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Over the past few weeks I have repeatedly been asked the same question:
“How do I use the DFS Playbook?”
I understand how it might be confusing to some people especially if you are new to playing daily fantasy sports (DFS). The reason I created the DFS Playbook is I strongly believe it is the simplest tool you can possibly use when creating a DFS lineup. What makes it so simple? Let’s break it down.
On any given day there are between 8-15 MLB games taking place. Each game contains at least 10 players that are either in the lineup, could be in the lineup or are pitching. That is an absolute minimum of 300 potential players to choose from when creating your DFS lineups. The DFS Playbook whittles those 300 players down to about 20 who are considered “in play” for that day.
I already know your next question.
“How do you choose which players go into the Playbook each day?”
For one, damn you guys are awfully aggressive and a bit nosey but I dig your style. Unlike others in the DFS industry I am not that concerned with giving away my secrets. It’s my job to educate and inform you guys about DFS and how to be better players. If that means that you start beating my ass on the regular, well, those are the breaks and price I pay for doing what I do.
Now back to the selection of players.
For me personally, I play on just about every site there is but I understand that it’s unreasonable for the majority of you to do the same. Thus, I usually focus the Playbook on DraftKings, Fanduel, DraftStreet and StarStreet or FantasyAces each day. I don’t put more sites in there because with each site comes more players who might fit the “in play” tag because of their price. If I did one or two sites I could have just 11-13 players in the Playbook each day. But with each site there are new opportunities and more advantages to exploit. But if you ever have questions about another DFS site please do not hesitate to ask.
The first thing I do is sort out the starting pitchers for that day. I like to pay whatever I have to in order to get the best pitching performance of the night. So you will see guys like Clayton Kershaw & Felix Hernandez in the Playbook just about every time out. My advice here is don’t complicate things but trying to be the hero who uncovers Josh Collmenter’s one great start. If you are going to win at DFS baseball you are going to have to learn to stop playing the hero and start grasping the obvious. The key things I look at for starting pitchers are:
1) Quality of pitcher. Each pitcher is either high, medium or low level. See…simple! For this I use a combination of basic and advance metrics including K%, BB%, WHIP, BABIP, wOBA, HR/9, GB/FB% and SB%. If I need any more info I will look at FIP, xFIP, SIERA & even career double play numbers.
2) Opponent. I love targeting pitchers who are facing the Padres, Mets, Cubs & Astros or any other clubs that are struggling of late. Teams that strikeout a lot are obviously great targets and can make a medium level starter a good play that night.
3) Strikeout potential. The higher the K/9 the more likely I am to use that pitcher in daily.
4) Ballpark. The more pitcher friendly the ballpark the better I feel about the pitcher. Though you have to pay attention to whether the park is “Friendly” to groundballs or flyballs and the amount of extra base hits allowed as well.
5) Splits. I look at everything there is to from each pitcher every day. I start with history Vs opponent, ballpark, day/night and lefty/rightly splits before moving on to hot/cold zone readings.
6) Umpires. I cannot believe how few people pay attention to who the home plate umpire is on a given day knowing that it make a huge difference. Some umpires have more liberal strike zones, some call more high pitches and some just flat out play favorites (usually to the home team). This is why I always try to use pitchers who are at home because that extra inch on the outside corner could mean a world of difference.
7) Price. Yes this is the last thing I look at really but obviously it is quite important. I almost always include one “value” type pitcher in the Playbook each day. I also try and balance out the prices on different sites so that if you are playing on a site that starts multiple pitchers you can still reasonably use any combination listed in the Playbook.
If you think the process for selecting starting pitchers is tedious, just wait until you hear how I go through choosing which bats to use on a given day. I hope by now you are starting to see the value is simply using my research and trusting the process. But we will keep going for those do-it-yourself folks out there.
Here is my basic process for selecting hitters in DFS:
1) Quality of hitter. Hitters have more tiers than pitchers in my system so this is a little more complicated. I separate hitters into four categories: elite, hot, cold & basement (value). This somewhat represents their prices but not always. Numbers to consider here are pretty obvious: BA, OBP, OPS, XBH, HR, RBI, R, SB, & K%. I especially try and play hitters who have the capability to hit for average, power and who possess speed. It’s just like drafting Mike Trout or Carlos Gonzalez in the first round of a seasonal league. You put a premium on players that can put up numbers for you a variety of different ways. This is true whether you are talking about a high priced stud or a minimum priced value guy.
2) Opposing pitcher. Nothing better than attacking a struggling pitcher. Basically I just use my starting pitcher research and whichever players made me sick I use the hitters against. I also will look at the batter Vs pitcher (BvP) numbers here. Many DFS players shun the BvP numbers but they are just trying to be cool. It is sociopathic to ignore when Paul Goldschmidt is 15-25 (.577) with 7 HR, 17 RBI and 2 2B’s against Tim Lincecum. The argument against BvP is that there are better ways to distinguish how a hitter may are against a pitcher which I agree with to a point. But once you get 4+ games against (usually 12+ AB’s) it is time to start at least taking note of that history.
3) Hot/Cold streaks. This is my bread and butter. I love riding the hot hand of hitters and this has been a huge asset for my DFS success. The key is to get hitters while on their upswing not after they have already hit .462 over their last 10 games. What I do is get players who are on day 3 or 4 of their hot streak and ride them for as long as possible. This comes down to watching the games which I do just about every night. If I see a player making hard contact but not getting the results I get exciting knowing that the hot streak is coming and the prices will remain low. I use the past 3, 7 & 10 games to sort out who is in the prime of their hot streak and who is not.
4) Splits. My dear lord the splits!! Everything can be found in the splits and I am an animal at this process. Every day I print out the follow splits on a spreadsheet: lefty/righty, home/away, day/night, months, ballparks, power/finesse pitcher type, GB/FB% & HR/FB%. What I am looking for here are outliers. Numbers that are so far ahead of the rest that they jump off of the page. In daily we don’t need to settle for good or even great. We can cherry pick the absolute best of the best on any given day and that is exactly what I do.
5) Ballpark. See the pitcher reference to ballparks above but it is just a fact that some ballparks breed more runs, home runs and extra base hits while others do not.
6) Fantasy Alarm Projections. Not a shameless plug but something I legitimately use every single day. Our staff including myself, Todd Zola, Ray Flowers and Michael Pichan & Rick Wolf use each of our methods to create what has been simply the most accurate daily fantasy baseball projections anywhere. I always refer to these and especially like to sort by price/points on the site I am building a lineup.
7) Hot Zones. This is like you always wanting to take a dump in your master bathroom. Hitters also have preferences and thus when a high ball hitter faces off against a pitcher who likes to pitch up in the zone, good things can and will happen.
8) Lineup Spot. It’s no secret that the higher in the lineup a payer hits the more return he makes in fantasy so it is absolutely vital to check what spot in the order your players are hitting. A speedy non name outfielder who has recently gotten hot and is now hitting at the top of the order is a much better play than that old veteran who is in his customary sixth slot. Also, I pay close attention to players who are hitting in front of elite players such as Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Ryan Braun. Those spots I like to call “fastball city” and have huge payoffs in fantasy baseball.
9) Price. Again, last thing I look at but still an important step in forming a proper DFS Playbook. It’s easy to have all of the elite players listed at each position and call it a day but I know that won’t help anybody construct a real lineup. You will notice every day that there will be a handful of elite players listed as well as some strong middle tier guy and a batch of the best value players.
It has taken me nearly four years to come up with a formula that I feel is strong enough and consistent enough to win in DFS. I spent a long time mixing and matching between what I knew and what I heard from others and I learned a lot of lessons along the way. This is not to say that the DFS Playbook is going to work for you the same as it does for me. At the end of the day you still have to have proper bankroll management, contest discipline and patience for this to benefit you.
Patience is the essence in DFS though. You are going to lose and probably lose a lot or what seems like a lot. There is nothing that can be done about that. Hell, MLB hitters fail miserably 75% of the time. But the key is to find your comfort level and stick with it. Whether you choose to go by the Playbook or blend in your own strategies you absolutely must give it some time to grow. You’re going to choose the wrong 1B one day. The “other guy” will go yard twice and the one you chose will have 3 K’s. These things happen. But I am absolutely confident that the DFS Playbook system works and can work for you. A single day in MLB is not random as so many would have you believe. The fact is very few want to put in all of this work day after day after day and then still lose 35% of the time. It is easier saying that “anything can happen” in one day of fantasy baseball.
By using the proper strategies and building lineups full of players who are in the absolute best possible situation, you are going to win more than you lose. Sure, the greatest players on earth will have bad days. But they won’t have that many bad days. Neither will you now that you know how to use the DFS Playbook.
Any questions, comments or concerns you have feel free to post them in the comments section below or you can hit me up on Twitter (@Jeff_Mans).