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MLB Daily Games Strategy: Late Season Risers

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.

Late Season Risers to Take Advantage Of

Even though I quite literally wrote the book on cognitive biases in fantasy sports (get it here), I'm not immune to them. When I started playing MLB DFS, I kept hearing you need to use the last three years' statistics in evaluating players but it seemed to me that what they were doing NOW was what was important. I even wrote about it early on in a RotoWire strategy article I called "Buster Posey mashes lefties and other lies" as Posey got off to a really slow start this year. So, I've lived and learned since then. I accept that past years' data tell you important things about players, like that a career lefty masher will eventually mash lefties.

Four months later, that information still seems to me to be much more valuable in the context of season long fantasy baseball than DFS. Call it recency bias, but when I've done all my research as far as Vegas lines, matchup difficulty, platoon splits/advantages (for hitters and pitchers), batting order, etc. I'm choosing the player that has performed well in his last bunch of games over the one that's performed well in his last bunch of years. I'm not talking about hot streaks (we did that a few weeks ago here) but rather a consistent level of performance over several weeks. Of course everyone has 0/4 nights, but there should be regular multi-hit and home run games too.

In the spirit of embracing a little recency bias, and now that we're almost through the season even the diehard 3-year guys admit that current season data are relevant, I took a look at starting pitchers and hitters that are outperforming their season average over the last 30 days.

Madison Bumgarner 1 8 +7
Mike Fiers 2 >50 +48
Chris Tillman 3 48 +45
Matt Shoemaker 4 34 +30
Clayton Kershaw 5 1 -4
Drew Smyly 6 47 +41
Jordan Zimmermann 7 22 +15
Phil Hughes 8 30 +22
Stephen Strasburg 9 21 +12
Kyle Hendricks 10 >50 +40
Carlos Carrasco 11 >50 +39
Jon Lester 12 7 -5
Ryan Vogelsong 13 >50 +37
Max Scherzer 14 11 -3
Hisashi Iwakuma 15 17 +2

*These are ranked according to ESPN's Player Rater. They are ranked by an imperfect composite score that attempts to capture all the factors that go into good pitching. The Player Rater updated Tuesday Sept 2, after this article was written, so the ranks of some top SP have changed. Notably, Kyle Hendricks is now # 26. Cueto, Wada, A. Wood, and Duffy replace Hendricks, Vogelsong, Zimmermann, and Lester in the Top 15.

The pitchers I'm not sleeping on are Fiers, Shoemaker, and Carrasco. This is largely because I've been using these guys in my DFS lineups already. Behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated, it's basic biology! Another one that it's hard to argue against is Smyly, who seems like a different pitcher since moving down to Tampa Bay. All of these SP are available at a significant discount compared to higher priced "studs" who didn't make the Top 15 over past 30 days. Obviously, some SP will surge due to increased usage, like Carrasco, Wada, and Fiers. Tillman, Hughes, and Shoemaker however are getting good run support and seem to have settled in. Hopefully we can exploit that the rest of the way.


Chris Carter 1 60 +59
Victor Martinez 2 7 +5
Jacoby Ellsbury 3 9 +6
Carlos Gomez 4 6 +2
Ian Desmond 5 32 +27
Justin Upton 6 13 +7
Dustin Ackley 7 107 +100
Giancarlo Stanton 8 2 -6
Anthony Rendon 9 14 +5
Danny Santana 10 96 +86
Buster Posey 11 55 +44
Alex Gordon 12 52 +40
Starling Marte 13 56 +43
Josh Harrison 14 41 +27
Hunter Pence 15 19 +4
Kennys Vargas 16 >150 +134
Jose Altuve 17 1 -16
Corey Dickerson 18 34 +16
Mike Trout 19 3 -16
Ian Kinsler 20 21 +1
Robinson Cano 21 18 -3
Denard Span 22 35 +13
Jordan Schafer 23 >150 +127
Yoenis Cespedes 24 45 +21
Trevor Plouffe 25 124 +99
Nolan Arenado 26 80 +54
Dustin Pedroia 27 88 +51
Mike Brantley 28 5 -23
Evan Longoria 29 70 +41
Billy Hamilton 30 10 -20

The ESPN Player Rater for hitters must be taken with a huge grain of salt. It accounts for position scarcity, which we need not do when evaluating performance. So Kinsler, Rendon, and Altuve are rated really high, higher than their raw statistics would suggest. But even if we know the rankings aren't perfect, we can see who's outperforming their average. If you play DFS or are even vaguely aware of baseball, you know what Chris Carter is doing lately. He's been unreal.

While with this pitcher analysis, I'm buying on guys that are overperforming their season averages right now, I'm much more cautious with the hitters. Many are going to fall back to their season averages, and while that will happen with certain pitchers as well, I'm more worried about guys like Carter, Ackley, and Plouffe. I do believe in Danny Santana and Nolan Arenado, whose season long rankings are low due to missing time to injury or not playing until recently. Where I think the hitter analysis can be used for your DFS benefit is guys like Cespedes, Span, and Josh Harrison. They are good, but are even better in recent weeks.

I was told in the beginning of the season when I was railing on the poor performance of the then highest paid catcher that the worse he does, the more you want to roster him. Well, I bided my time, but over the last month I've used Posey on three different nights when the matchup was good and he has not disappointed. I'm happy to come full circle with Posey in this series. He was unusable at his price for much of the season. His late burst may indeed keep him in lefty mashing conversations for next year, but more importantly, may finally be exploitable for DFS. His salary is up everywhere, but in good situations, like Coors field vs any of their mediocre lefties, he's in must-play territory. So there you have it, full circle on Buster Posey. Good luck this week!