Daily Fantasy Baseball - An Introduction for New Players at DraftKings

Daily Fantasy Baseball - An Introduction for New Players at DraftKings

Over the past couple of years, daily fantasy sports has had tremendous growth. Daily fantasy leagues give fantasy players a way to be involved in each sport without being tied to a sport for the whole season. As the baseball season approaches, I thought we would take a look at daily fantasy baseball at our #1 destination for fantasy play - DraftKings.com.

Before playing at any daily game site, it is important to understand each site rules and scoring system.

At DraftKings, each baseball league requires a fantasy player to submit a 10 man roster with these positions: P, P, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF. These 10 players need to have a combined salary of $50,000 or less. This year your roster has to have hitters from three different major league teams.

Here's is look at scoring system for all players at DraftKings:

  • Hitters will accumulate points as follows:
    • Single = +3 PTs
    • Double = +5 PTs
    • Triple = +8 PTs
    • Home Run = +10 PTs
    • Run Batted In = +2 PTs
    • Run = +2 PTs
    • Base on Balls = +2 PTs
    • Hit By Pitch = +2 PTs
    • Stolen Base = +5 PTs
    • Caught Stealing = -2 PTs
  • Pitchers will accumulate points as follows:
    • Inning Pitched = +2.25 PTs
    • Strike Out = +2 PTs
    • Win = +4 PTs
    • Earned Run Allowed = -2 PTs
    • Hit Against = -0.6 PTs
    • Base on Balls Against = -0.6 PTs
    • Hit Batsman = -0.6 PTs
    • Complete Game = +2.5 PTs
    • Complete Game Shut Out = +2.5 PTs
    • No Hitter = +5 PTs
  • *NOTE: Hitting statistics for Pitchers will not be counted, and Pitching statistics for Hitters will not be counted.

Based on this year's salaries, the best pitchers in the game have a huge edge over top hitters. Yu Darvish ($11,200) has the highest salary for opening day and he has a base line of 25.2 fantasy points per game. Miguel Cabrera ($5700)has the highest salary for all batters. He has a baseline of 10.7 fantasy point per game in their scoring system. On opening day, there are 121 pitchers projected to score more points than Cabrera which just shows the impact of starting pitching.

When you look at the top players at each position, you can see the impact of both players within the salary cap. Yu Darvish would account for 22.4 % of your salary on opening day compared to 11.4 % by Miguel Cabrera.

Here's a graph of Darvish's 32 starts in 2013:

He delivered nine scores of 30 points of more (28.1 % impact rate) plus 14 starts with 20 points of more (71.9 % success rate). Darvish only delivered complete failure scores twice (6 % failure rate).

Here's a look at the 148 games that Miguel Cabrera played in 2013:


Cabrera had 43 games with 16 fantasy points or more with 5 of those games having 30 points or more (29.1 % impact rate). He also had 25 games with 10 to 15 points. Overall, Miguel had success in 45.9 % of his games. He had 5 points of less in 51 games (34.5 % failure rate). By looking at Cabrera's game logs, you can see how helpful he was when he was playing well and you can see the gaps when he played poorly. He really struggled over the last 25 games of the season due to his abdomen injury.

I just want to give a new player a feel for how a couple of top players performed in each game.

There are a wide variety of price points and league sizes so a new daily player has to understand his bankroll and his ultimate goal in the daily space. In head to head match, DraftKings pays back 90 %. Therefore, a daily player will need to win 55.5 % of these matches to break even. In three team contests, you will need to win just over 37 % of your matches to break even.

Probably the most attractive leagues to learn the game and hopefully maintain some of your bankroll are 50/50 contests. This events pays the top half of the league $1.80 per dollar invested. In these leagues, you will need to have the same winnings % as head to head matches to break even, but a fantasy player will have more room for error.

The big carrot at most daily games sites is their big tournaments with huge overall prizes. In these games, you have a slim chance of winnings or even maintaining your bankroll, but there is a huge reward if you get it right. On the first day of the baseball season, DraftKings is running four contest with $270,000 in guaranteed prizes with price points ranging from $2 to $100. Two players will walk away with $10,000 checks in the $100 and $27 game.

A fantasy player has to play two different styles to compete in events with huge entries compared to head to head matches. I would say it is important to own strong starting pitching in head to head matches, but a fantasy player has to be aware of players with an undervalued salary. Using an elite arm will definitely restrict the star power of your hitting lineup. If a fantasy player can get the pitching right, he gives himself the best chance of winning over time in head to head to head matches. It should be pretty obvious high K pitchers have the most value.

Homeruns are the key to winning on the hitting side in daily fantasy baseball. Last year there were 4661 HR's in major baseball in 4862 games (0.95 per game). On a night with a full schedule of games, there are about 30 HR's per day. In head to head matches, a daily player could have success with 1 HR per day with solid upfront pitching. In the big events, a daily player will need 3 or more HR's in a night to have success.

The key element for a new daily baseball player to understand is the connection of each player in the lineup. For Miguel Cabrera to have a plus game after his HR's, he needs other players on his team to get on base. If the player in front of him gets on base and Cabrera hits a HR, both players will score points on the same hit. This is what lead to a strategy called "Stacking". This is an important style to know in the DraftKings format.

Last year DraftKings allowed a fantasy player to use every possible player on one team's lineup if they fit under the salary cap. This turns the big contests with multiple entries into a math problem at times especially if a site is offering overlays.

Let's face it. A daily player could do all the research in the world, but he could be easily beat by an offense that scores over 10 runs. DraftKings have done a good job of raising salaries on some teams to help restrict the most potent offenses in baseball. This year a fantasy player with need to use a hitter from 3 different major league teams. This will lead to more variations in rosters entered in their big events.

The best daily players will try to connect the core players on teams facing a weak pitcher in a hitting ballpark. When you look at the stacking theory, it will make more sense. If you pick the right offense and they score 10 runs, you will have a chance at 10 runs and 10 RBI. This team would most likely also have 10 plus base runners via a hit or walk. These multiples paired with a couple of HR's leads to huge scores sometimes in daily baseball. You can just imagine the upside if a team scores 15+ runs.

If a new players wants to play in the big tournaments, they have to understand the stacking principle and they need to be aware that there will be teams using multiple variations of stacks. With multiple entries, in essence, a daily player can almost take the pitcher out of the equation at times. It is tougher at DraftKings due to two pitching slots. At a daily game site with one pitching slot, a daily player could play 4 or 5 starters with the same hitting lineup. This would almost guarantee a solid score from the pitching position.

A player with a short budget and limited entries in big tournament has to understand the value of fading the best options each day. Let's say Yu Darvish is at home facing the free swinging Houston Astros. His price point will be high plus he has a good chance to be a high % own in the multi entry events. If you have one entry and another team has 10, your chance of beating that team if they also use Darvish. You basically need to outscore his 10 different variation of his hitting roster plus every other team in the field. If you FADE Darvish and he delivers only an average score, you could have an edge in salary on the hitting side if you get your pitcher right.

After all of this, I'll leave you with these tips:

In head to head or 50/50 matches, I would value elite pitching as a baseline to delivering a solid score. A pitcher's matchup and ballpark is very important when making this decision. I would also try to tie a couple of players from the same lineup together. I would suggest maybe the top or middle of the lineup of a couple of teams with favorable matchups.

I would also try to deliver consistent plan that has a chance to work over time. Maybe you just use offenses that play in Texas, Colorado, or some other high scoring ballpark.

The biggest failure by many daily players including myself is chasing cold players. Sometimes the top players in the game can go a month or six week before finding their rhythm. I would let them come into play when their salary starts to fall into a favorable area.

Remember name players don't play well in most days.

If you decide to play in big events, you have a better chance of success if you use the stacking theory. A player fading top offenses in these events will have a huge edge in some weeks when undervalued offenses play well. In these type of events, it probably makes sense to fade elite pitching. But a player using weaker offenses will have the ability to own better arms.

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Shawn Childs Shawn Childs -
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Forestdale, MA
FFToolbox Fantasy Baseball Writer since 2014
Over the past decade, Ive had the liberty to compete against the best fantasy players in the world. Ive won my fair share of leagues in multiple high stakes season long games in baseball and football. My strength is fantasy baseball where Ive won five National Fantasy Baseball Championship main event titles with four of those teams finishing in the top 5 overall. My success in fantasy sports has lead me to pursue a career in the fantasy market as a content provider and product development.