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 SUNDAY JUNE 21, 2015
On DraftKings on Sunday, I was in contention for a top spot in the $3 Moonshot GPP tournament where 1st place prize was $5,000. I went full stack with six Red Sox hitters and choosing the Red Sox was one of my better reads that I’ve had so I want to break down that lineup and my thought process to it. The whole lineup was the following:
(P) Jake Arrieta, (P) Vincent Velasquez, (C) Jonathan Lucroy, (1B) David Ortiz, (2B) Dustin Pedroia, (3B) Xander Bogaerts, (SS) Hanley Ramirez, (OF) Mookie Betts, (OF) Brock Holt, (OF) Giancarlo Stanton
So the main thing with this lineup was obviously that I really liked the Red Sox offense for the day and here is why. On the previous day (Saturday), the Red Sox also played against the Royals in Kansas City and the weather was the hitter’s trifecta of weather so to speak. 1.) Temperatures were high in the mid to upper 90’s at game time (there are more runs scored on average in games that are higher than 90 degrees). 2.) Humidity was high, which makes the air less dense to allow the ball to travel farther through the air. 3.) The wind was blowing straight out toward center field at 15-20 MPH. So for that game I predicted it go over the Vegas runs total for the game, which was at 8, and the game ended at 7-4.
So for Sunday’s game, it was the same hitters weather trifecta, though not as pronounced. The temperatures were a little lower, it was a tad less humid, and the wind was less strong at 10-15 MPH. But the important thing was that Chris Young was on the hill for the Royals. Young is the most extreme fly ball pitcher in baseball, so this weather was surely not suitable for him as balls off Red Sox bats were sure to be going in the air a lot to travel through the lower density and aided by a little bit of wind. Young ended up giving up three HR to Betts, Ortiz, and Ramirez. And for good measure the Red Sox also added 8 doubles and 2 triples in the game — all of which were by hitters in my lineup.
For my pitchers, I hit it on the head with Arrieta and his CGSO against a Twins team that can struggle mightily versus good right-handed pitching. But Velasquez wasn’t able to put much together as a dirt cheap option. And then my other two hitters, Lucroy and Stanton, didn’t do a whole lot. I wasn’t going to get off of Velasquez due to his price, but I certainly could have made some different choices instead of Lucroy and Stanton that could have allowed me to take down the tournament. Nonetheless, it still was a strong 18th place showing out of 27,787 entrants, and this whole example is a great lesson in how weather affects baseball and why as DFS players we need to pay great attention to weather.
STRATEGY FOR MONDAY JUNE 22, 2015
Let’s take a look at Monday’s slate of action where I will be submitting multiple lineups into the $3 entry MLB Swing for the Fences $250K GPP tourney on DraftKings where 1st place prize is $100,000. It is a short 7 game slate on Monday with one BIG weather concern. That concern comes at Wrigley Field in Chicago where Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are visiting. The forecast is calling for thunderstorms to arrive during the game and there also high winds blowing out straight to center field. This weather is extremely awful for pitchers because rain delays here appear to be likely, which could force starting pitchers from the game, and the big gusts of wind can obviously carry the ball for days out of Wrigley Field. But then there’s a chance of the game getting postponed completely, which would also hurt all hitters involved. This game has the potential to produce zero fantasy production whatsoever, so playing any player in this game could be extremely risky but very contrarian, and if by some twist of fate the game gets played then rostering these players could win a large GPP tournament.
There’s also going to be the chance of a storm in the DET/CLE game, but it might not arrive till later on in the evening when the game could already be complete. But it definitely is another one to keep an eye on as game time approaches.
THE FAVES: With Kershaw facing weather issues, Felix Hernandez set to square off against a Royals team that strikes out the least in all of baseball, and Michael Pineda likely to be the highest owned pitcher on this short slate, the top 3 priced pitchers of the day on DraftKings may not be the best plays. Does this mean I won’t use them at all? No, I will find some way to include them (unless the weather is just absolutely wretched by game time for Kershaw), especially on a short slate where anything can happen. But there are two cheaper plays that I think are good +EV (expected value) situations.
The first of such situations is Hector Santiago who has a home matchup against the Astros tonight. Last time versus them he held them to just 1 hit and 4 walks over 6.1 shutout innings while striking out 5. We know that the Astros are a powerful team, but they also can strikeout a lot and Santiago’s strikeout rate of 8.63 K/9 is solid enough to garner our attention here. All things considered, Santiago might be my favorite play of the day due to his cheaper price tag, and strikeout upside against a strikeout prone team. But I also see it as a potentially dangerous situation as he is due for some regression.
SLEEPERS FOR CHEAPER:
For the second situation that I like, we turn to Tommy Milone of the Twins for a “sleeper for cheaper” situation. Milone has never been anything too special as a Major League pitcher, but he does have the potential to have some excellent games when he is on. The soft-tossing lefty will be against a White Sox offense that is dead last in the Majors in both wOBA and ISO versus lefties, and they also have the 3rd highest strikeout rate against southpaws. And last time that Milone faced the White Sox on April 10, he shut them out for 7.2 innings while striking out 7. Don’t sleep too much on Milone today because he could in fact end up being the best pitcher of the night.
And if we want to go super duper dirt cheap with a sleeper pick, we can look at the Royals Joe Blanton if we dare. Blanton has pitched out of the pen mostly this season, but he made his first start of the season last week against the Brewers where he held them in check for 5 innings of work. Blanton only lasted 5 innings in that one because he was likely on a pitch count (ended up throwing 73 pitches), not being stretched out enough since he’s been throwing in relief. So he should be given a little more leash in this start, perhaps somewhere around 90 pitches (or more), to give him more potential to throw more innings. He will be against the Mariners at pitcher friendly Safeco Field, and the Mariners have the 2nd lowest wOBA and 3rd highest strikeout rate in the league against right-handed pitching. They are surely an offense that has had severe struggles this season, so even though we know Blanton to often be a gas can, this is decent opportunity to take a chance on him as your second SP in DraftKings since he is the cheapest option of the night.
THE NOT SO FAVES:
Trevor Bauer was one of my “not so faves” last time he started, but he ended up pitching a pretty nice game to prove me wrong. But I am going to go back to him again as a “not so fave” because I think that the Tigers offense is really turning things around with the return of a healthy Victor Martinez and both J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes doing well as of late to support Miguel Cabrera. In addition, it will not be optimal pitching conditions in Cleveland tonight with winds blowing straight out to center field and a storm expected to roll in at some point (though that could be later in the evening).
Drew Hutchison could also end up being a semi-popular play tonight with what appears to be a decent matchup at Tampa Bay against the Rays who have the 3rd lowest amount of runs scored in the American League. But remember that these Rays are surprisingly in first place in the division and have some fight to them. More telling of what makes Hutchison a “not so fave” play though is the fact that this season he has a miserable 9.46 ERA in 7 road starts. I might use Hutchison in some lineups because I do like that he is facing the Rays lineup that is more dangerous against left-handed pitching, but just beware that this could be a potential blow up spot for Hutch.
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:
We could virtually stack any team tonight with it being a short slate that could be unpredictable, but the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins present themselves as the best opportunities to kick around the gas cans that are named Kevin Correia and John Danks. The Yankees left-handed/switching hitting bats Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran plus righties Alex Rodriguez and Chris Young are all in play if they are in the lineup. For the Twinkies, they can demolish bad left-handed pitching. So Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, and more can be part of a Twins stacked lineup.
The Tampa Bay Rays against Hutchison could provide some sneaky returns. I mentioned Hutchison’s road problems this season, but also in the Rays favor is that the Jays had to use 7 relievers on Sunday. So if the Rays can jump on Hutchison early on, then they could end up facing a bullpen that hasn’t done so well lately. Also, the righty Hutchison has had significant problems for some reverse splits against right-handed hitters this season and the Rays generally roll out right-handed heavy lineups. Against righties, Hutchison has allowed a .391 wOBA and .900 OPS. Those are some pretty outrageous looking numbers. For this sneaky stack, fire up Kevin Kiermaier, Joey Butler, David DeJesus, Logan Forsythe and Steven Souza. Evan Longoria could also be included, but his 0 for 10 with 3 K’s career line against Hutchison isn’t inspiring.
- As I said, lots of stacks can be used tonight on the short slate. I also like the Detroit Tigers and if weather improves at Wrigley Field then both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs offenses would be in play (especially the Cubs as a contrarian play against Kershaw). Even the Kansas City Royals could be a nice contrarian play against Felix. In these short slates, all bets are off.
- I do like Pineda against the Phillies because the numbers show that it is a good spot for him. He will certainly be VERY high owned though, and he also has a trend of not performing up to expectation when his DraftKings price is at a certain level — it is at that level tonight. So I will be using him for sure, but just keep these things in mind.
- UPDATE (2:00 PM PST): I’ll take a stab with an Astros stack in the event that Santiago blows up.