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MLB Daily Games Strategy: Is He Worth The Money?

Renee Miller

Renee Miller

Neuroscientist at the University of Rochester and author of Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is your brain sabotaging your team?. I cover daily fantasy basketball for RotoWire and write for RotoViz about fantasy football.

Last week I wrote about ten value plays that given the right situation could really help your DFS lineups. Javier Baez is no longer a value, but boy did he deliver last week. Just last night a couple other value bats won some people big games. Travis Snider's double dong night, or Kevin Kiermaier's homerun (in one of my GPP lineups) helped make for some high scoring lineups because they allowed you to fit in Giancarlo Stanton and Felix Hernandez.

Value is a huge part of your lineup composition, but you have to spend somewhere, right? We've talked about starting pitching eating up a big chunk of your salary cap, but I've wondered how worth it it is to pay up for hitters. For example, I feel like every time I pay up for Miguel Cabrera or Jose Bautista they wind up hitless with a walk or something. For the record, I'm super guilty of the biases that cause us to remember the worst and most recent things most vividly. Even though I've literally written the book on the subject, I just can't help myself!

That's why today I want to check in with 2014's most expensive batters. As I've said before, it's hard to tell in baseball when a player meets value because the nightly sample size is so small--3-5 at bats usually. In other DFS sports, you can apply a simple, or if you like, complex formula to calculate nightly whether a player scored enough fantasy points to justify his salary. In baseball we really have to come at it from a "what's most likely" angle. So I've binned the fantasy points for the top 10 most expensive hitters into three categories: killed you, didn't kill you but wasn't what you'd hoped for, and met or exceeded expectations. The table below shows the fraction of total games played that fall into each of these categories.

Name
Games Played
Salary
(DraftDay)
Average Fantasy Pts
(DraftDay)
% Killed you
% Meh
% Amazing
113
13850
19.5
22
48
30
118
12050
17.7
28
47
25
115
11450
15.9
31
47
22
114
11450
16.9
22
59
19
109
11450
17.7
23
54
23
96
11350
15.7
33
46
21
104
11300
18.1
36
38
26
113
11300
14.4
27
60
13
110
11250
16.1
25
55
20
117
11100
13.7
38
45
17



Notes: I used a threshold of 5 fantasy points or less for "killed you", 6-29 for "Meh", and >30 for "amazing". I removed Troy Tulowitzki, Paul Goldschmidt, and Edwin Encarnacion because they're out. I expect Andrew McCutchen to be back when he's eligible, maybe as soon as next week. I highlighted the "hot" numbers in red, the "cold" numbers in blue, and the "consistent" numbers in green.

You can think about paying top dollar for a player for two reasons: you want consistency or you want a high ceiling. Both are equally good reasons, but as you can see in the table, not every top tier player meets both desires. If you're hoping for a double dong, six RBI night, you should feel pretty good paying up for Trout, Stanton, and Abreu. If you're just hoping for something; a couple hits, runs scored, maybe even a stolen base, you'll take Cano, Bautista, Gomez, or McCutchen. These guys contribute in multiple ways most of the time.

One way to decide how to use this information in building your roster is to utilize the higher volatility players with greater upside in GPP lineups, and the safer, high "Meh" guys in your cash game lineups. In addition to being pretty consistent, guys like Bautista, Trout, and McCutchen also kill your night a lot less often than some of their peers, which is really valuable in cash games. Abreu is the most boom or bust player of the bunch, with the fewest mediocre games. He's your prototypical power hitter in that sense, just make sure you use him as such.

The one guy I can't figure out when to use is Miggy. I'm telling you, I've rostered him on more than a few of his 35 "killed you" nights. Braun also falls into this category where the high upside games aren't happening often enough to justify the cost in my opinion. Of course, there are contexts in which I'd still use these guys, but all things being equal as far as opposing pitcher, ball park, weather, that kind of stuff, I'm probably avoiding. On the other hand, I've probably just been unlucky a couple times with Bautista, because he actually has one of the lower "killed you" percentages. I'll keep using him in good spots, notably at home and against LHP.

While it's crucial to have value in your lineup, the reason you're using minimum salary guys is so you can fit in top SP and hitters like the fellas above. Knowing what you're paying for can help you make the best decisions for different games. On nights when there's a full slate and everyone's playing, this information can help you choose between two studs.

Good luck tonight if you're trying to win a qualifier, and if you're not, wish ME your luck in the DraftKings Atlantis Mega-Q :). I'll thank you publicly next week if I win a spot!