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Lesson 3: Paying Down at Pitcher - Single-Pitcher Sites

JM Tohline (JMToWin)

JM Tohline (Tuh-lean) – DFS alias JMToWin – is a novelist and a DFS player who specializes in high-stakes MLB and NFL tourneys, with a strategy geared toward single-entry play in multi-entry tourneys. He joined the DFS scene at the beginning of the 2014 MLB season, and has since won five DFS championship seats and two separate trips to the Bahamas. His tendency to type a lot of words leads to a corresponding tendency to divulge all his DFS thoughts, strategies, and secrets…which is exactly what he does in his RotoGrinders articles and RotoAcademy courses. You can find JM on Twitter at JMToWin.

Paying down at pitcher on single-pitcher sites is one of my favorite strategies in MLB DFS. As with any “favorite strategy,” a large part of the reason it is a “favorite” of mine is because it goes overlooked – which means we gain an edge; which means we rake in money. Below, we’ll look at why this is such a MASSIVE benefit in tourneys on single-entry sites, and when we should look to do this.

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The Greatest Benefit in Tourneys:

On single-pitcher sites, the day’s “popular roster construction approach” is dictated directly by the day’s popular pitchers. If a guy with an $11k price tag is drawing all the ownership attention in tourneys that day, everyone who has that pitcher will also end up on the same group of “best value plays” that day in order to make things work. This leads to lots of days on which a huge chunk of the field has A) the same pitcher, and B) the same value plays – leaving very few remaining pieces to differentiate from the field.

People often try to shift away from the popular high-priced pitcher by going to a different high-priced pitcher. By doing this, however, they still end up on the same value plays as everyone else, and are now just relying on the pitcher they rostered outscoring the pitcher everyone else rostered.

When you instead pay down at pitcher on a single-pitcher site, on a day on which everyone else is paying up, you immediately guarantee that you have a unique roster approach compared to the field. And sure, if the 30% or 40% owned value plays bust out for a big game, you’re probably not cashing in tourneys that day. But who really cares? We embrace failure in MLB DFS – as we talked about last course. We’re not trying to minimum-cash; we’re trying to take down the whole freaking tourney. We’re positioning ourselves for The Big Score!

On days when your low-priced pitcher puts up the same (or close to the same) score as the popular high-priced guy, you immediately leap into great shape, as you have higher-upside (and lower-owned) bats than everyone else was able to roster that day.

On days when your low-priced pitcher puts up the same (or close to the same) score as the popular high-priced guy, and the value guys everyone loaded up on fail to come through, you’re in even better shape, as a huge chunk of the field took a couple dead plays with those values, and you have higher-upside (and lower-owned) bats to pull past them.

And on days when your low-priced pitcher outscores the popular high-priced guy, and the high-owned values bomb, you’re sitting pretty for that Big Score – with high-upside, low-owned bats no one else could afford.

The greatest benefit? It’s simple, really: on single-pitcher sites, your roster construction is directly influenced by the pitcher you choose to roster. When everyone else is rostering pitchers in the same price range as one another, and you roster a pitcher in an entirely different price range, you position yourself with a totally unique lineup, and with a great shot at The Big Score we are constantly positioning ourselves to hit.

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When to Do This?

Of course, this is not an everyday thing. Don’t try to make it an everyday thing! If you do, you’ll hit The Big Score from time to time, sure – but you’ll fail to stay afloat in between. As with everything else in MLB DFS, we should be tailoring our approach based on the slate.

There are a few times when it becomes really valuable to do this. (Personally, I keep an eye out for these times – and when I find one such day, I focus my play on FanDuel that day, pounding this approach.)

Firstly, you are looking for days on which there are strong reasons to believe the popular/expensive guys may underperform or are overpriced for what they really are (“Obvious Land Mines”), or are incredibly inconsistent (someone like Johnny Cueto comes to mind; he may post one of the highest fantasy scores of the season in back-to-back games, then go a month without putting up a baseline-acceptable score; days when he is expected to be high-owned can be great days to position yourself against the field, for example – while days when he is expected to be low-owned can be great days to play the volatility the other way and roster him in hopes of catching a monster outing). You can also do this when there is a clear and convincing reason to believe the popular, high-priced pitcher will not get a win (remember: the win bonus on FanDuel is enormous). If you can find a cheap pitcher who you think can match or exceed what the popular, high-priced guy will do (due to being a volatile, but high-upside guy himself, or due to being a fly ball pitcher in a great ballpark for fly ball pitchers, or due to being a guy who induces a lot of soft contact and usually has solid-if-unspectacular outings – and adding on top of any of these things: especially when this lower-priced guy is positioned well to pick up a win bonus that day!), you should look to make this move.

Two of the major misconceptions here are:

1) High-priced pitchers inherently possess more upside than low-priced pitchers, and

2) You need a cheap guy with a lot of upside in order to justify moving away from the high-priced guys.

Lots of days, the high-priced guys don’t have as much upside as everyone wants to pretend. And on such days, you don’t need to find a cheap guy who “can get you 60 FanDuel points.” You just need a guy who can match (or come close to matching) what the popular, high-priced guy will do. If you find a cheap guy who can do that, you’ll be in great shape already – with higher-upside bats than anyone else can afford that day, and with a roster construction approach that leaves you all alone.

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When to Avoid?

When the cheap arms are in poor spots, do not force this approach.

When the “popular, expensive arms” are truly worth their salary and the ownership attention they are receiving, do not force this approach.

When you like something completely different at the plate than what everyone else likes, and you can roster the “popular, expensive arm” and still have a totally different roster approach than your competition (assuming the “popular arm,” that day, has more upside than the cheaper guys, or is safer than the cheaper guys – that is to say, assuming he’s a good play by the numbers, and not just by name), there is no need to force in a cheap guy.

Let the slate dictate your approach.

Let the slate dictate your play.

Not every day is going to be a good one for “positioning yourself for The Big Score.” Not every day is a good day for paying down in tournaments on single-pitcher sites.

But always (always!) keep an eye out for the elements that combine to create a great day for “paying down in tourneys on single-pitcher sites” while everyone else is paying up. On such days, shift your focus toward tourneys on single-pitcher sites – then kick back, and enjoy The Big Scores that begin to roll your way.

About the Author

  • JM Tohline (JMToWin)

  • JM Tohline (Tuh-lean) – DFS alias JMToWin – is a novelist and a DFS player who specializes in high-stakes MLB and NFL tourneys, with a strategy geared toward single-entry play in multi-entry tourneys. He joined the DFS scene at the beginning of the 2014 MLB season, and has since won five DFS championship seats and two separate trips to the Bahamas. His tendency to type a lot of words leads to a corresponding tendency to divulge all his DFS thoughts, strategies, and secrets…which is exactly what he does in his RotoGrinders articles and RotoAcademy courses. You can find JM on Twitter at JMToWin.

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