Daily Fantasy Strategy – 9/3/13 – For Draftstreet

I think sometimes, we have a tendency to move our brains towards simple heuristics and narratives, even when we’re trying to be analytical and precise. For example, one of the maxims I’ve used in the past is this one: after September callups, overall hitting skill decreases and pitching skill increases throughout the league, as a result of the expanded rosters. After all, managers have the opportunity to have more pitching changes, due to the increase in available arms at the major league level. They can afford to give their best guys rest … or to run them ragged in pursuit of a playoff spot.

But is this simple heuristic actually worth anything? It’s worth making a brief investigation.

It turns out that last season, there was hardly any difference in wRC+ between the entirety of the season and just the September/October split … at least for hitters. While ML hitters hit .253/.318/.400 in the final month of the season, that’s hardly anything off the seasonal batting line of .255/.319/.405. The same lack of big distance was true in 2011, where the .255/.322/.405 September numbers weren’t much different than the .255/.321/.399 seasonal track.

It just appears that in most seasonal cases, the difference in overall offensive performance isn’t large enough to be used as any sort of tool to make different selections in daily fantasy baseball. There just isn’t enough of a delta. Spending more on hitters, or more on pitchers, late in the season because rosters are stacked with September callups? Don’t do it based on seasonal stats, do it based on specific matchups, just like you have all season long.

Even if the overall narrative doesn’t mean much, we can still recognize that the best players in the game might face some better matchups late in the season. Instead of facing a jacked-up Matt Harvey late in the season, teams are facing off against guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka. Instead of running an injured Jose Bautista (134 wRC+) out there in search of a playoff spot, it’s Anthony Gose (65 wRC+) time.

The positive performance deltas could still be larger if we make the right choices late in the season. Bet on good players who are likely to show up (I know, nothing groundbreaking there), and you run the likelihood of making some late-game gains on your opponents.

(Especially if they’re already moving on to fantasy football season!)

The Daily Five

Jarred Cosart – $10,468

In case you haven’t heard, Minnesota recently shipped out long-time franchise mainstay last week, in trading Justin Morneau to the Pirates. With Morneau gone, Joe Mauer reeling from a concussion, and Oswaldo Arcia battling a wrist injury, the Twins lack any oomph from the left side of the dish. Cosart hasn’t had the peripherals to match his ERA, but the potential for a win here is strong, especially given his opposing starter.

Edwin Jackson – $10,243

You know how late in the season, teams in your fantasy league just tend to auto-set rosters and generally just give up? This is how the Marlins have been operating since last season. Over the last 14 days, they have a 68 wRC+. The Cubs could throw Michael Jackson out there against them today, and I’d still probably take the Chicago starter in fantasy.

Adrian Gonzalez – $7,377

I know that Jhoulys Chacin has been having a secretly awesome season for Colorado, but I still like a Gonzalez lefty-on-righty matchup today … especially in the rare air of Coors Field. This pick is almost entirely a pricing value — I think that saving a few bucks on going with A-Gon at first will really help my team’s resources in the dicier positions of need.

Jose Reyes – $6,563

Another killer value, Jose Reyes has been off his game recently (77 wRC+ since a hot July). Nevertheless, I like the matchup against the left-handed Miley and the off-chance Reyes could tag Miley for a big homer in cozy Chase Field.

Bryce Harper – $11,074

Before the season, I was pretty high on Phillies starter Ethan Martin as an under-the-radar starting prospect — a guy who could come in and provide some depth at the major-league level without embarassing himself. Unfortunately — both for Martin and myself — he’s not been very good since his callup to the bigs, walking the park and giving up two homers per nine. Harper is a devastating matchup in this game, and I’ll pay him whatever I need to in order to put him in my lineup — hip issue or no.

One Day FREE Fantasy Contest – $1,000 in cash prizes

Daily Fantasy is easy — you pick a lineup that’s good for one night only, and then you’re eligible to win cash. FanGraphs readers are hereby invited to enter a FREE one-day week one NFL competition with $1,000 in prizes.

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This free contest will be Pick ‘em style drafting. The way Pick ‘Em leagues work is you have eight tiers of players and each tier will have players to choose from. You select one player from each tier. Nothing to lose and it takes five minutes to build a team. You can adjust your roster up until the contest starts when the NFL regular season starts, at which time your rosters will lock and the Live Scoreboard will be available.

This post, covering one of the leading sites for daily fantasy is sponsored and made possible by the generous support of Draftstreet. FanGraphs will maintain complete editorial control of the postings, and brings you these posts in our continued desire to provide the best analytical information on the latest in baseball.

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Bryan values positional flexibilty and a good 12-6 curveball. He's the Lead Writer at Beyond the Box Score. Catch him on Twitter at @bgrosnick.

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