Thanks again to everybody who participated in The Daily Grind this season – either by reading or playing in our contests. Thanks also to my partners at FantasyDraft for supplying those contests. Today we’re here to accomplish two things (besides the thanking): praise the winningest winners and discuss my personal strategy this season.
First thing’s first. Congrats to GOFF0547 for taking home the final contest of the season. It was a deeply weird day of baseball. GOFF’s was the only roster in the contest to exceed 121 points (133.20). Keston Hiura and Tommy Edman led the way.
The overall Leaderboard winner was roc-pile with $441 and an even 100 points*. I’m in the awkward position of offering some self kudos for the most top five appearances. I only won the Invitational on two occasions. By comparison, roc-pile took home the cake a whopping 11 times. Of all the users who placed in at least 10 contests, I had the lowest ratio of dollars per win. In other words, I was very good at finishing fifth place.
*Points were assigned in descending order to the top five teams in each contest, i.e. first place gets five points, second gets four, etc.
The others in the Top 5 were also frequent winners of the Invitational. mmddyyyy took home eight victories. Brewday snatched the crown six times. Yisman, who joined us partway through the season, managed five victories. Djil131 deserves a shoutout for efficiency and the highest point total of the season – 225.35 points set on August 9. Of participants who placed 10 times, only top-placed roc-pile earned more money per win. Djil finished first (4), second (3), or third (5) in all but one of the times they placed. Perhaps these are the users whose strategies we should examine. Instead…
My Approach To 2019
I began playing DFS back in 2014, an age in which chasing multi-hit games from straight value-based lineups was a viable approach. I recall Anthony Rendon was a favorite of mine. One of my better days was built around a four-single game by Lonnie Chisenhall. My best day though was fueled by an early-season double-dong off the bat of Brad Miller; perhaps an early foreshadowing of things to come.
Changes in the game quickly increased the importance of home runs over virtually all other outcomes. The main DFS vendors – FanDuel and DraftKings – achieved a scale that turned a moderately talent-based lottery into pure gambling (or deep spreadsheeting). Playing for value (i.e. using underpriced players) was no longer a successful strategy. Instead, the main path to victory became about finding multi-homer performances from low-owned players. Contrarianism was the name of the game.
Our switch to FantasyDraft was in part an escape from the tyranny of the oversized and oversophisticated giants of the industry. Mostly though, FantasyDraft was simply the most eager to accommodate my desired contest parameters. That it was possible to return to value-based lineups was a happy side effect.
Through early-May, I used my standby approach which, truthfully, hasn’t been working for years. Namely, pick a lineup that should score some runs, stack it. Pick a couple pitchers. Shove in whatever hitters best fit the remaining gaps. Typically, I would focus on offenses at hitter friendly parks and pitchers at pitcher friendly parks. My performance was brutal as homertastic performances elsewhere sank my stacks. Power sapping venues no longer sapped, making pitcher choices more (or perhaps less) complicated.
Around the second week of May, I privately unveiled new tactics. No more stacks unless they came about naturally. I stopped trying to maximize projected points and started focusing on rostering the highest home run projections. I would then use common value plays rather than deep values – think Josh VanMeter instead of Lewis Brinson. In some slates, a certain pitcher would stand out as must-play. Often an Astro. Usually, I’d simply use whatever fit.
To this end, I used SaberSim to help inform my choices. In the past, I’ve resisted using the machine gods for lineup construction. I’m mostly playing DFS for fun, and I’ve always been a one or two lineups per day player. Running and tinkering with a lineup simulator isn’t any fun to me.
Even this year, my use of SaberSim was simplistic – I’d sort all hitters by projected home runs then try to roster as many of the big names as possible. If some were cheaper than others (often Franmil Reyes), I’d prioritize them. Closer to game time, I’d sort by the “value” tab (just a straight count of projected points per thousand dollars) to make sure I didn’t miss an unexpected bargain.
The result was surprisingly consistent cashings despite rarely spiking a big win. My best day was on May 31 when I scored 214.6 points. As is always the case on my best days, it was on just $1 of GPP entries. Grumble. Overall, from the start of May until mid-September, I earned close to a 100 percent ROI on roughly $10 of daily entries. In other words, I doubled my money.
Of course, no gambler’s story comes with a happy ending. In mid-September, I decided to take my house money to the big stage (aka high-priced GPPs). I don’t know if it was a small sample curse, reliance on the wrong value plays, or just something to do with the way those late-season games are played, but I fell apart just when I needed that precious consistency. But fear not folks, I walked away with a tidy $14.33 of winnings. Along the way, I found a strategy that really truly worked for the unique environment of 2019. It was the most fun I’ve had playing DFS since those halcyon days of 2014.
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