Season long fantasy sports leagues have been around for decades now and have really revolutionized the way both casual and hardcore sports fans look at the game. But a more recent adaptation of fantasy sports is the daily fantasy sports (DFS) approach where you are only committed to a single day’s worth of games at a time and can win some serious cash on a daily basis. I personally have become very involved in DFS in addition to all my season long leagues, and so I hope that I can share some of the knowledge that I have gained and provide some helpful tips in that area from time to time as well.
***The primary site that I play on is DraftKings and I am mostly a GPP tournament player (I also play on Fantasy Aces). So for the most part, any recommendations I make are meant to be for GPP tournaments, not cash games, and are specific to DraftKings (though a lot of the same concepts and picks carry over to strategy on other sites).
RECAP FROM TUESDAY 6/16/15:
Early Slate – For the early slate, the pitching was not strong. I had Michael Wacha as my favorite play and he certainly did hold his own to be the 2nd highest scoring pitcher, outscoring the top priced Scott Kazmir. The 3rd highest priced pitcher was Andrew Cashner who I listed as a “Not So Fave,” and he kept that opinion true as he once again put up a stinker despite the A’s putting out a pretty weak looking lineup. My cheap sleeper was hot prospect Vincent Velasquez and he came within one pitch of qualifying for the win to fulfill the cheap sleeper status, but he allowed a HR to get yanked from the game for some tough luck. So overall for pitching, it wasn’t terrible for my selections, but who knew that Wade Miley would be the top scoring pitcher for the early slate?
The “Big Boy Stack” that I listed that I liked the most was the Astros and they definitely poured it on the Rockies, but the problem was it was mostly the wrong hitters. Left-handed Luis Valbuena surprisingly hit 2 HR off the left-handed pitcher and Hank Conger got in on the action as well. It was the right idea for sure, but just rough luck for it to be the wrong guys. The sneaky A’s stack did decently. I personally did not end up using an A’s stack after I saw their starting lineup, but if I did then I would have gone with the lefty/switch-hitters in Billy Burns, Ben Zobrist, Josh Reddick, and Max Muncy. The best stack of the early slate ended up being the Red Sox, and I really should have included something on them given how bad Julio Teheran had been this season and on the road in particular. I did like them as a stack and I did end up using a mini Red Sox Stack that included Brock Holt who hit for the cycle. So that salvaged a largely unimpressive morning slate for me.
Late Slate – My two favorite late slate pitchers were Jake Arrieta and Garrett Richards, and only one of them panned out and that was Richards. Arrieta uncharacteristically walked a lot of batters, which was his ultimate downfall, and his stat line actually ended up being what I thought his counterpart, Trevor Bauer, would have. I labeled Bauer as a “not so fave,” but he ended up being able to work around the walks that I predicted would come from him and was one of the better pitchers of the evening. Another guy that was on my “not so fave” list was Chi Chi Gonzalez who continues to mystify me and prove me wrong, though I still think he’s getting very lucky. My cheap sleeper pitchers were Brett Anderson, Chris Young, and Nathan Eovaldi. Anderson was decently solid for 8 innings but didn’t get the win, Young pitched 7 shutout innings for the win, and Eovaldi…well, I would like a mulligan on him as he couldn’t even make it out of the 1st inning.
As for the offense, there was a lot going on with the bats. The Orioles, Nationals, and Marlins all scored at least 12 runs, and the Orioles were one of my “big boy stacks” and the only one out of the three that I mentioned in Tuesday’s strategy piece. I did have an Orioles stack, despite them missing Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, and I got exposure to some of the Nationals and Marlins players but not in full stacks. My other “big boy stack” was the Dodgers and I missed badly on that as they couldn’t figure out Gonzalez until the 9th inning. The sneaky stack that I listed was the Blue Jays, which was good in theory, but just didn’t pan out as Matt Harvey was on top of his game today. If the situations presented themselves again, I would definitely take the Dodgers and Blue Jays as stacks.
While it was just a so-so (but non-losing) day on DraftKings, I actually placed 1st out of 236 entrants on Tuesday in a GPP tournament on Fantasy Aces. Here’s a look at the lineup: (P) Garrett Richards, (P) Jake Arrieta, (C) Caleb Joseph, (1B/3B) Chris Davis, (1B/3B) Manny Machado, (2B/SS) Sean Rodriguez, (2B/SS) Derek Dietrich, (OF) Bryce Harper, (OF) Mike Trout, (OF) Clint Robinson, (UTIL) Justin Bour
So for pitching, I took my top two picks, and even though Arrieta was not good, he was the highest owned pitcher at 46% so mostly everyone suffered the same fate with him. I knew that I wanted Machado and Davis in their excellent matchup against Jerome Williams and the Phillies, so I picked them and then two high priced superstars in Harper and Trout. Surprisingly, Harper was only owned in 9% of the leagues at his maximum price. Then from there I surrounded that core of players with a lot of cheap options that I thought had excellent chances to exceed their expected value. So it all ended up working very well for me obviously, and I hope to keep on taking down tournaments like this and sharing my thought process.
STRATEGY FOR WEDNESDAY JUNE 17, 2015
Wednesday brings us a full 15-game evening slate and for the first time in a bit, it looks like that weather may not be a huge concern. Currently, there are only two games that have some chance of rain affecting them, and those games are TB/WAS and DET/CIN. So keep that in mind. This collection of games features something that doesn’t happen too often. There are 5 legitimate fantasy aces taking the hill tonight, but then there also several prime stacking situations for a lot of offenses. We’ll have to figure out how we can balance the two sides out.
My favorite of all the aces going is Clayton Kershaw who does not need any detailed introduction here. But whenever he’s scheduled, he’s very likely to be the highest priced pitcher on board. And at $12,900 on DraftKings tonight, I don’t think that there has been a higher price than that all seasong long. However, that will not deter me from getting him into some lineups because there is a reason that he’s priced so high, and that reason is Kershaw is a southpaw who can give left-handed batters extreme fits and the Rangers are usually a very left-handed heavy lineup with the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, and Leonys Martin. Now I wouldn’t expect the Rangers to be starting all those guys tonight, in fact I know they won’t be. Righty Kyle Blanks is likely to be in left field, and righties Adam Rosales and Hanser Alberto could make their way into the infield. But those names should hardly strike fear into Kershaw. The Rangers overall numbers versus left-handed pitching aren’t terrible, but this is still a situation that presents itself as a primetime matchup for Kershaw.
Out of the other ace options, I see some flaws in all of them and their matchups tonight, so I am going to steer clear of labeling any more high priced aces as my faves. But there are a couple of mid-tier guys who I really like tonight, and they are Michael Pineda hosting Miami and Carlos Martinez at Minnesota. Both pitchers fall into similar situations where they are facing offenses that do much better versus left-handed pitching, and both of these guys have tremendous strikeout upside as we have witnessed with Pineda’s 16 K performance earlier this season and his 9.40 K/9, and with Martinez’ 9.65 K/9. I feel that both of these guys are in near optimal situations and I think that pairing them up together in a DraftKings lineup could be a good way to go tonight, as it will still give some financial room to employ a nice offensive stack that you may like. I’m not sure that I will be on him a lot tonight because of his overall struggles, diminished velocity, and the possibility of rain, but Jordan Zimmermann is in a nice matchup against a Rays team that fares much better against left-handed pitching. And at $7,600 on DraftKings, his price is down $1,600 from where it was just a month ago, which makes him a bit of a bargain in this situation.
SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:
The super cheap options tonight do not appear to be very enticing on an evening where there are so many nice looking pitchers toeing the rubber. I think that the cheapest I might go tonight is with Ubaldo Jimenez at Philly and Jesse Chavez at home versus the Padres. With Jimenez, we would just be attacking a poor Phillies offense that is dead last in the league in wOBA versus righties at .272, but they are decent at avoiding the strikeout. And with Chavez, the Padres have the 5th highest strikeout rate against righties and the 4th lowest wOBA. Chavez does have some strikeout potential and he’s pitching in a friendly environment at home where he thrives — he has a pretty 1.82 ERA this year and he had a 2.67 ERA there last year.
UPDATE (2:26 PM PST): I will take a stab with Shaun Marcum against a strikeout prone Cubs team, pairing him with Kershaw on DraftKings.
THE NOT SO FAVES:
As mentioned earlier, I do see some flaws in the top priced options not named Clayton Kershaw. So that included David Price, Madison Bumgarner, Felix Hernandez, and Johnny Cueto. And because these guys are all significantly cheaper than Kershaw on DraftKings (anywhere from $1,300-$2,900 cheaper), I feel that they are going to be more highly owned than Kershaw, which should give more reason to go with the Dodgers lefty. I’m not saying that these guys will pitch poorly and to not use them at all, but there are areas of concern with all of them. Price travels to a hitters park where they may be thunderstorms to face a Reds offense that is 2nd in the Majors in ISO versus left-handed pitching. But with Marlon Byrd on the DL the Reds are missing that extra right-handed power bat to go with Todd Frazier, so it may not be too terrible. The lefty Bumgarner faces a Mariners offense that can get a lot of right-handed bats in their lineup and the Mariners are much more dangerous against lefties than righties. Felix got bombed the last time out and the Giants are one of the best teams in the league at avoiding the strikeout. Cueto faces a Tigers offense that has picked up the pace of late and has the 8th lowest strikeout rate in the league versus righties, but besides Kershaw I think that he is the most playable out of any of the other top priced options. Another not so fave play tonight is Mike Fiers who pitches at Kansas City, and the Royals have the lowest strikeout rate in the league. So don’t let the 10.44 K/9 that Fiers has steer you in the wrong direction. Fiers also has the highest hard hit rate in the league, so when he’s not striking guys out, batters are squaring up the ball really well. So that does not bode very well for him against the best contact team in baseball.
UPDATE (1:04 PM PST): The Reds lineup looks terrible. I would now upgrade Price to a FAVE play and downgrade Cueto a bit.
A strategy that has worked since the introduction of DFS is stacking multiple players (3-6) from one offense. However, in certain situations it may be more beneficial not to stack as it is becoming more contrarian not to do full stacks since so many people are doing it now. But for the most part, stacking (mini-stack at the very least) seems to be a component of most winning tournament lineups.
BIG BOY STACKS:
Right away the first thing that we should look at for stacking is the Toronto Blue Jays in their homer friendly Rogers Centre home against the lefty Jon Niese. Niese is trying to hold on to his rotation spot with hot prospect Steven Matz hanging in the balance at AAA, but this is just an awful matchup for him and he should get blown up to give the Mets further reason to bring up Matz. The Jays lead the Majors (by a large margin) in both ISO and wOBA versus left-handed pitching. A stack with any combination of the following players is advisable: Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Colabello, Russell Martin, Danny Valencia, and Kevin Pillar.
Next we have to look toward the game at Coors Field tonight between the Houston Astros (Brett Obertholtzer) and Colorado Rockies (Kyle Kendrick) where both teams are certainly stackable. Oberholtzer is a soft-tossing lefty, so that means Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado, and Wilin Rosario are in a great spot, and it wouldn’t hurt to add on any other Rockies hitter. And then on the flip side is right-handed Kendrick and his 6.75 home ERA. Kendrick does fare better versus right-handed hitters, but this is a situation where handedness doesn’t really matter and we can select just about any Astros hitter but the lefties Colby Rasmus and red hot Luis Valbuena might be the top guys to choose from this lineup.
UPDATE (2:06 PM): I forgot that Rasmus is on the bereavement list so he is unavailable. A shame too, because he had a nice career line against Kendrick to go along with the juicy Coors Field matchup.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Baltimore Orioles. They face off against Kevin Correia who is not much different than the starting pitcher they slaughtered on Tuesday, Jerome Williams. So let’s get back on some Orioles today with Chris Davis and Manny Machado leading the charge.
One more big boy stack I will throw out there is the Pittsburgh Pirates travelling to an AL hitters park. This is the third lefty in a row that they are facing (wow, the White Sox rotation consists of 4 lefties — that’s a lot) and John Danks is the worst of the bunch. So fire up the Pirate right-handed bats: Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Jung-Ho Kang for sure. Then possibly add Francisco Cervelli, Sean Rodriguez, and Jordy Mercer if they’re starting.
I’m running out of time here, so I’ll keep this short for the sneaky stacks. The Oakland A’s lefties versus Odrisamer Despaigne. Despaigne is awful on the road and is just not very good. Arizona Diamondbacks righties versus the lefty Hector Santiago. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock are two of the best hitters in the league versus lefties.
No bonus notes today due to time constraints. And just a heads up that there may not be a DFS Caught Looking Strategy post for Thursday as I will be helping a friend move. Good luck!