Game Theory: How To Use Ownership In MLB DFS Tournaments


In MLB DFS and DFS in general, too many players fail to fully realize that DFS itself is a game played against other players, much like the actual sports games that DFS is based on.

The players in the sporting events are simply chess pieces on the board of the DFS game, much like cards in a game of poker. This is where the concept of game theory and understanding how to play DFS as a game independent of the sports involved is crucial if you want to be a winning player.

The number one factor in the game theory of DFS in tournaments is player ownership. Player projection and rostering the players with the best chance of success is essential, but this isn’t where the game is won. We have to beat our opponents and obtain fantasy points that they are not if we want to vault up the leaderboard and win MLB DFS tournaments.

Gauging Ownership In MLB DFS Tournaments

We don’t actually know who our opponents are going to roster before each game’s start time. Gauging ownership in MLB DFS tourneys is an inexact science and an educated guessing game.

There are ownership projections available from many DFS websites that rely on automated algorithms and programmer experience. I would suggest any serious DFS player subscribe to one of these sites and use these as a baseline for each slate.

As you play MLB DFS, you will also gain a personal feel for ownership. This can help you further improve your process and analyze where you think ownership projections may be somewhat less than accurate. A good enough MLB DFS player with enough experience should even be able to gauge ownership to a decent extent without looking at ownership projections at all.

An important thing to consider: other players will also be looking at publicly available ownership projections and using their own intuition and experience to gauge ownership. For this reason, players that are projected to be high-owned may actually be lower owned than expected as DFS players pivot off them to avoid the chalk. Those pivots then gain higher ownership than anticipated.

It is a bit of a cat and mouse game understanding how ownership shifts based on a combination of many factors. We have to do it if we want to gain an optimal edge over the field. Gauging and reacting to player ownership is arguably the most essential part of MLB DFS and winning money in MLB GPPs.

Reacting To Ownership In MLB DFS 

The first step is having a good grasp on player ownership. Still, we then have to react to it most beneficially to use this information to our advantage.

One could think that it is as simple as being under the field on higher-owned players and over on lower-owned players. We need to look into it on a deeper level than this.

We need to use ownership to our advantage in MLB DFS to look at what players and stacks will be owned higher than their probability of success and vice versa. A hitter could be 30% owned, which would be considered high on a large slate. Still, if his likelihood of meeting expectations for his price tag is 35%, he is actually under-owned. Another hitter could be 6% owned, but if his probability of a fantasy score that warrants rostering him is 3%, he is actually over-owned. 

This is a general concept of game theory in all DFS sports. It can be applied with a bit more nuance to baseball in particular.

Deeper Game Theory In MLB DFS

Baseball DFS tournaments are primarily played by stacking four to five hitters from the same team in your lineups. For this reason, you aren’t just looking at individual player ownership but the collective ownership of these player combinations since they will often be rostered together. To simplify the MLB DFS process, you’ll want to look at not just individual players but stacks. We need to establish which teams have a high probability of scoring many runs yet might be under-owned, and vice versa. 

There is no better feeling and MLB DFS than rostering a 5% owned stack that goes off for 10+ runs and seeing your lineup climb the leaderboards rapidly.

Baseball is a highly unpredictable sport, and player ranges of outcome swing wildly. We should weigh player projection and probability of success or lack thereof as quite fragile. 

This isn’t the NBA where a star player on the court for 30+ minutes is all but guaranteed a certain amount of fantasy points. Even a great pitcher can give up seven runs and put up a negative DFS score. The league’s leading hitter bats .333. But he doesn’t get a hit in one-third of his ABs per game, but one-third of his ABs per season. He won’t go 0-fer as often as a .233 batter, but he will still have many 0-fers during a season.

For this reason, I would almost always err on the side of going over the field on low-owned stacks from good offensive teams, low-owned but good hitters, and low-owned but capable pitchers. I would also be under on the highest-owned players in most instances. Anything can happen in baseball, and the field always sways way too far in the direction of particular players and team stacks. People like to think they can predict the outcome, which simply isn’t as doable as they believe it is.

This is not a hard-fast rule, and everything in DFS depends on the particular situation. I still believe that DFS players, especially those who are used to more predictable sports such as the NBA, should calibrate their thinking to the variance of baseball DFS.

Always keep in mind that DFS lineups don’t exist in a vacuum and that the goal is to beat your opponents by scoring DFS points that they do not score.

If a player is 35% owned, his success only gets you points that 35% of the field also gets, which does not in and of itself lead to winning tournaments. Using game theory and considering ownership when crafting our MLB tournament lineups, we can give ourselves the best chance to win.

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I'm a DFS player (JackG1111), DFS content provider, and musician.