In daily fantasy baseball, every day is a new chance to go to sleep as a champion. But if you want more than just dumb luck to affect your chances, you need to use the right blueprints for success.
This means several things, including playing the right games, playing the right competition and playing the right players.
We're going to take a closer look at that final factor to see if we can't focus on the right -- and wrong -- types of pitchers you should target in daily fantasy baseball games. Call it our five attributes to look for in a daily fantasy pitcher.
In daily fantasy baseball, pitchers usually end up being among the highest/most consistent scorers. Unfortunately, you only get to choose one pitcher on many sites, or two pitchers on others.
Most people are more concerned about price than anything else with their daily fantasy pitchers, but there are five other factors you have to think about -- especially if you're filling out a Head-to-Head or 50/50 lineup, and you need to take as few risks as possible. These factors are listed in importance, and the more you can check off per pitcher, the better your chances of winning with them will be.
Most scoring systems reward fantasy points for strikeouts, which is the best way to make up a difference between the average pitchers picking up wins and chewing up innings. You want a pitcher who's mowing down batters, and hopefully, going deep into games.
Examining the K/9 leaders among SPs from 2013 to consider:
• Yu Darvish, Texas (11.89 K/9 in 2013)
• Max Scherzer, Detroit (10.08)
• Anibal Sanchez, Detroit (9.99)
• A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh (9.85)
• Jose Fernandez, Miami (9.75)
• Sleeper: Royals SP Yordano Ventura
If the scoring system on the site you play on rewards strikeouts and innings, then you're getting bonus points for the same event. You can get one point for a groundout, or one point for the out (one-third of an inning) and another one for the strikeout. I'm no mathematician, but that's almost double!)
2. Pitcher's Park
A park that helps keep the ball in play is a pitcher's second-best friend, after the double-play, of course. So targeting pitchers that are about to start a game in a pitching-friendly park is a wise move in daily fantasy play. It obviously is important in real fantasy, too, but since you're looking at players from a seasonal perspective, ballparks have less effect compared to daily play.
The top-five pitching parks in baseball are:
• AT&T Park, San Francisco: Second-fewest home runs allowed over the past three seasons.
• Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles: Comparing the rate of runs at this park vs. on the road, this park ranked 28th in the majors in 2013.
• Marlins Park, Miami: Only AT&T Park allowed as few home runs in 2013 as this park (89).
• O.co Coliseum, Oakland: The huge foul territory at this park gives batters very few second chances.
• PNC Park, Pittsburgh: The Pirates combined a very good pitching staff with a great pitcher's park to allow the fewest home runs at home last season (37), about 30% fewer than the Marlins in Miami (48).
You want ballparks that are deep in the outfield (Marlins Park), expansive in foul territory (O.co Coliseum), or affected adversely by the weather (Wrigley Field). Choosing a flyball pitcher in AT&T Park in San Francisco is much safer than in Colorado or Cincinnati.
3. Free-Swinging Opponents
Choosing a great strikeout pitcher that's going against an opposing team that has little patience is a great way to pile up daily fantasy points. We'll use 2013 stats as an example, but remember that some teams have made changes in personnel, whether that means hitters or hitting coaches, so talent and philosophies could have changed. We'll have a better idea by May of which teams are spinning in the dirt.
The five teams that struck out the most in 2013:
• Houston Astros (1,535): Even when super OF prospect George Springer arrives, this is still going to be a high-K team. Chris Carter led the majors last season with 212 whiffs of his own, just 11 off the major-league record of 223.
• Minnesota Twins (1,430): They share the 2014 lead with the Dodgers through the first week, with 71 strikeouts.
• Atlanta Braves (1,384): There is no truth to the rumor that 1,380 of those strikeouts were from the Upton Bros. (Speaking of which, B.J. Upton leads the majors with 12 strikeouts already this season as of April 8, and Justin Upton has 10 of his own.)
• New York Mets (1,384): Interestingly, the two hitters with the most strikeouts from last season are gone (John Buck and Marlin Byrd).
• Seattle Mariners (1,353): The addition of Robinson Cano should move them out of the bottom-five in this category.
Free-swinging hitters facing crafty strikeout pitchers is a perfect formula for daily fantasy owners.
4. Bad Opposing Pitchers
Half of the battle is picking a pitcher who gives you an excellent chance of earning bonus points for the wins, but as many stat-heads will tell you, wins are one of the most difficult stats to predict. This is mostly because there are so many factors out of the pitcher's control, including the run support provided to him by his own offense, the ability for his bullpen to nail down the final few innings, and even the decisions of the manager to pull him or the relievers after him.
Strangely, losses are much easier to predict, because bad command mixed with bad control against a good offense usually results in a short outing in which a loss is all but guaranteed. Also, remember that a pitcher has to go five innings before he can be the pitcher on record for a win. But a pitcher can throw one-third of an inning, get shelled, and still be the pitcher of record for a loss.
If you choose a pitcher with any of the above factors (high K/9 rate, in a pitcher's park or opposing a high-K opponent) with a below-average opposing pitcher, then your pitcher has a much better chance of scoring "win" points for you.
5. NL Pitcher Facing an NL Team
If your prospective pitcher is facing an American League team, he's also facing a designated hitter about three or four times. That DH is being paid an impressive salary to mash the ball with his bat. That's all he has to do -- crush his opposing pitcher. Most hitters also have to play some defense and work on baserunning, whereas a DH really is just paid to get on base and/or knock runners in.
On the other hand, if you have a National League pitcher facing an NL opponent, he'll get to face a pitcher every nine or so players (depending on double-switches, etc.). Pitchers aren't just bad hitters, they're usually human strikeouts. Pitchers are paid to get hitters out -- anything on offense is just gravy. At the plate, they're inning-enders -- or inning-shorteners at the very least.
Designated hitters batted .256 for American League teams last season, and pitchers had .110 batting averages in 2013.
Ideally, you'll get to choose Jose Fernandez, pitching in Miami, against the Braves and starting pitcher David Hale. You'll get all five attributes wrapped into one starting pitcher for your daily fantasy baseball team.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.