In the single day fantasy world, Major League Baseball is a bit of conundrum. With a 162 game season, the longest of all professional sports teams, the amount of data available outpaces all other leagues. This is compounded by Major League Baseball’s penchant for counting all the things. All the possible things.

However it was only when Bill James helped ignite the sabermetrics revolution in baseball, did all those numbers we were counting end up meaning anything of predictive value. Since then, an explosion into the number of stats used in America’s game have exploded. “It’s funny, we added the stat OPS (combined slugging and on base percentage) to reduce the number of stats..” baseball journalist Tim Kurkjian notes, “and the complete opposite has happened ever since.”

Indeed, from just batting average and on-base percentage (OBP), an explosion has resulted in stats such as Expected Weighted On-base Average (xwOBA), Expected Batting Average (xBA), and launch angle. For someone just entering the world of baseball fantasy, let’s step back and talk about some of the best practices for how to win large, GPP tournaments in Major League Baseball single day fantasy.

Pitcher Selection

The anchor for any successful daily fantasy lineup is selecting the pitcher. While the platform you’re on might impact scoring or strategy, some general best practices are widely recognized as being crucial to selecting the optimal pitcher.

Strikeouts are key: Your pitcher needs to be capable of registering a high amount of K’s in his match up. While there are terrific number of factors that can be considered to predict your pitcher’s strikeout numbers, you needn’t get overwhelmed here.

Key stat: A pitcher’s K/9 stat tells you how many strikeouts a pitcher averages per nine innings pitched. More advanced stats such as Spin Rate and Pitch Velocity are predicting the same thing at a narrower level of observation.

Key tool: Major League Baseball’s baseball savant tool is an extremely valuable tool one can use to do in depth analysis about any Major League Data.

Win+Quality Start: Getting a win (the pitcher must leave with a lead after completing five innings) PLUS a quality start (6 innings with 3 or less earned runs given up) is an additional 10 points for your starter. That’s one more point than the equivalent of 3 strikeouts.

Key stat: This is simple, is your pitcher’s team favored? If so, how much? MLB teams do not want to exhaust their bullpen unnecessarily and, if given a lead, will let their pitcher go as long as possible. The only issue here to be concerned about is that once a team gets a lead, they will (well, they are coached to) pitch to contact and thereby will generate less strikeouts.

Stat to avoid: Batter vs Pitcher

Batter vs Pitcher (BvP). A tough lesson all of us had to learn at one point or another is the lack of predictive validity the batter vs pitcher stat has in predicting future outcomes. While it might seem tempting, the BvP stat is unreliable due to the small sample size that any pitcher is going to have over another batter or collection of batters.

Building Your Lineup: Embrace the Stack

If you’ve played fantasy basketball or fantasy football before, you’re familiar with the concept of stacking. In short for those who haven’t heard of this idea: stacking is the concept of selecting many players from the same team instead of selecting them a la carte, or one player from each team. The reasons for doing so are overwhelming and you will see why shortly. Our favorite three:

  1. Correlation: Correlation. Correlation. Correlation. The chances of winning the lottery are so outrageous because you have to get five numbers (plus the powerball) correct in order to win. All six numbers are independent events. Any number could could be drawn. Just because one number is 10, that doesn’t mean the next number drawn will be more likely to be any other number. Sports are not like this. When players from the same team are stacked together in a lineup, their performances become more correlated. If one player gets on base, it can lead to more opportunities for the rest of the lineup to drive in runs and score points for your fantasy line-up.
  2. Offensive Ceiling: Despite the new pitch clock in Major League Baseball, baseball is unique because there is no game clock. The game goes until one team wins. While the NBA could go over time, in theory, an unlimited number of times this is unlikely. When a team makes a basket in basketball, more time isn’t added. Conversely, when MLB teams score in great frequency they are only setting themselves up to score more runs.
  3. Middle Relief Pitching: If a pitcher is beaten up early in his outing, the manager will likely turn the game into a bullpen or utilize a long reliever from the bullpen. Long reliever’s are used by Major League Baseball teams to replace a starting pitcher who has been shelled in the early going of an MLB game. While some long relievers can turn in impressive outings and hold the opposing team at bay, if you knew in advance that a team would be facing a middle reliever for several innings, wouldn’t think twice about rostering that lineup.

Must Check Items Before Lock

There are handful of things you have to do before the first game of a slate officially starts.

Weather: Unlike basketball where all games are played inside, baseball is extremely impacted by the elements. This doesn’t include games where rain is likely, but also games where the wind in is blowing out. While RotoGrinders’ MLB Weather Report is a great resource for forecasts, also give MLB Meteorologist a follow on Twitter. He’ll update games to be concerned about throughout the day. Don’t forget, weather reports get more accurate as it gets closer to the event.

Lineup Cards Turned In: While websites try to predict MLB lineups for that night, nothing is official until the team turns their lineup card in. If you don’t want to go team by team on Twitter, you can check MLB.com’s webpage which will update lineups as teams turn in their lineup cards. The only rule is that teams must turn the card in 30 minutes before the game starts. However it’s more common for teams to unveil their lineup hours before the game starts.