Quick Guide to Playing and Winning DFS MLB at DraftKings & FanDuel
Daily Fantasy Baseball returns with huge prizes available on DraftKings and FanDuel this April. For those of you who are unfamiliar with DFS MLB, we go over some of the basics below, including how to win in “Cash Games” vs. tournament formats, how to build lineups, and a little bit of bankroll management to help you stay in the money this summer.
DFS MLB Pitching vs. Hitting
There are many different strategies on how to win in MLB DFS. Yet consistent throughout all of those models is the necessity of great performances from starting pitchers. While you can take chances and get great value out of some pitchers, it’s almost always a better idea to pay up for one of the best SPs on the slate and figure out the hitting afterwards.
When choosing a pitcher, consider the venue, their splits against the team they’re facing and their level of confidence. You can also consider how their offense will fare in the hopes that they earn a Win and a significant FP bonus as a result.
You can stack a QB and WR in NFL DFS, or target a game with stars on both sides in NBA DFS, but stacking lineups is a strategy most relevant in Daily Fantasy Baseball.
It’s a bold strategy that can mean big payoffs or complete flops, yet by targeting several hitters on the same team, you are able to essentially double down on the production of that lineup, because every run, HR, or RBI will likely be accompanied by a run or RBI from the players that bat before or after each other.
You can select the “heart of the order” or the 1-5 hitters on a given team, but that gets expensive quite quick. So there is another way to stack in MLB DFS by targeting cheaper bats at the bottom of the order and perhaps the leadoff man as well. By doing so, you are betting that the team will rally as they turn the lineup card over.
But, how do you know which lineup to stack? That is the most important question on a given slate of MLB DFS and it often comes to a few key factors.
You want to begin by analyzing the career numbers of a given SP when they’re facing a capable offensive team. If the pitcher has poor splits against a number of batters on another team, or a history of struggles at a hitter-friendly stadium such as Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, than you might want to target them.
At the same time, the biggest pitching implosions (which lead to the most productive stacks) often occur out of the blue. It might make sense to target rookie SPs when they make their Major League debut. You’ll have to analyze their Minor League careers and search the web for articles on their abilities and check the scouting report to predict how they might fare against RHB or LHB.
Venue is also a critical factor to consider when stacking lineups. The most popular stadium to stack is Colorado’s Coors Field, but players often see a huge price bump when they travel to that park and that makes it difficult to build a solid lineup. There are other stadiums with the parameters necessary to produce a slugfest, and you can determine which ones are most conducive towards offense by checking the “Park Factors” i.e. “Run Factor” and “Home Run Factor” for each stadium.
Winning DFS MLB Cash Games vs. GPPs
Cash games refer to the 50/50 and head-to-head (H2H) contests you see on most DFS sites. It’s derived from poker terminology, where you employ different strategies if you’re in a large tournament pool versus a cash game that allows you to buy in more than once.
Most tournaments have Guaranteed Prize Pools, where the top 20% or so gets paid out in top-heavy fashion. In these contests, it’s not necessarily about grinding. It’s about swinging for the fences in the hopes of a big win.
So, when building a lineup in a GPP you often are willing to take more risks than you might in Cash Games.
In baseball, this might literally mean swinging for the fences by playing a few sluggers who don’t bat for average, but are always threats to hit home runs if they connect with the ball. The same thing goes with pitchers who can post lofty strikeout totals, but could also get shelled in a given matchup.
In a word, the difference between those two contests comes down to one thing: risk.
So you’ll want to pay up for reliable stud SPs such as Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner (at home) and ideally find a couple of hitters who come into plus matchups while swinging a hot bat.
If you’re just starting out in MLB DFS, your goal should be to build up bankroll. You can’t play a $5 GPP every night and expect to make money without getting very lucky.
The best approach is to create a few lineups that are in 5-10 different 50/50 or H2H contests, and perhaps one tournament. That way, when you finally hit big with a safe lineup, you’ll get a nice payout via the insurance policy of entering it into a large Guaranteed Prize Pool.
More than the other Daily Fantasy Sports, MLB has a ton of variance. Pitchers and hitters can respectively get extremely lucky with hard hit balls and it’s important to trust the process by playing guys with good Line Drive Rates and other metrics that indicate they are putting good swings on the ball.
By nature, baseball is unpredictable, so you can still get on the right side of the money by doing something that seems illogical like stacking the Braves perceived weak offense against Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
DraftKings vs. FanDuel
The two titans of Daily Fantasy Sports are growing closer together with news that they will in fact merge next year and the scoring systems are quite similar in MLB DFS.
FanDuel no longer subtracts points for players making outs and both sites award incremental points for singles, doubles, triples and a huge bonus for the all-important long ball (12 FD points and 10 DK points + the required run and potential for multiple RBI).
Stolen bases earn 5 DK points and 6 FD points while neither site subtracts points for getting caught stealing anymore, so dual threat hitters always have the most upside.
Wins are worth 4 DK points and 6 FD points, while FanDuel is giving out 4 FPs for Quality Starts this season, making SP an even more important position.
Strikeouts and IP are both worth +3 FD points while any earned runs lose 3 FD points, but the scoring system on DK is a little more weighted towards IP (2.25 DK points) than Ks (2), however the fact that pitchers lose FPs for hits (-0.6) and walks (-0.6) given up makes value pitchers that much riskier on DK.
FanDuel is also experimenting with Late Swap Contests this year, which is quite intriguing. This hasn’t been the case in the past and it opens up all sorts of possibilities in which you can shift a safer lineup to one with higher upside if you’re off to a great start in GPP formats, or vice versa if you’re worried about cashing after a rough start.