MLB DFS 2015: X-Factors for Daily Fantasy Baseball
The start of baseball season not only indicates the beginning of warm weather across the country, it also means there is another sport to compete in daily fantasy.
With competitions just about every day of the regular season, Major League Baseball represents a fun way to compete and potentially make money on a consistent basis.
Of course, it takes a lot of work to be successful in this sport. Even the top hitters and pitchers can have bad games, so you have to figure out how to find players with the best chances to succeed while staying within your budget.
Each day will feature new possibilities, but here is a look at some of the most important factors to look for when filling out your team.
This might sound obvious for any fantasy sport, but a hot or cold streak means more than anything in daily fantasy baseball.
If a relatively obscure player hits a few home runs in a week, a regular fantasy baseball player might keep him on the waiver wire until he can prove his production on a consistent basis. In daily fantasy, you want to ride the hot streak as long as possible.
At the same time, you can't wait on a cold streak and hope it turns around. If a hitter fails to get a hit a few days in a row, don't bet on him breaking that trend if you can help it.
Baseball is a game of streaks. The best players find ways to minimize the cold stretches, but it happens to everyone. In daily fantasy, there is no reason to force yourself into putting one of these guys on your team.
You shouldn't select a single hitter in daily fantasy until you know what type of pitcher he is facing and how he fares against them.
Jose Altuve was excellent all-around last season, with a .341 batting average to lead the majors. Of course, he was even better when facing lefties, accumulating a .414 batting average in 152 at-bats.
A player like David Wright has had similar splits like this his entire career. Against left-handed pitchers, the third baseman has a career OPS of 1.005, which is quite an improvement over his .826 against right-handers.
There are plenty of lefties you will also want to avoid when they go up against southpaws.
At the same time, don't forget to see how pitchers might fare against a lineup loaded one way or the other.
Although the prices for each player will reflect these differences, don't be a sucker by grabbing someone destined to fail.
Familiarity with Opponent
This might require more research on a daily basis, but never discount history when it comes to matchups against teams or against specific players.
Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the sport, with one Cy Young award on his resume to go with three other top-five finishes in the past six years. Against the Oakland Athletics, he has a 19-7 career record to go with a 2.58 ERA.
On the other hand, he hasn't had as much success against fellow divisional opponent Texas Rangers. He has just a 4.01 ERA that also includes a 12-21 record in 42 starts. Elvis Andrus has a .307 batting average against Hernandez in 73 at-bats.
This shows you can't just assume a great performance from a top pitcher or a poor performance against him on a given day.
This will be another difficult situation to track each day, but never count out batting average on balls in play (BABIP) to turn around a season in a hurry.
On average, about 30 percent of balls hit into the field of play turn into hits. This means any dramatic number higher or lower than this could have a great deal of luck involved in their stats.
Last season, Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates had a breakout season with a .315 batting average and 13 home runs. However, the 27-year-old utility player had a BABIP of .353, which was the ninth-highest in the majors, according to FanGraphs.
Considering he had a BABIP of .253 in the majors in 2013 and .259 in 2012, he was either really unlucky in the past or really lucky in the most recent season.
So how do you use this in daily fantasy baseball? If someone like Harrison struggles to get hits early in the year, don't bet a lot of money on a turnaround.
Finding High-Scoring Games
It's one thing to look for specific players to be successful, but another option is simply figuring out which teams to target.
Looking at projected scores for each game can give you an indication for which teams are destined to score a lot of runs. This is a quick way to see the favorable pitching matchups without having to do research on each player.
In the high-scoring games, you can target one or multiple hitters on each side to give you the best chance to put up big statistics. At the same time, you might not want to draft the starting pitchers, even at an inexpensive price.
Obviously, the opposite situation holds true as well.
Although the individual stats are the most important thing for your fantasy team, you should always be mindful of the team strength for your player.
A hitter on a good team will not only get more at-bats, but a much greater opportunity for runs and RBI.
Houston Astros' slugger Chris Carter had 37 home runs this past season but only finished with 88 RBI. A lot of this has to do with his poor batting average, but it also would be nice if more players were on base when he was at bat.
Conversely, Adrian Gonzalez had a below-average season for his standards but still led the majors with 116 RBI.
The same mindset goes for pitchers if you want to add valuable points from wins to your fantasy team.
No matter what type of contest you enter, make sure to check the team's lineup before locking your roster. Even healthy players take days off, and you want to ensure you don't have a wasted spot.
Additionally, checking the lineups are important to see where your player is sitting on his team's lineup.
An obvious concept you need to know is the higher a player is in the batting order, the more at-bats he will get in a game. Considering DraftKings has no negatives at the plate (not counting caught stealing), you want players who will give you as many chances to score as possible.
If someone you want to draft has been dropped to eighth in the batting order, you might want to look elsewhere.
In the same way you want hitters capable of giving you more chance to score, pitchers who go deep into games are extremely important.
DraftKings adds 2.25 points for every inning pitched as well an extra 2.5 for a complete game. This is in addition to the value of possibly getting more strikeouts and a better chance of earning a win.
David Price didn't have his best season last year, but he certainly helped fantasy teams with an MLB-high 248.1 innings pitched, including at least eight innings in 17 of his 34 starts.
On the other side of the spectrum is someone like Doug Fister, who had a great ERA but would rarely pitch more than seven innings. Without adding many strikeouts, he represents a lot less upside.
Although good players and pitchers can succeed anywhere, don't forget to take note of where each game is being played.
Unlike most sports, where every field, court or rink has the same dimensions, baseball stadiums are all unique. Some are smaller and more favorable to the hitters, while others make it almost impossible to knock one out of the park.
ESPN tracks park factors to show which stadium features the most home runs (Yankee Stadium in New York) and which has the fewest (AT&T Park in San Francisco). As a result, a power lefty facing the New York Yankees would likely have a better chance of hitting one out than one playing the San Francisco Giants.
Staying away from pitchers competing in Coors Field in Colorado would also likely be a smart move.
This is the aspect of daily fantasy that might anger players the most. If a baseball game is postponed due to rain or any other factor, you simply don't get points for those players.
Having empty spots in your lineup is not a good strategy for making money.
As a result, make sure you take note of weather reports regarding potential rain delays and cancellations from around the league. Even if you have the perfect sleeper but his game might be canceled, you might want to look in a different direction for that day.
Are you ready to start the MLB 2015 season? DraftKings is hosting a $15,000 FREE contest for MLB Opening Day. Spots are limited so get in now!
For additional advice or info regarding daily fantasy sports, follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter.