Advice on How to Play Daily Fantasy Baseball Cash Games

Posted on August 2, 2016
Thumbnail_Advanced Cash Game Strategy [MLB]_VF

Here at the RotoQL blog we have made it our mission to prepare our users with a DFS MLB lineup advice for the start of the season and beyond.

Similar to any other fantasy contest, it is smart to create a strategy before setting your lineups when playing daily fantasy baseball cash games. Lucky for you, our very own Saahil Sud, formerly Maxdalury, has generated such a strategy. This article will give an in-depth look at Saahil’s strategy, and will give you advice on how to play daily fantasy baseball cash games.

The desired outcome when setting your lineup for daily fantasy baseball cash games is to construct a lineup with both a high floor and a high expected value. For those that may not know, high expected value means on average, what your team is expected to score. So the goal is to field a team that will score high on average. A high floor means that in a worst-case scenario, your lineup will still do reasonably well. So even if you team is having an off night, you won’t lose 100% of your money in cash games. In order to do this, one must consider three things: pitcher selection, hitter selection, and lineup construction.

Pitcher Selection for MLB Daily Lineups

In order to select the ideal pitchers, there are several stats you must look at. Pitch count and innings pitched are both important when selecting your pitchers for your lineup. Players with a higher pitch count and innings pitched provide more of an opportunity for a high floor than those with lower pitch counts and innings pitched. Let’s take a pitcher like Johnny Cueto for example. Cueto averages a higher pitch count and innings pitched than most pitchers. If he struggles early on in the game, he will be provided with a longer leash to stay in the game, which will thus give him more chances to score fantasy points. Cueto will have more of a chance to rack up more strikeouts, maybe even get the win at the end of the game, than pitchers with lower pitch counts who may not be given the same leash.

Another important stat to look at, possibly the most important statistic when setting your MLB cash game lineups, is a pitcher’s Strikeout Rate. A strikeout is one of the most consistent outcomes a pitcher can have, and is obviously a big part of your fantasy score. It’s clearly more beneficial to have a pitcher who averages more strikeouts per start than one that relies squarely on his fielders to get his outs. You also have to look at the opposing team’s strikeout rate. Do their batters tend to strikeout more than other teams? Do their batters have a high strikeout rate against left handed pitchers? These are important questions when selecting your pitchers.

The next stat to look at is the pitcher’s wOBA and the opposing team’s wOBA (weighted on-base average). Essentially this stat gives you an idea of how well a pitcher is really pitching, in terms of if he’s surrendering doubles and home runs, or if most of the hits against him are singles. Opposing team’s wOBA is the same thing. It shows you just how good of a hitting team the opposing team is, which is important since you want to target pitchers that are facing poor-batting teams. Just like with the strikeout rates, you must check to see the opposing team’s wOBA against left handed pitchers. Some teams simply cannot hit lefties, and it’s important to take advantage of opposing team’s struggles.

Weather is another important thing to look at before selecting your lineup. You really want to avoid any situation where a pitcher might be influenced by the weather. If a pitcher throws two innings and then a long rain delay ensues, the pitcher is likely to be subbed out, which would be devastating to your lineup if you are starting that pitcher and he only gets two innings pitched.

It’s also important to check out Vegas data before making any final decisions on your lineup. You must look at the Projected Team Win. You should look at the moneyline to see what odds Vegas gives for each team, with their respective starting pitchers and starting lineups, to win the game. Saahil’s strategy finds it really important to look at high moneylines and lowest projected runs, and that will give you an idea of where to focus your research. You can also look at strikeout player props, however those don’t usually get released until the day of the game.

Hitter Selection

Just like pitcher selection, Saahil’s strategy contains a few factors you must look at before choosing your hitters. While it might seem obvious, the first thing to look at is a batter’s place in his team’s batting order. First through fifth in the batting order are the ideal slots and are safer plays than sixth through ninth in the order, who Saahil says are usually better to avoid. The higher a batter is in the lineup, the more opportunities he will likely get at the plate, which translates into more opportunities for fantasy points. If a batter normally hits at the bottom of the order, but gets moved to one of the top spots in the lineup, this could be a very good source of value in cash games, as you can see in the MLB GPP strategy video. It’s also important to look at a batter’s handedness splits. If a batter is left handed, and is facing a southpaw on the mound, you need to look at the batter’s wOBA against left handed pitchers. As you can see in the video, the hitting match ups in which a batter is facing a pitcher with the opposing hand (right handed batters vs. left handed pitchers, or vice versa) tend to be more favorable for the hitter. The lowest batting average in any of the handedness match ups is the left handed hitter versus the left handed pitcher, so avoid lefty hitters in this situation.

Similar to pitcher selection, the weather, along with ballpark factors, play a big role in hitter selection as well. For example, playing at Coors Field is a very big advantage for hitters. The home of the Rockies has the highest runs and home runs per game in all of Major League Baseball. At the other end of the spectrum, you should avoid Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. This ballpark has the lowest run production in baseball, and is not the stadium you want to choose hitters from. Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, are also stadiums that aren’t hitter-friendly. Finally, you should do your research on platoon players. These players tend to be cheaper than full-time players, as they don’t play every game, and it limits their floor and upside. Platoon players tend to start when facing a pitcher of the opposite handedness on the mound. These type of players generally have very good splits, which is the reason they are selected to start. Depending on the pitching matchup, platoon players could be a very good source for value. The one downside to starting a platoon player is they are more likely to be pinch hit for later in the game. If the opposing team brings in a relief pitcher of the same handedness as the platoon player, a manager will likely take the platoon player out of the game and bring in a batter that is the opposite handedness of the new pitcher. This could limit your platoon player to only two at bats in a game, which obviously limits the player’s upside.

Before selecting your hitters, you should look at information from Vegas in conjunction with the stats listed above in order to ensure you pick the optimal batters. Some of these Vegas stats are similar to the ones we discussed in pitcher selection, such as Team Expected Runs and player props. Another important Vegas stat is the Over/Under. You want to look at which situations have the highest offensive totals predicted and highest predicted runs, because they’re going to lead to more runs, RBIs, and hits.

Building Cash Game and 50/50 Lineups

The key elements in looking at cash games are salary distribution, stacking, late swap strategy, and using an optimizer. First let’s look at salary distribution. In cash games, the salaries for pitchers tend to be a little bit higher than the salaries for hitters. The reason for that is because pitchers are usually more consistent than hitters. Pitchers are going to be able to consistently put up that 20-25, or 30-35, points, at a higher rate than hitters are. That being said, consistency is huge for cash games, considering the high floor and high expected value (as discussed earlier). Next up is stacking. Stacking is more effective in tournaments, rather than in cash games. But in certain situations, such as a game at Coors Field, or a game with over five expected runs, stacking can make sense. It’s definitely not something you want to do every slate, but in certain slates, you want to stack. Every slate is different, and thus you must approach each slate differently. If you stack the top of a batting order on a good hitting team, it helps protect you from your lineup coming up empty, as you are likely to hit on at least some of the players in your stack, if not all. As you can see in the MLB GPP strategy video, you have the highest probability of scoring 90+ points on DraftKings if you stack three players from the same team.

Now we’ll talk about the late swap strategy, which only applies to DraftKings. Late swapping is very important if you want to play at a high level. You should be aware of what is going on in all of your big contests. If you have a large head-t0-head, that’s something you want to be monitoring. So if you both have the same pitcher left and you both have the same salary, and you’re behind by three points, you have zero percent chance of winning. If you swap out to a similarly priced player with maybe little lower expectations, your chances of winning can jump up to maybe 40 percent. You must be paying attention to this, especially if you are playing for higher stakes or at higher levels.

Lastly, we are going to talk about using a lineup optimizer. What an optimizer does is given all of the projections you have, it’s going to give you the team that has the highest expected value. Optimizers are great for managing multiple lineups. If you’re playing in a 50/50 with three or four teams and you want to reduce your variance, using multiple lineups is very important. An optimizer also helps you combine some of the different factors we have already discussed in this article. So salary allocation is going to be best served by using an optimizer.

There you have it. If you follow Saahil’s advice on how to play daily fantasy baseball cash games, and do your research on pitcher and hitter selection, you will improve your chances of winning by a vast amount.

 Make sure to check out RotoQL for daily fantasy football. Pro Football Focus projections to create the best NFL lineups with RotoQL’s real-time NFL lineup optimizer. Our premium subscription includes NFL lineup optimizer for DraftKings and FanDuel 50/50s and GPPs.

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