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Analyzing the Winning Lineup in the $250,000 DraftKings Tournament

One of the most helpful things we can do as daily fantasy players is to look at how great players make their lineups and try to emulate them.

DraftKings ran a $250,000 prizepool, $1,000 buy-in Gold Glove on Wednesday, one of the biggest $1,000 tournaments you’ll find all year. A tournament of this caliber always brings out some of the best players in DFS Baseball, and Wednesday was no exception — the tournament was crowded with great players playing multiple lineups.

The winner of the Gold Glove ended up being a friend of mine and a poker pro, Tony Dunst. While I don’t think Tony is a full-time DFS player because he has such a busy schedule, he clearly is a savvy player, especially considering how he constructed his lineup. He stacked the Reds, which was sneaky but solid. The Reds had an over 4.25 run projection and a solid stolen base matchup against Eric Stults. But what I really liked about his lineup was a bold play at pitcher. A play that seemed a little crazy, but was actually brilliant.

Tony Dunst Gold Glove lineup

Wednesday’s winning lineup

When Pitcher is Thin, Go Bold

The two clear pitching plays of the day were Matt Harvey and Francisco Liriano, both great pitchers in their own right. But both of them were flawed plays on Wednesday.

While both matchups were good (Harvey was facing the strikeout-happy Chicago Cubs and Liriano a very weak Phillies lineup), they were both on the road, which hurts them significantly as hitters generally do better when playing at home. (This is why you routinely see pitchers as big favorites at home, only to play on the road vs. the same team and become underdogs.) Consequently, neither were big favorites. While Harvey had a nice game, Liriano disappointed, allowing several hits and three earned runs. Both were used in over 50% of lineups.

This is why I love Tony’s decision to fade the clear top two choices. It was not unlikely that both Harvey and Liriano would struggle, and there were other pitchers with potential. One of his pitchers, Cole Hamels, is a great pitcher and was playing at home. He was used only 11.6% of the time because he was a small underdog and his price wasn’t as enticing as Liriano’s. He ended up outscoring Liriano by over 10 points.

Then we get to the play of Jose Quintana. At first, this seemed baffling to me, but as I looked deeper I realized the play actually had some solid data to back it up. The Brewers are a righty heavy lineup, but they actually strikeout more vs. lefty pitchers than righties this season. 26% vs 22.5% to be exact. Is Quintana a great pitcher by any means? No. Was he a good cash game play? No way. But his upside was actually pretty good against a strikeout heavy team, and it paid off big time for Dunst.

One other great thing about choosing two strange pitchers is that it makes the whole construction of your lineup unique. There were certainly several players who went with a Reds stack on Wednesday, but because he used a low-priced pitcher in Quintana as opposed to two high-priced pitchers in Liriano and Harvey, his Reds stack is completely different from others. He had the money to go for Buster Posey at catcher, which paid off  big as Posey absolutely went off.

And speaking of Posey, here’s one more thing to keep in mind when making a ballsy play like Quintana. Once you make one or two unique plays, you don’t have to do anything fancy. Quintana makes Tony’s lineup unique on its own, so even if he knows Posey will be high-owned, he’s still completely fine to use. There were almost 100 other lineups with Posey, but Dunst’s rose to the top because of just a few unique moves.

The ironic thing about the 500+ words I just wrote is that I’m not going to recommend what Tony did on Wednesday for tonight. As I write this, Clayton Kershaw at home is a -315 favorite against the Rockies, meaning he’s almost a 75% favorite to win. He is such a sure thing that fading him for the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Martinez, or Phil Hughes is foolish. Kershaw will certainly be highly used, but I’m okay with that in this scenario.

Because we’re not going to choose anyone crazy at pitcher, I certainly want to encourage making some unique choices at hitter. There are a few guys that really standout to me tonight, and should be low-owned even in the highest stakes tournaments.

Prince Fielder (1B, $4,800) – Most DFS players shy away from a lefty-on-lefty matchup like Fielder vs. Bruce Chen here, and they probably will here considering Fielder’s high price, but this is actually a great matchup for him. Chen is a low-splits lefty (meaning, he doesn’t dominate left-handed hitters) and he’s one of the most HR prone pitchers in baseball (according to Steamer Projections). Fielder is the best power hitter on the team and a homerun certainly is in the cards for him tonight.

Adam Jones (OF, $4,500) – Jered Weaver is also a HR-prone pitcher, but is usually protected in the confines of pitcher friendly Angel Stadium. He doesn’t get to enjoy that protection tonight going to HR-happy Baltimore in Camden Yards. While Jones doesn’t have the left on right hand matchup we love, he does have a great Groundball/Flyball matchup. Weaver is an extreme FB pitcher while Jones is a ground ball hitter. Look for Jones to have a big night.

Brandon Belt (1B, $4,200) – Belt is a power hitter who normally plays in the worst home run park in baseball, so when he plays on the road in a hitter’s park, he’s one of my favorite targets. Great American Ball Park is one of the most homerun friendly parks, and the Giants are projected at over 4 runs tonight. Belt should be fantastic as both a cash game and GPP play tonight.

Questions or comments? Tweet me @maxjsteinberg. Good luck tonight!