DFS Stacking: A Data-Driven Approach

A Better Way to Create Optimal Combinations of Players

Many DFS players utilize a fairly unscientific approach to creating stacks (combinations of batters from one particular team) when building lineups. Rather than making educated guesses at optimal combinations though, it’s more effective to approach the strategy from an objective standpoint that accounts for the interdependence between players within the same game. Batters in different spots in the lineup will be affected differently by performances from other batters within the lineup depending on how many slots they are away from one another. Furthermore, one batter’s specific skillsets and projected rates of outcomes like home runs, steals, and strikeouts will affect others with different specific skillsets and projected rates.

Therefore, it’s important to take a calculated approach when selecting specific combinations of players from the same offense. One way to do this is to apply a “Conditional”— a tool found on SaberSim — in order to maximize the combination’s upside for a specific event. For example, a Conditional of “John Danks allows more than 5 runs” will pull projections ONLY from the simulated White Sox @ Orioles games in which he gave up more than 5 runs (the projections from games other than White Sox @ Orioles will remain the same). As a result, John Danks’ projection will be significantly worse than it would have been without the Conditional, and also the Orioles batters’ projections will be significantly better than they would have been without the Conditional. This way, it’s possible to objectively see which combinations of players have the highest combined upside when certain specific events happen (in this example, John Danks > 5 runs against).

You can also increase lineup upside by building around specific players (e.g. a Conditional of “Mike Trout gets >15 DraftKings points”), or layer multiple Conditionals on top of one another — for different players within the same game, or for players across separate games. While mean projections are very useful for DFS, the real key to winning is maximizing lineup upside, a task that should be done using data and analytics rather than guesswork.

Pitcher Notes

Streamer Targets for Tomorrow

Among pitchers that are widely available, Dan Straily (1% Y!) is the best streamer option for a Friday start. He takes the mound in Pittsburgh against the Pirates, and the simulator projects him for above average numbers. Though Straily and the Reds will be an underdog in this matchup, his odds of earning a pitcher win are still respectable (35%). His projected ERA for the game is 3.15, and he’s also projected for 5.11 strikeouts in 6.10 innings.

If he’s available in your league, Robbie Ray (17% Y!) is a slightly better option than Straily. Ray will face the Colorado Rockies in Phoenix at Chase Field. Though this matchup might appear intimidating upon first glance, Chase Field’s park factor is only slightly above the league average, and the Rockies’ batters are not projected well offensively outside of Coors Field. The simulator projects Ray for a solid chance of earning a pitcher win (43%). It also projects him for good run prevention (3.27 ERA) as well as for 6.84 strikeouts over 6.37 innings.

Today’s Top Projected Pitchers

Today’s top three projected starting pitchers for DFS are also the three highest priced (Arrieta, Fernandez, and Maeda). Just behind them in the four slot, though, is a bargain in Rubby de la Rosa. De la Rosa is projected ahead of more expensive pitchers like Aaron Nola, Michael Wacha, and Anibal Sanchez, and could make for a good value option against the Cardinals at home.

Batter Notes

Today’s Top Projected Batters

There’s a game at Coors Field today (Nicasio @ Chatwood), so naturally a number of players involved appear towards the top of the overall DFS projections. Five of the top ten are either Pirates or Rockies, and all but one of those five possess a hefty price tag. While you will have to pay Coors Field prices to play Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Nolan Arenado, or Carlos Gonzalez, you can play John Jaso for significantly less. Jaso typically hits out of the leadoff slot and will also possess a platoon advantage over righthanded Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood. The simulator takes these factors (and many more) into account, and projects John Jaso as one of the top plays in DFS today.

One More Thing About Coors

Recently, some tweeters have expressed surprise that there aren’t more Coors Field players at the top of the home run projections whenever there’s a Rockies home game. Today, for instance, there is only one in the top five and two in the top ten. Despite the fact that Coors Field inflates overall offensive numbers to a very high degree, it actually has the same HR park factor as Great American Ballpark, and is just slightly ahead of Miller Park and Yankee Stadium. So while Coors is still tied for first place in HR park factor, the disparity between it and the rest of the major league stadiums is far less than it is with regard to overall park factor.

Enough About Colorado, Already

The Cubs host the Brewers today in a game that features Taylor Jungmann and Jake Arrieta as its starting pitchers. As might be expected, there aren’t many Brewers hitters near the top of the batter projections, but there are several Cubs. The simulator projects Kris Bryant as the fourth best projected batter and Anthony Rizzo as the tenth. Each player has a fairly high price on DraftKings and FanDuel, and each is well worth it. For a less expensive Cubs option, Jason Heyward could be a good selection. He typically bats second in the order, has a favorable platoon split vs Jungmann, and the simulator projects him near the top of the offensive leaderboard for today.

Remember that projections change throughout the day as lineups are posted, so check back on the SaberSim projections here on FanGraphs or at SaberSim.com itself for updated numbers throughout the day. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on the projections, the Conditionals, or anything else fantasy/DFS-related!



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Matt is the founder of SaberSim, a daily sports projections and analytics company. Follow him on Twitter @MattR_Hunter and @SaberSim, or email him here and tell him all the things he should do to make the site better.

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sounds awesome. Is the conditional thing only available to $$ sabersim customers? would love to give it a try. I think quantifying upside is still a big need in DFS land. Probably another bad taek of mine but oh well, lol.