12 Tips For Selecting Daily Fantasy Baseball Pitchers
It’s hard to win daily fantasy baseball contests if you don’t have productive pitchers on your team. Most of your points are going to be generated by the guys on the mound. If they can’t control the strike zone or they’re giving up line drive after line drive, you can kiss your chances of winning a cash prize goodbye. On the other hand, having two strong starting pitchers in your lineup can make up for a lot of dead weight in other positions.
The question is, how do you find good pitchers?
If you’re a daily fantasy baseball newbie, you’re probably focusing on the guys who have produced the highest number of average points per game. But there’s a lot more to picking pitchers. And what you don’t know will definitely hurt you.
Below, you’ll find 12 tips for selecting pitchers for your lineups. These are the tactics used by some of the most successful daily fantasy baseball pros at places like FanDuel and DraftKings. (What about Draftstreet? Find out here)
#1 – Focus On Statistics That Actually Matter
Baseball fans live and breathe stats. The problem is, you can spend hours looking at numbers and still fail to draft good pitchers.
Why? Because not all stats are particularly useful.
For example, consider a pitcher’s ERA (earned run average). Although it has been quoted and used for generations, it’s not a great reflection of a pitcher’s talent. There are much better numbers to focus on.
At a minimum, you should be using a pitcher’s walk rate and strikeout rate. You should also take a look at the percentage of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls he allows. Those numbers will give you a better grasp of the pitcher’s control.
#2 – Don’t Count On Past Wins As A Predictive Tool
Future strikeout rates are relatively easy to predict based on past data. You can review how a pitcher has fared against a particular team to get a fairly-accurate sense for how he’ll perform against them in the near future.
Wins are a different story. They’re much more difficult to predict since there are too many factors that influence the outcome of a game. Many of those factors lie outside the pitcher’s influence.
All other variables being the same, you’d definitely want a pitcher who is on a hot team. If that team wins, your guy on the mound will rack up extra points. Just don’t rely too much on a team’s past wins to select your pitcher.
#3 – Pick Starting Pitchers Who Have Rested
Starting pitchers don’t play every night. Their arms wouldn’t be able to endure the workload. They’re usually given several days to recuperate after each night they spend on the mound.
Before you draft a starting pitcher, make sure he has received at least 4 days rest following his last outing. You want his arm to be well-rested since you’ll be counting on him to rack up most of your lineup’s points.
#4 – Don’t Overestimate The Effect Of Stacking
A lot of daily fantasy baseball players use a tactic called stacking when drafting their teams. Stacking involves filling a lineup with players who are on the same team. The idea is that if a team has done well in the past against a particular pitcher, then “stacking” a lineup with that team’s players will improve the owner’s chances of winning.
To be clear, stacking can be effective if you’re drafting hitters. But when you’re drafting pitchers, it’s all but irrelevant. Assuming your starters have strong arms, respectable strikeout rates, and low walk rates, there’s no reason to fear that owners will stack their teams against you.
#5 – Avoid Hitter-Friendly Ballparks
Most MLB fans realize that some ballparks are better for hitters and others are better for pitchers. To that end, even great pitchers can struggle in hitter-friendly parks. Batters are more likely to get on base and even hit home runs.
When drafting pitchers, avoid those who are scheduled to play good teams in places like Coors Field, Wrigley Field, and Fenway Park. Drafting them is asking for trouble since those fields are very “hospitable” to batters.
#6 – Select Pitchers Matched Against Free-Swinging Batters
Some batters are known for their patience. They have no trouble waiting for the right pitch. They’re dangerous because when they connect, they usually get a solid hit.
Other batters swing at everything. Every pitch looks like a potential home run to them. As you can imagine, they strike out a lot.
Identify hitters who have a reputation for swinging at everything that’s thrown to them. Then, draft pitchers who are scheduled to confront them in one of that evening’s games. Your guys on the mound will have an easier time striking out those hitters.
#7 – Use Three Games To Establish A Baseline
Streaks are important in daily fantasy baseball. A solid performance across several nights typically heralds a solid performance in the next game. Whether you think it’s a matter of psychology, statistics, or voodoo, a pitcher who is on a winning streak is more likely to perform well.
Use a pitcher’s previous 3 games to establish a trend in his performance. That will give you enough data to be reasonably confident that he’ll perform well in his next game.
#8 – Evaluate At-Home Vs. On-The-Road Performance
Some pitchers do well at home, but suffer on the road. Their ERAs rise, their strikeout rates plummet, and they allow far more balls in play than usual. Other guys have the opposite problem; they have no trouble throwing strikeouts in away games, but have trouble finding their mojo at home.
Sometimes, the change in a pitcher’s performance is due to the park. As we noted earlier, even solid pitchers can have trouble in hitter-friendly ballparks. But the variance can also be psychological, which is a tough nut to crack.
Bottom line: before drafting a pitcher, take a moment to find out whether he is scheduled to play at home or on the road. Then, consider how he has fared in that situation in the past.
#9 – Focus On National League Teams
Unlike the American League, the National League doesn’t allow the use of designated hitters in the place of pitchers. A team’s pitchers are integrated into the regular batting rotation.
That’s important because pitchers are rarely strong hitters. They seldom hit home runs. Many can’t seem to hit at all. Your National League pitcher will have several opportunities to log strikeouts at the expense of the pitcher standing at the plate.
#10 – Look For Left-Handed Pitchers
As a general rule, pitchers tend to do better against batters whose handedness is the same as their own. A right-handed pitcher will usually perform better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. They tend to have problems when they’re matched up against batters whose handedness is different than their own. Their curve balls and sliders tend to break toward the batter, giving the batter a better target.
Most pitchers in the MLB are right-handed. So are most hitters. By contrast, left-handed pitchers are rare. Both right and left-handed hitters have limited experience in facing them, which can be a boon for your lineup. When you stumble upon a solid left-handed pitcher who is scheduled to play, pick him up.
#11 – Check Which Pitchers Are Favored By Vegas Odds
You should always check Vegas odds when drafting your daily fantasy baseball teams. And you should definitely do so whenever you’re selecting pitchers.
Check out the money lines for that evening’s games. You’ll quickly see which teams are considered the favorites by oddsmakers. Remember, if your pitcher’s team wins a game, you’ll receive extra points for the win.
Also, take a look at the total number of points expected to be scored by the opposing teams of each game. Low scores are better than high ones when it comes to selecting pitchers. High scores suggest that one or both guys on the mound are having trouble locking down innings.
Are Vegas oddsmakers infallible? Of course not. But their livelihood is based on the accuracy of their predictions. That’s the reason they tend to be reliable.
#12 – Pay Attention To The Weather
Weather comes into the picture in two ways. First, you want to avoid drafting pitchers who are scheduled to play in games that might get rained or snowed out. If they’re not on the mound, they’re not generating points for you.
Second, certain climates and weather conditions are advantageous for pitchers. For example, cold air creates a drag on the ball, which makes it more difficult for batters to hit home runs. That same drag also benefits knuckleballs, making them less predictable.
On the other hand, cold weather often strips pitchers of their control. They allow more walks since they often have trouble finding the strike zone.
Here’s the takeaway: daily fantasy pitcher selection is practically an art form. The good news is that you can learn to do it well. Use the 12 tips I’ve outlined above to seed your lineups with productive arms that put more DFS cash prizes within your reach.
Other Fantasy Baseball Related Articles:
- Small vs. Large Draft Strategies
- Top Ten Daily Fantasy Baseball Tips
- Quick Start Guide for Fanduel Baseball Betting