Draft MLB DFS Strategy Part 1: Winning Pitching Advice

Welcome DFSArmy VIPs to the first installment on strategy for the site Play Draft for all formats. Hit me up in slack (UW81) or on twitter @Chasing21_UW81 for any questions related to playing on Draft.com. I provide more general information and strategy regarding DFS as opposed to being a single sport coach. We’re going to look at pitching first for Draft and how to best use our tools to optimize your strategy in all formats from head to head to larger field tournaments.

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MLB DFS Draft Scoring

A quick refresh on how pitchers accumulate points on Draft above shows that their overall impact is lower compared to other fantasy sites. This is important for a few reasons:

  • Players adjust poorly to this structure change. Many players hoping in from the other major sites tend to over value pitchers because it’s been ingrained into their skulls to pay up for pitching. Spoiler alert, there’s no salary on Draft.
  • New players don’t understand the concept of scarcity as it pertains to the number of people drafting in the contest type which leads to major drafting mistakes.
  • Building your own custom and basic projections for pitchers is one way to gain a critical edge on Draft.

Luck for you, we’re going to cover all three in this article and why they’re important.

Adjusting to the Draft Format for MLB DFS

Paying up for pitching doesn’t exist. You hear it in Slack, from our coaches, from other sites, from twitter, from reddit. I get it. Life is different on draft however. With no salaries to worry about, it comes down to focusing on specific stats to maximize point potential.

  • Vegas Odds: Winning grabs 4 points. Simple. You want a pitcher favored to win
  • Earned Runs Allowed: You want to look at the Vegas splits to see what they think the pitcher is going to give up that game. The lower the better.
  • Strike outs: K score is king here. You want someone over 500.
  • Innings Pitched: You want a guy who’s going to go 6 deep or more.

Does all this sound familiar? It should if you’re looking at @Choppodong’s article breakdowns every day. He breaks down Vegas and K score with innings pitched implied for you in a nice to read graph in the middle of Chops Chin Music.

Taking it a step further:

  • AdoltWalsh brings in the strikeout prop bets in #mlb-news-and-notes everyday before lock.
  • Mdellagnese14 & Thunder Dan break down pitching more in depth and gives you a short list of who to focus on for the slate.
  • The Research Station gets updated constantly throughout the day with Vegas movement and a plethora of good information to show teams that are in a slump or are hot so you can make a more informed decision on a pitcher that night.

Positional Scarcity and You

Assuming you’re playing the main slate and there’s a lot of games (usually 7-14), there are a lot of pitching choices on any given night. Rarely is there one pitcher that stands out head over shoulders the rest of the pack. What does this mean to you? Positional scarcity plays a big role on when you pick a pitcher.

Personal strategy tip: Take the number of viable pitchers and play contests that have that many people in it or less. For example, if there are 3 viable pitchers, play 3-Man and H2H. The reason being, if there are three viable pitchers, you can draft a pitcher dead last. It won’t impact you as much if their grading is so close together. This will however allow you to do crazy things with your hitters, like grabbing Trout and Stanton while someone else grabs a pitcher.

All things considered, I pick pitchers last unless there is a major discrepancy.

Here’s an example of pitching from a slate in May. You have 7 pitchers with a DFSA grade over 75 to pick from. MDell ranked them all little different but Corbin and Pivetta were given the go ahead for all formats. Both have similar strike out prop bets to boot. If you had the choice of picking up Stanton with a +275 prop to hit a HR or picking up one of these pitchers, what makes more sense in a H2H?

The hitter. All things considered, a HR is worth 10 points and these two pitchers are nearly identical in what they’re going to produce points wise (on paper).

When to pick a pitcher if there is Scarcity is the other topic. So in the above example, we have 7 solid pitchers for the slate. What if you’re playing in a 10 man though? Short version: Grab a pitcher earlier. Long version, it depends on your draft order and the flow of the picks. When drafting versus more opponents than there are pitchers available, you must gauge everyone else while their drafting. I aim to have a top 5 pitcher when there are a lot of players because hitters in MLB have insane variance. It’s one of the only sports where the greatest hitter of all time can get you a 0 or 100 points. In the above example of 10 players, that means you’ll be drafting 40 hitters. On any slate over 7 games, there are enough hitters to go around, especially since they’re broken up into infield and outfield only. Using tonight’s slate for example of nine games, there are 124 different hitters with a DFSA grade over 70 and 53 with a DFSA grade over 80. You’ll be able to get a team of hitters in great spots, but you don’t want to be someone with a pitcher you generally target hitters against. They can get you a negative score real fast and put you in a hole you can’t dig out of.

Building your own custom Pitcher Projections for Draft

I know building your own projections sounds intimidating, but you don’t need a programming degree to do it. All you need is a calculator and our tools. Here’s the magic formula:

  • +4 for the win. We’re picking Vegas favorites and we’re expecting to get a win.
  • -1 Earned Run. Take the projected run total of the other team and round up. So if it’s 3.1, round it up to 4. This is most easily found in the research station or on the domination station.
  • +1 for strike outs. Take the prop bet or if there isn’t one posted, use the pitchers average strike out rate from the research station.
  • +1 for each inning. If they’re a favorite, just assume 6 innings. So +6

That’s it.

Let’s use Corbin from above as an example:

  • +4 for the win
  • -4 for the run spit for LAD (3.7 actual)
  • +7 for strike out props (can’t have half strike outs and the bet is for the over)
  • +6 for six innings

And your projection is 13 points. Yep, that’s it. 13 points for the chalk pitcher on the slate. Remember that Stanton prop bet of him hitting one home run? It’s worth a minimum of 12 points (10 for the HR, 2 for the run). Therefore pitching isn’t as important on Draft as compared to your traditional site.

You can make this more accurate or advanced as you need to, but this is as far as I go for advice on projections.

Draft Pitcher Strategy recap:

Step 1: Figure out how many viable pitchers there are using our tools

Step 2: Make your home grown projections.

Step 3: If you’re playing contests with less than or equal to the number of viable pitchers available, pick a pitcher last. If not, pick a pitcher earlier than last, generally with your second or third pick to get a decent arm.

That’s it! It’s really that easy when you make some slight adjustments as compared to your traditional DFS sites. Remember to tag me in Slack @ UW81 or twitter @Chasing21_UW81 if you have any more in depth questions on pitching strategies. I recommend tagging me in Slack as opposed to just asking as due to my work schedule, I am in slack the least of all staff members, by a large margin.

For the second half of our PlayDraft Primer, follow along as we move to Part 2:  Hitting.