Today my sister and I passed a proud family tradition on to our young cousins. We introduced them to the game of lightning in my parents’ driveway. When we were kids Leslie and I spent countless hours in the driveway playing lightning. We had laughs, shouting matches and even some tears, but most importantly I have a ton of great memories. I’m also a pretty good free-throw shooter.
It felt good to pass that game on to a younger generation, and it was pretty rewarding to hear them laugh and have such a good time. It also felt good to knock out my sister, who is definitely the best free-throw shooter I know. Of course, she knocked me out more, but I’m okay with that. Fortunately, I no longer feel the need to throw a tantrum every time I lose at something like I did as a kid. I left that tradition behind a long time ago.
Another tradition I learned to leave behind is devaluing the win in fantasy baseball. In my traditional fantasy leagues, I never chase wins. I’m not going to pass on Cole Hamels because he has been unlucky with wins the last few seasons, and I’m not going to start a mediocre pitcher in the hopes his team scores a bunch of runs and bails him out with a win. I would rather just get good starting pitchers and trust that the wins will follow. After all, the Reds were pretty terrible last season and it didn’t stop Johnny Cueto from winning 20 games.
When I began playing DFS I continued to ignore wins, and it hurt me. It is a good thing I became better at losing because I did quite a bit of it early on. It didn’t help that I began playing on FanDuel. Wins are important on every site, but they are especially important on FanDuel. FanDuel awards four points for a win and one point for every strikeout and inning pitched. Compare that to DraftKings and FantasyAces, who both award twice as many points for a win as for a K or IP.
The other difference between FanDuel and those other sites is you play one starting pitcher on FanDuel while you play two on DraftKings and FantasyAces. On FanDuel, you pretty much have to get your pitching pick correct while you can probably take a few more chances with at least one of your pitching spots on other sites.
As I said above wins are important. With that in mind, taking one ace facing another ace can be unnecessarily risky. Corey Kluber looked like a great play on Opening Day but wound up losing a pitcher’s duel to Dallas Keuchel. I really like Anibal Sanchez in Pittsburgh Monday, but there is a pretty decent chance Gerrit Cole is just as good or even better in that game. It is probably worth it to spend the extra money on Adam Wainwright, who should have a much better chance at a win. On DraftKings, I will probably take a pass on Wainwright altogether in favor of Sanchez and Danny Duffy or even Eddie Butler.
This brings me, finally, to today’s main strategy point: You should spend on pitching, especially on FanDuel. Pitchers don’t just rack up a disproportionate number of points in DFS, they also tend to be more stable from week to week. I used to go with the cheapest pitcher(s) I felt comfortable with in any given DFS game and then fill my hitters with the remaining money, but that is a difficult way to make money. You will feel brilliant when Drew Hutchinson strikes out eight on Opening Day, but you don’t stand much of a chance when he allows seven earned runs six days later.
I will probably still have Hutchinson in some lineups when he faces the Braves in five days, but I will almost certainly pair him with an ace or second-tier starting pitcher. For the most part, my days of playing two young guys with upside like Hutchinson are over. I know it is difficult to build a competent lineup around a super-expensive guy like Clayton Kershaw, but I will usually try to get at least one stud like Wainwright or Chris Sale to anchor my lineup. It is about time I started a new (winning) DFS tradition.