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On Winning: How Do We DFS?

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The Primer you've been waiting for! P-presumably.

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

So when I wrote my first sponsored FanDuel piece, I was pretty sure the concept of Daily Fantasy Scoring (DFS) leagues was old hat, and that I should just jump right into the advice. But after writing the article, and after realizing just how complicated this method of playing fantasy baseball is, I figured I'd write a primer before I attempted any more advice.

Well, you know how things go -- you have a couple of really awful Phillies games to watch, you lose track of time, and suddenly it's May. Whoops! Good news, though, being far into the season really doesn't hurt your chances of winning at DFS leagues like FanDuel, as you'll see below. The random distribution we love so well in baseball is amplified in a one-day sample size, and frankly, it's hard enough to predict who will hit and pitch well 100 days into the season, let alone 40 or so. So, with no more worries plaguing our mind, let's away.

Here's how today's article will go: I have an account at FanDuel, and I'm going to put together a lineup, explaining each piece as I go along. This will a) give you an idea of the process of composing your own DFS team, b) show you some of the various things to keep in mind while buying your players, and c) force me to put my money where my mouth is. Spoiler: I will probably lose.  In any case, let's get started.

To begin with, you need to choose your contest. I find the most variety and the most fun is usually in the 7:05 contests -- the early and late games are just too crowded. I'll explain: if you have eight games going, you can pick sixteen different first basemen, sixteen different starting pitchers, fifty four different outfielders, etc -- your chances of picking the same exact team as someone else are not high. That said, if you have three games going, that's nine first basemen, nine starting pitchers, and 27 starting pitchers. And unless you're the wise guy picking, like, Justin Smoak on chance, you're likely to be picking the same players as everyone else.

And why is picking the same players such a problem? Well, think about it this way: if I get a huge game from Giancarlo Stanton, that's great, I get points for that. Scoring in FanDuel works like that, as each player you pick earns you positive points for good things (hits, homeruns, stolen bases for batters; strikeouts, innings pitched, wins for pitchers) and negative points for bad things (outs, caught stealing for batters; hits, earned runs for pitchers). So Stanton gives us, say 20 points. That's great! But if 50% of the league owns Stanton, then those points only get you into the top fifty percent. Not ideal.

But if you owned, I don't know, Chris Coughlan and he put together a similar game, and you had him along with 5% of the league? Then you and only those five percent are getting those points, and all of a sudden, you're in a much better spot to be competitive. Now you won't know how many people own the players you're buying into until the game starts, but it's fairly easy to guess. So let's start -- I'm entering a MLB Squeez. Top prize is 6000 dollars which, haha. But the contest is capped at 22,988 participants, and the top 4250 people win something. So we have to be in the top 18 percent, right? Sounds doable. Okay, so let's start -- we have 35,000 fake dollars to spend.

Starting Pitcher: Anthony deSclafani

This is where most of your investment is going to go, and for good reason. The pitchers are more expensive than any of the hitters (even your Mike Trouts), and you have to pick carefully because, as we all know, pitchers are volatile. So, unsurprisingly, I like to look for matchups, and oddly, FanDuel prices pitchers based on total points, not the relative value of their spot. As a result, I like to look for cheaper guys who are pitching in nice situations and who are kind of underappreciated. For me, this time, that's Anthony deSclafani. The former Marlin has been really really good as a Red, and has earned almost as much as some of the top tier options in FanDuel. And he's pitching in Pittsburgh tonight, which is a forgiving park. For 7500 dollars, I'll go for it.

Other options: Colin McHugh (8400), Nathan Eovaldi (7500)

Catcher: Jacob Realmuto

So here we need to start looking at starting lineups, especially at catcher, since they rotate out a lot. I like to go cheap with catcher, since it's kind of unpredictable outside of your Poseys and Lucroys and such that they'll even hit at all, regardless of price. So, even though the lineup isn't in yet, I'm going with the Marlins' Jacob Realmuto against the suddenly human Tim Hudson. It's in San Francisco, so probably no homers are likely, but we don't really need them for Realmuto to be a good buy at $2300.

Other options: Caleb Joseph (2600), Derek Norris (3000)

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt

Now yes, Paul Goldschmidt is going to be owned by a lot of people, but that doesn't mean we should run away. Paying a premium at first base is smart, especially when you think you can pinpoint a real opportunity for a guy to mash. Goldschmidt against the simply okay Odrisamer Despaigne is a pretty good opportunity, and that's before you realize they're in Arizona and not San Diego. I like this one a lot.

Other options: Chris Davis (3800), Yonder Alonso (2600)

Second Base: Jonny Giavotella

Quietly since being sent over from the Royals, Jonny Giavotella has been having a nice season. And he's delightfully cheap (2200) and probably fairly unowned. The downside here is that he's going up against McHugh who has been nails this season, but you can't argue the price or the upside here, and if he puts together 4 or 5 points, he'll have paid off.

Other options: Logan Forsythe (2500), Dee Gordon (3800)

Third Base: Will Middlebrooks AROD

Remember what I said about low ownership being a good thing? Yeah, well, that's this. Will Middlebrooks has three and only three things recommending him for tonight: 1) he's the lowest priced third baseman at 2200 dollars; 2) he can sometimes run into one, and he's playing Rubby de la Rosa in Arizona; and 3) probably me and some sad Sox fan will own him tonight. If he loses me four points, whatever; if he earns me 15? Now we're talking.

Other options: Luis Valbuena (3000), Alex Rodriguez (3200)

Shortstop: Tim Beckham

Grim grim grim. Tim "Grim" Beckham is our best shot here by a long way. It isn't that he's cheap at 2200 dollars, it's also that he's not markedly worse than any of the other options that are more expensive. And while he's not great, he is playing against Nick Martinez tonight who is due for some regression. And the same thing goes for him as does Middlebrooks. No one's logging on tonight amped up to pick Beckham, and that could be good news for us.

Other options: Erick Aybar (2300), Adeiny Hechavarria (2800)

Outfield: Colby Rasmus (3000), Mike Trout (5200), Justin Upton (4200)

Okay yes, everyone's going to own Trout and Upton, but Trout is just fun, and Upton is going to murder a baseball in Arizona, I can feel it. And Rasmus' nice start has been unsustainable so far this season with a near 40 percent strikeout rate, but BABIP doesn't come down to earth in one night, and I don't trust Hector Santiago at all; he might even walk Colby.

Other options: Giancarlo Stanton (4700), Wil Myers (3400), Billy Hamilton (3500)

BONUS: We have 1100 extra dollars left! Let's upgrade! Call me crazy, but I feel good about ARod in New York tonight against straight up meh Chris Tillman. I think he might go yard, and I have a better feeling about him than Will, so let's roll the dice!

I'll report back with an edit later tonight to let you know how I did! And I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments, too!