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Game Theory and MLB Stacking

On an external level, it’s relatively easy to understand why people like to stack. You have a better chance of getting points for both Runs and RBIs when you stack multiple players from the same team. If you take Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez, you can rack up points in a hurry if the BoSox put together a big inning. The basic reasoning behind stacking is relatively simple. But in this lesson we’ll discuss why the idea of Game Theory comes into play when considering a stack.

Game Theory Principles

The concepts behind Game Theory are that you are given choices and are forced to make decisions based on risk/reward. The most infamous example of Game Theory is known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma. There are two prisoners in separate cells, each of which is given the opportunity to confess without knowing what the other prisoner is going to do. If both confess, they’ll each receive a reduced sentence of 3 years. If neither confess, they’ll both receive 2 years in prison. If one confesses and the other holds firm, the prisoner who confesses will receive the lowest sentence possible of 1 year while the other prisoner will be hit with the maximum sentence of 10 years.

So you’re the prisoner, what do you do? You need to be able to make the most statistically informed decision to ensure you do the least possible amount of jail time. Let’s consider all of the possibilities if you are Prisoner A (I promise we’ll get to the connection to stacking soon!)

1) Confess – Minimum of 1 years in Prison but only a Maximum of 3 years
2) Deny – Minimum of 2 years in Prison and Maximum of 10 years.

The dominant strategy here is to confess, although if both Prisoner’s confess then Prisoner A doesn’t receive the best possible outcome.

Game Theory is a driving factor in all daily fantasy decision-making, regardless of sport. In basketball, you have to choose between players like David West, who is relatively consistent but lacks the big game potential, and Josh Smith, who has a huge ceiling but can also post a miserable score on any given night. It’s no different in baseball, which is why stacking in general is a more appealing method for tournament play where you need a higher score.

Daily Fantasy Baseball Stacking

Consider the following scenario in daily fantasy baseball. You take three Red Sox players hitting 2,3,4 in the order: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Hanley Ramirez. For the sake of keeping this example simple, imagine the three of them are hitting 1, 2 and 3 that inning and Dustin Pedroia leads off with a double. Let’s also use FanDuel scoring in this example and assume that a runner on 2nd would score with any hit.

With Ortiz and Gomes coming up next, you are starting with a baseline score of 2 fantasy points. If you only took Dustin Pedroia, you are guaranteed those 2 points with the potential for 3 points if he is driven home (let’s also ignore stolen bases for this example).

In the stacking method, Ortiz comes up and there are 6 potential outcomes to his at bat:

1) Single (includes RBI for Ortiz and Run Scored for Pedroia) = +3 Fantasy Points
2) Double (includes RBI for Ortiz and Run Scored for Pedroia) = +4 Fantasy Points
3) Triple (includes RBI for Ortiz and Run Scored for Pedroia) = +5 Fantasy Points
4) Home Run (includes RBI and Run for Ortiz and Run Scored for Pedroia) = +7 Fantasy Points
5) Walk = +1 Fantasy Points
6) Out = -.25 Fantasy Points

So including Pedroia’s 2 points from is double, you’re looking at a maximum of 9 fantasy points and a minimum of 1.75 fantasy points from the two players combined.

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