Making a daily fantasy baseball lineup can be a long and complicated process. This guide is meant to give you a brief overview of the research that I use every day in order to select a starting pitcher.
If you are new to daily fantasy baseball, you will quickly learn that the starting pitcher is the single most important player in your lineup. Not only do pitchers have the potential to score more fantasy points than any other position, but they also have the potential to lose more fantasy points than any other position. Starting pitching selection is important on all sites, but extremely important on FanDuel, as it is a single pitcher site. The ultimate goal is to select the pitcher with the best fantasy potential at the best value. For a detailed look into selecting your hitters, check out Bales’ Most Important Stats: Batting.
PITCHING STATS TO TARGET
With Sabermetrics, there are a million different pitching statistics out there. While some of the more advanced statistics can certainly apply to daily fantasy baseball, they can often be tough to find and tough to understand. The following statistics are all readily available and should be included in your daily research of pitchers:
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)
Even though ERA is still the most widely used stat for pitchers, it’s an ancient baseball stat that doesn’t paint the whole picture. A pitcher’s ERA depends on a number of factors that are beyond a pitcher’s control. Namely, a pitcher cannot control the bad defense behind him or how often a ball squeezes through the infield for a base hit. That’s where FIP comes into play. It is a more accurate indicator of how a pitcher is pitching based on what he can control. The FIP statistic basically takes luck and defense out of the equation and focuses on what a pitcher can control: walks, strikeouts, and home runs. Use FIP over ERA in your daily research.
Strikeout Rate (K/9, K%)
In daily fantasy baseball, strikeouts are king. For instance, on FanDuel pitchers get a full point for every strikeout while only receiving one point for an entire inning pitched. The emphasis on strikeouts in the scoring structure gives pitchers with high strikeout rates a huge advantage. The two most common strikeout statistics that youwill see are K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) and K% (percentage of batters that a pitcher strikes out). Both are useful in daily fantasy baseball.
Walk Rate (BB/9, BB%)
Walks are basically the opposite of a strikeout for a pitcher in daily fantasy baseball. You want to target pitchers with a low walk rate as walks drive up pitch counts and lead to more earned runs. Anytime a pitcher walks more than 3 batters per 9 innings, you may want to tread lightly unless that pitcher has an extremely high strikeout rate.
Ground-Ball Rate (GB%)
A pitcher’s ground ball rate is a very simple statistic. It measures the percentage of ground balls that a pitcher produces. Pitchers with high ground ball rates tend to give up more hits, but they also allow fewer extra base hits. This is a great statistic to look at each day when you combine it with ballpark factors. You typically want to avoid pitchers with a low ground ball rate if they are pitching in home run friendly ballparks.
Some pitchers are consistent regardless of where they are pitching, but others have glaring differences between their numbers at home compared to their numbers on the road. This can arise from a number of factors. Some pitchers struggle in certain ballparks while others just feel more comfortable at home in front of their fans. You will find these glaring home/road splits year in and year out. A great example of this is Stephen Strasburg. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball when he has pitched at home, but his numbers on the road continue to be very mediocre.
ANALYZING THE MATCHUP
Now that we have covered which statistics are useful in daily fantasy baseball, let’s cover the other half of the equation, the matchup. When breaking down a pitcher’s matchup, I tend to look at 4 things:
- Strikeout Potential – We’ve already covered the strikeout potential for pitchers, but you should also factor in the strikeout potential of his opponent. A quick search of each team’s strikeout rates against left-hand and right-hand pitching will give you an idea of which pitchers have the most favorable matchup.
- Opponent’s wOBA – In addition to a team’s strikeout rates, it’s also important to look at team’s wOBA against left-hand and right-hand pitching. This will also help you spot favorable pitching matchups.
- Vegas Line –There is a big emphasis on pitchers getting the win, especially on FanDuel where the win is worth 4 fantasy points. Checking the Vegas lines each day will allow you to see the biggest favorites as well as the games with the lowest run totals.
- Ballpark Factors – Not all ballparks are created equal. A pitcher could be facing a team in one ballpark and be a great play one night and then face the exact same team in a different ballpark in his next start and be an awful play. Look at the ballpark factors and adjust each pitcher’s fantasy value based on which ballparks yield the most runs, HR’s, etc.
HOW TO DETERMINE THE OPTIMAL STARTING PITCHER
Now that we’ve covered which statistics to use and how to exploit favorable matchups, the question becomes, how do we find the optimal starting pitcher each night? The answer to that question depends on a number of factors. Like I mentioned above, the ultimate goal is to take a pitcher that has the perfect combination of fantasy potential and good value. Ultimately, everyone has a different process which is what makes daily fantasy baseball so great.