***This will be the first article in a series of posts that will discuss daily fantasy baseball strategy, and the topics are an introduction and how to factor in the elements of weather when constructing a lineup.
The milestone development in fantasy sports came in 1980 with the advent of Rotisserie League Baseball, which was so aptly named after the restaurant (La Rotisserie Francaise in New York City) where the idea was formed and where the pioneer participants of the league would meet to play. Of course today, we just simply refer to that type of fantasy scoring system as “roto,” short for “rotisserie.” So if you have been playing fantasy sports for years and thought that the term “rotisserie” had some other special meaning besides a style of roasting meat, then think again. It’s about as simple of a way to have given a moniker to the game, but sometimes simplicity is best.
From that New York City restaurant blossomed an addicting trend that really began to explode in the mid-1990’s coinciding with the internet boom. For thousands upon thousands of enthusiastic sports fans, playing fantasy sports has made actual sports even more interesting to watch and follow throughout the season, and the industry just continued to grow when the new millennium began. In 2006, a number of fantasy sports operating sites began to offer daily fantasy sports (DFS) games where participants could draft a team for a single day and win or lose money accordingly. It has the same concept of season long fantasy sports leagues that are based on point scoring systems, (i.e. players earn or lose points based on their performance). But it wasn’t until 2009 when daily fantasy sports began to garner more attention with the introduction of FanDuel who is considered to be the current leading DFS provider in the industry (though DraftKings is hot on their tail). Ever since then the daily fantasy sports industry has grown exponentially with several sites paying out millions of dollars in winnings each year.
Sports purists may argue that fantasy sports and daily fantasy sports in particular taint the purity of enjoying sports and rooting for your hometown or favorite teams, and that they bring in bandwagoneers and too many casual, unintelligent sports fans. But the fact of it is daily fantasy sports games are helping the sports themselves grow so much by getting thousands of individuals more interested in a wider range of sports and in a variety of ways. People attend more live sporting events and increase viewership via televsion and/or streaming app services for these sports that they may not otherwise pay attention to, and these individuals are becoming more familiar with the teams, players, and nuances of the games, which is good for the fan bases.
For instance, as a child I was introduced to the NHL by one of my childhood best friends whose aunt married the owner of an NHL franchise. So I attended a lot of games with the perks of meeting the players in the locker room and getting free souvenirs and such (I’ve got Eric Lindros’ broken hockey stick still sitting in my closet after 20 years). I enjoyed watching the sport and all, but never having played hockey myself, it wasn’t as interesting to me and it wasn’t a must for me to watch all the games. But with the growth of daily fantasy sports, I have become increasingly interested in the NHL and have gotten to know a lot of the players’ and teams’ qualities and tendencies. And I even won a pair of tickets to the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend by getting 1st place in a tournament on DraftKings.
However, baseball is a sport that I have always been in love with, and fantasy baseball has been a hobby of mine since the mid-1990’s when I would log on to MSN on my father’s account via the dial-up network on the home’s second phone line. So recently, DFS for baseball has been engulfing me and I have learned a lot about playing the game and what it takes to win. A lot of the things that I have learned have been through experience and now I would like to share some of the knowledge that I have gathered.
Generally speaking for most DFS sites out there, each player in the player pool is assigned a dollar amount which is his “player salary.” When choosing players for your lineup, you have to fill each position slot in your lineup without going over the salary cap. For baseball, the position slots that need to be filled will vary from site to site as some sites may require you to pick two starting pitchers, or some sites may require you to pick two corner and two middle infielders as opposed to a player from each separate infield position. Also, the player salaries and point scoring systems will differ on each site. So it is important to be familiar with these settings on whichever site that you choose to play on.
“OH THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS WEATHER”
The very first thing that I do before even looking at anything else for constructing a daily fantasy baseball lineup is I check on the weather for each game on the slate. For baseball, the weather can have a huge impact on the game. The elements of weather can affect how far a batted ball travels and game time temperatures can affect player performance as well. Here are the things to know about baseball weather:
- For hour by hour forecasts that include temperatures, humidity levels, air density levels, conditions (clear, cloudy, rain, thunderstorms, etc.), precipitation chances, and wind speed/direction, regularly check out the “weather” section at Daily Baseball Data.
- Warmer temperatures provide a better environment for offense because warm air is less dense. Less dense air means that the ball will travel farther when going through the air. In particular, temperatures above 90 degrees are what we are looking for in targeting hitters/teams for extra offensive potential.
- Conversely, colder temperatures suppress offense and are more conducive for pitchers because cold air is more dense. More dense air prevents the ball from traveling farther when going through the air. When temperatures dip below 40 degrees, there tends to be significantly less runs scored.
- Also affecting the density of air is humidity. As humidity increases, air density decreases. For an extra boost in offensive potential on any given day, target stadiums with increased humidity levels
- As mentioned, both temperature and humidity can affect air density, as can the geographical location of the stadium (e.g. Coors Field in Colorado is at a high elevation in less dense air). There is a measuring system for air density called the Air Density Index (ADI). The average ADI level for all MLB parks is 61, and the stadiums with roofs (dome or retractable roof closed) generally have an ADI of 67. For an extra boost in offensive potential on any given day, target stadiums that have air density levels below 61.
- Weather conditions, whether it is clear and sunny or rain with thunderstorms, factor into DFS decisions for all games that are played outdoors. If rain and/or thunderstorms are in the forecast, then that could cause delays in the game, which means that starting pitchers could exit early from the game, because pitchers typically do not stay in after a lengthy delay due to the risk that it may have on their arms from not being warmed up enough after sitting for so long. Exercise caution when thinking about using pitchers in a wet forecast.
- However, depending on how bad the rain or thunderstorms are expected to be, it could actually turn out to be a more optimal situation to use a pitcher that you like in a game with such conditions for a GPP (guaranteed prize pool) tournament because that pitcher’s ownership rate should be lower due to threat of his start being interrupted with a delay. A player with a lower ownership rate who scores a lot of points is valuable because it positively differentiates your lineup from the masses in a large tournament.
- For hitters playing in poor weather conditions, there is no worry about using them if the forecast appears to just call for a delay rather than a postponement. Unlike pitchers, hitters will come back after weather delays and remain in the lineup and accumulate their normal plate appearances. Using hitters that are in games that are forecast for bad weather (but not bad enough to cause a postponement) could also be optimal to use because they may have lower ownership rates just like pitchers in the same situation would.
- Gusts of wind can influence how a baseball travels through the air, so it is important to know at what speed and what direction the winds are expected to blow at in any given game. If the wind is blowing in, then that gives pitchers a slight boost in value. If the wind is blowing out, then that gives hitters a slight boost in value. Typically, when there are winds that are blowing at 15 MPH or more is when to put value into wind as a factor in heavily influencing balls hit in the air.
- Be careful though when looking at the wind as a factor because wind can be less influential at certain stadiums, or do something opposite and unexpected. Here are some of those stadiums and what to keep an eye on:
- Globe Life Park (Texas Rangers) – At this stadium when there are heavier winds blowing in from right-center field, it actually has traditionally given more carry to balls hit in the air by creating a jet stream of sorts due to the way that the stadium is constructed. However, there are reports that suggest that the jet stream may not be as prevalent in recent years after they did some reconstruction to the stadium behind home plate.
- O.co Coliseum (Oakland A’s) – At this stadium when the wind is blowing out (i.e. away from home plate), it does not seem to have that much of an effect, if any, on the flight of balls hit in the air.
- AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants) – At this stadium when the wind is blowing out (i.e. away from home plate), it does not seem to have that much of an effect, if any, on the flight of balls hit in the air.
- Also remember that some stadiums have retractable roofs because their geographical location may call for extreme weather at times with either very hot and humid conditions or constant storms. So if the roofs are closed for games at these stadiums, then that neutralizes any effects of weather. But if the roofs are open, then weather can surely factor in. Here are those stadiums with retractable roofs and where to go to check to see ahead of game time if the roof will be open:
- Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks) – http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/ari/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=roof – This link posts the status of the roof for whole series rather than just single days at a time. Temperatures in Arizona get high, so the roof is usually closed when temperatures are in the 100’s.
- Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) – http://astrosroof.mlblogs.com/ – Houston gets a lot of storms and hot temperatures. The roof is usually closed if there is any threat of rain.
- Marlins Park (Miami Marlins) – https://twitter.com/marlinspark – Conditions in Miami can get very hot and humid and Miami is also susceptible to a lot of storms. So the roof is usually closed if either of those conditions are expected.
- Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers) – http://milwaukee.brewers.mlb.com/mil/ballpark/roofstatus/index.jsp – Milwaukee has cold temperatures and gets a lot of inclement weather (extreme cold and snow/rain) in the non-summer months. The roof will always be closed if there’s a threat of snow/rain and usually closed if temperatures are expected to be below 60 degrees.
- Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners) – *NO LINK AVAILABLE – Games in Seattle usually play in the open air as their retractable roof is the least used of any stadium that has one. Seattle can get a lot of rain at times, so they will close the roof if it’s expected to be a downpour. But their roof acts more like an umbrella so to speak because it doesn’t completely enclose the stadium.
- Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays) – https://twitter.com/isthedomeopen – Toronto can have low temperatures and snow/rain. They tend to have the roof open for day games, but usually not if there’s a chance of precipitation.