In MLB DFS, there are a lot of often underrecognized factors that can give you a significant edge over the field if you take them into consideration. DFS players often focus on obvious factors such as implied team totals, the general quality of the offenses, and individual player quality and stats. Since everyone else is looking at the same things, it is essential to find ways to gain an advantage by taking into account information that most people are not. Let’s dig into some of these often overlooked finer points of MLB DFS.
1. Ballpark Factors
One of the most exciting things about baseball compared to many other sports is that every ballpark is not created equal, and the ballpark itself can significantly impact gameplay. Dimensions, indoor vs. outdoor, nature of the outfield fence, amount of foul ground, whether there is a humidor in play, altitude, climate, and other factors can significantly impact our expectations for offenses as a whole as well as individual hitters and pitchers.
Yes, most DFS players recognize the impact of obvious ballpark factors such as the altitude and dimensions at Coors Field lending themselves to hitting. However, every ballpark has its own characteristics. We should get to know each one and make our lineups according to their strengths and weaknesses.
Ballpark factors can, to an extent, be baked into betting lines and DFS projection systems. Yet, there is a degree to which they are often not weighted as they should be. It can be a source of substantial edge to take ballpark factors into consideration when building MLB DFS lineups.
2. Weather Impact
While weather and ballpark factors go hand-in-hand to some degree, weather considerations are their own beast. Considering that conditions change from day to day and can significantly impact gameplay and the results of MLB DFS contests, you have to keep track of the weather on a day-to-day basis.
The most crucial impact of weather is rain. It can cause games to be postponed entirely or to end early. Long delays can also knock starting pitchers out of games prematurely. On top of it, rain causes less than ideal playing conditions even when games can be played in light rain.
You would be surprised at the extent to which large portions of the field don’t follow the weather adequately. Many people fail to even be aware when a game is likely to be postponed or ended early. One of the number one considerations to make before even considering making your lineups is to gain a handle on the weather.
You can gain an advantage on the field by not playing a game that winds up being postponed or called early. You can also find an edge by avoiding pitchers that may be pulled from games prematurely due to rain delays.
You can also go the opposite direction and take the risk of playing hitter stacks in a bad weather game. Much of the field may avoid these games, and you’ll reap the benefits of low ownership if that offense goes off. If the game doesn’t play, you have to be okay with taking a lineup full of zeros, but the risk can be worth it.
Not only does precipitation impact MLB DFS, but you also want to look at temperature, humidity, wind, and other environmental factors. High temperatures can greatly benefit offense and hurt pitching. Winds blowing in or out and the direction they are blowing can cause a significant impact on games as well.
3. Umpire Data
Probably more overlooked than either ballpark factors or weather is the impact of different home plate umpires on the results of games. It is prudent to consider whether the ump calling a game tends to favor hitters or pitchers. You can find data that will tell you whether an umpire is a hitter’s up, a pitcher’s ump, extremely weighted toward one side or the other, or neutral.
It isn’t just that hitter’s umpires benefit hitters, and pitcher’s umpires benefit hurlers. You can take it a step further and consider the individual players involved.
A power pitcher that pounds the zone with overpowering stuff may be less impacted by a hitter’s umpire squeezing them. On the other hand, a finesse pitcher who likes to nibble around the edges may benefit significantly from a pitcher’s ump expanding the zone and giving them those borderline calls. They may also be hindered substantially by the opposite.
4. Opposing Bullpen
There is a tendency among DFS players to base their lineup decisions solely on the quality of the offense and the matchup against the starting pitcher. If the offense is good and the starting pitcher is not, that looks like a spot to attack, and vice versa.
It is often overlooked that, especially in today’s game, close to half of most games will be covered by the bullpen. Especially if you are stacking an offense and hoping for a ceiling game, considering that the starting pitcher will likely get knocked out of the game early if your team succeeds.
It is an excellent source of edge to look at the quality of the bullpens different teams face and make decisions accordingly. A team with a bad starting pitcher with a pen full of good arms ready to relieve him is a less attackable spot than a team with a bad starter and a bad bullpen.
You can also take it further by looking at not only overall bullpen statistics. You can research who is currently healthy out of the pen to see if critical injuries have depleted a team’s bullpen. You can also look at who has thrown a lot the night before, as certain vital relievers may be unavailable. Other factors to weigh are the amount and quality of lefties vs. righties in the bullpen and recent performance in case it is trending one way or another.
5. Batter Pinch-Hit Risk
It is essential to be aware of which teams have a tendency to pinch-hit for their batters and which hitters these are. Losing one or two at-bats out of one of your batters, or even more at times, dramatically reduces their chance of putting up DFS points.
Step one is to ascertain who is likely to be pinch-hit for based on past precedent. Then, you’ll want to look at other factors, such as how long you project the opposing starting pitcher to stay in the game. Usually, a hitter will be removed for a pinch-hitter when a same-handed relief pitcher enters the game.
It is also a good idea in the case of a left-handed platoon player (usually platoon players are the batters who get pinch-hot for) to look at how many lefties are in the opposing pen. If there are one or less, and perhaps that pitcher/those pitchers have pitched the night before and may or may not be available, it may lessen the pinch-hit risk.
There may be injuries to the hitting team that make a hitter less likely to be removed due to a lack of viable alternatives. Hitters that may have been candidates to pinch-hit could be getting scheduled rest days, making them largely or entirely unavailable. It is good to look at the entirety of the situation when gauging whether playing hitters at risk of being pinch-hit for is worth it.
Next time you build an MLB DFS lineup, it will be helpful to go through this checklist and consider these five factors when making your rosters. By thinking through some of these often overlooked aspects of MLB DFS, you may catch something underweighted by the field. This way, you can gain an edge over your opponents in MLB DFS tourneys, Good luck!