Do Vegas Odds Matter For NBA DFS?

Do Vegas Odds Matter For NBA DFS?

I love running data analysis and looking back to see what factors can cause changes in DFS scoring. For example, the number of minutes played correlates with DFS scoring. So do basic things like shot attempts, usage rates, etc. The problem with those stats is that they are reactive. We can guess, but we won’t know for sure how many minutes someone plays until the game is actually over. There is at least one factor that is predictive and it’s the Las Vegas line and total.

Note: For this, I used the NBA Game Logs which are updated daily and part of the Pro Membership.

Why Vegas?

No one can predict the future, but the guys who set the lines in Vegas are the best at trying. Over the history of sports betting, we see time after time that Las Vegas lines tend to be very accurate. The other bit of good news is that the Vegas lines and totals correlate very nicely with DraftKings scoring. It makes sense, of course. The more real points scored in the game, the more fantasy scoring. I hope this article can demonstrate the importance of the Vegas numbers and how they might impact individual players.

The Truth Behind Totals

Let’s start with the game’s total, or over/under. Las Vegas assigns a number to each game that they predict both teams will combine to score. This season, those totals have ranged from 179.5 to 232.5 with the average being 207.3. That’s basically a 50 point range. A range of that size would obviously indicate that there’s a big enough difference to target specific games over others. For reference in the NHL, basically every total is between 5 and 6, which makes using the total essentially worthless.

Common sense dictates you should target players in games with high totals, but how much of a difference does it really make? Let’s take a look:

According to the season averages, rostering players in games with a total less than 190 is a wasteland. That tier is significantly the lowest scoring and it only goes up from there. As you can see, with each increase in Vegas total, the DraftKings scoring also rises. Remember, the average total is 207.3, which means there are plenty of games to choose from in the 210+ range on a nightly basis. I know you’re probably thinking, “Rick, it’s only a 0.60 DK point difference from the middle to the top range”. Well, yes, good observation. Don’t forget that this is the average! This is every player who steps on the court. If we look at only players with 20+ (the ones you should be rostering) you’ll see a larger difference:

Now we’re talkin’! A full six point difference from the lowest tier of total to the highest. That turns a $6,000 player into a $7,000 player just based on the Vegas total. The players you want to target are the ones who are seeing a BOOST in a Vegas total for the night. In my daily projections, I keep track of the average Vegas total for each team. In the projections, I show the average line versus tonight’s line. The larger the difference on the positive side, the better. For example, The Pelicans average total this season is 209.15. When they played the Rockets last night, the total jumped to 224.5. That’s a massive increase meaning you should be attempting to target Pelicans players who could see a big boost in scoring.

Breaking this down on a individual level is also interesting. I took the top five highest scoring players this season and applied the same Vegas ranges to them. Here’s what we get:

Even the best players in the world are not immune to this correlation. Their Vegas total ranges are usually smaller (LeBron only fits in two tiers) but the results are still there. This works because the Vegas numbers take everything into account. The matchup, the pace, injuries, back to backs, etc. It’s a nightly representation and predictor of what each team will score, so this isn’t shocking, but extremely interesting to see it on paper.

Spreads Are More Complicated

Let’s turn our attention to the Vegas line (or spread). This is the predicted difference between the two team’s scores. If the Warriors are -6, that means they are predicted to win by six points. There are a lot of layers trying to figure this out, so let’s just look at the chart first:

On this chart, the bigger favorites are on the left. That red column are players who are on teams that are favored by 15 or more points (aka massive favorites). On the other end of the spectrum, the gray bar is for players on teams who are massive underdogs. Favorites tends to score more points that underdogs in the real game, which translates nicely into fantasy scoring. There is a problem with looking at this as an entire average, however. The common sentiment is to avoid star players on teams that are heavily favored. The concern is that their team will be winning by so much, it won’t be required for them to play the entire game, drastically cutting into their upside. Let’s go back to the same five top players for this one:

This is really interesting. With these guys, being on the ends of the chart is not ideal. You don’t want them being either huge favorites or huge underdogs. The sweet spot is right in the 0 to -10 range. You want your studs (or these studs) to be slight favorites. Those types of games are more likely to stay close the entire time, meaning you get a full workload for for studs. Ideally you’d combine that with a massive total and laugh all the way to the bank.

There are a million more ways to slice these logs and I am going to attempt to break it down more individually in the future. For example, how do backup players fare in different Vegas situation? There’s a lot of data to pour through and I hope to continue to provide updates in the following weeks. If you have any questions or ideas for a new article, please send me a tweet!

 

Value & Volatility in NBA DFS – DraftKings

Value & Volatility in NBA DFS – DraftKings

The topic of “value” is something you read or hear about on a daily basis when it comes to NBA DFS strategy. The idea is that each player, dependent on their salary, needs to score a certain number of fantasy points to “pay for himself”. It’s a way to make sure that every dollar you spend is being converted into the correct number of fantasy points. The value calculation is fairly simple, but can still be difficult to grasp for new players. I’ll do my best to explain it below:

The “Value Calculation”

On DraftKings, you get a $50,000 salary cap. How many fantasy points do you need to score from that $50,000? Well, 300 would be a really good goal. Almost all nights, that’s going to be comfortably inside the cash line. If you want to achieve 300 points from $50,000 in salary cap space, you need to get six fantasy points for every $1,000 you spend (300/50 = 6). That means earning 300 fantasy points from $50K in salary is the equivalent of earning 6x value. ¬†If you were to score 350 points, that would be 7x value and 250 points would only be 5x value. Those numbers are for your entire lineup, but it makes more sense to break it down on a more individual basis. If every player in your lineup achieves 6x value, you’ll earn 300 fantasy points.

The idea of breaking it down individually levels the playing field between players who cost $10,000 and players who cost $4,000. While it would be awesome if they did, we cannot realistically expect our $4,000 players to score as many fantasy points as our $10,000 players. The value calculation asks both players to do their fair share, which is achieve six fantasy points for every $1,000 in salary. Your $4,000 player only needs 24 fantasy points to pay for himself, while your $10,000 player needs 60 fantasy points to achieve that same value.

Not All Players Are Created Equal

If you’ve read, watched or listened to anything I’ve ever said, you’ve probably heard me utter “not all players are created equal”. This is where variance comes into play. Some players have extremely volatile fantasy outputs while their counterparts might be more consistent. Here’s a graphic from the Player Scoring Calendar to help explain:

What you’ll notice is that James Harden and Anthony Davis have essentially identical season averages of DraftKings points per game. Harden averaged 59.03 DKPPG while Davis checks in 58.28. On paper, they look like very similar players, but when you look closer, they couldn’t be more different. Harden is much more consistent, scoring between 50-60 DraftKings points on most nights. Davis has flashed higher upside (games in the 80s and 90s), but also has a lower floor. Thanks to duds and/or injuries, Davis is more susceptible to a game in the 30s or 40s which is certainly not acceptable from a player of his salary.

The last column in my Player Scoring Calendar is “StdDev” which is standard deviation. If you’re not familiar with SD, check it out, it’s just a mathematical calculation based on a range of outcomes. The more spread out the outcomes, the higher the standard deviation. The closer the outcomes, the lower the standard deviation. Harden’s 9.62 StdDev is one of the lowest in the league, meaning he’s one of the most consistent players in the league. Davis, and his 18.07 StdDev, is one of the most volatile players in the league.

So why does this matter? It matters because the “type” of player you roster should fit with the type of contest that you’re playing. In cash games, you are look for sure points with little risk. You should be looking for consistent players who are not going to kill you with a dud. In GPPs, where a much higher score is necessary to win, you are willing to take on more risk to capture more reward. That’s why you should b thrilled to roster volatile players in an attempt to get their “ceiling game”.

The Problem With Standard Deviation

I love StdDev and I use it daily. However, while StdDev is a nice snapshot of volatility, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Anthony Davis’ large StdDev really just says that he has games that are very far away from his season average. Well, for fantasy basketball, we don’t care if his games are far away from his average as long as they are ABOVE his average. He could have a game that is 30 points different than his average. If it’s 30 points OVER his season average, that’s great! If it’s 30 points UNDER his season average, we hate him.

The Solution

That’s where the Value Chart comes into play. Since I have every Game Log for every player this season, I’ve been able to compile how often a player actually hits value. Here are the top 10 players, based on average DraftKings salary.

Now THIS is a chart! Let’s go back to the the Harden vs. Davis example. Now it’s very easy to see the difference between these two players. James Harden, who is a virtual lock to reach 4x value, is going to reach 5x value half the time but he has rarely hit 6x value. Davis has laid some eggs, failing to reach 3x or 4x as often as Harden, but the upside is tremendous. A whopping 36% chance for him to hit 6x and also has games of 7x, 8x and 9x value. This cements the fact that, in general, Davis is a GPP type of player while Harden is better for cash games.

Fun Facts

  • James Harden ranks 316 of 444 of players hitting 6x value.
  • LeBron James has the best 6x conversion rate of anyone with the average salary over $6,800. His average salary is $9,600. (This is insane)
  • The league average of scoring 5x value is 31.46% while 6x value is 18.4%.

Now What?

As you dig through this chart, you’ll notice that most of the players who achieve 6x value more often as usually less expensive. This makes sense, right? A guy who cost $5,000 only needs 30 DraftKings points to hit the number while someone like Russell Westbrook might need 72 DraftKings points to reach the same mark. I would argue that it’s okay for your studs to only hit 5x value if your lower salary players can reach 6x, 7x or even 8x value. It’s a give and take. The glaring thing is how insane some players have been this season. LeBron James and Hassan Whiteside are hitting 6x value at ~40% of the time, both with large price tags on a daily basis.

How To Beat NFL DFS

How To Beat NFL DFS

It’s finally here! With preseason games kicking off this week, it’s officially football season! The most glorious time on the fantasy calendar should provide plenty of excitement over the course of the next five month. Football is by far the most popular fantasy sport and with that comes massive prize pools on the daily sites. I wanted to write about some key factors in becoming a winning NFL DFS player. So let’s do it!

Volatility vs. Predictability

This is a section I wrote about in the How To Beat MLB article and I think it’s worth mentioning again. As discussed in that piece, MLB is volatile but rather predictable. I would argue that the NFL is both volatile AND unpredictable which makes it one of the harder sports to win regularly. The saving grace is the sheer number of new and inexperienced players who make NFL lineups, but predicting outcomes in NFL is on the harder end of the spectrum.

In terms of volatility, different positions can see more variance than others. Running Back, for example, is consistent in terms of opportunity. Most lead RBs see 20+ carries and for the most part, we know who will earn the carries near the goal-line. Despite the consistent volume, think about all the factors¬†that come together to determine the success of any one¬†NFL play. A Running Back is handed the football and (at least) five players are immediately trying to block for him and five players are trying to fill those gaps. Those are ten different players that can potential impact the outcome of a single rush and none of which are the RB¬†himself. You could have the best RB in the world, but any number of outside factors can influence his production. Compare that to baseball, which is an individual game wrapped in a team sport. One pitcher versus one batter. Over the course of the at-bat there are few outside factors that can change the outcome for your player. Going further, Wide Receiver might be the most dependent position in the league. Think about this. To catch a pass, the WR needs to run a solid route, have his defender beat, have his offensive line protect the QB long enough and have his QB deliver a pass on time and in the right spot. If any of those go wrong, a reception probably does not occur. And that’s for ONE MEASLY COMPLETION!

Unlike other sports, it doesn’t take a ton of opportunity to have a big game. We always talk about opportunity being the gold standard in fantasy and obviously that’s ideal, but football players are not nearly as dependent on opportunity as other athletes. For example, if an NBA player only plays five minutes a night, it is essentially impossible for him to have a fantasy impact. That’s not necessarily true in the NFL. A third string WR can catch three passes for 100 yards and a TD and now he’s returned massive value to his owner. You might be thinking “well that’s rare”, but it’s not as rare as you think. According to my NFL Game Logs, there were six occasions last year where a wide receiver had 89+ receiving yards, at least one TD (two had two TDs) and four or less targets. It’s happened 50 times in the last five years. Continuing to take this further, there were 27 wide receivers last year who scored at least 15 DraftKings points on four or less targets.

Finally, the amount of available information in Fantasy Football is off the charts. There are no secrets in the NFL. With the constant news coverage, Twitter and a full week between games, there are very few opportunities for “secrets”. There are a million outlets covering every injury, every sleeper, every stud, whatever. With the combination of information overload and volatile outcomes, I think football is one of the more important sports to be contrarian in GPPs. Baseball would be the only sport I care more about ownership. Game theory and roster construction will be the most important strategies in your fantasy football success.

Stacking

WQr29i8

Click To Enlarge

One of the more popular strategies for roster construction is called “stacking”. If you play MLB DFS, you’re probably very familiar with playing multiple players from the same team in your lineup. As with baseball, stacking is a logical strategy in football thanks to the nature of the game. There are plenty of scenarios where one touchdown can be awarded to two different players on the same play. The most common strategy is pairing your QB with one or more of his WRs or TE. The logic is obvious. If your QB throws a TD pass to his WR and you own them both, you get double points! Both players are tied together with the massive upside of both scoring multiple TDs and racking up the yards. Our friends over at DFS Gold wrote a blog post sharing each of the 17 Millionaire Maker winning lineups from last season. It shouldn’t be a surprise that 11 of those lineups included a QB and WR/TE stack. Here’s a handy correlation chart that shows which positions help (and hurt) each other on the same roster.

For obvious reasons, pairing a QB with a RB is not always advisable. There are very few situations where they can score points at the same time. If the RB is handed the ball, obviously the QB has no chance to score points on that play. As with anything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. There have been examples of stacking entire offenses in games with a very high Vegas total. A prime example of that is this lineup that won the Milly Maker in Week 13:

Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 8.13.19 PM

That lineup included a full stack of QB/RB/WR1/WR2 and paid off in a big way. You’ll also notice the Steelers defense in there! Now, this is certainly an anomaly when it comes to scoring, but I want to show it as a way to be ultra-contrarian. The Steelers dropped 45 points on the Colts that week and while that specific lineup was a surprise, the outcome shouldn’t have been. This game had a massive 50.5 over/under set by Vegas, which was the highest in the league that week. The owner of this lineup took the opportunity to take a contrarian approach to a chalk lineup. The Steelers were heavily owned that week but few owners pulled the trigger on a four man stack.

The other exception to never stacking a QB with a RB rule is when you have the opportunity to roster a RB who can haul in receptions. With the full point PPR scoring on DraftKings and 0.5 PP on Fanduel, a RB who can catch is extremely valuable. Obviously, the goal is to find a RB who will receive the bulk of the running workload and tack on a few catches as well. This isn’t always easy to find.

For example, Danny Woodhead led all RBs in receptions last year, but didn’t always get enough carries to become playable. I’m thinking back to Matt Forte’s 2014 season in which he broke the reception record for RBs with 102 (4th most of all players in the league) and also ranked 5th in rushing attempts that year. He would have been a prime target to pair with his QB to be contrarian.

Finally, one of my favorite “sneaky stacks” is to pair a return man (who also plays a skill position) with his team’s defense. This is also hard to find because there are few players in the league who can make an impact offensively and are also tasked to return punts/kicks. Obviously, you get points for return TDs on DraftKings for both the position player and the defense. If you own both, you’ll rack up double points when that event happens. It’s certainly rare, but not unheard of. There are a few obvious targets depending on their workload.

Jarvis Landry was a popular option last season. Landry was a PPR machine, hauling in 110 receptions and made a great play most weeks last season. The added bonus was that he also returned 36 punts and 13 kickoffs. That’s 49 extra chances to score a touchdown last season or 3.06 per game. Three free chances to score a TD each game!¬†If the Dolphins Defense was in a plus matchup, it would have been logical to pair them together. Looking¬†forward to this season, Tyler Lockett could be the prime example of this type of player for 2016. Lockett was on full duty of returns last year, lining up for 33 kickoffs and 40 punts. Lockett’s stock rose at the end of last season, building a solid rapport with QB Russell Wilson. Keep an eye on his role in the offense this season because the Seahawks defense will likely be an elite option most weeks.

Not All Players Created Equal

This is something I really like to stress for every sport. When looking at different players on paper, a lot of them look similar in terms of scoring averages. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll notice how different two players can actually be. Let’s take a concrete example from last season. Here is Eric Decker vs. Emmanuel Sanders:

Decker

First off, I got these numbers from my NFL Data Tools which are updated weekly and make available to subscribers. Both players finished the season with just over 17 DraftKings points per game. If you saw that, you might think “wow, these two guys are very similar, it doesn’t matter which one I play”. You couldn’t be more wrong. While their averages are similar, they got there in much different ways. Sanders was much more volatile, posting games of 2.7, 4.2 and 4.5 while also exploding for games of 23.9, 28.7, and 39.5. Decker, on the other hand, never scored less than 11.7 DraftKings points, but never scored more than 21.1.

Knowing this comes in handy when trying to construct a roster. Decker would have been the perfect cash game WR since you knew he was a very good bet to reach value. He would rarely explode for a massive night, but you don’t need that in a cash game. Sanders on the other hand, would have been a much better GPP play. Sure, he could burn you and lay an egg, but he offered the type of upside that allows you to win a GPP.

The Impact of Vegas

Sports in general are very hard to predict, but Las Vegas is the best in the world at it. Why would we not use information available to us before a game to try and help determine the actual outcome of the game?! Using Las Vegas odds allows us to do just that. Of course, they aren’t perfect but they are very good and in terms of fantasy points, there is a clear correlation to fantasy scoring and Las Vegas lines. For the purpose of this discussion please direct your attention to the interaction chart below.

This might look confusing at first because there is a lot going on, but take a long look at it. We are comparing the DraftKings points per game scored over multiple groups of Vegas lines. The numbers I am using for this are the team total lines, NOT the overall game over/under. The chart is broken down by position since some positions benefit more from better lines. The colored, horizontal lines indicate the average fantasy game for that position for the entire season. After looking at it, you’ll notice that QBs are the greatest beneficiary of being on a team with a large projected total. So it should be no surprise, that WRs also benefit greatly since they are closely tied to their QBs. The fluctuations are much smaller for RBs and TEs but it’s clear that it’s a benefit to be on a team with a high projected total. The tipping point for below average versus above average is almost in the 22.25-25 projected points group. RBs don’t quite hit it there, but it’s close.

Game Selection

This is something I don’t stress too much in other sports, but NFL is an exotic bird. It’s by far the most popular fantasy sport, so the contest lobbies are dripping with action. Unfortunately, there are only 17 weeks to the regular season giving you only a few slates to make your money. With a season this short, ANY ONE can win or lose over 17 slates. As a more informed, better player, you’re going to want to give yourself as many opportunities as possible to battle it out. That means you should not shy away from the all week contests (Thursdays included), the Sun-Mon slates or even the Mon-Thu slates. Being able to enter more contents should allow your edge to prevail more often.

Also, slate selection and ownership go hand-in-hand. For example, on all week slates, the Thursday night players are always more owned than they should be. A common strategy is to play these slates, but avoid the Thursday players all together. Also, the Thursday Night games tend to be more low scoring than other games around the league. You can argue it’s lack of preparation or recovery time for teams, but players averaged fewer fantasy points on Thursday nights than Sunday or Monday last season.

Finally, actually choosing the right contest is one of the most overlooked aspects in DFS. Most people understand the importance of limiting your exposure in cash games so that a shark cannot scoop all your heads ups. Most people understand diversifying their buyins to a lower stake to improve the chances of getting an inexperienced opponent. However, it’s GPP contest selection that continues to baffle the average owner. Can you describe the payout structure of your favorite GPP? Have you ever looked at it? All the buzz is around the first place prize. Hell, DraftKings even puts it in the title of the contest. But what about the other payouts besides first place? In these big contests like the Millionaire Maker, the payout structures are usually garbage to commit to a massive first place prize.

For example, in the Week 1 Millionaire Maker you need to finish in the top 1% of the field to make 3.3x your buy in (that’s 19,000th place by the way). If you do the same in the $2 $100K Safety, with a much flatter payout structure, you’ll earn 6x your buy in. That might not sound like a lot, but doubling your results when trying to grind it out is a massive difference. Of course, you don’t have the upside of winning for life changing sums, but the odds are astronomical against you anyway. I will play very little Millionaire Makers this season and expect to have a negative ROI in them. For me, they are lottery tickets. I will grind out my winnings in better structured tournaments.

Research

The best place to start with research is to formulate a baseline for what to expect from a full NFL season. I have been collecting every game log for every player over the last few seasons and always look back to the prior season to identify trends. The best part about raw data is that it’s raw. There is nothing keeping you from getting all the answers to your questions. You can find out how Cam Newton did in games that the Panthers were favored by 6+ points. You can find out how WRs fared in games with an over/under below 45.5. Whatever question you can think of, the data will answer! All of my research you read in this article and for the upcoming season has come from my game logs, which are available here.

What’s Next?

Win. That’s what’s next. I am stoked for another excellent NFL season and looking forward to sharing all types of tools, projections, spreadsheets and articles with you along the way. We are going to take this season very seriously, but have some fun at the same time in the form of freerolls that I create for Pro Members. Sign up below for the membership that best fits your needs and looking forward to talking to you all season!

Listen To Vegas For MLB Success

Listen To Vegas For MLB Success

I’ve poured through the MLB Game Logs and have found countless useful trends. I wanted to point out a few specific trends that relate to using the Las Vegas spread and over/under. Note that each season of the Game Logs¬†include over 55,000 games from both pitchers and hitters. Here were some of the most interesting findings in reference to the Vegas odds.

Why is Vegas so important?

So much of the data and information that we have available to us is reactive. That means that we learn about it after the game has already been played. For DFS purposes, we need to try and be more predictive than reactive. The line¬†and over/under that Las Vegas sets are two¬†of the few predictive options we have available to us. No one is perfect, of course. Vegas gets it wrong all the time, but they are currently our best option for predicting the outcome of a game. What you’ll notice is that there is clear correlation between Vegas odds and fantasy results.

Hitters

Let’s start with the over/under or “totals”. This is a number assigned to a game where Vegas is predicting how many runs will be scored. It’s obvious that you want to target games and players who are playing in games with high totals. However, even with that being said, I didn’t realize how clear the correlation was until I ran the numbers:

O/U DraftKings PPG

The chart above shows the average number of DraftKings points scored by every player in the games that match the according total. While it might not seem like a game with an 8.0 total is a big difference than a game with a 9.0 total, the stats would prove that wrong. A 0.8 fantasy point increase is a 13% increase. It’s not like these games aren’t available to target. Games with an 8.0 total or higher accounted for 48% of all games last season.

It’s also logical that players on the team designated as the “favorite” are much more desirable than those on the “underdog”. The favorite is the team that is likely to win, meaning they will score more runs and the numbers back it up. Players in an underdog situation averaged 5.6 DraftKings points per game, while their favorite counterparts averaged 6.2 DK PPG. The bigger the favorite, the more points they scored:

Hitters ML

So according to the trends from last season, you should be doing everything you can to target players on teams that are large favorites, with large totals. Again, that’s logical, but many owners are not using this information to their advantage.

Pitchers

As you can image, the charts for the pitchers are almost identically inverted from the charts of the hitters. Even though it’s expected, it doesn’t make the data any less valuable:

Pitchers O/U

The tipping point for pitchers really starts with games that are 7.5 or less. Those type of games account for 51% of all games. None of this information is groundbreaking but it’s something that I didn’t realize was so prevalent until I dug deeper into the numbers.

As you can imagine, the bigger the favorite, the better the game for pitchers. Here it is visualized:

Pitchers ML

The money line is interesting for DFS purposes since there is a fairly large bonus for a pitcher getting the win. The Money Line is a predicator of the team’s chances to win, which certainly have a correlation with the starting pitchers chance to win.

So, what do we do with this information? Well, we use it to our advantage. We target pitchers and hitters that are playing for the favorites to win and the bigger the favorite, the better. Additionally, paying attention to the over/under makes a huge difference. Finding a way to roster hitters in games with high totals and pitchers in games with low totals is going to be incredibly valuable over the course of the season.

If you want you check out some trends yourself, go ahead and access the Game Logs. It’s worth it! If you have any questions or comments, shoot me a tweet.

How To Beat MLB DFS

How To Beat MLB DFS

How To Beat MLB DFS

The MLB season is closing in fast and I wanted to start the season off right with a bunch of general thoughts about how to beat MLB DFS. The baseball season is long and grueling. It’s volatile and frustrating. However, with logical thinking and proper bankroll management, it can be incredibly profitable. The sport offers a full slate of games on an almost nightly basis which means there are hundreds of available players on any given night. Sorting through that many players is difficult, but create a large edge for the most informed owners.

This article will go through some of the general strategies and discussions we will have this season. Let’s get to it!

Volatility vs. Predictability

This is a never-ending argument for MLB and it pertains to how predictable the game is. You’ll see most arguments take the stance that MLB is the most volatile sport and I agree with those arguments. You’ll also hear that MLB is the most predictable sport, which I also agree with. How can it be both?

Well, for the purpose of this article, let’s separate volatility and predictability. From a sheer results standpoint, baseball is extremely volatile. On any given night, the best player in the league could go 0-4 with four strikeouts, or go 4-4 with two home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored. Those are massively different outcomes. Due to this volatility, having proper bankroll management is the number one key to succeeding in MLB.

Let’s look at Mike Trout’s 2015 results on DraftKings. In 159 games, Trout averaged 9.6 DK points, however his range of outcomes was massive. He scored 20+ DK points on 23 occasions and scored zero points 24 times. That’s right, the best player in the league scored exactly ZERO points in 15% of his games. That will not happen in any other sport. And remember, Trout is the best player in the league. Those numbers get much worse as you start expanding the sample size. Our MLB Game Logs compile every game played by every player last season. That’s 50,569 games for hitters. A total of 15,417 games earned owners zero or negative points. That’s 30.4% of all games played! Needless to say, failure is a large part of the sport and that goes hand-in-hand with volatility.

On the other side, baseball is rather predictable. It’s basically an individual sport. It’s one batter versus one pitcher. Hitters are barely reliant on any other factors, outside of what they can control. Think of it this way, a wide receiver in the NFL is heavily dependent on how well his defender is covering him, how well his linemen are protecting his QB and his QBs ability to get him the ball amongst a dozen other factors. That doesn’t exist in baseball. Also, if you have a starter, you know he’s highly likely to see 3-5 at bats a game. You don’t have to worry about someone “stealing his touches” like you would in the NBA.

Also, there is so much data to sift through for the MLB. In fact, it’s a never-ending stream of information. You have splits, advanced stats, ballpark factors, weather and about a million other things that you can use to make decisions. You can make baseball as simple or complex as you please. Have a pitcher who throws 80% fastballs against a batter who kills fastballs? Roster him! It’s all there for you!

Scoring + Rosters

Update: Despite published changes, DraftKings has NOT made updates to their rosters this season. There will NOT be a utility position and will revert back to three OF positions.

Believe it or not, scoring is one of the most overlooked aspects of all daily fantasy sports. The general owner is unlikely to know how their players are even scored. Having an intimate knowledge of the scoring system on your fantasy site of choice is literally the building block of creating good lineups. DraftKings, specifically, has made some changes to their roster rules headed into this season. So make sure to familiarize yourself with the new rules. Here they are for the two main sites.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.58.31 PM

DraftKings Scoring

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.59.09 PM

Fanduel Scoring

You’ll notice that both sites are very similar, but there are a few key differences or things to note. Fanduel is very proportionate. A single is worth 3, a double is 6, a triple is 9 and a HR is 12. On DraftKings, those four scoring categories are not proportionate. For example, four singles is worth 12 DK points, while one HR is only worth 10. Now of course, a HR also comes with a run and RBI, but you get the picture.

Knowing this scoring forwards and backwards is going to allow you to exploit little differences and target the players who are the most valuable.

Stacking

Ahhh, stacking. The most common strategy in MLB and for good reason. If you are unfamiliar, stacking is the term for choosing multiple players from the same team, in an attempt to score as many points as possible if that team has a big offensive day. Stacking is so popular because it’s logical and well…it works. Think about the way baseball is played. Runs are rarely scored on solo home runs. A much larger percentage of runs come from multiple batters each doing something to achieve a run. A leadoff hitter taking a walk, then being moved to second base, followed by a double. That’s a common way to score in the MLB and if you have multiple players on the same team, you can catch points from a hit, run and an RBI despite that team only scoring one real run.

Our friends over at DFS Gold show us that 58% of winning lineups on DraftKings last season, utilized at least a 4-hitter stack. You could argue that so many stacks are winning because everyone is doing it, but I don’t have any definitive numbers either way. Stacking is a logical way to gain access to multiplying points in a hurry.

Stacking the top players in the batting order is a common and lucrative strategy. Obviously, they tend to be the better hitters on the team, but they will be the beneficiaries of more opportunity. The difference between three or four at-bats in a game is massive for MLB DFS. The numbers back it up as well. We crunched all 50,569 games last season and the top five hitters in the lineup produced the vast majority of fantasy points:

2015 MLB Batting Order

Top Performances

One thing I really like to look at is who could be the top scoring player each day. Obviously having the highest scoring player on the slate is going to vault you up the leaderboards. I try to find trends about what is similar between these players. I am a big believer that stolen bases are a key to GPP success. There are so few players who can steal bases at a high clip and stolen bases don’t take away from other statistics. In fact, they enhance most statistics. A hitter who walks and steals a base is worth seven
points, which is worth significantly more than a double.

However, looking at last year’s game logs, stolen bases are not a pre-requisite to being the top performer on a slate. Looking at the highest scoring player across every day of the season last year, there were only eight instances where the top scorer stole multiple bases. On the flip side, there were 108 multi-HR games that ended up receiving top honors. This might be indicative that home runs are much more likely in the sport than stolen bases, but the numbers don’t lie.

With the changes to the rosters on DraftKings, there is now a utility position. You can roster any hitter in that spot, which didn’t exist last season. You are now going to be able to roster two first basemen, two catchers, etc. It’s going to allow for more creativity and flexibility in lineups. With that being said, it’s much more important to know how certain positions score compared to others. Here’s last season breakdown¬†of DraftKings points scored by position:

MLB DK PPG Scored by Position

Obviously you do not have to roster a RFer compared to a CFer, but I split them up for the purpose of showing you that there is a difference. Your right fielders tend to be power hitters, while left fielders tend to be top-of-the-order guys. There are no hard rules, but just another thing to keep in mind when using the utility position.

The trends that you can identify are endless. If you want to look yourself, you can access MLB Game Logs here.

Pitchers

My only rule with pitchers is that you have to get them right. That doesn’t mean you have to take the most expensive pitchers, but you will be hard-pressed to find success if you choose the wrong pitchers. I say that because it’s the only position that can really give you negative points. If a pitcher gets shelled early in the game, they can sink your entire lineup and force your hitters to dig you out of a hole. We already talked about how volatile hitting is, so that is the last place we want to be reliant. Fortunately, pitching is a bit more predictable.

Strikeouts are one of the best ways to rack up fantasy points and luckily, they are one of the more predictable stats. Obviously targeting pitchers with a high K/9 is recommended when available. There were only 19 pitchers last season who averaged over 9.0 K/9 while the league average hovered right around 7.5 K/9 for starting pitchers. Pitchers tend to record strikeouts whether or not they are pitching well. Let’s take Chris Sale for example. He led the league last season with an 11.82 K/9. He struck out eight or more hitters in 18 of 31 starts and seven or more in 24 of 31. If you look at the games he took a loss, he still averaged 11.9 K/9 in what you would deem his “worst starts”. Compare that to his 12.4 K/9 in his wins and it’s easy to see how valuable strikeouts can be.

On the flip side, teams either strike out a lot or they don’t. The Astros and Cubs were both playoff teams last year but they led the league in K%. And it didn’t come in spurts. No matter how you sliced the season last year, the Astros and Cubs were always near the top of the league in strikeouts. That consistency lends itself to predictability.

The Cubs struck out 9.3 times per game last year while scoring 4.2 runs per game. Based on DraftKings scoring, that’s a net positive 10.2 DraftKings points for opposing pitchers. On the flip side, the Royals only struck out 6.0x per game while scoring 4.4 runs per contest. That’s a net positive of 3.2 DraftKings points for opposing pitchers. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to realize that targeting high strikeout pitchers, facing high strikeout teams (almost despite how many runs are scored) can be extremely profitable.

Getting the pitchers “right” is important, because getting them “wrong” is so detrimental. Of the 4,859 games logged by starting pitchers last season, 15% of them returned zero or fewer points to their owner. That’s right, you can take a big-time negative number from having a pitcher get shelled.

Weather

The only thing you can’t control in MLB DFS is the weather! Unfortunately, there is going to be a lot of radar-checking and educated guesses on how weather will impact games. No one can predict the weather, but Kevin Roth is one of the best in the business. He is an absolute must follow on Twitter. He will tweet out weather updates and radar images for the games that will be most impacted by the weather. Usually, if there is a three-hour window of clear weather, the umpires will attempt to get the game in. The same “three-hour rule” applies to rain delays. Most umpiring crews won’t wait longer than that to resume a game. This is not an exact science by any means, but something you should be taking into account by avoiding games with poor weather. Rain delays will impact pitchers more than hitters. It’s not uncommon for a starter to pitch three innings, sit through a 90-minute rain delay and not return to the game. Luckily, there are seven teams that either play in a dome or have a retractable roof, so weather won’t be an issue. Those are Toronto, Arizona, Seattle, Milwaukee, Houston, Miami and Tampa Bay.

What’s Next?

We here at DFSOD are incredibly excited about the start of the MLB season. We have been pouring of game logs for weeks and are in the process of building some really exciting tools. We are going to put you in the best position to succeed this season. Expect daily articles, strategy discussions, projections, tools and much more! We are looking to provide an influx of data for you to use on your own. You can get started with the MLB Game Logs, which can be extremely valuable in trend-finding. Those Game Logs are included in the price of our membership. Choose the package that’s right for you and get started today. Good luck!

4 Tips To Increase Your ROI Overnight

4 Tips To Increase Your ROI Overnight

There’s plenty of talk in the industry around big cash prizes and live finals. There’s endless stories about players entering hundreds of lineups into GPPs. You can find hundreds of articles on bankroll management. The one thing that few people like to talk about is ROI. That’s return on investment for those who are unfamiliar. Literally, how much you can expect to make in return on your entry fees. Obviously the higher the ROI, the better. I want to present four simple ways that you can increase your ROI without becoming a better player. These tips helped me and I know they can help you.

Only Use One Lineup

Let’s start with the tip that worked the best for me. It’s so easy to create multiple lineups. Almost too easy! I was a victim of wanting to have exposure to every possible player, so I would create a lineup to try and cover as many combinations as possible. When you are doing this for a sport like MLB, which has hundreds of eligible players a night, it’s easy to create more lineups than you originally intended. I am a firm believer that your first lineup is your best lineup. That’s the lineup that you spend all day tweaking, studying and grinding over. In theory, any lineup that you create after the first would be “worse”. If you thought that second lineup was better, it would have been your first!

The practice of creating one lineup is incredibly valuable. It forces you to make tough decisions and grow as a DFS player. Anthony Rizzo or Miguel Cabrera?¬†Russell Westbrook or Steph Curry? When you are deciding between two players and the margin is close, it’s easy to make a lineup with both of them. Forcing yourself to make one lineup, forces you to make those tough decisions. It forces you to use your research and logic to determine one as the better play. That’s an excellent practice in decision-making. Doing that over and over again across every position for every sport, every day is going to improve your skill-set and DFS instincts. It’s EASY to create multiple lineups, don’t fall into that trap.

There is nothing wrong with taking that one lineup and entering it into multiple contests. That’s the best lineup you can create, you should enter it in as much as your bankroll dictates. There will certainly be nights that an injury derails your entire night but that is why bankroll management is so important. Over a larger sample size, you can expect a greater ROI with this method. As you feel more comfortable in making decisions, expand to two lineups, then three and so on as your confidence dictates.

Create Your Contests, Limit Your Exposure

Head-to-Head contests are the bread and butter for many DFS grinders. You only have to beat one person and you’re never worried about ownership numbers. When playing a large percentage of H2Hs, ROI is to most important metric in you becoming a winning player. Creating your own contests allows you to control your exposure. Many players don’t even realize that they can create their own contests instead of joining an already created contest.

By creating your own contest, you identify the exact sport, slate and buy-in that you want to play. Taking it one step further, you can control how many contents you will allow an opponent to take using this handy tool:

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 9.41.52 AM

I recommend starting with one. That means if you have ten open contests, you will face ten different opponents. In turn, you will face ten different lineups which will lower your variance. This is a way to protect yourself against one player scooping all of your games and winning/losing all of the contests. That will limit your swings and protect your bankroll. As an added bonus, using this tool will protect you from one pro coming in and scooping all your games. This game is hard enough, we don’t need to add the extra disadvantage of having one of the top players in the world coming through and picking up every game they can, including yours!

You are looking every edge you can find, even if it’s only 0.5%. Extrapolating that over every H2H, every day, can turn you from an break-even or losing¬†player to a winning player.

Game Selection

This goes hand-in-hand with the above tip, but is more specific towards GPPs. When you open the lobby and look at the featured tournaments, they are always going to be the ones with the largest prize pools. They are the sexy marketing tools that the sites use to entice their players. They always boast a large first place prize, but they always come with a ton of entrants. If you are serious about improving your ROI, I would consider playing the smaller GPPs. Let’s look at an example here:

SharpShooter

Both of those tournaments are the $3 SharpShooter (NBA) on DraftKings. The top is the “featured” tournament that will always be at or near the top of the lobby. That boasts a $12,000 first prize if you can weave through 61,300 opponents. I’d recommend scrolling down the lobby and taking a look at entering the “Deep SharpShooter”. It has a much smaller prize pool but a much smaller field to navigate.

There are other major differences here as well. The main SharpShooter pays out 12,800 spots of 61,300 which is 20.8% of the field. The Deep SharpShooter boasts a much flatter payout structure, paying 765 of 1,916 entrants or 40% of the field. Now, many of the first payout spots in the Deep SharpShooter are simply winning $3, or getting their money back. However, think about that! Breaking even in DFS, like blackjack, is essentially winning. Think about all the times you finished just outside the money in a standard GPP. Wouldn’t you have loved to have you buy-in back? That’s exactly what the Deep SharpShooter is offering.

I know what you’re thinking, they must have taken a ton of the top prizes to pay out an additional 20% of the field. That’s not exactly true. The SharpShooter pays $12,000 to first which is 7.5% of the prize pool. The Deep SharpShooter pays $400 to first which is 8% of the prize pool. So the Deep SharpShooter offers double the amount of¬†positions paid and a higher percentage of the prize pool for first place. That’s a win-win!

As an additional bonus, it is going to take a significant lower score to win the Deep SharpShooter than the regular SharpShooter. In those large fields, you tend to see all types of contrarian lineups and plenty of permutations. You are going to need close to the perfect lineup to actually win the thing. That’s not going to be nearly the case for the Deep version as there will simply be less lineups to compete with. Knowing the lobby and learning how it impacts you is going to make a huge difference in your returns.

Have A Plan, Stick To It

This sounds simple, but most DFS players to do not adhere to any plan. What sports are you going to play? How much of your bankroll are you going to risk on a nightly basis? How will you split that bankroll up across your contests? These are all questions that you should have answers to before entering a single lineup.

If you want to be successful as a DFS player, even if it’s grinding out an extra $20 a month, you need to practice proper bankroll management. Most would recommend never entering more than 10% of your bankroll into contests on a single night. I am a little more conservative and play more GPPs than usual, so my number is closer to the 3-5% range. This is going to allow you to withstand bad days or weeks without going broke. Also, it will allow you to gradually move up in buy-ins when your bankroll dictates.

Splitting up that bankroll is just as important as adhering to your constraints. The general rule of thump is to enter $4 worth of cash games (double ups, triple up, H2Hs) for every $1 worth of GPP that you enter. This accounts for the lower win-rate and built-in volatility in GPPs.

Just from a general viewpoint, it’s so easy to not have a plan. Or to start creating lineups and not adhering to that plan. I used to always get stuck saying “just one more lineup”. Or loving a slate and extending my exposure outside of my bankroll. The way to be successful is to create a strategy that works for you and employ it every single day.

This goes as deep as you want it to. Now, when I create multiple lineups, I plan out how much exposure I want to specific players. Maybe I want Russell Westbrook in 40% of my lineups, but James Harden in only 5%. Once I have created my exposure numbers, I can start creating lineups accordingly. It’s been a massive help for me in my DFS career.