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Yes, You Can Win at Daily Fantasy Sports Without Being a Fanatic

Most of you have likely tried daily fantasy football on FanDuel. A few of you may have dabbled in daily fantasy basketball. You may have become aware that daily fantasy baseball on FanDuel has just begun, but shied away from the seeming complexity.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of players to choose from, or to not even consider playing because of your lack of baseball knowledge.

But daily fantasy baseball is actually one of the most fun and profitable sports on FanDuel. The tournaments and prizepools are actually larger than basketball, and they will be even larger once the basketball season ends.

And it’s a much less stressful endeavor than basketball.

You know every team’s lineup well before the 4:00 p.m. lock, and there is rarely, if ever, a late scratch. You have plenty of time to create a lineup without an injury throwing a wrench in your plans and making you start from scratch. And even if you pick a player that doesn’t hit or gets injured, your lineup can still be very profitable as long as you pick a couple hitters who have great games.

But you might not be a baseball fan. Maybe you root for your favorite team but don’t follow any other teams. Maybe you don’t watch baseball at all.

But I honestly think none of that matters. Anyone can become a winner in daily fantasy baseball. Here’s why:

  • You never have to watch a baseball game to know what to do. In fact, I consciously avoid watching the games. Everything we need to know or learn about the players on the field will be in the meticulous stat recording that happens every game. We don’t need to see Mike Trout strike out three times against Felix Hernandez to know that Mike Trout had trouble against Felix Hernandez. And no one, aside from a professional scout, is going to learn anything from watching.
  • Baseball strategy is all statistical analysis. If you are good at math or at least have a sharp mind, all you need to know is what statistics to look at and how to interpret them. This sounds complicated, but it’s really not if you know where to look.
  • Online Sportsbooks have most of the information you need. Moneylines and over/unders tell you which teams to target for hitting, and what pitchers to use. And player props on Bovada.lv help you choose between two close hitters and see projected strikeouts for pitchers. Sportsbooks put a lot of money into making these lines as accurate as possible, so you should trust their accuracy.

Fantasy baseball also has more resources for strategy and analysis than football or basketball. Using just a few of these great resources, you can construct a great lineup in just 30 minutes. Here are my favorites:

1)    Rotogrinders.com Daily Lineups and Weather. This page has batting orders (as they are released throughout the day), run projections, and weather for every game, every day. You should be checking this page throughout the day as lineups come out and the weather changes. Rotogrinders also has great, easy to use tables that are very helpful for picking players.

2)    @KevinRothWx on Twitter. You know how meteorologists are notoriously inaccurate? This guy breaks that stereotype. Kevin Roth is a Dallas-based weatherman who analyzes weather for baseball games. He is rarely wrong in his analysis, and knows enough about baseball to give you advice on what kind of effect the weather will have on the games. He did not make one bad prediction last year.

3)    Fangraphs.com. This site contains “Steamer Projections” for every hitter and pitcher. Steamer is one of the most accurate projection formulas in the MLB, so instead of evaluating players on a game-to-game basis (which would be impossible), you can rely on Steamer to project player performance very accurately. Steamer’s OPS projections for hitters is a great way to know how good or bad a hitter is.

4)    The tools on DailyFantasyWinners.com. Most importantly, the rSB tools. rSB is a stat that evaluates how well a pitcher or catcher prevents stolen bases (SB). SBs are worth 2 points a piece on FanDuel, so targeting a pitcher/catcher battery that does poorly against SBs can provide a huge edge. We also provide 3 top hitting picks every day on the front page, so we take care of 1/3 of your lineup for you.

Before I get into a few picks, here are some things to note about daily fantasy baseball on FanDuel.

1)    Pitchers are more valuable than hitters. On FanDuel, the scoring system is skewed in such a way that pitchers have a significantly higher point per dollar on average than hitters. Because of this, you essentially want to ignore pricing for pitchers and just choose the best pitcher with the best matchup. An easy way to evaluate this is to just look for a team that’s the biggest favorite in a low over/under. Pick the pitcher on that team, and you’ll make the right pick the majority of the time without any further research. A lot of the time, the best pick is just the pitcher with the highest salary.

2)    Spot in the batting order matters a lot. The leadoff hitter, on average, has almost 1 full at bat more than the player who hits 9th in the order. A player who moves from 9th in the order to 1st has an approximate 25% increase in fantasy production.

3)    The throwing hand of the pitcher affects how well a hitter can hit. A left handed pitcher is usually going to dominate lefties, but struggle against righties. Try to only use players who are facing a pitcher with the opposite dominant hand.

4)    The atmospheric effects in the mountains make Coors Field (where the Colorado Rockies play) a very easy place to hit the ball hard. The over/under is always huge when teams play there, and fantasy production skyrockets for every player. Make sure to use as many players at Coors Field as possible on days where the Rockies play at home.

Now, onto the picks:

Pitcher

Jordan Zimmermann ($9,900) — Zimmermann is a small favorite going against the Mets young ace Jacob DeGrom, but he’s projected to hold the Mets to under 3 runs and is one of the best pitchers playing today. Steamer projects him with an ERA around 3, a 7.7 SO/9, and an absurdly low BB/9 of 1.69.

Hitters

David Peralta ($2,600) – Peralta should hit 4th in the Diamondbacks order, and is going against long-reliever turned starter righthander Chris Heston. The D-backs are projected to score over 4 runs, and Peralta, projected to have a .750 OPS by Steamer and a career .850 OPS hitter against righties, should have a quality game. A player like this, batting clean-up, should be priced in the low $3,000s.

Billy Hamilton ($3,700) – Hamilton is a base-stealing machine leading off for the Reds. He swiped 56 bases last year, and Steamer projects him to steal 65 this year. So when evaluating whether Hamilton is a good play, we mostly care about his base stealing matchup. He has a great one, facing a battery of Gerrit Cole (rSB -3) and catcher Francisco Cervelli (rSB -8). Cervelli is one of the worst defensive catchers in baseball, so Hamilton should have an easy time on the basepaths.

Michael Bourn ($2,700) – Bourn is not the elite base-stealer that Hamilton is, but he is projected to steal 18 bases this year by Steamer. He has a crazy matchup for swiping bases, Astros pitcher Scott Feldman has a -15 rSB, likely worst in the MLB. But what I also like about Bourn is he should hold his own as a hitter tonight, the Indians as a team are projected to score almost 4.5 runs and Bourn should be a big part of that batting lead-off.

Paul Goldschmidt ($4,700) – You may not know the name Paul Goldschmidt if you aren’t a baseball fan, but he’s one of the best young hitters in the game right now and bats 3rd for the Diamondbacks. Like Peralta, he benefits from playing against Chris Heston and although he is a right hander going against a right handed pitcher, it doesn’t matter for such an elite hitter like Goldschmidt. He’s the best high salary option tonight.

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If you have any more questions, feel free to tweet me @maxjsteinberg.

And note that if you’re playing on DraftKings, my picks and advice will not be very helpful. DraftKings has a vastly different scoring system and salary structure, and requires a completely different strategy. FanDuel strategy is simple, so if you’re new to baseball I recommend sticking to FanDuel for now.