There are always a lot of requests from folks asking about who should I start in their lineups and looking for strategies to improve their DFS scores and improve their MLB lineups with better payouts. We love playing daily fantasy sports and we hope that we can provide you with some really helpful insights and tips in preparing better MLB fantasy picks, by understanding the optimal fantasy baseball rankings.
Now I don’t think it’s any secret that baseball isn’t extremely predictable, with home games not necessarily determining a guaranteed win or that a lineup of All-Stars instantly gets your team a win on any given day or night. We can’t say that Christian Yelich will hit 2 home runs and score you 40 fantasy points, he may just strike out four at bats and leave you with a big fat zero. It’s very day to day, with a ton of different variables affecting game play and the results of every game. What your MLB daily lineups today look like, will be completely different the next day. Who is the pitcher on any given day? What does the MLB weather report say? Are there any players hitting the IR and what are the actual MLB starting lineup today? Lots to take in.
On the flipside however, is that we can also look at MLB and say with a degree of confidence, that it is in fact very predictable. My meaning here is that whilst there are variances day to day, when you take an overall view of a player, team or the games overall statistics, you end up with averages over time. It is these averages that you, any MLB optimizer or MLB computer picks from software, will use to provide you with winning or at minimum, better scoring MLB projected lineups.
Where To Begin Your Journey?
Typically when starting out your research for fantasy baseball, you would want to check out Vegas lines or Vegas betting odds to get an idea of the betting trends and favored outcomes. This would be the same whether it was for MLB Draftkings lineups or MLB Fanduel lineups of course and also if it was for any other fantasy sport. My site of choice is Daily Fantasy Nerd.
There are a lot of different things to look for when viewing MLB Vegas betting odds but typically you will be looking for high scoring games, coupled with a low scoring pitcher that has a higher winning percentage. Because anyone who sport bets, along with the sportsbooks themselves, have a significant interest in the outcomes of games, it is a reasonable assumption that they are doing their best to correctly predict outcomes with as much accuracy as possible. This is why a DFS player who is looking for the best MLB Draftkings picks or MLB Fanduel picks will spend some research time looking at Vegas odds.
MLB Weather Forecast
There is nothing worse than having a bunch of MLB lineups on Draftkings and/or Fanduel and/or Yahoo Sports, and wondering why your scores have suddenly stalled, innings aren’t moving and everything is simply at a stand still. What is happening? Oh crap, I didn’t look at the weather, and guess what? It’s raining like it’ll never end.
This happened to me when I first started playing MLB DFS and it was a killer. If a game gets rained out, sorry but you are out of luck. Any players who are on your lineup and are part of a rained out game score zero. It’s one of those things that happened to me once, but it never happened again.
Any decent MLB Draftkings optimizer or MLB Fanduel optimizer will have weather updates for MLB schedule built in, considering it can have such a detrimental affect on the outcome of your MLB DFS lineups. Vegas lines would also have already factored weather into their odds but you need to know what is happening at games/fields where you enter fantasy baseball lineups.
It’s not just rain either, wind can have a huge impact on MLB games, especially at batter friendly fields where the wind can assist the ball to fly even further. Wind can be a good friend to DFS players, not only for being favorable to hitters, but also due to solid pitchers who may be on that night and are overlooked due to the wind conditions. If you want to be contrarian, you could consider taking the low owned pitchers instead of the high owned hitters.
Pitcher Selection for Optimal Lineups
Once you have an idea of favored teams and weather outlook for the slate you are looking to get on, it’s time to build lineups and aim for the best MLB DFS picks.
When it comes to MLB picks, one of the more significant parts of building your lineups is choosing your pitcher/s. Pitchers will more often than not, score you the most consistent points from your baseball picks. If one, or god forbid, both of your pitchers (depending on the contest, not all contests require pitcher selection) score low or even negative DFS points, kiss your night goodbye because you aren’t coming back from that.
Take note also that depending on whether your are playing Fanduel MLB or Draftkings MLB, this should dictate how you approach pitcher selection. Fantasy baseball points for pitchers on Draftkings lineups are heavily influenced towards MLB pitchers that can get strikeouts, and their salaries take this into account. Whilst some of these salaries can be high, there is a reason and they can pay dividends.
The difference between an MLB Draftkings lineup pitcher and an MLB Fanduel lineup is that Fanduel will favor pitchers who can score a win more than Draftkings. DK does favor the win also, just as FD also favors strikeouts, but each as different weightings. Whether you play DK or FD, just weigh up the points applied to different scenarios.
Once again, if you need to find out which MLB probable pitchers are likely to get a win, just refer back to the Vegas lines and MLB news.
We can start getting a little more advanced when we start talking strikeouts and identifying the right pitchers for any given slate. You should have already researched and identified your pitchers that should get a win through your Vegas lines research, now you will want to take a look some percentages and sabermetrics. When I am looking for my starting pitchers, I typically want a pitcher who can strikeout at a minimum, 20% of the batters he will face on the night. Once you have these folks identified and you clear out the pitchers with a lower strike rate, you will then want to look at the opponent and what their strikeout percentages look like. Some teams can strike out a lot of players in a single game and if this is the case after your research, you may just want to take that pitcher, facing a poor strikeout percentage team.
ERA (Earned Run Average) is obviously a metric that is important for a pitcher, indicating the amount of runs they give away on average but, also take the xFIP on board as well. This stands for Expected Fielding Independant Pitching and uses estimated home runs to determine score. The xFIP does mirror the ERA, but isn’t influenced by say, a poor run of pitching like the ERA or WHIP would.
Batter Selection for Optimal MLB Daily Lineups
Alright, so we our pitchers in place and now we need to surround the ball chuckers with effective batters, based on that day’s game conditions. So, we’re heading back to Vegas lines again to look at total runs expected for the match ups. To give you an idea, if a particular match up, let’s say Yankees and Cubs are playing, and the expected total runs are ten, then you better believe that DFS players will be loading up their fantasy baseball lineups with these batters, and you can’t blame them. But, in DFS Baseball, you need to be contrarian, so it may not necessarily be the best way to go. You do want to get the best bats for the night, but you also need lower owned.
If all the batters in your lineup were 20-50% owned across all players, you may get a decent score if they actually all bat well, you may even get half your entry fee back, but will you win or even get close? No, no you won’t.
You need to remember though, that Vegas isn’t always right, a predicted ten run game may end up 1-0. This is Baseball and you will recall at the beginning of this piece I spoke about variables and predictability. Vegas will be close more often than not, but you can’t rely exclusively on it. DFS players need to apply some intelligence as well. You can let a lineup optimizer do the work for you of course, but even using these DFS tools, you will do far better understanding the metrics as well. After all, most MLB lineup optimizers still need some manipulation for optimal lineups.
Back to statistics now, but this time for the batters. I personally believe that one of the best stats you can use for choosing batters in fantasy baseball is wOBA which stands for weighted on-base percentage. This little beauty will weight home runs more than single runs, which is different from other regular stats. ISO is another favorite which stands for Isolated Power. Effectively this is just raw power and excludes single runs and give more weight to extra bases.
You are looking for home runs since these are the source of the biggest points for batters. ISO and wOBA are two sabermetrics that you will find extremely helpful when building lineups.
One final thought on batters is stolen bases. Batters that can also steal bases can be an high value addition to your lineups and add points that a lot of other players will not get. Do keep an eye out for these players and keep in mind that sometimes raw power can be forgiven if they can steal bases for you.
MLB Lineup Conclusion
I hope that you have enjoyed the read. Fantasy baseball is a whole lot of fun and can be even more so if you have lineups that are competitive with the DFS crowd. Whilst fun is important, let’s face it, we all want to increase our DFS bankroll and to do that we need to be effective, understand the metrics and be contrarian when it makes sense.