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Guest post at StarStreet: The “All-in with Lance Lynn” strategy

April 21, 2012

I contributed a guest post today to the StarStreet blog, explaining the pros and cons of a daily fantasy baseball strategy I dubbed “All-in with Lance Lynn.” The idea is to identify a cheap starting pitcher with a favorable match-up and then buy the maximum number of shares possible within the constraints of the game. On StarStreet last night, that would have meant using your $100k budget to purchase 4 shares of Lynn at $20k each and then filling out your remaining two spots with position player shares. I also suggest some modifications to the strategy for those who prefer a slightly more diversified approach that’s still based on heavily investing in cheap SPs.

Have you tried this strategy in your own daily fantasy baseball lineups? How has it worked for you? What other strategies would you like me to discuss in future posts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below or over on the StarStreet blog.

Here is the post in its entirety. Note that at the end I offer some suggested lineups for today’s games built around some of today’s better starting pitcher vaules on StarStreet.

Strategy: “All-in with Lance Lynn”

What it is: Buying max shares of a single cheap starting pitcher (such as 4 shares of a $20k SP) with a favorable match-up, then spending your remaining budget on a few shares of position players.

Who should use it: You should be confident in a pitcher’s match-up and enjoy the gamble of having almost all of your eggs in that one basket.

Pros: If your pitcher has a strong outing, say 15-20 points per share, his points alone will be enough to win your contest the majority of the time. If you were truly confident in the match-up and chose to enter many contests with the same lineup, that strong outing from your pitcher will win most if not all of your contests.

For example, on Friday, April 20, StarStreet trader “louiescards” took this approach by entering 18 contests at different buy-in levels, each with an identical lineup of 4x Lance Lynn ($20,000), 2x Ian Kinsler ($7,283), and 1x Jhonny Peralta($5,158). Lynn was a smart pick for several reasons:

  • He had pitched well in his first two outings of 2011, earning 21.25 points on April 8 @ Milwaukee and 15.5 points on April 14 vs the Cubs.
  • Lynn also had an extremely favorable match-up against the Pittsburgh Pirates, baseball’s weakest offense so far in 2012. Through the season’s first 13 games, the Pirates have scored just 27 runs (2.1 per game) and have a team OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .534.
  • On top of that, PNC Park played as a pitcher’s park last year, with a .959 park factor for runs scored and a .799 park factor for home runs.
  • Also in Lynn’s favor, his Cardinals came in at 9-4 on the young season, while the Pirates were 5-7. Since pitcher wins are worth 5 points in StarStreet fantasy baseball scoring, it’s important to evaluate a pitcher in the context of his team and expected run support.

The Texas-Detroit game was rained out, so louiescards would get no production out of Kinsler or Peralta. His fate would now rest entirely on Lance Lynn. Luckily for him, Lynn pitched 7 solid innings (4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4K) against the Pirates, earning the win and 17.25 points per share. Having bought 4 shares of Lynn, louiescards now had a strong total of 69 points across all of his line-ups. While that total won’t always be enough to win, last night it was in each of louiescards’ contests, as he went a perfect 18-0. Look at his trader page today and see that beautiful block of 18 consecutive wins, and I think you’ll agree that there’s no better advertisement for this high-variance approach.

Cons: Obviously, this strategy worked like a charm for those who invested heavily in Lance Lynn last night, but what are some of its drawbacks? It is certainly a volatile approach, and if Lynn had not performed well for any reason (the Pirates hit him hard, the game was rained out, he was scratched or left the game early due to sickness or injury), you would have almost certainly lost with this approach. (Even on a good day, two shares of Kinsler and one of Peralta aren’t going to win many match-ups on their own.)

Also bear in mind that Lynn benefited from a little bit of good fortune in terms of earning a win, something that isn’t entirely under the pitcher’s control. Sure, when you hold the opposition to 1 run over 7 innings you’ll usually get the win, but he did leave the game with just a 2-1 lead in the 7th, and if the Cardinals’ bullpen allowed the Pirates to tie it up, there goes Lynn’s win, and with it, 5 points per share of his fantasy points. Had that happened last night, Lynn would have only scored 12.25 points, and traders who bought 4 shares would’ve gotten 49, not 69, points from him. With that point total, louiescards would have gone 11-7 on the night instead of 18-0. Pitcher wins and losses are significant. Keep that in mind when you’re considering an Ivan Nova (who’s won 15 straight decisions, thanks to good pitching and some of the best run support in baseball) or a Felix Hernandez (who won just 13 games in his Cy Young season of 2010, playing for the offensively-challenged Mariners).

Modifications: If you find this strategy a bit too risky for your taste, you could dial it back to 3 shares of the cheap starting pitcher, leaving $40k to spend on position players. If you then spent that $40k on the cheapest hitters (perhaps buying 8 shares of players priced at $5,000 exactly), you might have enough potential on the offensive side to still win some of your match-ups when the pitcher under performs.

Another tactic would be to identify not just one but several cheap pitchers with good match-ups on a given day. Then instead of entering 18 lineups built around Lance Lynn, like louiescards did, you might enter 6 built around pitcher A, 6 around pitcher B, and 6 around pitcher C. For Saturday’s games, consider the following:

Player            	Share Price   Shares	Sub-Total
Jake Westbrook @ PIT	$20,256.00	4	$81,024.00
Bryan LaHair vs CIN	$5,077.00	2	$10,154.00
Matt Kemp @ HOU	        $8,642.00	1	$8,642.00
TOTAL			                        $99,820.00

Player            	Share Price   Shares	Sub-Total
Philip Humber @ SEA	$20,000.00	4	$80,000.00
Evan Longoria vs MIN	$7,796.00	1	$7,796.00
Michael Bourn @ ARI	$6,636.00	1	$6,636.00
Mike Napoli @ DET	$5,429.00	1	$5,429.00
TOTAL			                        $99,861.00

Player            	Share Price   Shares	Sub-Total
Jake Arrieta @ LAA	$20,000.00	4	$80,000.00
David Freese @ PIT	$5,000.00	2	$10,000.00
Nolan Reimold @ LAA	$5,000.00	2	$10,000.00
TOTAL			                        $100,000.00
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