In DFS, there is a tendency to seek a one-size-fits-all strategy for approaching all slates. We want to repeat the same process every day for every slate and achieve profitable results.
While this is natural, and yes, we should seek to find a repeatable process in DFS, this outlook can also be a mistake for many DFS players.
Every MLB DFS slate is different in many ways, and one of those is slate size, meaning how many games are on the slate. Suppose you take the same strategic approach on a 15 game slate as a five-game slate. You are going to be playing sub-optimally and can expect corresponding results.
Main MLB slates can generally range from four or five games to 15 games. Not to mention night slates, afternoon slates, and turbo slates which can often be as small as two games.
It would behoove all MLB DFS players to learn to play slates of all sizes optimally since so much of the field will approach all slates similarly and play suboptimal lineups for the size of the slate.
Let’s look at how to play MLB DFS to our best advantage based on slate size. I will divide slate sizes into three categories for the sake of condensing the information. Still, please keep in mind that these are loose delineations.
Large Slates (10-15 Games)
On the largest slates of ten games or more, there are a few key considerations to make.
Less Condensed Ownership
For one, ownership will generally be more spread out, considering that there are more options. Due to this, one could say that fading high-owned stacks/pitchers/individual hitters may be less critical. Ownership is less likely to condense to the extent that it might on a smaller slate. It could be said that one can focus more on playing the best plays rather than worrying about ownership.
However, there are times that ownership condenses a lot more than you might think, even on a large slate. This can be due to either a lack of good options, an exceptional circumstance such as a Coors Field game, or any number of other options. Also, say a player is 20%-owned on a large slate when he would be 30%-owned on a small slate. In the context of the large slate, that 20% ownership could be even more inefficient considering how many options are on the table.
We can see this both ways on large slates. Suppose ownership even starts to get overly condensed on certain spots on a large slate with lots of options. In that instance, we can be more apt to fade the chalk and seek out lesser-owned plays still in advantageous situations.
However, if we anticipate ownership being quite spread out, we can also use this to our advantage. We can simply play what we like without worrying about getting away from what we consider to be the best plays.
More Need For Correlation
We should all likely know by now that stacking in MLB is all but necessary for consistent success. We should also keep in mind that the size of the slate dictates the extent to which we should be stacking to some degree.
On a big slate, since more offenses are going at it, there is a more significant chance that one or more of them will put up a ceiling game and score a lot of runs. There are also more hitters overall, making it less likely that one can cherry-pick all of the hitters that happen to do well in a vacuum.
So, it is a good idea to stack as much as possible on a sizeable slate since all you have to get right is one or two teams that go off. Otherwise, you embark upon the nearly impossible task of picking out all the individual bats that happen to do well.
On a large slate, it would generally be considered best practice to stack at minimum a five-man stack on DraftKings or a four-man on FanDuel since you can’t stack five. On top of it, the larger the slate, the more likely you would be to stack a secondary three-man from another team. This would give you what is considered a 5-3 build on DraftKings.
This way, you are only trying to land on two teams that go off rather than pulling out the crystal ball and hunting for one-offs. On FanDuel, you would likely lean more toward 4-4 (four players from one team and four from another) or 4-3-1 (four players from one club, three from another, and a one-off) builds for the same reason.
Medium Slates (5-9 games)
The range from five to nine games is sizeable enough that one would approach a five-game slate a bit differently than a nine-game slate. Still, the same general principles apply to a degree.
On a slate with a lot of games, ownership generally condenses less. The opposite is the case on a smaller slate. We can expect very high ownership percentages on the team stacks/pitchers/individual hitters that are most likely to succeed on smaller slates. For this reason, it can be more valuable to be under the field on these plays and look for lower-owned options.
We also see a difference in the need for heavy correlation. Depending on the site rules, we would generally still use at least one primary stack of four or five hitters from one team. Still, we might get a little looser on smaller slates, particularly when they get into the five to six-game range.
Since it is less likely that any team scores a ton of runs, it is more plausible that the winning team will comprise a somewhat looser build. One might be more prone to stack a primary stack on DraftKings and go with a 5-1-1-1 lineup with three value and/or high-upside one-offs, or perhaps a slightly looser 5-2-1 or a 4-3-1.
On FanDuel, one might incorporate fewer 4-4 builds and more 4-3-1 and perhaps some 4-2-2, 3-3-2, or other builds that are still correlated but less so.
Small Slates (2-4 games)
On the smallest of slates, our approach should change the most drastically. The difference between an eight-game slate and a twelve-gamer could be considered somewhat negligible. In contrast, the difference between a two-four game slate and any slate over seven or eight games is quite considerable.
Ownership on certain players and stacks gets ridiculously high on small slates to the point that a pitcher could be upwards of 70% owned, and hitters get into the 50% range.
This gives us an excellent opportunity for leverage against the field by simply fading these plays and hoping they fail. When ownership gets condensed to this degree, there is little point in making lineups containing all of the highest-owned players. They are doubtful to win, and even if they do, your lineup would likely be heavily duplicated by other DFSers (especially on two-game slates).
If you choose to roster many of the highest-owned plays, it is important to get different in one way or another. You could do this by leaving salary on the table, mixing in highly low-owned players, using unusual roster constructions, or other means. In general, the smaller the slate, the more likely one might be to leave some salary to differentiate and allow for the optimal lineup combination.
As you might guess, stacking becomes even less of a priority on these small slates. It is very likely on a slate with eight or fewer teams that no team has a huge offensive game. It is also more possible to happen to pick the individual bats that do well.
On top of it, there are fewer players to choose from, and a lot of the field will want to stack and particularly stack the best teams. So, by stacking less, you are less likely to have duplicated lineups. You can also roster the best plays but with a unique construction that can take you to the top of the leaderboard.
This is not to say that one should not stack at least to an extent on a small slate. Still, a looser build with less correlation is much more acceptable and perhaps preferable the smaller the slate.
Again, please remember that we could divide the slate sizes into smaller groups or different exact delineations. Please use common sense based on my overall analysis. While there are other factors, we mainly need to consider differences in ownership and how we approach correlation based on slate size. These are the key factors that will enable us to craft our MLB DFS lineups optimally based on slate size.