MLB DFS Lineup (10/23/2020)

Happy Friday everyone! For those who have been following my DFS success on Twitter, you should know that every Friday in October has been a HAPPY one for me indeed! Here is a summary of those Friday results.

Friday, October 2: 1st place out of 133 entries in FanDuel $40K Fri MLB Monster ($10K to 1st) tournament. Entry fee: $333. Payout: $10,000. ROI: 30.03x.

Friday, October 9: 2nd place out of 70 entries in FanDuel $14K Fri NBA Putback (Single Entry) tournament. Entry fee: $222. Payout: $1550. ROI: 6.98x.

Friday, October 9: 7th place out of 169 entries in DraftKings MLB Showdown $51K Perfect Game (NYY vs TB) tournament. Entry fee: $333. Payout: $1,083.33. ROI: 3.25x.

Friday, October 16: 2nd place out of 100 entries in FanDuel $50K Fri MLB Monster ($15K to 1st) tournament. Entry fee: $555. Payout: $10,000. ROI: 18.02x.

Friday, October 16: 4th place out of 229 entries in DraftKings MLB $25K Battery (Single Entry, $5K to 1st) tournament. Entry fee: $121. Payout: $1,000. ROI: 8.26x.

I am a firm believer that there is an optimal window when wagering on sporting events and playing daily fantasy sports. When there is enough in-season data available, a good data scientist/statistician can leverage that data to his/her advantage. That was the hypothesis that led to my Master's Thesis in Data Science at Northwestern University and my hypothesis is holding true. I will admit that I was lucky with my big MLB DFS win in late July. That was the first weekend of the 2020 MLB season. Since then, there was a lot of losing but then came October. With 60 games of regular season data accounted for in the MLB Statcast database, I was able to identify the key players to help me succeed in a few tournaments this month. The one metric I have squarely focused on has been barrel rate on the Advanced Sports Analytic (ASA) site (the link is below).

If you are not familiar with barrels, check out the following definition.

The Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.

The link below also provides a good explanation of barrels.

To put it simply, a barrel represents the perfect conditions for hitting a ball. A batter is able to achieve just the right launch angle and exit velocity as he makes contact. While these occurences are not terribly common (after all, the best hitters in the game have several 0-for-4 nights with multiple Ks) you still want to select as many players as possible who rate high with barrel rate. Not just do I identify this metric as being statistically significant when predicting fantasy outputs but I also dig deeper by investigating the handedness splits for barrel rate. This is why ASA stands apart from other fantasy sites. Scraping Statcast data is not easy and to get as granular as breaking down Statcast data by handedness is even more challenging. Kudos to Stewart Gibson of ASA for making that happen and having access to such data has given me a competitive advantage.

Of course when playing DFS, game theory is paramount. You need to roster the low owned players who pop off and find those diamonds in the rough who are cheap. There is also the paradox of choice when there are several high salary players you can roster. This is where your DFS lineup construction has to be well thought out. For most of the MLB playoffs, there have been plenty of great players to choose from but you must be calculating with your selection. Here is a summary of the key players from the last three Fridays who made me a lot of money.

Friday, October 2: Jake Cronenworth. Salary: $3,000. Ownership %: 15.7%. Barrel rate: 0.113 (0.146 against RHP). FanDuel score: 27.9.

Friday, October 9: Austin Meadows. Salary: NA. Ownership %: 18.34%. Barrel rate: 0.112 (0.115 against RHP). DraftKings score: 14.

Friday, October 16: Freddie Freeman. Salary: $4,100. Ownership %: 32%. Barrel rate: 0.105 (0.119 against RHP). FanDuel score: 18.4.

Friday, October 16: Corey Seager. Salary: $4,200. Ownership %: 29%. Barrel rate: 0.099 (0.124 against LHP). FanDuel score: 40.9.

FYI, a barrel rate greater than 0.100 is considered very good and the hitters listed above were able to get extra base hits against pitchers who threw with a handedness favorable to those hitters. For example, it was public knowledge last Friday that the Atlanta Braves would start AJ Minter (a LHP) and most likely follow him up with Tyler Matzek (another LHP) in a bullpen-type game. Seager hit a homerun against Matzek. On the other side, Freeman hit a double against starting pitcher Dustin May (a RHP). Both Seager and Freeman repeated those efforts later in the game (albeit against a pitcher with a handedness opposite of the previous pitchers they faced). On October 2, Cronenworth hit a late inning HR against a RHP relief pitcher to help eliminate the St. Louis Carindals and exactly one week later Meadows hit a solo shot to tie Game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees (facing none other than Gerrit Cole) which of course enabled the Rays to move onto the ALCS. The image below displays barrel rates for 10 of the best sluggers in baseball since 2018 which provides further evidence that a barrel rate greater than 0.100 is desirable.


The analysis above comes from the ASA site and notice that you can also extract Statcast data for pitchers. Conversely, I will look at allowed barrel rate for pitchers and break it down by handedness. This is how I will contruct my lineup for Game 3 of the World Series tonight. No doubt Walker Buehler and Charlie Morton are both very talented pitchers and it would not surprise me if Game 3 becomes a pitcher's duel. Still, runs will be scored and most of those runs come by way of the long ball.

Buehler has been susceptible to giving up a decent amount of HRs this season. In fact, he has allowed 7 HRs in 36.2 innings pitched during the 2020 regular season. Adjust those numbers for a full season (let's multiply by 5) and that would be 35 HRs allowed for about 180 innings pitched. By comparison, Buehler threw 180 innings in 2019 but allowed just 20 HRs so his HR allowed rate this season is nearly double that of the previous season. Yes, the Rays strike out a lot and Buehler has a strong K rate but the Rays MO this season has been to swing for the fences early and often and once they get a lead in the middle of the game, let the bullpen shut it down.

As for Morton, HRs are tougher to come by but this Dodgers team can hit. Even when they are down by several runs, the Dodgers find a way to make you sweat at the end of the game. The Rays should consider themselves fortunate for Lowe's 2nd HR on Wednesday (who by the way has an outstanding barrel rate). Otherwise the Rays would find themselves in a 2-0 hole to the Dodgers. Back to Morton though! He has been fantastic this postseason going 3-0 with 17 Ks over 15.2 innings pitched and giving up just 1 earned run while allowing 4 BBs. It won't be easy to score against him.

Let's examine the allowed barrel rates for both Buehler and Morton this season to see where we can find value.

Against all hitters: Buehler 0.053 and Morton 0.055
Just RHB: Buehler 0.067 and Morton 0.035
Just LHB: Buehler 0.040 and Morton 0.082

What this means is that we will want to focus on RHB against Buehler and LHB against Morton. Now the fun begins! Which hitters will we select?! It seems that the Dodgers will start their typical left-handed hitters: Seager, Bellinger, Muncy, and Pederson. You won't be able to roster all four due to their high salareis so let's breakdown their barrel rates against RHP (see image below).


Now let's investigate the usual RHB for Tampa: Arozarena, Margot, Zunino, and Adames.


While I would love to roster Seager again (who was very good to me last Friday), I will trust the data. Pederson will be my value play while I choose between Bellinger and Muncy on DraftKings. Arozarena is a must start. He has yet to hit a homerun in this World Series and he is due. I will ignore Margot but choose between Zunino or Adames. Both present nice value on DraftKings and FanDuel. If you are playing DraftKings, I would not use my foolish strategy during Game 2 when I ignored pitching. That was wise of me to not consider Tony Gonsolin but Blake Snell had a nice fantasy output with 8 Ks through 4 innings. He was yanked in the 5th inning but still wound up having a strong score on DraftKings. I don't think playing both Buehler and Morton would be prudent since they each cost a lot of money and there is a good chance both managers will turn to the bullpen in the 5th or 6th inning. I think the right move is to go with the correlation play.

For Game 1, Kershaw and Betts correlated very well. Mookie hit a HR and stole two bases to help get Kershaw the win. For Game 2, Lowe hit 2 HRs while Snell was cruising for the first 4 innings. I am not entirely sure which team will win tonight (which makes Game 3 so intriguing) but I will run two lineups on DraftKings: one with Buehler as Captain and one with Morton in the same spot. Pederson and either Adames or Zunino will be needed for salary relief. I would also consider a relief pitcher. If I have Buehler as my Captain, then the assumption is that he will have 6 strong innings and might get the win. That means I want Kenley Jansen. If it's Morton having the better night, I might consider Nick Anderson, Diego Casilla, or Pete Fairbanks but all three are a bit pricey and who knows if they will see the mound tonight. I would rather go with Aaron Loup ($4K on DraftKings) who was outstanding in the ALCS and is a lefty. Rays manager Kevin Cash will probably go with Loup when the Dodgers have their left-handed power at the plate. This would then allow me to roster Arozarena and either Muncy or Bellinger.

On FanDuel, you don't select pitchers for single game slates so it will be Bellinger, Muncy, and Arozarena with a mix of Pederson, Zunino, or Adames. Figuring out who to place in the MVP and STAR spots won't be easy but I will most likely lean towards Bellinger and Arozarena in the top two spots. I like Muncy too but Bellinger has been the better and more patient hitter this season.

Here are my sample lineups for both DraftKings and FanDuel.





Let's make it another great start to our weekend!