A common leak in daily fantasy baseball, and perhaps all areas of life, is spending too much time worrying about things that don’t matter. It makes people feel good to think they’re analyzing every angle, but analyzing angles that don’t matter is nothing more than a waste of time.
The Pareto principal states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Modified for fantasy sports, you might say that 80% of your edge comes from 20% of your preparation. So there’s a chance you’re spending time on things that don’t really matter.
So what are some things players pay attention to in daily fantasy baseball that really just don’t matter? Here are five that come to mind:
#1: How a player performed vs. a team last series.
I see people talking about this in the DraftDay chat sometimes. “He killed them last series!” By and large, how a player performed in a three-game set against some particular team says very little about how one can expect him to perform against that same team in a subsequent three-game set.
Sample size, sample size, sample size. You can’t cite results from a small handful of at-bats and try to claim anything meaningful from it. You or I could probably get a base hit in a major league at-bat given enough chances, but that doesn’t mean it would be logical to single out that at-bat to claim you’ve got what it takes to play in the big leagues.
#2: Individual hitter-vs-pitcher statistics.
People seem to love focusing on playing guys who are 4-for-7 lifetime against the pitcher they’re facing that day. Again, sample size. Most hitter-vs-pitcher stats are pretty worthless. It takes several dozen at-bats before you can begin to assign some weight to these numbers. Rarely does any hitter-vs-pitcher matchup have that much depth of history.
#3: Caring about slumps or hot streaks.
There’s a strong temptation in daily fantasy baseball to emphasize starting players on a hot streak and conversely avoiding players in a slump. I recommend a precise opposite approach if you’re going to spend anytime at all caring about recent player performance.
Baseball players all go through hot streaks and slumps throughout their career. It’s just the variable nature of the game. But by and large, their performance tends not to deviate too greatly from their career averages. There have been exceptions to this, but they are rare.
Stated another way, a player on a hot streak will almost certainly cool off and a player in a slump will almost certainly heat back up. It makes little sense to think these short-term intensifications in performance quality mean anything for the future.
#4: Using up maximum amount of salary possible.
When you are down to choosing one final spot on your roster, it would be a mistake to choose the most expensive player you can afford while not giving consideration to any other factors. It’s certainly smart to use up a vast majority of your salary, at least 98% of it for sure. But If you have your reasons for thinking a guy priced a few hundred less than your budget provides for is the best option, go for it! If salary prices were completely optimal at DraftDay, there’d be no point in playing the games!
#5: Batting average, Wins, RBIs, and other worthless stats.
There are a lot of junk statistics in baseball. It’s taken a while, but people are slowly starting to figure out that there are much better baseball stats for predicting player performance than the ones media outlets and fans like paying attention to.
One highly overrated stat is batting average. A player who bats .260 and gets walked all the time is much more valuable than a .300 hitter who never walks.
Pitcher wins is another worthless stat. For evidence of this, look to Cliff Lee. It took him 14 starts to get his first win this season. If you listened to that stat alone, you’d be forced to conclude he is terrible. But advanced baseball statistics like xFIP tells us that Lee is a top five pitcher in baseball.
Pay attention to what matters. Ignore the stuff that doesn’t. Profit!