RotoWire Partners

Daily Baseball 101: Breaking Down Vegas Data - Part I (Pitching)

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.

Over the past few months, I have broken down data on all the important indicators for daily fantasy baseball, and over the next few weeks look for extensive research on the importance of Vegas data. Vegas data refers to the money line and total (over/under). The money line is indicative of how heavily a team and/or starting pitcher is favored, while the total (over/under) is referring to the total number of runs in a game.

Much of the theory on trusting Vegas data is that it’s their job to get it right and, thus it must be accurate. However, I have not seen much in the way of data mining or research to prove this. I will say this: I use Vegas data, but after this research my goal is to hone in on the highest optimal situations in which the data will produce consistent, winning lineups. For the purpose of this article, I used Fanduel scoring.

Data is taken from March 22 – July 7th

1476 games
Average Over/Under: 7.8
Average Line: -135

Over/Under (number of games)

6 : 7
6.5: 105
7: 280
7.5: 351
8: 246
8.5: 247
9: 141
9.5: 53
10: 24
10.5: 13
11: 7
11.5: 2
12.5: 1

As you can see, the majority of totals come in at 7.5, with 7-8.5 being the largest group sampling. For the focus on this piece, I’ll look at 6 and 6.5 games and build a profile for those outcomes.

Money Line (number of games)

102-108: 229
109-119: 262
120-129: 255
130-139: 179
140-149: 164
150-159: 130
160-169: 92
170-179: 60
180-189: 37
190-199: 25
200-270: 44

The majority of money lines come in at 109-119, with 102-129 being the biggest group sampling. For the focus on this piece, I examine the 170-270 range and build a profile for those outcomes.

Games with either run totals of 6 or 6.5 and/or money lines of -170 or greater

260 games fit these criteria. A pitching target should be 14 points, and the average for this sample size came in at 13.2 fantasy points per game, so it is pretty close. If you blindly selected your starting pitcher in this group, you would be 30% ahead of the average, which is around 10 points per game for pitchers.

Total (260 games)
Avg FPPG: 13.20
Avg Salary: $8,447
Avg Ratio: 1.6 (PPG/$)

20+ points (39 games)
Avg Money Line: -175
Avg Total: 7.0
Avg Salary: $9,510

16+points (90 games)
Avg Money Line: -173
Avg Total: 7.1
Avg Salary: $9,046

14+ points (128 games)
Avg Money Line: -170
Avg Total: 7.1
Avg Salary: $8,741

Games with -195 or greater (50 games)
Avg Total: 7.6
Avg FPPG: 15.37

Games with -170 to -194 (116 games)
Avg Total: 7.7
Avg FPPG: 11.97

While you only get 50 games of -195 or greater, the difference in average points is huge: 15 vs. 12.

Games with 6/6.5 run total (112 games)
Avg Money Line: -138
Avg FPPG: 13.85

Games with 6/6.5 run total and -158 or greater (24 games)
Avg FPPG: 16.08

Games with 7.5 or greater run total and -195 money line or higher (28 games)
Avg FPPG: 15.7

So in this example, totals don’t matter. It’s all about how much of a favorite your starting pitcher is.

Pitcher Profiles (Must have either 6/6.5 run total or -170 or greater money line)
(number of games/avg/avg salary)


Stephen Strasburg (13) – 14.54 PPG ($9,500)
Felix Hernandez (11) – 15.73 ($10,664)
Adam Wainwright (10) – 14.60 ($10,490)
Clayton Kershaw (9) – 18.85 ($10,588)
David Price (9) – 15.18 ($9,167)
Masahiro Tanaka (9) – 17.52 ($9,922)
Michael Wacha (9) – 12.81 ($8,133)
Johnny Cueto (8) – 13.08 ($9,600)
Jose Fernandez (8) – 15.46 ($9,763)
Max Scherzer (8) – 15.75 ($10,038)
Zack Greinke (8) – 15.46 ($9,513)
Julio Teheran (7) – 14.71 ($8,429)
Madison Bumgarner (6) – 10.33 ($9,350)
Yu Darvish (6) – 14.33 ($11,083)
Jered Weaver (5) – 14.27 ($7,340)
Jesse Chavez (5) – 14.00 ($6,560)
Yordano Ventura (5) – 6.20 ($7,700)

With the exception of Bumgarner and Ventura, this group is gold when falling under these criteria. Look at the values on Wacha, Weaver, Teheran and Chavez, in particular.

Pitcher Profiles (Must have either 6/6.5 run total or -170 money line or greater)
Less than 5 games


Andrew Cashner – 14.08 ($7,475)
Garrett Richards – 13.67 ($7,625)
Ian Kennedy – 13.17 ($6,800)
Tyson Ross – 13.58 ($6,500)
Chris Sale – 20.44 ($9,333)
Gio Gonzalez – 17.00 ($8,433)
Hisashi Iwakuma – 15.67 ($8,267)

I really love the Padres trio in this mix of Cashner, Kennedy and Ross. When healthy and favored at home, they are each great values (Average salary - $7,500/$6,800/$6,500).

Teams with the most 6/6.5 run totals and/or + -170 favorites against

Astros – 28 (11.65 FPPG) 10/28 14+FPPG (36%)
Padres – 22 (13.12 FPPG) 10/22(45%)
Twins – 21 (13.28 FPPG) 11/21(52%)
Cubs – 20 (13.53 FPPG) 12/20(60%)
White Sox – 18 (12.39 FPPG) 9/18(50%)
Phillies – 16 (12.10 FPPG) 8/16(50%)
Rockies – 13 (15.69 FPPG) 8/13(62%)

So it looks like taking aces at home versus the Rockies when they’re heavy favorites with low run totals is producing the highest fantasy points per game thus far this year. Also, take note of the Houston situation. While the Astros have the most appearances on this list (28), when lower-tier pitchers end up as heavy favorites against them it does not pay off.