Interpreting Vegas: Pitchers
We’ve covered how you should interpret the Vegas lines when targeting batters. This lesson will shift the focus to how you can use the Vegas lines to help you select the best available starting pitchers each day. There are four main things that you want to examine: the money line, the run total, the line movement, and player prop bets.
In daily fantasy baseball, picking up a win from your starting pitcher is absolutely critical to your success, especially on a site like FanDuel that really weighs a win from the starting pitcher heavily. A quick glance at the Vegas lines each day is the simplest and easiest way to get a general idea of which pitchers are the biggest favorites.
If you have never looked at a baseball line, it’s a little different than a football or basketball line. Instead of a point spread, there is a money line and a run line. The run line doesn’t impact DFS much, but the money line is a great tool to use.
The money line will be designated with either a plus or a minus sign. The plus is the underdog and the minus is the favorite. The bigger the number, the bigger the underdog or favorite.
I typically like to break the games up into three categories; anything between -105 to -140 is a relatively small favorite, anything between -140 to -200 is a pretty big favorite, and anything greater than -200 is a huge favorite.
There are a lot of different ways to break down potential pitcher plays each day, but using the Vegas lines is a quick and easy way to see who Vegas thinks will pitch well that day. As always, you have to factor in salaries, but targeting pitchers who are big favorites is a very popular strategy among daily fantasy baseball experts.
The run total is similar to that of a point total in football or basketball. It basically gives you the total amount of runs that is expected to be scored in a game. When it comes to pitchers, you want that total to be as low as possible. A pitcher might be a pretty big favorite, but if the total is above eight or nine runs, you might want to avoid him because there are a lot of runs expected to be scored in that game.
Using the money line and the run total in combination is the best route when selecting pitchers. Ideally, you want to target a heavy favorite in a game that features a low run total. You will often find this to be the case when the top aces are on the mound, but sometimes you can find some sneaky plays just by looking at the total and the line each day.
Line movement can be very telling in daily fantasy sports. It can either indicate that the betting public is betting heavily on a certain side of a game or total, or it can mean that something has happened to impact the line, such as a change in a starting pitcher or a change in the weather.
The best sites to use for checking Vegas lines are the sites that show what the game opened at as well as where the line is currently at. If you see the run total jump up or a certain team become a much bigger favorite, you can use that to your advantage in daily fantasy baseball.
Player Prop Bets
Prop bets are also very useful in daily fantasy sports because Vegas basically takes all of their research that they put into setting the line and sets a certain prop that they think is a fair amount for a player to reach. For pitchers, the most important prop bet that you should look at is total number of strikeouts. Strikeouts are huge in daily fantasy baseball and checking out the prop bets will give you an idea of which pitchers are expected to have a high strikeout total that day.
As always, the Vegas lines should be combined with all of your other research, but they are probably one of the best free tools that you can find for daily fantasy baseball. Practice looking at the lines each day and try to project value for pitchers based on their salary and expected performance. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to quickly spot pitchers who make viable fantasy options each day.