MLB Strategy: Is stacking the key to winning big?

One of the keys to winning DFS tournament strategy is maximizing variation, essentially the math equivalent of swinging for the fences. Why?...DFS tournament prize pools are stacked at the top, meaning most of the prize money is handed out to top finishers. This is where you want/need to be. Remember, the payout for just out-of-the-money is the exact same as for last place…zero. One of the more common ways to maximize variation in MLB contests, and thus increasing your chances of a top finish, is called stacking. Stacking is simply the selection of multiple hitters from the same team. In theory, if the team performs well offensively, the entire lineup benefits from increased run-scoring/RBI opportunities as well as more plate appearances. But does stacking really work? To answer this question, we reviewed winning lineups from both DraftKings and FanDuel.

In our sample, an astounding 60% of all DraftKings winning lineups were at least 4-hitter stacked (at least four hitters from the same team). FanDuel showed a lower, but still impressive, win rate of 39%.

% of MLB GPP Tournaments won by stacked lineups:
  DraftKings FanDuel
4-Hitter Stack 23% 43%
5-Hitter Stack 37% n/a
6-Hitter Stack n/a n/a
Other 40% 57%

So, what is behind this discrepancy in stacked team win rates? The difference stems from the fact that FanDuel does not allow teams to stack more than four hitters in a lineup, whereas DraftKings allows up to five. If a particular MLB team is predicted to score four runs on six hits, then players in that team’s lineup are likely to be valued on that basis. However, if we build a lineup under the assumption that the team will score eight runs on 12 hits, then we are assuming that all player values are actually double what their salary would indicate…making every player in the lineup a phenomenal value play. Therein lies the difference, FanDuel will only allow you to select four of these value plays whereas DraftKings allows five. The more of these implied value plays in your lineup, the greater your chances of winning. This is evidenced by the fact that 37% of all DraftKings winning lineups are 5-hitter team stacks. By not stacking your lineup, you are actually betting that no team will outperform their predicted value…in other words, a relatively low-scoring day.

BOTTOM LINE: Stacking your daily fantasy MLB lineups will give you an edge over non-stacked lineups in your quest to win large GPP tournaments.

The following charts provide a breakdown of our sample data and show the number of occurrences within individual winning lineups. Ex. One 4-stack, one 2-stack, and two singles would indicate a lineup with 4 players from the same team, 2 players from another team, and 2 other players from different teams.

Breakdown of DraftKings Winning Lineups for MLB GPPs (sample size = 973)
count 6 stack 5 stack 4 stack 3 stack 2 stack single % 0f Total
153 0 1 0 0 1 1 15.72%
115 0 1 0 0 0 3 11.82%
96 0 0 0 1 1 3 9.87%
90 0 1 0 1 0 0 9.25%
83 0 0 1 0 1 2 8.53%
53 0 0 0 0 2 4 5.45%
50 0 0 0 0 3 2 5.14%
46 0 0 0 1 2 1 4.73%
46 0 0 1 1 0 1 4.73%
44 0 0 0 0 1 6 4.52%
39 0 0 2 0 0 0 4.01%
39 0 0 0 1 0 5 4.01%
36 0 0 1 0 0 4 3.70%
24 0 0 1 0 2 0 2.47%
24 0 0 0 2 0 2 2.47%
18 0 0 0 2 1 0 1.85%
14 0 0 0 0 0 8 1.44%
3 0 0 0 0 4 0 0.31%
Breakdown of FanDuel Winning Lineups for MLB GPPs (sample size = 427)
count 6 stack 5 stack 4 stack 3 stack 2 stack single % 0f Total
65 0 0 1 0 1 2 15.22%
52 0 0 0 1 1 3 12.18%
45 0 0 0 1 0 1 10.54%
43  0 0 0 0 2 4 10.07%
39 0 0 1 0 0 4 9.13%
38 0 0 0 1 2 1 8.90%
35 0 0 2 0 0 0 8.20%
27 0 0 0 0 3 2 6.32%
19 0 0 0 0 1 6 4.45%
18 0 0 0 2 0 2 4.22%
13 0 0 0 1 0 5 3.04%
13 0 0 1 0 2 0 3.04%
10 0 0 0 2 1 0 2.34%
9 0 0 0 0 0 8 2.11%
1 0 0 0 1 0 4 0.23%

Selecting Teams to Stack

The typical scenario for a successful team stack is high-powered offense vs not-so-good starting pitcher. Not-so-good starting pitcher gets bombed early and is replaced by not-so-good reliever whose primary mission is to eat up innings in a game that is likely already out-of-reach. High-powered offense doesn’t start subbing players until at least the 7th or 8th inning, because you never know what’s going to happen, and high-powered offense tees off on not-so-good reliever(s) for rest of game. So, how do we identify the best high-powered offense vs not-so-good starting pitcher matchups?

Baseball is a game of infinite statistics that can be scoured and analyzed to gain statistical advantage over the DFS competition. However, at a high level, we use a concept called Batter Independent Fantasy Points (BIFP) to assess MLB player performance projections. BIFP is a measure of fantasy points produced solely via the individual batter vs. pitcher matchup (assumes no baserunners or subsequent batters). The only RBIs and runs scored counted are in the case of a homerun where the batter is assumed to score and register an RBI for batting himself in. BIFP is based on the hitter’s last 50 plate appearances versus L or R.

Our Team Stack Cheat Sheet uses BIFP combined with other factors (home/away…since the home team doesn’t always bat in the 9th inning, over/under and moneyline betting lines, lineup position, and a Coors Field modifier) to project which teams are likely to score the most fantasy points, and which players within these lineups are most likely to benefit. The Team Stack Cheat Sheet updates constantly throughout the day as lines move and lineups are confirmed.

Check out today’s Team Stack Cheat Sheet

Selecting Players to Stack

Batting Order

Hitters in the top of the order are generally the more productive hitters and are generally surrounded by other more productive hitters resulting in increased run scoring and RBI opportunities. Additionally, being closer to the top of the order increases the probability of receiving an additional plate appearance. The table below shows average fantasy point production per plate appearance by batting order position (excluding pitchers) for both DraftKings and FanDuel:

Fpts/PA
POS DraftKings FanDuel
1 1.76 2.23
2 1.76 2.23
3 1.87 2.42
4 1.91 2.47
5 1.81 2.33
6 1.69 2.17
7 1.58 2.01
8 1.60 2.05
9 1.74 2.2
For 2016 season through May 17th. Excludes pitchers and pinch hitters.

TIP: Look for value players that have unexpectedly moved up in the batting order for a game.

Hot Batters

Hot streaks are a part of baseball. Whether it’s a swing adjustment, just seeing the ball well right now, or the realization that if I never wash my socks again, I’ll hit better…who knows and who cares. Whatever the reason, riding a hot streak can certainly benefit your daily fantasy team. The DFSGOLD Hot Batter Report provides total fantasy points produced over the last ten games.

Check out our Hitter Cheat Sheet for individual hitter fantasy point projections.

Starting Pitchers

How important are starting pitchers? For the 2014 season, 76 of the top 100 DraftKings MLB fantasy performances were from starting pitchers. For FanDuel, it was even higher, with 93 of the top 100 MLB fantasy performances coming from starting pitchers. For daily fantasy MLB, starting pitchers represent the highest average scoring players, and in theory, the most predictable. They are also the only player that can destroy your team’s chances in the first inning of the first game. On most days, the good pitching matchups aren’t too difficult to identify, however, they are expensive. This begs the question, how much to spend on starting pitching?

Salary Spent on Starting Pitcher(s) for Contest Winners (sample size = 976 DK, 439 FD)
  Avg % of total salary High Low >20k 15-20k <15k
DraftKings 18,100 36.2% 26,400 10,700 22.7% 66.2% 11.1%
  Avg % of total salary High Low >11k 7-11k <7k
FanDuel 9,300 26.6% 13,900 4,900 24.8% 59.2% 16.0%
NOTE: DraftKings lineups require two starting pitchers. FanDuel Lineups require one starting pitcher. Data for 2016 season thru May 17th.

Our Starting Pitcher Cheat Sheet uses the same approach as the Team Stack Cheat Sheet, but from a pitcher’s perspective…how many fantasy points does a hitter or lineup give up to pitchers on average. Projected fantasy points is based on BIFP, over/under and moneyline, lineup position, and Coors field effect. The Starting Pitcher Cheat Sheet updates constantly as lines change and starting lineups are confirmed.

Check out today’s Pitcher Cheat Sheet

TIP: For FanDuel, spend extra for a top pitcher. For DraftKings, on average, look for one top pitcher and one mid-level or value pitcher.