Tip Drill: A beginner's guide to daily fantasy baseball

Roto Arcade

Realistically, you will not become a zillionaire by playing daily fantasy baseball. Sorry to smack you with cold truth right here at the top, but there it is. Advertising efforts from various DFS sites may have convinced you that such games offer a clear and easy path to extreme, life-changing wealth, but, um ... no, probably not happening.

In fact, a comprehensive review of the Forbes 400 list will reveal that zero of our richest citizens acquired their fortunes via daily fantasy games.

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However, this fact doesn't mean you can't still profit by dabbling in DFS. Daily games are really an excellent complement to the standard fantasy portfolio. If you regret not drafting any shares of, say, Taijuan Walker or Nolan Arenado or whoever else, you can always find opportunities for single-serving ownership in daily.

Today, the mission is to assist those of you considering a foray into daily baseball — we're talking to the first-timers, not seasoned sharks. The advice below is strictly 101 stuff. If you've already built your forecasting algorithm and you're playing dozens of lineups each day, then you're free to leave. Go away. Shoo. But if you're new to daily and hoping to turn a two-figure bankroll into perhaps a modest three-figure bankroll, then please read on...

Know your scoring settings


This is the most basic piece of fantasy advice, applicable to all sports, and yet so many managers brush it off. Really, you shouldn't do much of anything — ever, anywhere — without a careful examination of the rules and terms. The major daily games assign different values to common events, and roster construction is slightly different from site to site. Here's a snapshot of scoring on various platforms. Many in-game events also carry negative point values depending on the site, and pitcher wins are less important relative to innings and Ks.

Just as you wouldn't draft a standard fantasy team without understanding the league settings, you shouldn't construct a daily lineup without familiarizing yourself with the scoring system.

Vegas is your friend

This is most definitely not true in all aspects of life, but it's certainly true with daily gaming. For obvious reasons, you're looking for starting pitchers tied to heavy favorites, and you want batters involved in potentially high-scoring games. Vegas handles much of the heavy-lifting for you, accounting for park factors, weather conditions, pitcher quality, lineup construction and other trends and traits. If bookmakers expect a big pile of runs to be scored in a given game, you should seriously consider stacking hitters in those lineups. Simple enough, right?

FanDuel and DraftKings require users to choose players from at least three different MLB teams, so there are limits to your stacking possibilities. It's a solid tactic nonetheless, because predicting any individual hitter's performance in a single game is kind of a ridiculous endeavor. Which brings me to this...

Pitching is priceless

OK, that's not completely accurate, because each site literally puts a price on each pitcher. This is fundamental to the whole DFS thing. I just really like alliteration in the subheads.

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Anyway, here's my point: You absolutely cannot screw up your pitching choices and still expect to profit. In full-season fantasy leagues, experts will often recommend going cheap on pitchers, sketching in your rotation in the late rounds. But in daily games, I'll usually select my pitcher(s) before scanning the bat rack. Even baseball's most reliable hitters — players like Cabrera, Cutch and Trout — can easily post an 0-fer at any time, regardless of matchup. Forecasting any batter's stats for a single day is incredibly tricky. I almost always feel more confident in the one-day projection of a quality starting pitcher at home in a friendly park, against a less-than-intimidating opponent. You don't need to build around a Kershaw or Scherzer-level starter each day (or any day), but you do need to remember that scoring is driven to a great extent by innings, strikeouts, wins and run-prevention. When chasing Ks, it's easy enough to exploit strikeout-prone lineups and avoid others.

Don't obsess over batter-vs.-pitcher stats

I won't go so far as to say that player-vs.-player history has zero relevance, but, in most cases, we're dealing with sample sizes that are much too small to be useful or predictive. I'm not going to make a spending decision based on, say, a hitter's 7-for-18 history against a certain pitcher. Instead, you should always prefer larger sets of data — the sort of stuff you'll find in Yahoo's Matchup Ratings, for example. All of you already know that handedness of hitters and pitchers is a big deal; typically, you want left-handed bats facing right-handed arms. If you can start Matt Adams against Edwin Jackson and the price is right, great. Jump all over it — even though Adams is 0-for-6 in his career against Jackson. You should care a great deal more about the fact that A) Edwin is a mess, and B) Adams hammers right-handed pitching (.851 OPS vs. RHPs, .553 vs. LHPs).

I hate to suggest that batter-vs.-pitcher history never matters, however. When two players have seen plenty of each other and one of them consistently wins, well ... that's not something you can easily ignore. Omar Infante versus R.A. Dickey has been an unfair fight (17-for-34, 2 HR). Victor Martinez kinda owns Mark Buehrle (28-for-78, 4 HR). Joe Mauer has toyed with Justin Verlander (24-for-65, 8 XBH, 12 BBs). If you believe in a matchup, play it. It's your money.

And here's the final and most obvious tip...

Players can't help us if they don't play

Nope, you didn't need an expert for this one. Nothing mysterious here. We simply need to emphasize the importance of verifying that every player in your daily lineup is also in his real team's lineup. When you mess around with platoon players and other part-timers, this is no small detail. In your hometown roto league, it's not usually a disaster when a player on your active roster gets an off-day. But in daily, you immediately lose money.

It's easy enough to find reliable sources for batting order info — like this feed, for example. The difficult part is making a daily habit of daily lineup hawking. Weather-related postponements are a terror, too. Stay on it.

As in traditional fantasy baseball, you won't profit from the daily game unless you're an active, engaged player. The Yahoo fantasy team will cover daily baseball all season around here, from opening night through September. We're here to help.

I've personally made tens if not dozens of dollars playing daily, so you should totally listen to me.

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