Strategy in Pick Six: Daily, Quick Fantasy Baseball

Pick Six debuted last week, and since then it’s been sweeping the nation–or, at least, filling up my twitter feed.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a simple, free game that has you pick six players for the coming day’s action.  The player who gets the most points that day wins!  While it’s not an incredibly deep game, you do operate on a budget, and so you can’t just pick the best players at each position.  Therefore, the question is, what should you do?  I’m not exactly at the top of the leader boards right now, but here are some tips:

Power rules the daily leader boards

To get to the top of the daily leader boards, you need a number of players to post 15+ points.  While it’s possible to do this with a 4-hit night, the easiest way to get those kinds of points is with power.  A home run is worth 14 points, and if you tack on another hit or walk, you can quickly be pushing or exceeding 20 points from a single player.  Targeting power guys over AVG/OBP guys might result in more variation in your outcomes, including some miserable days that might even net you one of the negative-point achievements.  But if you hit on a bunch of homers in an evening, you’ll have a great shot at taking the daily trophy.

Play your matchups: look for the platoon advantage, and lousy opposing pitchers

Each day can bring an entirely new set of players, so you can play the matchups.  I don’t advocate looking at historical matchup numbers for batters & pitchers–they are invariably too small of a sample, or too distant in the past, to matter.  But I often look to get the platoon advantage by picking lefty hitters vs. righty pitchers, and vice versa.  And, it probably goes without saying, but it’s usually worth it to go after good hitters facing below-average pitchers.

Elite starters probably aren’t worth it

To keep the average contribution of starting pitchers more or less equal to that of the hitters, the points awarded to starting pitchers in Pick Six are much lower than we see in regular ottoneu points leagues.  A fairly typical, good start (6 innings, 5 K’s, 3 BB’s, 0 HR’s, or 7 IP, 6 K’s, 1 BB, 1 HR) is worth ~30 points in ottoneu points, but will be worth only ~7.5 points in Pick Six.  And a brilliant start (say 8 innings, 10 K’s, 0 BB’s, 0 HR’s) is worth 60 points  in ottoneu points is worth “just” 15 points in pick six.  Again, hitters having a multi-hit night with a homer will push or exceed 20 points.

Therefore, while some FanGraphs staff disagree with me on this, I think there’s relatively little advantage to getting a phenomenal pitcher.  What you want are pitchers who won’t kill you, which in this scoring system usually happens when they start giving up multiple home runs.  Therefore, I tend to target middle of the road, ground ball pitchers who I can get for cheap…even if they don’t get a lot of K’s to push up their maximum point totals.

Go cheap on the relievers, and watch their usage

Elite closers are less likely to implode than the Francisco Corderos of the world.  But on any given day, a poor closer is probably going to do just fine if he gets the ball.  The trouble with closers, of course, is that the typically don’t pitch (and thus earn you points) if it’s not a save situation.  One suggestion I got from Zach Sanders is to take a look at pitcher usage: closers who haven’t been used in 3+ games are almost guaranteed to get some work, regardless of whether their team is winning or not.  Similarly, if a guy has thrown in three straight games, he’s unlikely to pitch again the next day.

Furthermore, you may want to think about setup guys.  As Eno Sarris noted to me, holds are worth almost as much as saves (SV=5 pts, HLD=4 pts), so if you can find a cheap setup guy who really racks up the K’s, you may outperform a closer–especially if he throws more than one inning.

And last but not least, the number one rule of Pick Six…

Pick good values!

The cost of players matches their actual productivity reasonably well.  But if you look around, you can find undervalued players worth buying.  For example, Geovany Soto’s rest of season ZiPS projection is for a .356 wOBA.  Buster Posey’s is .366.  Sure, Posey’s probably the better hitter, but is he twice as good?  Because Soto costs ~$17 as I write this, while Posey costs ~$35.  Because the system is built upon linear weights, you can use wOBA as a good proxy for value: look for hitters with good projected wOBA’s for their cost, and for pitchers with good projected FIP’s.  If you can save a lot on a player and have little dropoff in performance, you can use that money to get a better player at a different position.

What else?

That’s what I’ve got.  And as I’ve said, I’m not exactly cleaning up in the game.  So I’ll put it to you: what other strategies have worked well for you when playing Pick Six?

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Justin is a lifelong Reds fan, and first played fantasy baseball on Prodigy with a 2400 baud modem. His favorite Excel function is the vlookup(). You can find him on twitter @jinazreds, even though he no longer lives in AZ.

9 Responses to “Strategy in Pick Six: Daily, Quick Fantasy Baseball”

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  1. Niv Shah says:

    One thing to throw out there – pricing changes based on usage, around 10pm ET every Sunday. So remember to constantly adjust your thinking in terms of who is ‘worth it’.

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  2. The Wrangler says:

    I can’t seem to get it to work. I get to the part where it gives links to pick each player, I click on Find C, and then it takes me to the page that says “Selecting C” but there’s nothing else there. Does it matter that I’m not in an ottoneu league?

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  3. Zach Sanders says:

    Re: Elite Starters

    While their point total may not end up being “worth it,” I believe it is a good idea to pay for elite starters. The variance in points they provide compared to a hitter feels like it should be much less. And by that, I mean, I’m much more confident a top starter is going to give me 10+ points compared to a top batter.

    Would be interesting to run the numbers on this, I suppose.

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    • CajoleJuice says:

      In the long run, I think elite starters are worth it, but if you want a slightly better chance at getting that #1 daily achievement, you’d probably be better served spending 95% of your budget on power hitters. This ties in with the first tip in this post.

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    • bgrosnick says:

      It’s a good idea to run those numbers, but to me it seems that the two aspects that matter most when picking out starters are: (1) go 6+ innings and (2) not give up homers. With that in mind, guys pitching in Citi Field / Kaufman / Petco are the way to go, whether it’s Lincecum or Mike Pelfrey / Aaron Harang.

      With that in mind, guys like Halladay / Sabathia (on the road) will always be worth it, if you’re spending cash elsewhere.

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