Batting Orders’ Impact on Decision Making

Geared toward the novice, FantasyDraft 101 was designed to teach the absolute basics when it comes to daily fantasy baseball. All players are welcome on FantasyDraft.com, so congratulations to those who read the 101 series and have since graduated. This lesson begins the FantasyDraft 102 series, where lessons become slightly more advanced. They are geared towards those who read the 101 series or have a basic understanding of the daily fantasy baseball game. By incorporating these intermediate lessons into your game, they should take your ability to the next level. Onto unit number one…

Batting Orders’ Impact on Decision Making

A virtually overlooked aspect of the game for those new to daily baseball is the impact of where a hitter is hitting in the batting order. Let’s take a second to think about daily baseball in it’s simplest form. It is a difficult game to predict on a day-to-day basis, so playing the percentages in terms of batting averages, etc. should pay off in the long run. Playing a player with a career .350 batting average against left-handers versus a weak left-handed pitcher may not pay off. The player may smoke three baseballs but hit them right at somebody, resulting in a “zero.” Was it the wrong play? Likely not, because on most occasions the hitter would be in one of the best possible situations for him to succeed.

The same process holds true for the batting order. You want to give yourself the greatest possible odds to succeed. Who is going to have more chances: the player hitting eighth or the one leading off? Thinking back to a 101 lesson, the goal of cash games is to put yourself in best position to win without taking unnecessary risks. The lesson showed that over a 162-game span, the one hitter will have approximately 144 more at-bats than the nine hitter or ~0.89 at-bats per game. What the past article didn’t delve into is the fact that starting all leadoff hitters is not the answer either. There are basic setups to many lineups that create for different opportunities.

Baseball’s old adage for the top of the order used to be “get ’em on, get ’em over and get ’em in.” What does this mean? The goal of the leadoff hitter was to get on, possibly steal a base and eventually steal the run. Second hitters’ goal was to move over the runner so that the three hitter could drive them in. The three hitter would step to the plate and hopefully have a run-producing opportunity in some way, shape or form. Different teams in the modern day and age use lineups in different ways. Some teams have adapted to using their best overall hitter in the two hole, while others still just want them bunting a majority of their first plate appearances. Talent evaluation must factor into the batting order decisionJoey Votto is a much more appealing hitter in the two hole than Yangervis Solarte.

In other words, the answer to the batting order conundrum is not as simple as just playing hitters who are batting higher in the order. Just because a player has been moved down from two to six in the order does not mean it is time to give up on them. The preferred plays in cash games hit in the top six in the order. Statistically, you want to increase your chances of the player having four at-bats, considering making an out comes with no punishment in regards to FantasyDraft’s scoring system. Plus, bottom-of-the-order hitters are usually the least talented/trust-worthy. In cash games, the key is to target proper skill sets in the correct matchups near the top of the order. Look for speedsters against pitchers weak at holding on runners and catchers weak at throwing them out. Use power hitters against fly ball pitchers. Use hitters that crush lefties against left-handed pitchers. Batting order is a decent gauge, but it is just to play the odds. The odds also include other aspects and those should all be factored into cash games.

For tournaments, players from all spots in the order can be used, but the same principles still hold true. They still will have less opportunities, so they will need to possess a skill or be in a matchup that clearly makes them worthwhile. On a site like FantasyDraft where there a lot of options to choose from, I would be hard-pressed to find a scenario where a nine hitter makes sense in an average matchup, unless it is a complete punt. Deploying a seven hitter is a contrarian strategy that makes sense in a variety of scenarios: when a hitter has been moved down in the order, possesses an elite skill (such as Chris Carter‘s power or the speed Billy Burns exhibited when he was hitting near the bottom), or is involved in an elite matchup. Sometimes hitters slump, and that is usually the time to pounce on them. Their price will likely be depressed and they could still snap, even hitting at the bottom of the order (assuming they are talented). The elite talent is obvious, as someone like Carter makes sense in a matchup where a home run seems likely. The matchup could make sense if you are “stacking” a team or trying to maximize your exposure to them. If Vegas projects a team for five runs, then all the hitters in the lineup become viable options. Maybe a player like Steve Pearce is batting seventh against a lefty. His elite skill is his ability to hit against lefties, so it almost does not matter where he is in the order. His career numbers show an aptitude so efficient that he is still worth a start in tournament.

These strategies are how you maximize your odds of finishing in the PayoutZone by logically thinking through the batting order. Application will be the hard part, as lineups change from day-to-day, along with pitching matchups. Thinking quickly in the moment does factor in, but practice will make perfect. So go out there, find a preferred site that announces lineups as soon as they come out and master the craft of putting together a lineup that utilizes the impact of the batting order.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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