Tips for choosing hitters in daily fantasy baseball games

Pablo Sandoval is one of the best switch-hitters in the league, and could be dangerous in daily games.
John Hefti/Icon SMI

In daily fantasy baseball games, the right choices for pitchers can keep you in the game, but the right choices among your hitters put you ahead of everyone else. Most teams are going to be choosing one or two pitchers from a set of 18-30 starting pitchers on any given day, so you're going to have overlap among your competitors. But the different combinations among hitters makes it nearly impossible for you to have similar lineups to others. This is where you separate.

Last week, I shared five attributes you should look for when choosing a pitcher for your starting daily fantasy baseball lineup. It's not quite as simple as that for hitters, but I will be able to guide you toward some things for which to look.

Pitchers and hitters are completely different in daily play, since a pitcher is essentially guaranteed points. If he makes it to the sixth inning, he has a much better chance of putting up positive points as opposed to a hitter, who only gets four or five tries to put up points. Odds are, three or four of those at-bats are going to be outs, since the best hitters make an out 70 percent of the time.

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Righty/lefty splits

One of the most important factors to consider is whether your hitter is right- or left-handed, and whether or not he's going up against a right- or left-handed pitcher.

Managers work to get right-handed pitchers going up against right-handed hitters, and the same for lefties. The managers in the other dugout, however, is working to get opposite-handed hitters to face opposite-handed pitchers.

When a hitter is in the batter's box, he can usually judge the path of the ball better against an opposite-handed pitcher. If you're a right-handed hitter, it's easier to see a left-handed pitcher's throwing hand on the delivery. He has to turn slightly against his body to pick up a right-handed pitcher. Plus, any breaking pitches thrown by a right-handed pitcher are going to run away from a right-handed hitter (and the same for lefty pitchers vs. lefty hitters).

It's also important to be aware of the best switch-hitters in the game, who can hit both sides equally as well, like Ben Zobrist, Carlos Santana, Victor Martinez, Jimmy Rollins and Pablo Sandoval.

Strikeouts or better?

If the daily fantasy site that you play on takes away points on the strikeout, then you naturally should stay away from high-strikeout swingers, like Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce and Adam Dunn. However, the reverse is true if strikeouts aren't penalized and only outs are. Load up on sluggers and free-swingers that can get you big points in bunches.

Who's down with OBP?

Once again, check your site's scoring for how much they reward for taking a base on balls. Every site rewards walks, though, so picking hitters that also have the ability to draw a walk is a smart move.

When filling out my power-light positions, like catcher, second base and shortstop, I usually like to find cheaper players with good on-base percentages, especially in Head-to-Head or 50/50 games. I'd rather be assured he doesn't give me negative points than hope for an unlikely homer.

What does Vegas think?

By looking at that day's expected run total, you can get a really good idea if this game is expected (by the gambling experts) to be a high scoring affair. If a game has a run total of nine or higher, load up on some of the hitters on those teams.

Hitting in a hitter's park

This is relatively obvious, but it's worth noting. Selecting position players that are about to play a game at a hitting-friendly ballpark is a good way to turn what would be a long fly out into a home run.

Find cheap players that are hitting in great doubles parks, too, including Fenway Park, Rogers Centre, Marlins Park and Wrigley Field. Note that Marlins Park was the third-best park for doubles last season -- until you realize, those are hits that might have been homers in other parks.

Hitting against bad pitchers

Again, this should be obvious -- pick hitters facing pitchers with high ERAs, low strikeout totals and maybe even a bad bullpen, ensuring your hitter will face bad pitching all nine innings.

One of the simplest ways to figure this out is to use the daily fantasy site's salaries as a tip-off. The pitchers with the lowest prices are the guys most likely to get shelled that day. Granted, the hitters going against them might be mildly inflated because of the matchup, but it could still help you decide between a couple hitters.

Again, if the site you use rewards walks, then look for pitchers that have bad control to go with their bad command.

Base thieves aren't always good

Again, check your site's scoring. Most services score a stolen base as the same amount as a double, which means that player got you points for reaching first base, and then bonus points for reaching second on a steal. While that's a nice bonus, it's not nice enough to offset the negative points you might get for your player getting caught stealing. In some cases, getting caught stealing is an extra deduction to go with just a regular out.

Since most base thieves aren't big sluggers, you won't be that heartbroken to not choose them.

Streaking hitters... in a way

Most daily fantasy sites allow you to see a player's last 10 games or so, which gives you an idea of just how "hot" or "cold" a player is.

Over the past few years, however, I've learned that this is not as predictive of success as you might think. Every game is a new game, against a different pitcher, and every three or four games is against a new team, and every six or seven games is in a new park. The 10-game span is just too small of a sample size to base your lineups on.

However -- there's always a however -- what I like to look for in those 10-game stints is how many walks and strikeouts the player has. This gives me a good indication of how patient he's being at the plate, which means more opportunities for positive points.

Avoid batter vs. pitcher stats (BvP)

Picking hitters based on how well that player has historically hit against a certain pitcher, is not a wise strategy. Why? Because rarely does a hitter get more than 100 at-bats against another major-league pitcher in his career, and anything less than 100 at-bats is a very small sample size.

I've long argued that a hitter who has hit a pitcher well in the past walks to the plate with more confidence, and on the flip side, the pitcher has less confidence knowing the hitter has pounded him over the years. Then, a good hitting outcome becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But that's not always the case, as both hitter and pitcher can improve or regress on a regular basis.

In the end, the nine factors above are all parts of the puzzle, but if you remember anything, just remember the following sentence. It's much safer to just rely on hitters with good splits, against bad pitching with positive ball park factors, rather than looking at how "hot" a player is or how much he "owns" a certain pitcher.

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