Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Daily Fantasy Baseball - Basic Strategy

Daily Fantasy Baseball contests are a great test of skill, as the playing field is completely leveled each day, and you only need to handicap a single game and match-up for each of your players. You simply figure out which players will put up the most Fantasy Baseball points today and use your salary cap as effectively as possible to get those players on your team. It sounds pretty simple but there are tons of things to consider when putting together a competitive daily fantasy baseball team. I will try to cover some of the basics here. I also have a previous post on fantasy basketball strategy that covers similar ideas.

In Real Estate there is a saying called Location/Location/Location. In the Fantasy Baseball Contests on FantasySportsLive, as well as in real Baseball in general the saying should go Pitching/Pitching/Pitching. Pitching is as important in daily Fantasy Baseball as location is in Real Estate. A daily fantasy team is basically a baseball team you put together for a single game. If you need to win a single game what do you do? You send your ace pitcher to the mound. In real baseball the starting pitcher has a lot to do with winning a game. If your starter throws a shutout, you will need very little hitting to win. If your starter gets shelled and sent to the bench in the third inning, it is unlikely you will get enough hitting to overcome this. Pitching counts for about 1/2 of your chances of winning, and as such counts for about 1/2 of your team's fantasy score. Your choice of starting pitcher is as important as it gets.

Ranking Cap Games

For a ranking cap game in fantasy baseball you will spend 10x the average fantasy points scored per game for that player. A pitcher who costs 220 points puts up 22 points on average this season. For pitching a minimum cap value of 140 is used, and a maximum cap value of 250 is used. Selecting a stud pitcher with a 250 point value will leave you very little for your offensive players while selecting a 140 point cap pitcher will leave you quite a bankroll for your position players. Position players have a maximum of 45 and a minimum of 10 points for their caps.

Selecting a Pitcher

I can't emphasize enough that your fantasy baseball team needs to be built around a solid starter who will put up numbers in today's game. In general this happens when a good pitcher faces a poor offensive team. Being at home helps as well. There is still more to consider, like the 10 point bonus for a win. A pitcher getting a win will have pitched at least 5 innings and should score in the 20+ range in general. So you really want a pitcher who is likely to get the win. Luckily there are people very concerned with who will get the win. That is the betting public. If you visit an online sports book or even Yahoo, you can find the odds for the day's baseball games. The starting pitchers on the teams that are most heavily favored to win their game are your best bet. You should try to go with one of the top 5 for the day. Once you know which pitchers are most favored to get a win, you then try to find the best value against the cap. Since the cap is based on average score for the season, and the betting lines are based on the single game to be played, you can take advantage of any differences that appear by doing this. Hopefully you will identify a bargain pitcher with a cap value below 200, leaving you some room for your position players.

Position Players

The thought process for position players is different, but similar in some ways. You will not have a betting line to look at here to determine how your player will do. However, you do know who your player will be batting against to start the game. Since pitching is so important, it is a good idea to know who you will be up against, and who will be giving up more fantasy points than others. For this ERA is a great guideline. You review the ERAs for the starting pitchers, and find the worst and the best pitchers based on ERA for today's games. In general you will want to draft position players who are playing against the pitchers with the highest ERAs, and avoid drafting players who will be up against pitchers with lowest ERAs. You also probably want to avoid players going against the pitcher that you have on your fantasy team for the same reason. The starting pitcher is the most important factor in determining your starting position players, but several other factors are in play as well if you want to dig deeper.

1) Streaks
Hot players who have been putting up big numbers over the last couple of weeks are better than cold players.

2) Home Field
Players in general play a bit better at home than on the road. Home players will not bat in the bottom of the 9th on average 1/2 of the time. You are loosing about 1/18th of your plate appearances at home. You are actually better of taking position players on the road, unless they are simply poor road performers.

3) Left/Right Match-ups
Is your position player a switch hitter? If so what side are they more productive on? If not a switch hitter what handed pitchers is your player most productive against? Don't start players who struggle against certain handed pitchers when facing those same pitchers.

4) Cap Values
High cap value players are riskier than low cap value players even though they put up higher numbers in general. If you spend 40 points on a player they need to put up 4 points for you to "break even" on the selection, while a 20 point player only needs 2 points. There is more upside and less downside with low cap value players.

5) New Starters
Utility players who do a lot of filling in early in the season, and get promoted to starters later on are usually a good value. Their rank cap value will be depressed by the many partial games played earlier in the season.

Salary Cap Games

While ranking cap values are based on performance, salary cap games are based on pay. If pay was equal to performance in Baseball we would have identical systems. Fortunately that is not the case. The salaries for starting pitchers is their 2008 salary divided by 32 (average number of starts). For position players it is per game salary for 2008. 150k is the minimum salary for a pitcher, 420k is the maximum. Position players use a minimum of 10k and do not have a maximum. What is nice about the salary cap, is the values do not change during the year. For Salary Cap games you will go through the same though process as above, and will end up selecting a rookie or young underpaid pitcher with the minimum, or close to the minimum salary. The top paid pitchers are not enough better than these types of pitchers to justify blowing most of your cap on them. Once you find the best cheap pitcher available, you draft your position players. You will use the same thought process as above, except you will also want to tend to pick players from the top of the list (sorted by rank cap value). If a player with a 10k cap is at the top of the list, you simply take them. You will blow your cap on a couple of key performers after gobbling up all of the bargains.

No Cap Contests

For these you have no salary constraints. You consider the items above and select whoever you think will put up the most fantasy points for each position. Since the lists are sorted by ranking cap value you are best off selecting from at the top or near the top of the list for each position.

These are my initial thoughts on the subject. I did not try to cover everything, just some basics. Good luck in the Fantasy Baseball contests on FSL.

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