6 Differences Between NFL and MLB DFS
NFL DFS is amazing. I love her. She's wifey. But she's only there for five months of the year, so it's kind of like being in a long distance relationship. So you have to do to NFL DFS what some people in long distance relationships do: cheat.
Your mistress? MLB DFS, which will last you right up to the start of NFL season. Perhaps you've already been cheating with NBA DFS (you dirty dog), so you're familiar with what's to come. Just as I did with NBA DFS, this column highlights the differences between MLB DFS and NFL DFS. The follow up article will focus on the similarities. The aim of these columns is to identify where your NFL DFS skills are applicable to MLB DFS, and where you may have to change your approach.
Let's get into it. If NFL DFS catches you, just tell her it wasn't me.
1. (Most) Players Are Less Consistent in MLB
In terms of game-by-game consistency, the NFL is in the middle of the pack, sandwiched between the more consistent NBA and the less consistent MLB.
You may be familiar with CV, which measures the percentage, on average, that a statistic deviates from its mean. The lower the percentage, the more consistent (or less volatile) a particular statistic is. In the NFL, average positional CVs range from roughly 40% (QBs) to 70% (D/STs). In the MLB, on the other hand, most batter CVs approach 100% or greater -- indicating that a player who averages 8.0 points per game is just as likely to put up a 0 or a 16 as he is to hit 8.0 on the button.
Case in point: Bryce Harper, the highest scoring batter in terms of DraftKings points per game in 2015 (10.75) had a CV of 86% despite starting every one of his 153 games and registering between four and six plate appearances in 148 of those games. In the NFL, a CV in the 86% range is reserved only for players who experience drastic changes in opportunity over the course of a season, and defenses.
Notice that so far I’ve compared the consistency of NFL players to batters -- who make up the majority of an MLB lineup. Certain pitchers (generally the studs), however, exhibit a greater degree of consistency than even the most consistent NFL players. Clayton Kershaw -- who had the highest average of DraftKings points per game among pitchers in 2015 -- had a CV of 39%.
This brings us to our next point...
2. One Position (Pitcher) is More Important Than the Rest in MLB
In the NFL, players at the key positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) all tend score roughly the same amount of points. A list of the highest DraftKings points per game averages in 2015 for each of the four key NFL fantasy positions is below. For all non-leaders, their score's percentage of the top overall score is also given.
|Pos||Top DK PPG||% Of Top|
Now, let's take a look at the DraftKings points per game average of the top pitcher versus that of the top batters at each position in 2015.
|Pos||Top DK PPG||% of Top|
Hitters score roughly only a third as many points as pitchers, creating a sizable gap between one position and the rest in MLB that does not exist in NFL (although, of course, there is a gap in the NFL between the four key positions and kickers and defenses.)
You generally want to pay whatever it takes to secure the best pitcher of the day. This is true even in GPPs, where you can employ the barbell approach, taking a consistent pitcher and going contrarian with your bats.
Speaking of going contrarian…
3. Going Contrarian is More Viable in MLB
We know that most batters are incredibly volatile on a game-by-game basis, which in turn makes them difficult to predict over the short run. Even a stud has a very real chance of netting you zero or minimal points. Remember Harper, the highest scoring batter in 2015? He failed to record a hit in 44 games -- nearly one-third of his games played.
As is true in DFS of pretty much any sport, the top plays of the day will generally be disproportionately owned compared to the rest of the player pool. Ownership percentage is more exploitable in MLB than NFL because players are being owned as if their potential production is a lot more certain than it actually is.
As a final note, this applies more to batters than to pitchers, since the best pitchers tend to be significantly more predictable than batters of any skill level, and thus more likely to be valuable even at a high ownership percentage.
4. Stacking Has More Upside in MLB
Stacking is a viable strategy in NFL tournaments, but will always have limitations. While offensive success of an NFL player’s teammates is synergistic to a point, ultimately there is a finite amount of yardage and TDs, or fantasy points, to go around.
Not so in MLB. Every time a batter gets on base, it increases the upside of all of his teammates because they are more likely to bat, more likely to have runners on base when they do, and more likely to score from being driven in by a teammate. Stacking players close together in the batting order is vital in MLB.
While the most common types of stacks tend to involve the top of the order (to maximize potential plate appearances) or the heart of the order (to maximize power), the bottom of the order shouldn't be overlooked. If the top of the order crushes, the bottom of the order sees more high-leverage opportunities as well. Stacking the bottom of the order of a team in a good situation can be a perfect opportunity to go contrarian.
5. Ballparks Matter in MLB
Stadiums don’t have much of an effect on player production independent of weather in the NFL -- all fields have the same dimensions. In the MLB, however, ballparks play a major factor in fantasy production due to varying demensions that can influence the end result of an at bat. The 2015 park factors for all 30 ballparks are below.
|1||Coors Field (Denver, Colorado)||1.436||1.210||1.301||1.235||2.000||1.057|
|2||Progressive Field (Cleveland, Ohio)||1.261||0.986||1.169||1.440||0.774||1.115|
|3||Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore, Maryland)||1.228||1.415||1.121||0.978||0.775||0.936|
|4||Fenway Park (Boston, Massachusetts)||1.191||0.971||1.103||1.281||1.031||0.920|
|5||Globe Life Park in Arlington (Arlington, Texas)||1.141||1.066||1.107||1.102||0.946||1.133|
|6||Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati, Ohio)||1.115||1.137||1.075||1.043||0.444||1.101|
|7||Miller Park (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)||1.103||1.432||1.010||1.070||1.161||1.006|
|8||Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)||1.062||0.856||1.047||1.207||1.786||1.025|
|9||Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)||1.038||1.140||0.977||0.946||0.667||1.049|
|10||Yankee Stadium (New York, New York)||1.022||1.251||0.975||0.887||0.630||1.000|
|11||Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)||1.019||0.793||0.995||1.221||1.455||0.892|
|12||Nationals Park (Washington, D.C.)||1.000||1.025||0.992||1.049||0.500||1.043|
|13||Target Field (Minneapolis, Minnesota)||0.994||1.058||1.039||0.979||0.816||0.954|
|14||Wrigley Field (Chicago, Illinois)||0.950||1.276||0.934||0.794||1.094||1.029|
|15||Marlins Park (Miami, Florida)||0.950||0.740||0.990||0.940||1.226||1.078|
|16||Oakland Coliseum (Oakland, California)||0.944||0.777||0.964||0.967||1.185||0.906|
|17||Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Florida)||0.940||0.962||0.939||0.832||0.704||0.895|
|18||Turner Field (Atlanta, Georgia)||0.937||0.720||0.915||0.971||0.759||1.114|
|19||PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)||0.933||1.083||0.962||0.874||0.821||1.000|
|20||Petco Park (San Diego, California)||0.931||1.085||0.966||0.956||0.792||0.992|
|21||Busch Stadium (St. Louis, Missouri)||0.931||0.857||1.055||1.008||1.031||0.924|
|22||Minute Maid Park (Houston, Texas)||0.927||1.100||0.954||0.963||1.520||0.951|
|23||Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, California)||0.918||1.000||0.948||1.059||0.643||0.791|
|24||Rogers Centre (Toronto, Ontario)||0.906||1.005||0.926||1.076||0.958||0.998|
|25||U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago, Illinois)||0.904||1.113||0.953||0.873||0.833||1.234|
|26||Comerica Park (Detroit, Michigan)||0.902||0.791||0.966||0.977||1.353||0.988|
|27||Safeco Field (Seattle, Washington)||0.878||0.905||0.917||0.829||0.800||0.954|
|28||Citi Field (New York, New York)||0.870||0.994||0.912||0.934||0.905||0.998|
|29||Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Anaheim, California)||0.861||0.921||0.939||0.863||0.739||1.025|
|30||AT&T Park (San Francisco, California)||0.845||0.599||0.917||0.841||1.647||0.987|
A number above one means higher than expected compared to an average ballpark, and a number below one means the opposite. Coors field, for example, tends to increase runs scored by 44% over what would be expected given an average ballpark (making Rockies opponents very valuable when visiting Colorado). On the other hand, AT&T Park decreases runs scored by 15% versus what would be expected given an average ballpark.
Park adjustments are an integral part of MLB player assessment (this is true more so for batters, because a good pitcher who doesn’t allow a lot of contact won’t be affected as much by a hitter’s park), but there is another aspect to consider in tandem with ballpark: weather.
6. Weather Is More Important in MLB than NFL
In the NFL, the effects of weather tend to only be significant at the extremes: below-freezing temperatures, heavy winds, etc.
First, the obvious: potential rain usually means a pitcher is off-limits (unless you’re trying to be contrarian in a GPP) because if a starter has to withstand a long rain delay, his day is usually done. Postponements obviously render every player from a game useless, while games that are called early limit upside.
But rain isn’t the only aspect of weather that can have a major effect. Temperature, air pressure, wind speed, and wind direction all have a major impact on whether fly balls turn into home runs. I haven’t explicitly stated this before, but home runs -- much like touchdowns in the NFL -- are incredibly important in MLB, especially for having success in GPPs.
Maybe you don’t really check the weather often, or you don’t start checking until late in the season when wind or cold temps may be a factor in NFL. In MLB, checking the weather should be a daily staple.