Rising Star(ling)

Posted by JKD on May 10, 2013

Starling-Marte

Starling Marte is only 24 years old, so who knows how good he can be.  He’s young, which does not necessarily mean inconsistent, and his price tag has no place to go but up.  He might have only hit .257 last year, but we are talking about fewer than 200 at-bats for a guy in his first call-up.  So far this year, he’s hitting .321 with 14 extra base hits, 16 RBI and 10 steals.  He is striking out at a good clip, but he makes up for those lost opportunities by creating new ones once he hits the basepaths (26 runs scored already this year).   The Pirates offense has improved, which helps, but anytime you have a young guy with power at the top of the lineup, any lineup, you need to take notice no matter what kind of fantasy game you’re playing.  Click here to check out his leadoff shot from Monday night.

The main difference between “regular” fantasy sports and daily fantasy sports: you’re not stuck with your team.  You don’t have to re-hash draft day mistakes all summer; every day is a fresh start; you are always only one really good call from being a winner.  This is the opposite of your roto- and year-long leagues, where a single good call can help, but a bad one can ruin you immediately.

As fantasy players, in any sport, you rank players, you form preferences and biases about the top players, and you get to know them and what they can do by heart.  But that’s no advantage – because everyone else does too.  Instead we all focus on the future – we take great pride in unearthing those sleepers or identifying breakout candidates before anyone else.  In daily fantasy, though, you have the luxury of waiting to see a player actually start to break out before you consider playing him.  But once they do, jump on board, because the converse is true, too – in daily games, you don’t need to worry if some guy’s production is merely the product of a fluky hot streak and a small sample size – you just take advantage of it while it’s there.

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When you are scrolling through the list of available offensive options for any given DraftKings contest, you will notice that there are only a handful of hitters averaging double-digit fantasy points per game and some of these are misleading (to avoid those, just click on the player name to check for games played to make sure this average isn’t based on one 3-4 game before being sent back to the minors).  But when you make that check and you really do have a guy playing every day, averaging 10+ fantasy points and not costing you too much money… well, start him.

A simple scroll through our player list will give you average points, and a simple click on a player’s name will give you games played, and I have already told you about the single most important statistic you can use to determine fantasy production, but there are other tools out there too.  For example, ESPN’s Player Rater will give you a good snapshot at who is playing well right now (and, as discussed, right now is all that matters in daily fantasy).  So, when you see Starling Marte (10.1 PPG, $4,100), Carlos Gomez (10.6 PPG, $4,300), and Nate McLouth (9.7PPG, $4,200) all in the top-15 on this list, don’t worry about whether Gomez is the next Ryan Braun (9.7 PPG, $6,400), just take the extra $2K and spend on something else (say, pitching?) and worry about a potential drop in production when the time comes, not before.

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Braun or not, Gomez went 4-4 his last time out, and is now hitting .386 with 18 extra base hits, 14 RBI and 7 steals and McLouth is getting on base at almost a .400 clip, with 11 steals already this year (vs. only one caught stealing).  I don’t care how many all-star games they have between them or how bad their teams are, that’s the kind of production you want on your team.  These guys aren’t BETTER than Cano, or Pujols, or whoever, but right now that are as good, and without the price tag.  Yeah, you might feel more comfortable and confident using more well-known players, but you’ll pay for it (Mike Trout: .273 average, 19 extra base hits, 22 RBI… $7,000 price tag).  Sure, take Trout with the #1 overall pick in your yearly draft if you want, but make sure you at least look a bit farther down your list when putting together a team for tonight’s High Heat.  Because sometimes that high PPG average next to the low price tag ISN’T a fluke – it’s the key to a big win.

Halladay Injured; The Most Important Statistic

Posted by JKD on May 6, 2013

Roy Halladay just landed on the 15-day DL, and is seeing a specialist about his shoulder – should you care?

Um, no.  I mean, sure, if you’re a Phillies fan, you can care.  And you can care just because you are a decent human being who doesn’t like seeing others suffer… but as a fantasy owner, not so much.  You’ll want to make sure you don’t have him in your lineup at least until he is off the DL, but the point is, you should have been doing that anyway.

Halladay started the season with two terrible games, giving up at least 5 runs in both without going more than 4 innings.  He then had a couple of pretty good games, looking like he might be getting on track, only to fall off the cliff for his last three outings.  And now it turns out he might be have been injured for these last three.  But the fact remains, he has not done anything that should have convinced you to start him, and in the daily game you have the luxury of LOTS of options.  So if you did start him, there really is only one logical reason: name value.   At $10,700, he is an expensive choice to make, and has been since the season started, so you haven’t chosen him for value.  Why would you choose him over Adam Wainwright ($10,500)?  Answer: there is no reason.

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The same sort of thing can happen with hitters: Matt Kemp costs $5,100, expensive for a hitting option.  And so far on the year, he has not been worth that price tag.  The price sits at that level because of past performance only – in other words, because of his name.  Through 30 games, his average and OBP are down 40 points from last year, and slugging is down 200 points.  While he might very well break out of this slump eventually, as a daily fantasy player, you don’t have to make a decision now – you can simply sit back and wait for that breakout to happen before considering him as an option.

The problem is, if you don’t want to start these guys, who have been around for a while producing nice stats, then who do you start?  Well, you could just memorize the entire 40 man roster for every team in MLB and weigh current hot and cold streaks against price in your head… or you can use some kind of tool… hmmm… like our player cards, maybe?  All the stats you need to make a decision are right there!

Sometimes, though, the sheer number of options and factors involved can make choosing a guy for your roster seem a little daunting.  And I am not going to tell you to ignore pitching match-up or park factors, but when you need to make a quick decision about who to insert into your lineup, it would be helpful to be able to zero in on one or two statistics, just to block out some of the clutter from your decision making process.  And for the daily game, I have a proposal for that one Most Important Statistic you can rely on: slugging %.

Whether you are looking at our player cards or at some other site, this single statistic can give you a very good picture of the potential value a batter could provide on any individual day.  As I have written before, daily fantasy, especially in baseball, is all about taking advantage of your opportunities.  A player is only going to have 4 or 5 at-bats in most games, so it is all about seeing how many points you can accumulate in those four plate appearances.  It is not about watching the averages play out over the course of a long season, like in your roto league – it is about amassing points as quickly as possible.  And that is exactly what slugging % measures.  Total # of bases divided by total # of at-bats – this is the formula to calculate slugging, but it might as well be the formula for accumulating fantasy points.  You could give a boost in your head to someone from a more prolific offense, or someone who might steal a base or two, but a list of the top “sluggers” is a who’s who of top fantasy players so far in 2013.  And the opposite is true.

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As mentioned above, Matt Kemp has seen his SLG go down by 200 points, Adrian Beltre is ($4,700) down 100 from his fantastically productive year last year, and Carl Crawford ($4,600) is up almost 100 points since his last full season when he disappointed in Boston.  This might only be 3 players, but in these cases, SLG tells the story, and the same holds true elsewhere.  You might have heard Carlos Gomez ($4,000) is having a monster year so far, and he is – and his slugging % shows it (5th overall in MLB).  Carlos Santana , Chris Davis, Troy Tulowitski, Justin Upton – you recognize these names as useful fantasy players, and they also represent the top 5 in slugging.  These players, simply put, are taking advantage of the opportunities they have, and this one quick measure can help you identify them in a hurry.

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So do it – identify them, and get them in your lineups; compete for money, and Chase points, and practice up for the Spring Fling – because the opportunities never stop coming at DraftKings and you need some way to figure out which guys are going to lead you to the big bucks or that dream vacation.

DraftKings Closes $7M Series A Round

Posted by ssalsbury on May 6, 2013

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Boston, MA.  May 6, 2013.  DraftKings, Inc., a leading provider of daily fantasy sports online with offerings across the board in fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy basketball, and fantasy hockey, has closed a $7M Series A round of funding led by Atlas Venture.  DraftKings plans to use the money to continue to perfect the customer experience and to broadly market its online and mobile offerings in short-term fantasy sports play.   Featuring daily fantasy sports contests and same-day settlement, DraftKings makes playing fantasy sports faster and more exciting for both seasoned and casual players.  Launched on April 28, 2012, the funding announcement comes right as the company is celebrating its first anniversary.

After only 12 months in market, early results for DraftKings have been impressive.  In the past year, DraftKings has launched online fantasy contests in six different sports, become the #1 daily fantasy sports mobile app provider, and surpassed 1M users across its web and mobile platforms.  For the 2013 fantasy baseball season alone, DraftKings will award over $20M in cash prizes, including its currently running “$5 Million Chase for the Crown” tournament.

Beyond cash prizes, DraftKings has also focused on rewarding its users with great sporting experiences, such as sending one winner to the Super Bowl last February.

“DraftKings’ average user spends over three hours per week on the site and plays 2.6 different sports.  We were amazed to see how popular fantasy basketball became with our fantasy football customers, and we are now seeing similar conversion from fantasy basketball to fantasy baseball.  Our products provide a true second screen complement to the sports viewing experience, and we see our highest levels of engagement during the actual games themselves,” said Jason Robins, CEO, DraftKings, Inc.

“We remain bullish on the daily fantasy sports market and believe DraftKings is poised to become the leader in this exciting segment of the sports market,” said Ryan Moore, Partner, AtlasVenture.

For more information about DraftKings, Inc., please visit www.draftkings.com.

 About DraftKings:

Launched in April 2012, Boston-based DraftKings is the online gaming destination where players engage in daily fantasy sports competitions across fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy basketball, and fantasy hockey. DraftKings offers free and pay contests every day that pay cash prizes. All games are structured under salary cap format, and new contests are offered every day with instantaneous payouts. For more information, visit us at www.draftkings.com; like us at www.facebook.com/draftkings and follow us at www.twitter.com/draftkings.

Contact Information:

Femi Wasserman | VP, Customer and Media Relations, DraftKings

fwasserman@draftkings.com

Choosing Starting Pitchers: David Price Struggles, Matt Moore Shines

Posted by JKD on May 3, 2013

The NBA and NHL playoffs are under way and DraftKings has the fantasy contests to keep you sweating the action all the way until June.  But while the real-life pressure is on teams like the Clippers and the Canadiens, at DraftKings right now all the pressure lies in choosing your lineups for our non-stop big-money baseball action.  The Chase for the Crown II is well underway, and you can start earning points in contests tonight, but even if you are not focused on the big picture that is the Chase, you can still be competing for big money every week and you can find contests to suit your bankroll on any given night.

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Tonight, we have the $25,000 guaranteed High Heat contest that takes place every Friday.  And, yes, you can earn Chase points by playing, but if that doesn’t get you excited, there is also the $5,000 top prize which can make the entry fee well worth your while.  But if the $109 it takes to enter is too rich for your blood, then tonight you can find any number of less expensive contests, like our $3,000 guaranteed Check Swing contest that will let you attempt to earn your Chase points for as little as $11.  And then next week you can think of that bankroll issue a little sooner, and get yourself into any of the High Heat qualifiers that run nightly.  But whatever you do, you need to start paying attention to the Spring Fling – one of our featured Chase for the Crown contests, coming up on May 17th, with $100,000 in guaranteed prizes, a top payout of $20K, and qualifiers running all the time.  Win a qualifier or buy your way in right up until the night of the contest.

But you don’t want to just enter, you want to win.  And so, I have some advice, in case you haven’t read my other blogs: PITCHING!! Pitching, pitching, pitching.  You have to choose your pitchers correctly.  So, yeah, figure out which opponents and ballparks are pitcher-friendly, but you also have to figure out which guys you can trust.  And with so many different options on any given night, the only real advice I can give is the same I would give if you were sitting at a craps table or playing roulette: never bet against a streak.

A few weeks back, I wrote that Buchholz’s price tag had no place to go but up, and after three more starts, there he is, $700 more expensive than he was two weeks ago.   I wrote that he could help you win tourneys, and he has done just that, as the MLB Pitcher of the Month and #1 rated player in year-long fantasy leagues.  And if you stayed away, assuming the correction to the mean was coming in the form of a terrible game, he didn’t help YOU… but he might have helped the guys you were playing against.  In other words, he helped you lose.

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So now we have the story of two Tampa Bay Rays pitchers.  There is Matt Moore, pitching tonight, who will cost you $9,700.  Then there is David Price, who will cost you $11,300, pitching tomorrow.    Moore is 5-0, giving up fewer than 3 hits per game even while averaging more than 6 innings, with more than 7 and half K’s per outing.  Price is 1-2, averaging just under 6 K’s per outing, while giving up more than 7 hits.  By the end of the year, those numbers might be somewhat more balanced, but much like the past few weeks of Clay Buchholz, if you avoid Moore just because you’re afraid this is the night his numbers revert to the mean, you could be missing the exact guy you need to win some cash.  And if you go with Price because you know he has talent and you assume tomorrow is night he gets back on track, that could be enough to lose you a big tourney.  You don’t want to be too early OR too late… so when do you stay away from a hot pitcher?  When he stops being hot.  And when do you buy low on a struggling pitcher?  When he stops struggling.  There is simply too much to lose to playing the guessing game.  While a baseball season is long, and every player will have his ups and downs, those ups and downs are not typically game to game, but maybe week to week or month to month… so let the trends show themselves before you act, but once you see them, act fast.

NFL Draft, Round 1: Bills Big Winners?

Posted by JKD on April 26, 2013

It’s baseball season, and there is a lot of great action on the field and at DraftKings, where the Chase for the Crown II is in full swing, with contests going on every week, and big winners already securing spots in the Grand Finale.

But it is also the biggest weekend of the NFL off-season, with the 2013 draft kicking off with the first round last night and with rounds 2-7 unfolding over the next two days.  Rounds 2 and 3 will take place tonight, and maybe that means Manti Te’o will finally find a NFL home.  The Vikings desperately needed defense, took THREE PLAYERS in the first round and still took a pass on Te’o, if that tells you anything about how far his stock has fallen.  The Vikings got that third pick, which they used on WR Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee, because , in the least surprising news of the day, the Patriots traded back out of the first round.  They got four picks later on this weekend for pick #29, so I am sure Coach Belichick is happy, but if Patterson ends up being the second coming of Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant (both taken near the end of round 1), you know Pats fans and snarky Boston reporters will have something to say about it.

But they would have a point, because finding talent on this weekend can go a long way towards determining the long term success or failure of your favorite teams, and we all know that fantasy stardom is reliant not only on talent and opportunity, but also situation.  You can be a fast, good route-running, smart WR who would earn a starting spot on any NFL roster, but your fantasy value is decidedly different if you play for Green Bay or, say, Cleveland.

Quarterbacks need good wide receivers, and vice versa.  Quarterbacks and running backs play off each other, and often see their fantasy production dictated by the coach they’re playing for.  And they all need a good offensive line.

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So as much fun as it is to watch Luck and RGIII go 1-2, it also makes perfect sense to see seven straight linemen go to begin the draft (4 offensive, 3 defensive), like it did last night.  These guys are vital to the success of their teams, so solidifying the position when you can is always a good idea, especially now that the pay scale for top draft picks has been reigned in (with as many as eight offensive linemen on a roster, it was prohibitive to take a guy like Jake Long #1 years ago when he would get $20 million + guaranteed, because then your line was dominating too much of your available salary).

The first two picks made were both offensive tackles, Eric Fisher (CMU) to the Chiefs and Luke Joeckel (T A&M) to the Jaguars.  Both of these guys will have a chance to not only contribute but actually help solidify what were shaky offensive lines last year, so in a way, a draft that was not top-heavy in skill players might have suited these two franchises well.  Of course, either one of these teams could have used a couple of studs like Luck and Griffin at the top of the board, too, but stocking up on potential All-Pro tackles is a nice silver lining.  The Chiefs now have a home run hitting RB in Jamaal Charles, a new QB in Alex Smith – a definite upgrade, whatever you think of his time in San Fran – and an upgrade on sidelines in Andy Reid (especially on offense) –  again, regardless of how his time in Philly came to an end.  With Dwayne Bowe, McCluster, a solid RB corps behind Charles and whatever other talent they collect in the draft, this is a team you will need to pay attention to for fantasy purposes.  Charles could end up being Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy with possibly even more big-play ability, and while Smith may not crack your daily starting lineup, his presence will certainly help players like Bowe.

The first non-lineman off the board was Tavon Austin, WR from West Virginia, at #8.  The Rams traded up to take Austin, who was the best WR on most draft boards, despite being 5’8’’.  The pick seems to make sense if it pans out, because the Rams need to get Bradford SOMEONE to throw to, especially now with Amendola out the door.  Jeff Fisher should bring a new mentality to the team, and a sense of stability… but he still needs talent.  And this guy brings talent to the table, and with his competition coming from other young guys like Brian Quick and Chris Givens, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to see the field.  But all of these guys will start off cheap in the daily realm, so if any one of them starts to click with Bradford and with Fisher’s offense, you will want to take notice in a hurry.

The Rams acquired that eighth pick from the Buffalo Bills, who moved back to #16, where they selected the first QB off the board, E.J. Manuel from Florida State.  It is too early to decide for sure if the Bills are winners, because even at 16, this may have been a bit of a reach.  Some draft boards had other QBs ranked higher, such as Geno Smith from West Virginia, and Smith is still available at the start of the second round.  But this is the thing – the Bills were targeting Manuel from the beginning – this is the guy they wanted.  And much like when you are building a fantasy roster, while you are always looking for “value,” what really matters is being right.  A guy may cost you less than you expected, but if he’s no good, he’s no good – it doesn’t help that you didn’t have to spend much to get him.

The Bills were afraid Manuel wouldn’t drop another round, so they used their first round pick to get him, but also managed to acquire an extra third round pick along the way.  And if Manuel, a strong –armed, 6’4’’ QB with great accuracy in college, who can also run with the ball a little bit (over 800 yards and 11 TDs at FSU), ends up being as good as the Bills hope, then they are the biggest winners in this draft, and we all win from a fantasy perspective.  Manuel might not burst onto the scene like RGIII and lead the league in fantasy points for weeks on end, but he could definitely become a good mid-priced match-up play, even as a rookie… and not only does that provide another serviceable QB option, it also could make Stevie Johnson look better, and help C.J. Spiller get into space more often, and just generally lead to better offense and bigger plays.  And those types of improvements show that, for real football and fantasy, selecting the right QB is the most valuable thing a franchise can do… with apologies to those hulking linemen.

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