How Scoring Impacts Player Selection in Daily Fantasy Baseball
I may have been a bit overzealous to get rolling in daily fantasy baseball last year. I signed up, clicked a bunch of buttons, and clicked submit. I was ready to roll.
Unfortunately, I'm not the most observant fellow, so I happened to omit one teensy-weensy step from that process: I never even read the scoring rules.
This may seem minor, as scoring is pretty similar across most platforms, but that would be misguided. DraftKings and FanDuel keep things fairly consistent, yet when you look at a single player, his value may fluctuate greatly.
I wanted to see where these differences are most defined. By fleshing out which players had the biggest gap in value between one site and the other, we might be able to see where the nuances in scoring are the most important.
First, I took a look at each of the 209 batters who recorded at least 400 plate appearances last year. Then I found the points they would have scored using DraftKings' scoring rules. I then ranked those players from 1 to 209 based on the total number of points they scored throughout the season.
After that, I did the same for FanDuel. Once I had ranked the players based on the scoring for both sites, I looked at which players had the largest differences between the two.
Although the list below does show specific players, they are merely being used for illustration purposes. The intention of this was to find which kind of players are more valuable on DraftKings than FanDuel, and vice versa. The names aren't really that important; it's what puts the names on this list that actually matters. So let's get down to it.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
DraftKings Rank: 3 | FanDuel Rank: 9
There are two big reasons Jose Altuve is on this list. I'll only go through one here because the other will be covered with the next player down.
When you go back and forth between DraftKings and FanDuel, the most obvious difference in scoring is that FanDuel penalizes for an out while DraftKings does not. This can help close the gap between the potential points for a lead-off hitter and a guy batting sixth. This is what helps drag Altuve down on FanDuel, as he batted either first or second for the Astros in 143 games last year.
Altuve had the second most at-bats of any player in the Majors last year, trailing only Ian Kinsler. Kinsler finished 18th in DraftKings scoring compared to 28th on FanDuel. In fact, each of the 11 players with the most at-bats in the league last year ranked better on DraftKings than they did on FanDuel.
This tells us that, on DraftKings, it's smart to target guys that bat at the top of the order. They have more chances to add to their score, with the only potential loss of points coming from an unsuccessful steal attempt. On FanDuel, you can still target guys that bat at the top of the order, but you want to make sure they're efficient in their plate appearances to be certain the increase in the sample size isn't actually a deterrent (*cough* Nick Markakis *cough*).
Ben Revere, Philadelphia Phillies
DraftKings Rank: 62 | FanDuel Rank: 83
Ben Revere can also fit under the category above of guys who hit near the top of the order, as he was the Phillies' lead-off batter 123 times last year. However, we'll be focusing here on his efficient base stealing.
On DraftKings, players receive five points for a stolen base and lose two when they are caught stealing. On FanDuel, they only receive two points for a stolen base. Although this means that a stolen base is the equivalent of a double on both sites, a stolen base's value relative to runs, runs batted in, walks and hit-by-pitches is higher on DraftKings than it is on FanDuel.
The important part about this is the "efficiency" portion. Revere saw a huge spike on DraftKings because, while he stole 49 bases, he was only caught eight times. Carlos Gomez stole 34 bases, but he ranked 12th on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Why didn't he see the same spike as Revere? He was caught stealing 12 times, meaning he lost 24 points there.
The takeaway here is that, yes, you do want to target base stealers on both sites. However, if they can do so efficiently, their value will be higher on DraftKings than it will be on FanDuel.
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
DraftKings Rank: 44 | FanDuel Rank: 27
Okay, so a big part of Edwin Encarnacion's difference is that he spent a good chunk of time on the disabled list. FanDuel's numbers when viewed through a season-long lens can help erase that disadvantage so long as the player is efficient in his plate appearances. However, Encarnacion can also help us look at another difference between the two sites: the importance of a single.
On DraftKings, a single is worth three points while a home run is worth 10. On FanDuel, those numbers are one and four, respectively. This means that a home run is worth 3.33 times as many points on DraftKings, whereas a round-tripper will net you four times as many points on FanDuel. That's pretty significant, y'all.
It's not just singles relative to home runs that are amplified on DraftKings. It's everything. A double is twice as valuable as a single on FanDuel, while it's only worth 1.67 times as much on DraftKings. A triple goes from being three times as valuable on FanDuel to just 2.67 on DraftKings.
Below is a chart of the correlation between each of the three slash categories -- batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage -- and the total points on each site. This should show how the advantage skews toward sluggers on FanDuel while singles hitters can hang in there on DraftKings.
While batting average has a similar correlation on both sites, slugging percentage is more closely linked to point totals on FanDuel than it is on DraftKings. No wonder Ben Revere, the Patron Saint of the single, rated more highly on DraftKings than he did on FanDuel. Encarnacion, however, bites his thumb at such plebeian feats and prefers to take his time rounding the bases, thus amping up his value on FanDuel.
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
DraftKings Rank: 21 | FanDuel Rank: 29
Adam Jones doesn't do a whole lot of things slowly. So, I understand why that whole "walking" thing would seem unappealing to him... but dude never saw a pitch he didn't like.
Jones walked a grand total of 19 times last year in 682 plate appearances. The only person with a lower walk percentage than Jones (2.8 percent) was Revere (2.1 percent). Jones, also like Revere, had more value on DraftKings than he did on FanDuel. This is not a coincidence.
On DraftKings, a base on balls is worth two points. This is a full point less than a single, whereas FanDuel awards equal points for walks and singles. A walk is worth one-fifth as many points as a home run on DraftKings while it is one-fourth on FanDuel.
The 17 players who had at least 450 at-bats last year and fewer than 25 walks were, on average, 8.47 spots worse on FanDuel than they were on DraftKings. Of the 22 leading walkers (based on total number of walks drawn), only four ranked worse on FanDuel than they did on DraftKings, with the worst placement differential going to Ben Zobrist, who was three spots lower on FanDuel than he was on DraftKings. Those 22 guys as a whole were, on average, 4.91 spots better on FanDuel.
Based on this little look-see, there are a few things that are clear. First, there is a big difference in the scoring between DraftKings and FanDuel. Second, singles hitters have more value on DraftKings while the more powerful guys gain a wider edge on FanDuel. Third, it's smart to target top-of-the-order guys, regardless of their efficiency, on DraftKings. Fourth, efficient base stealers get a significant boost on DraftKings. Finally, those with a high affinity for the base on balls are going to do more for you on FanDuel than they will on DraftKings.