DFS Ownership and Fading Strategy by Matt Hunter May 19, 2016 When I first began playing DFS, I approached it with the belief that a good projection system is all that is needed to be successful. I still believe that accurate projections are very important for all forms of fantasy baseball (I run a sports projections site, after all), but over the past year or so that I’ve played DFS, I’ve come to better understand the deeper level of strategy needed to be successful in large-field DFS tournaments (commonly called GPPs). An important aspect of that strategy is the “pitcher fade”. We briefly discussed this a few weeks ago, but I wanted to dig deeper into the approach, because I believe it to be incredibly important for success in GPPs. For each DFS slate, you win not by scoring the most possible points, but by scoring more than other users in the contest. This is a very important distinction, because it allows for the possibility of success not just by getting strong performances from all of your players, but also by avoiding disappointing performances from highly owned players. For example, take today’s small two-game early slate on DraftKings. There are only four pitching options: Jason Hammel, Nathan Karns, Junior Guerra, and Tyler Wilson. None of these options is especially exciting, but independent of ownership, Hammel appears to be the clear best option. However, most other users also likely know this, which means that Hammel will be very highly owned (if I had to guess, I’d say around 70% on DK). As anyone reading FanGraphs should know, baseball has a lot of variance, especially in a single game sample, and even a good pitcher has a fairly high likelihood of a poor performance, not to mention a pitcher in Miller Park. Because of this, fading (i.e. not playing) Hammel gives you the opportunity to gain an advantage on potentially 70+% of the field if he does poorly. Though it’s more likely that he’ll do reasonably well and you won’t have that advantage, the top-heavy nature of DFS tournaments means that you often want to go for that relatively low-probability, high-upside outcome. This strategy of fading high-owned pitchers led me to the realization that Conditionals on SaberSim can be utilized for this purpose. As described two weeks ago, we can add a Conditional on Hammel scoring <= 15 DraftKings points, for example, a not-unlikely possibility, which will both exclude him from the lineup(s), and adjust projections for the Brewers (and Cubs) to reflect this portion of the distribution of simulated games. The goal and result of this is not to increase the chances of cashing the lineup or increasing average points, but to increase the likelihood of placing highly in the field and making a large profit. Now on to the daily projections… DFS Stack Candidates Mariners and Orioles The Mariners and Orioles are projected for the highest combined offensive output of any opposing offenses today (the Cubs are the only individual team with a higher projected runs/game than either team). Nate Karns is making the road start for Seattle, and Tyler Wilson is pitching for Baltimore. Not only are the projected average run totals high for each team (SEA 5.25, BAL 5.38), but so are the projected medians (SEA 5, BAL 5) and modes (SEA 4, BAL 5). Because of this, both of these offenses make for a great stack option. When a Conditional of Tyler Wilson allowing five or more runs is applied, a lineup including Adam Lind, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Seth Smith is suggested. When using the same Conditional applied to Nate Karns rather than Tyler Wilson, there are five Orioles included in the optimal lineup instead. Cubs The Cubs face Junior Guerra in a Miller Park day game, and have three of today’s top five projected players for DFS—Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, and Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo is projected number one overall. The next best projected Cubs batters are Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler, who are also within the top twenty overall. The Cubs offense has been quiet the past couple of games, but that means very little as far as predictive value. Miller Park is a top five hitters’ park in baseball, and Junior Guerra is not projected to be quite good enough to overcome that. DFS Pitcher Projections The projected top five pitchers for DFS today consists of some big names, and the top two are also the most expensive. Within the top five, Michael Wacha possesses good value as the result of a fairly inexpensive price tag. Just outside of the top five, Jon Gray makes for a good value play in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Jeff Locke, facing the Atlanta Braves at home, is projected slightly worse than Gray, but is significantly less expensive as far as DraftKings price. Some moderately priced starting pitchers to avoid are Marco Estrada, Nate Karns, and James Shields. Estrada’s projection isn’t exceptionally bad, but it’s worse than several pitchers who come cheaper than him. Karns (on the road vs Baltimore) and Shields (at home vs San Francisco) are both projected significantly worse than many pitchers with cheaper DFS price tags. Conclusion There are countless ways in which you can create DFS strategies using SaberSim projections and tools. In addition to Conditionals, there are also features that allow you to exclude players, adjust exposure, and much more. To keep you fully informed on all the possibilities, we will continue to explore more strategies in the coming days and weeks. Also, remember to check back for updated projections throughout the day. As teams release official lineups, SaberSim automatically updates accordingly and reruns simulations in order to stay as current as possible.