that justifies taking him against the Pirates. Now at Dodger Stadium over that same time period his line is 31 games, .161 AVG, 3 XBH, 3 RBI. This is a small sample size, yes, but it shows that the chances of success can differ greatly for the same player based on different situations. Monitor these situations. Get a feel for what variables seem relevant and which ones seem coincidental. Once you can get a good grasp on this you will have a firm understanding of how to get the most out your investment in the salary cap format. Do some smart spending.
S Starting lineups: What? Starting lineups. Oh yeah you better believe it. If you don't have some free time for about a half hour before the first games of each day begin, DO NOT start playing Daily Fantasy Baseball. This is when the lineups are released. The two most popular, easiest (not to mention free) sites to find the announced starting lineups for the day are Rotoinfo.com and Rotoworld.com. This is a stop you have to make every day. This is where you can find the cheap fill-ins. It is also where you can figure out that Derek Jeter has strep throat and is out. It is the key to giving yourself a chance for the day. A guy also might get a surprise move up in the lineup, giving him a better chance at success.
An example that could happen this year would be if Peter Bourjos of the Angels got a nod at leadoff, since he usually bats ninth. Extra at-bats equal extra chances, and especially if it's a stolen base threat, an extra chance at points. In this world it is key to be one step ahead of the guy in front of you. And if you want to win you can never, and I mean NEVER, be behind him. Knowing the starting lineups is so simple, yet I cannot emphasize enough the essential nature of verification.
S Small stadiums: Some stadiums give up dingers and are easy to hit in. In others, you and I could go out there and throw a quality start. With the difference in dimension, climate, and quality of stadiums these days, one must know where the favorable and terrible places for a ball player to get stats are. What are the pitchers parks? What are the hitters parks? Well there are links to find this stuff out (crazy, huh?)
MLB park factors (courtesy of ESPN)
You can find many more stats involving ballparks at other websites such as THT favorites Baseball Reference and Fangraphs
And the 'X' Factor - You didn't think I would end this after just the standard KISS did you? You all will come to learn that I'm much more classy than that. I'm the guy every woman and weak fantasy player dreams of. So, to go along with what I'm sure was the just the best KISS you've ever had, you also get the universal symbol for kiss the good old X. You know like XOXO. And the X in this particular scenario is the X-Factor. The most important thing that sets daily fantasy apart from standard season-long. That X-Factor is... the weather. That's right good, ol' Mother Nature. When you're playing for such high stakes on such a short time-frame this is the one element of fantasy that becomes magnified a thousand times every day.
You know how people bring up the weather to start a light conversation with someone they meet? Not in our world. In our world we discuss rain percentage chances, hour-by-hour forecasts and other such meteorology more than some people discuss who to put in their will. A variable such as weather has never, and probably will never be, included in season long fantasy strategy. But when the daily fantasy world becomes really big, which current players are convinced it will, you may see some very odd weather related fantasy strategy pop up. Things like best draining fields, most talented grounds crews and rainouts by month will all be calculated and monitored. I'm telling you, this is how serious the world of Daily Fantasy Baseball really is.
So watch the weather, consider the four K-I-S-S principles, and soak up all this knowledge. More to come next week.
Thanks for reading. Or should I say. Smooches?
Kevin "KC" Cearnal
Wanna discuss daily fantasy baseball further? Think my jargon is just that? Shoot me a line and I'll debate with you until I'm blue in the face.
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