This blog will detail the reasoning behind the three line-ups I chose to enter in the Draftkings Fantasy Baseball Championships.

The start of this post will be conceptual, then I’ll get into the finer details of player projection and line-up construction.

With three line-ups, the broad goals are to:

  • Maximize the expected point total per dollar spent.
  • Maximize the correlation among all the players within each line-up
  • Minimize the correlation between the three complete line-ups.
  • Minimize the correlation with the field by avoiding highly-owned players.

The DK FBC has 160 players and a payout structure as follows:

FIRST $1,000,000
SECOND $400,000
THIRD $250,000
FOURTH $175,000
FIFTH $125,000
SIXTH $100,000
SEVENTH $75,000
EIGHTH $60,000
9th - 10th $45,000
11th - 15th $35,000
16th - 20th $30,000
21st - 30th $25,000
31st - 40th $20,000
41st - 50th $15,000
51st - 80th $10,000
81st - 120th $7,500
121st - 160th $5,000

If ownership rates were known ahead of time, one could determine something akin to the betting odds of a given player achieving a given outcome.

Looking at the payout structure, a full 48.75% of the total payouts go to the first five spots. To score in the first five spots, one needs a majority of one’s players (and probably all of one’s most expensive players) to score in the upper part of their expected range.

As in any MLB tournament, the crux of line-up construction here will be pitching.   The key pitcher on the slate is Noah Syndergaard at $12300. He has an A+ match-up vs the Phillies at home, and is playing a night game (which has been favorable for him).   I expect him to be 55-60% owned.

The expected distribution for Syndergaard looks something like this:

Realistically, if Syndergaard scores less than X fantasy points (his median outcome), I probably won’t finish in the top five. I will dub a player such as Syndergaard, who has both a very high price and a very high projected total, a potential LINE-UP KILLER.

The tournament probably can’t be won without having some potential LINE-UP KILLERS in the line-up. However, the expected cost of having a LINE-UP KILLER must be weighed against the expected benefits. The expected benefits are a function of the upside of the player in question, and, most importantly, of the expected ownership.   One should rarely play a LINE-UP KILLER whose distribution looks like this:

If a player is very highly owned, the upside of having him score in the upper part of his range is limited.   If 80% of contestants own Syndergaard and he goes off, Syndergaard owners only have a leg up on 20% of the field.

If Syndergaard is highly owned, as I expect, one approach is to stack batters against him in a line-up. This would make that line-up’s score strongly negatively correlated with the field. This strategy is of questionable merit, however, because Syndergaard owners will already be ruined if opposing batters go off against him; it is not necessary to add insult to injury by having those batters in a line-up.

Despite the questionable theoretical merits of opposing chalk pitching, I’m considering it tonight. Ryan Howard is cheap at $3100 and has 9 total plate appearances against Syndergaard, with 7 official at-bats and 2 walks.  He’s 2 for 7 with 1 HR, 2 RBI’s, and 3 K’s. Howard has hit .203 this year vs right-handed pitching with 18 HR.  Howard seems worthy of a spot in one of the line-ups given his negative correlation with other contestant’s scores, his high upside, and his low cost (which means he doesn’t ruin the line-up in the event of a dud game).

The inverse of a LINE-UP KILLER is a LINE-UP MAKER. This is a player who has a low salary but strong rightward skew in his distribution of expected fantasy points. A LINE-UP MAKER who is low-owned is especially valuable.

One way to think of LINE-UP KILLERS and LINE-UP MAKERS is to visualize them in an (x,y,z) space of (cost, ownership, upside). The most valuable LINE-UP MAKERS will have low cost, low ownership, and high upside. The riskiest and least valuable LINE-UP KILLERS will have high cost, high ownership, and low upside.   In the image below, the size of the circle represents upside.

I used these game-specific factors for pitching:

Pitcher Hits Park Factor Walks Run OpponentFactor HitFactor SO Factor BB Factor
Danny Duffy 1.158 0.957 1.211464072 1.140097491 0.898587933 1.096286224
David Price 1.158 0.957 0.880904935 1.028163929 0.937098845 0.75210334
Ariel Miranda 0.988 0.951 0.900246161 0.977613288 0.986471808 0.910172516
Jose Quintana 0.988 0.951 1.042667917 1.015526268 0.97067246 0.999405116
Jhoulys Chacin 0.961 0.918 1.047942797 1.054341939 1.013133208 0.956063568
Michael Fulmer 0.961 0.918 0.995193998 1.019137028 0.751456502 0.950964562
Jameson Taillon 0.977 0.951 0.919587387 0.926159957 1.187913499 1.249256395
Jimmy Nelson 0.977 0.951 0.991677412 0.990250948 1.020045423 1.040197162
Blake Snell 0.911 0.927 1.016293518 0.974002528 1.137553076 1.147276281
Dallas Keuchel 0.911 0.927 0.923103974 0.923451887 1.13162832 0.945865556
Jeremy Hellickson 0.871 1.169 0.856288829 0.921646507 1.024982719 0.979009093
Noah Syndergaard 0.871 1.169 0.842222483 0.930673407 1.018070505 0.818390414
Clayton Richard 0.884 1.027 0.93717032 1.068784979 0.947960897 0.910172516
Jose Urena 0.884 1.027 0.968819599 0.916230366 1.161252098 0.930568539
Zach Neal 0.975 0.959 1.111241355 1.020039718 0.999308779 1.086088213
Mike Leake 0.975 0.959 0.894971281 0.977613288 0.866001777 0.813291408
Carlos Carrasco 1.106 1.024 1.04970109 1.029066619 0.938086304 0.859182459
A.J. Griffin 1.106 1.024 1.088383542 1.031774689 0.985484349 0.984108099
Anthony DeSclafani 1.096 1.006 1.028601571 1.066076909 1.106941839 0.920370528
Zack Godley 1.096 1.006 0.993435705 0.953240657 1.01115829 0.922920031

To come up with expected outcomes that look like this:

Pitcher 25% outcome 50% outcome 65% 75% 90% 95% outcome
Danny Duffy 12.6 18.7 22.1 24.95 30.7 33.8
David Price 11.25 18 21.55 24.15 29.75 33.55
Ariel Miranda 8.85 11.95 13.6 14.85 17.85 19.7
Jose Quintana 12.7 17.3 19.75 21.3 25.05 27.75
Jhoulys Chacin 0.45 5.55 8.65 11 15.25 18.35
Michael Fulmer 14.6 20.15 23.75 26.25 30.75 33.75
Jameson Taillon 11.65 15.3 17.05 18.75 21.9 24
Jimmy Nelson 6.8 11.5 14.1 15.9 19.75 21.65
Blake Snell 8.55 12.45 15 16.7 20.6 23.1
Dallas Keuchel 11.85 15.3 17.1 18.75 22.35 24.55
Jeremy Hellickson 11.5 15.65 17.95 19.65 22.85 24.7
Noah Syndergaard 16.25 20.55 23.3 25.05 29.9 32.35
Clayton Richard 13.05 15.9 17.45 18.5 20.85 22.5
Jose Urena 6 10.1 12.3 13.7 16.25 17.9
Zach Neal -3.2 0.8 3.05 4.25 7.65 9.2
Mike Leake 9.85 14.5 17.15 19.3 24.1 26.75
Carlos Carrasco 11.4 17.4 21.15 23.9 30.15 33.55
A.J. Griffin 4.4 9 12.15 14.15 18.5 21.2
Anthony DeSclafani 8.45 12.9 15.2 16.75 20.5 23.3
Zack Godley 2.45 6.3 8.7 10.65 14.1 15.9

There was no day/night factor applied, which as mentioned would help Syndergaard.

Jose Urena and Clayton Richard, $4500 and $4k respectably, stand out as great punt options.

Urena in particular seems to have the kind of volatility profile that plays well in a tournament of this type. These are his DK points in his last seven starts: -4.2 @ATL, -6.2 vs PIT, 17.8 @PHI, 17.1 VS NYM, -6.7 vs STL, 6.9 @ CIN, 16.5 @ PIT.

 

Here are some key guys I rate as LINE-UP KILLERS (the guys that you need bc they’re capable of huge scores, but if you pay for them and they don’t go off, you probably won’t win):

P: Syndergaard, Fulmer, Carrasco, Duffy, Price, Quintana

C: Gattis, Lucroy

1B: Cabrera, Goldschmidt

2B: Altuve

3B Frazier, Lamb

SS: Lindor, Villar, Correa

OF: Marte, Polanco, JD Martinez, Duvall, Betts, Springer, McCutchen, Khris Davis, Cruz, Cespedes, Grichuk

 

And here are the guys I rate as LINE-UP MAKERS

P: Richard, Urena, Reyes

C: Vogt

1B: Ryan Howard

2B: Neil Walker, Adam Frazier, Odor

3B: Flores, Freese, Marwin Gonzalez

SS: Semien

OF: Gutierrez, Ozuna, Upton, Beltran, Ian Desmond, Rickie Weeks, Heredia ($2300), Mahtook ($2k).

As I write this, MIA posted their line-up and it is truly awful, giving Richard a bump.

The Rangers, who are a +140 dog in a nine run expected total vs Carrasco, are too cheap for me to avoid.

I will run chalk pitching plus Rangers as my first line-up.

LINE-UP 1.

Syndergaard

Keuchel

Molina

Napoli

Odor

Beltre

Lindor

Desmond

Mazara

Beltran

 

For LINE-UP 2, I will run my one Syndergaard line-up, coupling him with the extreme punt of Urena. The hitters are DET plus some high-upside value.

LINE-UP 2

Keuchel

Urena

Gattis

Cabrera

Kinsler

Gyorko

Correa

Maybin

JD Martinez

Upton

 

For LINE-UP 3, I will punt Urena once again, this time with Keuchel. I will have a STL stack (STL has the highest implied run total on the board, along with three high-upside stand-alones: Gattis, Duvall, and Gutierrez.

LINE-UP 3

Keuchel

Urena

Molina

Votto

Kinsler

Gyorko

Peralta

Duvall

Moss

Piscotty