Single-game contests, also known as “showdown” contests, are becoming a more and more popular format on DFS sites across major sports.
It can be a lot simpler to analyze the players from one game and quickly construct a roster we feel good about. Another reason for the popularity of this format: people don’t always have the longest attention span and may be used to more of a “place a bet on a game and watch it for the action” approach to sports gambling.
Sweating out a DFS slate of many games that a person may or may not have the opportunity to watch, occurring over many hours and sometimes even ending after they go to sleep may not be as appealing to many sports gamblers as essentially betting on one game. This is what the showdown format allows us to do.
NFL and NBA single-game showdown have become quite popular. Many good players have figured out the best methodologies for winning. There are definitely some sharps in the baseball showdown contests as well, but due to the generally smaller prize pools and lesser popularity of the contests, there is still a good bit of edge to be had in these games by understanding optimal strategies for showdown MLB DFS.
While the prize pools aren’t as gargantuan as a lot of NFL and NBA pools, there is plenty of money to be made with 10K and 20K to first contests rolling out every week. Not to mention the larger prize pools the sites roll out for the playoffs, which are especially fun to sweat.
I personally took one of these down during the 2020 World Series, in which I solo shipped 100K. There was talk in the DFS streets at the time that my lineup looked crazy. I can understand that. It probably did to a lot of people, but there was a method to my madness. I’m going to outline the basic strategy for success in MLB DFS showdown contests for both DraftKings and FanDuel.
DraftKings MLB DFS Showdown Strategy
On DraftKings, you are allowed to roster pitchers as well as batters in showdown contests. You can even roster relief pitchers, which is something you would seldom or never do on main slates, but may want to consider in showdown games. There is also a ‘captain’ position where you pay 1.5X the money for the player, but also get 1.5X the points that they score.
Due to the captain position receiving more points for the points they score, a large portion of the field is going to automatically gravitate to star players that have high potential to score the most points. Not only does that lead to inflated ownership, but it also boxes you into less-than-ideal lineups outside of the captain due to the 1.5X pricing on what are generally the most expensive plays on the slate.
It is very wise to consider playing less expensive and lower owned players in the captain spot both for differentiation of your lineups and for cost savings. Keep in mind that baseball is an unpredictable sport and on any given day the best players can put up zeros while unexpected heroes hit two home runs.
There is no good reason to lock ourselves into thinking we have to play the best players in the captain spot.
Another strategy that can be employed is to roster relief pitchers. It takes a little digging to figure out who you think is most likely to actually pitch that night. If you get it right and the relief pitcher has a good outing, they will be very low owned and are generally available at minimum or close to minimum price, enabling you to pay up for bats.
Another benefit of rostering relief pitchers is that there are usually one or more very close to minimum priced bats on the slate, generally not the best hitters. They become some of the highest-owned players on the slate by mere virtue of cost necessity if you want to roster decent hitters and starting pitchers.
If one of these 30-50% owned (or even higher!) cheap hitters puts up a 0, or even a 2 or 3, which is fairly likely, and your relief pitcher that is close to unowned outscores them, you gain a huge edge on the field. Sometimes the reliever might even be minimum priced while the chalky cheap hitter is a little more expensive, also enabling you to pay up at other spots.
I know it can sound a little crazy to play a player who may not even play and can put up negative points even if they do, but trust me, this is a strategy some of the best DFS players in the world have been employing liberally and with much success for some time now. Some even roster multiple relievers!
A third strategy that is a little more off the board but can pay off is to even roster a cheap bench player. This makes sense in a situation where you know that a team tends to play them in a platoon split with another player and pinch hit when a same-handed reliever comes in later in the game.
This is another example of a way to get an extremely low-owned player at a cheap price. If he comes in the game and puts up some points, you have a huge advantage over the field as you are one of the only people in the contest getting those points.
Playing a guy on the bench that may or may not even play could seem sketchy, but under certain circumstances, it can work wonders.
Keep in mind that in the case of a minimum-priced or close to the minimum-priced player, it may not kill you if they don’t even come in the game and get a zero. There will be other cheap players, at times not even as cheap as the minimum priced reliever who will be heavily rostered and may also put up a zero. You can win with a donut in these contests, especially if it enables a lineup construction that would have been impossible otherwise as there were no starting players available at minimum price.
FanDuel MLB DFS Showdown Strategy
FanDuel MLB DFS showdown is different than DraftKings. For one, you can’t roster pitchers in FanDuel at all. Secondly, you only have five lineup spots rather than six. Finally, there are two point-multiplier positions, one 2X and one 1.5X, however, the pricing is not multiplied.
Were you to play a showdown where Mike Trout and Pete Alonso are on the slate and they are the two best players in the game, there would be no reason not to put them in the multiplier spots, theoretically, as there is no price penalty.
FanDuel MLB DFS Showdown becomes even more game theory-driven and you really have to think outside the box. Due to the nature of the format, the best players are going to be very high owned in the multiplier spots; high owned beyond their actual probability of scoring the most fantasy points, higher as it might be than the other players. Also, as there are only five lineup spots and you can’t roster pitchers, it is even more difficult to make your lineup unique.
It is a highly viable strategy to play batters who are less likely to be the highest-scoring players in the multiplier spots. We all know that on any given day Austin Riley can outscore Ronald Acuña Jr. and Chris Taylor can outscore Mookie Betts. Take a shot on players with a lesser likelihood of being the highest-scoring players in the multiplier spots; it happens far more often than the majority of the field thinks.
Another FanDuel strategy (that can be used on DraftKings as well): leave salary on the table. A lot of DFS players have a hard time leaving salary; it is a mental block of sorts which I think we all can understand.
Some realize it can be a good idea to leave $500-$1,000 in these types of contests and may even like the look of their lineup better depending on pricing inefficiencies.
Most players do not want to leave a more considerable amount of salary on the table, but there is a good reason to do just that.
With the often inefficient pricing, and the fact that the success of any given baseball hitter on any given day is extremely unpredictable, being unwilling to leave salary is a common hole in the process of many DFS players. You can leave large amounts and actually have a better statistical chance of hitting first than if you didn’t.
DFS showdowns are becoming a more and more popular DFS game format that can be very fun and rewarding.
It’s a lot easier to dig into a one-game slate and can more fun to sweat since you can just kick back and watch the game, easily see when something good is happening for your lineups, and know the results within three hours or so.
I would suggest giving MLB DFS showdown a try if you haven’t, and implementing some of these strategies to gain an advantage over the field and pocket some dough. Good luck in your MLB showdown contests!