How Scoring Impacts Pitcher Selection in Daily Fantasy Baseball

DraftKings and FanDuel have drastically different pitcher scoring systems. Which type of pitchers are best for each site?

On Monday, we investigated the differences in scoring between DraftKings and FanDuel for hitters in daily fantasy baseball leagues. The differences were fairly subtle, though they did make a significant difference.

If those differences were the size of Jose Altuve for batters, they're basically Jon Rauch for pitchers. They're big, they're mean, they're ugly, and they got some questionable tats on the right side of their neck. These two scoring systems couldn't really be much more different.

In order to see how we can exploit these differences, I used the same methodology as yesterday. I took the statistics of each pitcher that threw at least 50 innings this year in the role of a starter (as you're not going to be starting a person in a relief role in daily leagues). Then, I applied DraftKings' scoring rules and ranked the players based on their point totals. I did the same with FanDuel's scoring rules before subtracting a pitcher's rank on one site from his rank on the other site.

Again, although there are names below, the individual players are merely being used to better illustrate a point. The actual players on the list below are fairly meaningless, but the reason they are on this list is far from it. Let's start digging.

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

DraftKings Rank: 63 | FanDuel Rank: 43

Shockingly, Justin Verlander's drop-off on DraftKings has nothing to do with deductions for awkward Prince Fielder nude photoshops on Google images. The world would be better off if that had been the case. Rather, Verlander is a victim of his own over-inflated WHIP.

Within DraftKings' scoring rules are deductions for hits, walks, and hit batsman allowed. None of those events, independent of a run scored, will cost you a thing on FanDuel. This means that a pitcher's WHIP will be a better predictor of success on DraftKings than it will be on FanDuel.

Of the 34 players who issued the most walks as a starter last year, only four had a better ranking on DraftKings than they did on FanDuel. Of those four, only Francisco Liriano finished more than two spots better on DraftKings than FanDuel.

If we expand this to looking at WHIP, the effect is even more defined. While having a bad WHIP is going to make you suck no matter which site it's on, that suckage is even greater on DraftKings. The four pitchers with the highest WHIP (names have been redacted to protect the innocent and the bad at pitching) finished 17, 13, 8, and 11 spots better on FanDuel than they did on DraftKings respectively last year. Allow WHIP to factor into your decision-making on both sites, but weight it far more heavily on DraftKings.

Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

DraftKings Rank: 31st | FanDuel Rank: 47th

Yu Darvish is a gosh darn champion, y'all, and he deserves a hug. Even though he missed his final 10 or so starts with elbow issues, the dude still had the 31st most points on DraftKings last year with his nasty strikeout rates. He can serve as a great example of how DraftKings is largely about effectiveness and FanDuel is about volume.

In order to illustrate this more fully, I wanted to draw a comparison between Darvish and Drew Hutchison. The chart below shows the season totals for the two pitchers as well as their respective ranks on both sites.

PitcherWinsInningsStrikeoutsERAFIPDK RankFD Rank
Drew Hutchison11184.21844.483.854244
Yu Darvish10144.11823.062.843147

I think we can all agree Darvish had a better year than Hutchison. Dat Hutchison ERA is thick, doe.

You'll notice that the strikeout totals were similar between the two -- but not on a rate basis. Hutchison was still a fairly high-volume strikeout starter, as he averaged 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings. The problem is that Darvish averaged 11.35 strikeouts per nine.

Now, on a game-by-game basis, Hutchison will most likely not accumulate more innings than Darvish (Hutchison averaged 5.77 innings per start while Darvish was at 6.56), it does still show us something we need to keep in mind when filling out line-ups. On DraftKings, you want a guy who is going to rack up things such as strikeouts while keeping the base-runners at a minimum, even if it means he will pitch fewer innings. On FanDuel, you want a horse who is going to get you seven innings no matter what and have a chance to get the victory. Speaking of victories, that brings us to the next player on our list.

Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox

DraftKings Rank: 14 | FanDuel Rank: 22

Back in 1911, the New York Giants had a player named Charlie "Victory" Faust. Manager John McGraw only had Faust on the team because Faust told McGraw that a fortune teller in Kansas told him that the Giants needed him to win the pennant. McGraw was so superstitious that he kept Faust on the roster the entire season and even let him make a pair of appearances. The Giants did, indeed, win the pennant.

Jeff Samardzija is the version of Charlie Faust who has cable. He was a victory repellent last year for both the Cubs and the Athletics, side-stepping any team success despite being largely lights-out on the mound.

Since 1901, Samardzija is the only player in the entirety of Major League Baseball to start at least 30 games, record at least 140 strikeouts, finish with an ERA below 3.00, and not not more than 7 games. This pretty much murked Samardzija's value on FanDuel.

On FanDuel, the only statistics that affect a player's score are wins, earned runs allowed, strikeouts, and innings pitched. A win is worth four times as much as a strikeout or an inning pitched.

On DraftKings, a win is still worth four points, but everything else is amplified. Under these scoring rules, a win is worth only twice as much as a strikeout and only 1.78 times as much as an inning pitched. This translates into wins carrying a significant amount more value on FanDuel than they do on DraftKings.

Let's look at Adam Wainwright, who had 20 wins last year. On DraftKings, the 80 points he received from those wins accounted for 11.4 percent of his total points scored. On FanDuel, that number spiked to 18.8 percent.

While you'd be smart to look for players on great teams on both sites in hopes of picking up those four bonus points, it's almost a necessity on FanDuel. You can get away with starting a stud on a less than studly team on DraftKings because they can make up for their offense's shortcomings with strikeouts and tastiness.

After looking at the difference in the ranking of these three players, we can develop an ideal selection for both sites. On FanDuel, you are targeting a player who will go deep in the game and has a good shot at getting the win. This person can afford to be less effective overall as only earned runs will result in lost points.

On DraftKings, you want dominance, even if that dominance will come over a shorter period of time and not necessarily involve a win. A pitcher who goes 6 innings and has 10 strikeouts in a no-decision would get more points (33.5) than a guy who goes eight innings, has five strikeouts and gets the win (32). On FanDuel, the latter option would out-score the former, 17-16.

This can make a big difference with roster construction. If you are trying to fit Mike Trout into your lineup but can't afford to have both he and Chris Sale on FanDuel, then you can trade out Sale for a guy of lesser caliber who can log some solid innings. On DraftKings, you might be better off keeping Sale because of his silly strikeout potential.

Regardless of your actual decisions, it's just important to both know the scoring of a particular site and how to utilize it best. If you can find a way to squeeze good ol' Victory Faust under the cap, then that's just an added bonus.