Welcome! If you've never played MLB DFS before but want to get started, you've come to the right place! This article will briefly and simply break down a few of the key things to consider when playing MLB DFS. Future articles will get more in depth on some MLB DFS strategies, but this article is intended as an easy starting point for someone who's never played!
On DraftKings you get to select 2 pitchers, and on Fanduel you select 1. As you can probably imagine, pitcher selection is critical in MLB DFS. You'll notice they are the highest priced players on every slate and that's because they tend to score much higher than batters.
When selecting your pitchers, especially in GPP contests, you generally want to target guys who have a high K%. (Strikeout a lot of batters). Strikeouts are heavily rewarded and often times it can seem like a pitcher didn't have a great game, but a high number of strikeouts can salvage his fantasy performance. High K% pitchers also tend to have higher ceilings, and the pitchers on GPP winning rosters oftentimes ends with a significant number of strikeouts (K's).
There are tons of other stats, but the few I think are next most worth looking at are ERA, projected innings pitcher (IP) & Vegas lines.
ERA is quite simply the number of earned runs a pitcher allows per game on average. We don't really care as much about unearned runs because they tend to be flukey and unpredictable, so ERA gives us a great representation of how effective a pitcher has been. Each earned run is also heavily penalized on DraftKings (-2) and Fanduel (-3).
Projected innings pitched is obviously important because the more IP, the more likely a pitcher is to secure strikeouts, (and also the more likely he is to be having a good game, pitchers oftentimes get pulled/ are forced out of games earlier if they play poorly). Vegas lines really matter in the case where one team is a significant favorite. The pitcher from that team will often have a higher floor and thus see higher ownership, because they are likely to secure a win, which rewards them heavily.
Pulling it all together, high ceiling pitchers tend to be ones with higher K%'s, while high floor players tend to be those with lower ERA's and higher projected IP. High floor pitchers can also be those on teams that are expected to win easily. Although oftentimes expensive/highly owned, from a raw points perspective high K%/low ERA pitchers are ideal.
We have all these stats, as well as player point and ownership projections (which I will talk about a bit more below) and our lineup optimizers available as a part of our AC+ MLB Membership!
With batter selection, there are some obvious places you can (and many users do) look too first, but I don't know that they provide a ton of value. These are things like batting average, on base percentage (OBP), runs batted in (RBI's), etc. In MLB DFS though, by far the most important thing to look at, especially in GPP contest, is homeruns, or more specifically HR%. HR percentage is the percentage of times a batter hits a homerun. Why is this so important? A homerun is a whopping 10 points, not to mention the run and potential RBI's a player gets from hitting one. They are disproportionately rewarded, and the best GPP hitters of the night are oftentimes players who have hit one or more homeruns.
A second thing to look at is the way hitters fare against certain handed pitchers. For example, in general a right-handed batter (RHB) is going to perform better against a left-handed pitcher (LHP) and a LHB against RHP. For this reason if oftentimes makes sense to target batters who hit with the opposite hand the pitcher throws with. From an analytical perspective, you can look to hitter splits to see how certain hitters fare against LHP's and RHP's.
One final thing I'll discuss before getting into ownership percentage (critical to MLB DFS), is lineup stacking. Stacking is more important to MLB DFS then it is to pretty much any other DFS sport. This is because in baseball, players scores can be heavily correlated. If a guy hits a homerun with his teammate on base, they both get points. If a team lights up a pitcher, there's no limit to the amount of points that can be scored (unlike in NBA or NFL, where there's a time limit).
So, how should you stack? Well, in baseball every player has an 'order' in the lineup, and to effectively stack, you want to select guys who hit directly after (and before) each other in the order. My personal opinion is that the most effective stack is a 1-2-3. This means you target a specific team you think has a good matchup against a weak pitcher, and you select their 1st, 2nd and 3rd batters. The potential correlation of these three players performing well sets you up perfectly for strong GPP scores. You can easily create stacks using our advanced lineup optimizer, or looking towards the "Start/Order" column on our datasheet.
We offer ownership projections for every single MLB main slate, and they are absolutely pivotal to succeed in MLB DFS. Unlike NBA or even NFL, baseball is an extremely unpredictable sport. For hitters especially (who make up the majority of your DFS lineup) the difference between the best and worst hitter in the league is something like 1-2 hits in every 10 at bats. As a baseball fan/player, that's obviously hugely significant, but as a DFS player, we can use the increased variability of MLB DFS to our advantage. When building GPP lineups, I think it very rarely makes sense to select hitters who we project to be over 25% owned. Again, unlike in NBA/NFL, there is almost never a 'sure thing' in baseball, and getting ownership edges is what will win you money in the long term. I personally like to target lineups with a total ownership of <100% for GPP contests, although I do allow myself a little more room to select highly owned pitchers, as those tend to be less variable.
For cash contests, just like other sports, it makes sense to target highly owned guys, especially pitchers.
MLB DFS can take a bit of getting used too, so if you've never played, don't get discouraged if it doesn't go your way right from the start. That being said, it's also one of the most fun ways to turn a long-long MLB season into something you look forward to watching each and every night. In the future, we aim to come out with more articles/videos on how to build GPP winning lineups, but take the points above and try to apply them to your own game today! Our AC+ MLB membership (First week FREE then $1.99/week) is a great place to start, and gives you access to an in depth player datasheet, daily point/ownership projections, a lineup optimizer for both FanDuel and DraftKings and more!