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Fantasy 101: How to Win Using Advanced Data

Michael Rathburn

Michael Rathburn

Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. He was also nominated by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for Best Baseball Series in 2011.

How to Win Using Advanced Data

If you read my daily fantasy basketball columns, you know I LOVE research. I believe that providing data to players, especially new players helps them in building their lineups on a day in, day out basis. Baseball is my first love, so anytime I get to dig into numbers for MLB it is a privilege. Over the next few weeks, I will start to delve into a lot of data and show how it is relevant to helping you win in daily fantasy baseball on FanDuel, DraftKings, and DraftStreet.

All Data is based on 2013

Positional Breakdown

FanDuel

Average Points Per Game (All Hitters) – 2.45

1B – 2.97
RF – 2.68
LF – 2.49
C – 2.48
3B – 2.48
CF – 2.38
2B – 2.12
SS – 2.02

I listed the outfielders individually so you can see the difference between picking a corner outfielder vs a center fielder. The surprising number was Catcher ranking ahead of Third baseman. Because of the nature of catcher, the position does represent a source of finding value due to many two catcher situations because of platoon splits. I would still recommend finding a sleeper at catcher when you can unless a stud catcher has a very favorable hitting match up. You want to spend at the first base position, while saving money at second base and shortstop. Note the gap between the highest and lowest position is a 32% difference. The best thing is to find those middle infielders that are hitting in the top part of the lineup versus a low strikeout / high fly ball pitcher. I usually look at the players with higher line drive and contact rates.

DraftKings

Average Points Per Game (All Hitters) – 7.77

1B – 8.87
RF – 8.39
LF – 7.92
3B – 7.83
C – 7.75
CF – 7.59
2B – 7.03
SS – 6.78

The first thing you will notice is that DraftKings scoring is much higher so you need to adjust for that. The only difference is that third base and catcher flip flop positions, and that is due to DraftKings not having any negative points for outs like FanDuel. Power is rewarded more under the DraftKings scoring system. Note the difference between the highest and lowest positions is much less than FanDuel (23 percent), so it is not as critical to punt second base and shortstop.

DraftStreet

Average Points Per Game (All Hitters) – 3.24

1B – 3.62
RF – 3.52
LF – 3.34
CF – 3.25
3B – 3.21
C – 3.14
2B – 2.96
SS – 2.86

Interesting to note the hierarchy order of position ranks on DraftStreet versus FanDuel and DraftKings. Center field has more value, along with third base, while catcher falls into the group of second base and shortstop of where you want to look for value plays. Because of the premium placed on runs and RBIs and the penalty for strikeouts, it makes sense. The percent from highest to lowest is only 21 percent making your mid-tier priced players more of a focus on this site. Because of the sharp pricing, it is much harder to play stars and scrubs on DraftStreet. Most winning lineups are going to be evenly priced with emphasis placed on the current day match up.

Batting Order (Data does not include batters who hit 9th due to NL Pitcher)

Spot in Batting Order – Average Points Per Game (Average number of at bats per game)

FanDuel

4 – 2.94 PPG (3.76 AB per game)
3 – 2.85 (3.99)
5 – 2.47 (3.61)
6 – 2.18 (3.37)
2 – 2.10 (4.00)
1 – 2.07 (4.20)
7 – 1.93 (3.20)
8 – 1.74 (3.15)

You will notice the data from batting order is slightly different than the positional data because I left out the ninth placed hitters. A lot of the data is for National League pitchers, and even in the American League, it is best to avoid them altogether. The best three player combo is taking the 3-4-5 hitters, while if you are mini stacking, go with 3-4-5-6. Even though you pick up extra at bats with the leadoff and two hole hitters, because runs and RBI are treated equally with total bases, there is a slight downgrade with both.

DraftKings

4 – 8.85 points per game
3 – 8.64
5 – 7.61
2 – 7.07
1 – 7.02
6 – 6.78
7 – 6.09
8 – 5.56

Because the scoring system is weighted more towards hits and there is no penalty for outs, the leadoff and two hole hitters jump above the sixth hitter on DraftKings. When building a stack, you want to look at 3-4-5 first, then 2-3-4-5, and 1-2-3-4-5 hitters in that order.

DraftStreet

4 – 3.64 points per game
3 – 3.58
5 – 3.13
1 – 3.07
2 – 3.02
6 – 2.78
7 – 2.49
8 – 2.28

Some very interesting data and I love DraftStreet for its nuances. While the order is almost identical to DraftKings, with the exception of the leadoff and two hitters reversed, the biggest difference is that there is a very close barometer between the five, one, and two hitters meaning that you can mini stack a few different ways (3-4-5, 2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3).

Fly ball Pitchers vs Ground ball Pitchers (average points per game)

FanDuel

FB Pitchers – 2.60
GB Pitchers – 2.29

DraftKings

FB Pitchers – 8.09
GB Pitchers – 7.31

DraftStreet

FB Pitchers – 3.37
GB Pitchers – 3.03

Overall you gain about a 10 percent edge when taking hitters versus fly ball pitchers instead of ground ball pitchers. Fly ball pitchers are those in the top third of the league in ratio of fly ball outs to ground ball outs. Ground ball pitchers are those in the bottom third of the league in ratio of fly ball outs to ground ball outs.

2011-2013 (Avoid pitchers with 8.0 K/9 or higher on this list)

Highest HR/FB % Pitchers vs LHB

Nick Tepesch
Jason Marquis
Tommy Hunter
Bronson Arroyo
Roberto Hernandez
Jake Arrieta
Tommy Hanson
Jerome Williams
David Phelps
Alex Cobb
Brandon Maurer
Joe Blanton
Gavin Floyd
Zack Greinke
Henderson Alvarez

Highest HR/FB % Pitchers vs RHB

Edinson Volquez
Hisashi Iwakuma
Dallas Keuchel
Clayton Richard
Chris Sale
Mike Leake
A.J. Burnett
Trevor Cahill
Ervin Santana
Yovani Gallardo
John Danks
Joe Saunders
Tim Lincecum
Yu Darvish
Wandy Rodriguez